It’s hard to remember a better year for gigs than 2017. Just for the combination of quality and quantity of massive names, from Springsteen to Adele to Paul McCartney. There were big ticket reformations from Midnight Oil to Guns N’ Roses. Proven performers such as Martha Wainwright and Billy Bragg did their reputations little harm, major stadium tours from Cat Stevens and Dixie Chicks exceeded expectations, while lesser known post rock acts like Japan’s Mono and South Korea’s Jambinai blew smaller crowds away. You had to be there, and X-Press Editor HARVEY RAE went to more than most (so in his own mind at least he reckons he’s got a good idea of which were the best of the lot). Special mention also to Dark Mofo standout Einsturzende Neubauten. The German industrial legends aren’t included because it wasn’t in WA, but would have snuck into the #2 position it was that good. And before we countdown the top 10, here’s the best of the rest, from 20 to 11.
20 Cat Stevens @ Perth Arena
19 Divinyls feat Izzi Manfredi (Preatures) @ Perth Fashion Festival (Crown)
18 The Mountain Goats @ Badlands
17 Warpaint @ Chevron Gardens (Perth Festival)
16 Banks @ Astor Theatre
15 Mono @ Badlands
14 Billy Bragg @ Fremantle Arts Centre
13 Adam Said Galore @ Mojos
12 Dixie Chicks @ Perth Arena
11 Martha Wainwright @ Astor Theatre
With that out of the way… drum roll… here you have it, the X-Press top 10 gigs for 2017…
10 Laneway Festival @ Esplanade Reserve & West End
Laneway has a reputation for being one of the best days of the year and while the ninth WA instalment didn’t quite have one of the mind blowing line ups of years gone by, local heroes Tame Impala headlining gave it a celebratory feel. Several of the day’s highlights came early in the heat, such as Camp Cope, White Lung and Car Seat Headrest. Oz acts dominated, with Tame, Nick Murphy and Gang of Youths all impressing, but as ever with Laneway it was the unexpected treats that ruled the day, this year care of a pair of electronic post rock sets from Floating Points and Tycho.
9 Falls Downtown @ Kings Square
The new kid on the block stole the show as far as summer festivals were concerned. What a way to kick off the new year and what a terrific venue Kings Square turned out to be – there hadn’t been an inner city oasis like this since the early days of Laneway in the Perth Cultural Centre. Hopefully someone else will take the venue and run with it because its success has led Falls to expand to a bigger venue in 2018, but the memory of The Avalanches finally playing Perth alongside other standouts Booka Shade, The Jezabels, Client Liaison and Parquet Courts will live on in our memories.
8 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds @ Perth Arena
Nick Cave’s most ambitious show yet may have followed his most cathartic and downright emotional album in Skeleton Tree, but it was notable more for its endless catalogue of hits than the anguish of a man who had lost his son in an horrific accident. The crowd-pleaser featured everything from The Ship Song to Into Your Arms to From Her To Eternity to Red Right Hand to Jubilee Street to The Weeping Song to Warren Ellis unleashing some Dirty Three-like electric violin magic on The Mercy Seat. Stagger Lee was simply unforgettable.
7 Bruce Springsteen @ Perth Arena
The Boss played some of the greatest shows ever seen in Perth on his debut tour here in 2014, and getting a return visit just three years later seemed too good to be true. True to form he dazzled once more with a stripped down E Street Band, across three very different shows. We tackled the final one on Friday, January 27 and it was a cracker as the audience was treated to half of 1975’s classic Born to Run album and plenty of deep cuts from 1980 double album The River. Accompanied by Perth Symphony Orchestra, 10 minute opener New York City Serenade was a standout, as were The River and Badlands.
6 Peter Hook & The Light @ Astor Theatre
Peter Hook likes skewering his old bandmates in the press, and perhaps because of his estrangement from New Order people tend not to take his world-beating shows with The Light as seriously as they should. On this occasion, on a Monday night if you don’t mind, he outdid himself playing both Joy Division and New Order’s Substance singles collections, and it was hit after hit after hit for three hours non-stop. From New Order’s Ceremony, Temptation, Blue Monday, Bizarre Love Triangle and True Faith, to Joy Division’s Shadowplay, Transmission and the closing trilogy of Dead Souls, Atmosphere and Love Will Tear Us Apart, it started as ecstatic as a night at the Hacienda circa 1985, before intensifying into the sort of set you’d expect from one of the Godfathers of post punk.
5 PJ Harvey @ Fremantle Arts Centre
Like Nick Cave, Polly Jean Harvey delivered her most ambitious WA show to date, with a tour that exceeded expectations and then some. From the marching band procession of the intro as a massive 10-piece band took to the stage, to her own blowing on the sax, it was as visually stunning as it was musically incredible. Shining a positive light on her most recent material and delivering plenty from her acclaimed Let England Shake, she even gifted us a few 90s classics along the way, with 50ft Queenie, To Bring You My Love, Down By The Water and more keeping the faithful happy.
4 Midnight Oil @ Perth Arena
When Peter Garrett entered the political realm in 2004, many feared we’d seen the last of Midnight Oil. But that’s all in the past now, and the Oils are back, better than ever. They could hardly have done more at their WA comeback show (although they did, backing it up the next night at Freo Arts Centre playing 10-1 in full). Garrett’s eccentric dancing and White Ribbon shirt reading “I am making noise to end violence against women” led the way, but it was timeless songs like The Dead Heart, Beds Are Burning, Forgotten Years and Power and the Passion that had emotions on high, reminding us of why activism played such an important role in music in days gone by, and why it must continue to do so in the future.
3 Guns N’ Roses @ Domain Stadium
Guns N’ Roses delivered the comeback the world has been waiting for with the Not In This Lifetime tour. Axl, Slash and Duff may have all been here in recent years playing Soundwave festivals and arenas in various guises, but their reunion was proof they benefit most from playing together, channeling the chemistry that made them the 80s’ “most dangerous band”. Longtime fans were rewarded with epic deep cuts like Civil War and Coma (you could tell a real fan by whether they thought these were the night’s best songs, or toilet breaks) while the power ballad run home that saw November Rain, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door and Don’t Cry build to memorable peaks before Nightrain and Paradise City ran out the sets either side of the encore, was pure genius.
2 Jambinai @ Chevron Gardens (Perth Festival)
It was the standout surprise of Perth Festival’s Chevron Gardens music program in 2017, and the in concert revelation of the year full stop. South Korean post rock act Jambinai, who mix traditional instruments such as the haegeum, taepyeongso horn and the enormous geomungo, with inspiration from heavy instrumental rock acts like Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mogwai, were almost overwhelming in their majesty. Hearing the high pitched haegeum fiddle introduce Connection, repeating its melody over and over until waves of distorted guitar came crashing down on top of it, was breathtaking. The Seoul band’s monstrous sound was equally beautiful and devastating, destroying expectations and limitations around what can be achieved mixing traditional and modern sounds.
1 Paul McCartney @ nib Stadium
He came in late and threw everyone’s end of year lists into disarray. But we shouldn’t have been surprised. ‘Macca’ is a living legend, the one remaining member of history’s greatest ever songwriting partnership still alive, and he brings with him the catalogue of hits you’d expect. It was nothing short of an unforgettable night as the lively 75-year old told stories and played deep cuts from throughout his 60-year career. And when he came with a rush on Let It Be, Live and Let Die and Hey Jude to finish the main set, it became perhaps the most magical concert this reviewer has ever seen. Whether you believe in the monarchy or not, Sir Paul is royalty and we can only pray he holds true to his closing words: “All that’s left to say is we’ll see you next time”. Unforgettable.