In my opinion, 2017 was the year of live shows. While 2016 brought us so many undeniably amazing records that I’ve at this point lost count, 2017 was the year that artists brought that effort to the live arena. From pop, to indie, to pop-punk, to rock I went to it all, so to celebrate the closing of 2017 (and the promise of 2018 being another amazing year for releases), here are my picks for my Top 10 shows I’ve been to this year. NOTE: These are in no particular order, and I attend more shows than I photograph, so in the absence of images, you’ll have to take my word for it or follow links as for a few of these shows, other Babetalk staff went and captured it.
1. Garbage and Blondie; Rage and Rapture Tour
Who would I be as a die-hard Garbage fan if I didn’t include this larger than life tour on my list? Supergroup (and my all time favourite band) Garbage co-headlined this year with punk/pop LEGENDS Blondie in a tour you didn’t want to miss. In a show celebrating female power in rock, their set was explosive and went to prove that music is a way of life with no expiration date. Shirley Manson and Debbie Harry continue to kick ass every year while they also celebrate every aspect of femininity. Taking along with them arena rockers Deap Vally, the entire set was a powerful demonstration of female talent, charisma, and badassery. Garbage is rumoured to be going on a full tour celebrating 10 years of their sophomore critically successful album Version 2.0 next year, and you can bet your ass I’ll be there.
Anyone who knows me knows– I’m a sucker for some good synth indie pop. Maybe it comes from being raised on 80’s music juxtaposed with 90’s college rock– who knows– but when I find a group that does what I like and does it well, I’m all in. LANY is one of those groups that knows how to make a catchy song, sure, I mean look at how their single “Super Far” has been climbing the charts, but more importantly they know how to make a creatively layered song that sounds as complex as it is pleasing to my ears. Their almost atmospheric synth sound was made bigger than life at their show at Irving Plaza, with their colourful LED display and floral imagery. I value Paul Klein as a creative force– he has not only the talent and charisma needed, but he’s unafraid to bring a strong emotive force into every one of LANY‘s songs, which creates a dynamic not too far off from the happier-sounding but lyrically-melancholy works of bands like The Cure and The Smiths. Expect to see a whole lot more of LANY next year, especially in larger venues if not arenas.
3. Dua Lipa; Self Titled Tour
Who would I be to talk about LANY if I didn’t talk about Pop’s newest star, Dua Lipa? For those who don’t know the connection, she’s dating Paul Klein of LANY (and you should totally check out their social media as they post the cutest things about each other), and she’s certainly one poised to take over and change pop as we know it. Her single “New Rules” along with its accompanying video took over the world in the late summer/fall this year, and for good reason! Dua knows how to write lyrics that are empowering but at the same time vulnerable; relatable, but at the same time you can’t help but WISH you were her. Her sound is like no other in top 40’s pop right now, and her talent is absolutely incredible. When I saw her she made the announcement that she had strep throat and was distraught that she wouldn’t be able to give us the show she wanted to vocally. You could have fooled me though because the girl was dancing and belting like the best with no sign of illness at all. Her vocal ability is unparalleled and I love a good sultry alto like hers. She’s someone else to watch out for in 2018– she has a sophomore record to release, a possible collab with Charli XCX, and from here she’s only going to get MUCH bigger.
One of the things about this year that I’ll never forget is that I had the opportunity to photograph two of my favourite bands in the scene– The Used and Glassjaw. What made the event even bigger for me was that a) I had never seen Glassjaw live before and this was my first time after years of being a fan, and b) several weeks later Glassjaw surprised us all by releasing their first album in 15 years Material Control (which did not let me down)! Both bands put on incredible performances, but I don’t think I’ll ever get over The Used‘s dedication to music in particular. It never gets old seeing Bert do what he does best– perform– as he continues to inspire generations no matter the artistic direction or where life takes him. It was an absolutely explosive set, and I loved The Used‘s stage design this time around– which seems to just be getting bigger ever since their incredible set up for their anniversary tour a few years back. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us in the future, as they’re definitely not done being one of the legendary acts of the scene.
5. The 1975; 2017 North American Tour
Okay, I’m probably going to get a lot of hate for this but I love The 1975. I get the animosity towards them though– half the time you wouldn’t able to guess that I’m a fan because I’m constantly making fun of them– they’re such an easy target. However, once you get past what garners an eye-roll and their intense fanbase, there’s an artistic merit that you can’t find elsewhere. The 1975 is a band that thinks of every element of their very presence, both short and long term. They take intense creative control not only over their music, but their image, live show, promotional marketing, everything. Despite what seems like a huge, industry backed plan for which they are but the pawns, this is a band that does EVERYTHING and does it well, making each album at least an artistically based concept album. I’ve seen the band a number of times, but this year I saw them at their largest US show to date at Madison Square Garden. I highly encourage everyone to see them at least once because their artist vision and direction is moving live– and more than what I can put into words. They have such an intense visual show where every display perfectly captures each song, and the energy is absolutely incredible. In 2018 The 1975 is releasing their final album as a band* entitled Music For Cars, and from what singer Matty Healy has been leaking, it’s going to be intense.
