The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2018

David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium


David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Tim O’Shea

We have to be honest: 2018 was kind of a weird year for music. Sure, there were some major highlights — many of them listed below, in fact — but we also saw a serious changing of the guard. The decline of mainstream rock and the continued rise of hip-hop, R&B and pop was more noticeable than ever, from this year’s Coachella lineup to the cancellation of FYF Fest, making us wonder what the next twist or turn will be for the industry now that the demand for EDM has started to cool off following its boom circa 2012. That said, we still listened to a lot of new albums and caught plenty of concerts over the last 12 months, and it’s once again time for us to share our annual “Best of” lists, much like we have done over the past several years (see our 2017 picks here).

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2018.

See our favorite performances from 2018 here.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2018:


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018 // Photo courtesy of Coachella

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – February 17th
Just more than two months after his infamous assault on a photographer at The Forum for KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas, Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme made his return to the LA arena for a proper, sold-out affair with UK rock duo Royal Blood delivering what proved to be a headbanging opening set. From there, it only got better as Homme and the boys dazzled with a headlining performance that even included Villains producer Mark Ronson sitting in for most of the five-song encore and the band’s live debut of its “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” cover. You can bet Elton John, whom Homme actually collaborated with during the writing and recording of QOTSA’s sixth album …Like Clockwork, would have been proud. I always know when I’ve seen a good rock ‘n’ roll show because my neck will be sore the following day, but after this one, it was sore for the next three days. Ouch.

2. Nine Inch Nails at Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA – December 12th, 14th-15th
3. Jamiroquai at Coachella, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 13th
4. David Byrne at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – August 24th
5. Foo Fighters/Nirvana reunion at Cal Jam 18 – San Bernadino, CA – October 6th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Jungle – For Ever
Unlike previous years, picking a favorite album in 2018 wasn’t quite as easy for me. I’ll admit that I didn’t hear every one that was released this year, but I listened to a lot of them. So, call me boring and short-sighted if you like, but nothing totally knocked my socks off. After much deliberation, it was Jungle’s sophomore LP For Ever that stood the test of time for me (no pun intended). The English soul collective’s follow-up to its 2014 self-titled debut doesn’t veer off in a completely different direction from what came before, but it still moves the sonic needle forward enough. After two full lengths, Jungle have shown a knack for writing catchy, dance-fueled tunes that transport you to a different time and place — even if it’s only for a three- or four-minute stretch.

2. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
3. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
4. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
5. Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Nine Inch Nails – “Over and Out”
When I first listened to Bad Witch, I immediately knew this one was my favorite track on the album. But hearing it performed live on the final night of NIN’s “Cold and Black and Infinite” North American tour sealed it for top honors in 2018. Layering a brooding, yet funky bass line on top of a glitchy, experimental beat, Trent Reznor shows that he isn’t just playing it safe and merely saving his creativity for scoring films with bandmate and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross. You can tell Reznor had his late friend David Bowie in mind when he wrote the song too as he conjures up an even deeper baritone from behind the microphone than the one we have come to know over the last 30 years.

2. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
3. Jungle – “Heavy, California”
4. Wild Nothing – “Partners in Motion”
5. The Raconteurs – “Now That You’re Gone”


Richard Russell - Everything Is Recorded

Molly Kish // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. David Byrne at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – August 16th
In support of his seventh solo album American Utopia, musical virtuoso David Byrne hit the road for one of this year’s most creative and ambitious tours. Over more than 150 dates that spanned the entire globe, the 66-year-old delivered Broadway-caliber performances with a traveling 11-piece band that served as a traveling retrospective of his solo and collaborative work. Meanwhile, the tour also doubled as a platform for him to deliver his “Reasons to Be Cheerful” manifestos on civic engagement, climate/energy, culture, economics, education, health, science/technology and urban transportation. He partnered with HeadCount while encouraging audiences every night to engage in public discourse through social media and their own personal stories on his website. And as a result, Byrne elevated the concert-going experience into more of an interactive, performance-art space that his fans became a living, breathing part of.

