This week, After Nyne’s Daniel David Gothard ruminates on the live music events that have shaped him.
Pop and rock music is littered with apocryphal testimony about the best gigs ever – Elvis’s 1968 Comeback Special, Dylan pre-electric era, The Stones on the Isle of Wight, etc. But – just as with some of those gigs – the accolades are basically the white noise of personal taste. The one thing most ‘best gigs’ have in common is the power and passion of the singer/band and the mood of the audience.
Perhaps a great gig is the zenith of the prime moment in a career – such as with Elvis and the Comeback Special, seen as his attempt to become relevant again after the 1960s Britpop invasion, The Vietnam War and the evolution of Rock and Roll through The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, et al. The gamble paid off for The King, but for some bands a comeback can look like a blatant cash-in. At least The Sex Pistols were honest, in 1996, calling their comeback tour The Filthy Lucre.
I’ve stopped going to gigs – my ears were taking longer and longer to stop ringing in the days afterwards; the last band I saw live was Elbow at Wembley Arena in 2009. Maybe it’s about getting older, having kids, etc – although none of that has changed my adoration of music.
From the age of 14 through to my mid-30s I saw 100s of bands, singer/songwriters; crossing genres in diversity from Nanci Griffith to Tony Bennett.
What were my favourites? Suede at Perivale television studios were incredible, recording a show for Channel Four: Brett Anderson is a formidable frontman, and their recent-ish comeback has been profoundly successful.
I’ve seen David Bowie play three times. The best of the trio was undoubtedly his show at The Brixton Academy. He played for over two and a half hours and the sheer rapture of his fans (me included!) nearly blew the roof off the place.
My fondest memories of live shows are usually those that carry a rose-tinted glow of who I went to them with – that last show I mentioned (Elbow) was the only gig I’ve been to with my wife, and that one will always be special.
Although I can’t honestly recall the detail of the moments involved in the first live gig I ever saw, it will probably remain at number one because it was the last ever British show of my favourite band – Japan at The Hammersmith Odeon in 1982.I’ve seen the lead singer, David Sylvian – now a very established solo artist – play live lots of times since, but there was something incredibly moving and character-developing about being 14 years old, dressed in a 1930s tweed suit, bleached hair, eyeshadow and mascara, watching my heroes play their classic tracks. I can remember thinking, ‘This is something I won’t forget.’
Live music is better than recorded output because it’s usually played the way the songwriter originally wanted it to be, the way they wanted it to be heard.
Daniel’s latest book Friendship and Afterwards is available as a Kindle download here http://goo.gl/3ZIWzJ. The book is also available in paperback.