Best Concerts 2002 Year in Review

Best Concerts 2002 Year in Review
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra / Hidden Cameras
Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto
April 4 to 6
On the surface, Brooklyn's masterful Afrobeat ambassadors and Toronto's comparatively amateur purveyors of gay church folk music have nothing in common. But united on the same bill, they created the most joyous and celebratory dance party of the year, guaranteed to annihilate any audience inhibitions. Michael Barclay

Bright Eyes
Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto ON
September 15
I never expected such a polished, multi-layered performance from the dozen or so people on the stage that even went beyond his recorded work. Truly remarkable. Michael Edwards

Burnt By The Sun
New York State Fairgrounds, Syracuse, NY
July 13
Over the years a lot of great bands have played Hellfest in Syracuse, NY, but this year New Jersey's Burnt By The Sun was the highlight of the three day fest. Drummer Dave Witte's brand of jaw-dropping, insanely fast grind beats combined with some of the most technically proficient guitar work to come about in years made for one of the tightest, best shows in recent memory. Paul Gresch

Coldplay
Air Canada Centre, Toronto ON
September 21
It has been a very long time since I have felt truly appreciated as a member of an audience. But this show not only gave off the vibe of mutual respect between the performer and the crowd but it also felt like Coldplay was taking their fans up to the next level of their career right there in that room. It is odd to feel intimacy with thousands of people surrounding you but I did. Amber Authier

Converge
Reverb, Toronto ON
July 17
The knock against Converge in the past was that their live show never lived up to their albums, in terms of intensity, but over the last couple of years, Converge has evolved into a near flawless and slimmed down live dynamo of peerless ferocity. This show was no different, devastating all in attendance. Chris Gramlich

Fairport Convention
Hugh's Room, Toronto ON
April 3
The show that took a decade to get here was well worth the wait, as aging minstrels Pegg, Nicols, Saunders, Leslie and Conway aptly demonstrated how experience translates into art and the ultimate in entertainment. 35 years on, Fairport remains a viable folk-rock entity that balances supreme musicianship with effortless showmanship. A fine and memorable time was had by all in an intimate setting. Eric Thom

Flaming Lips
Massey Hall, Toronto ON
October 20
Wayne Coyne and co. make more of 35 minutes on stage than most bands do in a career. Giant spinning disco balls, video projections, local volunteers dressed in a variety of plush animal costumes, a microphone-mounted camera, a megaphone and a singing nun puppet brought a sold-out crowd to its feet before Beck's sombre set brought us all down again. James Keast

Glassjaw
Vanderbilt, Long Island NY
June 3
The first hometown performance of these hardcore heroes since their major label debut. The crowd physically split down the centre, and tore it up the entire show. Once bouncers were fed up with the madness and tried to kick out some audience members, front man Daryl Palumbo shouted to the guards, "I won't continue playing without my brothers here." How's that for dedication to the scene? Jasamine White-Gluz

Hot Hot Heat
The Zoo, Winnipeg MB
September 21
Full of energy and eager to show the audience what rock and roll is all about, Hot Hot Heat delivered an amazing set that blew me away. Their sound was even tighter than their pants and lead singer Steve Bays' interaction with the crowd during the most upbeat numbers proved that this band was going to be massive. Stacey Abramson

Hypocrisy / Soilwork / Killswitch Engage
Reverb, Toronto ON
May 19
When Swedish death metal icons Hypocrisy were scheduled to play Toronto for the first time in their eleven-year career, that fact alone would have justified a national holiday, or at least a massive street party. When they played an intense and ear-blasting set that unfolded like a greatest hits album, following up powerful performances by fellow Swedes Soilwork and Killswitch Engage (the best from Roadrunner in a long time), it proved it to be one helluva show. Laura Taylor

The Immortal Lee County Killers
Pic Pub, Vancouver BC
February 9
Never have I seen a duo rock such a small, overcrowded and stuffy venue with as much grit, sweat and raunch as these two from Alabamy. Just drums and guitar/vox, with more power than a million blues demons awakened from the blackened pits of hell. Coreen Wolanski

Karsh Kale
Harbourfront, Toronto ON
July 13
Drawing mostly on his 2001 debut, Realize, the New York producer-percussionist and his eclectic ensemble of guitar, bass, keys, harmonium, electronics and vocals cracked open a nebulous web of ambient, breakbeat, jazz, classical Hindustani, qawaali and everything a tabla could handle in between. The beauty lay as much in the fusion of these ancient-futuristic sounds as in the way they reinforced their own orbit-like differences. Nevertheless, the ethos of the night was about cosmic harmony and Kale demonstrated it best as he swivelled on his stool from drum kit to tabla and then effortlessly stretched out to play both simultaneously. The multi-limbed spectacle took on a more serious tone during "Home," when he took over mic duties whilst kicking out the tune's tense junglist rhythms. Prasad Bidaye

Landing / Surface of Eceon
Lee's Palace, Toronto ON
March 17
As part of Toronto's ongoing Wavelength series, Landing put on a spectacular performance at Lee's Palace with their alter ego, Surface of Eceon. This show was proof of the band's ability to even better than their studio material. An all around sonorous texturally rich set, placed amidst the psychedelic visuals of the Wavelength projection artists made for an unforgettable evening. I. Khider

Masta Ace
Comfort Zone, Toronto ON
August 9
Hip-hop heads crawled out of the woodwork for this show in the Ill-a-mental series put on by this mic veteran from the legendary Juice Crew. Dropping his verses from the ‘80s, ‘90s and last year's criminally slept on Disposable Arts, Ace put on a masterful show, controlling the sound problems, the generation gap and the momentum of the show with ease. After spitting almost every one of his well-known rhymes and a freestyle session he delivered an a cappella version of "No Regrets," a rhyme that hints at him dropping the mic for good. Then he did just that and stomped triumphantly off stage. Del F. Cowie

