Year in Review, Part 1

I love year in review programs. Love ’em. I will sit in front of a t.v. screen and watch The Score’s Sports Year in Review for hours and not bat an eye. Gripping stuff. And for lack of a television channel on which to air my own year in review program, here are the sporting events, theatrical events and musical events that kept me going in 2004. Later this week I’ll publish a secondary, “alternate” year in review featuring best roadtrips, best hangovers, best Adam Say moments…you name it. For now, here’s my look back at the year that was.

Best Concert:

  • Pearl Jam. This one’s a no-brainer: on September 29, 2004 I saw Pearl Jam put on one of their all-time legendary performances at the FleetCenter in Boston, MA. The two-night Boston stand was a warm-up for the band’s participation on the Vote for Change Tour, on which I am currently writing an essay for my poli sci class (I’m serious, I’m actually doing this). The first night was impressive; the second night, however, pushed the bar on what Pearl Jam is capable of doing in a live setting to new, unprecedented heights. Highlights included “Alone” and “I’ve Got a Feeling”, neither of which had been played live in ten years, along with the skullcrushing “Go” / “Animal” / “Save You” / “Do the Evolution” opening salvo, the infamous acoustic “Lukin”, the unexpected take on the old Who classic “The Seeker” and the show-closing “Rockin’ in the Free World” replete with Matt Cameron’s machine gun drumming and our eight foot-long Canadian flag.
  • Honourable Mention #1: The Tragically Hip. But which one? I saw the Hip four times in 2004 and at least three of those shows were special for one reason or another. The Mod Club? Just an incredible experience seeing the band so up close and personal, hearing In Between Evolution performed in its entirety the day it was released and getting to hear “those songs” in such a tiny venue. The Ottawa Bluesfest? Arguably the best Hip concert I’ve ever seen, a dazzlingly performance from Kingston’s finest replete with the definitive “Grace, Too”. But I’ll give the nod to the September 12 show in Kingston, which was the band’s first full-scale hometown show since the Day for Night tour. Not the greatest setlist I’ve ever heard and a crowd that pushed the limit on unacceptable behaviour…but still, seeing the Hip in Kingston and hearing “Blow at High Dough” performed in their hometown and being back in town for the first time since leaving and getting to experience it with some of my best friends in the entire world–it was all part of a much bigger picture. So what if I had to suffer thorough “My Music at Work” for a ninth time? This was still a magical day.
  • Honourable Mention #2: Green Day. I’d been waiting years to see Green Day in concert, so when the opportunity presented itself–the same night as the U.S. presidential election, no less–I leapt. That a life-altering relationship sprung from it was merely an ancillary benefit to hearing “Longview” live and in the flesh.

Best Live Song:

  • “Release”. I heard a lot of great songs in 2004, but never in my life have I experienced a singalong more vociferous than that which greeted Pearl Jam for their first arena show in over a year. Listen to the bootleg; you’ll have trouble picking out Eddie Vedder’s voice for the sound of 19,000 fans at full throttle.
  • Honourable Mention #1: “Layla”. Hearing it live was like witnessing Hancock mark his signature.
  • Honourable Mention #2: “Grace, Too”. The Ottawa version set the standard by which all future “Grace, Too”s will be measured.

Musical Highlight:

  • The two-night Pearl Jam stand in Boston. Easily the most ill-advised concert foray in recent memory–and, without a doubt, one of the most memorable.
  • Honourable Mention #1: Across the Causeway, for reasons already mentioned.
  • Honourable Mention #2: Green Day, for reasons that far surpass the usual benefits of attending live concerts.

Bands I Missed in 2004:

  • Social Distortion. I’ve wanted to see Social D live for ages…so when they announced an October show at the Kool Haus opportunity had seemingly presented itself. Or not: $35 tickets and the usual, ludicrous $10 service charge from Ticketmaster kept me home that night.

