Just like 2014, 2015 was a good live music year for me. I got to attend 12 festivals and lots of stand alone concerts in a variety of styles during the year. As always, it is hard to pinpoint exactly which concerts were my favorites during the year but I have tried. In this article you will find #20 – #37, and here are my best concerts of 2015, from #19 to #1.
# 19 Patti Smith at Bergen Fest
Patti Smith is a concert favorite for many people, and also for me. My favorite concert with her before 2015 was at the Norwegian Wood festival in 2011. Her concert at Bergen Fest was good, but not better than four year earlier But a 69 years old artist with the same energy and punk attitude as 40 years ago, is never wrong.
#18 Future Islands at the Øya Festival in Oslo
I had never heard about Future Islands before the Øya Festival. Their career got a boost with their performance of Seasons (Waiting For You) on Devid Letterman in 2014. The video became an instant hit on YouTube, and Pitchfork had the song as the song of the year in 2014. Much of their success is because of singer Samuel Herring’s performance on stage. I really liked their concert at Øya, and hope to see them again at other festivals.
#17 The Tribute to Raga Rockers at Rockefeller Music Hall
Raga Rockers was one of our best rock bands in the 80’s and 90’s. They were on a hiatus from 2000 to 2007 and still do concerts and festival gigs. In November there was a tribute concert for the band, and a box with all their songs, performed by other artists was released at the same time. The concert was perfectly managed with great performances by a big number of artists, plus an excellent band.
#16 Behemoth at the Inferno Festival in Oslo
Behemoth is a Polish blackened death metal band with Nergal as their front man. They have had lots of problems with the authorities in Poland because of allegedly “promoting Satanism and murder”. Live, they are one of the best metal bands I know, and their performance at the Inferno Festival was no exception.
#15 Thåstrøm at the Øya Festival in Oslo
Sweden have some good artists that have been around for many years. One of these is Thåstrøm, who started his career in Ebba Grön before he cofounded Imperiet and then went solo. He started out as a punk artists and still has a lot of punk attitude in his songs. His stage show is quite special, and has to be seen. The concert at Øya this year was one of the best I have seen with him.
#14 Satyricon at Blast Fest in Bergen
When it comes to black metal bands, Satyricon have always been in the front, and never afraid to experiment and expand their style. They have been one of the best black metal bands for some 20 years, and their concert at Blast Fest in Bergen showed that they are still at the top.
#13 Hedvig Mollestad at John Dee in Oslo
Hedvig Mollestad Trio have been on a hiatus most of this year since Hedvig Mollestad got her first baby. I have seen the trio many times before this year, and I like their energy plus the fantastic precision and virtuosity of all three. The concert at John Dee in Oslo in November showed that the trio is back in the business.
#12 Jon Langford at SXSW
Every year at SXSW I make room on my quite tight schedule to see Jon Langford. Both with his band The Waco Brothers, and also the concert with his own band at The Continental Club on the festival’s last day. Usually it is a wild happening, but this year it was even wilder than usual. It is always fun to see old punks behave like they did 30 years ago.
#11 Seigmen at Sentrum Scene in Oslo
Seigmen is another one of the big Norwegian rock bands in the 90’s. They are also the hardest, with a droning and sometimes hypnotizing sound. The band broke up in 1999,to come back in 2005, after which they have played several concerts and festival. The concert at Sentrum Scene was the closing of the tour to promote their latest album, Enola.
#10 Father John Misty at the Øya Festival in Oslo
Father John Misty, or Joshua Tillman, which is his real name, was new to me as a solo artist this year. His album, I Love You, Honeybear is one of the best albums in 2015. Many know him as the drummer in Feet Foxes, but he has been making albums as a solo artist since 2004. His commercial breakthrough came with I Love You, Honeybear, and the concert at Øya proved that he is something special as a solo act, and definitely different from many of his contemporaries – which is definitely meant as a compliment.
#9 d’Angelo at Oslo Fjord Fest
d’Angelo was the big new hope for soul music when he arrived on the scene in 1995. His debut album from that year sold 2 million copies, and the follow up, Voodoo, debuted at #1 on the charts and won him 2 Grammies. Then we didn’t hear any new music from him until the album Black Messiah in 2014. During those 14 years we heard more about his drug abuse and his legal problems because of this. 2015 was the year for his comeback. The concert at Oslo Fjord Fest was the last concert he held this year, canceling the rest of the tour. Except for him being one hour inexcusably late for the concert, he did a remarkable effort when he came on stage, showing that when he is in shape, he is still one of the most interesting soul artists around.
