2022- The Year that live music returned

It’s been three years since I wrote a year-end post about my favourite live shows. We all know why. Yes, I saw lots of livestreams and I will write a post about those.

But this is about the year that my heart and soul got handed back to me, and I almost don’t know where to begin. I want to say that every show I saw this year was amazing, because it was. Every live show felt like a miracle. I never stopped fearing that it would all get taken away again. I treated every show like it could be my last.

If my math is correct, I saw 58 shows this year. That’s pretty impressive in any given year I think, but even more so when you consider that Ontario was locked down until mid-March and my first show of the year didn’t happen until March 31. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis at Massey Hall. Saint Nick was sublime, as always. That show was the first spark that helped bring my soul back to life.

Part of me wants to write about every single show I saw, but I’ll start with all the artists I saw for the first time in 2022.

VR Sex: This explosive and chaotic industrial post-punk/dance-punk band put on a show at The Monarch Tavern that seriously off the hook. You could almost see the energy pouring off the stage.

Just Mustard/Fontaines DC: This Irish double bill at The Phoenix was stellar but truth be told, I was 100% there to see Just Mustard. Their delightfully eerie reverb-laden shoegaze grabbed me from the very first listen, and I was delighted when they came back a few months later to headline at The Garrison.

Kristin Hersh: I flew to NYC for this one. Total bucket list show. Everything Kristin Hersh touches is gold – Throwing Muses, 50 Ft Wave, solo work. She played an acoustic show at City Winery and she was beautiful, mesmerizing and captivating with that delicately raspy voice and the way her hands fly across the guitar strings.

Zeal and Ardor: These guys have been on my radar for years and I finally got to see their genre-breaking blend of African-American spirituals and black metal live. It was intense and captivating.

The Foreign Resort/HAPAX/Girlfriends and Boyfriends: What a great night this was! A triple bill of post-punk and darkwave at Handlebar in Kensington, and every band was so good that I could have listened to them all night. Vancouver’s Girlfriends and Boyfriends are a new-wave influenced band with plangent melodies backed by guitars just driving enough to lend the perfect amount of grit.

HAPAX are from Italy and purveyors of that classic darkwave sound. They announced their dissolution recently, which makes me even more grateful that I saw them and in such an intimate venue. Thanks for the great performance that night!

Denmark’s The Foreign Resort were one of many bands I discovered during the pandemic and they were easily one of my favourites. Droning guitars and thudding bass anchor their songs while the vocals sound like a wild bird trying to escape a cage. Their set was perfection, especially in such a small venue.

Heaven 17: I’d had tix to this to see this legendary new wave act in the Before Times, so I was thrilled when their tour got rescheduled. Their performance was pure pop delight and I danced my feet off.

Idles: This spiky snarly punk-influenced band has been around for a while, but I just discovered them a couple of years ago. To say that they’re an explosive live act is putting it very fucking mildly. Frontman Joe Talbot controls a crowd better than almost anyone I’ve seen, whipping the crowd into a mosh pit several times throughout the night.

Lingua Ignota: Kristin Hayter is retiring the Lingua Ignota project and I am immensely glad I got to see her perform. The show took place in a church, which was fitting since her performance was equal parts confession and exorcism. I have rarely seen an audience so rapt.

Heilung: This pagan folk act describes their shows not as concerts, but as rituals. Sitting in an auditorium full of people dressed in animal skins and bones while tribal drums and spear-wielding warriors shook the rafters was nigh unto a religious experience, and even more so in the wake of covid. That show more than any made it clear how much we all suffered being severed from our tribes.

House of Love: I had spent 30 years waiting to see this legendary shoegaze band and when they announced a tour in 2020, I was overjoyed. When they finally made it to Toronto in late 2022, I was almost beside myself and vibrated with pure joy when I finally heard “Destroy The Heart’ live.

Father John Misty: Not an act I was very familiar with, but my husband likes him so off we went, and damn was I blown away by how good he is live. I’m now wondering why this mournful troubadour with the velvety voice wasn’t on my radar sooner.

Rage Against The Machine: Jesus, where do I start? I missed seeing RATM back in the 90s and spent the next 30 years regretting it. They announced a reunion tour in 2020. I finally saw them in 2022 and it was almost too much to take in. By some miracle, there were a few seats left for their second date so I saw them again two days later and it was a powerful, righteous, galvanizing tour de force.

The Dead South: Folk and bluegrass aren’t usually my thing, but damn if The Dead South don’t throw just enough of that southern gothic murder ballad energy in there to pique my interest. Plus my husband and my friends really like them.

Moderat: This German electronic supergroup not only produce incredible moody and atmospheric soundscapes, they also have have the most amazing visuals for their live shows. Seeing them live was an audiovisual feast.

The Magnetic Fields: Is there anyone living with a drier wit or deeper voice than Stephen Merritt? After years of always just missing them, I finally saw The Magnetic Fields live and it was full of whimsy, beauty and delightful weirdness and wordplay.

Jesus Jones: It has been 29 years since this legendary 90s band played Toronto, and their show was pure delight from beginning to end. Incredible energy from the band, who appeared to be having an absolute blast, and I walked away with several new fave Jesus Jones songs.

Dermabrasion/Accelerant/Happy 99: Local promoters put on a series of Boxing Week events featuring local bands and I was lucky enough to catch this one at The Baby G. Dermabrasion kicked the night off with fierce female-fronted death rock, and then Accelerant brought some chaotic noise. Extra props to the guitarist for wearing a Nihilist Spasm Band shirt. Happy99 is a new project from Denholm Whale of Odonis Odonis and in this, their first live show, they delivered a stunning blast of doomy, driving post-punk that left me hungry for more.

Traitrs/Wingtips/Lebanon Hanover: Not gonna lie, local heroes Traitrs and Chicago’s wingtips both stole the show from Lebanon Hanover. For a Toronto band, Traitrs rarely play here and so every time I see them, it’s a treat. It was my first time seeing Wingtips, and their synthy goth-pop was oh so danceable.

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