Ed Power's top top ten gigs of 2018

Ed Power spent much of his year attending events on behalf of this newspaper. Here are a selection of his favourites.

1 PALE WAVES

Grand Social Dublin, February.

One of the past 12 month’s unsung pleasures was the debut album by the Manchester-based goth-pop quartet.

Championed by The 1975 – themselves widely tipped to be the new Radiohead, albeit largely by people who’ve never listened to Radiohead – and fronted by the comfortably glum Heather Baron-Gracie the group fuse heart-ache, and quicksilver guitar pop with rare aplomb.

They were back for a triumphant Irish tour at end of year. But this curtain raising gig found them at their most exuberant.

2 KRAFTWERK

Marquee, Cork, July.

The ageless teutonic techno titans were a highlight of the Live at the Marquee festival.

It was a signature year for life music in Cork, with Ed Sheeran packing Pairc Ui Chaoimh for three nights and Snow Patrol playing a super-intimate show at the Opera House.

But Kraftwerk’s pioneering electronica – from which sprang modern hip-hop and synth pop – was even more memorable, and laced through with dry Mitteleuoropa humour to boot.

3 KENDRICK LAMAR

3Arena, February.

Lamar’s Irish debut at Vicar Street in 2013 had underwhelmed.

Where his debut album, Good Kid, Maad City was artful and nuanced, in a live setting, the Compton rapper leaned into “gangsta” cliches.

But he more than made up for that disappointment when kicking off the European leg of his Damn tour at 3Arena.

A master-class in minimalism, the evening saw Lamar alone on a stage throwing languid Jedi poses as his band conjured in the wings.

It was a breathtaking – and had lost none of its power when he reprised the set at Electric Picnic in September.

4 DAVID BYRNE

3Arena, Dublin, October.

The ex-Talking Heads man was recently told by his agent that he was having a “Leonard Cohen moment”.

By which he meant that Byrne’s popularity as live performer was undergoing a renaissance.

To capitalise on this resurgence Byrne, working with choreographer Anne Parson, updated Talking Heads iconic early Eighties performance film Stop Making Sense.

Dancing, swaying, serenading a skull, Byrne was a bravura force of quirkiness – surrounded by a flotilla of grooving musicians whose enthusiasm was almost as infectious as the singer’s.

It was proof that, even as rock arguably slouches towards its dotage, the genre can be configured into thrilling new forms.

5 NILS FRAHM

NCH Dublin, February.

A rave squeezed inside a classical concert, Frahm’s sellout concert contained multitudes.

The German composer was flanked by banks of equipment, some analogue, much of it cutting edge.

He played minimal piano one moment, flipped a switch and channelled propulsive beats the next.

It was the best playlist ever come to life, with Frahm’s salty wit an unexpected treat on top.

6 TAYLOR SWIFT

Croke Park, Dublin, July.

No, her two nights at the Dublin bowl weren’t quite a sell out.

However, Swift gave unsurpassable value to those who did trot along. Inflatable snakes-that-doubled-as-Kim-Kardashian-diss (she had accused Swift of possessing a serpent tongue), platforms bang in the centre of the ground and, topping it all, Swift in the form of her life added up to a stadium pop extravaganza.

Rockers will tell you the Stones blew the non-existent roof off the stadium in May.

The truth is Swift, with her inflatable snakes, was every bit their equal. And she did it for two nights running.

7 SHAME

Tivoli, Dublin, November.

Millennials may have saddled us with Ed Sheeran and Mumford and Son.

By contrast, the generation coming up behind has no need for musical safe spaces.

For proof see South London force of nature Shame, who knocked the spots of Dublin’s Tivoli in November.

Bare-knuckle Dublin support acts Fontaines DC and The Murder Capital were a welcome reminder, too, that there was more to Irish music than declawed craw-thumpers such as Picture This. Expect more from them in 2019.

8 THE XX

Tivoli, Dublin, May

The last time they played Ireland was headlining Electric Picnic.

So it was a treat to see the gothic r’n’b trio in the super-intimate environs of a Dublin club.

Songs from 2017’s underrated I See You made even more sense cheek by jowl, with childhood friends Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim holding each other’s gaze as they traded devastating couplets.

9 KAMASI WASHINGTON

Beatyard, Dun Laoghaire, August.

The sometime Kendrick Lamar collaborator had an afro-futurist odyssey in store for Dun Laoghaire as he brought his new album, The Choice, to the

Beatyard Festival.

It was expansive, luscious, frantic and horizon expanding — and, in a cockle-warming moment, his dad was in his usual spot in the band, playing backing trumpet.

He’s back in Dublin in March and you could do worse than track down a ticket.

10 JULIEN BAKER

Vicar Street, September.

Baker’s Boygenius project — a collaboration with Lucy Daucus and Phoebe Bridgers — yielded one of the year’s best albums.

In her solo capacity, Baker was simply devastating at Vicar Street, performing songs ripped from the pages of her struggle to reconcile her Christian faith to the fact she is gay.


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