King Sunny Ade (June 3) and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey (Aug. 5) at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano: These two Nigerians led separate but equally irresistible performances last summer, proving that soul-stirring rhythms and exotically captivating melodies can transcend any cultural barriers.
-- Joe Ely at the Coach House (June 13): Armed only with a guitar, this still vastly under-appreciated rock 'n' roll tornado from Texas rattled the foundation of the club with a scathing and fiercely powerful solo show.
-- Elvis Costello at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center (April 17): While the likes of Springsteen and U2 move to ever bigger and broader expanses, Costello continues to out-write, out-punch and outclass the field with his prolific pen and freewheeling, unpredictable, challenging shows like this one.
-- Los Lobos at the Coach House (July 29): Shortly before their "La Bamba" single and sound track thrust East L.A.'s favorite fivesome into national prominence, the band turned in a roof-raising party in San Juan Capistrano.
-- Chuck Berry at the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim (Aug. 28): The father of rock 'n' roll has been all too guilty of musical child neglect in the shoddy performances he's done in recent years, but here he turned an initially disastrous show into a full-scale triumph that indicated just how much muscle he's got left.
-- Crowded House at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa (Sept. 4): This unabashedly winsome New Zealand quartet also appeared at the Coach House in April, but the group's Pacific show in September was most notable for showing that you don't have to sacrifice intimacy and spontaneity in moving up to larger venues.
-- Jonathan Richman at Coach House (Sept. 13): A childlike--as opposed to childish--sense of wonder permeates Richman's shows, suggesting that maybe one never really gets too old to rock 'n' roll.
-- Neil Young & Crazy Horse at the Pacific Amphitheatre (Aug. 13): This rock veteran, like Costello, always has his eye on where he's going rather than where he's been and continues to challenge his audience with thoughtful, joyous, provocative shows like this one.
-- George Jones at the Pacific Amphitheatre (Nov. 1): Anyone who thinks hotshot Randy Travis is the new be-all and end-all of country singers should stop in on a performance like he gave here to remember how there's no substitute for experience. Jones is still the king of heart-wrenching vocalists.