* The band isn’t breaking up formally, it’ll just be the end of The 1975 as a project and then they’re going to regroup as a new project with a new direction and sound. I know, artsy stuff from art-rockers.
One thing I love about what I do is that I get the opportunity to go see shows that I might be too lazy to go to otherwise. Prior to the show I was a fan of MSMR, and when they went on hiatus, I was loosely aware that Lizzy had started a solo project– I even took a listen to a quick snippet of her first single. Honestly though, I’m the worst. I’ve fallen so far behind on keeping up with new music, even those of artists I enjoy, so when I had the chance to photograph her show in Brooklyn– I told myself I had to do it, even though I was flying in that same day from Australia. I’ve seen Lizzy at other Neon Gold events and even at a Marc Jacobs party in the village I went to (don’t ask), and realizing that I had never seen her live… well I had to change that. Thank god I went to that show because damn LPX puts on a hell of a show! It had everything from straight up punk energy, pop synth tones, and just an amazing performance on Lizzy’s part. Next year LPX is releasing her first full EP Bolt In The Blue, and a full length album isn’t too far behind– don’t make the mistake I did and wait long to see her live; it’s BEYOND worth it.
7. AFI; The Blood Tour
For me, this year was the year that I finally saw AFI again– the last time had been on the release of Burials in 2013, and it was in Los Angeles, where I was living at the time; a lot has changed since then. One of the things that made me the happiest this tour (as I attended a few dates on the two-part tour) was when they’d perform songs off of Crash Love. The album is close to my heart, and because of its commercial let down (and its initial backlash from fans) I in the past had never caught a set containing a song from the album. This time however, I got to see a few of those songs (from an honestly super solid alt rock album that you should be listening to a lot more) so that alone made the shows worth it for me. Beyond set lists that celebrated every album of the band’s lengthy career, if you haven’t seen AFI live you’re missing out on the unbridled energy and rage of Davey Havok. A lot of the songs are brought to a whole different level of intensity just by watching how into them he gets, and it’s one of the reasons that it’s always an experience seeing them live. As far as 2018 goes– who knows. Davey at this point in time has 4 if not 5 musical projects if I’m not mistaken and is releasing his sophomore novel. My bet is 2018 will be the return of Blaqk Audio, if not further Dreamcar singles.
This was a show that literally fell into my lap at just the right time. I think I had just heard and had fallen in love with Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes‘ song “Lullaby” as little as a week before I was asked to go to the show for the site, and it ended up being everything and more than what I could have expected. The show was at the now gone (RIP) studio at Webster Hall, which for those who haven’t been, is the perfect small venue for an authentic post hardcore, metal, and punk experience… or at least was (once again, RIP). So, from my spot on the stage I saw it all– the moshing, the fire in Frank Carter’s eyes, and more importantly, I got to see the music I liked come to life. One moment that will forever stick out to me, was how Frank Carter spoke out against harassing and hurting women in the crowd– encouraging women-only stage dives, and calling out people as he saw them. It’s moments like those that promote inclusivity in even the most intense of scenes that give me hope. Beyond that one moment, the band was incredible and felt as much in the moment as the fans below them. Frank Carter and The Rattlesnakes semi-recently released a new single “Spray Paint Love“, so I wouldn’t be shocked if they dropped a new album in the coming year.
9. Pale Waves; 2017 North American Tour
Another show that I’m so glad to have caught when I did was Pale Waves on their solo tour. The first time I had seen the UK synth pop outfit was when they had opened for the above The 1975 show, and they had made one hell of an impression. With sticky sweet synth pop with lyrics that drip of longing, the band is everything I want in my pop. Then add on their their music videos are visually stunning (and of the same vein as my personal photographic conquests), and that the singer, Heather Baron-Gracie, looks like everything I was trying to be when I was 18 with this unobtainable cool– it’s a recipe for success in my book. The band is like something shot out of a time machine from the 80’s that somehow captures every aspect of new wave/dark wave in one, with a modern twist. I can’t wait to see what the band has in store for 2018– I’m hoping a debut record as their singles that they’ve released so far do not give their full library of written material justice.
Finally, wrapping up my list for the year is yet another band that I had been meaning to see for ages but never got around to– Four Year Strong. Honestly the show was a whirlwind of pop punk with more openers than I could keep track of, but each one bringing something new to the table and something refreshing to their sound. The most notable of these acts was definitely Seaway who brought a fun party vibe to their set while delivering music that was fit for both moshing and dancing– the perfect versatile pop punk. With headliners Four Year Strong, it was great to see music of my youth live, but more so, it was amazing to watch the crowd. I have never in my life seen a more intense crowd of fans– at one point I was nearly thrown from my spot on an amp because of the crowd. It was absolute insanity and chaos– making the show one for the books.
So, that was my list for 2017. Here’s to 2018 and a million more bands/artists to see live. Happy Holidays and New Year from all of us at Babetalk!
Last modified: December 31, 2017