The Music Writers' Poll 2015: Best Local And International Live Acts

23 December 2015 | 12:10 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

"Barnett's somehow managed to tour internationally, relentlessly, while taking care not to neglect her homeland fanbase."

best australian live act

courtney barnett

She came in second last year, but this year our Artist Of The Year Courtney Barnett is numero uno Best Australian Live Act! It's worth acknowledging that Barnett made the Top Ten in every category for which she's eligible with her Pedestrian At Best our fifth fave song and the unparalleled Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Think album pipped at the post by Tame Impala's Currents. Although Barnett was deemed Best Australian Live Act over Tame Impala by a convincing margin, Kevin Parker should be pretty chuffed 'cause his band actually made it into the Top Three of every category they were eligible for in 2015: Best Album (Currents), Best Song (Let It Happen) and Artist Of The Year (#3).

When we interviewed her recently, Barnett said the following about her modus operandi: "I never completely know what I'm doing and that's probably a good way to do it. You get comfortable and, I dunno, I think that's when it starts being shit; if you think you know what you're doing." And that's what makes her so damn loveable. Also impressive, is the fact that Barnett's somehow managed to tour internationally, relentlessly, while taking care not to neglect her homeland fanbase. Barnett's album launch shows for Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Think were spectacular; she performed the album in full while her own artwork, limited edition illustrations of chairs that were available for purchase on the various nights, decorated the walls of these unconventional gig spaces around the country and abroad. Barnett also slotted in a mini-set at The Age Music Victoria Awards and, during her first acceptance speech (for The Music-presented Best Female Artist award), she hilariously called the crowd out for chatting during her performance: "[It] felt like some people were talking and not really listening." Then there was that tribute concert celebrating the 40th anniversary of Patti Smith's Horses where Barnett performed with an all-star band at Melbourne Town Hall (also on vocal duties was her partner Jen Cloher, Adalita and Gareth Liddiard). This was part of the 2015 Melbourne Festival program and we reckon it needs to be resurrected for a national tour. And how about that one-off show to celebrate the special 25th anniversary release edition of Archie Roach's debut solo album Charcoal Lane, which featured a slew of stellar Australian artists including Barnett (who covered the title track alongside Paul Kelly), Briggs, Dan Sultan, Emma Donovan plus more?

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With open arms we welcome our #3 Best Australian Live Act Gold Class (featuring former Inpress editor, the absolutely babein Adam Curley as magnetic frontman), who have had a deservingly extraordinary year. If you haven't seen them yet, do so sharpish. High Tension (#5) is another of this country's rising stars and their snarling live show has obvious international appeal. Our #6 Artist Of The Year Marlon Williams absolutely captivates live so it's unsurprising he came in sixth.

Freakily, three of this year's Top Ten actually held their spots from 2014: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (#4), Chet Faker (#6) and sleepmakeswaves (#8).

Courtney Barnett at Max Watt's House Of Music, Brisbane. Photo by Freya Lamont.

The Top Ten

  1. Courtney Barnett
  2. Tame Impala
  3. Gold Class
  4. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
  5. High Tension
  6. Chet Faker
  7. Marlon Williams
  8. sleepmakeswaves
  9. Augie March
  10. Flight Facilities

Previous winners:

Violent Soho (2014)

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2013)

Dirty Three (2012)

Grinderman (2011)

best international live act


What's the sign of a truly brilliant gig when we're so spoilt for choice when it comes to touring international acts these days? Is it when the band put on a career highlight performance and you forget that they don't really hang out on a personal level off stage these days? Absolutely. What about if you refuse to leave the venue long after most of the punters have exited the car park, 'cause you're in a state and security guards have to approach multiple times to remind you show's over? For sure. And how about if you sink into a deep depression after the gig, realising you may never get to see said band live again? That definitely counts. So what if you well up in your chair at work the following day and actually need to escape into the dunnies for a cry over aforementioned realisation? Yep, that's the sign of something special. And if you then Google to check out where else in the world the band are touring and decide that booking flights to New York for a repeat dose is necessary for your mental health? We have a winner: Blur.

Many festivalgoers evacuated the Amphitheatre hill on the Sunday night after Tame Impala and before Blur at Splendour In The Grass this year so it serves you all right, ya lightweights! They went on at 10.30pm, FFS. Some people obviously didn't get the memo that Damon Albarn would be focusing on new Gorillaz material once Blur's world tour wrapped up so we're unlikely to ever be able to dance like lunatics to Song 2, pogo with arms around our friends' shoulders to Girls & Boys, watch Albarn cheekily try to distract his bandmate during the Graham Coxon-led Coffee & TV or marvel at the majesty of new cut Thought I Was A Spaceman and how, in a live setting, it perfectly unravels toward song's close. The fans we met who travelled from Adelaide to Melbourne for Blur's Rod Laver Arena show were onto something, understanding the finality of it all. They said they waited at the airport for the band and didn't get to meet Albarn 'cause he didn't get off the same flight as the other three Blur members (who they did meet). But one should never say never, right Farnsie?  

History shows that our writers often include a lot of recent gigs in their Top Ten, the memories of which are fresh in their noggin. So Swans did marvellously getting in at #9 considering their MOFO/Sugar Mountain/sideshows were way back in January, as did FKA twigs whose January/February Laneway/sideshows landed at five and two more artists with February/March gigs: Mogwai (#6) and Drake who scored the second spot (Future Music Festival/sideshows). This is the second year we've had a hip hop show in the second position as well (in 2014 it was Kanye). And for those of you who caught Fleetwood Mac (#3), how good was Lindsey Buckingham's Big Love and Christine McVie's Songbird!? Life-changing.

PBlur at Rod Laver Arena, photo by Kane Hibberd.

The Top Ten

  1.  Blur
  2.  Drake
  3.  Fleetwood Mac
  4.  Florence + The Machine
  5.  FKA Twigs
  6.  Mogwai
  7.  Behemoth
  8.  Taylor Swift
  9.  Swans
  10.  Goat

Previous winners:

Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band (2014)

Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band (2013)

Radiohead (2012)

Portishead (2011)