Monday, December 29, 2008

Best (and worst) live music of 2008

My musical 2008 has been defined as much by live music as by albums - I've attended more than twice as many gigs as I've bought 2008 albums - anyway, here are some of my highlights (and low points) of this year for me.

Most hard-rocking gig by a newish band
Cardiff's finest, The Reasoning, when they blew the roof off the Limelight Club in Crewe. I've seen this band six times this year, and they've never disappointed. This one was the best of the six. This band may not be on people's radar screens yet, but they ought to be. One of their songs is on the #2s playlist.

Most hard-rocking gig by a bunch of grizzled veterans
The mighty Uriah Heep at Manchester Academy 2. They were good the last couple of times I've seen them playing greatest hits sets. This time they took the gamble of playing their new album "Wake the Sleeper" in it's entirety, which might have flopped if the album hadn't been up to scratch. But with an excellent album, it turned into a triumph.

Most emotionally moving gig
This has to be Breathing Space at Mansfield. This was about two weeks after the death of singer Olivia Sparnenn's father Howard from a brain tumour. The whole show was intensely moving, especially the final encore of the Mostly Autumn song "The Gap is Too Wide". Not long after this I lost my temper with a Guardian journalist who insisted that "Amy Winehouse is an icon because she can articulate pain and heartbreak in her songs". He just doesn't get it.

Most totally bonkers gig
Has to be The Mars Volta at Manchester Apollo. A three hour set, no support, no interval, and they played right up to the curfew without going off and coming back for an encore. And the whole thing was one continuous jam. Despite owning all four of their studio albums, I recognised very little of what they actually played. It was intense, complex and very, very loud. Even after nine months I'm still not quite sure what to make of it.

Worst performance by a so-called classic artist.
Andy Fairweather-Low at the Cambridge Rock Festival. "I'm a great sixties icon - you have to bow down and worship me". Reminded me of The Kinks at the 1981 Reading Festival in 1981, and not in a good way. Tedious set of 50s and 60s covers, made no attempt to connect with the audience, and gave me the impression he was was playing for the benefit of Radio Caroline rather than the people in the hall.

The gig that didn't actually happen
Panic Room at the Peel where the power failed, and we didn't get any music apart from 20 minutes of the support band. Fortunately I did get to see the excellent Panic Room a further three times, and there's a rematch of the cancelled gig on January 31st next year - see you there?

So what are your live highlights, or low points of the year?


gremlinfc said...

Sheffield has a cosy little venue called the "Plug" and my best gigs were all there (packs about 200 in top whack - very tight and sweaty at times) in 2008:
* Jeffrey Lewis
* Roots Manuva
Gig that didn't happen (for me) = Jarvis Cocker - was on guest list but was stewards.
Hope to see more in 2009.

FP said...

One gig head and shoulders above the others - Merz and Her brightest diamond. A real bijou of a concert. Catherine Ringer of Les Rita Mitsouko blew us away too. Worst was vampire week end cos I had tonsilitis and didn't make it - very disappointed.

Abahachi said...

Oh no, not another anodyne cover version; naturally I prefer the original.

Have to confess that for various reasons I didn't make it to any gigs this year...

Tim (Kalyr) said...

Ah, somebody actually reads my own blog :)

You didn't make it to a single gig? Sounds like me a few years back - I was averaging one gig a year for the best part of a decade, then three or four years ago I started going to gigs again.

DarceysDad said...

Best this year? Motorhead - initially for the nostalgia kick, but in the event, it was possibly the best I've ever seen them (and you're talking to someone who goes all the way back to Overkill).

Worst? A cop-out, but Saxon at the same gig. Never could stand them, and even 30 years of experience hasn't improved them.

Biggest disappointment? Not making it to Alabama3 and Echo & The Bunnymen for free at Bingley Myrtle Park (only 10 miles away) in the summer.

Re lack of gig-going in general: become par for the course with me since the kids were born and our household income has, during the same period, fallen by two-thirds.

Keep trying to persuade me, everyone. It helps me find out what's going on out there, and I tend to concentrate on gigs I won't be on my own at.

Tim (Kalyr) said...

Never seen Mötorhead live - how many days did it take for your hearing to come back?

I think I've already mentioned Panic Room @ Stocksbridge on Friday 13th March. Not 100% certain I'll make that one myself yet - anyone else thinking of going to this one?

gremlinfc said...

Stocksbridge ? That really is the arse end of nowhere. If you are prepared to go to a gig there then you deserve some sort of award. In fact you are the winner of the inaugural "Going to a gig (or not in your case - possibly)in the arse end of nowhere" - well done . Mind you i've just talked mesen into going too, so see you there.

Tim (Kalyr) said...

If you think Stocksbridge is the arse end of nowhere, you haven't been to places like Lydney in Gloucestershire, or Howden in North Yorkshire, both of which I've been to for gigs in 2008.

Makes places like Mansfield and Bilston look like the centres of civilisation, they do...

GarethI said...

I went to Blackburn on a Sunday a couple of years back - in other words, since we've had Sunday trading. And it really was shut. Kind of the one-horse town's one-horse town.

