Looking back it's been a pretty great year for concerts. The particular highlight for me has been bands either making their debut tour of the country or returning after a long absence. Probably the only semi-regular visitors that made the list are Yo La Tengo and Paul Kelly/Neil Finn. One final point, I've included links to the recordings (if I did them) but this is a list of the best concerts, regardless of the quality of the recording.
Weezer - Palais 17 January
Weezer's Blue album show at Sidney Myer was pretty bad - as usual the sound was awful and the crowd were mediocre. The Pinkerton show at the Palais, on the other hand, was fantastic, and this is coming from a casual fan attending a show clearly aimed at the fans. Rather than kicking off with a hits set, they mixed in a bunch of rarities, all of them well played and getting a raptuous response. The Pinkerton set was also good and the sound at the Palais (as normal) was pristine.
Childish Gambino - HiFi 23 January
Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) proved to anyone who thought that this was going to be a comedy rap act that, not only was he deadly serious, but he has more energy and performing chops than acts that don't have to juggle an incredibly successful television writing and acting career. There are starting to be rumours that he may be making a return visit soon. This show sold out in minutes, so if the rumours turn to reality, make sure to get in quick.
Waterboys - Hamer Hall 30 January
Low expectations always help to make a good show and, even though I knew there was more to the Waterboys than The Whole of the Moon, I didn't realise just how deep their catalogue is or suspect that, unlike many of their peers, they retain the ability to put on a hell of a show. Obviously the cover of Purple Rain was great (and unexpected), but I particularly liked hearing all the originals that I'd somehow missed, despite their greatness. Plus it didn't hurt that Mike Scott seemed to have a genuine soft spot for Melbourne that went beyond 'It's great to be in [insert name of city]".
Divine Fits - Corner 4 February
Divine Fits' album A Thing Called Divine Fits made my best albums of 2012 list, and their Laneway sideshow demonstrated that they could easily transfer that to the stage (as if anyone could doubt this of a band featuring both the vocalist from Spoon and Handsome Furs). My only disappointment was that Japandroids were side stage but never made an appearance.
Paul Kelly & Neil Finn - Palais 4 March
At the time I said that this would be one of those tours that people would find hard to believe had happened. Back in the day we would have had to let our imaginations run wild about what they actually sounded like, but now we can listen to bootlegs (and, of course, the official CD/DVD from Sydney) to know that these shows were magical. These shows were great from start to finish, but it's hard not to single out their solo performance of each others songs (as Neil Finn said, Paul Kelly really owns Into Temptation now).
Bruce Springsteen - Rod Laver 24 &26 March
These were both phenomenal shows and it's great to see him returning in 2014 (with Tom Morello and Steve Van Zandt in tow). These are both very good recordings of outstanding shows with very varied sets. It'll be hard for him to top these, but if he even makes it in the ballpark they'll be great shows.
Matthew E White - Northcote Social Club 3 June
This was a show I only reluctantly went to, but it turned out to be great. Matthew E White is probably best described as a soul singer, but that doesn't really do justice to where he fits in the musical world. Probably best to just download this and hear for yourself.
Milk Carton Kids - St Kilda MeMo 8 June
The Milk Carton Kids are an amazing bluegrass band that bring to the table the extra bonus of being incredibly funny at their live shows. Unfortunately this isn't a great recording, but I'll be putting up a soundboard recording from around the same time in a few weeks.
Yo La Tengo - Hamer 18 October
I saw Yo La Tengo on their last tour and wasn't particularly impressed, but this set was really great, even if Hamer Hall was probably an optimistically large venue. The quiet set/loud set format was a good way of letting them showcase their diverse back catalogue, which they did with great success. Anyone that missed out will get another chance to see them when they do a full Australian tour in a few months.
Neutral Milk Hotel - Forum 15 & 16 November
Lastly, Neutral Milk Hotel. I never thought there would be even the faintest chance of seeing this band. But not only did they turn up in Australia, they out on some great shows. With only two albums (and some b-sides and outtakes) to choose from, there isn't a lot of variety in the sets, but the songs are all great. The next big challenge is whether they choose to release any new material.