Tomorrow I am going to see the brilliant band The National at Brixton Academy. What is especially exciting about the gig is at the time of being offered the ticket I liked rather than loved The National, yet as I've listened to them loads since I have fallen head over heels for them. It promises to be a terrific gig and I might even grace the blog with a review. I have been lucky enough over the years to see countless gigs - the prime time being whilst studying at University in Leeds. I thought it might be apt if I add to the Five series with five artists who are fantastic live. These were certainly not my favourite artists at the time of viewing - in most cases far from it - yet they each massively impressed me and fast became essential parts of my collection.
Picture the scene. Leeds Festival 2006. If I'm honest I wasn't that fussed about many of the bands on show and was kicking my heels waiting for The Raconteurs. By mid afternoon I was feeling the effects of the previous night/morning as the brief adrenalin rush of laughing at the lead singer of The Hair's ridiculous expressions had worn off. So for reasons of not being arsed to move more than anything I hung around to watch Feeder. Now I used to really like Feeder - Comfort in Sound being a hugely underrated album - but had moved on and upon seeing them a few years ago in a support role I had been far from impressed. Enter the band, who reeled off hit after fantastic hit, playing with supreme enthusiasm that infected the whole crowd and awoke everyone from their slumber. By the finale of Just a Day as you looked around the crowd previously weary and tired faces were a sea of beaming smiles and bouncing. A notoriously difficult slot became a triumph.
A grainy video of that very song...
No Cities Left was for me the finest album of 2003. So it was with great anticipation and excitement that the Canadian band came to my Uni city of Leeds to play the humble Cockpit. By the time I saw The Dears in February 2005 I had already seen many, many gigs at The Cockpit of varying quality. Quite frankly though I have a great deal of affection for it, as a venue it is pretty rubbish. The acoustics have never been good and clarity of sound is often lost. You can appreciate therefore that although excited I was not expecting much of a show - how wrong I was. The Dears made most of the previous bands I had seen at the venue appear unimaginative and lazy as they transformed a mediocre venue into an atmospheric wall of sound and vision. The light show, smoke and compelling stage presence of all members of the band brought a new quality to the music and it stands alone as the most impressive gig I saw in Leeds during my time there.
One of the great melancholic experiences of life is connecting with an artist only for the rest of the population to steal them away from you. It leads to the nauseating 'I liked them before they went commercial' attitude of which I confess to having lapsed into at times in my younger days. Massive success of a band can at times mean you lose that emotional bond you once shared - Arctic Monkeys and Kings of Leon are recent examples. Like a reluctant mother they fly the nest and never seem the same. On the flip side, it can be tremendously thrilling to see a band you first saw show raw potential climb the ladder to gain huge success without compromising their style. Pleasingly the latter scenario describes my experience of The Killers. I dragged my best mate along to see this band who I had heard a single track from late night on Radio 1 and we witnessed an exhilarating performance in a small venue. We both suspected this band were going places and so it turned out when just a year later we saw them steal the audience away from home favourites Franz Ferdinand at T in the Park in 2004. The coup de grace though was to see them just two years after seeing them in a small venue in Leeds play second on the bill with a triumphant set at Glastonbury. It was spectacular to see such a rise yet still feel that same electricity that I felt when I saw them for the first time. On a side note, this was also the last song at my wedding so it ranks pretty highly on the nostalgia scale. Enjoy!
Guns N Roses
My final choice is a classic example of how anticipation and atmosphere can actually contribute to a performance. It would be ridiculous to claim that Guns N Roses of 2002 were anything close to the heady days of Slash in the late eighties. However for a group of lads from Kendal to actually see Axel Rose performing Guns N Roses songs live was something we never, ever expected. Even on the day itself the expectation was that they wouldn't show and as we waited over an hour after The Prodigy it seemed that we would be disappointed. Even when the shady intro video came up still a further twenty minutes passed with nothing happening and spirits fell. The moment captured below when the intro to Welcome to the Jungle comes on and Axel emerges is the single most exciting moment I have ever experienced at a gig. The release of pure, unbridled joy as the realisation dawned that we were actually seeing Axel Rose singing Appetite for Destruction was almost too much to believe. On reflection they were most likely nowhere near their peak musically but it certainly didn't matter that wet night in a field in Leeds.
That's your lot. I'd love to know your own memories of great live moments.