Pavement returns to DC with a sold-out show at the Warner Theatre, one of the best shows of 2022. (Photo by David LaMason)
End of year lists are always bittersweet. On the one hand, you reminisce about the utter brilliance of performances that moved you, sometimes bringing you to tears (and some having you reconsider your life choices). And, then, on the other hand, there are so many to choose from. There were shows I put on the list because they were the gateway to a new world for my daughter and that shared experience made the show even better.
And then there were shows I never thought I’d witness. I got to witness two Beatles in 2022. I had the great fortune to see the last North American concert that Midnight Oil might ever perform. I had my face melted off by the kings of heavy metal, Iron Maiden — a show I never thought I’d experience — and then there were bands and performers that have a special place in my own heart that always put on one of the best shows of any year.
So for this list I do have some stand-outs, but I’ve also listed shows that, for different reasons, meant a lot to me.
When I think back on the year, the first concert that comes to mind – the one that seems crystal clear in my memory – is Iron Maiden taking the stage at Capital One Arena. Wrapping up their massive 140 show world tour, having played to over three million people, Iron Maiden performed like it was the end of the world. They played all the hits, kicking things off with numbers from last year’s Senjutsu and including, well, a little bit of just about everything with multiple extensive set changes in between songs. One of the best shows I think I’ve ever witnessed.
What can you say about a band that is two-thirds Radiohead and one-third Sons of Kemet and has put together an incredible LP that takes the best of both bands. And then, to tour the album that was just released along with new songs and have the spectacle of an incredible live show. All that in a (relatively) intimate setting (if you call a packed 6,000 capacity venue intimate) at The Anthem. One of the coolest experiences you could ask for.
Seeing Billie Eilish, after having missed her on so many occasions, but then having the chance to see her with one of her biggest fans, my daughter, and seeing her totally in awe of the brilliant stage lights, the screens, and smoke, and then have the chance to sing along. Well, that’s tough to top anywhere.
Another amazing show by Michelle Zauner and Japanese Breakfast and this may be my favorite show I’ve seen them perform. The brilliant stage set-up, the unending enthusiasm, and the sheer joy that I saw on so many faces made up one heck of a show! It was packed. It was magical.
I had seen Mitski perform a number of times in the past, but seeing her at The Anthem after not knowing if we’d ever have that chance again was incredible. The songs on Laurel Hell are some of the best she has written, and seeing them performed to a sold-out audience made the wait all the more special.
I’ve had the great fortune to see a band go from smaller clubs just a handful of years ago – with the glint of the greatness to come – sell out the 9:30 Club two nights in a row. One of the greatest live bands of the modern era, Fontaines DC continue to make important music and put on shows that brim with confidence.
There have been bands I have been a fan of for years, but for some unknown reason I never had the chance to see perform live. Well, I can check off Death Cab for Cutie from that list now with their show at The Anthem in September. From the tirelessness of singer, Ben Gibbard, to the capacity crowd singing along to every word, it was one of the highlights of this year.
If there was one show on my bucket list over the last, well, 20 years, it would be having the chance to not only see Pavement again but to have the opportunity to photograph them, and that brilliant opportunity came at the Warner Theatre in October. And it was all that I had hoped for and more. From popular favorites a la “Cut Your Hair” to those deep cuts like “Heckler Spray,” you couldn’t have had a better time.
Gorillaz is one of those bands I had never seen before, but they’ve been on my list of bands that I knew from word of mouth put on a heck of a performance. With guests from Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara and EARTHGANG to an explosive encore with De La Soul and Del the Funky Homosapien, Damon Albarn and company brought both amazing visuals and ground thumping sounds to wrap up Merriweather Post Pavilion’s season.
As of this writing, Guided by Voices has released 36 albums, not including live albums and the recent archival album Scalping the Guru which pulls tracks from previously released EPs and singles from the early 1990’s. I mean, if that was all that would be an achievement by itself, but what Uncle Bob and company has done is create one of the best live shows around and we’re all the better for it. Bob, Doug, Mark, Bobby, and Kevin move as a unit that’s tough to beat. I can tell you, when you hear the opening notes of “Cut-Out Witch” you know, right as sings, “Do you suppose she could change your life?” that things are about to explode and the crowd is going to go nuts.
Sooooo, you didn’t think I’d leave it at that. For me, 2022 was packed to the gills with great shows. More than I can fit here on one page, so below are some shows that were some of the best I’ve seen in, well, years, really.
Most Anticipated Show that Blew My Mind
“Show that Made Me Say ‘This Is the Future of Rock’“
“Shows Where I Needed Someone to Pinch Me”
Show that Combined the Best of Singing / Songwriting / Performing in One Package