As another year draws to a close, it brings the inevitable reflection on what's been, gone and might have been. Most album of the year lists seem predictably homogenised as Sufjan Misty Holter clog the upper echelons of almost every publication.
So thank goodness for the unpredictable nature of live shows. With constant touring now an acceptable necessity for being in a band, the opportunity to see one's favourite artists at least once a year grows. And that's before we even get on to the festival circuit, which in itself has become a customary part of the touring process.
What that means is it's now physically possible to see literally dozens of bands over the course of one weekend if you're that way inclined (and some of us are). Gone are the days where punters would sit on the front barrier waiting for that exclusive headliner. Particular when said headliners have also become ingrained within the circuit and the term "exclusive" means little more than promoters being contractually unable to announce them elsewhere until a certain percentage of tickets have been sold for the inaugural event.
Thankfully it has been another memorable year for live performances. While the furore of Kanye West headlining Glastonbury may have dominated many headines (if you don't like him go and watch something on one of the other 86 stages - simples innit), there were lots of other things happening equally if not more deserving of one's attention.
The unstoppable ascent of Wolf Alice, Ride's triumphant reunion and Fat White Family's emergence from debauched hedonists to serious contenders being three that spring to mind.
Without further ado, having watched somewhere in the region of 1500 bands this year, here's ten live shows that really stood out for me in 2015.
Peter Hook And The Light
@ Christ Church, Macclesfield. 18.05.15
With a high profile court case pending not to mention the first New Order record in a decade imminent, Peter Hook could be forgiven for resting on his laurels and taking a backseat this year. But then that wouldn't be in Hooky's nature to take such a stance. So instead of sitting in the background, he and his band The Light ramped up their profile somewhat instead. Having previously toured both Joy Division albums along with the first two New Order records Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies, he geared up for this autumn's tour of Lowlife and Brotherhood (long players 3 & 4 respectively) by announcing a mammoth gig at Christ Church in Macclesfield.
Exactly thirty-five years to the day of Ian Curtis's tragic passing, Hook chose an 18th Century church in the former Joy Division frontman's hometown to play three celebratory sets encompassing their entire back catalogue. Comprising 48 songs in total in just under four hours, Hook and his band played one of the most poignant yet exquisitely executed sets many of the 450 souls present would be fortunate enough to witness this or any other year.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
@ Glastonbury Festival (Crow's Nest stage). 26.06.15
If prizes were awarded on work ethics alone, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard would already have the gold medal safely tucked away in their lockers. Having released an average of two albums per year since first long player 12 Bar Bruise emerged in 2012, they also managed to cram three shows into twenty-four blistering hours at Worthy Farm.
While the early Friday afternoon show on the Park Stage set pulses racing for the Heavenly Records shindig in William's Green later that day, it was the post-midnight adrenaline fest at the tiny Crow's Nest that everyone spent the rest of the weekend talking about. Stage invasions, crowd surfers, power cuts and a general mass of sweaty bodies scattered all around the room as the Melbourne septet held it all together with a frenetic display of poise and power throughout.
Fusing everything from psychedelic rock, rhythm & blues to the most primal aspects of punk, their eclectic collage proved to be an undisputed highlight of the entire festival.
@ Best Kept Secret, Hilvarenbeek. 21.06.15
Sometimes a band's time arrives. Wolf Alice's undoubtedly started to ascend during 2014's Futurology tour with the Manic Street Preachers. Playing to audiences notoriously cynical at giving support bands a chance. They won crowds over night after night from Leicester to Manchester and beyond.
So this year would be the year that Wolf Alice broke. With debut album My Love Is Cool picking up a phenomenal wave of critical acclaim from pretty much every media outlet and audience numbers increasing tenfold at every subsequent show, their time is now.
Having witnessed them several times this year and been suitably impressed on every occasion, it proved difficult to select any one particular show. Both sets at Glastonbury were momentous affairs, while their completely sold out headline tour in March - a good two months before the album's release - already suggested great things lay ahead in the none too distant future.
However, the show that really stood out for me took place on a Sunday afternoon in a Dutch safari park. Taking the stage at the ridiculously early time of 1:30, Wolf Alice still managed to pack the 5000 capacity tent to its rafters while the entire crowd sung back pretty much every word for the entire duration of their forty-five minutes set. Arenas beckon and deservedly so, which makes memorable moments like this even more special to cherish in later years.
@ O2 Academy, Oxford. 05.04.15
When Mark Gardener told DiS in November of last year about Ride's frankly inevitable comeback it would be fair to say we did a little dance of joy that didn't stop until the first show. And what an incredible show it was. While it could be argued they'd become a much tighter beast musically by the time May's run of shows in London, Manchester and Glasgow came around not to mention October's breathtaking tour to commemorate Nowhere's 25th anniversary, that first night in Oxford will take some beating.
Playing on the site of their old stomping ground The Zodiac - nowadays known as the O2 Academy - Ride turned back the clock in style. It might have been their first show for twenty years but no one would have noticed. As the distinctive strains of 'Polar Bear' open the set, grown men are visibly crying. It's a truly emotional experience and one that doesn't let up until the bitter end.
Sure, reunions have become quite common place in recent years but none have felt quite so special or relevant as this one. Unfinished business and some.
