New Year’s Eve seems about the best date for my review of the gigs I saw this year (I know I’m not seeing another today).
I saw 41 gigs in2017. That’s two more than in 2016 and a lot less than my average number (which is more like the high forties).
Let’s get the disappointments out of the way first. Tanita Tikaram was just dull, as was Natalie Imbruglia (I waited to hear “Torn” and then left). Normally, Amanda Palmer gets an instant pass to the top ten list, but the album she recorded with Edward Ka-Spel wasn’t my cup of tea at all and the gig they played together promoting it was terrible. She played a few other shows in London over the year, but they were all on nights when I couldn’t be there. The Stone Roses at Wembley was all you’d expect it to be – overpriced and uninteresting. And I left the Magnetic Fields show at the interval. Oh, and for the first time ever, I did the same at an Icicle Works gig.
And here, in chronological order, are my favourite shows of the year.
- Laura Marling at the Roundhouse. I see Laura Marling play whenever I can. She’s always just stunning. The Semper Femina tour wasn’t quite as impressive as the one for Short Movie. But it was still one of my best nights out this year.
- HAIM at Islington Assembly Hall was a large-minute, fans-only, free gig which was filmed for a documentary to promote their new album. It was full of the false starts and repetition that nights like that often suffer from. But it had been years since I’d seen them and they are still as great as they ever were.
- Belle and Sebastian at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Belle and Sebastian always put on a great show and this was no exception. I was particularly happy that they played “Lazy Line Painter Jane” – which I’d never seen them do before. And the support, Honeyblood, are a band I’ll be looking out for in the future.
- Kraftwerk at the Royal Albert Hall. It had been 25 years since I last saw Kraftwerk (on their The Mix tour). In the meantime, technology has really caught up with their vision of what a performance should be. This run of gigs probably had more of my friends in attendance than any other tour this year. All my gig-going friends seemed to go to one of the shows.
- Kate Nash at the Shepherds Bush Empire. I saw Kate Nash twice this year. This was the second show I saw and it was only better than the Village Underground show because she was celebrating the tenth anniversary of the release of Made of Bricks and played the whole album.
- Lorde at Alexandra Palace. Incredible to believe that Lorde is still only twenty-one. She’s like a force of nature. Melodrama was such an advance on Pure Heroine. And this show was so much better than her previous tour (which was also great).
- Radiophonic Workshop at the British Library. Something a bit different. A group of geriatrics playing the most futuristic music you’ll ever hear. They don’t play often, but try to catch them when you can.
- Midge Ure at the Shepherds Bush Empire. This was basically Midge Ure playing Ultravox’s greatest hits. Which is enough to make me happy. And when you add Altered Images as support, it becomes an awesome night. Even the boorish Christians as the second support couldn’t spoil the evening.
- Bananarama at the Hammersmith Apollo. This was a bit left field. And stupidly expensive. But it was worth every penny for the grin that was fixed to my face for the following three days. This was, hands-down, the most enjoyable gig I saw all year.
- Wolf Alice at Alexandra Palace. I was late to appreciate Wolf Alice. I just failed to get a ticket for their previous tour where they played somewhere like The Forum. Ally Pally isn’t my favourite venue, but the band were on top form and having Sunflower Bean at support helped make this a great night.
And a few that fell just outside of the top ten.
I’ve seen and been very disappointed by the official current Yes line-up a couple of times, so it was good to see the “less-official” Yes featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin and Rick Wakeman who were great. And who proved to me that if you’re singing Yes material, you need Jon Anderson as lead singer.
Sigur Rós at the Royal Festival Hall were great. And very loud.
The fact that St. Vincent didn’t make the top ten is a mark of how great this year’s gigs. Masseduction is a great album and the tour was fabulous.
Wildwood Kin are a band to look out for. Two sisters and their cousins playing modernist folk. One day (soon) it will seem astonishing that I got to see them somewhere as intimate as the Borderline.
I can’t believe that I haven’t mentioned Tegan & Sara, Adam Ant, St. Etienne, Amy Macdonald, Suzanne Vega, Dweezil Zappa, Billy Bragg, Penguin Cafe, The Unthanks or Kate Rusby – all of which put on great nights that sent me home smiling (and humming).
What am I already looking forward to in 2018? Beth Orton, Superorganism, members of the Art of Noise recreating In Visible Silence, Belle and Sebastian, Arcade Fire, Sunflower Bean, Tears for Fears, The The and King Crimson. It’s already looking like a great year for gigs. Perhaps I’ll see you at one.
What about you? What gigs did you enjoy in 2017?