Well, folks, 2017 is coming to end and it was a completely overwhelming year for music.
From the shady ending of the short-lived Pemberton Music Festival filing bankruptcy to the heartbreaking deaths of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, Tom Petty, and the pride of Canada, The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie, it was all just a little too much.
Through it all, the music lived on and we saw a lot of it come through North America.
I want to take a moment and acknowledge what I feel were the best concerts of the year. Through 2017, I saw 189 bands/artists perform across 89 individual events – my complete list can be seen here.
So, without further ado, here are my choices for the top ten best concerts of 2017:
|This rapper, singer, and songwriter originates from Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Of any artist on this list, he had the most pop-styled performance but it was so much more. He can sing and dance and emote but he makes it all seem so personal. He would speak between songs and take you through small stories about life and experience. Like many others on this list, he hypnotized the crowd with his abilities but unlike the rest he always seemed to pick one person in the crowd during each song to whom he would direct his focus. Usually, something like this would make a set feel special for one and average to the rest in attendance but he seemed to use this as fuel to generate a level of intimacy throughout the entire performance. Jidenna is deserving of his spot on this list and I am sure we will see big things in his future.|
|Isaiah Rashad is an American hip hop artist originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee. The hype train behind this young man seemed to be unrealistic but once he took the stage at Fortune and spat fury to the crowd, I was on board. He had the entire venue bouncing to the point that when I slipped out to the bathroom for a minute, I could still feel the floor flexing to the unified jumping of the audience. This venue is usually hot because of its size but at this show I had to take my glasses off because they just kept steaming up. Rashad was fluid in his movements and purposeful in his delivery, he was like a conductor at an orchestra as he lead the house through his performance. This man had control and talent and vision throughout the night. Just, wow!|
|One more duo on the list, French-Cuban siblings, Lisa-Kaindé Diaz, the lead singer and pianist, and Naomi Diaz, on percussion. From the shows I saw this year, these two served up the most unique set I was able to witness this year. Their sounds are cultural and exploding with various flavours; spanning between English, French, Spanish and Yoruba, Nigerian language spoken in West Africa. Their songs are empowering, anthems of equality between the sexes, between the rich and poor, and between political and religious factions. They stirred up the audience into a frenzy, it was a like a political rally of sorts. The beats were contagious, the vocals were soul-tingling, and it was all very cathartic. Just a beautiful performance from the heart.|
|I have been a fan of Guns N’ Roses since the early nineties. My dream was to see them live but that always seemed like an impossibility. When there was an announcement of a reunion tour in 2016, I drove down to Seattle to watch them and was truly impressed with them but they never announced a Vancouver date on that initial run. In early 2017, that all changed when they announced a date at BC Place in the fall. It was the first show I camped out at starting in the morning just to ensure a great spot in the general admission area. It all paid off, I managed to score front row right at the fence of the security pit area. The entire show was fantastic. Slash and Axl were smiling and interacting with one another like they never stopped being great friends, both were on point and served up solid, powerful individual performances. Duff walked around the stage carrying his bass like a weapon, adding a flex of badass to every song. Richard Fortus was an all-star and served up his portion of guitars solo with an air of effortlessness. I was in awe from the moment they walked on stage and left the show unable to stop my smile from painting itself across my face. Seattle in 2016 was great but Vancouver in 2017 was an epic moment in time that I will remember forever.|
|This English soul musician from Muswell Hill, London carries the torch for the soul-singers of yesteryear. As a fan of Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers, it is hard to find musicians today that are able to commit wholly to that classic Detroit Motown sound but Mr. Kiwanuka does just that. At moments during his set I would just close my eyes and everything would just melt away. All I could absorb was his voice and his guitar shaking my being and dancing across my emotional stepping stones. Many of the other performances on this list were intense and powerful and similar but Michael Kiwanuka’s set was so emotionally charged that I left feeling exhausted. He took the audience on a journey that had them pour each one of their feelings and toss them back in a shot glass, in the end their were no more emotions to be had.|
