Welcome back! Sorry it’s been so long since a post, but a lot has been going on. Anyway today we start the year end pieces. First up are the ten best shows I’ve witnessed in the last calendar year. These ten picks cover the bases from experimental to good ole' rock n roll, to giant productions and hip hop. in other words, there's something here for everyone. Hope you enjoy.
10. Japandroids, Republic Nola
From the moment the band emerged from the backstage area, they presented the crowd with a chaotically jubilant sixty minutes show with fan favorites and new hits all together. “Younger Us,” “Night of Wine and Roses” and various others brought the crowd into the game as their voices bellowed into one. The band manages to stay ahead of the curb in terms of emotional, heartfelt anthem based on the trials and joys of youthfulness, and its in that essence that the twosome thrives.
9. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, One Eyed Jacks, Nola
As far as longevity goes, it remains uncertain just how prolific this band will be, but this year has been unreal for King Gizzard and company. Releasing five albums since January, the 7 piece mostly stuck to one of their recent sets,”Murder of the Universe,” but every note hit harder than the last, complete with psychedelic images and loud, chunky vibrations through the packed and sold out club. Those are some of the best shows at OEJ, and it helps to make the crowd feel as one as the band pummels on.
8. Zola Jesus, Gasa Gasa, Nola
About 18 months ago I saw Jesus midday at Houston’s Free Press Summer Fest. While the FPSF show was solid, this night at a tiny dive in New Orleans truly showcased Zola Jesus and her enigmatic, ominous endeavors in an intimate enough venue that enabled her to literally be among the crowd, face to face. In a moment where the crowd watched her get personal and mention her recent cold, she came off as brilliant and open, hoping for a precious moment. She delivered well and strong, and judging by the emotions of the crowd, most left satisfied. For that reason, Zola Jesus pops in at number eight on the best shows of 2017.
7. Sigur Ros, Saenger, Nola
Having seen Jonsi and company three times prior, I knew what to expect, but somehow this was as different and as mesmerizing compared to the other times. Playing two unique sets full of memorable tracks such as “Saegloupur,” “Festival,” and many others from their extensive catalogue, the attendees on this night sat in profound beauty as they went on a visceral, awe inspiring ride with the Icelandic trio. Note after note provoked joy, and the haunting lights and stage show only added to the opulents of the evening.
6. Grizzly Bear, Civic Theater, Nola
On a dreary night a few weeks ago, the Civic hosted one of the most reliable alternative bands of the last decade, and unsurprisingly the show was as top notch as their discography. Picking from songs from their recent “Painted Ruins,” all the way back to classics like “Two Weeks,” the Ed Droste, Daniel Rossen and company perfectly complimented the intimacy of the venue with a haunting, light on theatrics and stage visuals show that showcased their intricately wound rhythms. Highlights included new song “Morning Sound,” and the insane build up and winding road nature of what’s maybe the band’s best song, “Sun In Your Eyes.”
5. LCD Soundsystem, Orpheum Theater, Nola
A performance by NYC punk disco stalwarts LCD Soundsystem might not be as special as it was when they announced their reunion, but that in no way means they’ve lost their eagerness to perform. Each show still delivers with the type of energy that the band has been known for, for as long as they’ve been delivering classic albums. On this night, as part of the Voodoo Fest after show series, the band sold out the Orpheum in under two weeks, and played well past two a.m. on a busy saturday night in Nola. All their best tracks were presented to a capacity crowd. Showcasing tracks like the frantic “Movement” alongside others like the gradual swell of “Us V Them,” and the classic “Dance Yrself Clean,” meant that everyone got to shout, dance, and rock out to the stellar band, which includes James Murphy, Nancy Whang, Pat Mahoney and others.
4. Run the Jewels, Joy Theater, Nola
El-P and Killer Mike have, in just a few short years, skyrocketed from a club band to an act that is prepared to start filling up high profile spots on major festivals lineups, and it’s with good reason. Just ask any person who’s seen them, especially if it happened on the current tour. When you successfully have produced three albums that are all better than the previous one, you have a ton of room to make every show hit as hard as possible, and RTJ doesn’t miss that moments. Crowd interaction and excitement was high, and from the moment Uncle El and Mike launched into “Legend Has It,” we all knew this would be a fun, thrilling show. It’s likely that they don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon, so be sure to jump in for your chance to see the single best rap group of the last ten years.
3. Phoenix, Shaky Knees Festival, Atlanta
During the final night of this amazing festival, something happened that has never happened during my two years of attending: a band was late. The sad part was that it was Phoenix, who were scheduled to close out the three day festival. While this was lame and an unhappy conclusion to a well organized festival, once the foursome from Paris presented themselves on stage, all of that frustration was quickly forgotten. They delivered exactly what you’d expect, on all fronts. A huge mirror positioned behind the band was able to make lights seem as though they had multiplied, and songs like “1901,” the eye opening transition of “Love like a Sunset,” and the powerful in your face energy of “Entertainment” all crushed the tired yet excited crowd in the middle of downtown Atlanta. It was the best show of the entire three day weekend, and for that, it shows up at number three on the year end best shows list.
2. Radiohead, Smoothie King Center, Nola
A Radiohead show is always an insanely special thing, but on this night, seeing the band for the fourth time was made even more excited by the woman, and other people I shared it with. Every note hits perfectly and precisely, just like it does on every album the band has constructed in their history. From the emotional release of “Fake Plastic Trees,” to the upbeat, more dancey rendition of “Burn the Witch,” it was clear that Thom, Ed, Johnny, Colin and Phil hadn’t lost any of their proficiency when it comes to staging concerts that will inspire you to look deep in your own body and soul, and to be just close enough to five geniuses that even if it’s only for two hours, all is right and everything's in its right place.
1. Roger Waters, American Airlines Center, Dallas
For years I’d been trying to see Waters. Afterall, his work with the other members of seminal prog rock, experimental band Pink Floyd still stand as some of the best overall music of well, forever. Finally on a hot ass night in Dallas in July, I got my chance, and what the sold out crowd was exposed to easily (in my opinion at least) stands as what is likely the best show I’ve ever seen in my life, even surpassing McCartney and Daft Punk. While many of the songs you’d expect to hear were presented, and enjoyed, for me it honestly didn’t matter. This was a unicorn that I was finally able to set my eyes on for well over two hours. Each note poured perfection out into the arena, and the massive stage show (complete with a set of screens that divided the audience in two for a brief portion of the show) only added to the theatricality of the evening. No opening act, minimal chatter with the crowd, and a very clear anti-Trump section of the show only reinforced the idea that art of any kind can be an act of resistance, and that Waters still has a lot to say about how he views the world at large. A once in a lifetime experience, and one that I’ll be remembering for as long as I’ll remember his rendition “Time,” “Wish you Were Here,” and countless other perfect songs that Waters helped to create. Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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