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Monday, December 21, 2015

Best Concerts of the Year 2015

And the time has arrived. Let's begin our contribution to the best of the year lists' madness! So, ladies and gentleman we are more than happy to start, as we did on previous editions, with our favorite concerts of 2015. And what a top ten! Bands that we have been waiting to see for a long time, new and superb discoveries and much more! Hope you like it!

10. The Mountain Goats (Heliogàbal, Barcelona, November 23rd)
2015 has been a Mountain Goats’ year for us. We finally embraced their music, thanks to ‘Beat the champ’ (look for it among our best records of the year) after flirting with many of their songs for years. We enjoyed John Darnielle’s intriguing and absorbing first novel ‘Wolf in the white van’ and, out of the blue, he came to Barcelona to present his prose and also giving us a short but unforgettable gig in one of the most intimate venues of the city, Heliogàbal. A fascinating storyteller, among the best songwriters in the world, Darnielle is also a breathtaking performer, ready to blow you up with an instant of rage, a vocal tear or a gentle melody in which words and music merge becoming one. ‘There Will Be No Divorce’, ‘Woke Up New’, ‘Up the Wolves’, ‘No Children’… A brief but phenomenal dose of an immense song book. One full of songs that hurt. Songs that cure. Songs that remain with you.
The Mountain Goats - Heliogàbal - Photo: Bloodbuzzed
9. Sufjan Stevens (Auditori Fòrum - CCIB, Barcelona, October 29th)
It could had been the concert of the year, as almost every song of the heartbreaking 'Carrie & Lowell' was disarming live, with 'Death With Dignity', 'Should Have Known Better', 'Drawn to the Blood', 'John My Beloved', 'The Only Thing' shining... a stunning collection of tunes performed brilliantly, with Sufjan showing a fragility in his voice and gestures that added another piece of wonder to the gig and a terrific band leaded by multifaceted Dawn Landes. Vulnerability, naked feelings and honest intimacy for an audience of 3.000 souls. What a miracle. But it could had been the disappointment of 2015 too, as ‘Age of Adz’ tunes also appeared, breaking the unique atmosphere created. There was time still for a third transformation, with an encore devoted to “Sufjan folk classics" ending the gig in a lighter, cheerful way. So, despite not being our perfect setlist, one can't argue. We saw an immaculate performance, and a genuine, polyhedral, indispensable artist.
Sufjan Stevens - Auditori Fòrum - Photo: Bloodbuzzed

Torres - Primavera Sound Festival - Photo: Bloodbuzzed
8. Torres (Primavera Sound Festival, Barcelona, May 31st )
We didn’t stay very late on Saturday at Fòrum, because there was a mandatory gig to watch next day (and you usually are too tired to enjoy much music on Primavera Sound’s final day). Our first time watching Mackenzie Scott's live, finally. And she didn’t disappoint. On the very contrary, she excelled our expectations at BARTS, our only complaint is her performance didn’t last longer (only six tunes), but what an intensity! She left us wide mouthed several times, in complete awestruck while we watched her fighting against the threatening guitar lines, shouting and whispering her wounded lyrics, breaking and letting her voice disarm you. Superb artist.

7. U2 (Palau Sant Jordi, Barcelona, October 5th & 6th)
Being part of a U2 concert today is such a confrontation with the person you are now and who you were today. Tastes evolve and, most luckily, new and exciting bands and sounds occupy your head & heart. Your past heroes are no longer the ones releasing the record of the year. Even more important than that, there’s a sense that dimension & context are also very important too, making it clear, bigger doesn’t mean better. In what regards to music, it might as well be the contrary. But after years and years of dealing with small stages and terrible sounding, many bands that have more courage than talents, you find yourself at Palau Sant Jordi and all your hipster & let’s face it, cynical defences, crumble after hearing a stormy, intimidating rendition of ‘Electric Co.’. It’s just nostalgia channeling the younger you? It has to be more than that. A gigantic screen on which Bono recreates his teenager years got you completely. Sure it’s all a choreography fuelled by the highest technology but, for a while, it seems to point directly at you. ‘Iris’, not particularly your favourite tune on the new record, breaks you with the outstanding vocal performance of the aging, a bit weary, but still powerful singer. And so does ‘Raised by Wolves’, a glimpse of that primeval, raging urgency of their early days. Or hearing ‘October’ for the first time. Or seeing people surrounding you on a state of pure joy you don’t see (drunk people doesn’t count) at the coolest indie festivals or gigs (the rampant cynicism again), or collapsing, breaking down in tears as some of the classics arrive. Or sharing the gigs with two of the most important people of your life, and seeing your little brother get himself into the celebration that is now ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ while you think this is something that you have shared with him for more than two decades now. Sure, there are a couple of forgettable moments during the show, some lame performances that seem to be done ‘on autopilot’ and songs choices that are regrettable, in your opinion. But it doesn’t really matter, because they are still there, still meaning quite a lot to you...
U2 - Palau Sant Jordi - Photo: Bloodbuzzed

Algiers - Primavera Club - Photo: Bloodbuzzed
6. Algiers (Primavera Club, Barcelona, October 25th)
They were our discovery just before the Primavera Club arrived, so we were aware this wasn’t “just another band”. But we weren’t prepared for such a powerful performance. Each song a strike, a statement, a howl for the one that are struggling but haven’t been defeated yet. There’s something genuine in the flammable rage and passion with which each member of the band plays, in particular their front man Franklin James Fisher spitting each word, hitting the guitar, or writhing on the floor. An unleashed beast at Apolo, their mutant, combat music comes from somewhere very deep inside every human being. A very needed band.

