I’ve been to over fifty gigs this year, including a trip to Glastonbury Festival, and thought I’d give a little personal round-up of my favourite live experiences of 2013. It was going to be a top twenty, but I couldn’t leave the other five out. I’ve also cheated a little by combining a couple of gigs as one choice, therefore squeezing a couple more dates into my list, but I just see that as giving you more for your money…!
25. Christy Moore, 15th October, 2013, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, UK.
A wonderful evening was spent with the legend of Irish folk music, with just Christy and Declan Sinnott on stage, playing acoustic guitars (with the occasional bodhran), telling stories and running through some of Christy’s greatest songs. It was a delightful mix of humour and seriousness that had the audience laughing one minute and with tears in their eyes the next. I’ve been a fan of Christy’s music for a long time and, as he was a favourite of my Dad, who passed away nearly ten years ago, to go and see him for the first time with my Mum was quite a special thing. The highlight of the evening for me was when he asked for requests and I called out for “Ordinary Man”, with Christy then giving a passionate performance of what I consider to be his greatest song.
24. Space, 31st October, 2013, Borderline, London, UK.
Back in the nineties, I really loved Space; they were a fun band with well-written, quirky catchy songs. Back then, however, I didn’t have the money to go to live gigs and so missed out on catching them live. I was able to rectify that this year and have an exercise in pure nostalgia on a Halloween evening at The Borderline. My expectations were low and I expected a fun night rather than any deep and meaningful experience, but it turned out to be quite an emotional evening as Space took me back to a rather torrid time in my life where their “Tin Planet” album was one of my only escapes. They played all of their hits and I felt genuine euphoria when “Avenging Angels” and “Female Of The Species” was performed with gusto. A brilliant evening, which was topped off by meeting Tommy Scott afterwards although, it had to be said, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying!
23. Glenn Tilbrook, 16th December, 2013, Komedia, Brighton, UK.
I’ve seen Squeeze several times and, also, many Chris Difford solo shows, but had never had the pleasure of seeing Glenn do a solo show – and it really was a pleasure. With a mixture of material from his forthcoming album, his solo archives and pretty much all of the old Squeeze favourites, Glenn, armed with just a guitar, demonstrated his superb guitar playing ability, affable demeanour and the richness of his songwriting, giving credit where it was due to Chris Difford, who was in the audience. There were too many highlights to mention in any great detail, but a gorgeously sung cover of “Witchita Lineman” was rather special. I met him afterwards and mentioned, while he was signing my new album, that I never knew what to say to people I greatly admire and always end up babbling about utter rubbish. Glenn said that he understood and that he’d been exactly the same when he’d met Chris Powell, the manager of Charlton Athletic, recently! That just topped off a great evening and, needless to say, if Glenn returns to Brighton, I will definitely be seeing him again.
22. Spin Doctors, 1st February, 2013, Sub89, Reading, UK.
Back in the early nineties, “Pocketful Of Kryptonite” was one of my favourite albums and this gig was actually billed that the band were going to play that album in its entirety. However, it didn’t turn out that way and, although I was looking forward to hearing the whole of that album, Spin Doctors didn’t disappoint at all, with a selection from that album and others from their excellent new hard-edged, blues album. The whole band were superb, giving a very tight, powerful performance, but Chris Barron with his high kicks at head-height, spins and general classic frontman demeanour, really gave us a show to remember. It was a superb evening, an absolute pleasure to see Spin Doctors for the first time, and I enjoyed it so much that I have already booked tickets for their gig in London in February, 2014.
21. The Fratellis, 24th November, 2013, Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK.
I regretted passing by the opportunity to see The Fratellis live when they were first around and, when they went on “hiatus” and Jon Fratelli started exploring other avenues, I thought I would probably never get the chance to see them. Thankfully, they reformed, recorded an excellent new album, “We Need Medicine”, and took it on the road. They were everything I’d hoped they would be, pure, unadulterated fun, full of energy and irresistible, bouncy tunes, delivering a good mix of old and new material. Looking down from the level one balcony at Shepherds Bush Empire, we were very glad not to be in the standing area as there was a metal-style moshpit throughout most of the performance. That kind of thing definitely isn’t for me any more, but it was entertaining watching so many (younger) people getting such a buzz from the music.
