The hardly-anticipated second half of the list! Part one, of course, is available here. Thanks so much for reading and thanks to all the people that make these shows possible!
25. New Found Glory @ Factory Theatre, 27/2
Hey hey, my my, pop-punk will never die. Not while NFG are still calling the shots and are still killing it live. With The Wonder Years and Bayside in tow for a triple-crown treatment, this all-ages bonanza felt like a summer’s worth of index-wagging sing-alongs wrapped up into three hours.
24. Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls @ Metro Theatre, 11/4
It’s hard not to get swept up in the fist-wielding excitement of a Frank Turner show. The Wessex boy knows how to rile up a crowd and how to get them to sing as if they’d never sing another song in their lives. Cheesy? Sure, but so what? FTHC forever.
23. Mates @ Lansdowne Hotel, 25/1
In which the boys from Palms throw the most bonza bash you could ever hope to attend. With extended family from Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth all making the trek, this full-day bill was stacked out with some truly killer live acts. Exhausting, but oh so worth it. Onya, mates.
22. AC/DC & The Hives @ ANZ Stadium, 4/11
Two of the great rock & roll live acts of different generations clashed for the first – and potentially last – time. Us air-guitaring bogans were overjoyed at the sight. Whether suited up or dressed for school, both brought a big-swinging, high-voltage show for a crowd that couldn’t get enough.
21. Mark Ronson @ Hordern Pavilion, 28/7
It’s tough to make the Hordern feel like anything other than the dead-weight airplane hangar that it is. Trust one of the coolest dudes in music to make the place feel like it was an old-school block party. A full-band extravaganza that traversed genre, style and a myriad of hits.
20. Ryan Adams & Jenny Lewis @ Enmore Theatre, 23/7
He’s had a tumultuous history with shows in Australia – lest we forget the lighting dramas of that Cardinals tour – but on this night, Adams was all class. Delivering a jumbo 2.5-hour set, Adams covered as much ground as humanly possible. Even the divine Jenny Lewis couldn’t truly compete.
19. American Football @ Oxford Art Factory, 5/7
Even with the tickets bought, the venue entered and their gear set-up, it didn’t feel real that American Football had actually come to Australia until they actually began to perform – and didn’t they just perform. A magical evening that many had waited the better part of their lives for.
18. Courtney Barnett @ District01 Gallery, 11/3
Before Sit and Think took over hearts and minds across the world, Courtney and her CB3 played the whole thing from start to finish at a secret launch show in a tiny art gallery. The kind of gig you’ll tell your grandkids about when they discover this classic LP themselves.
17. making @ Black Wire Records, 11/9
To launch their long-awaited debut album, the Sydney noisemakers packed as many bodies as humanly possible between the bear-claws for one of the most sweaty, intense and powerful performances that room has ever seen. It was a monumental payoff for a band that has worked tirelessly to carve its niche.
16. Mew @ Manning Bar, 2/12
Another pinch-yourself moment – after 20 years as a band, Mew finally played in Australia. It was as purely joyous as one might have expected, all dreamy soundscapes and dazzling visuals. It was truly worth the wait – it felt like falling in love with this band all over again.
15. I Love Life @ Metro Theatre, 12/9
For many, I Love Life felt like the end of summer camp. It was our last chance to see many of the Weekender’s international drawcards – Iron Chic, Andrew Jackson Jihad and The Sidekicks – as well as celebrate a year of Throw Me in the River. True love reigns.
14. Death Cab for Cutie @ Sydney Opera House, 1/8
The band name and the location alone should be indicative of justifying the position this reached in the list. It ended up being the perfect setting to experience songs both old and beloved and newly-discovered. No Walla? No problem – the new five-piece live set-up worked a treat. Truly splendid.
13. Poison City Weekender @ Various Venues, 4-6/9
The family reunion added a few new cousins from overseas and rejoiced at the return of hometown boys done good. For three days of the year, Melbourne is the centre of the universe and the bands of Weekender are the only bands ever. What a time to be alive, folks.
12. Blur @ Qantas Credit Union Arena, 25/7
It actually happened. The white whale that is Blur finally migrated back to Australian shores for a killer run of big, beautiful shows. A show that was just as exciting for those getting their first taste as to those old enough to have been last time ’round. ‘Erewe, ‘erewe, ‘erewefookengo.
11. Mogwai @ Sydney Opera House, 2/3
You can argue whether the Opera House concert hall has seen better acts grace its stage, but none have been louder than these Glasweigan veterans. The kind of immense live experience that left one melting into their seat, at a complete loss for words. A momentous and truly special performance.
10. sleepmakeswaves @ Metro Theatre, 13/6
After 55 shows that took them across the world, Sydney’s great post-rock hope arrived back in their hometown to play their biggest headlining show to date. It was ambitious, certainly, but lest we forget that sleepmakeswaves have always aimed for the stars and shot for the moon. It’s what has drawn people to them from the very beginning. From the opening moments of this show, it was clear these four were out for blood. Having had the stage promptly warmed by This Will Destroy You, Gay Paris and Serious Beak, the band powered through a heartfelt and white-knuckle intense set that had a very-packed room in awe. An unforgettable evening that cemented this band as one of the biggest and brightest that we have.
