Friday, December 31, 2010

and you hear the gathering sound: most memorable concerts of 2010

I hope it's not a sign that I am becoming staid, the fact that a lot of the concerts I attended this year were performances by musicians I have seen before, often multiple times. I know I can always count on events like the Calgary Folk Festival to fulfill my need to discover new artists, so I can allow myself the indulgence of seeing some favourites repeatedly. Besides I am giving myself adventure points for hosting a house concert this summer. And I did manage to tick another off my must see before I die list.

Here then, for your end of the year list-reading pleasure, are the shows that best exemplified why we will always need live music, with snippets of the original reviews:

Bad Tempered Zombie's Ten Most Memorable Concerts of 10

1. James

Absolutely perfect. A big sweeping sound, complete with trumpet and drama and yes, even the famous Tim Booth dance. It was an amazingly high-octane, lots of love, feel-good evening, and even if you had never heard James before, you would have been completely swept up in the solid musicianship and the vibe of communion.
*
2. Josh Ritter

The writer in me is in complete awe of Josh Ritter's talent. Yes, his songs are musically wonderful and melodically satisfying, but it's the lyrics that elevate him to the status of one of the finest songwriters in the world. I had the feeling that Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band would have been happy to play all night long, had somebody only thought to ask. I know I wasn't the only person who filed out of that church with a huge Ritteresque grin on my face.
*
3. Wilco / Califone

Rapidly establishing themselves as indie darlings, Califone makes music that is dense and diverse, a beautifully hypnotic melange of rich layers, vibrant percussion and melodic fuzz. I was swept into a rhythmic trance by the music, and particularly enjoyed watching the old hippie guy grooving on the maracas.

Watching Wilco perform such masterpieces of experimentalism as Spiders (Kidsmoke), where each member seems to veer off onto their own noise path, only to bring it all back to a cohesive piece in the end, really illuminated the strength that Wilco has in unifying seemingly disparate elements into something noisy but glorious. On the opposite end of the musical spectrum, gorgeous harmonies speak to the country sensibilities of the band and the diversity that they have mastered.
*
4. Dan Mangan / the Burning Hell

I had a moment during the Burning Hell's set when I was transported. Warm lights illuminated the suited men on the stage, rapt faces of those seated were upturned and bathed in what felt like candlelight. I was acutely aware that there was a storm roaring outside the walls, and the room felt like a haven on a windswept prairie night, with the band performing at a dance in some long forgotten prairie hall. And when Darcy began playing an achingly lovely waltz on the cello, the moment was perfect. And then we all had a singalong.

It's obvious that, after so many years of touring solo, Dan Mangan really enjoys playing with other musicians. The joy was evident in the enthusiasm with which they attacked each song. There was still the touch of the troubadour in the music, but there was also musicians playing off one another and even a great cacophonous jam.
*
5. Olenka and the Autumn Lovers

The Autumn Lovers brought us on a soulful journey through revolutionary Poland and Vancouver's east side. For over an hour, they serenaded us with a powerful acoustic rendering of their award-winning music. The aspect I found most satisfying was glancing around the room during the show, looking at the rapt expressions on the faces of my friends. The inclusiveness of the experience brought such a relaxed vibe to the show, a feeling you could never find in a larger concert venue. The between-song banter was not a one-way street. People commented and asked questions, jokes were tossed back and forth and the barrier between performer and audience was blurred and obliterated. I absolutely love it when that happens.
*
6. John K Samson / Kris Demeanor

It really was an inspired pairing - one of the country's finest story-tellers matched up with one of the country's most eloquent poets, in an evening of acoustic wordsmithery. Two men, two guitars, and a whole lot of imagery.
*
7. the Buzzcocks

For a couple of old guys, one in a pyjama shirt, the other in a giant patchwork clown-inspired button down, the Buzzcocks' energy certainly belied the years. At times I really felt like I was in 1970's Manchester, especially during the rather limited banter, where I could barely understand a word of what was said.
*
8. the Mountain Goats / the New Pornographers

There was no opening band. Okay technically, the Mountain Goats opened for the New Pornographers, but if you know the Mountain Goats you immediately realize how ridiculous that concept is. Both bands are undisputed headliners, both have seriously devoted followers. It was a lineup that made for a high-spirited evening that came roaring out of the starting blocks. Anybody who stayed in the beer garden while the Mountain Goats played is a idiot.
*
9. Owen Pallett / Little Scream

Little Scream, with whom none of us were familiar, was an endearing and musically compelling opener. Channeling a little of the sound and esthetics of Jesca Hoop, but with a tremolo voice reminiscent of Amber Webber (of Lightning Dust and Black Mountain), she looped her way through a highly original and evocative set.

With this show being the fifth time I have seen Owen Pallett perform, I couldn't help but be struck by the unfailing consistency of his performance, which somehow manages to also continually evolve. His wizardry with looping is increasingly impressive, his confidence in experimental sound is unparalleled, and of course his violin playing is glorious.
*
10. Eels / Jesca Hoop

Think Regina Spektor meets Cindy Lou Who, with a little Bjork thrown in for good measure, and you get the gist of the sound and the picture of Jesca Hoop. With songs that were simultaneously ethereal and experimental, she was imminently fascinating. A lapsed Mormon who had to leave the church when her hair would no longer fit through the church doors, Jesca told the most amazing between-song stories.

Eels played a tight set, comprised of a great mix of hard rocking anthems interspersed with heartfelt romantic ballads. But, despite the fact that there were people dancing in front of the stage, there was a distance between band and audience. That connection, which is the truly magical part of any live performance, never really happened, at least not for me.

Having drinks with our new Seattle friends afterwards, though, was a true highlight of the evening. It's always life-affirming to make new connections, and we were so glad that we ventured out on a rainy Seattle night.
*
What are your most memorable concert moments of 2010?

Happy New Year, my preciouses, and may there be lots of music in your 2011!

6 comments:

27thstreet said...

I think I'd enjoy Wilco! I had no idea The Buzzcocks were still happening.
All the best in 2011 in Zombie-land.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Thanks so much, Mr Anchovy, I hope that your year is outstanding as well.
I am quite certain you would enjoy a Wilco concert. I was thrilled that the Buzzcocks were still going, minus Howard Devoto, of course.

kelly said...

sadly I don't think I saw a concert in 2010.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Good thing you've got Jake the dog to keep you entertained, Kelly. You've got to teach him how to play spoons or something and you'll be all set.

Dale said...

2010 was so long ago, I'm wondering if I saw anyone either. I didn't even have Kelly's dog to watch. Poor poor pitiful me. it 'sounds' like you were at some great shows though.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

You were too busy with theatre trips down to New York and Chicago, Dale, so don't use those puppy dog eyes on me!