1. Legends of Ska (July 13, Palais Royale)
The true greats, Derrick Harriott, Stranger Cole, Prince Buster and Lord Tanamo, tore up the dance floor with a marathon set of ska faves. The real action was at the side of the stage, where Tanamo and Harriott skanked along with pie-sized grins while Buster sang his heart out. Class.
2. Khaled (February 16, Massey Hall)
The Algerian Elvis whipped the crowd into a lather with a storming show featuring lithe Arabic pop, elastic vocalizing and stage invasions from fans who cozied up to Khaled while friends in the audience snapped photos.
3. Nick Cave with NEKO CASE (April 28, Kool Haus)
There's nothing like having an opening act who can really sing to raise Nick Cave's game. Neko Case, hitting notes like never before, was all the encouragement St. Nick needed to let loose with a furiously fiery display never before seen in Toronto.
4. SHARON JONES & The DAP-KINGS (August 21, Rivoli)
As great as the Dap Dippin' With Sharon Jones And The Dap-Kings album was, Ms. Jones claimed it was nothing compared to what we would see onstage at the Rivoli. True to her word, the hard-shouting Brooklyn burner surpassed all expectations, rocking the house for two sweat-soaked hours of fearsome funk.
5. THE RAPTURE with FRoM FICTION (June 15, Kytes)
Most people at Kytes expected the Rapture to be great, and they were. However, no one had any idea that the slouchy locals calling themselves From Fiction would actually blow the well-hyped headliners back to New York with their ferocious instro-punk attack. Not bad for their third show.
6. young and Sexy (June 7, Rancho Relaxo)
Despite the claustrophobic confines of an insanely packed, swelteringly hot Rancho, the only swooning that occurred was over the BC popsters' ass-kicking performance.
7. MR. Quintron and Miss Pussycat (November 26, Tequila Lounge)
Overjoyed by his pre-show discovery of cheap furniture casters at Honest Ed's, New Orleans oddball organist Mr. Quintron gleefully fired up his Drum Buddy device and proceeded to whip the crowd into an ecstatic frenzy.
8. Convoy Cubano (November 28, Lula Lounge)
One of many blinding shows at the new club of the year fused traditional Cuban music with hiphop and reggae. The sound of the Buena Vista dancehall.
9. BRIGHT EYES (September 15, Horseshoe)
The clowns-in-a-Volkswagen spectacle of the extended Bright Eyes family orchestra on the wee 'Shoe stage was entertaining in itself, but Conor Oberst justified the ridiculous overkill with gut-wrenchingly gorgeous indie rock symphonies and crumbling prom ballads.
10. THEY MIGHT BE GIANtS (August 23, Lee's Palace)
An evening of singing along to tunes for kids and grown-ups alike. Gotta love that dial-a-drum solo.