date published: December 14, 2009

Panorama’s best bets for ringing in the New Year
by Josh B. Wardrop

If you’re going to be in Boston for new year’s eve, there’ll be no excuse for sitting in front of the TV watching the ball drop in the Big Apple—not when the Hub is hopping with such a wide range of exciting ways to ring in 2010. Whether you’re into stand-up comedy, live music, fancy parties or family activities, Boston has the perfect celebration to indulge in as 2009 bids us all adieu.

First Night 2010
In 1976, a small group of Boston-based artists thought it would be a nice idea to put together a New Year’s Eve celebration that was less about alcohol and raucous partying and more about celebrating the visual and performing arts. Fast-forward 34 years and what began as a small arts event centered around Boston Common has become the annual First Night Boston extravaganza, the nation’s oldest and largest New Year’s arts celebration, and the inspiration for more than 200 similar events worldwide. As usual, this year’s First Night event takes place at locations all around the city, providing family-friendly activities throughout the day and into the evening, when the festivities culminate in a Grand Procession down Boylston Street and two fireworks displays (one at 7 p.m. for families, the latter at midnight for late-night revelers). Other highlights of this year’s event include Bombay Cinema (a 10-hour program of the best of Bollywood film) at Hynes Convention Center; a performance at Berklee Performance Center by saxophonist/clarinetist/Berklee College of Music alum Anat Cohen; the live Japanese monster wrestling spectacle of Kaiju Big Battel at Hynes; and A Shakespeare Cabaret by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company at St. Paul’s Cathedral. All outdoor First Night events are free; the remaining events require a First Night button ($18; free for children under 4), available at dozens of locations around Boston. For a list of button-vending locations, and a complete schedule of First Night events, visit

Glam it up
There aren’t too many legit occasions these days when a girl can get dolled up like a princess, but New Year’s Eve is definitely one of them. This December 31, Boston hosts several gala events sure to bring out those Cinderella-inspired dreams of ballroom glory.

For the last 13 years, the annual Resolution Ball has been Boston’s longest-running and most popular New Year’s Eve gala. This year, though, the organizers have decided that one spectacular event simply isn’t enough. The result is two Resolution Balls—a South End version taking place at the Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts (539 Tremont St.) and a Back Bay ball hosted high above the city on the Skywalk observatory level of the Prudential Center (800 Boylston St.). Beginning at 8:30 p.m., the Back Bay event boasts complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, as well as live entertainment from popular local band The Love Dogs playing Motown, soul and R&B, and a DJ spinning tracks from the ’70s to today’s Top 40 hits. Meanwhile, in the South End, partygoers can sway and shake to music from the Felix Brown Band and DJ Samuel L. while sipping designer cocktails from a cash bar (no food is served at this event). Both events are black-tie optional and tickets (which must be purchased in advance by calling 781-444-7771) range from $99–239.

Spending New Year’s Eve in a foreign land is a great idea for the jet-set crowd, but even Bostonians can experience a touch of international flair this December 31 at the Boston Young Professionals Association’s annual Global Gala, taking place at popular Back Bay pub/restaurant Lir (903 Boylston St.). Lir’s three floors are transformed into three different exotic cities—Shanghai, New Orleans and Paris—and boast DJs spinning everything from oldies and Top 40 to chilled-out lounge music. Tickets begin at $65 and include a breakfast buffet, champagne toast at midnight and a gift bag bursting with Lindt chocolates. Visit for more information.

If gowns, tuxedos and dancing ’til the early hours really aren’t your thing, you can still attend a “gala” event at Boston Baroque’s Gala New Year’s Eve Concert at Sanders Theatre (45 Quincy St., Cambridge, 617-484-9200). The concert begins at 8 p.m. and features the renowned area ensemble welcoming in the new year with a pair of one-act comic operas—Mozart’s Bastien and Bastienne and Cimarosa’s The Music Director. (And, if you miss out on the show on New Year’s Eve, the whole production is repeated on New Year’s Day at 3 p.m.) Ticket prices range from $29–69.

A Rockin’ New Year
There’s no better way to enter a new year than with a song in your heart (and, perhaps, a lighter waving in the air). This year, several Boston venues turn it up to 11 as the clock strikes 12.

