Archive for the ‘Indie’ Category

In yet another instalment of this live series, here are the performers I haven’t yet had a chance to see, but hopefully will get to one day.

Beyoncé

They called it “Beychella” for a reason. Plus, I’ve never seen anyone slay live.

Pink

I need to see her music live. I don’t know of any other chart topper that puts that much physical effort into their show (based on what I’ve heard,) and it’s sure to make me have a better appreciation for her music. So win-win for me.

Backstreet Boys

Seeing BSB live will channel the inner closeted boy band fan girl inside of me, and set her free. (In case you were wondering: Brian is still my fave.)

London Grammar

Their music breaks my heart every damn time, and I know witnessing them live will just destroy me (in the best way possible.)

Adele

When I first heard “Someone Like You,” I hadn’t had such a visceral reaction to a song in a very very long time. Adele knows how to express the deepest, darkest of emotions, with a perfect voice, which glorifies the pain and the sadness. Her music must to be experienced live (it’s just impossible to actually get tickets to her show.)

Dixie Chicks

I do my very best to be a well-rounded music fan, dabbling in as many genres as I can, to gain a more whole understanding of music. The Dixie Chicks were my gateway into country music, which is why I so badly want to see them live. Their music is beautiful, meaningful, and everything that makes them country, is what makes them so damn great.

Radiohead

I love Radiohead. My favourite way to listen to them is alone with headphones on, so I can drown out the world around me. I always hesitate to see them live when they come to town, because I don’t want that effect to get ruined when they play to thousands. Having said that, if I never get to see them live, I’ll never get over it. I missed them this year, here’s hoping they decide to come back.

 

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In continuation of this live series, here’s a look at some performers that just fell short of utter perfection.

Chris Cornell

I first saw Chris Cornell in Hamilton in 2008, playing a show in support of his solo album, Carry On. I drove all the way from Whitby, and braved a heavy snow storm to get there. I went with a potential more-than-friend friend, to the Hamilton Convention Centre – a venue that has more of a high school gym feel, standing room only, but big enough that you didn’t have to rub sweaty elbows with anyone. I soon found out, the best thing about a Chris Cornell show is that you not only get his solo music, but also that of Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog. How can you beat that?

I also saw him play as part of Soundgarden’s reunion tour at Molson Amphitheatre, back in 2014. Although the company was great, and the music full of nostalgia, the far-away lawn seats made it difficult to fully get engaged in the show, and I left wanting more. Not to mention, the dramatic rainstorm put a damper on the experience.

My all-time fave show of his by far, was an acoustic solo show (ie just him and his guitar) at Massey Hall, which I attended solo. He interacted so much with the crowd, told stories, performed his heart out – including his epic version of “Billie Jean” and his version of “One” – a mash up of Metallica’s “One” lyrics and U2’s “One” music. His voice is was as much of an instrument as his guitar; so soulful, emotive and unique. It’s an effin’ shame we don’t get to experience him anymore. RIP.

Ben Harper

Ben Harper is a man of many talents. He plays multiple instruments, including a lap slide guitar; his music can be soft and poetic, but also angry and rock ‘n roll. He performs as a solo act, and also with different bands/musicians.

The first time I saw him was back in 2009 alongside The Relentless 7 at the Virgin Festival, at the Molson Amphitheatre. Although I appreciated the obvious talent and musicianship, I left underwhelmed. His sound with The Relentless 7 is a lot more funk-based and instrumental jamming, which is great; just not my preferred version of what I know Harper can do.

I got the opportunity to see him again in 2011, for a solo show at Sound Academy (now, Rebel; previously, the Docks,) on the Give ‘Til It’s Gone tour. I had balcony seats so it wasn’t as crowded as the general admission area, and he was phenomenal. He went on for 7 encores. Yes, 7. And probably could’ve kept on going. He’s such a force on stage, namely his powerful lyrics and sublime vocals. I left elated, and only wanting more and more.

By far, the best performance of his I saw was – similar to Chris Cornell – a solo acoustic show at Massey Hall, which I, once again, attended solo, back in 2012. It was just him and a line up of at least 10 different guitars, all of which he played with sheer perfection. He was very interactive with the audience, even serenading a couple seated in the front row with “Forever” when they told him they just got engaged. During the show. His music is easily in my top 5 favourites, and he’s such a dream to watch; it feels like he’s talking/singing directly to you, getting you through whatever you’re going through, and being a friend with whom you share all your thoughts. He’s also incredibly easy on the eyes. Swoon.