|Another band that has evaded me over the years is Future Islands. They don’t come to Vancouver often but when they do, I am usually unavailable for some reason. This Baltimore, Maryland synthpop outfit has a not-so-secret weapon in lead singer Samuel T. Herring; his voice. It’s raspy and seductive and completely unique.It is almost like having a metal singer fronting a pop band. While that premise may seem strange, the end result is just delightful. Going into the show I didn’t know what to expect but Mr. Herring quickly bewitched me. Not only does his voice grab your attention, he also serves up graceful and larger-than-life dance moves with big sweeping movements. I was a fan going into the show, I left as an obsessive Future Islander that listened to nothing but their music for three days.|
|Ty Segall is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter from Laguna Beach, California. I have been hearing about his live shows for a couple years now but the stars never aligned when he was previously in town for me to see him live. That anticipation just added to how much he blew my mind at the Vogue. First off, he surrounds himself with the most talented musicians. He may be the leading man but his supporting cast is what makes his shows as perfect as they are. Secondly, he is about the music and not about the stage visuals, the band was soaked in a little stage smoke and a series of lights but nothing more. This let the entire venue absorb the music, which was equal parts inctricate and explosive. At moments I would shift my head around the crowd and just see a bunch of hypnotized gazes staring at Mr. Segall. His performance was captivating. He falls into the music and lets it flow through him.|
|Another duo on our list, this one is made up of Eric Owen on drums and Kevin McKeown on guitar/vocals. These two hail from Toronto, Ontario but now operate out of Austin, Texas; a great homebase to hone their gritty blues rock sound. Their set at the Biltmore was explosive and hypnotic. On several occasions Kevin climbed on to the outstretched hands of the crowd and ripped out a spine-tingling solo while the shirtless beast that is Mr. Owen beat down on his drum skins with ferocity. Seeing a band of this caliber in such a small venue made it that much more close to perfection. The beer swilling crowd was completely captivated, the air was thick and sweaty. It was like a basement concert with no rules.|
|This Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is ready to blow your mind. Her set was on another level. She danced around barefoot on the stage with a bevvy of pedals at her command. She worked from keyboard to drum machine to guitar to microphone, blending them all into a symphony of wonderment. I was mesmerized but she wasn’t done yet. She picked up her Fender and brought forth a storm of Hendrix’esque fret work that had tears welling in my eyes. The look on her face was one of ecstasy, she was in another dimension and she took us all on that journey with her. Don’t miss Tash Sultana at the Malkin Bowl in May 2018.|
|This English rock duo is made up of Mike Kerr on guitar/vocals and Ben Thatcher on drums. Over the last couple of years their live shows have grown in intensity as they mature their performance. The set at the Commodore was sweaty and powerful and raw. Mike had soaked through his leaopard print shirt by the 4th song and Ben was steadfast and menacing from behind his kit as he laid down a thick, deep beat for every song. These two may just be the future of pure unadulterated Rock N Roll.|
In addition, some honourable mentions are Metallica at BC Place, Sting at the Commodore Ballroom, TOOL at Rogers Arena, and Ben Harper at the Commodore Ballroom.
Now, let us move on to photography. I took a lot of pictures this year. That isn’t an over-exaggeration, I literally took 27,892, or so says lightroomdashboard.com, photos with about 95% of those being at concerts or of musicians.
So, each year I cull through that huge amount of photos and pick my favourites. This year I decided to pick my top fifty. It seemed like a good even number that would let me grab a number of photos across the board.
Top 50 Photographs of 2017
Now is where I get a little sentimental. I want to thank my wife and my daughters for putting up with my concert obsession. Without their support, I wouldn’t be able to do this at all. They are my everything. I also want to thank my family and friends, all of whom I rarely get to see because of all the concerts I decide to attend. I want to thank the other contributors, they generate at least half the content that you all look at. Some of them are machines and attend dozens of shows a year, all for the love of music. They are an integral part of this ecosystem.
Last but not least, I want to thank you, the readers, the visitors, the Facebook friends, the followers, without the lot of you I would just be some concert lover. With your help and your interest in making this somewhat of a community, I feel like I can go to a show and feel at home. I am constantly having people come up to me and chatting with me and telling me about their love for music. Sometimes I get emails or messages from people on the other side of the world. It is all very humbling. So, again, thank you so very much for being involved and being the people reading and looking at what I post.
With all that being said, I will let you get back to your end of the year planning.
I hope 2018 can be another wonderful year for family and friends, good health, and beautiful music.
From my family to yours, Happy New Year and thank you for tuning in.