Best Gigs of 2013

Iggy Pop, delivering his healthy eating message to the kids of Australia in 2013

Iggy Pop, delivering his healthy eating message to the kids of Australia in 2013

Last year, it was 5 bad and 5 good. 2013 though has been a damn fine year for live music, so rather than pick out the bad ones… here’s 10 of the good.

Related2013 in PicturesTop 5 Albums of  2013

 

10. Franz Ferdinand – The Forum, 14th November 2013
Franz Ferdinand @ The Forum (Melbourne, 14th November 2013)

Franz Ferdinand @ The Forum (Melbourne, 14th November 2013)

Filed under bands that “I quite like on record but love live”, Franz Ferdinand delivered again at the brilliant Forum Theatre.

Although the main reason for their visit - Harvest Festival – was a casualty of the flooded Australian festival market in 2013, Franz made it out here anyway and didn’t disappoint.

Dropping a 3 song middle-of-set offering of Take Me OutUlysses and This Fire was a masterstroke that was only topped by a 5 song return to the stage culminating in mass drumming and even time for a couple of autographs at the front of the stage.

Photos: Franz Ferdinand @ The Forum Theatre

9. Weezer – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, 16th January 2013
Weezer @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl (Melbourne, 16th January 2013)

Weezer @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl (Melbourne, 16th January 2013)

Bands from the 90s smashing through popular albums in full is hardly a unique concept, but for Weezer, making their return to Australia for the first time in 16 years to give us The Blue Album in full, expectations were high.

After opening their set at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl with some choice cuts from other albums (think Island In The Sun, El Scorcho! and Hash Pipe), the band left the stage and were reintroduced by way of a narrated collection of old clippings and photos from the recording era of The Blue Album. From there, it was straight into My Name is Jonas and off we went.

When bands deliver their albums in full, part of the magic of not knowing what’s next on the setlist is lost, but complete with the awkwardness and disjointed patter from frontman Rivers Cuomo, the offering of The Blue Album just worked, particularly one of the album’s highpoints Say It Aint So.

Reviewers were split down the middle, and whilst some clearly didn’t, many seemed to have almost as much fun as I did.

Photos: Weezer @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl

8. Taylor Swift – Etihad Stadium, 14th December 2013
Taylor Swift @ Etihad Stadium (Melbourne, 14th December 2013)

Taylor Swift @ Etihad Stadium (Melbourne, 14th December 2013)

OK, hear me out here. In the space of 12 months I’d gone from mistaking the sound of all-American starlet Taylor Swift‘s voice for that of a cat under the rear wheels of a reversing car.

As the year went on, and I was subjected T-Swizzle‘s Red album for the 189th time courtesy of my 7 year old daughter, I started to deal with it a bit better. She wasn’t so bad and dammit if some of those songs don’t weld themselves to your brain for days.

And so it was that I found myself, with my excited daughter alongside me, in some prime seats at Melbourne’s concert graveyard, Etihad Stadium.

After a solid opening from Series 1 Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian, it was Taylor Time. Her voice was solid, costume changes frequent but never interrupting the show (take note Lady Gaga), and the production was superb.

Venturing to the back of the vast 40,000 person crowd to play 3 songs on a smaller stage was a masterstroke, and unlike others who have played the venue Ms Swift made every seat in the house a winner. Hard to fault (outside of the inspirational ‘be who you wanna be’ type speeches that followed every 3rd song), and a stealler performance from a pop chick at the top of her game.

And, er, my daughter loved it too.

Photos: Taylor Swift @ Etihad Stadium

 

 

7. Garbage – The Forum, 27th February 2013
Garbage @ The Forum (Melbourne, 27th February 2013)

Garbage @ The Forum (Melbourne, 27th February 2013)

When Shirley Manson takes to the stage, you watch.

2 hours later, and realising just how many tunes you know from the US band with a Ginger Scot out front, it’s clear why. Flowing robes and a lyrical delivery that can switch from lighthearted conversation to intense aggression quicker than a Scottish pub fight show why Garbage remain successful today.

On Australian shores as a fairly leftfield choice for the Soundwave lineup, this night at the Forum was one for the fans – taking requests, plenty of between song banter, and a wash of sound that not even a complete mess of When I Grow Up could undermine, Garbage gave us over 2 hours of hits, album cuts and charisma that some bands can only dream of.

Photos: Garbage @ The Forum Theatre

6. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Rod Laver Arena, 24th March 2013
Bruce Springsteen @ Rod Laver Arena (Melbourne, 24th March 2013)

Bruce Springsteen @ Rod Laver Arena (Melbourne, 24th March 2013)

As someone who hadn’t yet joined the Cult of Bruce, I made a somewhat half hearted effort to nab a cheap ticket to his opening Melbourne show in order to stay on after the obligatory 3 songs of pictures.

Scoring a seat in the 6th row for $50 was a decent get, and it was the perfect vantage point from which to see a guy who is the ultimate pro.

Surrounded by remnants of The E Street Band (Tom Morello a notable inclusion for the otherwise engaged Stevie van Zandt on lead guitar) Bruce takes Rod Laver Arena on a 3 hour trip through his back catalogue. Even the staged stuff seemed spontaneous – including the little kid dragged up on stage to sing Waiting on a Sunny Day and the “Hold up your signs, we can play anything” game – and I began to see what this fuss was all about.

