2006's best concerts weren't given by the usual suspects. Granted, sudden Brazilian buzzkids CSS topped our list, and Brit stadium-fillers Bloc Party didn't disappoint, but for the most part the shows that stood out featured underrated artists. Maybe Pete Townshend was right - why shell out to see aging dinosaurs when you can catch some of the best shit in the world on tiny rock club stages?
1 CSS, DIPLO, BONDE DO ROLE (Mod Club Theatre, July 14)
Brazilian electro-punks CSS brought an energy to their live performance that had only been hinted at in recordings, immediately justifying the hype and their deal with Sub Pop. Philly-based DJ Diplo's set kept the partying going into the wee hours with an eclectic collage of flavours.
2 KONONO NO. 1 (Harbourfront Centre, July 8)
Forget Tiesto, Armin van Buuren or any other Dutch dramatist. The new kings of trance are an industrious group of Congolese senior citizens. Using scrap metal likembes, makeshift mics and junkyard amps, they held a joyous waterfront crowd spiral-eyed and dancing for 90 non-stop minutes with their seamless narrative of pulsating rhythm, vocal chants and intersecting melodies. A totally tribal and spiritual dance music experience that wasn't the least bit ravey.
3 BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE (Kool Haus, January 21)
It's hard to rely on a band that sees itself as constantly on the verge of collapse, and Broken Social Scene's internal dramas have made their once-incendiary shows increasingly hit-or-miss. But those lucky enough to witness the second half of Broken's two-night Kool Haus stand got to see the amorphous musical collective at their shimmering, shambling best, with all the stops (and every auxiliary member, from k-os to Sebastian Grainger ) pulled out. Killer enough to remind you why you loved them before they were famous.
4 DILATED PEOPLES with LITTLE BROTHER (Phoenix, March 10)
It was clear from the moment Dilated Peoples stepped onstage during this frosty March show that Evidence had a fever or flu or something - he sounded raspier than a Mafia don on his deathbed. Still, the MC kept the energy at 10 alongside the dynamic Rakaa and the virtuousic DJ Babu . Using every trick in the hiphop book, they padlocked the crowd.
5 KING KHAN (Silver Dollar/Comfort Zone, June 8-10)
Bawdy, burlesque, voodoo soul music, this was the magic of Berlin-via-Montreal shapeshifting former Spaceshitter King Khan, whose ragtag 10-piece orchestra summoned up unholy rawness for the three consecutive nights of NXNE. Punk rock as expressed through classic R&B, with a go-go dancer thrown in for good measure - the sweatiest spectacle of oh-six.
6 MALAJUBE, FIVE BLANK PAGES and BOCCE (Lee's Palace, November 25)
Despite being from Montreal, Malajube chose Toronto to celebrate their 100th gig of 2006. And celebrate they did. Smashed guitars, busted mic stands, spontaneous crowd surfing and incendiary power pop capped off a year of shows and proved that this francophone fivesome can do more than just release kick-ass albums.
7 DIXIE CHICKS (Air Canada Centre, October 28)
Though the inane partisan politricks around the Dixie Chicks' latest disc overshadowed the music, their triumphant stadium-sized spectacular (timed to coincide with the release of Barbara Kopple's Shut Up And Sing doc) was proof that the trio have developed the talent and tunes to carry their free speech pseudo-revolution. With their Rick Rubin-ized sonic shift from blue state twang to red state roots rock, the Chicks played to a crowd that filled the ACC with roars as Natalie Maines confidently belted out both anti-Bush anthems and feel-good tunes about motherhood. Though the positive energy was heartwarming, the show's real strength was the three members' estimable musical chops.
8 HIPHOP HISTORY CLUB (El Mocambo, April 29)
A long lineup of Toronto's rap underground stars (including Eternia , Masia One , Scandalis , Abdominal , etc) congregated for a night of pure love for rap's golden era. The MCs' fervour and an audience familiar with every track combined to deliver a stimulating lesson in Hiphop History, each performer tagging the next on, variety-show-style.
9 BLOC PARTY (Olympic Island, June 24)
The lone non-North American act on Broken Social Scene's annual indie rock Island party bill all but made up for the event's practical gaffes (crappy ferry service, insane beer tent lineups, no shelter on a sweltering day) with an impassioned, pounding preview of tracks from their massively anticipated sophomore disc. Frontman Kele Okereke 's unexpected charisma engaged a heatstroke-slammed crowd of thousands to scream just as loudly for new cuts as they did for cult hits like This Modern Love. Bloody beautiful.
10 MC CUIZINIER, DJ ORGASMIC (Drake Hotel Underground, August 11)
Parisian MC Cuizinier from the TTC crew rocked the basement of the Drake with that improbable but great Euro-crunk sound and had people singing along without prompting despite the language barrier. Those French classes we took came in handy after all.