15. Bastille at Great American Music Hall – Sept. 19. This was the second of three Bay Area shows Bastille had in 2013. The first was at Popscene; their first tour show in America, and frontman Dan Smith was feeling very sick. His voice cracked at times and he hid as far away from the crowd as possible. It was not bad at all, yet Smith kept apologizing before the show was cut short. When the quartet returned, you could tell the difference in Smith’s health by his demeanor. He worked the stage, sang in higher registers and his bandmates did not seem as protective of his as the initial show. This band has the potential to reach Imagine Dragons’ commercial success in the U.S.
14. Zac Brown Band at BottleRock Napa Valley – May 12. I’d not seen ZBB at all before this show, figuring it wasn’t my style. But at BottleRock, they infused country with a dollop of pop and rock, throwing in covers such as the one below, and even Metallica. And it didn’t sound horrible; it was quite fun. There’s a lot happening on stage at a ZBB show, and none of it distracted from the whole.
13. Mumford & Sons at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley – May 30. A few days after this show, Mumford bassist Ted Dwayne had a blood clot on his brain that required emergency surgery and the postponement of the rest of the tour. No one knew that here, though. The English quartet was in an easygoing mood, cracking crass jokes and engaging a varied audience.
12 San Cisco at Rickshaw Stop (Popscene) – April 4. The young Australian quartet is very fun live. The energy they bring is communicated to their fan base, which is now in its infancy in the U.S. They are a band to watch for the next couple of years for me.
11. Arcade Fire at Not So Silent Night (Oracle Arena) – Dec. 7. The highly anticipated return of one of the world’s biggest bands. Arcade Fire will return to the Bay Area next summer, but this was a good chance to see them from up close without cashing in your college fund for fan club seats. After some stellar openers, such as Bastille, Phoenix and Lorde, Win Butler and Co. had a lot to live up to on this night, and they did it by focusing on the new music rather than the hits. This is a band that still hasn’t peaked.
NEXT: 10 THROUGH 6.