This is it kids, the moment you’ve all been eagerly awaiting… or more likely, haven’t thought about in 12 months and are now bored during your Christmas break so you think “what the hell, I’ll read this!”
My year in live bands! It was another great year. Some first time bands for me, and some old favourites. The perfect mix if you ask me!
Overall, this year was an amazing year for seeing female performers. It’s always so incredible to see women leading the charge in music, and showing that gender doesn’t need to dictate popularity. I always think how awesome it must be for young girls to have so many great role models these days! So yeah, GIRL POWER!
SO…. is there another repeat winner this year, or did a newcomer sneak in?? Let’s find out!
30. Lights (Dundas Square, June 16th 2018)
Someone has to be last, and this year it’s Lights… Not really much to add here except I don’t like Lights. Sorry Lights.
29. The Barr Brothers (Field Trip, June 2nd 2018)
After Lights, The Barr Brothers were probably the least memorable group I saw this year, and didn’t leave much of an impression. They just didn’t do it for me, and they should’ve! They played during a beautiful afternoon in the sunshine, while Sean & I enjoyed some beers. That should be a slam dunk for me to enjoy any concert. But I felt bored, and the lead singer wasn’t having a great day, so they just didn’t connect for me.
28. Damian Marley (Field Trip, June 2nd 2018)
It feels wrong to be putting a Marley so low on the rankings, and it was incredible to hear him sing some of his father’s work. So there’s really nothing negative to say here, except that he just got beat out by some of my more favourite acts.
27. Alvvays (Field Trip, June 2nd 2018)
I feel like every year I put a beloved Canadian indie rock band in my bottom half, and it generally ruffles some feathers amongst some of my more hipster-inclined friends. But I am quite vocal about how much I generally do not enjoy Alvvays. I find them overplayed on Canadian radio, and it’s ruined the band for me. BUT… they did put on a great set at Field Trip, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them. Molly Rankin’s voice was in great form and left a great impression on me.
26. Trombone Shorty (Field Trip, June 3rd 2018)
SO MUCH FUN! They were the first group we saw on the Sunday of Field Trip and it immediately got me dancing and my energy levels up. Their covers are fantastic, and I’d 100% go see them again.
25. Reuben and the Dark (Field Trip, June 2nd 2018)
One of the first bands we saw at Field Trip this year and they were great! It was the perfect setting for them – sitting out in the sun, beer in hand. Definitely a band that left a mark on us, and we’d want to check out again. Can’t beat some catchy rock tunes on a summer day.
24. Rural Alberta Advantage (CBC Music Festival, May 26th 2018)
This really speaks to how GOOD this year was, because RAA have been a top finisher before. However, I’d say what went against them this year is only that I saw such a short set from them at CBC Music Fest, and it didn’t quite stack up to the other performances I have seen by them. But that being said, they are always energetic, engaging and so much fun to rock out too. It also helped that I did so this year while drinking a beer they created with Mill St! Hopefully I can catch them again soon at a longer, more intimate show.
23. Coeur de Pirate (Danforth Music Hall, September 20th 2018)
I basically dragged myself to this show, as it was the same day as the TSN ball hockey tournament. I was exhausted, but am so glad I went. Beatrice Martin has an incredible voice that could melt butter – in two languages! She effortlessly slides between English and French, and her voice is so amazing that it doesn’t even matter whether or not you understand her lyrics. She had great energy, and charming interactions with the crowd. It’s also always special to see someone who you can tell feels incredibly grateful for the life they have, getting to sing their songs to fans. She was genuine, and even cried at the end as she took her final bows.
22. Japandroids (Field Trip, June 3rd 2018)
I’ve waited SO LONG to see these guys. I was first introduced to them in 2012 while riding a bus across Canada as part of TSN’s Kraft Celebration Tour, so this band holds a lot of memories for me. I had heard stories about how intense these guys are – and they certainly live up to that legend. I loved that only two guys on stage can create such a loud, intense, and engaging performance. It became an even more punk rock experience when it started raining during their set. The perfect way to see this Vancouver duo!