5. Twerps (Primavera Sound Festival, Barcelona, May 28th)
It wouldn’t be this Blog without an Antipodean band on the list, don’t you think? Twerps have delivered one of our favourite records of the year without a doubt, so there were we, with a gigantic smile on our face, waiting at the first row way before their gig began at Pitchfork stage. It was a shiny, joyful, carefree and warm gig. An impeccable afternoon with indiepop gems like 'I Don't Mind', 'Back to You', 'Shoulders', ‘Conditional Report’, ‘Stranger’... 45 minutes of pure magic, as it is done down under, making your mind disappear for a gentle while into the jangly guitar lines.
Twerps - Primavera Sound - Photo: Bloodbuzzed
4. Novella (Primavera Club, Barcelona, October 23rd)
Speaking of making your mind disappear, here comes our biggest “live discovery” of 2015. We knew Novella was a band to follow (we featured them in 2012) and we love the album ‘Land’. But we didn’t know how overwhelming and irresistible they were live. Psych-pop, shoegaze with kraut hints, with a ton of floating guitars in space. Echoing Pale Saints, Neu! as well as the Dum Dum Girls, the gig was a stunning, incandescent trip, guided by the vocal harmonies of Hollie Warren and Sophy Hollington and leaded by gems like ‘Follow’, ‘Blue Swallow’ or ‘Land Gone’. Love at first guitar line.
Novella - Primavera Club - Photo: Bloodbuzzed

Lambchop - Sala BARTS - Photo: Bloodbuzzed
3. Lambchop (Sala BARTS, Barcelona, July 17th)
Seeing Lambchop had become a pending, frustrating affair for many years but, luckily, we finally managed to solve it. And what a pleasure turned to be. Kurt Wagner and Co. have the rare ability to stop time while they are playing. Wagner telling us his stories in the form of gorgeous tunes, picking us up, carrying us to a place that’s light-years away from the maddening crowd, to an imaginary campfire with the rest of the band. A quiet, distant place, yet at the same time, so recognizable, so human and full of soul. A masterclass with too many highlights to choose among, like the impossible, poignant beauty of ‘Gone Tomorrow’, the jazzy atmosphere of ‘Sharing a Gibson with Martin Luther King Jr., the upbeat ‘Grumpus’ and ‘National talk like a pirate day’ or the great, arresting, ‘Up With People’ with the majestic finale of Wagner letting himself go vocally, unleashing something that can’t be faked: that there's a guy, well, a bunch of guys, enjoying what they do on stage. And giving us the time of our lives. Huge night.

Luna - Sala Bikini - Photo: Bloodbuzzed
2. Luna (Sala Bikini, Barcelona, April 23rd)
Celebrating Sant Jordi with a Luna gig seems like an unbeatable plan. Even more considering here’s a beloved band we never had the chance to see live. The night already started in a fantastic way with the lovely Flowers as their support act, so when Luna took the stage everything was set in its right place for a great show. And the group delivered. Fantastic, crystal clear sound, Dean Wareham and guitarist Sean Eden having and making fun with the audience, and a setlist including the majority of songs we hoped for Superfreaky Memories’, ‘Chinatown’, ‘23 Minutes in Brussels’, ‘Lost in Space’, plus the final renditions of Velvet’s ‘Ride Into the Sun’ and Beat Happening’s ‘Indian Summer’ . Nearly two house of haunting and hypnotic guitars, ethereal bass lines and moody drums. The best dreampop in Sant Jordi, not bad for a holiday, don’t you think?.

1. Sleater-Kinney (La Cigale, Paris, March 20th)
When the comeback was confirmed we knew it was one of these rare occasions when you do have to make an effort and watch them live, aside from a Festival slot where it’s much harder to see a band performing at their best. What a wise choice it proved to be. Mind-blowing from start to finish. La Cigale’s floor shaking (no, really) from the very beginning of ‘Price Tag’, 26 tunes with two encores, with ‘No Cities to Love’ tunes as celebrated as the old ones by a enthusiast crowd that was eager to let the performing trio (a quartet live) how happy they were to have them back. And the band was eager to give their 110% in return. Carrie Brownstein was electric. Janet Weiss thunderous but for us (consider we were just in front of her) the real star of the night was Corin Tucker, what an explosive, mesmerizing performance. To put it simply, one of the best bands we’ve seen live. One of the best bands out there. Welcome back.

Sleater-Kinney - La Cigale - Photo: Bloodbuzzed

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

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