nd to accompany the narrowing down of a broad topic into a selection of the top 10, the caveats come rolling. In this case, “gig” means a performance by a singer or band, and excludes comedy shows or musicals. Not that you’d really call musicals “gigs”. These aren’t in order of preference, incidentally – it was hard enough picking out which 10 to have in the list at all. Anyway, here goes:
Weird Al Yankovic @ Thebarton Theatre (about 2003 I think?)
It’s a rare event that a global superstar comes to Adelaide, but when I heard accordion-playing parody artist of Legend Weird Al Yankovic was doing a gig I must’ve been on that phone like a greyhound out of a trap, because we got 3rd row seats. A classy, slick, detailed show from end to end – loads of costume changes for context, and a really happy buzz from one end to the other – the building was packed solid with nerd & geeks, all frothing with joy in the fact that our idol had come to little ol’ Adelaide. Of course, if anyone had bombed that building then it would have taken the entire city months to train up new IT staff.
Harry Connick Jr @ Birmingham (17th Nov 2007)
Catrin & I, after planning to leave London about midday, set off around 5pm following an epic doctor cock-up on her side and some A-class Tube faffery on mine, and had to drive like a pair of some sort of species of flightless bats with opposable thumbs and knowledge of vehicle operation, out of hell. Errm, to make it to Birmingham in time for the gig, I mean. Totally worthwhile though (and we only missed the first song) – Harry’s an amazing and warm performer, and takes an incredibly talented ensemble with him. The room swung out all night, punctuated by the occasional soulful croon. At one point he hauled a guy up on stage who had asked over email if Harry would help him propose to his girlfriend, only when the moment arrived it turned out the idiot hadn’t brought a ring, because he’d assumed there was no way it would ever actually happen. Cue lots of giggling and silly behaviour, and a personalised performance of “It Had To Be You”.
I’d seen Harry once before, back in 2000 or so at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre, but I think this gig was better. Plus Symphony Hall’s a really nice room.
The Pink Floyd bit of Live 8 (2nd July 2005)
Paul the Dodgy Aussie had a spare ticket to Bob Geldof’s massive musical campaign to blimming well make the G8 leaders sit up and take notice and end African poverty through the medium of getting many many rock acts from the past and present to play their hit songs to crowds of people all over the world (aka Live 8). And as the final act of the day was announced to be a historic reforming of PINK FLOYD, he bestowed the honour of ticket ownership on me (as well as the fact that the girl whose pants he was trying to get into already had one).
It was a long day, and not every aspect of it was thoroughly enjoyable (Dido, UB40, Mariah Carey, Travis, Snow Patrol, Keane for example). There were some pleasing box-tickers: bands I was happy to see but wasn’t likely to fork out that sort of money or bother getting into the ticket melee for (Madonna, U2, REM, Elton John, Robbie Williams). But the Money-shot was the appearance of Waters, Gilmour, Wright, Mason & friends, in a tight set of 4 songs (Breathe, Money, Wish You Were Here, Comfortably Numb) which were possibly the most amazing concert performance I’ve seen anywhere, ever.
Nine Inch Nails @ O2 (15th July 2009)
A stadium rock gig so hard that it was properly awesome, and almost took mind off the stadium component. And I was extremely impressed with the amount of guitar throwing.
Robert Plant & Strange Sensation @ Hammersmith Palais (4th Dec 2005)
This was the first time I’d seen Robert Plant live (which I’ve since done 4 further times – at Somerset House with Strange Sensation again, Wembley Arena with Alison Krauss, standing outside the Albert Hall waiting to go in to the Zappa Plays Zappa gig, and standing on my front doorstep in Camden), and if there was any suggestion that he was a musical has-been then it was obliterated by this gig. I was impressed by every aspect of the night, and were there to be ranking in this top ten this would be toward the zenith.
Bobby McFerrin @ Barbican (21st May 2007)
Kat, HC & Paul the Dodgy Aussie joined me once again, this time to London’s Barbican Hall to see vocal improv-meister Bobby McFerrin & Friends. Nabbing 3rd row seats gave the venue a nice intimacy, as well. I find it very hard to write about McFerrin without over-cranking the enthusiasm handle – I’m awestruck by his ability to create rich & interesting musical tapestries from thin air, using only a microphone and an impressive range of vocal techniques. But more than that – he’s a personable performer who you can tell genuinely loves what he does, and loves collaborating with new performers to create once-off experiments.
And no, he doesn’t sing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” any more.
Dream Theater @ Hammersmith Apollo (24th Oct 2005)
This one was from the basket entitled “bands I’d gone to see without having heard anything they’d done, but purely on the strength of having heard Spiro, Greg and the lads raving about them“. Hence it felt even odder to be in the 2nd row – a bit like Richard Dawkins sitting up front at the crowning of Pope Benedict. Extremely glad I went though – DT are a hard-working group of extraordinarily talented musicians, playing vastly complicated and intricate music with precision and cohesion like I’ve seldom seen. And on top of that, the music is just great. If you’re into prog metal.
Spinal Tap @ Wembley Arena (30th June 2009)
Again, not too much on this one because I only just wrote about it, but seeing mockumentarians St Hubbins, Tufnel and Smalls live in concert was a dream come true. And anyone who has a favourite Tap song left without disappointment, because they played pretty much their entire song repertoire, as well as being their own support act as The Folksmen.
New Model Army @ Astoria (17th Dec 2004)
Finally relenting to agree to going to see one of Richie’s black-clad misery bands, turned out that though I couldn’t quite put my finger on their genre initially I really really got a kick out of seeing veteran post-punk rockers New Model Army. The music was mainly fast, full-on & furious, with passionate singing along from the crowd, and lots of forming of human towers and some bizarre arm movements which are NMA fans’ signature. In fact, I liked them so much I’ve seen them at least 4 more times since then.
Lynyrd Skynyrd @ Brixton (31st May 2009)
Another recent performance, which I summed up as initially a box-ticking exercise, but when it all started happening it turned out to be so much more.
And if you reckon picking out 10 was easy, it wasn’t.