Joe Brown

Dead Can Dance, Nov. 23 at Gaston Hall. Seldom have arena and performer been so perfectly matched as when these 4AD art-label past-plunderers arrived in this gloriously medieval-looking hall. Brendan Perry's grave baritone and Lisa Gerrard's spiraling a cappella liturgical chants caused full-body chills; the intense, two-hour intermissionless performance was rewarded with six standing ovations from the sold-out, black-clad crowd.

Richard Harrington

Paul McCartney, July 4 at RFK Stadium. For reveling in his past and ours, by doing so many Beatles songs so well and for unveiling "Birthday" on the Fourth of July in Washington.

Eve Zibart

Masters of the Steel String Guitar, April 4 at the Thomas Jefferson Recreation Center. An astonishing display of the breadth and possibilities of an instrument we tend to take for granted -- jazz, Hawaiian, bluegrass, folk, blues and rock -- too bad such showcases are so often overlooked.

Mike Joyce

Jazz pianists, January and February at One Step Down. Whether it was a matter of good fortune or inspired booking (and we suspect the latter), One Step Down managed to present a series of jazz piano masters early in the year. An embarrassment of riches, the diverse weekend performances by Tommy Flanagan, Cedar Walton, Barry Harris and Don Pullen drew almost as many musicians as fans and delighted both.

Geoffrey Himes

Van Morrison, Sept. 5 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The 45-year-old Belfast singer is a notoriously erratic live performer, but when he's in the right mood, no one is better. Backed by London's top-notch blues-jazz band, Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames, Morrison tackled songs from all phases of his career, taking off from the melodies to improvise in intimate purring whispers and explosive soul shouts until his throat opened up fully and his most instinctive music poured out into the microphone unimpeded.

Mark Jenkins

Wedding Present, June 14 at the 9:30 club. This Leeds quartet's demon strum is intriguing, even quite likable, on disc, but that experience was no preparation for how powerful it was live. David Gedge and his company scrubbed their fretboards so fast that one half-expected their guitars to fly from their hands like toy airplanes powered by wound-up rubber bands -- which, metaphorically, they did.