U2

I tallied it up, and I’ve seen U2 a total of 6 times live: 1997 Popmart tour, SkyDome; 2001 Elevation tour, Air Canada Centre; 2005 Vertigo tour, ACC; 2009 360 tour, SkyDome; 2015 Innocence + Experience tour, ACC; 2017 Joshua Tree tour, SkyDome. I’ve always attended with someone, either family or friends.

For the longest time, I was the most obsessive unapologetic U2 fan. Everything they did turned to gold, in my eyes. The first time I saw them, I was blown away. The sheer production of their show was like nothing I’d ever seen. Lights, lasers, lemon-shaped disco balls, you name it. And the caliber of the performance matched it perfectly, including Bono’s voice, which doesn’t age even in the slightest as he gets older. Not to mention, hearing/seeing “Sunday Bloody Sunday” live is a rite of passage for any music/U2 fan.

The 2015 show ended it for me though. None of their music after 2004 was any good, and got worse and worse with every album. This show was more about production, special effects and fancy stages. It was all so distracting from the performance itself, which seemed to hide behind all the grandiosity, and suffered as a result.

I got suckered into seeing their Joshua Tree tour – to witness the classics one last time – but that was the end of it for me. I can’t justify it anymore. Neither their live shows nor their music are anything like what they used to be, so I’ll give them a shout out for entertaining me for so many years.

The National

I was first introduced to The National back in the early 2000s. It was love at first listen. Since then, I’ve seen them perform a whopping 8 times: 2008 Boxer tour, Brooklyn Academy of Music; 2008 New Yorker Anniversary, Hammerstein Ballroom; 2009 High Violet tour, Kool Haus; 2010 High Violet tour, Massey Hall; 2011 High Violet tour, ACC; 2013 Trouble Will Find Me tour, NXNE Yonge-Dundas Square; 2014 Trouble Will Find Me tour, Massey Hall; 2017 Sleep Well Beast tour, Sony Centre. Either solo, with friends, or family. I’ll be honest though, mostly solo.

They put on an incredible show. Goosebumps for days. They outperform even themselves almost every time, and every track is that much better than the album version. I’ve even met lead singer Matt Berninger at the screening of their documentary, Mistaken for Strangers. Suffice it to say, I’m a fan. And to be honest, the quality of their music hasn’t wavered since that first album of theirs I heard. But the truth is, after seeing them so many times, their live show has become somewhat predictable.

The quasi a capella version of “Vanderlye Crybaby Geeks,” the amped-up punk-rock ‘n roll version of “Mr. November,” the adventurous nature of Berninger walking and singing through the crowd. I can understand as a first-time viewer, how incredible it is to see, so I totally get why they keep doing it.

A better and frankly more likely explanation is, I’ve become a concert snob. I need variety, perfection, emotion, and satisfaction. Don’t get me wrong, at the most recent show I saw of theirs, I was thoroughly entertained. But it just wasn’t enough. I want it to feel like I’m watching them for the first time again, and I don’t know if it will ever be that way again.

 

Over the years, I’ve had the honour/privilege/good fortune of attending many, many live music shows. Spoiler: they’re not all created equal. Over my years of accidental research, a good show seems to be a combination of venue, crowd, seat location, and the intensity of my fandom for the performing band. When these factors are in perfect equilibrium, you get the best of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, and will never miss.

 

The xx

The first time I saw them was on their 2012 Coexist tour at Massey Hall – one of my favourite venues, because of its intimacy, worn out seats, and movie theatre-like atmosphere. I went alone as true fans do, and I wore my most comfortable pair of jeans, hoodie and Converse kicks (because obviously.)

I had the aisle seat, 3rd or 4th row from the front on the main level. I wasn’t sure what to expect because as much as I love their unassuming, nuanced, yet powerful music, I wasn’t sure how it would translate live.

But from the second they walked on stage, every aspect of their meticulously arranged music, took on a life of its own. I was so engrossed, I barely noticed when my body danced uncontrollably in my seat; you could feel the music all over.

The second time I saw them, was an outdoor show at Echo Beach, for 2017’s I See You tour, with a friend who is as much of a Stan as I am when it comes to The xx. The performance was full of so much emotion, passion, heart pangs, gut punches, near tears, euphoria, and the absolute need to dance it all away. The fact it was a standing-only venue was only fitting.

 

Nine Inch Nails

This has to go down as one of the most surprising concert experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve only seen them once, way back in 2009, when I scored free tickets to Virgin Festival at the (then) Molson Amphitheatre.

It was a long day in the sun/humidity with a fellow music fan. All the bands I wanted to see had already performed, and NIN was headlining. I’d never been a huge fan of theirs – 1994’s Downward Spiral was probably the only album of theirs I’d listened to at that stage – and even then only partly.