20. The Levellers, 19th July, 2013, The Dome, Brighton, UK.
This was one more tick off my live “bucket list” and seeing The Levellers in their home town was a real treat that I couldn’t pass by. They were supposed to be playing in St. Bartholomew’s Church, but demand for tickets was so great that they switched to The Brighton Dome instead – a wise move, seeing as they sold that out too. The Levellers have a reputation as a great live band and they certainly didn’t disappoint, their mix of folk and rock providing a massive adrenaline rush to the whole crowd, a crowd who were probably one of the best, most involved, joyous audiences I have ever been part of. Playing what was, essentially, a greatest hits set, there was song after song of recognisable, well-loved songs that the audience roared back to the band. It was an incredible evening and I left there buzzing. A special mention must be given to Electric Soft Parade who opened the evening to a very small audience indeed, but they were absolutely fantastic and played nothing but material from their incredible new album, “Idiots”.
19. KT Tunstall, 29th June, 2013, Acoustic Tent, Glastonbury Festival, UK.
It’s strange, nearly all of my highlights from this year’s Glastonbury Festival were acts playing the smaller stages and it was on the Saturday afternoon that KT Tunstall took to the stage in the Acoustic Tent, a stage so small that the BBC didn’t even bother filming it. Mining mostly from her beautiful new album “Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon”, there was no pretence that this was an acoustic performance as her full band provided a competent, full sound for a dazzling, playful KT, who was obviously in a very good mood. Older songs, “Black Horse & The Cherry Tree” (which had a beat-boxer morphing it into The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”) and “Other Side Of The World” were received rapturously, not least of all by me and I found tears seeping from my eyes for the latter. Technological hitches didn’t derail KT’s set or her spirit and she delivered a short, but memorable, set to provide one of my most endearing memories from the Glastonbury weekend.
18. Dexy’s, 20th April, 2013, Duke Of York Theatre, London, UK.
I watched Dexy’s perform their latter day masterpiece “One Day I’m Going To Soar” at the Barbican in London in 2012 and it was such a great gig that, when Dexy’s announced a residency at the Duke Of York theatre in the west end of London this year, I couldn’t resist the chance to see it again. I’m so glad I did, because it was an even more assured performance than the one I’d enjoyed in 2012. They were better rehearsed, more polished and everything seemed to come together magnificently as they performed the album from start to finish, masterfully. The only misstep of the evening was a high-tempo Latin-infused version of early hit “Geno” which was a desecration of the highest order, but even that couldn’t take the shine off a truly excellent show, although the venue left a lot to be desired for a regular concert-goer in terms of prices, leg-room and accessibility.
17. Ocean Colour Scene, 12th December, 2013, Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK.
I actually saw Ocean Colour Scene in early 2013, promoting their enjoyable new album, “Painting”, at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, with Andy Crofts’ band The Moons as the excellent support act. It was a brilliant evening, but somehow their show at the Shepherds Bush Empire, despite there being no support act, seemed to be even better than the sweaty, boisterous gig in Camden. This time they were playing their third album, “Marchin’ Already” from beginning to end, which, although heralded as a fans’ favourite, hadn’t been one that I’d particularly loved. However, seeing it live gave me a whole new sense of appreciation for it as nearly all of the songs including the hits “Hundred Mile High City”, “Better Day” and “It’s A Beautiful Thing” were replicated with Simon Fowler’s voice sounding as good as it does in the studio and Steve Cradock’s phenomenal guitar work being the icing on the cake. The second half of the show was a greatest hits style set and all of the crowd-pleasers were delivered with style and craftsmanship. Simply put, it was a great night.
16. Jarrod Dickenson & David Ford, 10th July, 2013, The Hope, Brighton, UK.
After seeing Jarrod Dickenson support and play with David Ford during a couple of gigs earlier on in the year, I was pleased that he was returning to the UK for some headlining solo shows and that David Ford was going to join him in Brighton, upstairs at a small-ish pub called The Hope, a fairly popular live music venue on Queens Road. Unfortunately, it was a particularly hot day and the inadequate air conditioning in this small room made it an almost unbearable atmosphere, with many t-shirts and blouses absolutely wringing wet with sweat. The music, however, was wonderful as Jarrod and David took turns to perform a couple of sets of their songs. After the interval, the two musicians took to the stage to announce that, because of how hot the room was, they were going to go across the road to the local park and play a few songs there… so the entire audience followed them across the road to the grounds of the United Reformed Church and cooled off a little while Jarrod and David performed a few songs with guitar and banjo, including a cover of The Band’s “The Weight”. It was a truly special moment, a piece of spontaneity that made a very enjoyable gig something utterly unforgettable.
