Right, what follows is going to be a totally subjective list of my all time favourite gigs. That’s as much of a introduction as you’re getting.
1) Tricky at the London Astoria- July 99.
I’ve seen Tricky perform six times now. The 99 show came off the back of the Juxtapose album- far from his best work, and Martina Topley-Bird had flown the nest. However, that didn’t stop him delivering a performance of such fearsome intensity that people were kicking each other in the front row. I didn’t stop smiling for about a week after this one and I’d gone on my own.
Highlight: A crowd singalong during Christiansands
2) Radiohead at Westerpark, Amsterdam- July 2008
I’ve already blogged about this one elsewhere, so I’m not going to go on about it too much here. Compared to a week previously, in Hackney, this show was a completely different experience as the band toured In Rainbows.
Highlight: Lucky. It was, indeed, a glorious day.
3) Massive Attack at Brixton Academy- April 2003
I’ve seen the Bristolians a fair few times now, but this was the first time and it was very, very, special. I arrived just before 9pm to find low lights, an expectant crowd and music from Massive’s website filling the auditorium. As the digital clock on stage reached 9:15, the band hit the stage and there followed all the hits. And the songs from 100th Window. An incredible noise from a “dance” band.
Highlight: The lengthy crescendo of final track, Group Four.
4) Blur at the London Astoria, May 2003.
Purists may ask how it can be that I’d take Blur without Graham against the Hyde Park show in 2009, especially when me and Luke missed the opening Beetlebum. I’d answer that this was the first time, we got pretty close to the front of the stage and I’ll never ever forget bellowing along, arms aloft, to This Is A Low. There was also five minutes where I was fearful for my life when Blur played Crazy Beat, a shit song, but followed it with We’ve Got A File on You. Twice. A great night and, to top it all, nobody threw bottles at us.
Highlight: This Is A Low. Obviously.
5) PJ Harvey at Hammersmith Apollo- September 2004.
I could have gone for any of the 3 times I’ve seen PJ exercise her vocal chords in a live setting- they’ve all been breathtaking experiences, but this one nicks it mainly because it was the first gig Jo took me to. PJ looked stunning and she sounded amazing, reducing me to tears with the power of her voice within seconds. I still can’t hear Meet Ze Monsta without hearing Josh and Dingo thrashing the hell out of it as they did on that tour.
Highlight: Down By The Water. Wellll, it’s my favourite PJ tune…
6) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at the Troxy- November 2008.
I’ve not really got around to talking about the Bad Seeds at length yet, but suffice to say this show was a bit of an eye opener. Jo and I walked in familiar with just two or three albums. We walked out knowing that we had to get familiar with all of them. It’s difficult to believe that there’s any 50 something out there, rocking it as hard as Mr Cave does.
Highlight: Set opener Hold Onto Yourself was a stunning beginning, but the ferocity of Tupelo *ahem* nicks it.
7) Faithless at Alexandra Palace- April 2005.
Another gig that I’ve already talked about here. I think a show the previous year may have been better, but as this one was filmed for posterity, it is this one that will live in the memory. As Faithless were touring the greatest hits package we got- as Rob Newman might say- all the fuckin’ hits. We danced and jumped and pogoed till something like 2 in the morning, it felt like we could have gone on forever. A brilliant night.
Highlight: Sweaty me, sweaty Gabs, and sweaty Jimmy linking arms and der der der der-der-der- derring along to Sister Bliss and her keyboard bit in we Come 1.
8) Portishead at the Hammersmith Apollo- April 2008.
In 2004, I’d almost given up hope of ever seeing Portishead play live. In 2005, Jo and I got to see them return to the live stage for a short set together with Massive Attack for a Crisis in Asia gig. In 2008, they released a new album, toured it and within 5 minutes of the gig starting had suffered a technical failure. Starting with Third album opener Silence and finishing with the brilliant We Carry On, this gig was very much as hoped for.
Highlight: The stripped back, beautiful, Wandering Star that went straight into the clattering Machine Gun.
9) The Specials at Brixton Academy- May 2009
We weren’t gonna go to this one, me and Jo- depsite being huge fans. It just seemed wrong without Jerry Dammers leading the band. However, two weeks beforehand, Jimmy revealed that he could get two spares if we wanted them and we decided, what the hell. Arriving at the Academy just before the gig began, the excitement was palpable, the venue was rammed and Fred Perry wearing skinheads (some not through choice I think ) were right up for this. Beginning with Do The Dog, we got all the hits- Ghost Town and Blank Expression outstanding, and never stopped dancing once. Well, I did- I had to go to the toilet.
Special Moment: The dub breakdown during Man At C&A- awesome.
10) The National at Columbiahalle- February 2011
The most recent entry in this list. Denied the chance to see them three months previously, this show more than made up for it. Matt and Aaron’s good natured banter with the audience would have counted for little had the gig not been so… perfect. I discovered a National classic at this gig, the lovely Wasp’s Nest. Start A War was a perfect start to the gig whilst the three song salvo of Conversation 16, Afraid of Everyone and Squalor Victoria was about as good as life gets.
Highlight: Abel- this came on top of the aforementioned three song salvo and topped the lot.