Best Concerts of 2020: Hard To Believe They Even Existed
I wrote this ‘Best Concerts of 2020’ post on March 17, 2020, and I was right! It was really the end of the year concert-wise. It has been a hell of a year, but its start wasn’t so bad when you look back at these first three months: it was promising and busy, but everything ended the second week of March. It’s good to revisit these good times, it’s hard to believe they even existed nine months later.
Are we done with concerts this year? Let’s face it, we are just at the beginning of a pandemic, most cities are in lockdown and the situation will get worst, every expert is saying so. Should we already wrap up the year with a list of the best concerts of the year? In March?? Is it even possible to think so? I do think so.
In comparison, the SARS pandemic started in January 2003 and ended in July 2003, and SARS had only reached only 29 countries with 8 cases in the US. The coronavirus has reached every country, the cases in the US are increasing every day (we already have more than 6,000 cases) and we know it’s only the beginning. According to the BBC, mass gatherings are off for up to four months in Scotland, which means late July, Coachella was postponed till October, Punk Rock Bowling till fall, but we are not even sure it will be safe by then. The bad news is that people put a lot of hope in summer because hot temperatures are usually not viruses’ friends, but we all know that Australia (among other warm places) has cases in the middle of summer.
So, it might be it, the concerts I saw during these two last months may be the only ones for this year, and I had very good ones to look forward to Orville Peck in April, Bright Eyes in May, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in October. This last one may be still happening but it’s really not a certitude these days. Who knows, concerts may be definitively over if this curse comes back, it’s a serious possibility. I may be right, and I really really really hope I am wrong, but here are the best concerts of 2020:
MIYA FOLICK AT THE ECHO, WEDNESDAY JANUARY 15TH 2020: Mya shared her new material that night, and she was a gracious vision with a voice she was effortlessly driving through incredible heights via her genre-bending collection of songs. Miya doesn’t have a genre per se, she writes emotional pop songs with great melodies that rock hard at times, but her eclectic style stayed very pure and loyal to her spirit that night. She told us that knowing we are doomed was actually making her free,… and I wonder how free she feels these days.
SINÉAD O’ CONNOR AT THE EL REY THEATRE, SUNDAY FEBRUARY 9TH 2020: She bravely performed on Oscars night, and she was visibly having fun on stage. This show was one of the first US gigs in seven years, and the hijab that she was wearing on her head reminded me she had followed a very peculiar path since the last time she showed up on stage at the El Rey. Her voice was still this spectacular show-stopper force of nature, carrying a myriad of emotions in just one single note, giving goosebumps to the audience which was loudly cheering up at her effortless vocal prowess.
MOSES SUMNEY AT THE BOOTLEG THEATRE, WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 12TH 2020: This was the first night of Sumney’s residency to celebrate the release of his double album, ‘Grae.’ Despite his use of electronics, Moses had no taste for just staying ambient, his atmospheric songs were anchored in profound emotions thanks to his amazing voice and the layers of string and horn he added to almost each one of his bold sonic moves. His soundscapes were both symphonic and ethereal, while his high voice, one of the best you will have the chance to hear, was soaring to a surreal and rapturous falsetto over cosmic and complex songs. The entire show was an amazing trip, a meandrous maze of eerie impressions and a whirl of melancholic emotions to cathartic ascensions.
MIYAVI AT IT’S A SCHOOL NIGHT, MONDAY FEBRUARY 17TH 2020: This was a unique occasion to see a Japanese Rockstar, and Miyavi is a born rockstar, who electrified the air with a powerful stage presence and incredible energy. This blue-haired silver bullet with a theatrical style and a guitar on fire had dense hard rock anthems with stomping drums, furious riffs, voice samples, and cathartic moments even mixing EDM-type built-ups. But it was obviously his unique guitar technique which was the star, a restless and unique finger slapping method, which earned him the title of ‘Samurai Guitarist.’
C.W. STONEKING AT THE TROUBADOUR, THURSDAY FEBRUARY 20TH 2020: A true character abundantly joking between songs and spreading his deep love for the American south blues. Many of his songs had the authentic feel of some muddy Mississippi blues sung by a black man, while Stoneking, a white man from Australia now settled in Nashville, was singing with this hundred-year-old howl, rising high above old-timey tunes that sounded like the originals. His stories resonated like black and white movies populated by beautiful women, cartoon jungles, voodoo magic, and wild animals, over an inventive cocktail of delta blues, country, Hokum, Boogaloo, and Dixieland.
EZRA FURMAN AT THE TERAGRAM BALLROOM, THURSDAY FEBRUARY 27TH 2020: The energy on display during this show was a beauty to witness, Ezra’s 21-song set was a battlefield of raw emotions and a series of heart explosions, while his unapologetic and furious protest songs, including plenty of cuts from his last album, ‘Twelve Nudes,’ worked like a sincere charge against the state of the world. It was not just about him or her or the queer condition, it’s about the whole world, the refugees’ crisis, the poor and the rich, the climate crisis or any kind of crisis, as a matter of fact, his queer revolt became a global social revolt against any injustice, Ezra was angry, terribly pissed off and he had all the reasons to stay that way.
PUBLIC ENEMY RADIO AT BERNIE SANDERS RALLY, SUNDAY MARCH 1ST 2020: Bernie Sanders’ speech was echoed by Chuck D of Public Enemy Radio, and despite the firing of Flavor Flav who had decided to really not endorse Sanders, the performance was a call to arms and a spectacle to witness, as tens of thousands of people were jumping with their fists in the air at the sound of ‘Bring the Noise,’ ‘Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos Shut,’ ‘Em Down,’ and especially ‘Fight the Power.’ On this memorable day, the endorsement by one of the most iconic hip hop groups truly mattered to plenty of people who had grown up with Public Enemy.
AZEALIA BANKS AT SEX CELLS THIRD ANNIVERSARY, FRIDAY MARCH 6TH 2020: Azealia Banks was shining in a sexy flamboyant dress with some sparkling gloves covering half of her arms, while her immense red mane was following each one of her moves. She was all hair, long arms, and tall legs, mixing fat dance beats with her super-fast flow served by her strong voice that could go anywhere. People were singing along while pushing and dancing, so much that it became a crazy scene, while I was struggling to stay at the surface of this human wave. Yes, it was minutes away from this coronavirus social distancing, those were the last moments of our complete insouciance.