Time for my traditional round-up of the gigs I saw in the previous year.
According to Songkick, I saw 39 gigs in 2016. That’s the lowest number since 2012 (when I saw 36 – but had the excuse that my leg was in plaster for six weeks and I didn’t get out much).
Let’s start with the disappointments. I left two gigs at the interval. I had wanted to see Marc Almond for a long time, but when it finally happened it was all just too torch song for my tastes. I’m told the second half was much better.
Then there was Barclay James Harvest (or rather, John Lees’ Barclay James Harvest – the two surviving members of BJH both have their own touring version of the band). Sometimes going to see an act for the first time for thirty-five years isn’t a good idea. They just didn’t hold my interest the way they did back in the early 80s. When they took an early interval (after only half an hour on stage) I ducked out. I hope the second half was longer.
I didn’t leave, but I thought the Björk show at the Hammersmith Odeon was pretty disappointing too. I think I’m in a minority there though.
I only saw two bands twice – Sunflower Bean and the Magnetic North. And this might be the first year in living memory that I didn’t see any members of the Carthy clan playing.
I ticked off four more acts in my “acts from my youth that I never got round to seeing” list – Toyah, ELO, ABC and the Human League. I already have a ticket to see ABC again.
Usually, Amanda Palmer gets a free pass onto the top ten list, but in 2016 I only saw her as a special guest at a Jherek Bischoff show that didn’t quite make the cut.
Here, in chronological order, are the ten best gigs I saw in 2016.
- Sunflower Bean – the first show (at the Dome) just trumps the second (at the Scala) proving once again that smaller venues are better. I reckon 2017 will be your last chance to see them in a smallish venue. That’s them in the photo.
- SOAK – I’ve loved SOAK since I first saw her support Chvrches a couple of years ago. And live, she gets better and better.
- ELO – Yes, incredibly cheesy, of course. But great fun. They have so many fabulous songs.
- Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – This was the night they played Architecture & Morality and Dazzle Ships. Not really their best-known material – but the fans loved it.
- Laura Marling – You can’t go wrong seeing Laura Marling play whenever possible and this show was no exception. I already have a ticket to see her in a couple of months time when she launches her new album.
- Belle and Sebastian – Only the second time I’ve seen them, but they are now a must-see. This show had them playing all of Tigermilk. I’m seeing them again in 2017.
- The Orb – The Orb playing all of Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld. What’s not to like?
- The Magnetic North – The show at RIBA was the second time I saw them in 2016. Their new album, Prospect of Skelmersdale is even better than their debut and I highly recommend seeing them live.
- ABC – In the first half, they played random hits along with selections from The Lexicon of Love II. But in the second half, they played all of The Lexicon of Love. Everyone in the audience knew every lyric and sang along with gusto. It was sublime.
- Christine and the Queens – What an awesome act. One of the best live performances I’ve seen for a very long time.
I’ve just deleted Marianne Faithful and The Staves from this list as it was too long. Other shows bubbling outside the top ten include Barenaked Ladies, St. Etienne and Hannah Peel. It’s mark of the quality of the shows I’ve seen this year that I haven’t found space for Savages, Pixies or Billy Bragg.
And let’s spare a thought for acts we’ll never see performing again. I will alway regret never seeing Prince live and it’s over twenty years since I saw David Bowie play. But of all the talented musicians who died in 2016 I think it’s the two Leonard Cohen shows I saw (in 1993 and 2013) that I will treasure the most.
There are “year in gigs” posts for every year since 2011.