Usually the top 5 bands of the year are ones which I have been really waiting and anticipating them and most times they don’t disappoint. Occasionally they do, and you know who you are Lykke Li. One noticeable fact is that the top 5 shows were all performed in the Paradiso and to quote Faithless “this is my Church, this is where I heal my hurt”. I love the Paradiso and that probably adds to the romance of a fantastic performance.
Narrowing the list of best bands I have seen to a top 10 is tricky and top 5 is even harder, but this is how I saw this year.
Coming in at number 5 is a band that I managed to see twice this year and both times they were the support act, next time I am sure they will be headlining. The Head and the Heart put on two fantastic shows both times (Paradiso) and when they supported the Low Anthem, to me they were the better performance on the night (and I thought the Low Anthem were great mind you). The second time I caught them was when they supported My Morning Jacket (MMJ also make the top 5). What is fantastic about the Head and the Heart is the fun that they bring to their shows, they genuinely look like they are loving what they do, so they would also get the Happiest band of 2011 award.
The top four bands are really hard to spit, but here goes. Number 4 is My Morning Jacket. Wow this band produced a show of “full on” Rock and roll. They really managed to transform their new album (which I liked but didn’t love) into a real on stage experience. The eccentric manner of the lead singer only aided the performance where it could easily have been perceived as a little on the kooky side. And the concert was loud, rather it was freaking loud actually…loud rock and roll just what a Tuesday night in Amsterdam needed.
Number 3 is the Avett Brothers. This concert had several interesting elements. Firstly it was in Paradiso- (tick) this is the first thing on the list of things that make me happy is seeing an amazing band in an amazing venue. Secondly the Band was tight and I mean super tight, consummate professionals and they appear to be enjoying themselves immensely. Thirdly this concert did not sell out, I was stunned at this, but this brings a positive its not as crowded, nice, we were able to see the band and not be fighting to keep a spot. The down side of there being more room to move meant that a fight broke out on the main floor, right in the middle of the song “I and love and you”, the irony of a song about love whilst some drunk tools decided to start a fracas was not lost on me, the band handled the situation beautifully. Lastly, on a personal note I really wanted to hear “the Ballard of love and hate” alas this was not the night for me to hear that song, maybe next time and to be honest I am really looking forward to it, whenever it is.
Number 2 was Iron and Wine, touring off the back if the fantastic album “Kiss each other clean” I managed to catch these incredibly talented musicians at the height of there talent. They arrived on stage to a crowd that couldn’t wait to see them, me included. The show’s set list didn’t have a disappointing track and they played everything that I needed to hear. The lead singer engaged with the crowd is his quirky way making it very hard not to like him. They all seemed to be having a fun time and clearly enjoyed playing at the Paradiso.
Slotting in at number 1 for 2011 is none other than The Decemberists. Having fallen in love with the last two albums which this band has put out, I certainly went into this one with a reasonable amount of expectation and I wasn’t disappointed. They went through all the songs I needed to hear and there version of “the mariners revenge” was brilliant, all 14 minutes of it. This band entertained the crowd from the moment they set foot on stage, it truly was the best performance I was lucky enough to see this year.
Top 10 of 2011
1. The Decemberists
2. Iron and Wine
3. The Avett Brothers
4. My Morning Jacket
5. The Head and the Heart
6. The Band of Horses (covered off on all I needed to hear, they had a small lull in the middle, when the slightly disappointing new album tracks were played. The bands photos projected in the background was a great touch though.)
7. The Tallest Man on Earth (brilliant every time I have seen him, he brings so much passion and energy)
8. The Black Atlantic (played Paradiso small room. By far the best Dutch band I have come across, I am looking forward to seeing them again and also getting my hands on their new album)
9. The Villagers (their bus broke down on the way to the show, so it started late, the opening line to the first song started with “the bus broke down” a very funny moment for all in the venue including the lead singer.
10. Peter, Bjorn and John (at Bitter zout, the band leaping into the crowd and singing my favourite song next to a great friend of mine made this a very memorable gig)
Noticeable mentions who were unlucky not to have made the top ten are, Cake (I was genuinely surprised how good they were, and as it was advertised, it was an Evening with Cake so they played for over 2 ½ hours), the Low Anthem (an amazingly atmospheric performance), Michael Franti and Spearhead (had punters between the age of 10 and 65 at the show, truly inspiring) , the Cat Empire (Haling from all the way from Melbourne, this Aussie band did back to back sell out shows at the Paradiso and they never disappoint a happy crowd) , Kaiser Chiefs (kept the crowd engaged for the total show and even thought the HMH wasn’t sold out, the place was rocking), Ben Weaver (Brooding musician with banjo in hand and an excellent turn of phrase)
2012 has big shoes to fill, but I am sure it will happen.