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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Best Concerts of the Year 2016

After our favourite EPs, now it's time to unveil the list of our best concerts of the year! Reaching the the amazing "heights" of the live music seen during 2015 was nearly impossible, but still, the ten gigs selected below are full of unforgettable moments. Great veterans and exciting upcoming bands, several "first times" and a couple of "special situations". Hope you like it!  

10. Desperate Journalist (Minifestival, March 12th)
Too short to rank higher… but what a blast! Giving everything they have from second zero, kicking the gig with ‘Control’ and ‘O’ as starters, taking no prisoners. Heavyweight post-punk, with an unstoppable melodic power and an overwhelming breakthrough, led by the stormy presence of vocalist Jo Bevan. She's an authentic force of nature, able to shock the audience with her frantic performance to disarm you with the introspection of ‘Remainder’ or ‘Wait’ in a matter of seconds. Desperate Journalist are fated for greatness.
Desperate Journalist, the sound and the fury. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

9. PJ Harvey (Primavera Sound Festival, June 4th)
It ranks lower because of the unbearable, extremely annoying, disrespectful behaviour of people. So depressing it makes you think what’s the point of attending festivals or concerts (sorry, I’m not interested in drunk people or posers, just in music). And it’s even more depressing if you consider Polly Jean Harvey is one of the most incredible artists a concertgoer can see live. Goosebumps and wonder, goosebumps and wonder, what a show she put at Heineken! Surrounded by an incredible cast, the amount of mesmerizing moments was just unbeatable. The funereal march introducing 'Chain of Keys'. The otherworldly 'When Under Ether'. Or how 'Down by the Water/To Bring You My Love' became one haunting somber number. PJ is in a league of her own, adding real substance and real attitude to pop.
PJ, stories from the (real) world. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

8. Espíritusanto 
(BIS Festival, Espai Jove Les Basses, April 9th)
A truly stunning album ‘Algo nos va a pasar’ released by our friends at Discos de KirlianAn incontestable live show, founded in the power of keyboards as thunderous as the percussion and, of course, in the vocal dialogues between Andrés Federico and Eli Maqueda. A couple of singers able to channel these emotional heartbreaks in overwhelming choruses, such as ‘Poligono Industrial’, ‘Flores de Bach’, or the epic and frenzied ‘Nadar a croll II’ and ‘La distancia sobrante’. Vine (at last in Barcelona), vidi, vinci. Kings of the BIS Festival.
Ready for another striking chorus? Photo: Bloodbuzzed

7. Tindersticks (Guitar Festival, Auditori, April 14th)
It has been a year heavy on “first times” seeing “major bands” (always a relative, personal concept) live. Like Tindersticks, in Barcelona to present LP ‘The waiting room’. What was I expecting from the Nottingham lads? Exactly what they offered at Auditori. That soundtrack for movies-yet-to-be-filmed. That clash between contempt and drama. Tension and space. That perfection in sound. That smoky, drowned nostalgia. And Stuart Staples’ voice. THAT voice. Since the opener ‘Second chance man’ kidnapped by that baritone voice. By the keyboards of David Boulter or the bass lines of Dan McKinna. And by tunes like ‘Sleepy song’, ‘Medicine’, ‘Boobar come back to me’, ‘We are dreamers!’, ‘My oblivion’ (oh my, oh my) or ‘Sometimes it hurts’. That medicine it works inside of you/ In your head/ In your dreams / In your dreams. The medicine we want...
Tindersticks, heartache surgeons. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

6. Robert Forster
(La [2] Apolo, January 14h & Primavera Sound Festival, June 4th)
A bit of a trick here, as this is not a gig but two. But we are talking about Mr. Robert Forster so his inclusion on the list was a no-brainer for this blogger. More so considering I had never seen him live before. And despite both experiences were sort of incomplete, together blended majestically, as the maestro deserves. First, at La [2] de Apolo, enjoying his solo, acoustic show, where he proved he is a true showman, goofing himself with his “rock star” poses, asking for a coffee at the bar… while delivering the excellent ‘Songs to play’, with gems like ‘Let me imagine you’ or ‘Love Myself (and I always have)’, along with immortal classics as ‘Head full of steam’, ‘Part company’, ‘Love is a sign’ (hit) or ‘He lives my life’ (sunk). But we missed some of the brilliance of his compositions without the instrumental arrangements or Karen Bauler’s vocals. Luckily, there was a second chance awaiting at CCCB. One with full band, including Karen and her violin. The set was too short to consider it a proper gig, but what a pleasure every single minute it was. 2 for 1 of Robert Forster? Isn’t that the real deal?
With Mr. Foster and Co. heads full of pop. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

