Best Of 2016 LIVE - Matt's Take

I saw somewhere around a hundred shows this year, which believe it or not is actually stepping back a good bit from the number that I’ve gone to in the last few years (at my peak in 2014 I went to nearly twice that many).  Picking the best among them is always very subjective (and more than a little difficult), and truth be told I saw very few bad ones.  Though I saw many new and upcoming artists, my picks for the best that I saw ended up going primarily to seasoned artists who have been doing their thing for a while now.  Not necessarily surprising, as those bands have had more time to refine their performance and their sound.  Honorable mentions for some newer acts go to The Lemon Twigs, Temples, Muuy Biien, A Silent Film, and Ultimate Painting.


10) Kula Shaker @ U St Music Hall (DC) – October 2nd, 2016

When I first heard that Kula Shaker was coming, I very nearly laughed and wrote them off.  The band was a bit of a one-hit wonder in the US two decades ago, and after so long away it felt doubtful they’d have much to offer. Man, was I wrong. The band put on one of the most energetic shows that I saw all year, with singer and guitarist Crispin Mills owning the stage from the moment he stepped onto it until the show was over. Their new album, K 2.0, is great. Hopefully they won’t wait so long to come back again.

Kula Shaker performing at U St Music Hall in Washington, DC on October 2nd, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

 

9) Duran Duran @ Verizon Center (DC) – April 8th, 2016

I’m not going to lie, Paper Gods pretty much instantly took its place upon release as my least favorite Duran Duran album of all time. Songs just really don’t get much dumber than “Dancephobia,” the band’s rather unfortunate attempt to remain relevant to millennials by collaborating with, of all people, Lindsay Lohan. But the band’s live show is still on point. While they did, of course, play some of the new songs, they didn’t dwell on them, mixing them in amongst many of their biggest hits throughout the evening. Most importantly, they still sound great.

Duran Duran performing at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC on April 8th, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

 

8) Pere Ubu @ Rock and Roll Hotel (DC) – June 24th, 2016

They’re admittedly an acquired taste, but there are no other bands out there quite like Pere Ubu. David Thomas doesn’t move that well these days, so he spends the set sitting in a chair, wailing at the top of his lungs at one moment and looking like he’s fallen sleep at the next, and he’s still more punk than you. Touring for a recent set of reissues of their earliest albums meant a show filled with classic tracks that the band hasn’t played in years.

Pere Ubu performing at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, DC on June 24th, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

 

7) Shearwater @ Rock and Roll Hotel (DC) – March 10th, 2016

Shearwater’s latest album, Jet Plane and Oxbow, marks a significant change in direction for the band, to a more aggressive, electronic-based sound, a sharp contrast to the almost pastoral sounds of their previous albums. Their stage show, lit by multi-colored fluorescent lights scattered across the stage, goes well with this new sound. Oh, and did I mention Jonathan Meiburg’s laser gloves? This photo is actually from the album release show at the Mercury Lounge in NYC in February – not quite as good a show as the one in March (primarily due to being cut significantly short by the venue booking another show too soon afterward on the same night), but this was my favorite photo of the band.

Laser gloves.

Shearwater performing at the Mercury Lounge in NYC on February 6th, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

 

6) NYC Popfest (NYC) – May 19th – 22nd, 2016

Over the course of its ten year run, NYC Popfest has become one of the premiere indie pop festivals in the world. Maz, the festival’s promoter, always manages to book a wide range of acts, from old favorites to unknown new bands, and he rarely goes wrong. This years festival included headlining sets by Trashcan Sinatras, The Primitives, and Allo Darlin’.  The promoter of NYC Popfest has announced that he's taking 2017 off and the festival is going on hiatus, but we can only hope that it returns soon.

The Primitives performing at NYC Popfest at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, NY on May 21st, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

 

5) Tuxedomoon @ DR Koncerthuset (Copenhagen, Denmark) – May 27th, 2016

Another personal favorite that never comes to the US (despite originally being from here), Tuxedomoon’s tour for the 35th anniversary of their first album Half-Mute happened to coincide perfectly with my trip to Europe for Primavera Sound. The band performed the album in full along with a selection of songs from throughout their career. How far is too far to travel for a show?

Tuxedomoon performing at DR Koncerthuset in Copenhagen, Denmark on May 27th, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

 

4) Bryan Ferry @ Lincoln Theatre (DC) – July 23rd, 2016

The former Roxy Music frontman was supposed to come to DC in support of his most recent album, Avonmore, last year, but had to cancel due to health issues. He was finally able to reschedule in July of this year, and it was worth the wait. The crooner’s 22-song set included many of the best songs from throughout his career.

Bryan Ferry performing at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC on July 23rd, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

 

3) Iggy Pop @ Academy of Music (Philadelphia) – April 15th, 2016

Iggy Fucking Pop. What more is there to say? I’d seen Iggy in clubs before, and even had him stage dive, sweaty and shirtless, directly on top of me once. So the idea of seeing the 69-year-old punk legend in a seated theater was a little worrisome. But of course despite the odd venue for a punk show, he and his band, including Queens of the Stone Age members Josh Homme and Dean Fertita, completely killed it. “This is my fuckin’ night at the opera!” he declared toward the end of the evening. Indeed, Iggy. Indeed.

Iggy Pop performing at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, PA on April 15th, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

 

2) The Damned @ Gramercy Theatre (NYC) – October 30th, 2016

The Damned has been one of my favorite bands now for far longer than I care to admit. For their 40th anniversary, they performed two nights at the Gramercy Theatre in NYC, doing a full three-hour career spanning set each night. The non-stop energy of their show puts younger bands to shame.

The Damned performing at the Gramercy Theatre in NYC on October 30th, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

 

1) Suede @ Primavera Sound (Barcelona, Spain) – June 1st, 2016

My first time going to the massive Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona was precipitated by several bands on the lineup (including Sigur Rós, LCD Soundsystem, The Last Shadow Puppets, and Current 93), but none more than Suede, one of those groups that unfortunately never comes to the US anymore. Brett Anderson and company played two shows, a greatest hits set on the first night of the festival, and a run through the latest album, Night Thoughts, in the theatre on the second day. The greatest hits set was sublime, and gets my pick for the best performance I saw this year. The album set, unfortunately, was less so, as the band chose to perform behind a screen showing the videos that they’d had made to accompany the songs (note to bands: don’t do this – we’re there to see you).

Suede performing at Primavera Sound in Barcelona, Spain on June 1st, 2016 (photo by Matt Condon / @arcane93)

 
 

Matt’s Top 15 Albums of 2016

  1. Jet Plane and Oxbow
    Shearwater
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  2. Create Christ, Sailor Boy
    Hypnopazūzu
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  3. Can’t Touch Us Now
    Madness
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  4. Mother Town Hall
    Bill Pritchard  
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  5. Astronaut Meets Appleman
    King Creosote
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  6.  Lodestar
    Shirley Collins
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  7. Distance Inbetween
    The Coral
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  8. A Band Is Something To Figure Out
    Hallelujah the Hills
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  9. The King of Whys
    Owen
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  10. City Sun Eater In the River of Light
    Woods
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  11. Night Thoughts
    Suede
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  12. Strangers
    Marissa Nadler
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  13. Here
    Teenage Fanclub
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  14. Summer of '13
    Malcolm Middleton
    Spotify | iTunes
     
  15. Born Into the Waves
    And Also the Trees
    Spotify | iTunes