My Favourite Concerts of 2014

These four concerts helped give 2014 its soundtrack.

The Hold Steady w/Pkew Pkew Pkew (Gunshots), 12/12 at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. The perfect combination of band, venue, and occasions (the last of the Hold Steady’s four-night residency in celebration of the Horseshoe’s 67th birthday and the beginning of mine and Sam’s one-year anniversary, although surely they could’ve been playing something, anything, other than “Lord, I’m Discouraged” when the clock struck midnight). We did not, as anticipated, get Stay Positive front-to-back; instead, we got what might’ve been the ultimate Hold Steady setlist, along with four token Canadian cover songs. The kind of show that reaffirmed your faith in, and love for, rock n’ roll music.

Video: “Killer Parties” to close, replete with stage invasion and impromptu dance party (credit: greensprout88).

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds w/Reggie Watts, 6/27 at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary. I still haven’t figured out how to explain Nick Cave to anyone who wasn’t there, so I’ll simply say this with as much sincerity as possible: I could’ve walked out after the second song, which was “Jubilee Street,” and gotten my money’s worth. One of the most unique shows I’ll ever see.

Black Sabbath w/Reignwolf, 4/20 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. Just so we’re clear, I didn’t realize I was seeing Black Sabbath on Easter Sunday till right before the concert (although I was acutely aware I was seeing them on 4/20; alas, no “Sweet Leaf” to mark the occasion). Anyway. I’m not sure what I was expecting; I wouldn’t have gone had it not been for the $30 tickets. But I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was. Ozzy was captivating, but the real star was Tony Iommi, battling cancer by being one of the last remaining guitar heroes. Forty-six years after their debut Sabbath still has an aura few other bands can ever hope to possess. That, almost as much as the music itself, made this a memorable Easter night.

Video: “Black Sabbath” (credit: TheNiceRoad).

Neil Young w/Diana Krall, 1/19 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary. Young’s “Honour the Treaties” tour generated attention for all the right reasons–but the shows themselves were also superlative, featuring minimal politicking in favour of letting the songs themselves protest. I’d been in setlist blackout in the build up to the concert; I’m glad I was, because it made the five Harvest songs a total shock, along with the “Four Strong Winds” cover that was especially poignant in Southern Alberta. Diana Krall’s opening set was also memorable, highlighted by her smoldering take on “Simple Twist of Fate.”

Honourable mention:

  • The National (4/9, Toronto). Worth it just to hear “England.”
  • Steve Winwood (8/19, Calgary). He upstaged Tom Petty.
  • John Fogerty (11/24, Calgary). Hearing John Fogerty and his band (which featured, among others, Kenny Aronoff) perform “Fortunate Son” was like witnessing Hancock’s signature.
  • Moist (11/29, Calgary). There went the resurrection!

Favourite live songs of 2014:

  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “Jubilee Street” (#1 with a bullet)
  • Neil Young, “Four Strong Winds”
  • The National, “England” and “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”
  • Black Sabbath, “Black Sabbath”
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “Push the Sky Away” and “Stagger Lee”
  • Arcade Fire, “Wake Up”
  • Steve Winwood, “Gimme Some Lovin'”
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, “Learning to Fly”
  • Bob Dylan, “Stay With Me”
  • John Fogerty, “Who’ll Stop the Rain”
  • Moist, “Silver” (it’s not my favourite Moist song, not by any stretch, but hearing it live for the first time in fourteen years was deliriously surreal)
  • The Hold Steady, “Constructive Summer”

Can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store!

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