9. Caribou @ Sydney Opera House, 3/2
When performing in the concert hall of the Opera House, many international acts play as respectfully and reverentially as possible, which is both understandable and commendable. Sometimes, however, an act comes along that turns the place on its head – not in a manner that is disrespectful, but one that is truly transformative and exciting. When Dan Snaith and co. arrived for Caribou’s biggest show on Australian turf, not only did they bring family members that flew all the way fro Canada to see it, they brought their world of progressive, expansive dance music to surrounds that had never quite seen the likes of it. The formalities of the venue were thrown out the window as we rose to our feet and raved unto the joy fantastic. Maybe it shouldn’t have worked, but by some divine intervention it delivered big-time.
8. Puddles Pity Party @ Giant Dwarf, 22/3
Explaining the concept of Puddles Pity Party to someone not in on it is a daunting task – a seven-foot, fifty-something selective mute clown that exclusively does cabaret covers? Whatever floats your boat. It’s this complete left-of-centre weirdness, however, that draws people in to begin with. Those that dare to stick around are rewarded with a show unlike pretty much anything out there, all Pagliacci misery and dark, oblique humour. One moment he’s trying to get an unsuspecting audience member to sing “Yesterday” karaoke style, the next he’s mashing up Celine Dion and Metallica like nobody’s business. You’ll never see anyone quite like Puddles in the live setting – it’s heartbreaking, it’s life affirming and it’s entirely fascinating. It’s his party and he’ll cry if he wants to.
7. TV on the Radio @ Sydney Opera House, 8 + 9/6
2015’s Vivid ended with an emphatic bang thanks to a two-night stand from one of the most consistently-lively and vibrant live bands in the greater indie-rock spectrum. TV on the Radio have always stepped it up when they bring their albums to the stage, and naturally bringing it to the grandest stage in Sydney meant that we were in for an absolute treat. Best of all was the differing setlists across each show – Monday got a righteous “Blues From Down Here” and a ripping “Dancing Choose,” while Tuesday was treated to a jammed-out “Forgotten” and a stunning rendition of “Province.” Neither show was shortchanged, however – it was yet another affirmation of this band’s evergreen excellence. Long may they run.
6. Nas @ Enmore Theatre, 23/1
From the moments the lights went down and the sound of the New York City train started ricocheting off the walls of the Enmore, it was all too apparent that this was going to be a show that ranked significantly-high in this list. On a run of mostly sold-out dates, Nasty took it old-school – not just with his one-MC/one-DJ set-up, but by celebrating the 20-year anniversary of his debut LP, Illmatic. The years might have rolled on since that all-important time for hip-hop, but these songs have managed to stand the test of time in a big way – and, unlike many of his peers from the era, Nas still knows how to run a tight live show. His flow is effortless, the beats sound huge even without the flash of a live band and his commanding presence negates any need for hype-men. Simple, smart and sensational. Time is illmatic, and lllmatic is timeless.
5. Paul Simon & Sting @ Qantas Credit Union Arena, 13/2
No, this list hasn’t been written by a 60-year-old who gets to one gig every season (even though this and the next entry may have you believing otherwise). This was a show that needed to be seen in order to be believed – there, on stage, were two men that are simultaneously two of the most revered and reviled pop stars of bygone eras and generations. You’ve either grown to love these two men through their original acts with which they rose to fame – Simon & Garfunkel and The Police, respecitvely – or you count them among the more punchable in the history of popular music. Not a word of a lie: This was the kind of show that could have made a fan out of the most hardened cynic. When you’ve got nearly three hours’ worth of time with both gentlemen, they present a united front that is hard to deny and showcase a legacy that’s impossible to ignore. Where else on earth could you get hits like “Roxanne,” “Call Me Al,” “Every Breath You Take” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” smashed out of the park like nobody’s business? These two are an odd couple, but they ended up complementing one another beautifully. Forget about your cred and embrace the delightfully-daggy.
4. Fleetwood Mac @ Allphones Arena, 24/10
Speaking of which: There comes a time in every self-respecting music fan’s life where they come full circle from adoring their parents’ record collection to despising it, right back to loving it all over again. In tandem with this comes one’s appreciation for Fleetwood Mac; at once one of the uncoolest and most beloved acts in the history of pop music. With the classic five-piece line-up back together again, with Christine McVie back in the fold for the first time in nearly 20 years, this was an evening of celebrating the mile-long list of hits that the Mac has accumulated in their time together. They’re still faultless performers – Mick Fleetwood flurries across the kit like a man a third his age; Lindsey Buckingham is a six-string wizard – and the songs themselves hold up substantially. They’ve soundtracked lives from generation to generation, and it’s all too apparent that they mean so much to both everyone on stage and everyone in attendance – of which there are thousands on this night alone. By the time McVie ended the night out with “Songbird,” solo on the piano, and Fleetwood shared a good-night speech, there was not a dry eye in the room. This is the legacy that this band will leave behind. The Mac is most definitely back.
