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Best of 2007: Live music

November 17, 2007

2007 was a pretty good year for gigs – I’m not sure I’ve seen so many quality acts in years. Of course, picking a “best of” for live gigs is even more subjective than most of this year-end-listing business – it’s totally dependent on geography, budget and luck. But I saw a fair few gigs and these are the ones I’ll still be raving about in five years’ time. I guess you had to be there.

#5 Phoenix – V Festival, Centennial Park, Sydney, 30 March

As well as putting out by far the best album of their career last year, French 80-pop revivalists Phoenix also evolved into a pretty formidable live act. Their performance at the V Festival in Sydney was only short and struggled against the usual outdoor festival issues, but it was still a memorable outing. Thomas Mars is a charismatic frontman – all Gallic shrugs and lanky good looks. Their set was heavy on 2006’s It’s Never Been Like That and with good reason – there’s not a dud track on it. But even the older songs such as “Too Young”, “If I Ever Feel Better” and “Run, Run, Run” benefited from the more muscular rock sound they’ve developed. And absolutely ball-tearing versions of “Second To None” and the reprised “Napoleon Says” sealed the deal.

#4 Nouvelle Vague, Emilie Simon – The Metro, Sydney, 5 July

The “So Frenchy, So Chic” franchise is a bit annoying – cashing in on the local love for French rom-coms with Gerard Diepardu – but it did bring together two great artists for a sold-out show at The Metro. I had seen Nouvelle Vague at the V Festival earlier in the year and they had won me over with their absurdly energetic bossa nova covers of old punk and new wave tracks. Vocalists Melanie Pain and Phoebe Killdeer seemed to have ingested some kind of Mexican jumping bean because they didn’t drop the all-singing all-dancing momentum for a second. Emilie Simon was also a revelation. Her live accompanists were a Captain Beefheart lookalike with a theremin and various computers and a percussionist who played the fish bowl among other things. And Simon herself sang her heart out, bashing away at the piano passionately. The fact that she looked like a model on top of everything just added to the heartbreak all the indie boys felt when she left the stage.

#3 The Clientele – Spectrum, Sydney, 27 July

This British band bring new meanings to “reverb” and they have the 1960s-fuelled heartbreak songs to go along with the shimmering effects. I was only a casual fan before I saw them play but I walked away a true believer. The simplicity of a group of people making beautiful music may seem unexceptional, but there was something revelatory in the way they brought their songs to life on stage. Spectrum is a tiny venue and suffers from a deaf sound guy who turns everything up to ear-splitting volumes. But the cramped conditions only increased the intimacy of the show. It was as if we were all old friends, waiting to see what our buddies had whipped up in their latest jam session. But it was also something altogether more transcendent.

#2 The Pixies – V Festival, Centennial Park, 30 March

“You’re too young to even remimber thus,” said the lovely 30-something New Zealander woman standing in front of me in the crowd. It didn’t matter. I never caught the indie rock trailblazers first time around, but unlike a lot of middle-aged reformations, these guys are just as angry, passionate and inventive as you could hope. They may look like school teachers, but when they rip through a song as violent as “Tame”, you are actually slightly scared. Frank Black and Kim Deal’s voices have aged amazingly – neither was any great singer in the 1980s, but they’ve matured into idiosyncratic but impressive vocalists. I was worried that The Pixies could only disappoint me. Oh me of little faith.

#1 Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – The Palais, Melbourne, 20 August

For all his profilic, lack-of-editorial-input craziness, Ryan Adams has recorded some amazing songs. It was just surprising to hear them sound so much better live. The Cardinals are the best country backing band you can imagine and seem to have workshopped their group dynamics into a fine art form. Ryan’s got off the drugs (apparently) and also seems to have taken some serious vocal lessons. I have never heard a live performer soar so effortlessly between registers and between rough and smooth vocal tones – and certainly no one normally as unpolished as Adams. Despite some irritating hecklers and some bizarre between-song comments from Ryan, it was one of the best live shows I have witnessed. Fifteen songs, most of them played out to twice their normal length and milked for every drop of beauty – live music heaven.

Fortunately for you and I, some guy bootlegged the whole damn show. So have a listen and see what I mean.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals – “Wild Flowers (live)”

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3 comments

  1. I really shoulda seen the clientele, huh.

    But I saw the rest. And that’s ok.


  2. […] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]


  3. […] here for full […]



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