Best of 2016 – Top 5 Gigs

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In truth I simply don’t get to enough gigs, as the day job is too restricting, but I wanted to celebrate and acknowledge some of those that I have managed to get to. Each one is special for a particular reason.

Muse – London O2 Arena. The one that made me cry.

You’d expect a soppy song to bring on the tears, but the brimming eyes were the result of being completely gob smacked at the end of a song called The Globalist. The whole show had been a superbly professional and impressive 360 degree experience – there was a shed load of stuff going on with moving globes, spaceships, drapes, lights and effects. Particularly clever were the light strings and hands manipulating Matt Bellamy and Chris Wolstenholme during The Handler, but the whole record breaking stint at the O2 encapsulated what a great rock show should be – bombastic, stirring and uplifting. The Globalist is a monument of a song, a modern Bohemian Rhapsody with a big ballsy rock centre piece, which leads into Matt on the grand piano, showing another of his strands of impressive musicality. And as this faded into the monastic chanting of Drones and the visuals became so merged and so indecipherable and so bloody clever, the wet stuff appeared. Nothing beats the emotional power of music shared with several thousand other people.

Kula Shaker – London Roundhouse. The one where I was in the pit.

Courtesy of the lovely people at GIGsoup, it was my first time on a guest list and I was frankly beside myself with embarrassed gratitude (we Brits don’t like a queue jumper after all) when I walked past the whole crowd and straight to the security guy down the front. I was asked if I had my camera with me and brandished my little gig snapper. His face looked somewhat quizzical, and it soon became clear why. In the pit SIZE MATTERS! There were lenses there that their owners could barely lift, so substantial were they. I looked for a similarly petite camera but there weren’t any, and in the end it seemed best to avoid all eye contact with anyone, so I diligently studied the incense sticks wafting at the front of the stage instead. Anyhow, what a thrill it was to be so close to Crispian Mills – I could have tugged his trouser leg if I’d wanted to. Once my three songs down the front were over, I rejoined the crowd and simply enjoyed being swept back in time to my Brit pop/ Knebworth memories of the last time I’d seen the band live.

Jake Bugg – Bush Hall. The bargain gig.

£17.50 is a ridiculously paltry amount to pay to hear a musician’s work. Part of the pre-album release Compass Tour of the capital, this was a chance to hear some of Jake’s new tracks in a beautiful setting, mixed in with plenty of the old favourites. With his usual effortless and understated delivery, Jake cracked through the set list, more interested in his guitars than the audience, but who would want it any other way? He comes across as a pretty strong minded soul, thankfully unbothered by any criticisms (and I had a few myself of the new album) because the bottom line is that he’s a tremendously hard worker, who is doing a great job of getting his retro and completely individual style of music out there.

Matt Cardle – The Apex, Bury St Edmonds. The one where I heard the sound check.

I don’t pretend to understand the technicalities of what happens during a sound check, but to have the opportunity to hear one makes a punter feel very special. On home turf here, it was akin to Matt playing to a bunch of friends on Christmas Eve who were determined to have a great time. There was a party atmosphere with Matt jumping on a speaker stack at one point and treating the X Factor winning single When We Collide with a suitable tongue-in-cheek delivery (“key change!”). The set list had a tad too many covers for my liking from a man who has, in various guises, written six album’s worth of material, but it’s understandable that when listeners hear the most impeccable vocal delivery of a well loved song, they bond with it. And his voice remains spine tingling, spectacular and undeniably impressive, as he demonstrated with a huge thrusting note in Human Nature. The guitar solo in Slowly and big umphy ending with Blue were a welcome reminder of Matt’s Indie roots, and the Intimate and Live Tour was a welcome diversion as the wait for Matt’s next album continues.

Noel Gallagher – Bournemouth International Centre. The one where I was reunited with a lifelong hero.

Back to my Knebworth memories, seeing Oasis was a true “I was there” moment. Many years on, being back in the presence of the coolest (and possibly foulest-mouthed) statesman of modern music was another thrill. Noel has carried on cutting the mustard with his High Flying Birds, but retained many Oasis classics in the set list in recognition that his audience are mainly folks like me, who remember the good old days. A particular favourite was to hear Digsy’s Diner with the crowd singing, “We’ll have lasagne!” And it wouldn’t quite be the same if he didn’t insult the local footy fans with his personal style of banter. 2016 has thieved us of many of our musical heroes, but I’m hoping that someone up there recognises the need for Noel to be retained on this Earth for many years to come. Please let him be the David Attenborough figure that evades time.

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