My year in live music – 2014

It was another packed live music schedule in 2014 for me. All up, almost 30 dates, including three festivals and a multitude of artists. Here is my top five, a summary of the next best, and the full list of gigs attended.

No.1 Elbow

Sydney Opera House, Sydney NSW, 26 October

A simple equation here: one of my favourite bands of all time plays one of my favourite venues of all time. How could it fail to impress me? Answer: it didn’t. In fact it brought me close to tears a number of times. This show was breathtaking. I’ve seen Elbow in every conceivable setting, from small club to festival, but the majestic Sydney Opera House could be the ideal venue for one of Britain’s best musical exports. The pace of the show was perfect, Charge kicking things off just enough to get toes tapping, with The Bones Of You doing much the same. The Night Will Always Win showcased Guy Garvey’s stunning vocals like never before, highlighting a central core of down-tempo loveliness to melt the toughest of hearts. The Birds acted as the first stanza of a build-up to a tremendous crescendo, including Grounds For Divorce and, of course, another unforgettable encore of One Day Like This.

I cannot put into words the brilliance of this show. It’s an absolute lifetime highlight, a memory that will always burn bright and never be a fading ember.

No.2 Austin City Limits

Zilker Park, Austin TX, 11-12 October

I wrote at the time about my affection for this weekend. Austin City Limits proved to be one of the best music festivals I’ve ever attended. I saw so many bands I couldn’t list them all here, but highlights included Poliça from side of stage (thanks Craig), a blissful Broken Bells set, the best Phantogram performance I’ve witnessed with Sarah Barthel sexier than ever, an introduction to the insanely infection Avett Brothers, running from Skrillex to Eminem and struggling to believe I was on planet Earth, A supercharged Lorde set and, of course, another flawless Pearl Jam show to close an epic weekend. There was more, but all you need to know was this festival was the dog’s nuts. Even the security staff were cool, the beer was amazing, and Austin’s convoy of fabulous food trucks kept the energy levels tip-top.

No.3 Gladiator and Sydney Symphony

Sydney Opera House, Sydney NSW, 3 April

Ever since seeing a documentary about John Williams conducting a live performance of E.T‘s score for the movie’s 25th anniversary, I’ve always wanted to watch a film with the soundtrack performed live while I view. This was my opportunity, and it was a quite magical experience. Gladiator is a flick I hold dear to my heart, and in large part owed to the sublime score crafted by Hans Zimmer. To hear it – and indeed see it – played out before my eyes while the film loomed over the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was an emotional experience. The detail of every scene popped that little but more as a result, every intricate note  and the finale, which always makes me tear up,  had me a blubbering mess. I was touched deeply by this one, and reminded once again of the special place music has in my soul.

No.4 Lady Gaga

Allphones Arena, Sydney NSW, 31 August

More from @ladygaga. Plenty of costume changes and inspiration for @jacjacjacjac #ladygaga #artrave

A photo posted by Toby Forage (@foraggio) on

Not since my teens have I really touched the uber-pop stadium artists, but a birthday surprise for my better half took me back into that territory. It was a place I enjoyed as a kid, seeing Madonna several times at Wembley Stadium among others. Lady Gaga was every bit as impressive and memorable, but perhaps more talented in the music stakes. Madonna writes a great tune, performs it brilliantly, but is a flawed singer. Gaga, on the other hand, has sensational vocal chops and the theatre she creates is enormous. The dance floor crowd, which included us, was afforded the opportunity to roam around and under the stage to view from multiple angles, and the air of happiness and hope Gaga created was wonderful. Do What You Want was a hip-grinding riot while Gypsy was an utterly uplifting and triumphant finale, and the band, as most in this genre tend to be, was a collection of absolutely superb musicians. This show as an unexpected joy to behold in every way.

No.5 Asgeir

Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW, 23 July

Crappy photo, AMAZING show. Ásgeir is a genius!!

A photo posted by Toby Forage (@foraggio) on

We fell in love with Asgeir Trausti thanks to a guy in a bar in Iceland in 2012. We watched a YouTube clip of him and were beguiled by his unique voice and songwriting. Upon the English release of his album In The Silence, the rest of the world cottoned on to his unwavering talent. Seeing him perform in English was a treat. He has the voice of an angel, silencing the normal hubbub of the Metro Theatre. It was mesmerising, beautiful, heart-breaking, absorbing. A flawless performance by a man that is somehow still just 22 years of age.

Three more of the best

Highasakite at Oxford Art Factory was a delight, highlighted by some awesome wardrobe choices and an undeniably cool frontwoman in the gorgeous Ingrid Helene Håvik. Biffy Clyro blew the roof of The Factory Theatre and a topless Simon Neil gave the ladies enough heart palpitations to light up the New York power grid while perspiring to the extent that it’s a wonder a flood warning wasn’t issued by the local authorities. His energy levels are ridiculous. Howling Bells performance at Oxford Art Factory was something of a nostalgic trip back to my early days in Sydney. Waikiki was the band then, but Juanita and Joel Stein have matured significantly since then and created a new sound that was played out with gusto back in their hometown, from where they’ve been missing for some time having relocated to the UK. Come back again soon, please.

