by / December 22nd, 2014 /

Best of Lists: State’s Gigs of 2014

With the live season for 2014 pretty much done, our writers look back at their gig highlights of the year – shows large and small, inside and out and featuring acts from all over the world…

Arcade Fire – Marlay Park

Supported by an on-form Ham Sandwich and an iffy Pixies (the sound and energy was there until an abrupt, pre-‘Debaser’ departure when guitar strings gave up the ghost), the Canadians continued their juggernaut acceleration in their biggest Irish performance to date. It was a party atmosphere as Win Butler and co. swaggered their way through a Reflektor heavy set. The conclusion was a wonderful blast of glitter and confetti filling the Dublin sky to the sounds of ‘Afterlife’, ‘Here Comes the Night Time’ and the timeless ‘Wake Up’. Arcade Fire are a band that continue to set the bar higher each time they come to Ireland and, crucially, they continue to exceed the lofty expectations of a crowd that returns time and time again to enjoy unique, vibrant shows. It seems so silly that there was once a time when people worried whether Arcade Fire could make the step up to shows of this size. Now the question begs, where to next? (Kevin O’Neill)

Beck – Electric Picnic

Beck proved, on the Stradbally main stage, that he may well be the best showman on the planet. The kinetic Sunday night set was the most soulful in a stack of soul bands, the most rocking in a plethora of rock bands, the most danceable in an abundance of dance and disco practitioners, the most funky even with Nile Rogers sharing the bill; it was all things to all revellers, with Beck Hansen the indefatigable conductor of the whole, kaleidoscopic affair. It was simply the hit of the weekend, a masterclass in showmanship and with no small amount of top drawer tunes. (Justin McDaid)

Bell X1 – Choice Music Prize

Not a gig as such but a live performance that nonetheless stopped an entire room in its tracks. Grouped around one microphone, the trio managed to upstage every other act on the bill in the simplest manner. A masterstroke. (Phil Udell)

Bitch Falcon – State Faces, The Mercantile

It’s easy to get complacent at the high bar set by the bands that we are lucky enough to have feature under our banner every month, but when the polite girls (and boy) of BF stood on the Mercantile stage they shredded it. Tight one-inch-punch guitar work vocals you wouldn’t pick a fight with it’s the sort of fun Saturday night were made for. (Simon Roche)

Caribou – Body & Soul Festival

When the setting, the weather, the music and the atmosphere are so perfectly synchronised you can only stand back in amazement. Or dance. You can also dance in amazement. Dan Snaith’s Caribou took 2014’s Body & Soul Festival by the scruff and gave us one of the most sublime performances of the year – even by Caribou’s immensely high standards. As the sun went down and the main stage came to life there were no barriers between the band and audience as pretty much everybody played their part. This was possibly a watershed for this particular festival, if not such events in Ireland generally. (Steven Dunne)

Earl Sweatshirt – The Academy

For what was his first ever solo set in Ireland, Earl Sweatshirt had a hoard of battle ready fans baying for a live show from Odd Future’s most enigmatic member. He certainly delivered and exceeded expectations with a set list that included almost all of his album Doris, as well as the material from his debut mixtape Earl that he wrote when he was 15. Energy levels were high throughout despite this being the last stop on a tour that reached all of America & Europe. (Ross Logan)

Future Islands – Vicar St

Having played empty venues for years, Future Islands arrived into the public consciousness with an impassioned, expressive and altogether unforgettable wallop in 2014. Frontman Sam Herring’s live performances have been described as like watching an accountant take his first Ecstasy, and when he and his cohorts arrived in Vicar Street, after the impact of THAT Letterman performance, the only thing that outweighed the expectation on their shoulders was the passion in Herring’s display. (Steven Dunne)

Gnarwolves – Camden Crawl

If this year’s CC was anything to go by, guitar music is still as key to the UK underground as ever. Hardcore trio Gnarwolves proved as much with a set that pinned you to the back wall, jumped on your head and ripped your heart out – all in a good way. (Phil Udell)

Ham Sandwich – Electric Picnic

It seems to have become a cliche to say that Ham Sandwich are experiencing a series of career defining moments but 2014 saw a trio of them – their first Olympia headliner, the Arcade Fire support mentioned already and this Sunday afternoon slot at Ireland’s premiere festival. I’m not ashamed to say I shed a little tear as the mass voices of the huge tent swelled the band’s sound – itself already pretty large due to their superb extended line-up. The new songs sounded fine but the response to the ‘Ants’ and ‘The Naturist’ proved that, without doubt, they have arrived as a major force. (Phil Udell)

Jack White – Kilmainham

I could fill a phonebook with the amount of people I’ve bored to tears about the merits of Jack White. At a time when rock’s ultimate pantheon is starting to thin through age, death and obscurity, White finds new ways to buttress the temple. Not one person gave a shit about the lashing rain when he took to the stage with a Swiss-army backing band that new nothing of musical limitations. As one, we got blindsided by bloody-minded blues-grunge determination. By the time the PA was finally pulled and White carried on regardless from the front of the stormy stage, we couldn’t think of anything finer to do with our lives than rock’n’roll.  (Hilary Adam White)

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  • Steven Dunne