With Springsteen though, it’s all about the songs. And boy, does he have a few to choose from.

Photos: Bruce Spingsteen & The E Street Band @ Rod Laver Arena

5. Ash – The Corner Hotel, 22nd August 2013
Ash @ The Corner (Melbourne, 22nd August 2013)

Ash @ The Corner (Melbourne, 22nd August 2013)

Perhaps showing my age? But yep, it’s another band who made it big in the 1990s playing one of their big albums in full.

But what a band! Ash!

What an album! 1977!

The TIE Fighters roar in and Lose Control kicks the night off. It’s 1996 and first year of uni again.

Yet again, we know what’s coming but really, who cares. Girl From Mars elicits an incredible sing along before it’s left to Kung Fu! Angel Interceptor and Oh Yeah to deliver the killer blows.

Playing the same venue as they had when first touring the album, this was a special night from a band who haven’t aged anywhere near as much as some of their fans.

Photos: Ash @ the Corner Hotel

4. Iggy & The Stooges – Festival Hall, 27th March 2013
Iggy & The Stooges @ Festival Hall (Melbourne, 27th March 2013)

Iggy & The Stooges @ Festival Hall (Melbourne, 27th March 2013)

3 days earlier I’d watched another 64 year old command a crowd at Rod Laver Arena for nearly 3 hours.

Now Iggy Pop is no Bruce Springsteen, and The Stooges are not The E Street Band. So where better to host them than Melbourne’s favourite cess pit of sweat, Festival Hall?

True to form, Iggy never took his shirt off – he wasn’t wearing one to begin with – and he proceeded to deliver one of the most intense 90 minutes of music this year. Raw Power indeed.

Stalking the stage and jumping uncontrollably, Iggy Pop is one of the perfect front men – the rest of the band just do their job and Iggy runs the show.

Whilst I Wanna Be your Dog and Cock In My Pocket were the predictable crowd highlights, it was hard to top the 2nd offering in the encore of I Got A Right for winning moments.

Hey kids. Don’t do drugs.

 

Photos: Iggy & The Stooges @ Festival Hall 

3. Stone Roses – Festival Hall, 7th March 2013
Stone Roses @ Festival Hall (Melbourne, 7th March 2013)

Stone Roses @ Festival Hall (Melbourne, 7th March 2013)

A hot day in Melbourne saw the return after almost 20 years of the Mancunian legends.

3 songs in, and with Ian Brown’s vocals sounding even worse than at their worst, it was easy to wonder what the hell was going on.

Then something happened. Sally Cinnamon sounded better, Ten Storey Love Song better still, and by the time the brilliance of guitarist John Squire kicked in during an epic 10 minute version of Fool’s Gold, bleeding into Waterfall, any doubts were gone.

Then it was time to beat yourself up over why you even had doubts in the first place.

The set grew and grew with each song, each high point immediately surpassed by the next, culminating in the massed singalongs of This Is The One, Love Spreads, She Bangs the Drum and trademark closer and indisputable climax I Am The Resurrection.

Incredible.

Photos: Stone Roses @ Festival Hall

 

2. The National – Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay, 27th July 2013
The National @ Splendour in the Grass (Byron Bay, 27th July 2013)

The National @ Splendour in the Grass (Byron Bay, 27th July 2013)

With 2013′s Splendour in the Grass festival boasting – on paper at least – a slightly weaker lineup than previous years, it may have come as a surprise to some that a low key, baritone voiced led band from Ohio via New York would dominate Saturday night at the Supertop so spectacularly.

Watched from further back, the wash of sound that covered the crowd – led by tunes from my favourite album of 2013, Trouble Will Find Me - was immense.

Bloodbuzz Ohio drew an enormous response early, I Need My Girl was introduced as “they’re mostly love songs but this one is obvious”, and with the penultimate song in a 90 minute buildup seeing frontman Matt Berninger leaping into the crowd to deliver the lyric “I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr November” personally to all those in the front row, this was the set that made the festival for 2013.

And as festivals go, Australia certainly has none better.

Photos: Splendour in the Grass 2013

 

1. Manic Street Preachers – Festival Hall, 28th June 2013
Manic Street Preachers @ Festival Hall (Melbourne, 28th June 2013)

Manic Street Preachers @ Festival Hall (Melbourne, 28th June 2013)

I love these guys.

OK. That’s out of the way, let the gushing and completely un-objective words commence.

In 1999, I saw these guys a few times. i was convinced they were never going to come back to Australia.

Then, in 2010, they did, touring their Postcards From A Young Man tour. After that year’s Melbourne show, I asked – half joking – frontman James Dean Bradfield when they’d be back in Australia again.

“We’ll definitely be here in 2013 for the Lions tour, don’t think we’ll be doing any shows, just coming to watch the Rugby”

So, when only 6 weeks before the British and Irish Lions hit our shores, a show each in Melbourne and Sydney were announced, it was game on.

The Welsh icons were getting us to pay for their holiday, but they earned every last cent. Hit after hit, Nicky Wire leap after leap. Sean smiled. They played Revol. Even Welsh International Jamie Roberts joined the lads on stage for a mid set version of You Love Us. This was one hell of a party.

And even Wallabies fans were invited.

Was it the best gig of the year? Who can say. But it was sure as hell my favourite.

Photos: Manic Street Preachers @ Federation Square

Here’s to 2014. Even if Blur did cancel their Big Day Out shows.


 

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