1 Coldplay Molson Amphitheatre, June 11 Chris Martin and the lads whipped out every stupid rock star trick in the book, from piano-humping to Pink Floyd lights 'n' projections, delivering an old-fashioned, blistering, balls-out rawk show. And they shilled for pet cause Oxfam to boot! Who you callin' sissy Brits?
2 Broken Social Scene & Stars Lee's Palace, June 12 2003 was the year Broken Social Scene blew up on international stages, and they killed at a staggering number of local gigs as well. At this one, each satellite act in the extended BSS family got a chance to shine. Leslie Feist smoked the crowd with seductively slinky soul rock from her upcoming Arts & Crafts release, and buddies Stars almost upstaged the Scene with a transcendental display that had the entire jaded hipster crowd on their feet. In the end, though, it was the warmly explosive love of the headliners that made you leave the club feeling you'd had a religious experience.
3 NATHANIEL MAYER & THE SHANKS Graffiti's and the Silver Dollar, July 11 Backed by the Shanks, legendary Detroit R&B belter Nathaniel Mayer was in shockingly great form as he shouted and shimmied his way through a selection of his Fortune label classics like a young buck at the tightly packed Graffiti's. For an encore, he took the Shanks over to the Silver Dollar and cut loose for another hour of sweaty, hip-shaking fun.
4 The Constantines, the arcade fire, jim guthrie Horseshoe, October 11 A year of touring left the Cons in top form for their two-night CD release stand at the 'Shoe. Few white men are able to muster the bleeding soul contained in just one of Bry Webb's guttural growls, but the addition of a horn section and keyboardist jacked the gospel vibe even higher. Openers Jim Guthrie and Montreal's Arcade Fire (who overcame technical glitches with an awesome Super Mario theme song improv) rose to the occasion as well.
5 MONEEN Velvet Underground, June 5 High-energy opening sets by the Candidates and the Illuminati were all the incentive Moneen needed for their NXNE 2003 showcase. The Brampton emocore crew exploded in an arm-flailing attack while frontman Kenny Bridges pinballed off the walls with giddy glee. A brilliant display.
6 AC/DCDownsview Park, July 30 As if watching impatient bikers pelt a desperate Justin Timberlake with water bottles wasn't entertaining enough, the Aussie icons pulled off a tour de force that blew mummified headliners Mick 'n' Keef outta the ballpark. Perpetual schoolboy Angus Young clinched the deal when he dropped trou to reveal a pair of maple-leaf-emblazoned boxers.
7 Sharon Jones & the dap kings Rivoli, October 4 Prowling the stage with the energy of someone half her age, Jones once again destroyed the capacity crowd with her down-and-dirty take on funk and classic R&B.
8 The Weakerthans El Mocambo, August 26 The lineup of eager indie punk kids itching to get into this free afternoon show stretched all the way to the Royal Bank machine, and with good reason. The unassuming Winnipeg folk-punks played to the young'uns congregated around the open windows, harnessing the inimitable energy of a sweaty, packed club of pogoing underage music fans to debut the excellent tunes from their new Reconstruction Site disc.
9 Mary Gauthier Hugh's Room, July 10 Good country music is all about givin' good story, and boy did Gauthier deliver. Spicing up her frill-free ditties and plainspoken delivery with folksy anecdotes, the Loo-siana roots belter transformed the Hugh's Room vibe from stuffy dinner-theatre to seedy hole-in-the-wall Southern truck stop. Deliciously raw.
10 Duran Duran Kool Haus, November 14 Chicks were screaming so loud you thought they were gonna puke. The band was still adorable, and everyone knew all the words to all the tunes. Like being 12 all over again -- but drunker.