Simply the best gigs I’ve ever been privileged to attend


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My pal Pete, and I, were discussing our all time favourite gigs after we gushed about Anohni on Wednesday night at the Edinburgh Festival.

He’s a massive James and Rolling Stones fan and said it even beat James.  I was more cautious.  Whilst I gave it a full five star rating and said it was in my all time top ten it’s had me thinking all week.

So with much consideration here are my all time top 20 favourite gigs.  Each in different ways was a five star performance.

In no particular order, because that’s too hard.

The Clash.  Edinburgh Playhouse. (Combat Rock tour)

Sufjan Stevens. Edinburgh Playhouse. (Carrie and Low tour Edinburgh International Festival – simply the best sound I have ever heard)

Anonhi. Edinburgh Playhouse. (Edinburgh Festival, this week)

Siouxsie and The Banshees. Edinburgh Playhouse. (around the time of Israel)

Kraftwerk. Edinburgh PLayhouse (front Row.  Computer Love Tour)

Kraftwerk.  King Tuts Stage (T in the Park – 3D tour)

Bill Nelson. The Nite Club (Upstairs from Edinburgh Playhouse)

Faust.  The Citrus Club (original one in Edinburgh Grassmarket (set fire to the stage with Petrol)

Simple Minds (supported by Positive Noise).  Tiffany’s, Glasgow.

Simple Minds.  Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow.( 5 x 4 Tour)

Chic. West Holts Dance Stage (Glastonbury)

Massive Attack. The Other Stage (Glastonbury)

Nic Cave and the Bad Seeds. The Pyramid Stage (Glastonbury)

John Grant. The Park Stage (Glastonbury)

Savages.  Williams Green Stage (Glastonbury)

Melody Gardot.  Voodoo Rooms

Emma Pollock. Voodoo Rooms

Laurie Anderson.  Queens Hall (possibly the O Superman tour, certainly around that time)

King Creosote performing From Scotland with Love at  The Hub Edinburgh (Edinburgh Festival)

Frank Sinatra.  Ibrox Park (Glasgow 1999 headline spot).  I’ll never forget him say that “I never thought I’d hear every single member of an Ibrox crowd cheer a Catholic”

One major point to note.  Only one single stadium gig.  The last one.

Some of the greatest were in the smallest venues; Pollock, Gardot, Bill Nelson, Faust.

Who did I never see that I wished I had?  Magazine, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, Steely Dan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Belle and Sebastian, Cocteau Twins, Can, Velvet Underground.

 

My Glastonbury 2014


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My third, and best, Glastonbury Festival of the Performing Arts.

It’s the festival that just keeps giving, as with each trip you discover areas that you’ve not been to before.  The moving of Arcadia to the hill was not a complete success as it took it away from the action and the Disclosure DJ set that we went too was just stupidly busy.  It’s the first time I’ve seen strong drugs quite so openly peddled by dealers at Glastonbury, and this too was a negative.

salutes you

And of course, it rained.  When I say rained I mean it really, really rained.

Like, biblical man.

The thunder and lightning storm that hit us on Friday at 5.30 was truly spectacular and resulted in the site being shut down for an hour after a lightning strike on the Pyramid Stage.  This meant that Rudimental had to cut their set short.  Shame as it was just bubbling up (they were far better last year at T in the Park).

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Anyway that’s enough of the negativity, the rest of it was awesome and these are my picks.

It was a close call for my favourite act between John Grant, who put in an epic performance that nearly went nuclear when his extended take on Pale Green Ghosts kicked in and Massive Attack who put on a show of such perfection that it just drew your breath.  Both Horace Andy and Martina Topley-Bird were incredible (and, I think, Shara Nelson) in a stunning politically charged set that they refused the BBC to film.  The ground actually vibrated, so powerful was the bass.  One of the greatest musical experiences of my life.  Both these gigs were straight 10/10’s.

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Not far behind, if indeed they were, were remarkable sets by Midlake who really rocked towards the end of their set and Robert Plant whose smattering of Zep songs made a hugely eclectic set unforgettable.  His treatment of Whole Lotta Love was wondrous.

Also on the same glorious level was Dolly Parton, who was billed as something of a novelty act, but she carried off her set effortlessly with brilliant stories between her numbers.  Apparently it may have been Glastonbury’s biggest ever crowd with estimates of over 100,000 at her gig.  To hear 100,000 people sing 9 to 5 was something close to miraculous.

