I can’t speak to the years prior to my coming of age, but I can say without hesitation that in all the time that I have been going to concerts, 2006 is easily the best year Halifax has ever seen when it comes to live music. In fact, it’s the first year that I’ve attended enough notable concerts to warrant a list such as this.
While Halifax always has a vibrant music scene filled with local talent, this was the year where the bands came to us. Hardly a month went by without a major concert event, and there was something for everyone. OK Go, Motley Crue, Rob Thomas, Sam Roberts (twice), Great Big Sea, Bedouin Soundclash, Alice Cooper, INXS, Our Lady Peace, All-American Rejects, MSTRKRFT, Metric, The Dixie Chicks, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Live, the Goo Goo Dolls, Sarah Harmer, Metric, Billy Bragg, Randy Travis, Bryan Adams, everyone associated with the Juno awards (from Coldplay to Nickelback)…the list goes on and on. Regardless of your personal likes and dislikes when it comes to these bands, I challenge you to point to another year where this many NAME artists came our way. 2006 was the year that Halifax was put on the map as a touring destination, and we’re thankful for it.
Out of the shows I made an effort to attend, these are the five that still linger with me as the calendar turns into a new year. There are two themes that run through each of these shows. The first is that, surprisingly, every one of them was open to an all-ages audience, demonstrating that no longer are this city’s best musical moments only available to those who have reached the arbitrary age of 19. The second is that each of them left me feeling as if I was seeing something special while I sat/stood there watching these artists perform. The beauty of the live performance is that you get to see something truly unique that will never be recreated in that same way again. Each of these choices embody this sentiment, and are remarkable testaments to the power of live music.
5. The Rolling Stones / Kanye West / Alice Cooper / Sloan (Halifax Commons, 23 September 2006)
Yeah, I was a little hard on the boys in my initial review of this concert, but as time passes I’m more and more willing to blame the rain for any negativity I held towards the show. This was an event more than anything else, and on that level it delivered with flying colours. If my reasons for seeing the Stones were more based in rock-geek obligation, it was Mr. West who was the icing on the cake, a chance to see one of the brightest stars in popular music in his prime. (Read the original review here.)
4. Feist (The Marquee Club, 15 January 2006)
When I went to get my ticket to see the beautiful and wonderful Feist in concert, I was devastated when told it was sold out. Thankfully, the nice cashier quickly righted my discontent and informed me that a second, alcohol-free show on Sunday night was just added. This was nothing short of a blessing in disguise. With an attentive audience rapt in her presence, Feist reworked and reinterpreted songs from Let it Die and treated us to some new gems as well. In between, she noted how much better a show it was than the one the night before. Point: Ryan.
3. Final Fantasy (St. Matthew’s Church, 18 November 2006)
Usually, I choose to go to concerts of artists whose recorded material catches my fancy. There are times, however, when I smartly put those preconditions aside and see an artist based on reputation and name value. While Owen Pallett’s records have never grabbed me, his one-man live show – complete with hand-made overhead animation – is a marvel, a testament to his innovation and talent. As I sat in the church’s balcony, I found myself at the edge of my pew, eagerly awaiting what musical wonders Pallett’s magical violin would create next. In the Coast this past week, Stephanie Jones called it perhaps the best concert she’s seen in her life; while I wouldn’t go that far, it was easily one of my highlights of 2006. (Read the original review here.)
2. Wilco (Alderney Landing, 19 July 2006)
I’ve long resigned myself that, unless they’re Canadian, the odds of many of my favourite artists ever coming to my hometown are slim to none. And then, out of nowhere, I open up the Chronicle Herald one morning in late April and see that Wilco – perhaps in my top 5 favourite bands ever – are going to be playing Halifax. Thank goodness no one else was around to hear my girlish scream of impassioned joy.
Supposedly there is a video out there of me rocking out at the concert, singing along to every word and bouncing around to every beat. I probably look like a complete idiot, but frankly, I couldn’t give less of a damn. A band with this much talent and passion deserve more than polite applause when they give us a show this superb; they deserve every last bellow, cheer, foot-stomp and fist-pump that we can muster. (Read the original review here.)
1. Broken Social Scene / Bedouin Soundclash (Halifax Forum Multipurpose Room, 1 April 2006)
Considering my esteem for Wilco, it says volumes about how memorable this show was that it sits here at number one instead of the visit from Chicago’s finest. Funny enough, I was actually wavering at the time on whether or not I would actually go, for a variety of reasons that in hindsight were pretty stupid (I didn’t know anyone else in Halifax who were going, it was an all-ages audience, and Broken Social Scene were touring in support of an album that I found a little disappointing). But, figuring that I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, off to the Forum I went.
Almost three hours after Broken Social Scene first took the stage, I stood in the middle of a sweaty hoard of teenagers exhausted, dehydrated, and exhilarated. With apologies to Soundclash, who played well, this night belonged to Kevin Drew and his crew, almost all of whom were in town for the Junos. While the band often tours with only 8-9 members, at any given point this night there were up to 20+ performers on stage. The core musicians held the stage together through the entire three hour show (yes, a three hour show), with other band members coming and going depending somewhat on the needs of the song, but more just helping out whenever they wanted. It was like a family reunion and we in the audience were all invited to the festivities.
While the show was hardly the most technically superb showcase for the band – they battled sound problems for much of the evening and the playing was a tad sloppy sometimes – they didn’t seem to care much, and neither did we; everyone was having just way too much fun. The pit in front of the stage was intense, full of teenagers abandoning physical restraint as they bounced into one another, like this was the first and last concert they would ever see. Normally, such behavior would have seen me watching from the back of the room with disdain, but there I was, smack dab in the middle of it, completely caught up in the energy and passion around me. Sometimes, the kids are alright.
My favourite musical moment of 2006, more so than any note on any album I’ve heard all year, was two songs into the show (with only a small portion of the Scene on the stage), when Kevin Drew said four simple little words that produced a cheer so deafening that I thought the place would explode: “Ladies and gentlemen, Feist.” Onto the stage ran the heroine, and the band launched into “7/4 (Shoreline),” feeding off the crowd’s joyous intensity and upping their energy along with it. And then, just when things couldn’t get any more thrilling, onto the stage bounds Amy Millan, throwing herself into the song’s second chorus. And there, right in front of me, were two of the most beautiful voices in music today dueling over the song’s chorus, with the entire crowd throwing themselves towards the stage to take part in the moment. That’s something that no album in my collection, no song on the radio, and no other concert I went to can replicate. And it’s why Broken Social Scene gave Halifax, and me, the best concert of 2006.