1. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (Perth Arena & Melbourne Rectangular Stadium)
I saw Bruce five times in January/February starting with the low-key opener in Perth when the Trump-reality was sinking in. Each show is, as they say in the airline safety presentation, subtly different. There were two overwhelming feelings I recall from these concerts – I couldn’t dream of being anywhere else and I didn’t want them to end. Hearing This Hard Land live for the first time (Melbourne 4 February) was a highlight; I always looked forward to and smiled during Nils Lofgren’s twirling guitar solo on Because the Night; I wandered around the stadium in Melbourne during soundcheck and heard The Ties that Bind (bonus); they only played Downbound Train at one of my shows but I became obsessed by the song; I loved New York City Seranade with local string players and the cheeky Don’t Hang Up played in Melbourne as a reaction to THAT phone call between our PM and that POTUS.
2. Paul McCartney (Perth Oval)
Two of my obessions as a pre-teen were the East Perth Football Club (the Royals) and The Beatles. So it was serendipitous to have my first sighting of a Beatle at the former home of the Royals. I went with high expectations and they were exceeded. Highlights were many but the song going over in my head after the show was And I Love Her. Towards the end I thought Paul had the look of a man who knew he and his tight band had nailed it. Perhaps we all need a reminder from time to time of just how great The Beatles were.
3. Yusuf Cat Stevens (Perth Arena)
Looking a bit retrospective isn’t it? Quite a theatrical performance including a change of the elaborate stage setting at the interval. The Cat was in great voice and well supported by his young and versatile band. Old collaborator Alun Davies also joined the band on stage. The show included three songs by his biggest influence – The Beatles (From Me To You, Here Comes The Sun and All You Need Is Love) and he played Twist & Shout on a record player. So many good songs of his own too to complement his life story.
4. Willie Watson (Mojo’s Fremantle)
I’d seen Willie before as part of Old Crow Medicine Show and the Dave Rawling Machine so was aware of his talents and enthusiasm (and nuttiness). This was a great show featuring almost enough banjo. His passionate delivery of Alfred Reed’s Always Lift Him Up And Never Knock Him Down was a knock-out.
5. Kasey Chambers (Astor Theatre, Mt Lawley)
A mighty show that looked and sounded great. I don’t often think about lighting at musical events but there was something about it here with Kasey fronting her young band (and dad Bill) looking every inch the country music queen. She now has such a collection of songs that she could have gone on all night… I would have stayed there too.
6. The Pigram Brothers (Princess May Park, Fremantle)
What a privilege to see the whole band in their second home. Beautiful playing, great sound and great songs – Roadtrain was the highlight for us. Part of the Fremantle Folk Festival.
7. Dan Sultan (Espanade Park Fremantle)
The headline act of the One Day in Fremantle concert. You may recall Freo council got told off by the Federal Government for staging this alternative to Australia Day event. Dan’s a brilliant performer and stole the show. The other acts John Butler, Mama Kin and Gina Williams joined Dan and band on stage for a big finale. I walked home proud of my town.
8. Archie Roach (Sorry Day 20th anniversary concert, Astron Theatre)
A big concert. Lots of good acts. Archie in sparkling form. Cried my eyes out.
9. Peter Busher and The Lone Rangers (Mustang Bar, Northbridge)
The 18th birthday celebration of the Mustang Bar. Joined by Pete Stone for a ripper slightly shorter than normal show. At the end my mate Coufie said, “Ah shit! Is that it.” The message is clear. We need more of Busher in 2018.
10. Tony Joe White (Fly By Night, Victoria Hall, Fremantle)
In his black hat and dark sunglasses Tony looked like a highwayman under the stage lights. In great voice and good humour and still capable of a sexy growl.
11. Davey Craddock (Fremantle Arts Centre)
Davey assembled a crack band for this show including gun guitarist Luke Dix and Mo Wilson enjoying himself with some old school sounds on the keyboards. Good voice, good songs (Target Country is a beauty) and great playing.
12. Niall Garvey (Central Hotel, Clifden, Ireland)
I stepped into the hotel a local had recommended saw the band and knew straight away they were wrong. “Too young and they’re standing up,” I said, and we headed over the road to the Central. Good decision. Niall Garvey and a mate were playing. Niall had a huge songbook on the table next to his pint. I imagine he’d know thousands of songs. Highlights for me were Meet Me On Clare Island and Ordinary Man.
13. Joshua Hedley (Fremantle Town Hall)
He wasn’t the headline act but got the votes from me on an impressive triple bill that included the always wonderful Ruby Boots and Justin Townes Earle who was pretty good too. But Hedley’s voice really is something.
Honourable mentions: I saw Timothy Nelson a few times. Strong voice, clever songs and, like Craddock, he knows how to assemble a band. Finally got to see Bluegrass Parkway and they were as good as imagined. I saw Ian Anderson’s Jethro Tull. His voice is shot but it wasn’t a bad show. Locomotive Breath was fantastic.
Dishonourable admission: Had tickets to Lambchop at Badlands Bar but found they were coming on at 10.30pm and bailed out. Great show apparently.