My Favourite Concerts of 2012

The Nonsense Year in Review continues with my favourite concerts from the past year. 2012 was relatively subdued by my regular standards; it was dominated by Bruce Springsteen, who I saw four times, and by one of my favourite bands performing my favourite album of all-time in its entirety, but after a banner 2011 I guess was a due for a bit of a letdown. Or was I? Here’s the best of who I got to see. Hey, speaking of “who”…

The Who w/Vintage Trouble, 11/23 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, ON. As if there was any other possible choice: my band, performing my favourite all-time album (Quadrophenia) in its entirety, at the arena (the Air Canada Centre) where I’ve had some of the most memorable nights of my life. Roger Daltrey’s clearly on his final legs, but Pete Townshend’s still the greatest (watching him hit one windmill after another at the end of “Who Are You” is like witnessing Hancock making his signature). This might well have been my last Who concert; if it was, then we went out on top.

Video: the show-stopping “5:15,” replete with “hologram John Entwistle” bass solo (from thesignaturelibrary)

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, 10/19 at Scotiabank Place in Kanata, ON. I saw Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball tour four times; Ottawa was the best of the bunch, just shading Buffalo (which warranted consideration on the basis of “Ramrod” alone). Despite incompetent venue staff causing us to miss most of the opening song, the rest of the night was classic E Street. “Born to Run” was the highlight, of course, but “Drive All Night,” the solo acoustic “Queen of the Supermarket” (I know, I know), and the ’78 intro to “Prove It All Night” all made for a magical night in Kanata (and how often have I been able to make that assertion?).

Video: “Prove It All Night” with the legendary ’78-style intro (from Dirk Schlimm)

The Gaslight Anthem w/the Joy Formidable, 11/25 at the Sound Academy in Toronto, ON. After the Gaslight Anthem wrapped up their set with “The Backseat” I remarked to Sherkin that this was a double bill to rival Pearl Jam and Sleater-Kinney. And I meant it–and that’s high praise indeed, since Pearl Jam and Sleater-Kinney are both among my five favourite bands. The Joy Formidable set it up with a spectacular opening set; the Gaslight Anthem brought it home with a heavy dose of Handwritten and The ’59 Sound. “Here’s Looking At You, Kid” is quickly becoming one of my very favourite songs.

Video: “Blue Dahlia” (from jennonaplane). If a single person who reads this hears “Blue Dahlia” for the first time then it’ll have been a worthwhile endeavour. This song rules.

Leonard Cohen, 11/15 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. I’m not sure what I was expecting from Leonard Cohen. I’m sure I wasn’t expecting him to waltz, almost quite literally, through three-plus hours of melancholy, moving songs about life, love, and growing old. A revelation.

Video: “First We Take Manhattan” (from Rob Christopher)

I Mother Earth, 7/12 at Flames Central in Calgary, AB. I wasn’t surprised when I Mother Earth reunited–their break-up never felt final, despite lasting almost a decade–but after missing the two-night welcome-back extravaganza at the Sound Academy was worried I wouldn’t actually see them. Stampede brought them to Calgary, and after their piledriver-of-a-show it was clear that the break’s led to a band rejuvenated.

Video: “We Got The Love” (from IMotherEarthCD). I couldn’t find any video from IME’s Flames Central show. “We Got The Love” is the new song the band wrote for its 2012 reunion, and it was an absolute show-stopper in Calgary.

How ’bout favourite songs? In rough chronological order…:

  • Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: “Ramrod” (Buffalo); “Spirit in the Night,” “Rosalita,” and “Twist and Shout” (Toronto); “Prove It All Night,” “Drive All Night,” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” (Ottawa); “I’m a Rocker” and “Rosalita” (Hamilton); “Born to Run” at all four
  • The Tragically Hip, “New Orleans is Sinking” (yup, surprised as you are)
  • I Mother Earth, “Summertime in the Void,” “We Got The Love,” and “Rain Will Fall”
  • The Smashing Pumpkins, “X.Y.U.”
  • Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “Cortez the Killer”
  • Leonard Cohen, “First We Take Manhattan”
  • The Who, “5:15” and “Bellboy”
  • GWAR, “Carry On My Wayward Son”
  • The Joy Formidable’s entire opening set for the Gaslight Anthem
  • The Gaslight Anthem, “Blue Dahlia,” “Here’s Looking At You, Kid,” and “The Backseat”

And it’s already shaping up to be a memorable 2013: within the next three weeks I’ve got great floor seats for the Hip in Red Deer and two nights with Soundgarden at the Sound Academy. Bring it on, 2013!

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