Here’s part one ICYMI. Here we go with the most fun shows of the year – if you were at any of these and we danced, sang, hugged… whatever, just thank you so much! Of course, much love to the artists as well.
Now, let’s kick it.
25. The Drones @ Metro Theatre, 28/9
After impressing Neil Young and packing out the Opera House, The Drones returned to Sydney in September to score an impressive hat-trick. Whether they were holding the crowd in wide-eyed silence or sending them into a frenzy, they made every minute count – particularly with the spectacular finale of Leonard Cohen’s “Diamonds in the Mine” with Harmony.
24. Wanda Jackson @ Factory Theatre, 23/3
One of the oldest people to tour Australia in 2013 was also, amazingly, one of the most energetic and enthralling. The First Lady of Rockabilly enlisted an all-Aussie backing band to take us across roughly seven decades’ worth of songs, stories and shakin’ all over. The definition of a living legend.
23. Neutral Milk Hotel @ Enmore Theatre, 14/11
Hipsters, cave-dwellers and boho kids of the past and present packed out the Enmore and rejoiced. Sing-alongs bounced off the walls, beards were stroked and a tear or two was shed. It was, in essence, everything you could possibly want it to be. Bonus points for the incredible supports in the classy M. Ward and the indestructible Superchunk.
22. The Hives @ Metro Theatre, 7/1
“Tomorrow will be Sydney’s hottest day on record, and The Hives are in town,” said Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist to a thousand sweaty punters. “Coincidence? I think not.” Motherfucker had a point: 2013 was in full swing when the dapper Swedes turned the Metro into a rock & roll hotbox. Rather than get old, it just gets better and better.
21. fun. @ Enmore Theatre, 7/3
fun. suited Future Music Festival about as well as Morrissey working at KFC. It was nice, then, to get the band away from the roid-ragers for an evening of delightfully uncool and unabashedly joyful pop music. Essentially a victory lap for Some Nights, this show saw the band truly live up to their name many times over.
20. Neil Young and Crazy Horse @ Sydney Entertainment Centre, 10/3
Rather than mellow with age, Young and co. managed to get even angrier, louder and heavier; charging through classics like “Powderfinger” and the brilliantly expletive “Fuckin’ Up.” Regardless of how expensive this show was, it was worth every cent just to see the expression on every baby boomer’s face when they realised what they’d gotten into.
19. Soundwave Festival @ Sydney Showground, 24/2
For a day with roughly 80 thousand people in attendance, the best moments came when they were streamlined down to a mere few. While thousands watched Metallica and blink-182, roughly a hundred or so watched incredible, punishing sets from Fucked Up, Polar Bear Club and The Chariot. A fun day for little fish in big ponds.
18. Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Metro Theatre, 22/1
Mere months before dropping Mosquito, Karen, Brian and Nick made sure that you didn’t call it a comeback. Instead, you called it a joyous celebration of a decade of New York cool; complete with confetti cannons, exultant dancing and a rewrite of the history books. Instead of falling off the stage, Karen O dominated it.
17. They Might Be Giants @ Metro Theatre, 24/4
It would seem that attempting to pack 12 years worth of waiting into one night would be an impossible feat. Not if you’re John, John, Dan, Dan and Marty – in a thirty-song setlist, there were puppets, crowd battles and all the nostalgia a geek could ever handle. Now, chant: PEOPLE! PEOPLE! PEOPLE! PEOPLE!
16. The Roots @ Hordern Pavilion, 27/12
In the dying moments of 2013, ?uestlove and his legendary crew gave it an adrenaline shot directly to the heart. This is a band so faultless it even shook the dust off a PA as cavernous as the Hordern’s. With solos galore and a seemingly endless pull of energy, this wasn’t a show for the faint at heart.
15. Laneway Festival @ Sydney College of the Arts, 2/2
It’s rare that one stage at a festival gets everything right – and yet, the Courtyard Stage of the Sydney’s Laneway made it impossible to leave. From local legends Snakadaktal and Alpine to the sweaty bro-down of Cloud Nothings and Japandroids, this was a day of up-to-eleven amps and screaming the words to every damn song. Heaps party.
