My Top Ten Gigs (as a Punter) and Why

I had a dream. In the dream I had a manager. The manager told me I should write a “list” style post, because they were trending in popularity. She mumbled something about the human need for arbitrary structure amongst the chaos of existence. Anyway, these short anecdotes and associated music clips resulted. I think I really did attend these gigs though, and not just in a dream.

10. Dar Williams at Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, Canada – 20 August 2003

You don’t need fancy instrumentation when you’re as charming, funny and smart as Dar Williams. One of her signature tunes, The Christians and the Pagans, seems appropriate to share this evening, given the plot takes place on Christmas Eve.

9. Paul Kelly at Sidetrack Cafe, Edmonton, Canada – 18 March 2004

The memorable thing about this gig was all the Aussies coming out of the woodwork of this icy Prairie oil town, whose thriving music underbelly was a welcome surprise to me. Incidentally, the Sidetrack Cafe is the main location of events in “For a Short Time” by fellow Aussie songwriter Mick Thomas. Tiddas did a sweet cover of this touching song:

8. Hussy Hicks at the Town Hall, Nannup – 5 March 2016

Julz Parker and Leesa Gentz have serious musical chops. Julz shreds on guitar and Leesa somehow manages not to shred her vocal chords despite belting like a beautiful banshee. Most importantly they have infectious fun on stage, and I could have picked any of the gigs I’ve been to, but I’ll go with the sweat anointed floor boards of one of their infamous Nannup Town Hall shows. This video is a good little primer on the duo.

7. The National at Belvoir Amphitheatre, Swan Valley – 14 February 2014

After this gig I couldn’t stop dancing in the paddock with friends and strangers amongst the car headlights. The National are a mighty fine indie rock band, fronted by the baritone voice of Matt Berninger. He is known for downing a bottle of wine on stage, and is open about it being a crutch to deal with nerves and get in the zone. This clip from Glastonbury is far from his best vocal delivery, but its hard to argue that its not exciting and the audience are certainly on his wavelength!

6. Kathleen Edwards at Perth Concert Hall balcony – 17 February 2006

I was introduced to Kathleen Edwards by a girlfriend who covered “Hockey Skates” and I didn’t hesitate to catch her first, and so far only, performance in Perth. The easy banter of this fiery red head, and self proclaimed potty mouth, included warning a boisterous women in the audience that her husband/guitarist, Colin Cripps, was not “on the market”. Change the Sheets is a particularly well produced song of Kathleen’s, engineered by Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver):

5. The Cure at Perth Arena – 31 July 2016

One of the world’s most epic bands, they swing seamlessly from deliriously happy pop to gut-wrenching rock dirges, all with perfectly layered instrumentation. This was third Cure show and my favourite, partly because I was standing (my preferred way to experience any energetic music) and also great sound that meant I didn’t need my usual ear plugs. Arguably the best Cure years were 85 to 92 when they had Boris Williams on drums, but this was a fine display and at the end of the three hours I wanted them to keep playing for three more. “Lovesong” is my innocent karaoke secret:

4. Lucie Thorne & Hamish Stuart in my backyard – 26 Feburary 2014

I met Lucie Thorne at a basement bar called the Green Room in Vancouver in 2003. She is the master of the understatement, with a warm voice that glides out the side of her mouth, and evocative guitar work cooked just the right amount. Her current style is playing a Guild Starfire through a tremolo pedal into a valve amp, while being accompanied by the tasteful jazz drumming legend Hamish Stuart. Here’s a clip of the house concert in question:

3. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals at Metropolis, Fremantle – 25 January 2009

The first review I read of a Ryan Adam’s album said he could break hearts singing a shopping list, and he’s probably the artist I’ve listened to the most in the last decade. He steals ideas from the greats of folk, country, rock, metal, pop and alt-<insert genre>, but does it so well and so widely, and with such a genuine love and talent for music. I’m glad I caught The Cardinals in their prime and there was a sea of grins flowing out onto the street after the three hour show. This stripped back acoustic version of “Fix It” is one of my favourites:

2. Damien Rice at Civic Hotel – 9 October 2004

I feel Damien Rice’s albums, with the exception of “B-Sides”, are over-produced with too many strings garishly trying to tug your heart strings. Live and solo however, Damien is a rare force with no strings attached or required. I heard a veteran music producer say the only solo live performer he’s seen with a similar power over an audience was Jeff Buckley. I remember turning around once at the Civic Hotel gig and seeing about half the audience in tears, and I was well and truly welling up.

1. Portland Cello Project performing Radiohead’s Ok Computer at Aladin Theatre, Portland, Oregon – 22 September 2012

Well if crying is going to be a measure of how good a gig is then choosing my number one is easy. I cried all the way through the Portland Cello Project’s performance of Ok Computer and wrote a whole separate post about that.

Honourable mentions:

Joe Pug at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, San Francisco – October 2012.

Yothu Yindi at Curtin University – 1996

Billy Bragg at Enmore Theatre, Sydney – 14 April 1999

Sally Dastey at Mojos – 2004

CR Avery at Marine Club in Vancouver – 28 November 2003

Jill Sobule at Vancouver Folk Festival – July 2003

Let the Cat Out in my lounge room – 2011

Martha Wainwright at Fly By Night, Fremantle – 22 November 2008

The Mountain Goats at The Bakery, Perth –  1 May 2012… coming to town again in April – come!

2 thoughts on “My Top Ten Gigs (as a Punter) and Why”

  1. Awesome Dave,
    You made me think about my top 10… I can’t remember years, Ryan Adams made my list too, but an earlier tour and in Sydney at the Metro maybe 2006. Ray Charles at the Opera House 1998… James Brown in California…. 1996. Bruce Springsteen at Hangin Rock Vic. Junior Brown at the basement sydney, Southern Culture on the Skids in Houston Texas, Radio Birdman at Salinas in Coogee Bay… of course my very first gig ever when I was 10… KISS at the Horden Pavilion in Syd. Emmylou Harris at Perth Concert Hall, Brian Setzer with Orchestra in Phoenix Arizona…. and The Specials in Belfast, Tony Joe White at The Basement in sydney. Ok… I think that’s ten!! I can’t imagine a life without concerts and gigs and music! Have a great Xmas to all! Good job with the blog Dave…. brings back good memories!

  2. Thanks Helen. Your list is rad. I would have loved to see James Brown in particular. Emmylou I was lucky to see at the Ottawa Folk Festival and also supporting Neil Young in Toronto. Have a merry musicmas!

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