Musical moments of 2012: Vancouver's top concerts
At B.C. Place on November 25
For all of us, the experience was the same. “Holy fuck,” you thought, “that’s a Beatle…” And then you burst into tears. The cute one has been the subject of much scorn and cynicism over the years—deservedly, at times—yet this three-hour testament to the transcendent possibilities of popular culture (and the health benefits of a vegetarian diet) was so inarguably glorious that even singing along with “Ob La Di Ob La Da” felt like an almost religious tribute to the man’s place in history.
At the Commodore Ballroom on May 12
The 1,000 or so people who packed a sold-out Commodore for the Weeknd’s first-ever Vancouver show acquired instant bragging rights; the next time Abel Tesfaye hit town, he was playing the Pacific Coliseum. Substituting a not-particularly-subtle power trio for the haunting dream-pop samples of his recordings posited the enigmatic R&B crooner as some kind of rock star, for better or worse. Still, there was no denying the power of the Weeknd’s voice, or his knack for self-mythologizing.
At the Vogue Theatre on November 2
Most people are probably shaking their heads at this being named a top concert, but after the scrutiny and arguably sexist judgement laid on the now 40-year-old Matador artist this year, Chan Marshall managed to suspend the hate for one night when she played at the Vogue. Forget all her weird, stressful stage moments or painful awkwardness, Marshall’s voice is like no other and is enough to make you cry.
The Pack a.d.
At the Rickshaw on January 28
The Pack a.d. didn’t exactly start off 2012 as Vancouver’s shiny, new, or hottest thing; the duo of Becky Black (vocals, guitar) and Maya Miller (drums) has been slogging it out in the trenches since 2006, first working a post–White Stripes power-blues angle, and, more recently, hunkering down in the garage to perfect a revved-up strain of grungy pop. Holy sheepshit, though, if this wasn’t the year the band officially arrived as local heavyweight contenders, starting with a turbocharged coming-out party that was a riotous blur of flying sweat, spilled PBR, and nonstop action, with Black seemingly spending as much time in the air as on the stage.
Bill Frisell’S 858 Quartet
At the Vancouver Playhouse on November 24
Bill Frisell is the most influential guitarist to emerge since Jimi Hendrix’s untimely death, but arguing that point—in Vancouver, at least—hasn’t always been easy. That’s largely to do with the concerts the Seattle-based musician has given here in the past few years, most of which have been sleepy, albeit gorgeous, examinations of Americana’s jazzier side. Not this one, though. Inspired by the vibrant hues of Gerhard Richter’s artwork (projected on a big screen behind the band), Frisell and his innovative “string quartet” delivered a spine-tinglingly psychedelic clinic in deep listening and high-intensity interplay.
At the Commodore Ballroom on February 24
With circus-freak glam rockers Foxy Shazam in the opening slot, to say that the Darkness had a tough act to follow would be an understatement. Thankfully, Justin Hawkins and company not only rose to the challenge, but delivered a comeback show so damn endearing and profoundly entertaining that it was impossible to leave the Commodore disappointed. To those who missed it, we are deeply sorry for your loss, even if you hate metal in all its many mutations.