Ed Power's arts highlights of 2016

Our regular arts/ents writers select their personal highlights of the year

The three best gigs you attended:

Rufus Wainwright, National Concert Hall, Dublin ?— A dazzling two hours of baroque piano-pop from an underrated troubadour. Wainwright ignored his baffling new album — a ghastly suite of Shakespeare sonnets set to music that fans have agreed to pretend doesn’t exist — and instead delivered a winning greatest hits set.

Belly, Academy, Dublin — The great lost band of early 1990s alt.rock staged an unexpected return and what a privilege to reconnect with student disco anthems such as ‘Gepetto’ and ‘Feed the Tree’.

Cavern of Anti-Matter, Grand Social, Dublin — Krautrock is the genre that never gets old, as we were reminded in a stunning reiteration of the genre’s pummelling first principles. Band leader Tim Gaine had a past life playing with alternative darlings Stereolab. His latest project was far weirder and more bewitching.

Best book you read:

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu Haunting — science fiction short stories from one of the up-and-coming voices in the genre. Liu delves deep into the human condition while entrancing us with his epic world-building.

Film highlight:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story It’s been 30 years but, finally, a Star Wars movie that isn’t utterly terrible. Director Gareth Edwards has given us a worthy companion piece to the original trilogy, that packs more humanity into its final ten minutes than was contained in the entirety of JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens.

TV highlights:

Westworld A puzzle box disguised as post-Game of Thrones prestige drama, Westworld could have easily been an expensive disaster. Yet show-runners Lisa Joy and Jonathan “I’m not just Christoper’s brother” Nolan entranced us with a meticulous reimagining of the 1973 cowboy-robots- go-berserk movie. None of the characters even vaguely resembled real human beings (not even the actual humans) but the knotty mystery drew you in anyway.

Album:

The Range, Potential — For his second album, producer James Hinton harvested hours of YouTube samples and wove them together into a haunting collage — a record that spoke to the information overload we experience daily yet also laid bare the ineffable sadness of the human condition.

Podcast:

Keeping It 1600 — The degree to which the rise of Trump blindsided the liberal “establishment” was underscored listening to this political podcast hosted by two former Obama speechwriters. In the run-up to polling, they openly mocked the idea that Hilary might not win — and we got to listen to their shock in real time as they broadcast through election night.

Gaming:

Scythe was another leap forward for board gaming, with incredible steampunk artwork by Jakub Rozalski and fun,yet deep, gameplay by Jamey Stegmaier. The setting is an alternate history post World War I Europe where nations go to war with giant robot “mecha”.

Lowlight:

Board games on Kickstarter which miss their promised release date by months — and occasionally years.

Best celebrity encounter:

Sharing a cup of tea with Viggo Mortensen and hearing him express his enthusiasm for the Lord of the Rings movies 15 years after the release of Fellowship of the Ring.

Looking forward to most in 2017:

The TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, overseen by Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller.


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