The Boston Pops spend most of December performing family-friendly concerts filled with light classical renditions of holiday favorites, but on December 31, the ensemble—led by conductor Keith Lockhart—gets to show off a bit of alt-rock edge as they team up with Boston’s punk priestess provocateur Amanda Palmer for a 10 p.m. show at Symphony Hall. The lead singer of beloved Boston punk cabaret act The Dresden Dolls, Palmer and the Pops present a symphonic take on her conceptual art-rock both with the Dolls and from her recent solo work.

Most of the year, nightlife fans flock to Kings in the Back Bay for great food and drink, bowling and billiards in a grown-up nightclub atmosphere. On New Year’s Eve, however, all of those fun-filled activities take a backseat to two special performances by pop heartthrob Ryan Cabrera—an all-ages show at 7 p.m. (tickets: $20) and a 21+ performance at 10 p.m. ($40, including appetizers and a champagne toast).

We might be getting ready to ring in 2010, but it’s gonna be 1988 all over again at the Paradise Rock Club when the popular Guns N’ Roses tribute band Mr. Brownstone returns to the Hub to host a New Year’s Eve Ball. These dead ringers for Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan and the rest of G N’R tear the roof off the venue as they expertly recreate headbanger classics like “Sweet Child O’Mine” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” Tickets are $25.

And another popular tribute band invades The Hard Rock Cafe for a rockin’ New Year’s gig. The Joshua Tree, one of the nation’s premiere U2 tribute bands, rings in the new year with its take on U2 classics from “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” all the way up to “Magnificent.” Situated in the heart of Faneuil Hall Marketplace, The Hard Rock’s New Year’s Eve extravaganza kicks off at 8 p.m.; tickets are $25.

back to homepage

The Great Dane
Comedian Dane Cook has come a long way from his days as an aspiring teen stand-up comic growing up in the Boston suburb of Arlington. Today he’s a bonafide mega-star who’s sold millions of comedy albums, starred in films like My Best Friend’s Girl and Mr. Brooks, and routinely sells out stand-up shows in mammoth arenas. He’s back on home turf to ring in 2010, bringing his ISolated INcident Global Thermo Comedy Tour to the TD Garden at 7 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Refer to comedy listing.

What motivated you to get back out and tour this year? I did a lot of film stuff back-to-back, and I just felt that urge to get back onstage and replant the comedy flag. Stand-up is my nutrition—if I’m not onstage for awhile, I get headaches. And if I’m doing a tour, I want to do something really big. I’m somebody with a lot of respect for the history of stand-up and I definitely want to leave my mark on it.

It must be exciting to get to come back to the old hometown for such a huge show on a big night like New Year’s Eve. This has been a wild and incredible year, and the goal for me was to do a historic kind of comedy tour—70, 80, 90 dates—and wrapping up 2009 in Boston is just awesome. This is my 20th year doing standup, and I couldn’t think of a better way to bring it all full circle. It’ll definitely be emotional for me—I’m still an Arlington kid, hopefully making my town proud.

What’s it like doing a stand-up show in an arena? How do you approach the performance knowing the intimate connection with the audience isn’t the same as in a club? Well, first off, I just thank God I’m not playing the old Boston Garden, where the sound was so heinous (laughs). Honestly, though, I’ve always loved doing shows in the round, and the key is finding an amazing technical crew—which I have—that can set up, basically, this boxing ring for me to perform in. As I turn, it really feels like playing four small theaters, and that helps me feel connected to the audience. My video and sound system is designed to help bring across the subtle nuances, yet I can still get that big crowd energy.

What memories do you have of celebrating New Year’s Eve in the Boston area? Well, I’ve not had a drink in my life, so New Year’s Eve was never that big “party” night for me. Usually, I guess I would end up going down around the Charles River…catch the Boston Pops playing…those are some of my warmer memories, really. I was a local guy making enough bucks to get by doing stand-up, but not really well known. I could go out on New Year’s Eve and hang out anywhere I wanted, and nobody cared.

How do you feel growing up around Boston influenced your comedic style? I always loved Boston comics—watching them perform and just soaking it in. Boston guys aren’t “schticky” comics. It’s more about how much energy and performance you can put into it, not just jokes. The first lesson in this town is “Don’t worry so much about how you look.” (laughs)

What’s on deck for you in 2010? I have been nonstop for a really long time, and I’m pretty excited to take some time off and hang out in my new house—my first house, ever. I want to put down the microphone for a while because I’ve wrung out everything with this tour, and it’s time to just take some time to live life. So, I can have something new to write about! (laughs)