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The Best Toronto Shows of 2016

From one of the country’s most iconic acts of all-time potentially hitting the stage for the last time to Australian rockers headlining a festival in the city…and to a certain radio station’s birthday party, 2016 saw its share of great live acts make their way through Toronto.

In no particular order, here’s a look at some of the best live shows in Toronto from 2016.

The Tragically Hip

August 10, 12, 14 – Air Canada Centre

The Tragically Hip’s summer of 2016 tour, whether it ultimately ends up being their final run or not, will go down in Canadian history as one of the most memorable live experiences of all-time.

The band hit the road in support of its Man Machine Poem record shortly after frontman Gord Downie revealed he had terminal brain cancer. For three nights in August, Hip fans came together at the Air Canada Centre to sing, celebrate, and cry as they took it all in for what may be the band’s last run.

James Blake

October 7 – Massey Hall

An unparalleled voice with some of the most technically complicated looping and effects performed live, James Blake is nothing short of a genius when it comes to performing.

Wolf Parade

May 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 – Lee’s Palace

A reunited Wolf Parade rocked Lee’s Palace for a five-night stand back in May, reminding fans that they’re one of the best live acts this country has produced in recent memory. For those left wanting more…it’s coming. The band recently announced that they’re back together in the studio working on a new record.

Sigur Ros

October 3 – Massey Hall

Sigur Ros brought their post-rock sounds to Toronto’s most iconic venue this past October as a three-piece. The stripped-down lineup turned out two sets accompanied by dreamlike visuals and an unreal lighting show.

Courtney Barnett

May 30 – Danforth Music Hall

Melbourne, Australia native Courtney Barnett has built quite a name off her live act. Devotees packed into Danforth Music Hall this past May for a taste of her infectious performance and they were not disappointed. It was a great moment when Barnett hit the stage for the encore with opening act The Sandwich Police frontman Evan Dando at her side.


October 15 – The Horseshoe Tavern

While Japandroids won’t deliver a new record until January of 2017, the Vancouver-based duo delivered a reminder to fans of what makes them so damn good in June at the Horseshoe. If there is a limit for how big a two-person band should sound live, Japandroids have eclipsed it.

Chance The Rapper

September 27 – Echo Beach

Chance The Rapper led fans through the best of his fantastic 2016 mixtape Coloring Book as well as a medley of his finest contributions to efforts from the likes of Kanye West and Action Bronson. He also had puppets.


July 25 – The Horseshoe Tavern

26-year-old New York-based singer-songwriter Mitski brought her brand of beautifully affected pop-rock melancholy to Toronto in July, showcasing why she’s earned a wealth of praise on the heels of her fourth record Puberty 2.

Tokyo Police Club

September 10 – Phoenix Concert Theatre

Indie88’s 3rd birthday party featured a performance by Tokyo Police Club, who brought their signature angular indie rock sound to the stage at The Phoenix. Maybe we’re biased, but that was a helluva party.


November 8 – REBEL

Foals is one of the most exhilarating live rocks bands out there, simply because the band refuses to have an off night. The band puts everything they have into the crowd each night, bringing out the same in the audience. Frontman Yannis Philippakis has called their live shows “animalistic” and “feral,” which is certainly an accurate way to describe their Toronto performance.

Tame Impala

June 11 – Bestival

Australian psych-rockers Tame Impala did not disappoint in their headlining turn at Bestival in June. The day’s hot temperatures subsided just in time for the band to hit the stage at Woodbine Park.


May 26 – Phoenix Concert Theatre

PUP have evolved rather rapidly from playing tiny local crowds in Toronto to something of an international sensation. Their May show at the Phoenix was one of our favourites from this past year to go along with a record that’s found its way into year-end best of lists from all corners of music coverage.

July Talk

October 29 – Danforth Music Hall

If we had to settle on one word to describe July Talk’s live performance, we would have to go with ‘explosive.’ Their October show at Danforth Music Hall was everything we could have hoped for in a homecoming from one of the city’s best acts.

Gord Downie

October 21 – Roy Thomson Hall

Gord Downie swapped his flashy Man Machine Poem attires and band for a dressed down turn at some incredible subject matter with his Secret Path project. The iconic Canadian singer-songwriter told the story of Chanie Wenjack, a boy a who died after escaping from an Ontario residential school. The October live performance was an emotional journey. Wenjack’s sister is on the record saying Downie is the “right person to tell the story.”

The National

June 4 – Field Trip

Ohio’s The National wowed the audience to close out Saturday night at Field Trip in June. In a moment close to the hearts of Torontonians, the band brought Hayden on stage to guest on “I Need My Girl”. Frontman Matt Berninger also told a story about Hayden’s music helping him through a difficult breakup.


May 14 – Phoenix Concert Theatre

Thankfully, Sloan extended its initial 2016 tour to include a Toronto date. The band played their 1996 album One Chord to Another in its entirety as part of a 20th anniversary of the landmark release.

Diarrhea Planet

September 28 – The Horseshoe Tavern

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to experience Nashville’s Diarrhea Planet live in any one of their stops at the Horseshoe then ask yourself “what am I doing with my life?” They’re a punk band with four lead guitarists and they brought their signature energy to the Queen Street staple this past September.

Stay tuned to Indie88.com over the holidays for our entire Best of 2016 series.
Up next: Overlooked Albums from 2016 (Friday, December 16)

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