Let’s keep on wrapping 2013! Here are the first best concerts I saw last year, starting with one of the strangest nights in my life as a music fan:
Pearl Jam, 7/19 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Pearl Jam at Wrigley was memorable for all sorts of reasons – among them the show itself, which was interrupted by a 2-3/4-hour rain delay and finished at the stroke of 2am. Pearl Jam fans have been bemoaning what might’ve been quite literally since the show ended (thanks in part to a t-shirt featuring the actual planned setlist), but as an experience, both good and bad, Wrigley was unique. Plus, it featured an Ernie Banks cameo, two Lightning Bolt premieres, the first-ever solo accordion “Bugs,” a searing take of the Pink Floyd song “Mother,” a tear-jerking “Come Back” dedication and Eddie Vedder looking so damned proud the entire night your heart wanted to explode.
(Video by thesignaturelibrary)
Soundgarden, 1/25 and 1/26 at the Sound Academy in Toronto. Again, it’s a source of wonder that I’ve now seen Soundgarden three times – two of them in a club. All told we got thirty-nine different songs. “Jesus Christ Pose” from night one was the best of the bunch, but I also loved the first night’s killer opening, “Incessant Mace,” “Loud Love” and spending five hours thisclose to Matt Cameron and Chris Cornell.
(Video by kikijetu)
Nine Inch Nails, 11/25 in Calgary. NIN was, top-to-bottom, one of the best concerts I’ve seen in years. I hadn’t seen them since the Kool Haus show in 2005, after which I declared I’d never see them again because that initial exposure to their live show was so perfect. I held fast for eight years, even missing their arena tour with Queens of the Stone Age and Death From Above 1979. But when NIN came to Calgary for the final date of their Hesitation Marks tour, I caved. I’m glad I did: in addition to a killer setlist (“Sanctified”! “I’m Afraid of Americans”!), not to mention the presence of Lisa Fischer and Pino Palladino, the light show was as spectacular as anything I’ve seen this side of U2.
(Video by Ryan Howatt)
AmericanaramA, 7/15 in Toronto. AmericanaramA – headlined by Bob Dylan, featuring Wilco, My Morning Jacket and Richard Thompson – was, as good a lineup as you’re likely to encounter…and that’s before mentioning the Feist cameo (on a freaking Leonard Cohen cover of all things). Dylan was stupidly good, but Wilco and MMJ matched him stride-for-stride (sorry, mom and dad, but you were literally the only people there who didn’t like MMJ). And the cross-breeding on stage was something to behold; MMJ and Wilco jamming on “Cinnamon Girl,” for instance, spoke to all of heaven’s possibilities.
Queens of the Stone Age, 8/8 in Calgary. This was my fourth time seeing QOTSA but my first time seeing them as a headliner (unless you count the time Flaming Red and I saw them at the MuchMusic environment; that was surreal). The band’s 2013 album …Like Clockwork was on every single year-end best-of list. Live, it burned, the songs fitting perfectly with the rest of the Queens’ catalogue. Going in, I wanted …Like Clockwork front-to-back (they’d done it at least once on the tour) and “Millionaire” and “Song for the Dead.” And while the former didn’t quite happen, the latter certainly did – along with a delirious, off-the-cuff “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” in the encore.
(Video by Ryan Howatt. It’s shaky, but it’s freaking awesome.)
Here’s to an equally good 2014! First up: Neil Young with Diana Krall at the Jack Singer. Might well be all downhill from there.