The New Raemon (Sala Apolo, January 29th)
More than a regular gig due to the format and length, two hours & thirty-three songs revisiting his career to date with a full, impeccable band. And because the special company coming from quite far. The occasion deserved. A chance, courtesy of Ramon Rodríguez, to join him in a trip to the (recent) past to celebrate the present and look into the future. Precisely, the night kicked in with latest "icebreaker trilogy" ‘Una historia real’, ‘Oh, Rompehielos’ and ‘Reina del Amazonas’, setting the festive tone of an event with a tone of remarkable moments. Like combining ‘El Refugio de Superman’ with ‘Estupendamente’. Or ‘La cafetera’ with ‘Sucedáneos’. Or knocking us out with ‘Hundir la flota’, ‘Variables’, ‘Risas enlatadas’ in a row, leaving us emotionally messy but with an ear-to-ear smile on the face. ‘Desencuentros’, ‘Fuera complejos’, ‘El fin del imperio’, ‘Te debo un baile’, guest stars like McEnroe’s Ricardo Lezón’, and, needless to say, the end with ‘Tú, Garfunkel’. Hymns for screwed romantics.
The New Raemon, our favourite icebreaker captain. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

4. The Posies
 (Sala Razzmatazz, April 21rst) And another first time seeing a loved band. And a very special one, as I had the chance of, together with other media, meeting Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer in advance of the gig, chatting with them while we were discovering their flamboyant new record ‘Solid States’. An incredibly nice experience (made the right choice wearing my old, highly recognisable R.E.M. t-shirt) thanks to Scanner FM. And a cool way to warm-up and be prepared with what was about to happen at Razz. A relentless power-pop attack for two generous hours, full of electricity and passion, combining stunning new pieces like ‘We R Power’, ‘Squirrel vs Snake’ and ‘Unlikely Places’, their experimental side (check ‘The Plague’), alongside the unstoppable hits like ‘Dream All Day’, ‘Solar Sister’ or ‘Flavor of The Month’. Plus a heartbreaking rendition of Charlie Bell’s ‘I am the Cosmos’. The complete, knock-out Posies experience.
The Posies, making you dream all night. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

3. Minor Victories
 (Primavera Club Festival, October 22nd)
It was the “big name” of this year’s Primavera Club. And Minor Victories didn’t disappoint. First, thanks to a gigantic Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai) at the guitar, blowing out our heads and ears to the ones that, like us, were located at the first rows (such a heavenly way to die) making the impossible: that the Rachel Goswell (Slowdive) hooligan in me got hooked by the irrepressible strength of the veteran musician, perfectly seconded by the muscular bass of Justin Lockley (Editors) and the shuddering drums of his brother James. But Rachel, that initially seemed to be on the verge of getting buried within the dense wall of sound of the instrumental trio, still had a lot to say. Like the epic fragility of the colossal ‘Breaking My Light’, the incandescency of ‘Folk Arp’ and ‘Higher Hopes’. And, of course the pop gem that is ‘Scattered Ashes (Song For Richard)’. Almost an hour happily lost in space…
Rachel Goswell, brekaing the lights. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

2. Whitney (Primavera Club, October 23rd)A highly enjoyable album crowned by a perfect tune named ‘No Woman’. It seemed like an easy, reliable bet, but far from being a must-see of the Festival. Until the bubbly Julien Ehrlich started singing with his high-pitched falsetto while commanding the drums and the guitar of Max Kakacek began drawing indelible melodies. And then, the miracle. A band in a state of grace, making every single tune bigger, prettier, fuller, dreamier than the album versions. Like The Band unabashedly embracing soul music —the «good old one»— and only playing at dawn. Vocal harmonies, keyboard, a fundamental trumpet, everything falling in its right place. Romantic without a sugar overdose. Joyful without being silly or part of a beer advertising campaign. Melancholic without selling the drama. The connection with the audience was immediate and the gig offered so many instants to highlight. Like the delicacy of ‘Light Upon the Lake’, the euphoric version of Dylan’s ‘Tonight I’ll Stay With You’, the end of ‘Follow’, the almost danceable ’No Matter Where We Go’. And of course, ‘No Woman’, with a reprise and a trumpet solo that should last forever. We have them back in Barcelona in June, so see you there.
Whitney, light upon the Primavera Club. Photo: Bloodbuzzed 

1. The Chills (Primavera Sound Festival, June 4th)
Who would have guessed I was going to see The Chills live, one of my all-time favourite bands, twice in a three years span? And who would have guessed that the second time, after all the special excitement of the “first time” was gone, it was going to be an even better experience than the gig at the indispensable Indietracks. That’s what happened at Ray-Ban stage. It could be the hour, late afternoon, when Primavera Sound is getting crowded but you can still breath. Or the scenario (the coolest one), specially when the sun starts to come down. Or that this humble fan, impatiently awaiting at the very centre of the first row, knew the lyrics and loved all the tunes of latest LP ‘Silver Bullets’. Or, most probably, because Martin Phillips and Co. just nailed it, making the newest pieces shine alongside with the expected “classics”. An hypnosis session with our eyes (and ears) wide open, with too many moments to treasure: 'Underwater Wasteland', 'America Says Hello', 'Pink Frost' for sure, ‘Heavenly Pop Hit’, where my throat said enough for the rest of the Festival and, in particular, 'Doledrums', as glorious as I ever dreamt of. Best show of the year. Here’s hoping I’ll be able to see them at least a third time soon. Perhaps in a smaller venue for a much longer gig?
Warm, mighty pop waweforms with The Chills. Photo: Bloodbuzzed

Want to check last year's best concerts? Just click here
What about 2014? Click here 
And 2013? Click here
Or 2012? Then check here
And 2011?

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