In a year that included a wild National Folk Festival set by the Bulgarian Wedding Music, the Christian McBride Band summer tour de force and Rex Richardson's brilliant Turkish trumpet recital, the two most transcendent performances were delivered by octogenarians in the Indian summers of their long careers. The sacred portion of 85-year-old Dave Brubeck's St. Edwards concert was a colossal choir-and-quartet oratorio; but the most powerful moments came in a single solo piece, a haunting Chopin tribute played with brio and melting beauty. Also, sitar legend Ravi Shankar, 85, closed his Landmark Theater concert with a mesmerizing raga in which each scalar note dictated by the ancient classical discipline sounded as though it were discovered for the very first time. Peter McElhinney
Godmother of Soul
When Augusta, Ga., native Sharon Jones belts out a tune, everyone takes notice. She demands the attention that I imagine a young Tina Turner garnered during her late-'60s reign as queen of funky Southern soul. But this is no nostalgia act or cheap imitation. At Alley Katz this year, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings took the crown as the best live band in the land for dance-floor shaking. They are simply impossible to resist. I've seen hundreds of bands try to capture the essence of funk, but none has come so close to distilling this great American music form with such stunning aplomb as this memorable band based in Brooklyn. Chris Bopst
(Editor's note: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings return to Alley Katz on Feb. 1)
Stones Worth It
Yeah, I was a sucker and paid hefty prices for decent seats to see the legendary Rolling Stones at UVa. Fortunately, my first show from Mick and company came while the group was touring behind one of its best records in 20 years (which isn't saying much). Even though the small-town traffic was worse than anything in Dante's "Inferno," and the infamous bomb threat during the show had me pondering whether I was about to become a spot of wall ketchup in Al Qaida's own Altamont, the Stones carried off the show beautifully. It was great to hear songs from "Exile on Main Street" ("All Down the Line" and crowd favorite "Sweet Virginia"), as well as mighty classics "Paint It Black," "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Midnight Rambler." To those who say the Stones are too old to rock: rubbish. Brent Baldwin
Vega brought a solid set every time I saw the band in 2005. My first Vega show was in July at its Alley Katz CD release party. It was almost like the band had come onto the Richmond scene with no notice, but found a way to garner new fans at every performance. I saw that as crowds grew at each show be it at Lucky Lounge, at Vega's downtown rehearsal space for Halloween or during the most amazing set opening for Lake Trout in early December. No matter the venue or the date, Vega brought the best Richmond shows of the year. Alyssa Holtgrewe
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