I love music! It’s as important to me as breathing. I have a wide and varied taste with everything from ACDC to Zero 7, classical to old school hip-hop, rock to country. Other than thrash metal and racist/sexist rap, there’s not a lot that I won’t give a listen to.
Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to see some amazing live acts including Paul McCartney, Fleetwood Mac, The Who, Crosby Stills and Nash, Fiest, Gaz Coombes, Prince and Stevie Wonder to name but a few. In my opinion, there is something magical about live music. The crowd, the atmosphere, even some of the dodgy feedback all lend themselves to an experience that involves all your senses.
In the past, I’ve thought nothing about going to gigs on a really regular basis. Sometimes I’d have two or three gigs in the space of a few days. And sometimes I’d just buy tickets on a whim, without any real knowledge of who was playing. Maybe their name just appealed…
Since leaving the world of regular work and entering self-employment this has had to change. I can no longer pay out for tickets regardless of how well or not I know the band or just because I feel like an interesting night out. Now, I have to really want to see the band to justify the expense. In some ways this has been really frustrating. There have been bands this year that I would have undoubtedly seen in the past but this year I just haven’t felt able to justify the cost. In other ways though it has really made me pick and choose carefully. I’ve had to be absolutely certain that the band or act I’m paying good money for is going to give me an experience that is worth it.
And so we come to my shortlist. It may be a lot slimmer than in previous years but it makes up for that in sheer brilliance. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Musical Round Up of 2014.
Boy and Bear – The Deaf Institute Manchester, Feb 21st
This is an Australian five piece band I have been interested in for a few years now. Like a lot of the newer bands I love, 6Music were the ones who introduced me via the song ‘Mexican Mavis’. A great little song that actually sounds as if they are using the coconuts to portray the sound of hooves. Brilliant!
Having announced at the beginning of the gig that they ‘don’t do encores. We’ll just play and then go because that’s what we do.’ they did just that. And mighty impressive it was too. Great vocals, great instruments, great charisma. If they head over to these shores again, I recommend that you go and see them.
And if you are interested in getting hold of a copy of Mexican Mavis, good luck. It’s on an EP which is as rare as their encores!
Neil Young and Crazy Horse – The Echo Liverpool, July 13th
I was lucky enough to see Neil Young a few years ago in Hyde Park where he was joined on stage by Paul McCartney for his encore song Day in the Life. This had been a real highlight for me, two legends for the price of one! My partner is a big fan of Young but has never seen him. Unfortunately, the passage of time waits for no man and who knows how much longer these legends will be with us, so when we heard he was touring with Crazy Horse we knew we had to get tickets.
We’d originally booked these tickets for August 2013 but due to Poncho breaking his wrist the gig had been cancelled. When the date was finally re-announced we didn’t hesitate.
And so we found ourselves in the standing area on a hot July night watching Neil and co strut their stuff across the stage. And it was worth the wait! Heart of Gold, Rockin in the Free world and other classics filled the arena. To be part of musical moments like these is a gift and a privilege. Hats off to these guys, I was exhausted just watching them!
Joan As Policewoman – Gorilla Manchester, August 7th
This was another gig that had been re-scheduled after we’d booked the tickets. I’m starting to worry we are a bit jinxed!
For those of you not in the know, Joan is an amazing performer, musician and singer. The girlfriend of Jeff Buckley at the time of his death she is still (shockingly) relatively unknown. Initially she focussed mostly on being a musician and played violin for Anthony and the Johnsons. Eventually, she became his main backing vocalist before venturing off on her own. My partner is responsible for introducing her to me and I can honestly say she is one of the best acts I’ve ever seen.
Her backing band are superb and she interacts with the audience throughout. But these would count for nothing if she lacked the raw talent and Joan has this in abundance. The hairs on the back of my neck were at attention for much of the gig. Any of her albums are a joy with emotive lyrics, great harmonies and musicality bursting out of every song. However, she is one of the few acts who are actually better live than recorded so if you get chance go and see her, you won’t be disappointed!
Gruff Rhys – Camp and Furnace Liverpool, August 20th
People fall into three camps with Gruff, those who have never heard of him, those who know him as the front man from Super Furry Animals and those who love his solo work and think he’s a genius. I am in the latter camp.
This was much more than a simple musical gig. This was the story of John Evans, Gruff’s distant relative who braved shark infested waters to land in the new world and discover tribes who spoke his native Welsh.
At times it was like being in an entertaining history lecture, at others in a student party and at others in a gig of musical brilliance. If you are unsure what the terms charisma and stage presence mean, look no further.
This was a gem of a gig with great lyrics, musicianship and pure entertainment. I would urge anyone to go and see Gruff, even if you don’t know his music you will have the time of your life.
Peter Gabriel – The Echo Liverpool, Dec 7th
Where do you start with a legend like Gabriel? Former Prog-rock front man of Genesis swooshing around in a cloak and masks to social and political activist whose music is both emotive and enduring, Gabriel has stood the test of time.
Like many people of my age his album So! was a familiar soundtrack to my youth, and Sledgehammer was the must have track of any aerobics class worth its salt in the 80’s. When the gig of three parts was announced with So as the Dessert we knew we had to be there.
With the original band line up and the mix of old and new sounds, the audience were treated to starter, main and then the musical pudding of the year. With the opening bars of Red Rain, the arena took on a different feeling. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t a quiet audience, just an appreciative one. There was a real sense of awe and wonder.
Peter Gabriel’s voice has always been highly emotive for me. Its raw, honeyed gravel hits a chord within me that few other artists reach. Funnily enough the other artist who can do this is Kate Bush. Unfortunately she didn’t make an appearance for Don’t Give Up but the Swedish backing singer Jennie Abrahamson did an admiral job.
I left that gig feeling truly uplifted having known I’d seen a musical talent of the highest order.
The album So! has been playing repeatedly both in my head and on the stereo since and if someone gave me a ticket to go again tomorrow, I’d be straight there.
So there it is! My round up of gigs for 2014. All very different but all very brilliant. Live music is something that can be enjoyed by all. The great thing about all of the gigs I went to this year was the variety of ages in the audience. Old, young, it didn’t matter. The music was what had taken us there and for the duration of the shows it united us all in common accord.
Who knows what musical delights will await me in 2015 but I’m sure I will make the most of every single one. I hope you do too.