The best live music I saw in 2009, at least… yes, it’s another list! There might even be one more before the year is out if I make the time you’re all very lucky. So here, without further ado, here were my five favourite live performances of 2009…
5. Repeat Offender – Are We Shaking The Foundations, The Zoo, February.
One of my favourite local bands, Repeat Offender, played their last show in February – an epic night with old band members returning and pretty much every song they’ve recorded belted out one final time. They hold the title as the band I’ve seen the most often live – seven times – and this was their best show. Topping off the night, they closed with my favourite track, a driving exhortation to live a meaningful life.
4. My Morning Jacket – One Big Holiday, Big Day Out, January.
Having raised the roof of the Big Day Out’s Green Stage with soaring falsetto and crunching guitar, MMJ tore it to pieces with this indulgent jam song. I loved every minute.
It’s not often a stage show can so utterly remove the constraints of real life and transport an audience to a magical, happy wonderland (without the use of chemicals). My most vivid memory of this set was looking straight up from under Wayne Coyne’s giant hamster ball as he ran across the crowd. He was wearing an enormous smile as he scrambled his way across a forest of helping hands. If you follow the link you can see their whole introduction; I’d recommend skipping forward to the 6 minute mark to see an audience-eye view of the spectacle. The only thing holding this back from #1 was the poor sound quality at the start of the gig.
2. Neil Young – Cortez the Killer, Big Day Out, January.
Having given myself a hasty education in the work of the Godfather of Grunge in the leadup to the BDO, I found myself mesmerised by Neil’s story of the man who came dancing across the water. His records just don’t do justice to the strength of his live show.
1. Paul Dempsey – Billie Jean, Splendour in the Grass, July.
The surprise hit of the year! I’ve known Something for Kate for years, but was never a huge fan. A gap in the Splendour lineup meant I wandered over to the side stage to check out Paul Dempsey, who was putting on an excellent show. Then, out of the blue, he played Billie Jean. I’ve never been a huge MJ fan, but the emotion Dempsey conveyed was amazing. The crowd were ecstatic; in the video, you can hear snatches of them singing, but it doesn’t capture the vibe of the moment.
Honourable mentions must go to NOFX for The Separation of Church and Skate at the Riverstage; all the performers at JNVI; Rise Against for Collapse (Post-Amerika) at the Tivoli; Attack in Black for Marriage at Soundwave and The Dropkick Murphys for Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye at the Big Day Out.
2010 holds more prospects for musical highlights: Muse, the Mars Volta, the Polyphonic Spree, Faith No More, all the rest of the Festival lineups and whoever I can catch in the UK in the second half of the year (Reading perhaps?)… not to mention another Jam Night!