January 18, 2016’s a bit late to be working on 2015 retrospectives…but screw it: here are the five best concerts I saw last year. The top two are ranked, the next three aren’t, but collectively they comprise an unassailable top five.
U2, 5/14 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The opening night of U2’s iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour’s one of two shows (the other being Pearl Jam’s 2003 Buffalo concert) that’s literally caused me to emotionally collapse. The show itself’s best known for the Edge falling off himself (as Bono put it the following night), but I’ll remember it as one of the great nights of my life as a music fan.
The Who, 6/26 at Hyde Park in London. Seeing the Who in London, and in particular hearing Quadrophenia songs live in London, was a bucket list item for me, and while I didn’t love the entire BST Hyde Park experience (I couldn’t get close to the stage, for instance) seeing Pete and Roger in their hometown was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
(video by Arts Alliance; this is taken from the Who in Hyde Park concert video, which is excellent save for the bizzare exclusion of “The Seeker”)
The Decemberists, 7/19 at MacEwan Hall in Calgary. I’d been wanting to see the Decemberists for ages. In 2009 they played, quite literally, across the river from me, but I was occupied with a Tool concert in San Antonio. I didn’t have the chance to see them again till last year, when they played, quite literally, across the sidewalk from my office. It was well worth the wait. Among the highlights: Colin Meloy’s story about his son’s oatmeal leading into “Calamity Song,” the suite from The Hazards of love, the show-closing cover of “Four Strong Winds” (“Grade A pandering!”), and of course, this:
(video by Bennett Lai)
Rush, 7/15 at Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. I’m as surprised as you are. Let the record show I saw Rush mostly because the price was right: $15. One fortuitous upgrade later and we were practically on stage with Geddy, Alex, and Neal; we could’ve walked out after the opening song and been totally satisfied, but then we wouldn’t be able to say we’ve heard “Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres Part I: Prelude” live.
Sleater-Kinney, 12/13 at Terminal 5 in New York. I hadn’t seen Sleater-Kinney in over a decade before Sam sprung a surprise anniversary trip to New York City on me. It seems clear the nine-year hiatus has rejuvenated them (not that they needed it, mind you: The Woods, had it ended up being their swan song, would’ve gone down as their masterpiece, and as good as No Cities to Love is it’s not quite as good). Their Terminal 5 show, the second of a five-night New York area tour wrap-up, drew largely from the band’s two most recent records, which pleased me; hearing “Let’s Call it Love” live again was especially thrilling. But Sleater-Kinney performed like a bunch of upstarts desperate to prove themselves. We’d have expected nothing different.
Of course, under no circumstances would we have expected this:
(video by Kimberly Logan)