My Top 10 Gigs of 2011

Posted: 29/12/2011 in Uncategorized

#1 Anna Calvi @ The Workman’s Club

A midweek night in February 2011, and those walking past The Workman’s Club could be forgiven for not realising the extent of what was unfolding inside… Not only my choice of gig of the year, but one of the best live gigs I have ever attended. Anna Calvi, a relative unknown with a lot of buzz around her, promoting her recently released eponymous debut album, took to the stage and launched into the mesmerising guitar solo ‘Rider To The Sea’ – and in that instant, I was hooked. Clad in her tradmark blood-red blouse and black trousers, her soulful voice and impressive guitar skills captivated for those glorious 90 minutes. I saw her later in the year in Vicar Street but it just wasn’t the same – I’m thankful to have seen her early on in that tiny room with a capacity crowd who, like me, were left to pick their jaws up off the floor afterwards.

#2 Bon Iver @ Grand Canal Theatre

I wasn’t at THAT Bon Iver gig in Tripod back in ’08… And yes, maybe it was far superior to this affair – but for me, this was an impossibly special night. My first time in the Grand Canal Theatre, for a start – a formidable venue, with a flawless sound setup. 7 rows from the front I sat and watched Justin Vernon and his 8-strong ensemble work their magic.  It was all over too soon, but a rapturous standing ovation brought them back on stage for an encore, for which they entire audience sang along word-for-word with ‘Skinny Love’. Quite simply, stunning.

#3 Tuneyards @ Whelans

I’m not gonna lie, I was unaware of tUnE-yArDs before the release of this year’s w h o k i l l – and as soon as I listened to and fell in love with it, I thought “how does this possibly work live?!” The answer lay in Whelan’s in June, when I witnessed Merrill Garbus perform live in all her quirky glory. Her voice in itself is an instrument, shifting tone and pitch and style in the blink of an eye, but the way she commands over her assorted instruments and loop-stations is unbelievable. She returns to The Button Factory in February 2012 – miss it at your peril!

#4 Sleigh Bells @ Whelans

Brooklyn noise-pop at its finest, major buzz-band Sleigh Bells arrived on-stage in Whelan’s with nothing to lose and absolutely everything to give. With a wall of amps as a back-drop it was always going to be a raucous affair – but they exceeded expectations and quite simply blew the capacity crowd away with the delights of acclaimed debut album Treats. Alexis Krauss certainly knew how to work the room, too. At just under 60 minutes it was short – but oh so very sweet.

#5 Le Galaxie @ The Workman’s Club

As luck would have it, two of my Top 10 Gigs of the Year were on the same night – and I certainly wasn’t alone in making the post-Tuneyards dash from Whelan’s to The Workman’s Club to catch Le Galaxie as they bathed the venue in neon to launch their debut album towards cosmic critical acclaim. Is there a better live act in Ireland at the moment? I certainly don’t think so. Check out the video for ‘Orion’ filmed on the night and understand why…

#6 Lykke Li @ Tripod

Tripod is not my favourite setting for gigs. It constantly seems like it’s packed beyond reason, and some of the chattiest people in Dublin tend to congregate there regularly to drown out whichever act I’m impossibly excited to see. But Lykke Li, thankfully, had the ability to shut them up. Clad in a floaty black dress she cast a spell upon the sold-out crowd, breaking hearts with ‘Sadness is a Blessing’, before causing a near-riot with ‘Get Some’… A truly captivating live performer, her stage presence more than lived up to her vocal abilities – which in the case of this sultry Swede, says an awful lot.

#7 Lisa Hannigan @ Vicar Street

2008’s Sea Sew remains a constant favourite, and Passenger is one of my favourite albums of the year which, in my humble opinion, establishes Lisa Hannigan as one of the most interesting artists in contemporary Irish music. Having seen her steal the show on the Friday night of Other Voices and share a stage with JV McMorrow in The Button Factory in the space of a fortnight previous to this gig, I was impossibly excited to catch a full set. The allure of Hannigan is impossible to resist – she is captivating to watch, be it when pouring softly-sung emotion into acoustic ballads, or sparking off a hoe-down with her more up-tempo tracks. It’s always refreshing to see musicians having an absolute gala of a time doing what they do – and nobody does this better than Lisa Hannigan & band. Outstanding.

#8 Friendly Fires @ The Olympia

A 17-song set which was difficult to fault, on a cold night in December Friendly Fires transformed The Olympia into an all-out sweatbox of a rave amidst a barrage of strobes. Here’s hoping that next time they don’t wait so long to bring the party back to Ireland… and if an Ed Macfarlane Dance Academy should ever come to pass, I will most definitely be first to the sign-up sheet.

#9 The Minutes @ Whelans

The Minutes were the band I saw live most in 2011 – and I never once got bored of them. Marcata was an absolute cracker of a debut, and the band went from strength to strength throughout the year –  touring the album nationwide, playing a number of high-profile support slots, and holding their own on the summer festival circuit in spite of the usual stupidly early time-slots afforded to the most promising of Irish acts. But that October eve in Whelan’s The Minutes were firmly planted in a spotlight all of their own in front of a sold-out audience, and more than took advantage of their time to shine. ROCKIN’.

#10 Delorentos @ The Uniterian Church

‘Acoustic’ and ‘church’ are certainly not two words which would traditionally come to mind in relation to the Delorentos live experience – but it’s shows like this one that can make you see a band in a whole new light, and give a new-found respect for their creativity and talent. The attention to detail which went into not only this performance but also the entire Little Sparks EP package is a credit to the band  – it’s glaringly evident that they’re presently at the top of their game, happy and relaxed and ready to take on 2012 with the full instalment of Little Sparks. Bring it on.

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