15. John Grant, 18th May, 2013, The Junction, Cambridge, UK.
I had booked this gig before the release of John’s second solo album, “Pale Green Ghosts”, and, unfortunately, when I heard the album, I wasn’t very keen on it at all, apart from a couple of tracks. However, I was convinced that it would still be a good show, even if I didn’t like some of the material, and went along determined to enjoy it. What actually happened was that, after spending a couple of hours in the company of the funny, brilliantly talented Grant, I ended up loving many of the songs I hadn’t particularly cared for when I’d first listened to the album. He explained the songs, delivered them beautifully with that heavenly, honey-soaked baritone of his and gave the audience plenty of laughs with his gently biting, albeit profane, asides; the story he told about Ernest Borgnine was absolutely hilarious. It was an eclectic, delightful evening, despite a heckler (ok, tosser) telling John to “get on with it” when he was trying to relate to us how he felt when he was diagnosed as being HIV+, causing a ripple of disapproval to pass through the room. I went expecting to enjoy the songs from his exceptional solo debut, “Queen Of Denmark”, I left wanting to get back home to give “Pale Green Ghosts” a few more plays; after that, it became one of my favourite albums of the year.
14. The Leisure Society, 5th December, 2013, Shepherds Bush Empire, London, UK.
2013 was the year I discovered that The Leisure Society were one of my favourite new bands, with the release of their superb third album “Alone Aboard The Ark” and, at the end of November, while I listened to the album, idly wondered if they were doing any forthcoming shows. I then discovered that not much more than a week later, they were playing the Shepherds Bush Empire. That stroke of luck led to one of the most enjoyable gigs I attended during the whole year. Nick Hemming and band were absolutely brilliant, running through a selection of songs from all of their albums and a couple of rarities, concentrating primarily on their latest offering which, by the way, I recommend wholeheartedly. Their brand of baroque pop, reminiscent of bands such as The Divine Comedy and Belle & Sebastian, made for one of the most uplifting, pleasurable evenings of music I’ve ever had and, although they only half-filled the Shepherds Bush Empire, it seemed that the rest of the audience were as enraptured with the music as I was. Definitely a band I would like to see again, soon.
13. David Ford (Milk & Cookies 2013), 19th & 21st December, 2013, Zanzibar Club, Liverpool & Bush Hall, London, UK.
I wasn’t supposed to be at either of these gigs. Unfortunately, thanks to a ruptured disc (or two) in my spine, I spent the majority of December unable to go to work because of the painkillers I’ve needed to take a few times a day. This meant that I was able to go to David Ford’s “Milk & Cookies” charity gig in Liverpool, but not the sold out London show, so I travelled up to Liverpool, watched David perform his annual selection of his own songs, songs chosen by the audience at random and a performance of a song which he’d be absolutely crazy to try to replicate by himself; this year’s mammoth composition was Paul McCartney’s “Live & Let Die”. I also managed to get myself a ticket to his London show while I was at Liverpool, thanks to the man himself. As much as I enjoyed the chaotic fun of Liverpool, the London show proved to be the best, with David on top form and performing his loops to create a one-man band faster and more efficiently than I’d ever seen him before… years of industrious touring and performing have certainly paid dividends. We were treated to some excellent new songs of his and, during the encore, some from his first solo album, including “Katie”, which I don’t think I have ever heard him perform before. Some of the random selections saw Ford performing Lionel Richie’s “Hello”, The Jam’s “Going Underground” and David himself chose to play a superb rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her”. They were two superb nights and I consider myself very lucky to have been to both… it’s almost worth putting up with the bad back.