A Place To Bury Strangers
@ The Bodega, Nottingham. 06.04.15
Sticking with that same Easter weekend as Ride chose to make their comeback, we're in Nottingham twenty-four hours later to see a band unashamedly inspired by the likes of Gardener, Bell and co. Indeed, it's perhaps somewhat inevitable for A Place To Bury Strangers to feature in this end of year round-up having found themselves heralded in similar fashion both last year and also two years prior.
Nevertheless, there is a reason for that and it's unlikely anyone who's ever seen one of the band's live shows would argue that they're something of an unparalleled phenomenon in the flesh. This year's excellent fourth long player Transfixiation set the scene somewhat, and while their back catalogue contains it's fair share of gems, it was the band's interpretation of the newer material that caused a stir.
Not just reliant on the deafening sonics APTBS have become renowned for over the years. There's now an electronic element to the live show that transports those present back to New York's celebrated Danceteria venue circa 1982. As a spectacle it was little short of sensational, and ably demonstrated why their colossal live shows are still held in such high regard across the globe.
Thousand Yard Stare
@ The Borderline, London. 06.06.15
That moment when a band you last saw twenty-two years ago reforms. A band that meant so much first time around for various reasons. A band you never expected to see sharing a stage again, even amidst the current trend for reformations. Thousand Yard Stare are that band. So when they announced a one-off show at London's Borderline this summer it would have felt wrong had I not been there.
What's more, they didn't disappoint. Turning in an exemplary performance befitting of a band in their prime, that one-off appears to have become a semi-permanent reunion. For the time being anyway. And with a new EP set it to be released early next year followed by a UK tour in the spring, the second coming of Slough's finest musical exports is happening in all its exuberant glory.
Pinkshinyultrablast / Flyying Colours / Eyre Llew
@ The Maze, Nottingham. 08.05.15
A night of firsts all round. Both Pinkshinyultrablast and Flyying Colours were embarking on their first European tours and as a result, visiting Nottingham for the first time too. While local experimentalists Eyre Llew were making their live debut this evening. What could possibly go wrong? Lots I guess, but thankfully it didn't.
Instead, what did happen was one of the finest evenings of live music to grace Nottingham throughout the whole of 2015. From Pinkshinyultrablast's sonic ambivalence to Flyying Colours effervescent shoegrunge and Eyre Llew's charming GY!BE-esque vignettes. This was a leftfield extravaganza of the highest quality and one that will linger on in the memory for many years to come.
@ The Great Escape (Black Lion), Brighton. 15.05.15
The Great Escape prides itself on being the largest new music festival in the whole of Europe. Yet this year yours truly was most excited about seeing a band who cut their first record over half a century ago.
Although only playing as a duo of Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent for this low key matinee set in the homely confines of Brighton's Black Lion - their main full band set would take place later in the evening on the pier. The two Zombies - Blunstone and Argent have a combined age of 140 years - played a flawless set that would put many bands a third of their ages to shame.
Focusing on a mixture of new material, the odd cover and of course, timeless classics like 'She's Not There' and 'Time Of The Season'. The Zombies delivered a masterclass of a performance that dominated the entire Great Escape weekend.
Fat White Family
@ Glastonbury Festival (Shangri Hell stage). 27.06.15
Never mind the hype that greeted Fat White Family's arrival three years ago. This year has seen them blossom into one of the finest live bands on these shores, albeit via a couple of line-up changes along the way. Still reviled (or should that be revered?) by some for their alleged debauchery, they've also been responsible for some of the finest shows these eyes have been fortunate enough to witness in 2015.
Having stolen the show at the Nottingham leg of Dot To Dot in May they repeated the fete not once but twice on the Saturday at Glastonbury. Triumphant on the Park Stage in the afternoon, it was their 4am slot in the Shangri Hell area of the site that really set them apart from the rest. 'Whitest Boy On The Beach', soon to be the first single from forthcoming second album Songs For Our Mothers got one of its first outings here and already sounded like their most accomplished piece of work to date. While old favourites 'Auto Neutron' and 'Touch The Leather' took on a whole new life of their own. Meatier, distinguished and dare I say it polished - in a musical sense at least. 2016 promises to be a big year for them.
The Lucid Dream
@ Night & Day Cafe, Manchester. 13.06.15
Hailing from Carlisle, The Lucid Dream have been one of the UK's finest exponents of psychedelic rock for a good few years. However, this year has seen them raise their game to inexplicable heights courtesy of their incredible self-titled second album.
Having already established themselves as one of the scene's most exciting live acts over the same period. Regulars at Liverpool's International Festival of Psychedelia will no doubt have come across them in recent times and therefore know where I'm coming from. They've also raised the bar several notches in that field too. As anyone present at their showstopping set during Manchester Psych Fest in the Night & Day cafe will testify.
Jaw-droppingly magnificent from start to finish. They look set to become one of the biggest names in the psych rock scene going forwards, and with performances like this to demonstrate their wares, there really is no limit to what they might achieve.
In what has been yet another truly remarkable year for live music, it would be wrong to sign off without giving a mention to some of those shows that just missed the top ten. Bryan Ferry's hit-laden set at Sheffield City Hall in May being one that springs to mind along with Interpol's dazzling show at The Roundhouse in February. Spiritualized's beautifully delivered performances at both Rockaway Beach and London Calling in October were of the highest calibre while The Chemical Brothers epic Sunday night finale on the Other Stage brought Glastonbury to an extravagant end.
Discuss: Which were your favourite live shows of 2015? Who are you most looking forward to seeing next year? Join the discussion over on our music forum
Fat White Family photo courtesy of Shaun Gordon.