21. Middle Kids (Field Trip, June 2nd 2018)
It seems every year that I go to Field Trip I discover a new favourite band. This year, that honour went to Middle Kids. A fun rock band from Australia, their energetic, infectious indie rock has stuck with me all year. We’ve even got some friends hooked on them too. Their performance was fun, they interacted well with the crowd, and I was left feeling like they deserved to be playing on the big stage at the fest rather than the smaller one. Hope they come back to TO soon!
20. Northern Touch All Stars (CBC Music Fest. May 26th 2018)
HOLY CRAP. EVERYONE was there for this reunion show and they each played some of their hit songs. Choclair busted out “Let’s Ride”, Racals did “All Over the World”, Kardinal of course did “Dangerous” and they ended the afternoon with “Northern Touch” which was SO EPIC. 90s Tesla was having a BLAST.
19. Maggie Rogers (Scotiabank Arena, December 17th 2018)
I didn’t watch a lot of opening acts this year, but Sean & I made a point to see Maggie Rogers, who was opening for Mumford & Sons. A friend of our had mentioned her to me, and then we had watched her set on SNL a few months prior. So we were curious! And she was great! I always feel bad for openers because the sound isn’t necessarily set for them, and in a setting like an arena it’s always touch to play to a half empty venue. But Maggie sounded great, putting in a wonderful vocal performance. We found it was better than what we saw on SNL, and we were bummed to see her shows in TO next year are already sold out! Definitely one of the more impressive openers I’ve seen, and expect her to blow up anytime soon.
18. Dear Rouge (Danforth Music Hall, October 18th 2018)
One of my fave bands, I’ve already seen these guys a half dozen times in the short time period they’ve been around. I always find Danielle McTaggart a charismatic front-woman, with enough energy to power a small town. I thought the crowd seemed a little distant with the band, so it kind of took away from the performance a little bit. But this wasn’t the fault of the band – they played a great setlist and really tried to keep everyone engaged. Hopefully next time we catch them, the crowd will remember to pack their dancing shoes.
17. Leon Bridges (RBC Echo Beach, September 27th 2018)
What a voice. Leon could sing the phone book and it would sound soulful. Sarah & I loved his dance moves, his banter with the crowd, and I thought his voice sounded perfect. The biggest knock on this show, unfortunately like Dear Rouge, was the crowd. WOW. I have never been surrounded by so many smokers at a single concert in my entire life. But, we tried to ignore it and enjoy the show. The best part of the night for me was that some songs of his new album that I don’t really enjoy sounded much better live. I always love when a live performance can completely alter how you feel about a song. Can’t wait to see what this young man has next up his dancing sleeve.
16. Beck (Budweiser Stage, July 7th 2018)
SO… I struggled the most with where to rank this show. And it’s because of the sound quality. This show was too loud. It sounded like a lot of the show was coming through a busted speaker, and it was incredibly disappointing because I think otherwise this would have been a top 5 show of the year for me. The setlist was fantastic – I loved hearing so many of his hits. He also clearly has a great relationship with his backing band, and it genuinely looked like everyone was having fun on stage. But yeah, the sound just took a lot away from the experience. Next time I guess!
15. Portugal. The Man (Budwesier Stage, May 24th 2018)
I am definitely not one of those people that thinks PTM “sold out”. In fact, I love their last album and it has become one of my go-to albums when I need an energy boost, or want to put myself in a good mood. Their show at The Amp didn’t let me down and was a great way to kick off my summer in concerts. They had a cool video display behind them, which at times had some cheeky jokes at the band’s expense, which is always fun. I also loved that they played lot of songs from their album before last – Evil Friends.