12. Duckworth Lewis Method, 21st September, 2013, Shepherds Bush Empire, UK.
Sometimes the craziest ideas are the best – not often, I grant you – but sometimes they really pay off. On paper, an entire album by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy and Thomas Walsh of Pugwash that is completely about cricket seems like madness, but it worked. It not only worked, but it was brilliant. However, the follow-up Duckworth Lewis Method album, also entirely about cricket? Surely that would be utter folly? As it turns out, no, not at all, it was truly great stuff. So, given that they have two whole albums, 2013 was the year when Duckworth Lewis Method went on the road to perform a handful of live concerts and they, together with their cricketing costumes and slightly saggy inflatable palm trees, gave a packed Shepherds Bush Empire, some in cricketing garb, some special guests (including the man whose memorable streak adorns the cover of their latest album “Sticky Wickets”) and lots of Hannon and Walsh fans a night to remember. The whole evening was superb, with Neil’s solo spot, “Jiggery Pokery”, being particularly delightful, as was “Nudging and Nurdling”, featuring musician and comedy actor Matt Berry going through the front row of the audience with a microphone so the audience took the place of the various celebrities who spoke the lines on the original. It was a melody-enriched, warm-hearted, splendid night and it really knocked me for six.
11. State Of The Union, 19th September, 2013, The Greys, Brighton, UK.
State Of The Union, a collaboration between Ely-based songsmith Boo Hewerdine and Georgia-born guitar virtuoso Brooks Williams, released their second album, “Snake Oil”, this year and it was a fine album, a more than worthy follow-up to their début. They came to Brighton and played probably the smallest venue I’ve ever seen a gig in, The Greys pub, in Southover Street, which made for a genial, intimate atmosphere. We were packed in so tight, that I even ended up being used as a music stand, holding up the lyrics to a piece they’d had trouble remembering. I’ve seen Boo play quite a few times and State Of The Union once before, but hadn’t seen the two of them play a headline gig together, so was able to thoroughly enjoy their full repertoire in unique surroundings which felt ideal for this folky, acoustic-based material. The vast majority of their two albums were played as well as a couple of solo spots from both Boo and Brooks, the pick of which was probably Boo’s rendition of one of his attending fan’s favourite, “Joke”. It was a truly lovely evening of music (and ale) and my wife and I left the pub with a warm, happy glow inside.
10. Simon McBride, 21st March, 2013, The Haunt, Brighton, UK.
Simon McBride’s “Crossing The Line” was one of my favourite albums of 2012 and so, when he toured the UK this year, we were very fortunate that Brighton was one of his calling points. I have to say that, without hyperbole, Irishman McBride is one of the finest rock-blues guitarists I have ever seen in my life – only Walter Trout and Joe Bonamassa have been more impressive. Every song was delivered with passion and breathtakingly gifted guitar playing which often left me open-mouthed in awe of his sheer talent. I commented to my wife that evening that Simon won’t be playing venues as small (and as dingy) as The Haunt for much longer and I’m sure he won’t; McBride is a big name in the making and I’d advise any blues fans to go and see him if they’re able, before the rest of the world catches on and you’re paying silly money for a ticket, like you have to now for Joe Bonamassa.
9. Suede, 16th October, 2013, The Garage, Islington, London, UK.
The re-formation of Suede and new album, “Bloodsports”, is one the best things that happened in 2013. I was a first-generation Suede fan and only ever saw them live once, back in 1994, on their “Dog Man Star” tour, just after Bernard Butler had left. Well, of course, they all look a bit different now, but they have come back to performing with an obvious hunger and love for performing as they did this special small, intimate show for Q Magazine’s awards. I only managed to get a ticket because I was ready on the computer when they went on sale at 9am one morning; this literally sold out within minutes. The support act, The Graveltones, were excellent, like a mixture between The White Stripes and Band Of Skulls, and gave Suede a difficult act to follow. However, they more than acquitted themselves and gave a magnificent performance in the stifling heat of this small London club. Something deep inside me stirred when I heard old favourites such as “So Young”, “Animal Nitrate”, “Daddy’s Speeding”, “New Generation” and many more songs which were so important to me a couple of decades ago (and still are). The new songs also sounded excellent too, although I did question the decision to perform a new song during the encore, which meant that the end of the gig was a slight anti-climax. Having said that, it was a minor misjudgement which didn’t spoil an absolutely superb gig one iota and I hope Suede stick around for a while now they’re back as I’d definitely like to see them again.