3. Sun Kil Moon @ City Recital Hall, 23/3
“It’s not really going to be three hours, is it?” This was overheard in the foyer on a quite peculiar Monday night in Sydney’s glorious City Recital Hall, as the times read that Sun Kil Moon would be on stage at 8pm sharp and would finish at 11pm. “It’s only approximate,” came the response. “I give it two, tops.” Oh, how they would eat their words later on when Mark Kozelek and co. made good on the sign’s promises and delivered a three-hour performance that was equal parts comedy and tragedy. We were expecting a high level of emotion due in no small part to the songs we had come to love from the project’s 2014 breakthrough Benji, and indeed we got that. What also fell into place, however, was Kozelek’s dark, unnerved sense of humour shining through the cracks; whether that was encouraging his bandmates to sing backing vocals without microphones and covering “I Got You Babe” with both an usher at the venue and a woman picked out of the audience. The evening danced between the seriously strange and the strangely serious – see a particularly-aggressive version of “War on Drugs: Suck My Cock” for a shining example of the latter – and the fact it never felt like three hours says volumes about Kozelek’s abilities to entertain his audiences. He might be one of the more noted grumpy arseholes in music; but, dammit, he’s our grumpy arsehole. We got you, babe.
2. Drake @ Allphones Arena, 25/2
The million dollar question lingered for nearly five years: What was it going to take to get Drake out to Australia? He’d had a string of hits on the radio here, had a massive raise in profile due to the success of Take Care and Nothing Was the Same and was soon to properly enter the cultural lexicon full-time. By the time he arrived, he had arenas full of screaming fans waiting for him. As the trumpets of “Trophies” signalled his arrival, it was clear that the wait was more than worth it. Better yet: In the years since Australia first discovered Drake, he had evolved from underground king to rap superstar – and he had the high-energy live show to back it up. All swagger, all confidence, all hits, all the time. The response was deafening – this was a crowd that knew every word to every song, even those that had just come out a week prior via the If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late mixtape. It was equal parts Beatlemania (pointing out girls in the crowd during “Hold On, We’re Going Home”) and block party (a booming “All Me” with 2 Chainz, “Know Yourself”). A pop show with street cred and a hip-hop show for the masses. This was the best of both words – and now that Aubrey knows what an Australian audience is capable of, he’ll keep on coming back.
1. Against Me! @ Metro Theatre, 30/5
Imagine a night surrounded by friends – old new and ones you haven’t met yet. Imagine a night where no matter who you are – black, white, gay, straight, trans, cis – you are accepted, you are welcomed and you are loved. Imagine a night of singing so loudly you fear you might not ever be able to speak again. Imagine the perfect amalgamation of great songs, great sound, great energy, great company at a great venue. Actually, why imagine? It happened – all thanks to Against Me!, who performed a headlining tour for the first time since Laura Jane Grace’s transition. Not only were the excellent Joyce Manor and Mere Women in tow, but AM! themselves were riding high on the back of their excellent 2014 LP, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. They exuded confidence and energy, and their all-inclusive nature reflected on the huge vibes being spread about the crowd that had packed the place out. This was a night that meant a lot to people – from those that have been following the band for years to those that have just arrived in their world, everyone was made to feel welcome. Everyone in attendance mattered. Everyone in attendance belonged. That’s the power of punk rock. That’s the power of music. If every Saturday night was like this, perhaps Sydney wouldn’t be seen as being in such dire straits. Sometimes, it just takes some clapping hands and some angry balled fists to make the gig of the year happen.
25. Alicia Stephenson, The 59th Sound
24. Kyleigh Pitcher, Songbird Photography via AMNplify
23. Ted’s Records
22. Jason Reed, The Guardian
21. Olivia Hadisaputra, Music Feeds
20. Annette Geneva, Music Feeds
19. Jared Leibowitz, theMusic.com.au
18. Emeilia Portellos, XXIV Magazine (photo not from show)
17. Zach Penhall, ZK Photo (photo not from show)
16. Kevin Bull, MewX.info
15. Peter Zalunzy, Blunt Magazine
14. Clare Hawley, theMusic.com.au
13. Ian Laidlaw, Beat Magazine
12. Mikey Hart, FasterLouder
11. Tommy Jackson, Getty Images (photo not from show)
10. Peter Sharp, theMusic.com.au
9. Belinda Hedges, the AU review
8. Emily Connolly, The Chronopages (photo not from show)
7. Peter Sharp, theMusic.com.au
6. Mark Hebblewhite, theMusic.com.au
5. Don Arnold, Yahoo! News/WireImage
4. Pat Scala, Sydney Morning Herald (photo not from show)
3. user:totoro81, Flickr (photo not from show)
2. Jared Leibowitz, theMusic.com.au
1. Belinda Hedges, the AU review