2019 was a very good year for me, live music wise. I mean, it feels redundant to say that, but now that I think about it, not really.
I spent a lot of time unemployed in recent years, and while I was lucky enough to still be able to see a fair number of live shows, the same level of joy and exuberance just wasn’t there for me. I was always aware that they were a temporary distraction from the never-ending stress of job-hunting and interviewing.
One really notable difference since I went back to work is the amount of energyI have to discover new music. Several bands I saw in 2019 are new to me, and both discovering and seeing them live was a pure delight.
- ACTORS, whom I saw twice. They’re a post-punk band from Vancouver with strong new wave influences that just beg to be danced to.
- Bootblacks, from Brooklyn, are another band who harness retro influences to create new, highly danceable sounds, and I saw them opening for Actors.
- Traitrs are a Toronto band who play Europe far more than they play Toronto, so this was my first time seeing them. They play dark electro music with yearning vocals that suck you in.
- The KVB are an utterly entrancing act from the UK who combine sweeping shoegaze with moody synths. Absolutely one of my favourite new bands and I was so thrilled to see them live.
- Numb.er opened from The KVB and my god, they were good. Noisy psychedelia that filled the room and scraped out the inside of my skull.
- Orville Peck. Not my usual musical fare at all, but I fell hard for this masked cowboy who sounds like Roy Orbison playing the score for a David Lynch film.
- Drab Majesty are not exactly new, but it was my first time seeing them. They look like glam space-age robots and they play romantic dark pop that is utterly entrancing.
- Bellwether Syndicate, a new project from the mighty William Faith and Scary Lady Sarah. Guitar-driven goth rock for the new generation of black-clad creatures of the night. As always, William is one of the best frontmen out there.
I think I saw close to 50 shows this year. At a certain point, I just lose count. Here are some of the highlights:
The Bowie Celebration Tour is always a delight – Bowie alumni from all stages of his career joining forces to play tribute to the Thin White Duke. But this year, Col. Chris Hadfield showed up to perform “Space Oddity” and the whole place went nuts.
I saw Spiritualized for the first time since I saw them open for Siouxsie and the Banshees back in the 90s. It was an evening of swirling psychedelic soundscapes.
I was thrilled when The Psychedelic Furs and James announced a tour together, and while both bands are great, James blew the Furs right off the stage. Any opportunity to see James is just pure delight. Their music makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. My friend Bevin and I opted for the VIP package which allowed us to watch part of the soundcheck and have a Q&A with the band.
I also took a couple of road trips to see some truly incredible show. Peter Murphy announced a residency in New York City and I not only jumped on it, I treated myself to a VIP ticket. After a rather hectic trip down, I raced down to the Greenwich Village club just in time for Bevin and I to be let in for the soundcheck. After that, we all got free T-shirts and a meet & greet with Peter. He was lovely and charming and I was utterly tongue-tied. The show that night was Love Hysteria in full, and to see Peter in such a small club, pressed right up against the stage, was beyond awesome.
Next adventure involved Bevin and I heading to Montreal to Nick Cave perform in a church as part of his Conversations with Nick Cave. I swear to you, you have not lived until you have heard Nick Cave perform The Ship Song in a church. The next day we got up at the crack of dawn, raced back to Toronto and lined up to get front row seats to Nick’s show that night at Convocation Hall in Toronto. That evening, most of the songs has to be with PJ Harvey, and at both shows, he played Palaces of Montezuma, which is simply one of the most beautiful love songs written by him or anyone else in the past 20 years.
The end of 2019 saw me and my SO taking a long-anticipated trip to Berlin. Over the years, VNV Nation has created a tradition of doing small club shows around Germany to celebrate Christmas with their fans. All the shows raise money for charity. I managed to score tix to their sold-out show in Berlin and we were treated to an exuberant 3 hour show complete with Ronan in a Santa hat.
Utter and absolute perfection.