I wasn’t planning on sticking around, but my music fellow music fan insisted I at least check them out. So I did. And holy shit. They were super loud, punk rock, heavy metal, noisy, but in all the best ways. You could hear and feel every word, note, lyric, in spite of the noise. Organized chaos at it best.

They are so freakin’ talented, and the amount of creativity that goes into making the music they put out, is unreal. So much attention to detail, so much anger and pain, but channeled in a way that makes it understandable, approachable, even on a live stage. They just blew me away.

 

Eminem

What can I say? I’ve always loved Eminem. His rhymes are unstoppable, his flow is flawless, and he has no problem saying what’s on his mind. He rarely tours though, so when I heard he was headlining Lollapalooza in 2011 in nearby Chicago, I couldn’t resist.

I spent all day hovering around the main stage, just so I wouldn’t lose my coveted spot in Grant Park. Eminem did not disappoint. He didn’t miss a single beat during the performance, didn’t mess up a single lyric. His flow was even more smooth live, his rhymes tighter, and his delivery off the charts; he was on fire the whole time.

He performed every track imaginable, and then some. He’s an artist in its truest form, and when he performs, what you see – more than anything – is his undeniable passion; his dedication to his craft. He lives and breathes his music, and it’s an absolutely incredible thing to see.

Bon Iver

Bon Iver’s music is like a dream. Their sound is mostly soft and subtle, with some instruments peppered in along the way. Lead singer Justin Vernon’s voice is one of the most ethereal ones I’ve ever heard. Their lyrics are like poetry – lathered in imagery and metaphors, making the tracks simultaneously difficult to understand, but also wide open to interpretation.

The one and only time I saw them live was at Massey Hall in 2011 for their Bon Iver tour (they haven’t returned since.) Their entire performance was breathtaking, captivating, perfect, and beautiful. The music let your imagination run wild, and transported you to another universe. I went with a friend, and I can’t even remember if we sat together or separately, I was so entranced.

My absolute favourite moment during the show, was when they performed the track “Re: Stacks.” It was just Vernon, an acoustic guitar, and his heavenly voice. It was so mesmerizing – pin drop silence from the crowd for the nearly 7 minute duration of the song. It was – pardon the cliché – an out of body experience, shared by everyone in the room. So many chills and goosebumps that night; such musical genius.

The Killers

I’ve always liked the Killers, and enjoyed their music: it’s fun, anthemic, lead singer Brandon Flowers’ vocal styles are unique and full of character. The first time I saw them was at the ACC, on their 2013 Battle Born tour; it was a last minute situation where a friend had an extra ticket, so I tagged along.

Kerfuffle swiftly ensued, when turns out we had fake tickets. After being escorted out by a manager struggling to believe we didn’t know we bought fake tickets, and a stern phone call/email from my friend to StubHub, we were awarded with free new tickets, plus a comp for the fake ones. Winning all around.

Then, the previously dubious manager morphed into a much kinder human being, and escorted us back into the venue, to even better seats. Maybe because the circumstances worked so much in our favour, maybe because my friend is a super fan and watching anyone lose their shit at a concert is priceless. Whatever the case, the show was incredible. So much showmanship, so much flair, and so much fun.

I loved their show so much, I went back a few years later. Same venue, for 2018’s Wonderful Wonderful tour, this time alone (clearly, a pattern.) I braved the the 7 min walk in the freezing January cold, and boy, was it worth it. Such a high caliber show, one where all aspects are bigger and better. The music was louder, the lyrics more meaningful, the vocals stronger, the production more glamourous, and the energy overflowing. It’s the best way to listen to The Killers.

Foo Fighters

I’ve seen them in dingy standing-only venues; large sports arenas; outdoor festivals. Each show is unique in and of itself. We all know lead singer Dave Grohl knows how to get a crowd going. He’s loud, interactive, and knows how to put on a helluva show, along with the rest of the band.

I’ve seen Dave Grohl play standing on crutches, sitting in a throne. I’ve heard them play acoustic, and electric; endured mosh pits and lost my voice in their honour. I’ve seen them play in peak humidity, apocalyptic rain, and under perfect summer skies. Each and every time, it was a show for the books.

The amount of stamina they have is like something I’ve never seen before. Over 3 hours straight. No breaks. No encores either, simply because they’re above that. They play until they physically can’t play anymore.

Since they’ve been around for decades, seeing them live means witnessing their evolution, their history, as well as how music in general has changed over the years. They’re constantly creating, changing, and experimenting with their music. But what never changes is how well they entertain, how much fun they have, and how much of themselves they leave on stage during their shows.