1. Strange Days: featuring Sonic Youth, Shellac, The Pop Group, Factory Floor – 31st December, Hammersmith Apollo (London)
Leave it to cult British promoters All Tomorrow’s Parties to throw the UK’s most hyped night of the year. Supported by Factory Floor, cult post-punk outfit The Pop Group (reformed after a 19-year hiatus) and Steve Albini’s Shellac, Sonic Youth aka “the world’s oldest kids” (as Fact magazine aptly dubbed them) headlined this New Year’s Eve superbill. Talk about the dreamed alternative to those dreaded NYE club nights or messy house parties. And just as we thought we couldn’t possibly love Sonic Youth more, the fact that they chose to open with the obscure 1983 release Brother James – when everyone had their bets riding on Teenage Riot – proved they are still as wonderfully unpredictable as ever.
Kicking off the New Year with a bang
The Pop Group – playing the previous night in Manchester
2. Swans – 25th November, Ancienne Belgique (Brussels)
Experiencing the deafening wall of sound created by Swans’ slow dirges was part of the great joys and pains offered by this past year. Ah, the joy of catching the legendary no wave band live – whose death had been announced 13 years ago – and the pain of enduring the near two-hour long concert without protective earplugs. The no wave outfit has been notorious for playing at ear bleeding volumes. You’d think we would have known better than to show up at Ancienne Belgique unprepared, right? Just imagine your eardrums being gang raped by a dozen screwdrivers and you’re still nowhere near it. Top that with an overcoming sense of nausea, and there you have it: the most intense live experience of the year.
Jim, from their 2010 release My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
3. Einstürzende Neubauten – 18th November, Ancienne Belgique (Brussels)
To celebrate their 30th anniversary, the German industrial band packed their tonne of stage gear and embarked on a mammoth world tour aptly titled Three Decades of Einstürzende Neubauten. Comprised of two dates each time, the first night saw a 45-minute show and separate performances by various band members as well as retrospective projections, the following night offering a more traditional Neubauten show. No drilling through the stage here, but a tight and rigorous performance, fascinating array of tools-turned-instruments, high-pitched screams, and carefully timed “stop and go” passages, with an awe-striken audience, silently respecting the breaks during which you could hear a pin drop. Well, at least on the first night.
4. The Almighty Defenders – 14th May, Botanique (Brussels)
Garage revival bad kids Black Lips and King Khan and BBQ Show have joined forces to bring us the most hilarious and sacrilegious gospel choir ever. After separate sets at last spring’s Nuits Botanique festival, they shared the stage, all six band members shifting between instruments and vocal duties, reading lyrics from worn out bibles and clad in see-through robes that left little to the imagination. Following the gig, Jared, who plays bass in the Black Lips, confessed that all the men in his family are actual preachers or involved in the church. Is that where the ida of the robes came from? “Nah not really, the guys just thought it would be funny.”
Almighty Defenders play The Ghost With The Most in Toronto
Almighty Defenders – I’m coming home
5. Hole – 5th May @ Brixton Academy (London)
Seeing the re-formed Hole play in 2010 was a comparable experience to seeing The Smashing Pumpkins back in 2008. With new line-ups and the original band dynamics gone, it just feels like watching a one-man/woman show. That said, Courtney Love is by far more entertaining than Billy Corgan, making her London show at Brixton Academy the most hilarious concert of the year. As her Twitter tirades have demonstrated more than once, the woman obviously suffers from a bad case of verbal diarrhea (her account has just been taken offline as a result of this, in case you were wondering). And whilst the songs were average and her vocal aptitudes weak, to say the least, the constant between-tracks banter was pure gold dust.
Courtney having a go at Billy Corgan
Courtney having a go at the “light person”
Courtney having a go at the county of Malibu
Courtney having a go at an audience member