2. Young Fathers at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – November 10th
3. Erykah Badu & Thundercat at The Armory – San Francisco, CA – February 14th
4. Beck at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – August 8th
5. LCD Soundsystem with TV on the Radio at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – April 27th-28th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Richard Russell – Everything Is Recorded by Richard Russell
A multi-artist project released as the debut album of XL Recordings founder Richard Russell, Everything Is Recorded is collaborative effort representing the ties between past and present sounds currently shaping the framework of hip-hop, funk and soul. Featuring collaborations with Sampha, Kamasi Washington, Syd, Damon Albarn, Peter Gabriel, Ibeyi, Obongjayar and more, the album also plays as the soundtrack to a 30-minute film, which documents the time each spent in the studio during its conception and is interspliced with archival footage of Gil Scott-Heron and Curtis Mayfield. With its underlying themes of loss and isolation, Everything Is Recorded effectively communicates Russell’s emotional journey as he battles a debilitating autoimmune disease in hope of finding salvation through the shared experience of creating a beautifully mastered piece of art.

2. George Fitzgerald – All That Must Be
3. Pusha T – DAYTONA
4. Robyn – Honey
5. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
If any song embodied the insanity and collective discontent of 2018, it was definitely Childish Gambino’s epic single “This Is America”. The juxtaposition of an a cappella choir leading into Donald Glover’s soft crooning over island beats and drum samples before staunchly diverting to a menacing base line reminiscent of 90’s gangster rap — as well as the hortative delivery of degrading lyrics about the current state of violence and American ideals — is near-perfect. Of course, the provocative music video that accompanied the track’s surprise release during his “Saturday Night Live” debut was incredible. The song, lyrics, video and marketing campaign could not have been a more flawless “slice of life” reflection of modern American society and justifiably has boomeranged into probably the most important moment of Childish Gambino’s career so far.

2. The Presets – “Downtown Shutdown”
3. Jon Hopkins – “Everything Connected”
4. Jungle – “Casio”
5. Parquet Courts – “Wide Awake”


Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. David Byrne at Jazzfest – New Orleans, LA – April 29th
You know what they say: the first time is always the best. With David Byrne’s 2018 “American Utopia Tour” being universally acclaimed as one of the most enigmatic live shows of the year, it’s not surprising to see it top other “Best of” lists. Byrne and his merry band of “unplugged” pranksters created a feast for the eyes and ears, and his daytime set on the Gentilly Stage did not disappoint at all. While his Fox Theater Oakland shows were more intimate and featured some more dynamic lighting features, his performance at Jazzfest back in April was the most memorable for NOLA revelers.

2. Jamiroquai at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – April 17th
3. Polo & Pan at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – June 20th
4. Nine Inch Nails at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – December 4th
5. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever at Primavera Sound – Barcelona, Spain – June 2nd

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
What a banner year for this Texas trio! Khruangbin have been on a steady rise the past few years as they turn on the masses to their infectious amalgamation of psychedelic soul, Thai surf rock and subtle funk. Having cemented their reputation as beasts in a live setting, Con Todo El Mundo proved their knack for penning tunes of equal strength with its emotive first single “Friday Morning” serving as a clear standout. “Evan Finds the Third Room” has also become a fan favorite, and the accompanying music video only lends to its growing charm. The sky’s the limit for Laura, Mark and DJ, so grab your ticket to fly.

2. Hookworms – Microshift
3. Amen Dunes – Freedom
4. Shame – Songs of Praise
5. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Sparkle Hard

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Jonathan Wilson – “Trafalgar Square”
LA producer-turned-frontman Jonathan Wilson churned out one helluva album opener for his third solo LP Rare Birds, as this six-plus-minute romp has all the right pieces for true liftoff. A proper intro leads into a riff so heavy that it’ll break your mama’s back. Top-notch production is key to this track, as Wilson is a wiz behind the boards. As you cruise down the 405 with this whopper blaring, you’d be hard-pressed not to nod along. Extra points for those of you with a 1970’s convertible, too.

