While the rest of the world was preparing its Top 10 lists for 1991 we were trying to recall the best local live pop and rock shows of the calendar year.
And to show how hard it was to find the elusive answers, we had to limit the list to the Top 5. After all, it was a pretty limited year musically.
Here are the painstaking results as this critic sees them:
1. INXS at the Capital Centre (March 1) -- The best band in the world at what they do. The fusion of brass, rhythm and boom mixed with the undeniable sexuality of front man Michael Hutchence made this show something special. With material alone, the show couldn't have been poor but the intensity level of each song grew until the crowd was spent. It left nothing to be desired. Too bad their live album didn't measure up.
2. David Cassidy at Max's On Broadway (Oct. 7) -- It could have easily been a bad joke to see a '70s icon come to life on a tiny stage in Fells Point. But the joke was on anyone who doubted Cassidy's intentions, ability or candor. He left his sweat, his heart and his songs on the stage that night. He really can play the guitar. He really can sing. He really is a captivating performer. You should've been there.
3. George Michael at the Capital Centre (Oct. 31) -- Another case of overexposure has drained a fantastic performer and songwriter of his credibility. Performing a batch of songs from his own catalog as well as a greatest hits of the '70s and '80s, Michael displayed unparalleled control and an amazing live voice.
4. Don Henley at Merriweather Post Pavilion (June 22) -- This was the fourth time in two years the King Eagle brought his solo show to our area and it has only gotten better with age. In fact, he can come around one more time and to see him do the acoustic version of 'Heart of the Matter" and an encore of "Desparado," we'd be first in line. Again, the live voice holds the show and the crowd, and Henley has it in abundance.
It's a tie for fifth place:
The Alarm at Hammerjacks (May 10) -- If you never got to see this band live (they have officially parted ways) you missed everything '80s British, Welsh and Irish rock 'n' roll had to offer. The angst of the Sex Pistols. The anguish of early U2. The urgency and spirit of their own Welsh background. For the crowd at Hammerjacks, an inspirational evening. For The Alarm and its small but loyal following, just another of many spectacular shows.
Rolling Stones at The Max (continuing) -- Sure, we know you think this is a cop out. But while it has been a frigid year for live music, the Stones have been busy scorching the screen at the Science Center every weekend for two months running. Besides, the $13 ticket is a far better value than 80 percent of the stuff that actually uses real amplifiers and instruments.
* The concert calendar:
Coming to the Capital Centre, Luther Vandross, Sinbad and The Sounds of Blackness (Sunday) and Rod Stewart (Jan. 19).
Ozzy Osbourne performs at D.A.R. Constitution Hall on Jan. 27
Hammerjacks welcomes Joan Jett (tomorrow) and Peter Frampton (Feb. 14).
The Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va., has Michael Bolton (Jan. 24) and The Cult (Feb. 15).
The Towson Center hosts Little Feat on Feb. 3.