I'm sure you're burnt out on reading best of 2013 lists by now, but taking an extra two weeks to wrap up the best shows of the year list was productive. For one, it's tough to compare a small, intimate show like Jimmy Eat World's mini-Arizona tour against massive productions employed by the likes of Kanye West and Nine Inch Nails.
It's even more difficult because even though I probably went to more shows than you last year (81 total!), I still didn't get to see everything. I caught only glimpses of Fleetwood Mac, Kendrick Lamar, and The Who thanks to photo restrictions. There were plenty of scheduling conflicts where I may or may not have made the right call, and there is the fact that I missed most of September thanks to traveling -- but in the mean time, I was able to see the likes of My Bloody Valentine, The Breeders, The Replacements, Brand New, and more out of state, so I'd say it was productive.
Disclaimer- this is not an all-encompassing best shows of the year list. These are the 10 Arizona shows I enjoyed most in 2013 that are loosely in order.
10. Fall Out Boy at Marquee Theatre, 6/11/13 I can already hear some of you groaning about me kicking off this list with Fall Out Boy- and yes, I agree that Save Rock and Roll is an atrocious record--but there's more to Fall Out Boy than that. Have you heard Take This To Your Grave? It's a really solid pop-punk record that kind of sounds like Saves the Day.
I was assigned to shoot this show and was planning on leaving after the first three songs I was given to photograph from the pit. Fall Out Boy is a really fun band to photograph; the lighting is great and the band is animated, you really can't ask for more. But as I put my gear away, I found myself nodding along to the music. I kept saying I was going to leave after "one more song," but before I knew it, ended up singing along to the old songs I know and love, including "Saturday" and "Chicago is Two Years Ago."
Hearing the new songs live made me hate them even more, but it's pretty damn fun to hear the band's hits live.
9. Billy Bragg at Crescent Ballroom, 3/26/13 I still can't believe this show happened. Billy Bragg has not performed in Arizona since the mid-eighties at a show at Hotel Congress -- which some audience members eagerly recalled by helping Bragg remember the venue name. This show was a treat for my peers, who also most likely heard of Bragg thanks to the Mermaid Avenue collaboration with Wilco, though I suppose I was alone in receiving my introduction through Lifetime's cover of "A New England."
Bragg sang songs and talked politics, explaining the rampant corruption in England's political parties. He was also nice enough to stick around after the show, and I'm glad to say that such a prolific songwriter is very nice in person.
8. Vampire Weekend at Comerica Theatre, 9/27/13 Admittedly, if you saw Vampire Weekend perform at Marquee Theatre a couple years ago on the Contra tour, this show wasn't too different. It was another sold-out show full of young hipster kids dancing their asses off to "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa." But absence makes the heart grow fonder. Vampire Weekend was due for a Phoenix show, and ended up putting on one of the best mid-sized shows I have seen this year.
The music was completely on point and the setlist was varied -- you really couldn't have asked for more, unless you were trying to score a date with Ezra Koenig.
7. Nine Inch Nails at US Airways Center, 11/9/13 Nine Inch Nails is a must-see live band, even if you're just a casual fan like myself. I saw Trent Reznor perform with How to Destroy Angels at Coachella a few months prior and was blown away by the performance. The music was strange and awesome, and the visual effects were impressive. I assumed that Nine Inch Nails would take this even further, and I was right.
Part way through the show, my friend nudged me and said "I think I underpaid for this ticket," and he might be right. $60 seemed like a bargain for such a great show, though Up on the Sun contributor Jim Louvau insists that this show was not nearly as great as NIN's shows in their glory days.
6. Crystal Castles at Marquee Theatre, 4/24/13 It's about time Crystal Castles came to Phoenix. I'm sure it would have been amazing to see them on the I or II tours, since both albums are a bit more chaotic than III, but this was everything you'd expect from a Crystal Castles show.
The music was deafening and the lights were seizure-inducing, but best yet, Alice Glass really is that crazy in person. Toward the end of the set, the purple-haired singer walked out onto the hands of the audience and spat whiskey all over the crowd.