2. Tom Misch – “Water Baby” feat. Loyle Carner
3. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
4. Jonathan Something – “Happy Day”
5. Men I Trust – “Seven”


Shame - Songs of Praise

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. The Smashing Pumpkins at Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA – August 27th
The Smashing Pumpkins are the quintessential 90’s arena-rock band, and they fully lived up to that billing at Oracle Arena for their Bay Area stop over the summer. I’ve seen them several times over the years, and although this time it was pegged as a “reunion tour” (minus D’Arcy, sigh), you never know what you’re going to get from them. Billy Corgan led the band through over three hours’ worth of material with some killer stage production to go with it. The show was definitely a marathon, but totally worth being there for. It came to light later that Corgan was also fighting off a bad case of food poisoning, but it didn’t show. It was great to see James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain back onstage, too — the way it should be.

2. Nine Inch Nails at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – December 3rd
3. Against Me! & Turbonegro at UC Theatre – Berkeley, CA – May 25th
4. Alkaline Trio at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – October 6th
5. Back To The Beach Festival – Huntington Beach, CA – April 28th-29th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Shame – Songs of Praise
This album hit me like a ton of bricks in the best way. I had heard a ton of hype around Songs of Praise before giving it a first listen, and usually I am a healthy skeptic, but good Lord, does this record rip. It has a dark flavor and carries with it a lot of angst, and you can’t help but get caught up in the hooks that Shame offer. These five lads from South London simply killed it.

2. IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
3. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
4. Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
5. Snail Mail – Lush

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Shame – “Concrete”
Conjuring up the ghost of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis without sounding like a complete poser is challenging for newer post-punk bands it seems — except for Shame’s Charlie Steen. Paired with some brilliant instrumentation, I just couldn’t stop listening to “Concrete” when I first heard it. I must have listened to the track a solid 10 times in a row on the first go. This song has an infectious quality to it and is a straight-up ripper.

2. The Soft White Sixties – “I Still Love You, San Francisco”
3. Hot Snakes – “Six Wave Hold-Down”
4. IDLES – “Colossus”
5. The Sword – “Come and Gone”

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Rivers Cuomo delights Weezer fans with a rare acoustic performance at Bottom of the Hill

Rivers CuomoPhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by David Skaff //

Rivers Cuomo //
Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco
May 9th, 2018 //

Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo brought his solo acoustic show to Bottom of the Hill, located in SF’s Potrero Hill district and touted by Rolling Stone as “the best place to hear live music” in the city, as he was greeted by a sold-out crowd mid-week.

Cuomo delighted the packed room with acoustic renditions of Weezer cuts as well as covers of Mike Posner, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, REO Speedwagon and Poison, but he also gave Weezer’s “Pig” — a bonus track off the deluxe edition of 2008’s Weezer (“The Red Album”) — its live debut. The audience, thrilled by what it was witnessing, came alive and sang along to most of the tunes Cuomo played during a 27-song set that lasted more than two hours.

Surprisingly, the show also included a special guest in former Weezer guitarist and founding member Jason Cropper, who performed two songs with Cuomo. Afterward, he remarked, “To be in a room stuffed with Weezer fans for a Rivers Cuomo solo show … So fun!”

Rivers Cuomo with Jason Cropper


Rivers Cuomo with Jason Cropper

“This crowd was a smart, kind, polite community of people who are passionate about this man, his band and the songs — it’s amazing,” he added. “To be playing Weezer (“The Blue Album”) songs with Rivers again after a 25-year hiatus? Wow! Literally a dream come true.”

With Cuomo leading the way, Weezer are set to hit the road this summer for a 29-date, North American co-headlining tour with the Pixies that features three California dates at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, The Forum in Los Angeles and Mattress Firm Amphitheatre in Chula Vista the second week of August following the release of the band’s 12th LP Weezer (“The Black Album”) this month.