8. The Proclaimers, 29th June, 2013, Acoustic Tent, Glastonbury Festival, UK.
Arctic Monkeys, Rolling Stones, Mumford & Sons… I’m sure they were the highlight of many people’s Glastonbury experience this June, but, for me, the absolute peak of enjoyment was seeing The Proclaimers in the Acoustic Tent on Saturday afternoon. They had less than an hour for their set, but packed it with some of their most brilliant compositions, all performed magnificently by the Reid twins and their excellent band. The elongated soundcheck and the anticipation of waiting for them to take to the stage heightened the excitement and, when the music started flowing, it was sheer bliss. For those who don’t really know much about The Proclaimers and write them off as a novelty band with only a couple of good songs, it would be difficult to understand the attraction, but they are, in my opinion, amongst the UK’s greatest songwriters and performers. I have to admit, tears were flowing from my eyes during “Sunshine On Leith”, but pretty much the rest of it had me rapturously singing along at the top of my voice. At the end of it, I was left feeling completely satisfied and utterly spent; nothing else that weekend came close to even equalling it.
7. I Am Kloot, 21st February, 2013, St. Bartholomew’s Church, Brighton, UK.
First of all, who came up with the idea of hosting music gigs in churches? We spent about half an hour queueing outside in the freezing cold and, once we got inside, it wasn’t much better as the radiators on the side of the building failed to adequately heat a church built to the same dimensions of Noah’s Ark. Not only that, but they were literally selling only tea, coffee and orange squash! Not my idea of a good night, I have to say, and the fact that there was a rather kooky support act that failed to engage me meant that I was in a bit of a bad mood by the time I Am Kloot took to the stage. However, the warmth came from the stage and grew inside as John Bramwell and band gave a spellbinding performance and made my first ever Kloot gig one to remember. Mainly promoting their incredibly good new album, “Let It All In”, they ran through most of the songs from their latest release as well as selected tracks from their back catalogue. The acoustics of the church were rather spectacular, I have to admit, and the beautiful music completely turned my mood around, leaving me beaming and gushing about the band’s performance at the end of the night. It was a wonderful evening and, although it was completely worth it, I’d think twice about going to a gig in a church again, for sure!
6. Electric Soft Parade, 23rd October, 2013, Bush Hall, London, UK.
After buying and absolutely loving their new album, “Idiots”, as well as seeing them support The Levellers, I was delighted to see that Electric Soft Parade were doing a few shows to promote their latest release. After seeing the excellent support band, Cold Crows Dead, Thomas and Alex White and band took the stage to deliver an hour and a half of blissful, melodic indie-pop which, despite some sound difficulties early on, really hit the spot. Although I’d seen them supporting The Levellers back in July, it was an absolute pleasure to be at a headline show by ESP and to be treated to old favourites from “Holes In The Wall” as well as from my favourite album of the year, “Idiots”. There haven’t been many gigs I’ve been to this year which has given me such a sense of euphoria throughout it. Without the sound problems, who knows, it could have been my favourite gig of the year too, but it certainly added a certain edge to proceedings and a steely determination from the brothers to give the audience a show to remember, despite things not being quite how they wanted it to be. It was also great to talk to Thomas and Alex afterwards, two very nice guys indeed who love and live their art.
5. Billy Joel, 5th November, 2013, Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK.
I actually never thought I’d ever get to see Billy Joel again. I had only ever seen him once, during the River Of Dreams tour in 1994, at the Birmingham NEC and that remains one of my greatest concert moments ever, as he played for nearly three hours and just about exhausted his back catalogue. This time round, I fought hard for these tickets on the morning they were put on sale as he made a baffling decision to play the Hammersmith Apollo instead of somewhere bigger like Wembley Arena, and ended up sitting a few rows and a couple of dozen seats apart from my Mum as the only way we could have gone was to get two separate tickets. Still, it was well worth it as a Billy Joel, distinctly older and unable to quite hit the high notes he used to, gave a brilliant performance, with a mixture of the big hits and deeper cuts such as “Where’s The Orchestra?”, “Vienna” and “She’s Right On Time”. It was the less obvious songs I enjoyed the most and it was a set much shorter than the last time I saw him, at just over an hour and a half, so there were some surprising omissions. However, I have no complaints at all and probably would have wanted more regardless of when the gig ended. He’s not quite the performer he used to be, but he’s still one of the best live acts in the world today and it’s an evening that will live with me for the rest of my life. A special mention, also, for support act Fyfe Dangerfield who, arguably, gave a better performance of “She’s Always A Woman” than the great man himself; unfortunately he almost spoilt his entire set with a dreadful version of “Moon River” at the end of it, but, apart from that, he was a very good support act indeed.
