2017 was a year loaded with lots of hard work, unbelievable experiences, and of course, music. I got to meet, and spend time with some amazingly talented people. I got to listen to live music from my favourite artists and bands, new and old, and I had the pleasure of being able to share it with all of you. Below are my five live performance highlights for the year.
Every day I’m aware of how privileged I am to do this job, to bring together my love of music, writing and photography and to live a life where music is everywhere.
Were you at any of these shows? Let me know in the comments.
Hip Hop Set of the Year
Oddisee at Lee’s Palace, Toronto (May 27, 2017)
It’s not very often I take a pass on free music and photo access but in this case, I didn’t even apply to shoot and review the Oddisee show.
I’d been listening to The Iceberg since it’s release in February and was so looking forward to just being a fan. It was a beautifully warm May day and I met up with people I knew in line who were just as excited as I was. It was a sold out show and Lee’s Palace was packed to the back with fans of 24-year-old Amir Mohamed el Khalifa. Opening for Oddisee was Good Compny, his band, and they were brilliant. Showing off their amazing musical skills the band got the crowd ready for Oddisee to take the stage, and take over the crowd.
From the second he took the stage, Oddisee connected with us and he didn’t let go until he walked off the stage. Going into the show, I was pretty comfortable with the songs and thought I knew all the words, but there were people in the audience, singing every single word and he noticed. If this is a new name for you, and you have any interest in rap, hip-hop, jazz or even pop, you need to give his music a listen. I promise you won’t regret it.
Note: This is my only club show set highlight.
Rock and Roll Set of the Year
Cage the Elephant at WayHome, Oro-Medonte (July 28, 2017)
I’ve been a fan of Cage the Elephant since their debut release in 2008 but they’d kinda fallen off my radar.
That completely changed this July when I saw them live for the first time. Wow! This show gets my Rock and Roll set of the year highlight for all the right reasons. It was full of hits, it delivered the new music from Unpeeled, it was loud, it was vibrant and it was the most energetic set of 2017. There was running and jumping and there was confetti, all perfectly timed and amazing.
As a photographer, this set gave me everything I could have hoped for and it also gave me my favourite image of the year. I smile every time I think about this set, that’s a win in my book.
Emotional Moment Set of the Year
Imagine Dragons at WayHome, Oro-Medonte (July 29, 2017)
Right smack in the middle of WayHome, I had the most emotional moment I’ve ever experienced at a live show. That encounter was delivered by Day 2 headliner, Imagine Dragons. And I wasn’t alone.
While in the photo pit, amongst 25+ other photographers, Dan Reyolds reached out and touched my heart. It was electric. It was the music and it was the message, “Spread peace, spread love.”. It was real and it was heartfelt.
If there was a masterclass on how to deliver three opening songs for photographers, while not taking away from the crowd, Imagine Dragons could lead this class. They gave us everything including smiles, jumps, close-ups, add in Dan leaving the stage and getting behind us to lean on the barricades, so that he could get as close as possible to the crowd, all the while singing his ass off. It was spectacular showmanship and we ate it up.
As we left the pit, there was chatter between photogs exclaiming, that they gave us everything we could have hoped for. Full disclosure here – I cried twice during the first three songs. This isn’t a normal thing, normally I’m working, I’m in work mode and while I enjoy the music and experience, it doesn’t normally affect me like this. Kudos to Imagine Dragons for connecting on a level I’d never experienced before.
Country Set of the Year
Keith Urban at Boots and Hearts, Oro-Medonte (August 11, 2017)
After a super hot steamy early August Friday, the weather took a little turn, and by little, I mean from cloudy threatening skies to a full out tornado warning.
Tens of thousands of people, who’d been waiting all day for headliner Keith Urban to take the stage, were surprised to be told that they had to leave the stage area and return to their tents. After quite a delay, the thunder and lightning passed and everyone was allowed to return to the stage area. Fans ran for the front and Keith opened the set with Long Hot Summer and proceeded to put on a show like nobody’s business. We were not surprised when his name appeared on the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year nominee list, this was easily one of my top five highlights of the year.
Urban played a full set, in spite of the delay, and thanked us all for coming back, like we wouldn’t. During his set, two more showers made their way through the area but he carried on like it was business as usual even giving us a sassy, “Rain ain’t nothing but a thang”.
Keith Urban is an amazing guitar player, fantastic singer and I’d stand in the rain all day for another performance like this one.
Classic Set of the Year
Midnight Oil at Budweiser Stage, Toronto (August 25, 2017)
In the category of bands, I forgot how much I loved, I give you Midnight Oil.
Following two amazing opening bands (The Living End and Matthew Good), Midnight Oil turned up at the Budweiser Stage on a warm August night, and blew it up!
The energy level was intense, the messages were genuine and the music brought it all together. They played all of their hits and everyone sang along, including me. Peter Garrett moves and sings like a man in his 20’s and the band’s lyrics are just as relevant today as the day they were written. In addition to being my classic set of the year, they’re also my Aussie set of the year.
Thank you to the artists, the teams that help bring us together, and thank you to our readers. Thank you all for supporting us and thank you for filling my life with music. I’m looking forward to 2018 and more highlights.