Posts Tagged ‘Bon Iver’

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.

 

 

 

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Okay, so 2016 has been quite the year. We’re all aware of all the genuine musical talent we’ve lost, so I’m not going to dwell on that. I also have to admit, I’ve been a little distracted this year, and feel like I’ve fallen behind in my musical game, so I apologize for that. All that aside, it’s time to pay due to that music that did get us through this roller coaster of a year (note: as always, I haven’t listened to every single album released this year, so keep that in mind.)

Best New Artist – Banners

Hailing from the UK, Banners (aka Michael Joseph Nelson) dropped his debut EP this year, and it was soulful, thoughtful and proved how he can use his words to shed a beautiful on love.

Best Live Show – The Tragically Hip: Man Machine Poem Tour

The entire country was in shock when we heard of lead singer Gord Downie’s terminal brain cancer. After everything this band has done for music, for Canadians, it’s hard to imagine world where they don’t exist. However, The Hip didn’t hold back from putting on one helluva live show. Downie was on fire, the crowd was on cloud nine, and it was one of the best concert atmospheres I’ve ever been a part of.

Best Collaboration – “I Need a Forest Fire” James Blake feat. Bon Iver

Two of indie music’s geniuses came together and made some wonderful music. Sublime.

Worst Collaboration -“I Hate You, I Love You” by Gnash feat. Olivia O’Brien

There’s no love here for this track, just haterade. It’s such a cliché, teen angst attempt at being “deep.” Also what’s with the leather jacket in the blazing heat while walking through the forest?

Guiltiest Pleasure – “Pillowtalk” by Zayn

It’s so bad, but I can’t help it.

Coolest Artist – Alessia Cara

She’s only 20 years old, she’s Canadian and signed to Def Jam. She’s mature, gracious and writes music with real meaning. She’s everything other female singers in her age group aren’t. Let’s be friends, k?

Best Canadian Album – 99% by Kaytranada

A breakthrough in the Canadian hip-hop scene, Kaytranada brings all kinds of sounds together and tops it all off with tight vocals. Truly a unique album, and one everyone should hear.

Best 90s Comeback – Temple of the Dog

They reunited on the 25th anniversary of the release of their one and only album, for one last tour. There is nothing more 90s than Chris Cornell and Eddie Veddie making music together again.

 

Saddest 90s Comeback – Britney Spears

It’s Britney, bitch. And apparently she’s back. I think. Except it looks like she’s trying to use the same tricks she used back in the day, just with more botox. Don’t get me wrong, I want to root for her, I do. It’s just time for her to throw in the towel (and get rid of her figure skating costumes.)

Best Song feat. Sean Paul – “Cheap Thrills” by Sia feat. Sean Paul

This right here, is my jam.

Best Folk Album – Cleopatra by The Lumineers

There’s something to eloquent and peaceful about this band. Every track on this album is a story full of emotion, and displays the kind of musicianship that says so much, by doing so little. I also saw them perform in the rain, and couldn’t stop swooning. So there’s that.

Best Break Up Album – This is What the Truth Feels Like by Gwen Stefani

The best thing to come out of her very public split from Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale, was this album. It’s part screw you, part self-reflection, and all Team Gwen. Plus, her live show game is phenomenal.

Best Dance Track – “Let Me Love You” DJ Snake feat. Justin Bieber

Hate on Biebs all you want, but you can’t deny this song gets you up on the dance floor (even if that dance floor is your living room.)

Most Overrated Artist – Chainsmokers

I just can’t with these guys. They’re wannabe hipster douchebags, whose first single was entitled “#Selfie.” They claim to be DJs, but I’m pretty sure their egos just like being on a stage with big headphones. Also, smoking isn’t cool.

Most Underrated Artist – Solange

Solange (ie Beyoncé’s younger sister) definitely gets a lot of critical acclaim, but I don’t think the general masses really understand her talent. She’s full of soul, heart, and has a voice that makes her a Queen in her own right.

Best Video of the Year – “Wow” by Beck

This track is several steps away from anything Beck has ever done. It’s rock, but synth, but kind of hip-hop, with tints of indie. And the video has everything you could ever want, including Beck dancing in the middle of the street.

Worst Video of the Year – “7 Years” by Lukas Graham

Truth be told, there are probably worse videos out there, but this one wins because it’s trying so hard to be something, but no one understands what. Not to mention, “Lukas Graham” refers to the 3-person band, not just the lead singer whose name is also Lukas. I’m confused.

 

Worst Album of the Year – Following My Intuition by Craig David

He tried to come back after years off the map, and it was horribly bad. Just so so bad (I swear I tried really hard to like it!)

Album of the Year – Lemonade by Beyoncé

This album is Bey at her Queenest, bringing her A+ of A games, while simultaneously slaying everyone in her path. She collaborates with artists of all genres, including Jack White, Kendrick Lamar and Diplo. All hail Queen Bey.

 

Most Disappointing Song of the Year – “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake

It’s disappointing because we all know JT can do so much better. It’s a sad attempt at a very poor man’s “Happy” and falls totally flat.

Worst Song of the Year – “Treat You Better” by Shawn Mendes

I never enjoy knocking down Canadian artists, but Mendes gave me no choice. When I hear this song, it sounds like nails going down a chalkboard, and my ears bleed. His voice is so nasal/whiny, the lyrics are so cheesy (yes, I know he’s only 18) and it just needs to stop.

Song of the Year – “River” by Bishop Briggs

Anything you could ever want in a track, and then some. Love, love, love.

 

Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit: I’m not the biggest Kanye West fan. It’s not that I don’t think he’s any good – he’s had some tracks that I dig, he can rap, he’s a great producer, but his albums were just never my style. Not to mention, his incessant tom foolery and antics very easily put me off him all together. What kind of musician tries that hard to be in the spotlight? That probably explains why I never really gave any of his music a fair chance, and why it took me nearly 6 years to attempt to listen to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

I hate to say it, but it’s a work of art. West wrote and produced every track (with help, of course;) managed to make his social commentary, use his vulgarities, get sinister, all the while maintaining a solid musical landscape, and keeping listeners in tune with all of it. The key thing on this album was collaboration. Stars from the hip-hop/R&B game like Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Raekwon, John Legend and Pusha T all have writing credits. Swizz Beatz and RZA assisted in the production area, and most surprisingly, indie artist-producer Bon Iver also appears on the album. Talk about unstoppable.

It’s like West took the best of the best in the field, got everyone to work together, and made one of his most musical albums to date. How did I miss this? Honestly, I vaguely recall the single “Runaway” being released as a lengthy video, and I just didn’t have the time/patience for Kanye, Kanye and more Kanye. But this is album is so Kanye, in the sense that it’s not Kanye at all, therefore making it exactly Kanye – you know what I mean?

West is a great musician. He can rap, write, produce. He obviously has a specific vision when it comes to his art, and  My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the first time you can see it. Maybe it’s high time West packs up the craziness, calms down on his Tweets, and just really focuses on his craft. He has some genius inside him – imagine what he could do if he fully tapped into it.