4. David Ford, Jarrod Dickenson & Emily Grove, 3rd April, 2013, SCALA, London, UK. (Also: 27th March, 2013, Electric Circus, Edinburgh, UK.)
I’ve been a big fan of David Ford for many years now and am well into double figures for the number of times I’ve seen him live. However, perhaps apart from an unforgettable band performance at KOKO in Camden, in 2010, this year saw the best ever gigs he has performed that I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend. In fact, earlier in the year, when this tour was announced, I was annoyed because my shifts at work meant that the only date I would be able to attend was in Edinburgh which, obviously, I wasn’t going to do. As it got a little closer to the date and the new album, “Charge” was released (which I absolutely loved), the temptation got to be too much and I decided to go up to Edinburgh on the day of the gig, returning on the Sleeper train that night. What a great decision that was, because it was an excellent performance and David introduced me to two remarkable artists in Jarrod and Emily. After such an enjoyable night, I asked work if I could have the 4th April off so I could attend the London gig on the 3rd April and, thankfully I could, so I bought tickets for that one too and it turned out to be even better than Edinburgh, with a bigger, more enthusiastic crowd. I was a little more struck by Emily’s music than Jarrod’s in Edinburgh, but having heard Jarrod’s songs once before in Scotland, was suddenly aware of how good they were when they were performed in London. David and his band, which included Jarrod and Emily, ran through many of the new tracks from “Charge” as well as some old Ford favourites and, accompanied by my 16 year old Stepson, had one of my favourite ever Ford experiences that evening, leaving SCALA with an even greater love of all three artists (but especially David) than I had before. Edinburgh was a fantastic night, but London was an absolutely unforgettable evening.
3. Richard Thompson, 9th March, 2013, St. Albans Arena, St. Albans, UK.
This was my first Richard Thompson gig despite loving his music for years and I really didn’t know what to expect, but having really enjoyed his latest album “Electric”, thought that it was probably a good time to catch one of his live shows. I was lucky enough to bag front row seats as I was able to buy them right when they went on sale, so had one of the best spots in the house. Playing as a three-piece, guitar, bass and drums, Thompson and band went on to play one of the most astonishingly good sets I have ever seen in my life; what that man can’t do with a guitar isn’t worth knowing. Most of his latest album got a live airing and sounded fantastic, but there were some old favourites as well as a blistering cover of Cream’s “The White Room”, with RT joking about them being a “power rock trio”, although the way they performed that song, really was no joke. Both my friend and I exited that concert slightly shell-shocked at what we’d witnessed; one of the greatest live performers I have ever seen in my life.
2. Elvis Costello & The Imposters, 4th & 5th June, 2013, Royal Albert Hall, London, UK.
This year saw the return of the “Spectacular Spinning Songbook” where Elvis Costello takes to the stage with a gigantic wheel filled with Costello songs, some well known, some slightly less so, and invites members of the audience to come up to spin the wheel, with the band then playing what ever the wheel lands on. Pretty cool, eh? I thought so, that’s why I decided to go to six of these shows up and down the country, starting with two out of the three nights Elvis did at the beautiful Royal Albert Hall in London. The first night was excellent and Costello put on an incredible show, although sound problems marred some of the set, the second, amazingly, was even better, with some of my favourite album tracks such as “All Grown Up” and “London’s Brilliant Parade” being performed, rivalling the first time I even saw him at the Birmingham Academy back in 2002 as my best ever Costello gig. I then went on to see thoroughly excellent shows in Sheffield (where I met Elvis after the gig), Liverpool and Southend until…
1. Elvis Costello & The Imposters, 22nd June, 2013, Brighton Centre, Brighton, UK.
This was my final Elvis Costello show of 2013 and, thankfully, it was a case of saving the best until last. I attended with my wife, Corinne, and, thanks to Josephine, one of Elvis’ glamorous assistants spotting me in the audience, got called up on stage, along with my other half, to spin the wheel. I told Elvis I’d like to hear “Riot Act” and gave the wheel an enthusiastic spin to get “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea”, remaining on stage in the “lounge area” whilst Elvis and band performed the song, brilliantly. It was a massive buzz and the high I got from that experience stayed with me throughout the rest of the evening, which ended with Elvis coming back on stage for an entirely acoustic solo encore, something he hadn’t done on all the other dates I’d seen him, and played gorgeous versions of “Alison” and “Accidents Will Happen” as well as “God’s Comic”. Add to that some of my favourite Costello compositions such as “Suit Of Lights”, “Human Hands” and “The Other Side Of Summer” being performed as well as a guest appearance by Squeeze’s Chris Difford and a rendition of “Take Me I’m Yours”. I’m not sure I can confidently say that it was a better gig than the 5th June at the Royal Albert Hall, but – for me – going up on the stage with Elvis Costello made this the best gig experience of the year. It would, wouldn’t it?