#8 Dum Dum Boys at the Steinkjerfestivalen
Dum Dum Boys are also one of the four great Norwegian rock bands from the 80’s and 90’s, and also the most winning rock band at the Spellemannprisen (the Norwegian Grammy) with so far 5 wins. They also had 7 of 10 #1 albums in the period 1986 to 2012. The band is a live favorite and has played many festival the last years. Their concert at The Steinkjer Festival was one of the best I have seen with them, and the best this year.
#7 Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell at Oslo Fjord Fest
What can you say – Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell together on an outdoor stage in Oslo! I saw them together at SXSW in Austin in 2013 when they had just released the Old Yellow Moon album, and this year they promoted their new album, The Travelin Kind. There is something about the combination of Rodney Crowell’s songwriting and voice, together with one of the best voices in music, Emmylou Harris.
#6 Florence + The Machine at the Øya Festival in Oslo
The first time I saw Florence + The Machine was at the Øya Festival in 2009. Then Florence Welch was a newcomer, but the same year she won the Brit Award Critic’s Choice award. Then I saw her again at Rockefeller in Oslo in 2010, and then at the Øya Festival in 2012. During these years she had developed from an interesting to a highly professional and high class act. When I saw her again at this year’s Øya Festival, it was an enchanting experience, with great lights and music that fit, plus an artist that owned the stage.
#5 Robert Plant at the Notodden Blues Festival
Robert Plant is one of the rare artists who had mega success with his band, and then managed to continue as a solo artist, constantly evolving his music, making each new concert more interesting than the former. His concert at Bergen Fest last year was really good, but the concert in the big tent at the Notodden Blues Festival this year was even better. It benefited from a special mood with a dark tent, where the lights came to their right, making it almost magic. Rober Plant’s voice is still strong, and I look forward to seeing him again next time.
#4 Katzenjammer at the Oslo Spektrum
The first time I saw Katzenjammer was at by:Larm in Oslo in 2008. They were a fun band, playing a lot of instrument, and also doing some really good harmony singing The next year they played at SXSW in Austin, and I am still asked if they are coming back when I am there! Since then they have learned to play their different instruments really well, they have tightened their show, they have released albums, and they have worked hard, touring in Europe and building a solid fanbase all over the continent. The concert at Oslo Spektrum was part of a European pre-Christmas tour, and I ams amazed of the quality of this music and their stage presence.
#3 Grace Jones at Bergen Fest
I have never seen Grace Jones live before, but I liked her in the 80’s, when she was a human sculpture and presented the most decadent music, suited for high class clubs like Studio 54. When I saw that she was one of the acts at Bergen Fest this year, I had low expectations. But I definitely was shamed. Her performance was just as extravagant as before, and her voice is still good. Add that she is in good shape and did a good show, and I ended up with one of mye most exciting concerts this year.
#2 BigBang at Sentrum Scene in Oslo
My second best concert this year was the concert with BigBang at Sentrum Scene the week before Christmas. They have always been a great live band, but this concert that they hold before Christmas every year is really the icing on the cake. They have guests, they give everything (as usual), and their performance is professional, extravagant and very lively.
#1 James McMurtry at the Continental Club at SXSW
The highest position on my concert ranking for 2015 goes to an artist who doesn’t rely on any other effects on stage than his songs, his voice and his band, the Heartless Bastards. Sometimes he also plays solo. James McMurtry has released one of 2015’s best albums, Complicated Game, with the best opening lyrics: “Honey, don’t you be yelling at me when I’m cleaning my gun. I’ll wash the blood off the tailgate when deer season’s done.” (Copper Canteen) I have seen McMurtry several times in Austin during the years, and most of the times at the Continental Club, and that was also the venue for the concert I saw with him this year. James McMurtry has a unique voice and delivery, and his songs are short stories from the heartland of USA with bitter irony, political comments and a literary style that reveals his background, with a mother who is an English professor, and a father who is a famous novelist. If you get the chance to see James McMurtry live, do it!
All photos are © Per Ole Hageland must not be used without written permission.