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On the 8/9 out of 10 level were Lily Allen (Is my Camel toe too prominent in this dress, she asked, and she called Sepp Blatter a c***)  Paulo Nuttini pulled off a mega performance.  Nick Mulvey fell into this category and was a new find for me.  His performance of Cucurucu was superb.  As was an early morning slot for Argentinian/Uruguayan Gypsy type tango/jazz from Bajofondo – sheer brilliance on The Other Stage and looking like their lives depended on it being great.  Mogwai rocked the Park Stage as headliners with probably the loudest noise of the weekend.

Everywhere is open to art.

Everywhere is open to art.

My other finds of the weekend were back to back acts on the wonderful West Holts Stage  Firstly The Internet, a soul act that sounds like Jill Scott and looks a bit like Janelle Monae and the wonderfully named The Daptone Super Soul Review from New York featuring the unique (apart from James Brown) Charles Bradley.  See them if you can.

Even the Glastonbury police horses are cool.

Even the Glastonbury police horses are cool.

And last, but no means least was Blondie.  At 68 She hadn’t lost any of her panache and it was a great set with a mix of new and old material.  It’s a bit scary to think that three of the best sets we saw (Blondie, Dolly Parton and Robet Plant) were by pensioners.

My patented Cider cup holder came in handy.

My patented Cider cup holder came in handy.

I wish I’d seen all of Arcade Fire’s set – we only saw the encores (although Regine Chassagny can’t really sing; either well, or in tune).  It was brilliant on the BBC  iPlayer recording, but we were at Skrillex first.  (Not good).

Other notable performances (all 7/10) were Interpol, The Jezebels, Kaiser Chiefs, Danny and the Champions of the World, New Build, Hozier, Nitin Sawney, Goldfrapp (although a bit one-paced), Rudimental and The Black Keys.

Very few acts were actually bad but those that didn’t float my boat very much were The 1975, Caro Emerald, Toumani and Sidiki and Michael Kiwanuka (who put on an ill-advised set).

Skrillex was just bad.

Other great things were the Classic Rock night at The Chameleon Bar and the Beat Hotel’s many cramped DJ sets including one we saw by FourTet and and Joe Goddard of Hot Chip B2B  (which means back to back apparently).

typical

 

Here’s to Glasto 2015!

 

 

 

 

I can’t sleep…


Phoenix and Kraftwerk.

Four Frenchmen.  Four Germans.

Approximately.

The three or four best hours of my music viewing life.

Here.

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My son and I have had some decent chat about what is better;  Glasto or T.

Neither of us was better informed, (apart from him).

Because only he had done both.

Now we are equals.

He has a point about T.

It is an amazing experience.  The crowd absolutely rocks, much more so than Glasto, full, as it is, with hipsters.  I totally loved the gig experience at T.

Still, I do not have the bottle to sleep over.

But that’s only part of it.

Glasto is the most amazing overall thing you can ever do in your life.

Please do it.

Glastonbury 2013. My verdict.


En famile at Glastonbury 2013.  The bar on William's Green.

En famile at Glastonbury 2013. The bar on William’s Green.

The Glastonbury Festival is the single most visceral experience I’ve ever had.

This year was my second and the best I’ve been to. Not just because a lot of the bands we saw were great (because some of them weren’t – the strength in depth in 2011 was far greater), but because I went with my three, now adult, kids and we had a (mostly) collective experience that I doubt we can ever beat.

For me Glastonbury is about the music, but when the BBC cameras stop rolling at 11.30 each night much, much more goes on and this time I took a lot more of that in (Arcadia and Shangri La in particular).ria and amy at Arcadia

2013 was all about The Rolling Stones (more on them later) and, like others, I can only speculate that, generally speaking, the top of the bills were weaker than previous years as the Stones’ coffers had to be further topped up to get them.  So, we explored the smaller stages a lot more and unearthed some peaches.

In particular I loved the Williams Green Tent  (an outstanding venue with the best sound and lighting in the entire site – we saw about seven gigs there).  The Park Stage is a real favourite of mine and so is West Holts (my favourite big stage).

The John  Peel Stage suffers fro awful acoustics and my worst gig of the weekend was at JP.

The Pyramid Stage suffers from being too quiet unless you are at the front.  And the only gig I saw on the Other Stage also suffered from poor sound mixing.

All that sounds a bit negative but we had a ball.  And I’ve decided to rank the bands I saw as follows.