5. Masked Intruder at Yucca Tap Room, 8/12/13 I decided to go to this show about a week ahead of time because my friends with good taste in punk spoke highly of the band. I don't know how I overlooked them for so long, because as soon as I listened to the band's debut full-length album, my heart and wallet were stolen.
Masked Intruder plays up the thief schtick live, which worked oh-so-perfectly at Yucca Tap Room. The crowd was already pretty wasted during Elway's set, but got nice and crazy as Officer Bradford attempted to "tame" the crowd by moshing with fans.
4. Kate Nash at Crescent Ballroom, 11/19/13 This show was inspirational and had a little something for everybody. The band opened with "Sister," as Nash took the stage with bass in hand screaming about a toxic relationship. She assumed the roll of singer songwriter for songs like "Mouthwash" and "Merry Happy," but the best part of the show was when she discussed feminism.
"Girls just want to have fun-damental rights," she said, describing her volunteer work with young girls. She invited a bunch of young ladies on stage and encouraged them to write songs and be creative, and to not let any man or authority figure put them down or try to stop them.
After this, the girls crowd surfed and Nash herself followed shortly thereafter.
3. Jimmy Eat World at Paramount Theatre, 5/9/13 Jimmy Eat World's mini-Arizona tour was one of the coolest things to happen to the local music scene this year. Wickenburg and Sierra Vista aren't exactly music hot spots, but driving down to Casa Grande to see the band was pretty great.
The biggest selling point of the mini-tour was the intimacy of the shows. I believe the Paramount Theatre held a little over 200 people, giving all of us a chance to hear songs from the forthcoming album, Damage, as well as favorites like "Goodbye Sky Harbor," "Lucky Denver Mint," and "A Praise Chorus." And yes, our hometown heroes did play "The Middle."
2. Kanye West at US Airways Center, 12/10/13 Love him or hate him, Kanye West is one hell of performer. Admittedly, this was the most money I ever spent on a concert that wasn't a festival, but after seeing 'Ye headline Coachella in 2011, I knew I wanted a floor ticket, and this was a good call, because I ended up in the front row.
'Ye skipped Arizona on the Watch the Throne tour thanks to the SB 1070 boycott, but now that the Soundstrike is over, Yeezy performed a show that was long overdue. The concert played out like theatre, complete with an erupting volcano, a man dressed like Jesus, and half naked dancers writhing on the floor, then ceremoniously carrying incense down the runway.
Kanye had a lengthy dialog during "Runaway" that made national headlines, but it's to be expected from one of the biggest egomaniacs in the music industry. He even said hello to "white Jesus" before performing "Jesus Walks."
1. Green Day at Marquee Theatre, 3/11/13 Picking my favorite Arizona show of the year was a tough call. The top three might as well be a tie, since I loved all of these shows for different reasons, but Green Day takes the top spot due to my relationship with the band.
Like most millennial punk fans, Green Day was my gateway drug to punk thanks to the mainstream success of pop punk in the mid '90s. The Dookie days are long gone, replaced with selling out arena shows and an American Idiot rock opera.
It didn't make financial sense for Green Day to perform at Marquee Theatre. In fact, Phoenix was one of four cities lucky enough to be a stop on Green Day's small venue tour.
The show was like looking into Green Day's past -- these are the same guys that once upon a time performed a secret show at The Old Brickhouse as Foxboro Hot Tubs, "covering" Green Day songs. This wasn't the guyliner-sporting band that has sold millions, this was the raucous band that took the world by storm with Dookie. The setlist was full of hits and the band's best material, and for once, Billie Joe Armstrong kept the banter and crowd hyping to a minimum.
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Spring was a good time to be at Marquee Theatre thanks to shows like this and Prince. Both were once in a lifetime shows that will probably never happen again, but Green Day grabs the top spot on my list thanks to a rare and intimate show that exceeded all expectations.