14. Interpol (REBEL, September 13th 2018)
Ugh. I hate REBEL as a concert venue. However… Interpol are a good enough band that they make you forget that fact! This was a great show start to finish, with a bad-ass light show to go with it. That’s one of the best parts about seeing Interpol – is it feels like you are not only being given a great musical performance but a visual story as well. My only complaint was that they didn’t sing “Slow Hands”. But that is a minor one! Everything else was excellent – band sounded great, looked good and the crowd had a good time too.
13. George Ezra (The Phoenix, April 20th 2018)
This was such a fun night out with my girlfriends and George put on a stellar show. He bantered adorably with the crowd, bashfully telling us most of the backstories of his songs. His voice sounded excellent as well. Again, another humble performer who genuinely seems grateful for his fans. His latest album is a great listen and it was a pleasure getting to hear it live.
12. Broken Social Scene (Budweiser Stage, May 24th 2018)
It’s a good year for me in live concerts if I get to see BSS. They routinely make this list, but usually in the Top 10. They JUUUUUUST get edged out this year. It was another solid set from them, but not one of my favourites from the collective overall. For example, one miss in the setlist I thought was having Ariel & Amy sing “Hug of Thunder”, which is a Feist song. Amy & Ariel are incredibly talented singers, but that song just doesn’t do their vocal range justice. But, they did leave me with one of my favourite memories from ANY BSS show, and that’s closing out the night with fireworks alongside the song “Meet Me in the Basement”. Just perfect.
11. CHVRCHES (Dundas Square, June 16th 2018)
CHVRCHES are another one of my go-to bands when I need an energy pick-me-up or just want to dance. Their high energy synth-pop-rock-whatever blend never lets me down. I was so heartbroken to miss their show at the Danforth Music Hall earlier this year, so when they announced a free show as part of NXNE, I was PUMPED. I thought the show overall was great, with the band sounding good and my fave front-woman/person I want to be friends with Lauren Mayberry had her voice in fine form. My only complaint is that they stuck mainly to their hits and didn’t play much from the new album. BUT… I suppose that’s what happens when you’re playing outdoors for free, and likely trying to win new fans. I would say that alone is what keeps them from top 10 because otherwise this show likely would’ve been one of my faves.
10. First Aid Kit (Danforth Music Hall, February 5th 2018)
MC and I spent a cold February night getting cozy with this incredibly talented sister duo from Sweden. Their harmonies are unreal, and also had a wonderful banter with the crowd. Their backing band was excellent, and together they kept the energy going all night. I can’t recommend these young ladies enough.
9. Stars (Danforth Music Hall, December 12th 2018)
This show by Stars had to be one of my favourites I’ve seen of theirs. I really love their last album “There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light” so it was fantastic to hear it live. Amy & Torquil put on quite a vocal performance, with the band clearly having a great time. They mixed in the perfect blend of old and new songs, and finished off the night with “Fairytale of New York” to put us all in the Christmas spirit! Fantastic way to spend a December night.
8. Mumford & Sons (Scotiabank Arena, December 17th 2018)
My last concert of 2018 so of course it was a treat to spend it with one of my favourite live bands. They’re testing out a new stage set up, where they’re essentially playing in the round. I am still undecided on how I feel about that. At times it felt like I was disengaged from the show, but at the same time it was fun to get a glimpse of what the other band members were up to, and not just Marcus. Overall I thought the setlist itself was great, except I thought “Little Lion Man” was too early, and the band hadn’t quite kicked into full gear when they played it. It’s also so interesting to see them working in their newer material in with the older. I think this band is going to continue to change a lot, so their shows are going to really become an interesting balance. But anytime I get to sing along to “I Will Wait” is a good night in my books.
7. The Killers (Scotiabank Arena, January 5th 2018)
The show that kicked the year off! Not easy to be the first one out of the gate, but The Killers set the bar high. Their latest album is fantastic, and the high-energy songs really kept the crowd going. We also appreciated that their setlist included some deep cuts like For Reasons Unknown (complete with a fan joining them onstage), and This River is Wild. Brandon Flowers’ vocals were in top form, complete with his charming Elvis persona onstage. They also had one of my favourite stage set-ups of the year, with a lot of nods to their Vegas roots. They are really coming into their own as an arena rock band.