Rivers, in the meantime, will also be performing another solo acoustic show, this time at a sold-out Troubadour in Los Angeles, less than four weeks before Weezer kick things off on June 23rd in Tampa.

Setlist:
I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Mike Posner cover)
El Scorcho (Weezer song)
Wonderwall (Oasis cover)
Buddy Holly (Weezer song)
Basket Case (Green Day cover)
Undone – The Sweater Song (Weezer song)
1979 (The Smashing Pumpkins cover)
Say It Ain’t So (Weezer song)
Happy Together (The Turtles cover) (with “Longview” snippet by Green Day)
Island in the Sun (Weezer song)
Can’t Fight This Feeling (REO Speedwagon cover)
Sober Up (AJR cover)
The Good Life (Weezer song)
Slob (Weezer song)
(Girl We Got a) Good Thing (Weezer song)
Pink Triangle (Weezer song)
Cardigan Disaster (New song; live debut)
Getchoo (Weezer song)
Pig (Weezer song) (Live debut)
Talk Dirty to Me (Poison cover)
No Other One (Weezer song)
Falling for You (Weezer song)
Today (The Smashing Pumpkins cover)
In the Garage (Weezer song) (with Jason Cropper) (preceded by a brief tease of “My Name Is Jonas” by Cropper)
No One Else (Weezer song) (with Jason Cropper)
Why Bother? (Weezer song)
Across the Sea (Weezer song)

Encore:
Tired of Sex (Weezer song)

A Perfect Circle’s new album ‘Eat the Elephant’ plays a lot better live than its critics might think

A Perfect CirclePhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

A Perfect Circle with The Beta Machine //
Event Center at San Jose State University – San Jose
April 18th, 2018 //

Between their two performances at Coachella (read our festival review here) this month, alt-metal supergroup A Perfect Circle made a quick stop in the Bay Area last Wednesday to play the Event Center at San Jose State University as a follow-up to their 2017 gig in San Francisco at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (read our show review here).

With their fourth LP Eat the Elephant — their first in 14 years — dropping two days later, APC were eager to share their latest material, with half of the band’s 17-song set dedicated to cuts off the new album.

Opening the show on this night were The Beta Machine, founded by APC members Jeff Friedl (drums, percussion) and Matt McJunkins (bass, keyboards, vocals). The four-piece is rounded out by Claire Acey (keyboards, vocals) and Nicholas Perez (guitar, keyboards, vocals), and its synth-laden, somewhat soulful music served as a nice prelude for what was to come.

The Beta Machine


The Beta Machine

APC then followed, starting with the title track on their new full length as frontman Maynard James Keenan stood back center in the dark, coiffed in a pig-tailed wig, which has become his standard “look” with the band. Meanwhile, the group’s other founding member and principal songwriter Billy Howerdel (guitar, keyboards, vocals) stood near the front of the stage, directly across from McJunkins and to the left of Keenan, with Friedl to the left of the singer.

To Kennan’s right stood Greg Edwards, who, as Maynard took a moment to point out, is filling in for James Iha while Iha gets ready for The Smashing Pumpkins’ upcoming reunion tour this summer. Edwards is a founding member of both Failure and Autolux (two incredible bands if I may say so myself), and he has a long history working with Keenan. Failure have been booked to play with Tool several times over the years, dating as far back as 1993 when they opened for them in San Francisco at the gone-but-not-forgotten Trocadero Transfer, and then again at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in 2014.

In San Jose, APC sprinkled in songs from all three of their previous albums and included a stirring rendition of Depeche Mode’s “People Are People” toward the show’s midway point. Having had a chance to listen to the new album in advance, I was a skeptical of what I was going to be in for with the new tracks. However, I am happy to report that experiencing the new music live was a wholly different experience. The band breathed new life and enough vibrancy into the material to cast away any doubts that I previously had. But three Eat the Elephant tracks in particular that stood out to me were “The Contrarian”, “Talk Talk” and “Hourglass” before they hit the road next month for an extended U.S. and European tour that’s scheduled to run through the end of the year.

