I’ve seen quite a few shows this year. The number ended at 51 concerts (+ a lot of bands I just saw parts of their act during festivals). What follows is a list of the ones I enjoyed and appreciated most.
1. My Morning Jacket
Probably the best live act on the planet right now.
I saw them on what many describes as another day at work. But even those days are the best days with My Morning Jacket.
The Kentucky band led by Jim James puts on an adrenaline-pumping rock show with serene moments amid all the southern psychedelic jams. This show in Oslo was fantastic. The band played older material and new (“Holdin on to Black Metal,” “Victory Dance”), playing through the songs with their usual dynamic vigor and ending on an ecstatic note. It was raw, powerful and would make anyone who was seeing My Morning Jacket for the first time (me included) walk away with the absolute belief that they’ve earned their top spot as best live band of 2011.
I saw The Duke & The King in Bergen, Norway, last April. It was like it must have been seeing The Band in their prime, or Van Morrison around the release of Moondance. The Albums from The Duke & The King are great, but it is on stage that they truly blossom. They are one of the best live bands I have ever seen. Before i saw them I thought Simone Felice was so much more the “leader” of the band. Not so. Everyone contributes equally, and all of them switch instruments during the show. It is not just a gimmick, it looks like they have been figuring out whose voice or whose drumming to name two things, suits each song, and then they play whatever the songs require. Wonderful, dynamic and extremely entertaining.
It’s a “soul revue” and a sermon, it’s downbeat and it is uplifting. They are extremely capable musicians, but they never sacrifices the feelings (or soul) of the songs. When I experienced them, they said goodbye with a fine cover version of Neil Young’s Helpless that ended with the audience chanting the chorus as the band went off stage.
3. Bob Dylan Bob Dylan and his terrific band brought down the thunder in Bergen, barreling through fresh arrangements of songs spanning decades. He clearly had a ball, and it was contagious.
4. The Avett Brothers
The best concert at this years Øyafestival.
5. Raphael Saadiq
Old school soul revue, so good that I missed the Jason Isbell concert I was supposed to go to after seeing the beginning of the show…
This years big surprise at The Øyafestival. Jarvis knows how to put on a show, just jaw droppingly good. And I didn’t think I would enjoy it! It is so nice when that happens.
7. John Grant
The man can sing, what a stage precence!
8. Ida Jenshus w/band
The second biggest surprise at The Øyafestival. I didn’t know anything about Ida Jenshus (appart from a few news articles), she (and the band) were very, very good. Great band, great show!
9. Josh T Pearson
An intence man doing his slow slow tunes, very dry humour and a few good cover songs thrown in.
10. Sufjan Stevens
Not at all what I expected, but that’s the beauty of it. It was mesmerizing and fun (with balloons) and we got his two biggest hits at the end.
2012 looks very promising. We already have tickets for Anna Ternheim/Marit Larsen, Wilco, Waterboys, three Bruce Springsteen shows and Bergenfest (Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones and many many more) and we will be at The Øyafestival again next year.