The full list

(Sydney venues unless otherwise stated)

January

6 – Bonobo – Metro Theatre

17 – Chi Udaka – Seymour Centre

26 – Big Day Out – Sydney Olympic Park (acts seen: The Naked And Famous, The Hives, Primus, The Lumineers, Arcade Fire, Pearl Jam)

February

2 – Laneway – Sydney College Of Arts (acts seen: Vance Joy, Frightened Rabbit, Run The Jewels, Daughter, Haim, Lorde, CHVRCHES, The Jezabels)

24 – Biffy Clyro – The Factory Theatre

March

5 – Phoenix – Hordern Pavilion

9 – Flying Lotus – Sydney Opera House

12 – Kate Miller-Heidke – Syemour Centre

April

3 – Gladiator and Sydney Symphony – Sydney Opera House

17 – Morcheeba – Metro Theatre

May

3 – Russian Circle – Manning Bar

13 – The Naked And Famous – Metro Theatre

25 – St Vincent – Sydney Opera House

July

19 – The Preatures – Metro Theatre

Isabella Manfredi of The Preatures, rocking the Metro. Super-charged!!

A photo posted by Toby Forage (@foraggio) on

23 – Asgeir – Metro Theatre

24 – Phantogram – Metro Theatre

28 – Tune Yards – Oxford Arts Factory

August

31 – Lady Gaga – AllPhones Arena

September

5 – Biffy Clyro – Enmore Theatre

Biffy Clyro at the Enmore. As always, quite bloody magnificent #biffyclyro

A photo posted by Toby Forage (@foraggio) on

12 – Howling Bells – Oxford Art Factory

13 – Sci-Fi Classics – Sydney Opera House

18 – Highasakite – Oxford Art Factory

19 – Saskwatch – Manning Bar

October

11-12 – Austin City Limits, Zilker Park, Austin TX, USA (acts seen: Poliça, Interpol, Phantogram, The Avett Brothers, Lorde, Eminem, Skrillex, Broken Bells, Pearl Jam)

17 – Trombone Shorty And Orelans Avenue, The Belmont, Austin TX, USA

Trombone Shorty. Personally, I think this is the best "talk" of #SFSummit.

A photo posted by Toby Forage (@foraggio) on

26 – Elbow – Sydney Opera House

30 – Cibo Matto – Oxford Art Factory

November

7 – The Les Murray Band – SBS Courtyard

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Emilie Nicolas releases Fail but can only succeed

Emilie Nicolas

Emilie Nicolas … packing a punch.

Many of you will know I’m already obsessed with Norwegian songstress Emilie Nicolas. I recently received the gift of her album, Like I’m A Warrior, which is absolutely outstanding, but unfortnately unavailable outside of Norway, it seems. Luckily I have friends in northern places.

Today, she posted one of the tracks on her SoundCloud page. Entitled Fail, it is anything but. A power-packed punch to the senses, it’s nothing short of awesome and shows a more aggressive side to Nicolas’s outrageous talents.

This young girl is already making waves in her native Norway. With tunes like this, there is no reason to think she won’t surf thoses waves successfully to other corners of the globe. Let’s hope so, because she is something special.

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The Go! Team to make it a Happy New Year

The Go! Team

The Go! Team … back in business.

A new album is coming from The Go! Team, one of the bands that is guaranteed to make you feel nothing but happy listening to its tunes. The Scene Between is set for release on 23 March (a day later if you’re unlucky enough to be in the US), and is the band’s first release since 2011’s Rolling Blackouts, which was a cracker in my book. You can listen to the new title track here.

If holidays and unadulterated fun had a sound, The Go! Team’s music would probably be it. I’m happy to report that the new material, entirely written, performed and produced by the Team’s leader Ian Parton, appears to have all the hallmarks of the band’s previous releases, with bouncy lo-fi hooks and jams throughout, as this video trailer for the record demonstrates.

Looks like another enjoyable long-player is headed our way, and with any luck another tour, too. Fingers crossed the Brighton sextet will get out on the road to play us this one because live, they’re enormously fun to see.

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Anika Nilles hits the high notes

Anika Nilles

Anika Nilles … always lost in the music.

While surfing through some drumming videos the other night, I stumbled across Anika Nilles, a German drummer I’d not heard of before. I was pretty blown away with her playing. She’s got it all – chops, groove, impeccable timing and feel, and the ability to pen some pretty decent tunes. Here are a few for you to enjoy. Makes me want to get behind the kit pronto watching these!!

What i love about Anika’s playing, apart from the sheer and brilliant skill she displays, is that she does it with a smile on her face. Even in her more intense moments, you can see how in the music she is, and I love it when I see that in musicians. You honestly only see it in the best of them, and it’s a beautiful sight. I’ll be keeping an eye on Anika as she continues to drop more of her own material online. I’m really digging what I hear so far.