As well as going to see big names and new original artists, I also enjoy going to a little place in Sutton called The Boom Boom Club (located in the clubhouse of Sutton United F.C.), run by promoter Pete Feenstra. As well as attracting some really big names in rock and blues to the place (The Zombies and Walter Trout amongst others have played here), one of the main attractions of the place is that they put on some of the best tribute acts there are. Four bands I’ve seen this year at really reasonable prices are Imagine The Beatles (a thoroughly enjoyable Beatles experience – Robert Simpson’s Paul McCartney, especially, is one of the very best and liveliest impersonations), Too Petty (probably the best tribute act I have ever seen, they perform Petty’s songs with passion, energy and attention to detail), Rollin’ Stoned (a superb bunch of musicians who play a good mix of obvious and obscure Stones tracks) and ELO Again (who are, to date, the best ELO tribute act I’ve enjoyed, bringing Jeff Lynne’s music well and truly alive with a superb performance by Colin Smith as Lynne, as well as a live cellist and violinist). They’re nights of sheer music enjoyment and I’m sure I’ll be there a few times in 2014 too – definitely for the 30th May show when they have The Move, featuring original members Bev Bevan and Trevor Burton… looking forward to that one!
A Minor Rant
One of the worst things about attending live performances last year is the lack of respect that some people give both the artist and their fellow gig-goers. This has happened too many times this year to list every time, so I will focus on one particular gig – Richard Hawley at Troxy in London, back in February. I’d been looking forward to this one, as I’d not seen Richard live before, but it was absolutely ruined by people talking all the way through it, like they were on a night out down the pub. Now, Richard isn’t a loud, metal act where the music is loud and you can block out the ill-mannered chattering, his performance is shades of light and dark, it’s something that calls for complete silence so you can fully appreciate the music. So, apart from wondering why the hell people would buy tickets to a Richard Hawley gig and not be interested in listening to the man play, I have to say, in the strongest terms possible, that this kind of behaviour just isn’t acceptable – and it seems to be prevalent in London gigs more than anywhere else where, perhaps, the price of a concert ticket doesn’t mean as much to people there as it does to those elsewhere around the country on tighter budgets.
I’ve tackled people about this before and their attitude is that they have paid for their ticket, so they can do as they please, but I completely reject that argument. The right of the individual to be anti-social and ruin other people’s enjoyment is completely trumped by the right of the collective to enjoy what they have paid for. People buy a gig ticket to go and hear the band, not to hear about what a brilliant time the person had last night, what relationship problems they’re having or what new car they’re thinking about buying. So, my message to those people is this: if you are not interested in seeing the band: don’t buy a ticket. Go and do something else where you can chat freely without making people around you pissed off with your actions. There are plenty of pubs and clubs that play recorded music that you can enjoy and have a conversation at the same time… and they really need your custom at the moment, the way the economy is, so go there instead. If you’re not prepared to shut up and just listen for a couple of hours, then leave live music for those who actually love it. Basically, it boils down to this: if you do go to a gig, show the artist and your fellow audience members some respect and, to quote Hugh Cornwell at his Brighton gig in November of this year, shut the fuck up.
I’ve actually vowed to go to less gigs next year, mainly because I have back problems, but also mainly because it hits my wallet hard and I have a family to support, as well as my music addiction! However, I already have gigs booked for My Life Story, John Bramwell, Spin Doctors & Dodgy, Boy and Bear, Jarrod Dickenson, Franz Ferdinand, Manic Street Preachers, Fish, The Move, Jonathan Wilson and a little music gathering called The Isle of Wight Festival… and that’s all in the first six months of the year, so my vows are already looking a little empty. I think I may have a problem. Is there an organisation I can call to help with this?
Anyway, thank you for reading, I wish you a very happy, healthy, musical 2014!