Taking stock: two years of live music in Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s live music scene was one of the main attractions for us when we moved there from Geneva in June 2009. In the last two years I’ve been to around fifty gigs, mostly at the Paradiso and Melkweg, two of Europe’s great music venues. With our return now to Geneva I thought it’d be fun to take stock: certainly there were many forgettable evenings in there, but also many really good gigs and a handful that will live long among my favourites. The full list is below, but the ones that rose above all the others for me were, in no particular order:

  • Laura Veirs: six months pregnant, singing with her band in the small room upstairs in the Paradiso. A polished performance of intelligently crafted songs.
  • The Swell Season: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova with a few of The Frames, holding the Paradiso in the palm of their hands. I’ve never experienced so much silence, so much respect for musicians in Amsterdam.
  • Josh Ritter: I’ve seen him three times over the last two years, twice with his band for entertaining full sets. But the best was his solo set in support of the Swell Season, when he too commanded the silence and respect of a packed Paradiso with just his guitar.
  • Tunng: quirky, rootsy pop songs performed with a real sense of fun; watching the percussionist at work was worth the ticket price alone.
  • Nada Surf: my first time to see this band who I knew had a great live reputation. All I can say is that it’s well deserved – they rocked the Oude Zaal at the Melkweg with their harmony-laden, guitar-driven pop. Brilliant!
  • The Tallest Man on Earth: brilliant on both occasions I saw him. Intricate acoustic guitar and passionate singing, with a larger than life stage presence. Strongly recommended viewing.

Also worth mentioning are great gigs from Iron & Wine, Bright Eyes, Bell x1, Villagers and DeVotchKa.

The full list – two years of gigs in Amsterdam

I’ve included links to my own reviews of the gigs, which I only started doing in March 2010.

And lots of fun evenings and afternoons with various artists from the Amsterdam Songwriters Guild, including Case Mayfield, Lake Montgomery, Ro Halfhide, Max Vanremmerden, Luke Nyman, Chinup, Amarins & la Gatte Negre, and many, many more!