14. FIDLAR @ Oxford Art Factory, 31/7
To say that FIDLAR lay waste to the Oxford Art Factory isn’t just a metaphor – there were climbed walls, a kicked-out PA speaker, wires dangling dangerously from the roof and a pile of sweaty, barely-legal hipster kids throwing themselves both onto and off the stage. An obscenely fun night for people who still like a little danger in their rock & roll.
13. The Killers @ Metro Theatre, 16/1
The smallest show The Killers ever played in Australia will also probably be remembered as their best. You try denying the glory of opening with “Mr. Brightside” with the houselights on; followed by every hit you could ask for. The atmosphere was that of an arena spectacular; and the fact we got to see it in the surrounds of the Metro is something to never be forgotten.
12. You Am I @ Enmore Theatre, 19/7 and 1/8
In their two decades together, You Am I have become a national treasure. Recreating their beloved albums Hourly, Daily and Hi-Fi Way on a wildly successful tour showed us exactly why this is so. This broke through being cheap nostalgia to simply being a reflection on one of the most important bands in Australian history.
11. Cloud Nothings @ Annandale Hotel, 7/2
After spending most of 2012 cranking Attack on Memory, experiencing it live almost didn’t feel real. The hour flew by within a flash, but not without lasting impact – the visceral energy of the songs grew even spikier live; feeding off a push-and-shove energy between band and audience. You really fucked up if you missed this one.
10. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis @ Metro Theatre, 11/2
It began with an announcement of a show at the Oxford Art Factory and ended up with two Metro shows and an extra Enmore date; all completely sold out. Yes, the excitement was palpable for the arrival of hip-hop’s new dynamic duo – particularly given their then-very-recent victory in a certain poll. In a brilliant emotional contrast, it was a night of both cutting a rug (“Thrift Shop,” “Can’t Hold Us”) and of cutting onions (a beautiful “Same Love”). It was their first night ever in Australia; and there’s no way it will be the last.
9. Every Time I Die @ Manning Bar, 19/10
Buffalo’s finest had one simple request when the came in to the Manning Bar to set up for the evening’s show: No barrier. Either it went or they went. And so it was: One of the year’s most manic hardcore shows followed, sending the stage-dive-per-minute ratio through the roof and leaving most – if not all – of the ears paying attention. From the exhilarating opening of “Underwater Bimbos” up to the all-in finale of “We’rewolf” that saw more or less the entire audience get on stage; this was a celebratory evening of everything loud and tattooed. No barriers, no mercy.
8. Matt and Kim @ Oxford Art Factory, 1/5
You can brag about all the cool, rare, exciting, interesting or obscure bands that you’ve seen. But if you haven’t seen Matt and Kim, fuggedaboudit. These two lovebirds don’t need much more than a keyboard, drums and a sampler full of random song snippets (but mostly the chorus of “Bugatti”) to send their audiences into complete frenzy. It’s an all-involving crowd experience, with barely a second to catch your breath before you’re bounding into the next sugar-rush shout-along. In a world where so many bands are desperate to prove how little they care, sometimes it’s nice to see a band who give more fucks than you could ever imagine.
7. Swans @ Manning Bar, 13/2
An evening with Swans is an evening of chilled-out vibes, cruisy tunes, campfire singalongs and a friendly, relaxed atmosphere… except the parts where it’s not. At all. Not even close. For two-and-a-half hours, the gracefully-aging avant-gardists – lead by the bristling, dad-dancing legend that is Michael Gira – grabbed every last attendee by their scrawny neck and refused to let go until they were damn well finished. The centrepiece came in the form of a nearly 40-minute rendition of “The Seer,” which took absolutely no prisoners in its undying quest to see it all. A show unlike anything you may ever see before or after.