Medeski, Martin and Wood
Harbourfront Centre, Toronto ON
June 15
I am not the only person in this city that finds the idea of live music on a warm summer night under the stars euphoric. But there is something to be said for artists that can keep a crowd that is forced to stand in the rain and cold of an early summer evening (after paying for the privilege) hyped and happy. Medeski Martin and Wood did this in spades — and it wasn't just because of that very specific smoke cloud that floated over the audience for the entire show either. Amber Authier

Mekons
Horseshoe, Toronto ON
September 16
The Mekons blew my mind. The band was tight, there was tons of comic relief between songs by Jon Langford and Sally Timms, and Timms herself displayed a subdued sexiness that won my heart. Plus they played songs dating back to their first single. Sean Palmerston

Bob Ostertag & Pierre Hebert
Victoriaville, QC
May 18
One of the best shows I've ever witnessed. Ostertag is at the absolute forefront of electronic improvisation today, and Hebert tossing a salad onto his video sampler made for a stunning and hilarious evening. David Dacks

Plaid
The Raven, Hamilton ON
March 24
I've always liked Plaid, but I've never loved them. Then I saw them live, and I was a convert. Two men, two Titanium Powerbooks, some effects boxes and a mixer, and they proceeded to tear things up for an hour with zippy break-beats, searing melodies and a heap of experimentation. Knowing that watching laptops doesn't make a show, they also had an extra member mixing cinematic video clips offstage. On such a small stage they actually appeared to be "in" their videos, which was surely the most serendipitous event of their tour. Philip Downey

The Polyphonic Spree
Concorde 2, Brighton, UK
October 23
Twenty-two people on a stage, dressed in white gowns looking like Kool-Aid drinking freaks, teaching the world to sing in perfect acid-fried harmony. Joining a cult has never seemed like such a good idea. Cam Lindsay

Prince
Orpheum, Vancouver BC
May 4
An intimate sold-out show where His Royal Badness ran the gamut from jazz to funk to rock, all in three hours of unpretentious displays of sheer genius. He was able to mobilise a notoriously sedate Vancouver audience in ways I've never witnessed, even inviting several lucky folks on stage to groove right along. Between guitar, piano, and vocals, there didn't seem to be anything this man hasn't perfected to superhuman capacities. Coreen Wolanski

3rd Annual Redneck Fest
Middle East Club, Cambridge, MA
November 9
Alex Newport and Theory Of Ruin opened the show with a jaw-dropping barrage of Fudge Tunnel-ing chords, urgent vocals, and Melvins-esque drum bashings. Amid pork barbecue, cornbread, and oversized cowboy hats, Throttlerod, Reverse, and Cracktorch cranked out solid rock sets. Quintaine Americana polished off the proceedings with Karma To Burn-ed riffage and guest vocals by Roadsaw/Quitter's Craig Riggs on a sizzling cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Gimme Back My Bullets." Chris Ayers

Ron Sexsmith
Guelph Youth Music Centre, Guelph ON
October 3
With a catalogue that now demands a minimum two-hour show, Sexsmith and band deftly weaved through a heart wrenching set in a warm and intimate setting. The presence of a grand piano only added to the raw beauty of songs like "Riverbed," which left few dry eyes in the house. Jason Schneider

DJ Shadow
Kool Haus, Toronto ON
July 17
Flawlessly executing his cinematic masterpieces alongside a stunning visual presentation was enough to send your senses into overdrive. Giving optical life to "The Number Song" and "Walkie Talkie" as well as cutting records with a live drummer had the crowd in Shadow's command in an otherwise lifeless venue. Noel Dix

Shapeshifters
Reverb, Toronto ON
August 16
After a couple of years of anticipation, Awol One and Circus, of the Shapeshifters didn't disappoint. However, Busdriver was the star of the show with his rapid-fire flow and breath control. Plus, the Saskatoon showcase represented well for Canada. Thomas Quinlan

Soundtrack Of Our Lives
Opera House, Toronto ON
November 9
With his large frame and tendency to wear beads and muumuus, Ebbot Lundberg might seem an unlikely front-man for a hip Swedish group, but with a solid band behind him, his antics were eagerly accepted. Looking more like a pagan minister than a singer, Lundberg made the risky move of entering the crowd, making his way to the top of a bar where he delivered his rock sermon — candelabra in hand. He even convinced everyone to sit down so he could move amongst his disciples. Stage antics aside, their solid set was jammed full of outstanding music and a well-earned double encore. Rob Bolton

Three Gut Anniversary
Tequila Lounge, Toronto ON
March 22
On the eve of their second anniversary, the ladies behind the Three Gut empire demonstrated what a rock show should be. Done with their trademark style, the night was a multi-act extravaganza complete with an indie rock all-star cover band, the Oxes' club crawling shenanigans and even a bonafied burlesque show. The Three Gut label designed a thrilling ambience out of an otherwise stagnant atmosphere. Neil Haverty

Underworld
Kool Haus, Toronto ON
October 17
Maybe it was my lowered expectations, but the Darren Emerson-free Underworld reminded me why I love dance music after months of torrid affairs with rock'n'roll. Despite touring a relatively down-tempo record during a period of dance music depression, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith proved that a live PA can compete with any rock show if the songs are there. They built their set like a pre-millennial DJ, bringing the tempo and intensity to ever higher peaks as they ran through a decades‚ worth of tweaked and tested hits while dazzling with lasers and guitar solos. By the time they climaxed with Born Slippy," the euphoria was palpable. Joshua Ostroff