Top 13 Live Shows of 2010

Well this is long past due. Having seen about 90 shows, and one festival, in 2010 it was incredibly hard totrim down the list. And not only the sheer volume, but the variety of shows. How do you compare a giant stage production in Stanley Park to an intimate acoustic show in a 200 person venue? With that in mind, there was no way I would be able to rank them against each other, so rather here is a chronological listing of my personal favourite shows of 2010.

Before I go on, though, there were a few bands I had seen multiple times, but the band I saw most last year? At nine times -- sometimes opening, sometimes free shows, always awesome -- We Are The City.
But now, to the list!

February Seventeenth - Karkwa at Place de la Francophonie
I have told this story many times, but the first time I saw Karkwa, I was immediately won over and they blew out a speaker in the Biltmore. Given that they hadn't had much prominence outside of Quebec (this was pre-Polaris), I was insanely excited that they were coming back, but a little worried I had built them up in my head. Turns out I was silly to be worried, and absolutely astounded by their show. Even for a free, short(ish) outdoor show it was one of my favourites, and I can not wait until they return.

February Twentieth - Broken Social Scene at Ontario House 
They were back to play a show at the Commodore a few months later, but it was their free Olympic show, in a room of only a couple hundred people, that stood out more. With a surprise appearance by Julie Doiron, what may or may not have been a spontaneous jam song, and Drew leading the crowd in "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" when they couldn't come out for another encore, and my favourite "It's All Gonna Break". A once in a lifetime opportunity, and the only show that I actually waited in line for hours during the Olympic break.

March Twenty Sixth- The Bonfire Ball with Jason Collett, Zeus and Bahamas at Biltmore
For a while now, my dream-show-format includes a bunch of related bands joining forces to weave a set together consisting of each others songs. Monsters of Folk did it masterfully in 2009 and the Malahat Revue did a damn good job last year, but neither topped the Bonfire Ball. Jason Collett, Zeus and Bahamas (aka Afie Jurvanen) all have a history of playing on each others records, and the three hour plus show, including an all-cover encore, was more than I could have ever wanted.

April Sixth - Jónsi at Vogue
Sigur Rós is among my favourite live bands, so Jónsi had a little bit of hype to live up to for his solo show. Turns out, he surpassed expectations. There were a few shows this year with just incredible stage shows, and this was one of them. Projection screen with wire-frame animals which gave way to post-apocalyptic building structures, the stage looked amazing, and the music matched. I got chills, and almost tears, when "Grow Till Tall" climaxed the show, with the "weather effects" mimicking the songs calm beginning building to a chaotic end, proving Jónsi has not just command over the stage, and the audience, but mother nature herself. (It sounds silly in describing it, but was one of the single most amazing songs I have ever seen performed live).

May Sixth - Brasstronaut with The Zolas at St James Hall
I hadn't heard too much from Brasstronaut before this show, and honestly, I was going mostly to see The Zolas. Then Brasstronaut played. First, though, The Zolas, put on a great set, as usual, full of energy. But as Brasstronaut filled the stage, with their projection screen, the space clarinet and incredible sound, by the time they ended -- with monks and bubbles and stars projected onto the ceiling -- my (healthy) obsession with them had begun.

May Thirtieth - Mumford & Sons at Yaletown
They played again at the Vogue in October and I would probably not have this on the list had I not gotten a chance to see them do a full show, but this secret gig was pulled off by The Peak, announcing the location mere hours before the show. Even though they only played 4 songs, a couple thousand people showed up to see them, packing Yaletown and even shutting down streets. Yes, it was an amazing spectacle, but the handfull of songs were also really damn good.

August Eleventh - The Tom Fun Orchestra with Treelines and Redbird at Media Club
It started with Redbird (well, not really, but I missed the first act) who I had never seen before, but really impressed me. Then was Treelines, a band who I had heard much ado about, and more than lived up to the hype. Those two alone would have been enough for a great show, but what cements this show on my favourite list is the Tom Fun Orchestra. The eight members -- all playing different instruments -- had unparalleled energy on stage and were less a band and more a force of nature.

September Fourth and Fifth - Live @ Squamish at Logger Sports Grounds
We Are The City. Said The Whale. Michael Bernard Fitzgerald. Devo. Hollerado. Mother Mother. Civil Twilight. You Say Party. Bad Religion. Tokyo Police Club. Matthew Good. The Decemberists. It wasn't just that it was my first music festival, or the incredible fun I had with friends that weekend, but also the incredible lineup and spectacular music that puts this on the list. So much great music packed into two days. Can't wait for this September to go back.

September Twenty Sixth - The Flaming Lips at Malkin Bowl
Either The Flaming Lips is one of the best bands you have seen live... or you have never seen them before. They have the absolute best live spectacle I have ever seen; crowd surfing in zorbs, video screens, giant hands, huge balloons bouncing through the crowd, bears, aliens, and confetti that was still being found days later. But it wasn't just the show, anyone can put on a nifty stage show. The fearless freaks back it up with some incredible music, great sing-a-longs and an unmatched love for their fans.

November Fifth - Stars with Young Galaxy at The Vogue
This was a tough choice between this show, and the earlier show with Hey Rosetta!. Both shows had incredible openers -- Hey Rosetta! maybe being a shade better than Young Galaxy -- I picked this one because I enjoyed Stars set more than the first. Perhaps it was because after it was their album was out, perhaps it was the copious amounts of bubbles pumped into the crowd (much easier to clean up than confetti) or the acoustic songs added in. No matter how many times I see Stars (I think I'm up to five now?) I never fail to be amazed by them, by how fantastic a performer Torquil is, and how beautiful their music is live.

November Nineteenth - Wil with Shaun Verreault at Media Club
In contrast to the giant spectacle shows in the list, this was "two men, naked on stage, with wood in their hands" (as Shaun put it) with Wil and Shaun Verreault, of Wide Mouth Mason, in an intimate setting for two acoustic sets. You will be hard pressed to find two better guitar players than the two of them -- and Wil lived up to his string breaking reputation. Probably the most minimalistic show on this whole list, but shows you don't need a giant spectacle for a good show, just fantastic music.

November Twenty Sixth - Grinderman at Commodore
Nick. Fucking. Cave. For several years, I have been a huge fan of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and was consistently disappointed that they never came here. So when I heard that Grinderman, a side project with Cave and a few Bad Seeds was coming, I was overjoyed. Cave is one of my top four favourite musicians, and the only one of which I hadn't seen live. Leading up to the show I feared a little that I was anticipating it too much and it couldn't live up to my own hype -- but then Grinderman proceeded to shatter my expectations, my mind, and my eardrums. They played with more energy I've seen from musicians half their age, and while I am not ranking this list of favourite shows... they would be a strong contender for number one.

November Twenty Seventh - Henry and The Nightcrawlers with David Vertesi and Zach Gray at Billy Bishop Legion
This show right here is the perfect example of why the Vancouver music scene is so incredible right now. It was Henry & The Nightcrawler's CD release party at a Legion Hall in Kits, which turned out to be a really cool place to see a show. And not only did Zach Gray (of The Zolas) and David Vertesi (Hey Ocean!) open, but Henry was joined by Andy, Cayne (We Are The City) and Zach for his backing band. But it wasn't just a coming together of musicians, there were three damn good, and fun, sets of music.Henry was another act who I had seen multiple times through the year, and even though he had a rotating cast of supporting musicians, his shows just kept getting better and better, culminating in this one.

So, there you have it. Were they the best shows to come through Vancouver last year? That's debatable. But they were my favourite shows. And in case you are interested, here is a list of all the shows I have been to this year.