I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. It’s been something that I’ve been looking fiorward to writing for some time. As I sat down to write it twenty minutes ago, a thought ocurred to me. Namely this:
What the fuck is the point in writing a blog like this? Anyone’s who’s read my blog this year will know, pretty much, what my favourite gigs have been, especially as I haven’t really been to that many in comparison to some.
Well, I guess the point is, having thought about it for a little, that I would like to remind myself of some of the brilliant shows I have seen this year. And pay tribute, once again to the musicians who, for a couple of hours each, lit up my life with their musical brilliance. There will, you’ll be shocked to hear, be no mention of The Kills recent show, even if their recent appearance on the Jo Wiley Show on Sky Arts (and in particular, a blistering version of Future Starts Slow) made me wonder if I wasn’t a little harsh on them. I wasn’t. Incidentally, our mate Jen was at that gig with us, as well as the Arctic Monkeys gig in October and thought that it was better than the Arctics! A genuine fist in mouth moment. My mouth, not Jen’s. I’m not sure Jo could have taken me punching her best mate.
So, without further ado, here we go. And in artificially dramatic reverse order too.
Number 5- The Arctic Monkeys, The O2, October 29th.
Set against the background of what was, for me, a very disappointing 4th album. This show had the potential, it seemed, to start a war. That it didn’t is possibly down to the fact I was just getting over a chest infection. And the fact that, however much I might feel Alex Turner and co have (temporarily, I hope) lost sight of what makes them so exciting, they can still play. From the opening playground menace of Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair to the achingly nostalgic closer, 505, this was an absolutely superb show. Rarely can such a big arena have felt so small.
Set highlight: Dance Little Liar
Number 4- PJ Harvey, Troxy, February 28th.
Polly Jean is currently picking up garlands all over the place for Let England Shake. There’s a reason for that. As her live show at the Troxy demonstrated, the songs on this anti war album are some of the most powerful of her career. She began her show with 5 tracks from the new album and didn’t say hello to her, adoring, audience until the encore began. But the songs allowed her to get away with it. Long time collaborators Mick Harvey and John Parish demonstrated their importance in a low key way and, as it should be, the band were never more important than the songs. An absolutely stunning show. And voice.
Set highlight: On Battleship Hill
Number 3- Grinderman, Alexandra Palace, July 24th.
Grinderman are finished now, Nick Cave announced in the last couple of weeks. A shame, for me. I don’t know if I would ever have gotten into Nick Cave in the way that I did were it not for the seminal track, No Pussy Blues. Anyway, this performance, which was part of the Portishead curated I’ll Be Your Mirror Festival- just- took top honours from the headliners. Cave was in riotous form, the songs were short, sharp and very loud in an intense old hour. If I won’t quite take it to the grave with me, then the memory of Nick humping a keyboard during Kitchenette, will stay with me for a very long time. As will his screaming “I JUST WANNA RELAX!” over and over. I’m glad I got to see that before they went.
Set highlight: Errrrr, Kitchenette maybe?
Number 2- Pulp, Brixton, August 31st.
I’d waited years, 13 to be precise, for this show. It didn’t disappoint. With the full complement restored to action and a summer of festival headlining behind them, the Sheffield band weren’t just cooking on gas, they were firing on rocket fuel. I think, in any other year, Jarvis and co were so impressive that they would easily take top honours for the year. That they haven’t is nothing to do with the warmest frontman I’ve seen for some time (I’m not talking about his jacket removal either) or the quality of his songs. All these years later, Something Changed, Wickerman and, in particular, This Is Hardcore have lost none of their power. An electrifying show.
Set highlight: Wickerman (just because I never thought I’d get it)
And, at number one….
The National, Berlin Columbiahalle, 25th February
Ok, so you probably guessed it was going to be this one, right? What can I say? Snow denied us their Brixton show last year and so we went somewhere even colder (but with a much better transport system) to see our new favourite band. It was more than worth the wait. And the travel. And the cold. They started with the best opening track to a gig I’ve ever heard, Start A War, and by the time they concluded a run of songs that went Squalor Victoria, Afraid Of Everyone and Conversation 16, I half suspected that this, the first gig of 2011 might just prove to be the best one. Abel and the gorgeous Wasp Nest confirmed it, even an unscheduled toilet break for singer Matt “All The Wine” Berninger couldn’t break the spell. A truly magical night.
Set highlight: Afraid Of Everyone. Just for the intro.
So that’s mine. What are yours and what have you got to look forward to in the new year? Camden jaunts for Roots Manuva and Ghostpoet are already booked up and I look forward to them with great excitement.