1 Savages (10 out of 10).  This incredibly in your face all-girl four piece simply assault you from the stage. In a festival of viscerality this was Glastonbury distilled to perfection.

2 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (9 out of 10) Truly wonderful performance.  At times the “wind” from the bass stack hit you in the face as he told his tales of death and destruction.  In particular his cover of “stagger Lee” by Fred Waring and his Pennsylvians brought the house down.  As part of the performance of this song he stood on the barrier and caught a female in a white dress in a long drawn out stare that was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

3 Chic with Nile Rogers. (9 out of 10) Simply incredible greatest hits show with a ten or so strong band and great backing singers.  Danced n=my ass off without about ten other people for 90 minutes.

4 Penguin Cafe. (9 out of 10) One of my all time favourite groups beautifully reignited by Arthur Jeffes, son of Penguin Cafe Orchestra founder Simon Jeffes, were wonderful in the Avalon Tent.  I was on the barrier for this one.

5 The Hives (9 out of 10).  The Hives opened Glastonbury on The Other Stage and blew most of what followed away with lead singer, Howlin’ Pelle Amquvist, stealing the show with patter that was not matched by anyone else at Glasto (other than, I’m told, Steve Aoki)

6 Ben Howard (9 out of 10).  A beautiful set that somehow managed to captivate most of the Pyramid Stage’s vast audience.  An unexpected gem from a man who only has one album.  What a belter.

7 Rokia Traore. (9 out of 10) Another opener, this time on Saturday on the Pyramid Stage.  Totally out of place here but this beautiful Malian singer pulled out all the stops and it was magical.

8 Vampire Weekend (8 out of 10).  Just a good, polished, fun set on the Pyramid Stage.

9 Fanfare en Petard (8 out of ten) a French rap jazz combo that we stumbled upon on the Shangri La Hell Stage on Thursday night.

10 Melody’s Echo Chamber.  (8 out of 10).  Melody (like Ben Howard) has taken no beating with the ugly stick but her music too was just right for a sunny Saturday lunchtime on the Park Stage.

11 Primal Scream. (8 out of 10).  The “pretend Rolling Stones” were much better than the real thing with Bobby Gillespie seemingly under the influence and raging against the machine that was a disinterested Pyramid Stage crowd in place for the “real thing” that was to follow.  “Are you fuckers all on Valium?” he shrieked in disdain.  Much to my amusement.  They rocked.

12. The Vaccines (8 out of 10).  They’d already performed on the Pyramid Stage but we opted to see them in the much more intimate Williams Green tent.  Very good indeed.

13. Foals. (7 out of ten).  A great set.

14 Tribes. (7 out of 10).  A good set in William’s Green.

15 Swim Deep (7 out of 10).  Nice wee band.  Good set in William’s Green.

16 The Rolling Stones. (6 out of 10). None of my group of friends much liked them.  “Are they waiting for the BBC to finish filming before they get going?” Chris asked me.  The party just never started.  Highly professional, tight and note perfect as they were it was unengaging.  The Pheonix that crowned the stage came to life for “Sympathy for the Devil.”  But so what?  Only one song really cut the mustard for me.  I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.  How very, very appropriate.

17 Barbarossa.  (6 out of 10). A good set but spoiled by the crowd talking throughout as they waited for The Vaccines.

18 Palma Violets (6 out of 10).  A hot ticket on William’s Green, but no big deal.  Copycat early Clash with only 2 good songs.

19 Ben Caplan. (6 out of 10).  Funny guy.  Funny beard.  Funny voice.  All good fun.

20 Mumford and Sons (5 out of 10).  Pass marks, but no more.  The good thing about their gig was that we were right at the front,  so it was a good atmosphere.  But these guys are one trick ponies.  By far the highlight was the encore of “Get by With a little help from my friends” with The Monkeys, Vaccines and Staves joining them on stage.

21 The 1975. (5 out of 10).  Nothing that special.

22 Martha Wainwright (4 out of 10).  I like her a lot but not in her acoustic stage set that was shrieky and awful.

23 Jake Bugg.  (4 out of 10).  Who on earth decided to put him on the Pyramid Stage?  Out of his depth, nervous.  What’s more he was characterless and boring.

24 Bastille. (3 out of 10) He wasn’t helped by an awful John Peel sound mix but it was desperately dull throughout too.

So that’s it.  Back to work now.

(Wish I’d seen Portishead)