Setlist:
Eat the Elephant
Disillusioned
Weak and Powerless
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Rose
Thomas
People Are People (Depeche Mode cover)
3 Libras (All Main Courses Mix)
The Contrarian
TalkTalk
Hourglass
Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums
The Outsider
The Doomed
The Package
Gravity
Feathers

A Perfect Circle make their triumphant return to SF at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

A Perfect CirclePhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

A Perfect Circle with PRAYERS //
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco
April 13th, 2017 //

In the world of rock supergroups, there are few that have sprung up in the last few decades that can hold a candle to A Perfect Circle. From the onset, APC have been a powerhouse on the senses, combining members from bands such as Tool, The Smashing Pumpkins, Failure, Primus and more over the years. Their body of work has been met with high praise across the board, and they have been able to solidify themselves as one of the most unique and tenured groupings out there, as opposed to bands like Zwan and Velvet Revolver.

It was a bit of an earlier start for a show even with it being on a weekday, and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium was only half full through the opening act. Hailing from San Diego, Chicano electronic-rock duo PRAYERS, who describe their music as “Cholo goth” and are comprised of vocalist Rafael Reyes and producer/keyboardist Dave Parley, initially seemed like another one of APC frontman Maynard James Keenan’s side projects given how Reyes looked and behaved similarly to Keenan’s “Country Boner” persona that he assumes with Puscifer, but after taking a closer look, it was obvious that wasn’t the case. PRAYERS’ music was a sharp contrast to A Perfect Circle’s, but they did have some awesome lighting, which helped keep our attention. As their set ended, the venue had sufficiently filled up, which wasn’t unexpected given that the show had been sold out for weeks.

A Perfect Circle kicked off their headlining performance with a giant shroud in front of them and a rad backlight on each band member that created five different shadows. They opened the show with “The Package”, the first track from their sophomore studio album Thirteenth Step, which was a great way to build tension. As he usually does when performing with APC and Tool, Keenan opted to stand concealed in a dark area toward the back of the stage and centered between guitarist James Iha and drummer Jeff Friedl, who were also on their own platforms in addition to Keenan’s. Taking center stage was the band’s creator and guitarist Billy Howerdel, who along with bassist Matt McJunkins, kept the energy at a high level by moving around the front area of the stage from right to left throughout the evening.

A Perfect Circle

The Thirteenth Step-heavy set started with APC’s earlier tunes from their debut LP Mer de Noms before leading into the group’s awesome rendition of John Lennon’s timeless classic “Imagine”. Along the way, they ended up covering Brinsley Schwarz’s “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”, which ultimately wasn’t much of a surprise.

As the night moved along, Keenan managed to get a few quips in, at one point mentioning that he could smell the marijuana smoke permeating from the crowd. He even stopped the show at one point to give Iha a chance to tell some vaudeville-esque jokes, which included rimshots from Friedl. My favorite was “Where do penguins keep their money?” … “in a snow bank” (ba-doom, crash!).

Although I didn’t get to hear my favorite APC song (“3 Libras”), I was stoked that they played “Magdalena”, “The Hollow”, “Weak and Powerless” and “The Outsider”. They winded down with “Gravity”, and for the closer, APC treated the audience to a brand-new song that’s called “Feathers”. This hopefully means that the rumored new album on the way may be coming out sometime this year, after their tour ends with a grand finale of a show at the Hollywood Bowl. With this supergroup, you never know, but they’ve been great about surprising us in the past, so keep your eyes peeled for more new music on the horizon.

Setlist:
The Package
The Hollow
The Noose
Weak and Powerless
Rose
Imagine (John Lennon cover)
Thinking of You
By and Down
Thomas
(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding (Brinsley Schwarz cover)
Magdalena
Vanishing
Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums
A Stranger
Blue
The Outsider
Gravity
Feathers

Editor’s Note: A Perfect Circle debuted a new song titled “Hourglass” the following night at their April 14th concert in Reno, Nev.