Rock Royalty Tops Our International Performance Of The Year List (& Not Due To Lack Of Options)

29 December 2020 | 10:49 am | Dan Cribb

Remember stadium shows? Our writers sure do.

Photo by Joshua Groom.

Photo by Joshua Groom.

The thought of being in a stadium full of people, rubbing shoulders and singing along to live music until you lose your voice seems like a distant memory and now a nail-biting activity.

Rock legends Queen, with vocalist Adam Lambert again in tow, made their return to Australia early this year, leaping from arenas to stadiums following their widely successful biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, in 2018.

The seven-date run wrapped in late February on the Gold Coast and just two weeks later Australia went into lockdown, making it only one of a few major tours to take place Down Under in 2020.

Now, that’s not to say that Brian May, Roger Taylor and co topped our 2020 international performances list due to lack of competition - by all accounts – including our reviews – Queen + Adam Lambert would have certainly been a contender for the top spot regardless, especially given the upgrade applied to 2020’s The Rhapsody Tour compared to 2018’s effort.

Queen + Adam Lambert @ Optus Stadium. Photo by Ted Dana.

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Added to that, they also performed a headline set at the Fire Fight Australia benefit concert earlier this year, reprising their iconic 1985 set at Live Aid.

The Music noted that their Perth show at Optus Stadium was “nothing but quality AND quantity”, “the band wasting little time with banter and instead letting their respective abilities and the music do the talking, rolling through songs like I Want To Break Free and Who Wants To Live Forever back to back."

“One of the evening's highlights came when May was raised above the stage, producing ambient and haunting guitar tones backed by the endless abyss of space. He slowing brought things back to earth after a masterclass on rock guitar and slid into Tie Your Mother Down.

“Not that we needed any more convincing that Queen deliver one of the best shows out of any act past or present, the band offered up a show-stopping trio of The Show Must Go On, Radio Ga Ga and Bohemian Rhapsody to finish the set.

“The band's biopic put them back in stadiums where they belong and that couldn't have been highlighted better than it was during the encore hits We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions.” Read the full review here.

Don’t just take our word for it, watch the band’s Fire Fight Australia set below.

While live-streamed events were eligible for The Music’s 2020 writers’ poll, actual IRL gigs dominated the final list, and outside of one virtual event that we’ll touch on soon, the top 10 features major tours and festival appearances that took place between January and March, before COVID-19 forced the border closed.

Just behind Queen + Adam Lambert, Tool lived up to the hype on their long-awaited return to Australia back in February and as a result of the “near-perfect” live show they delivered they garnered enough votes to claim second place.

It was the band’s fifth studio album and first in 13 years, Fear Inoculum, that saw them venture Down Under for the first time since 2013.

The tour kicked off in WA, with reviewer Melanie Griffiths noting it was “a must-see if you want to see a group at its apex”.

Tool @ RAC Arena. Photo by Adrian Thomson.

The one live-streamed event teased above came from none-other than Irish artist Dermot Kennedy, who locked in an exclusive one-off performance at the Natural History Museum in London in July following the cancellation of his Australian tour due to COVID.

The stunning event was broadcast via YouTube and clearly had an impact, with enough votes six months after to claim #3 in our writers’ poll.

Dermot Kennedy - Some Summer Night, live from The National History Museum

Join Dermot Kennedy for a very special, one-off virtual performance live from London's Natural History Museum on Thursday 30 July at 10pm CET. Tickets on sale now:

Posted by Live Nation Belgium on Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Canadian country artist/masked enigma Orville Peck was a very close fourth entry and his headline shows around Sydney Festival and Mona Foma in January in support of debut album Pony delivered “undeniable authenticity”.

Reviewer Joe Dolan caught Peck in Melbourne and noted: “At the end of the day, it seems that whoever the masked cowboy really is doesn’t matter at all. Everything he wants his audience to know is out there in all its diamond-studded, snakeskin-wrapped glory. 

“In fact, it’s in the very first seconds of his time on stage that the answer is revealed – in a nod to Johnny Cash and cheeky reverence to his own perceived legend, three words: I’m Orville Peck.’”

Orville Peck @ Corner Hotel. Pic by Lady Drewniak.

Festival season once again offered up some of the best international performances this year, Falls Festival delivering two entries, headliner Halsey at #5 and Of Monsters & Men at #9, while #6 on our list, Pixies, were a crowd favourite at Golden Plains (the only headline date outside of the March festival they were able to play before cancelling due to COVID was in Melbourne) and Earl Sweatshirt’s Laneway slot sees him awarded tenth place on the list.

Halsey @ Falls Festival Bryon Bay.

We noted that Halsey “was easily one of the most energetic performers of the day” at Falls and that “she put so much energy into each track that her audience felt compelled to give more, and the result was something truly unmissable”.

You can listen to the US singer-songwriter discuss the tour in the below episode of The Green Room with Neil Griffiths podcast.

Also featured on the list is Canadian artist Mac DeMarco (#6), who ventured Down Under in January on his biggest-ever Australian tour to celebrate the release of Here Comes The Cowboy ('the electricity in the room was unreal'), and a-ha (joined by Rick Astley), who proved they “always had more to offer [than Take On Me]”.

The Top Ten

1. Queen + Adam Lambert

2. Tool

3. Dermot Kennedy

4. Orville Peck

5. Halsey

6. Mac DeMarco

7. Pixies

8. a-ha

9. Of Monsters & Men

10. Earl Sweatshirt

Past Winners

2019: Childish Gambino READ MORE

2018: Kendrick Lamar

2017: Patti Smith

2016: The Cure

2015: Blur

2014: Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band

2013: Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band

2012: Radiohead

2011: Portishead

2010: Metallica