Ricky’s Shows of the Year

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Here are my favorite show’s of the year. Due to travelling, I was unable to see all the shows, but that’s life I guess.

David Byrne, Sony Centre

My favorite show of the year, with so much creativity and thought put into each piece. There is simply no other show like a David Byrne show – armed with an empty stage, a gang of dancers and musicians and a stellar light show, the show makes you appreciate what a concert can be. It helps that David Byrne utilizes his entire discography, which obviously results in joyous moments when the Talking Head tracks come on. The only sad thing was that this show was at a seated venue because people wanted to dance. Favorite show of the year.

New Order, Molson Amphitheatre

There used to be a notion that New Order was a shitty live band, but I’ve seen them twice and I have been delighted each time. They just play the hits man, and the hits are great. My only downside for this show was that they didn’t play “Ceremony”. I guess that’s just a drawback from a band that has 40 years of hits to draw from.

Meute, SXSW

A German EDM Marching band just blew everyone away at SXSW. The energy that this group generates was amazing and they literally had a real bass drop. One of my favorite surprises at SXSW and one that my friend Derek was so enthralled with he kept on seeing them in Austin

Starcrawler, SXSW

Never before have I been to a show that was equally electrifying and terrifying. Starcrawler’s Arrow De Wilde has a presence on stage is astounding for someone who has barely been in the game and the vibe she creates as she stares wildy at the stage and crowd thinking what to do next is one that I won’t forget.

Young Fathers, SXSW

Thank god for The New York Times. This show was part of a New York Times Music mag party at SXSW that also included free Shake Shack and top shelf liquor. All of this added to the intense show that Young Fathers put on, a show that came one day before their fantastic new record Cocoa Sugar came out.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Field Trip

Good bless Karen O.

Concert Review: Sloan, December 1, The Phoenix

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While they’ve been going strong since 1991, it’s been a while now since I last saw Sloan play live – I almost feel like I’ve been taking the band for granted over the years. But Sloan have caught my attention and managed to pique my curiosity again with their solid new album 12, so I took Saturday night’s show at the Phoenix Concert Theatre as an opportunity to finally end my Sloan hiatus. And the band did not disappoint, reminding me of everything I liked about them in the first place.

After taking to the stage to the strains of the “Pinball Number Count” song from Sesame Street, the band kicked things off with the jolt of pure power pop energy that is “Spin Our Wheels,” the first single off the new album. While older songs like “Losing California”, “The Other Man” and “I Hate My Generation” were definite crowd pleasers, the new material ended up making for some of the highlights of the evening – other standouts from among the new stuff included “Essential Services” and “The Day Will Be Mine,”a crunchy little number that feels like a bit of a callback to the band’s Smeared days.

Over the course of the night, the band would go on to play almost all of 12 during their two sets, as well as several of the hits and also a few rarities, the rarest of which was “Step On It, Jean,” a non-album track which they put out around 2003. Definitely a bit of a deep cut, but as Chris Murphy explained, “We’re a cult band so we can play whatever we like.” Fair enough.

“Now I’ve gotta go on the drums and suck,” joked Murphy after finishing up that track, although he was clearly being a bit modest. The band then did their usual switch-up to give drummer Andrew Scott the opportunity to step away from the kit and take the lead on “Gone for Good” (one of the strongest tracks off the new album with its mellow, proggy, folk-rock vibe) and “People Of The Sky.” Murphy would later go on to joke about how this was essentially a hometown show for the band. “It’s our hometown show even though we’re a Halifax band. But how often did the Beatles go back to Liverpool?”

While some might quibble with the omission of some of the band’s bigger hits (“Money City Maniacs”, “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” and “Underwhelmed” were a few that stood out in their absence), the band’s focus on the new stuff highlighted what a strong album 12 really is and proved that they’re still at the top of their game. Sloan may have started out their set singing “There’s only so much time we can kill here before we start to spin our wheels” but despite being around for nearly three decades, Saturday night’s show proved that Sloan are most certainly not just killing time and spinning their wheels and that after 27 years as a band they’ve become a well oiled rock and roll machine.

Concert Review: Tengger Cavalry, November 23, Hard Luck Bar

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Tengger Cavalry are a New York based band that mixes metal with the sounds of traditional Mongolian folk music. Fronted by Nature Ganganbaigal, the band has been going since 2010 and have been making a bit of a name for themselves in recent years, even playing a show at Carnegie Hall back in 2015. The band’s current tour, which sees them splitting things up into a more “acoustic” set followed by a full on metal set, saw them taking the stage at Hard Luck Bar on Friday night.

With all of that in mind, I was slightly confused when I walked in shortly after the band had started the opening set to find them playing music that was far from acoustic and didn’t quite seem like the more traditional take on Mongolian folk music I expected. I wondered if maybe I’d been misinformed and these dudes were just skipping to the metal from the get go. After all, every member of the band was already sleeveless – how much more metal could they get? The next number however, veered much closer to traditional sounding, though they still mixed it up a bit throughout the set, even throwing an improvised blues jam into the mix. “We’ll see how it sounds on this instrument,” said Ganganbaigal, referring to the morin khuur, a traditional Mongolian instrument that he played throughout the night.

While the acoustic set was not really acoustic at all, the band’s main set delivered exactly what was expected – the morin khuur and the throat singing stuck around, but the distortion got turned way up, the death growls came out to play, and everything in general got much, much heavier. And the moshing started up, almost right from the beginning of the first song, something Ganganbaigal said he’s always appreciated about Toronto crowds, going back to the first show they ever played here. The crowd was definitely enjoying themselves and the band in turn were enjoying the crowd, so much so that when the crowd started chanting for one more song after the band finished their final song, they returned for an unplanned encore and played … a song they had already played that evening. A little odd perhaps, but no one seemed to mind at all and the crowd continued to go wild as they ran through the tune once more. All in all, Tengger Cavalry put on a fun and unique show, even if I do have to question their definition of the term “acoustic.”

Song of the Day – Sundara Karma – One Last Night On This Earth

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I saw Sundara Karma two years ago at SXSW because I was too lazy to go to another venue and once again, my laziness was rewarded. The group, despite being new at the time, looked like rock stars and their Brit pop influenced songs definitely left a mark. I really enjoyed their album and was looking forward to seeing them make the big time.

Well, they never quite achieved the success (at least overseas) that I expected, but now they are back and once again, their music has a grip on my daily playlist.

Listen to this song – it’s catchy and fun and definitely got some Bowie vibes.