Austin To Boston is the trip of a lifetime

Austin To Boston

Austin To Boston

The one good thing about flying anywhere from Australia is you’ve got a lot of time to consume the movies that are shown on the inflight entertainment system. I usually find in amongst all the crap I’ve either already seen or have no interest in seeing, you unearth a little gem you never even knew was out there.

On my most recent trip from Sydney to London, Austin To Boston was that gem. The movie tells the story of a road trip taken by some of the world’s most underrated artists, including Ben Howard, The Staves, Nathaniel Rateliff and Bear’s Den who, thanks to an initiative by Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett called Communion, got together for the tour.

Here’s a trailer.

The catch is that the tour takes an overly circuitous route from Austin to Boston, and they decide to do it in clapped out old Volkswagon campervans.

The journey is fascinating to watch, the music mind-blowing at every turn. I’m not going to give too much away because I want you to watch it and enjoy it for yourselves. It’s a beautiful film that tells wonderful stories of life on and off the road, not least Rateliff’s tale of his father’s untimely death.

Rae of sunshine

Rae Morris

Rae Morris

Thanks to the wonder of Bombay Bicycle Club, I’ve discovered the equal wonder of Rae Morris, a great singer-songwriter from Blackpool, England. Morris is just 22, but her few releases to date are magnificent. Her beautiful voice I first heard when she had a tilt as a backing vocalist for Bombay Bicycle Club on the song Luna. She’s also got bloody awesome hair and a sweet sense of style, for what it’s worth.

Morris’s Cold EP is a cracker, and this song, Eye To The Storm, demonstrates her vocal versatility and some serious songwriting chops. She has a debut album, Unguarded, slated for release in late January 2015. It’ll be a must listen for me. In the meantime, enjoy Eye To The Storm and Luna below.

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Watch Highasakite play Lover Where Do You Live

A sublime live live version of one of the many beautiful songs from Highasakite’s wonderful album Silent Treatment, performed for P3aksjonen 2014.

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Album Review: Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways

foraggio:

Sonic Highways - Foo Fighters

Sonic Highways album art, a mish-mash of all the cities in which the album was recorded.

I was going to write my own review of Foo Fighters’ latest effort Sonic Highways, but this pretty much sums up my thoughts, so no need to bother really.

Originally posted on Consequence of Sound:

The story of Sonic Highways is both admirable and flawed in its conception. Foo Fighters, now nearing 20 years into their career as a rock band, decide to push themselves in new directions, traveling to eight American cities, recording with local legends in famed studios, leaving Dave Grohl to wait until the last minute to write the lyrics for each song, so as to be inspired by the surroundings, the experience. Foo Fighters wanted to make things new again, but something was lost along the way — their identity.

Though we are only three episodes into the excellent documentary series of the same name airing on HBO, Foo Fighters’ identity and their place in the fabric of American music history should never be in question. Dave Grohl was the fucking drummer of Nirvana. Foo Fighters can play stadiums around the world, packing their sets with songs that are simply a…

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Heart and Foo Fighters kick it out

Heart

Heart’s Nancy and Ann Wilson, rocking out.

Foo Fighters have been spending the week on Letterman as his resident band, and yesterday pulled off an awesome cover of Heart’s classic Kick It Out, a pumping track they released back in 1977. What made the cover special was that Heart’s siblings and Seattle rock royalty Ann and Nancy Wilson were there to race through the track with them, and the energy was awesome.

Here’s a clip.

I loved Heart as a kid, thought the sisters were both stunners, and saw them live at Wembley Arena in 1990. Now, in 2014, Ann is 64 and Nancy is 60, but they’ve still got it. Indeed Ann, who wrote this track, still has one of the best female rock voices I’ve ever heard. It’s so great to see them continuing to rock their socks off.

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The agonising enigma that is Emilie Nicolas

Emilie Nicolas.

Emilie Nicolas.

Earlier this year I wrote a little introduction to Emilie Nicolas, a great little singer from Norway who at the time had pushed out a couple of tracks on SoundCloud called Grown Up and Nobody Knows. She also had a track on Spotify, called Pstereo, which has since been pulled for Australian subscribers for some reason. It’s all a bit frustrating, because what little I’ve heard of Emilie I’ve absolutely loved. But finding more of it is proving impossible.

While browsing the Iceland Airwaves line-up for 2014, which sadly I’m not going to be at, I was flushed with jealousy for all those that will be there when I saw Emilie will be performing on the bill.

I immediately went on the hunt for more from her, and once again drew a blank, but I did find this live performance of Pstereo performed for the brilliant NRK P3 channel last year, which is an excellent and at the same time depressing example of how good she’ll be when she plays at Airwaves. The drum part is particularly magnificent in this live arrangement of the song.

A whole show will no doubt provide more than the three songs I’ve heard so far and, with some luck, propel her to greater heights and perhaps Australian shores. After all, nobody down here knew who Ásgeir was when he played Airwaves in 2012 when I attended, and he’s been Down Under a few times over the past 12 to 18 months.

Let’s hope Emilie treads the same path, otherwise I’ll have to seek her out somewhere in Europe on my next trip over. I’m addicted, and I need more.

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