Favourite Gigs

Hello. As the more eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed, this blog has been sorely neglected. In my defence I have been working on another music related project, more of which soon. In order to get back into the blog habit I’m going to write a bit about some of my all-time favourite gigs. Naturally I’ve given myself some rules, the first being that I can’t include The Smiths or The Wedding Present. As I must have mentioned previously, Smiths gigs have been the pinnacle of my gig history so we can just take it as read that they would feature quite heavily if I included them. It’s a similar situation with The Wedding Present. I haven’t counted how many times I’ve seen them but it’s a lot. They have been incredibly consistent and many of their gigs have been memorable for a variety of reasons but to give some other groups a chance I’ll leave them out. 

So in no particular order here we go.

The Libertines 12th March 2003

Prior to this gig I definitely wasn’t a Libertines fan. They were somewhat over-exposed and you couldn’t purchase any of the weekly music papers without seeing photos of their latest gig in someone’s front room. I read their interviews and remained disinterested, there wasn’t anything about them that grabbed me in any way. If anything I thought they were trying too hard. There was no way on earth I was going to spend any cash on their records, I was content that they were a group I could live without.

So when a mate from work asked if I fancied seeing them at the Astoria, I was in two minds whether to go. I didn’t have anything else on so said yes. Even if they weren’t my cup of tea it was an excuse for a few cans of Red Stripe (did they sell anything else at the Astoria?) and a catch-up.

The Astoria was heaving when we turned up, cans of Red Stripe in hand we made our way close to the front. I was quite prepared to be disappointed and have my negative reservations confirmed.

Oh how wrong I was.

On they came to a rousing reception and then proceeded to launch into one of the most exciting, breathtaking sets I’d ever seen. I’d love to have seen my reaction which went from a rolling eyes ‘come on then let’s see what you’ve got’ look to one of utter amazement. 

You really didn’t know where to look with both Carl and Pete throwing themselves around the stage. It had an element of chaos but at the same time it felt like they knew exactly what the other one was about to do. The kept swapping mics and seemed to be playing every song at 100mph. The set was mainly made up of songs from the ‘Up The Bracket’ album and although I hadn’t heard it it didn’t seem to matter. They all sounded great.

It was a gig that was all about the energy and performance more than the songs. I must have stood there with my mouth agape trying to take it all in. 

It finished far too soon and we trudged our way out onto Charing Cross Road.

“So what did you think?” 

“That was just incredible” I replied, even though ‘incredible’ didn’t really seem to do the evening justice.

Pixies 3rd June 2010

I’d seen the Pixies a few times prior to this gig, they’d all been at relatively biggish venues so I was incredibly excited when they announced dates at The Troxy in Limehouse, East London. On the day tickets were released I sat nervously at my desk with a laptop, iPad and two phones open. Thankfully it wasn’t too stressful and I bagged a ticket for the gig on the 3rd of June.

The date came round quickly and I headed off to a venue I’d never been to before. The Troxy is in Commercial Road and like a lot of London gig venues used to be a cinema. I entered and was pleased to see that it was relatively small, it reminded me size-wise of downstairs at the Town and Country Club. I’d been running late so I grabbed myself a drink and found a decent vantage point.

I didn’t have long to wait before they walked on stage. From what I recall there was no chat and they launched into ‘Cecilia Ann’. What followed was a sonic onslaught, song after song after song. As one final chord ended the next song followed on straight away. The experience left me breathless. The setlist was one of the longest I’ve seen, twenty-nine songs in all covering their whole career.

Now I’ve heard the term ‘wall of sound’ applied to a lot of groups but nothing compared to that evening. It was a real physical, visceral experience which at some points just felt like it was never going to end (not that I wanted it to).


Oasis 5th November 1995

I’d got into Oasis fairly early, purchasing singles on the strength of reviews in the music press. I found their interviews an entertaining read and felt that they were a breath of fresh air. For one reason or another I hadn’t managed to catch them live so when they announced dates at Earls Court I made sure I grabbed a couple. I think I must have got the last two tickets as my mate and I discovered when we got there. Following the signs to our seats we kept climbing up staircase after staircase. It felt like we were heading to the roof. When we eventually arrived at our seats we weren’t far wrong. Our seats were right at the back of the arena, the furthest from the stage you could possible be.

Never mind, we were there, that was all that mattered. We’d arrived during the Bootleg Beatle’s support set which was going down well with the mass of people in the standing area. I’m not usually a fan of large gigs but there was something about this one that felt a bit more intimate. I think the atmosphere had a lot to do with it. 

We didn’t have long to wait for the main attraction. The place went berserk when they came on, even from our seats in the sky you could feel the excitement in the air. What made this gig special was seeing a group who were on top of their game. They could do nothing wrong, performing hit after hit, they looked and sounded perfect. What followed, gigs and records, would never hit the spot like they did that night in November 1995. I went to Knebworth the year after, that experience could be best described as ‘disappointing’. It’s same as the albums that followed. I’ve got most of them in a pile somewhere but don’t feel any urge to give them a listen. 

But back then in 1995 they were unbeatable.

Rollercoaster Tour 5th April 1992

I still recall this gig and wonder whether I dreamt it. For an indie-kid in 1992 this was a dream come true. Seeing the advert for it in the NME stopped me in my tracks, there it was Blur, Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain all on the same bill. The same bill! Can you imagine? All for a bargain price of £12.50. Those were the days.

I hadn’t seen any of them before so my anticipation levels were through the roof of as I got to the Academy. I was running a bit late so I bypassed the bar and the merch stand and headed straight in. 

My recollection of the running order is a bit murky though I’m fairly confident the Mary Chain headlined. There was a hell of a lot to take in, Blur were a bit shambolic but as a big fan of their early stuff I enjoyed them immensely. Dinosaur Jr were very impressive, my abiding memory is the drummer hitting his kit so hard he kept breaking his sticks, that’s not something I’ve ever seen since. My Bloody Valentine were incredible, and loud. Very loud. Though not as loud as when they played the Camden Roundhouse years later when I genuinely thought the building was going to collapse. Last up were The Mary Chain, they were promoting the ‘Honey’s Dead’ album and were tremendous. 

It was one of those gigs that by the time it concluded I was quite overwhelmed by the whole experience. Seeing just one of those groups would have been a great evening, seeing all four was incredible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s