High points
Bon Iver at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. As warm and rich in public as the album is stark.
Elbow and Fleet Foxes at Meltdown. FF played to a quarter-full Queen Elizabeth Hall but blew the minds of the people who heard them. It was a hard act for Elbow to follow, but they did. Bloody hell, they did. From the trumpeters in the boxes for Starlings, the choir – Guy Garvey asked the 40-ish strong group “Can I just call you Frank? I can’t remember your names”, and they replied out of synch – and the audience coming to the front of the stage for the final song, One Day Like This – it was fantastic.
The Ethiopiques tour. If you’ve heard that amazing saxophone track on Broken Flowers, you’ve heard Mulatu Asatqué, one of the artists who played that night – but watching Mahmoud Ahmed, who looks more like a well-fed accountant until he starts to perform, getting the Barbican dancing in the aisles and doing call-and-response in a language we didn’t understand… they looked as amazed as we did.
Hot Chip taking the roof off at The Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton. It was the first time they’d played there, the crowd were up for it, it was a Friday night, and it rocked.
My Bloody Valentine. Not only did they completely change my idea of what loud is, but about an hour in, some bloke at the bar started shouting requests. Now that’s what I call optimism.
A surprisingly funky Radiohead at Victoria Park.

Low points
The sound for Ladytron at SBE. It was like listening to them, but through a car stereo, at full volume, with the car windows shut.
The table of ar$eholes talking over fingerpicking guitarist James Blackshaw at The Harrison Arms in November. My five-year old niece has more idea than they did about how to behave when you’re out. Blackshaw felt the need to apologise for them.
File under similar behaviour: Broken Social Scene, SBE again. Kevin Drew asked, nicely, for quiet to play a solo version of Lovers’ Spit. He didn’t get it. “You failed the test, London.”

Lastly, me, my mate and his girlfriend saw Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden play one night. Ronnie wants to write country songs but can’t get past the titles, because they say it all. Especially the tribute to his favourite singer, I Call My Willie Nelson ‘Cos He’s Only Got One Eye.

DarceysDad said...

@ Tim - re hearing from Motorhead in November: what? Did you say something?! No, seriously, I can tell I'm getting older, it DID take a day or two to lose the aural barrage effect.

Re Panic Room - depends on how the finances are when I get back from Florida at the end of Feb.

@ Gareth - King George's Hall in Blackburn has been previously nominated by me as the least rock'n'roll venue I know, but as for a whole town ... have you ever been to Stranraer and missed the ferry??

Blimpy said...

Donds for the bonkers Mars Volta live experience.

GarethI said...

DsD, I haven't, but by the sounds of it that's my gain...
Blimpy, speak to their agent. That has to be the name of the next tour.

Mnemonic said...

In chronological order:

First the good ones:

Explosions in the Sky at the Astoria. Even one of the amps went up in flames!

American Music Club at Dingwalls. Bumped into Mark68 there; he can vouch for this one.

An absolutely bonkers Chili Gonzales at ICA

ATP at Camber Sands; in rapid succession Shit & Shine, Fuck Buttons and Bon Iver. Weekend finished with Harmonia playing with much better sound quality than they'd had at QEH and fitting the space perfectly.

Doveman with Nic Muhly and Sam Amidon at Cafe Oto. This would have been the gig of the year if not for...

Leonard Cohen at RAH. Worth every penny of the £100 ticket. I still have his songs going through my head now.

Biggest disappointment:

Butthole Surfers at ATP, Minehead in December. Maybe I'd heard too much about how good they were supposed to be live but they seemed second-rate and well past their sell-by date.

Biggest surpise:

Also at ATP in December. The Damned put on an absolutely fantastic live performance. Way above my expectations, full of energy, rapport with crowd, dancing, singing along etc etc.

On Boxing Day, something gave way in my back and I am wondering if I'll ever recover to go to a gig again. I may swallow enough painkillers to make it to Doveman's next one on 30 January, though.

Shoey said...

Would go with Fuck Buttons/Caribou as the best. Closely followed by Meat Beat Manifesto, Deerhoof, T-Model Ford (Can't walk anymore, but can still play) & Coldplay - that Chris Martin is quite the energetic frontman & he had brightly coloured balls.

FP said...

Happy New Year all!! Just dropping in to say big sympathy for Mnemonic's back problems. I've put mine out too - picked up 6 pints of milk all at once and it just went 'schtoingggg!. Own fault. Hope you have a good osteopath and masseur. And thanks once again for tipping me off on that Merz gig...

Shoey said...

OK then my New Year's resolution is to avoid heavy lifting. Hope Mnemonic & FP both straighten out soon.

Mnemonic said...

Thanks, FP. My osteopath retired a year ago but I was given a recommendation last night for another one in the area.

I've been lying in bed catching up on all the tv I downloaded over Christmas but I'm having to limit time online to 5 minutes every four hours because I have to sit at a desk for that and it's too painful. Music is all on an external hard disk so I have to disconnect that to take the computer to bed as well. I'm feeling full of painkillers and self pity!

DarceysDad said...

Happy New Year all, and further sympathies to Mn & fp.

I managed to poison myself with thrice-cooked turkey, so spent 24 hours between bed and toilet until noon today. DarceysMam & girls say they had a great time at the Grease-themed fancy dress NYE party last night!