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Our favourite live performances of 2017

Editorial Staff


December 15, 2017


For a full day of live music, tune in to Radio 2 on Dec. 26 and Jan. 1 to hear artists like Serena Ryder, k.d. lang, Daniel Caesar, Blue Rodeo, Ruth B and more bring music to life from stages and studios all across the country. Music Comes Alive is CBC Music’s ultimate celebration of live, Canadian performances as we gear up for the 2018 Juno Awards, coming to CBC on March 25.

Looking back on all the live sessions we recorded this year, the list is impressive.

From newly minted Grammy nominee Rose Cousins doing a First Play Live to Arkells and Randy Bachman paying tribute to Neil Young at the Songwriters Hall of Fame to international superstar Passenger being backed by q’s Tom Power on banjo, we have been lucky to capture a lot of special moments. Below is a selection of our favourites from the past year.

With notes from Andrew Alba, Nairi Apkarian, Jacquie Lee and Reuben Mann.

Whitehorse, 'Die Alone'

Known for being a killer band live, wife-husband duo Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet seriously slay in their performance of this song from their latest album, Panther in the Dollhouse, for their First Play Live. Watch the song in its entirety — you'll be mesmerized by the slow buildup and the eventual catharsis.

Emily Haines, 'Planets'

Really, Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton’s full concert is a theatrical event that we recommend watching as a whole. If you must choose one song though, watch “Planets”: it's the gorgeous opening song to this next-level performance of new material from Haines's latest album, Choir of the Mind.

William Patrick Corgan, 'After the Gold Rush' (Neil Young cover)

William Patrick Corgan, a.k.a. Billy Corgan, singer from '90s alt-rock band the Smashing Pumpkins, performed this classic Neil Young song live in Studio q. He had just released his second solo album, Ogilala, in October, and talked to q host Tom Power about going back to basics and finding his true self.

Pierre Kwenders, 'Welele'

Known for his amazing performances, this First Play Live with Pierre Kwenders was no exception. His band was on point, he sang in no fewer than four languages, and treated us to some incredible dancing and drumming throughout.

Allan Rayman, '13'

The R&B/soul singer performed an acoustic version of “13” from his latest album, Roundhouse 01, in February in CBC Toronto’s Studio 211 for a First Play Live. Over the course of this year, the nuanced, intimate performance has become one of the most-watched videos on our Youtube channel.

Rose Cousins, 'Lock and Key'

Prince Edward Island-born, Halifax-based singer-songwriter Rose Cousins just earned her first Grammy nomination: her album Natural Conclusion is up for best engineered album, non classical category — and with good reason. Her First Play Live was one of our favourites from this year, featuring a stellar backup band performing gorgeous versions of her new songs. “Lock and Key” was a definite highlight, capturing the longing and emotional tone of the session.

William Prince & Elisapie Isaac, 'Stolen Land' (Bruce Cockburn cover)

One of our favourite parts of the 2017 Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame induction ceremony was William Prince and Elisapie Isaac's cover of Bruce Cockburn's “Stolen Lands.” It was a stirring tribute to one of our country's greatest songwriters, and stands out on a night full of fantastic performances.

Boogát, 'Au Revoir Mexico'

Boogát, the Quebec musician known for blending hip-hop with Latin music styles, came into CBC Toronto’s Studio 211 to perform songs from his brand new album San Cristobal Baile Inn (he also sat down for an interview with us, for the full stream of the album). Boogát wrote the album over a year spent in Mexico City, and “Au Revoir Mexico” is the last track — and the only one sung in French. It’s a song about missing his former home: joyful and sad and danceable, all at the same time.

Milk & Bone, 'Deception Bay'

The rising Montreal duo recently performed at the Mahjong Bar in Toronto for a First Play Live preview of their hotly anticipated upcoming album. This was the first time Milk & Bone played the title track live, and it left us wanting more.

Passenger, 'Hearts on Fire' feat. Tom Power

This stirring performance with English star Passenger of the song “Hearts on Fire” is where q host Tom Power started a new tradition of playing music with guests. After that, he'd play with Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Bros, the Sheepdogs — and even have an impromptu sing-along with Diana Krall.