Bands I Saw Live Too Many Times in 2004:

  • The Tragically Hip. 2004 was a fallow year as far as concertgoing is concerned: in total I saw a mere eleven shows–seven of which could either be classified as Tragically Hip, Pearl Jam or Pearl Jam tribute concerts. As far as the Hip’s concerned, I saw them four times in four very different venues: at the Mod Club, on the lawn in front of Ottawa city hall, on the playing fields at Royal Military College in Kingston, and most recently–and predictably–at the Air Canada Centre. And I love the Hip, don’t get me wrong–it’s just that I wish they’d mix things up a little bit more. The band has been falling into a rut as of late, playing virtually the exact same set night in, night out, which is not what I’ve come to expect from Kingston’s finest. I did some number crunching in a moment of utter boredom a couple weeks ago and discovered that a whopping ten songs were played at all four shows I saw in 2004–and if you don’t count the first show (an album premiere in a small Toronto club), you’ll find that sixteen songs were played at each of the bigger shows I attended. Now granted, I’m the sucker who keeps doling out huge amounts of cash to see a band recycle its greatest hits–and I’ll keep doing so just as long as the Hip keep delivering the kind of live show that they alone are capable of delivering. But would it kill them to bust out a non-single every once in a while? Discuss.

Best Album:

  • Green Day, American Idiot. #1 with a bullet. Green Day’s best album since Dookie–maybe including Dookie.
  • Honourable Mention: Tom Waits, Real Gone. What’s not to love about Tom Waits ditching the ol’ piano, busting out a turntable and gettin’ jiggy wit the “Metropolitan Glide”? That’s right: absolutely nothing.

Best Song:

  • William Shatner, “Common People”. I make no apologies.
  • Honourable Mention: I cannot give honourable mention in this category.

Movie of the Year:

  • Fahrenheit 9/11. Remember high school? Life was simpler back then; friends were single, prices were lower and going to the movies wasn’t considered a special occasion. Fast-forward six years. My friends are all tied down in long-term relationships, and some of them are so whipped they make Nick Lachey look dignified. A movie ticket costs $13.50, exactly half an hour’s wage. And, frankly, there just aren’t enough movies out there that are worth that kind of money. I remember in Grade 8 complaining when I had to pay $6.00 to see The Nightmare Before Christmas. If I knew then what I know now.

Sporting Event of the Year:

  • Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators. This one is an absolute no-brainer. Honestly, where do I even start? On February 5, me and fifty other Walkhome staff members rented a school bus, drove from Kingston to Kanata and witnessed the Toronto Maple Leafs spot the Ottawa Senators a 4-0 lead…then come roaring back to tie the game and then win it in overtime on an Owen Nolan goal. Would have warranted first place immediately by virtue of the game alone; that I saw it with fifty friends nudged this game into a category somewhere beyond the realm of mere sporting events.
  • Honourable Mention #1: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Boston Red Sox. Free tickets, free beer courtesy Dan from Chicago, a classic pitching dual between Pedro Martinez and Ted Lilly and me heckling three ten-year old Boston fans…does it get any better than that?
  • Honourable Mention #2: Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions. Glitter, glisten, gloss, floss, I catch an eighty-two yard touchdown bomb from Daunte Culpepper like Randy Moss…then watch as Detroit scuffs the PAT with eight seconds remaining to seal an ill-deserved Vikings win.

Show of the Year:

  • Hairspray. I saw it four times, which must mean something. Back in the day, when I was more interested in Broadway musicals than music, sports or girls, I would have known every single word to every single song before even setting foot inside the theatre; 2004 Steve, however, has lost track of what’s happening in musical theatre, and I saw Hairspray for the first time not knowing the plot, the music, the characters…nothing. What a pleasant shock this was; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so unexpectedly thrilled by a musical as I was by Hairspray. And I used its penultimate Toronto performance to woo Brianna Johnson! Who could ask for anything more?
  • Honourable Mention: Rent. An “honourable mention” insofar as hearing Mel B (yes, that Mel B) desacrate Jonathan Larson’s timeless music can be considered “honourable”.

And that’s it. I’ll be back later for an alternate look back at 2004; in the meantime, please enjoy yourself as you do something that isn’t writing 50 pages’ worth of masters-level essays.

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