6. The Weekender ’13 @ The Gasometer, John Curtin Hotel, The Old Bar, Corner Hotel and The Reverence Hotel, 5-8/9
Every self-respecting punk from across the country headed to Melbourne for a run of rousing choruses, an endless supply of booze and room after room full of the best friends you’ve either ever had or are simply yet to meet. We waved goodbye to Milhouse and two-fifths of Luca Brasi; as well as welcoming new friends like the recently-formed Freak Wave and lanky troubadour Cory Branan on his maiden voyage to Australia. Elsewhere, The Smith Street Band became the kings of Weekender and Blueline Medic brought it home with a smashing comeback set. Not even a catty review in Beat could kill the rhythm – this is something truly incredible to be a part of.
5. David Byrne and St. Vincent @ State Theatre, 17/1
After dominating countless end-of-year lists with their dream-collab LP, Love This Giant, it was an absolute thrill to get it in the flesh as a part of a truly impressive Sydney Festival line-up. Byrne and Clark worked their magic on one another’s songs – “Burning Down the House,” “Marrow,” “Strange Overtones,” “Cruel” etc – but the truest joy came when they assembled their almighty, horn-heavy backing band to bring Love This Giant to life. With delightfully quirky choreography and pristine sound, this show truly was one of the year’s more spellbinding moments. The road to nowhere has never looked so beautiful.
4. Chic @ Sydney Opera House, 7/12
The man of a thousand hits added a few more to his belt this year thanks to some French robots and some American who has the key to the fountain of youth. It felt like there was no better way to celebrate Nile Rodgers’ incredible year than with what was possibly the biggest party ever thrown at the Opera House – yes, even bigger than their own forty-year anniversary celebrations. Dancing raged up and down the aisles as Chic powered through “We Are Family,” “Let’s Dance,” “Notorious” and every other work of genius that Rodgers has worked on over the years. C’est Chic!
3. Beyonce @ Allphones Arena, 31/10
Heyyyyyyy, Miss Carter! Pop music’s superwoman came, saw and conquered Australia in a jaw-dropping run of arena shows that even had hardened cynics like Everett True singing her praises. Amazingly, with approximately 20 people on stage at any given time, it was a feat unto itself to take your eyes off Bey – she commands your every scream, your every clap and your every attempt to try and hit those ridiculously high notes in “Love on Top.” In a truly dynamite year for pop tours – the Biebs, One Direction, Taylor Swift et al. – many kissed the ring. Only one, however, could wear the crown. Long live the Queen.
2. Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band @ Allphones Arena, 18 and 20/3
The Boss has the kind of fans that see him as a messianic people’s champion who has the power in his voice and his guitar to change your life forever. If you managed to spend an hour or three with the man and his music back in March, you probably have a clear idea as to why that is. Traversing the shark-infested waters for the first time in a decade, each night came with its own surprises and treats: Monday got “Adam Raised a Cain” and “Candy’s Room,” Friday got “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Rosalita.” What didn’t change, however, was the feeling of utter elation that came with being involved with such a splendorous occasion.
1. Paul Kelly and Urthboy @ City Recital Hall, 14/8
This was not just another Paul Kelly tour. The fact that Urthboy and his band were hand-picked as the support could have easily resulted in some sort of controversy or upset on the side of either fanbase. What happened instead was a much-needed and greatly-celebrated cultural crossover of two masterful storytellers, each bringing their words to life in very different but equally impactive ways.
Urthboy delivered a stripped-back and classy set, taking the time to bring the entire audience into his world. Kelly’s new band, featuring the wonderful Bree van Ryk and Zoe Hauptmann, gave new life to some older singles and switched up their style accordingly; whether some tasteful restraint or some four-on-the-floor was required. They rank up there with the Coloured Girls as one of his finest backing bands to date.
Perhaps the most telling moment of the entire evening came while Kelly and co. were performing “Deeper Water.” As the electric guitar kicked in and the crowd was swept collectively onto their feet, Urthboy could be spotted at the side of stage holding his new-born baby daughter Jetta; swaying in time with the song and bouncing her up and down with the happiness that can only come with the earliest stages of fatherhood. He, like a lot of Australian music fans, grew up with Paul’s music – and, now, he will bring up his own daughter just the same. The man truly is a gift that keeps on giving. Big things keep on growing.