6. St. Lucia (Danforth Music Hall, November 9th 2018)
SO. MUCH. FUN. I could really just type that for St. Lucia and leave it there. The best way to spend a Friday night is dancing away to this band. High energy, infectious synth, and great musicianship. This band never disappoints, and one day deserves to be headlining arena tours, getting thousands of people on their feet. But until that day happens, I’ll be more than happy to rock out to them in smaller venues.
5. Alt J (RBC Echo Beach, June 20th 2018)
With the Massey Hall show from last year still so fresh in my memory, I thought I wouldn’t enjoy this summer show as much, but I was wrong. Once again, another incredible live show – everything from vocals to the light show. And then throw in a beautiful summer sunset, and you really can’t beat that.
4. Metric (Field Trip, June 2nd 2018)
Metric played their album “Fantasties” front to back for this show, and aside from the tall drunk guy who tried to get in my way (I won), it was incredible hearing so many deep cuts live. Emily Haines is pound for pound one of the best lead singers around and can capture a crowd. My only complaint is I wish the encore had been longer! Every Metric show always leaves me wanting more, and this was no exception.
3. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s (Field Trip, June 3rd 2018)
Continuing the trend of bad-ass female lead singers, getting to finally see Karen O in the flesh was IMPRESSIVE. She is such an entertaining performer, and puts everything into her shows. The band sounded great, and their setlist was a perfect balance of old and new. I loved hearing some of my faves like “Zero” and “Maps” performed live. Start to finish, everything about the show was spotless. To me, it’s always great when a band doesn’t shy away from the songs that have made them famous. I’m so glad I finally crossed them off my live bucket list.
2. Florence & The Machine (Scotiabank Arena, October 16, 2018)
We’ve got ourselves a new champion folks, as previous #1 winner Florence is just edged out by my next pick. But that’s not to say Florence didn’t knock this out of the park. Her voice is just so powerful and incredible. I don’t think you can truly appreciate just how talented Florence Welch is until you hear her live. Standout moments from the night include when she ran into the crowd during “Delilah” barefoot (!), asking the crowd to put their phones away during “Dog Days” in order to appreciate the moment, and closing the night with “Shake It Out”. I also loved her simple stage setup, with flowing curtains and warm lighting to give everything an ethereal glow. I’ve written a couple of times about how much Florence inspires me, and how I wish to find the confidence she has on stage in my day to day life. I love her freestyle spirit, as she runs up and down the stages and dances as if no one is watching. It is a real gift to see her perform, and I am so grateful I was able to see her again this year.
1. St. Vincent (Sony Centre, July 31st 2018)
I just loved this show. Annie Clark aka St. Vincent is just such a multi-talented MACHINE. She can shred on the guitar, power out some rock vocals, but then bring the room to a standstill with a beautiful ballad. I learned my lesson, and will never buy balcony seats for her show again (I was often the only one upstairs out of a seat dancing). Her latest album “Masseduction” has been on repeat for me since it came out. Her remix of “Fast Slow Disco” is probably my favourite song of 2018. Her show did not disappoint. I say that even though she didn’t play many songs from her album before last, “St. Vincent”. But everything was just perfect – the sound quality, her voice, the band, the stage set-up, it was just a memorable night. I knew as soon as we walked out that this show was going to be by #1. Favourites from the night were “Young Lover”, “Pills”, “Digital Witness”, “New York” sung acapella, and the killer opener “Sugar Boy”. Please give St. Vincent a listen if you haven’t already. She is one talented performer.
That does it for another year in music! I am pretty happy with my all-female top 4, and am excited to see what 2019 brings for (I already have Metric, July Talk & Snow Patrol lined up).
As always, find your passion in life, and if it’s music, go out there and experience it live.
Happy New Year everyone!!!