It’s the last day of 2018, and I know I’m not going to a gig tonight, so that sounds like a very good time for my annual review of the gigs I’ve seen this year.
Songkick tells me that I saw 35 gigs in 2018. That’s the lowest number since I’ve been counting them. It’s even one fewer than 2012 when I had the excuse of having my leg in plaster for six months. I’m not sure why the number is so low. Perhaps I’m getting pickier about what I see.
Let’s start by talking about a few of the disappointments. I don’t know what I was expecting when I booked to see Kristin Hersh, but she didn’t deliver and I left just after she sang “Your Ghost”. I was similarly disappointed by The Primitives – I left after a few songs and didn’t even wait to hear “Crash”. But easily the worst show I saw this year was Tiffany. Yes, I know. I admit it was a bit of a gamble. But when I wondered aloud on Twitter about seeing the show, Tiffany replied, so I felt it was rude not to go. I lasted three songs before leaving.
On the other hand, here (in chronological order) are my ten favourite gigs of the year.
- Superorganism at Oval Space. If there’s any justice in the world, this will be one of those gigs that people claim to have been at. But only a few hundred of us were. If you haven’t heard Superorganism’s album, then I suggest you give it a listen. And then try to see them live as soon as you can.
- Lily Allen at the Dome. I’ve seen Lily Allen at the Brixton Academy before and she was pretty good. But I wasn’t going to miss the chance to see her in a small venue like this. It didn’t matter that most of the set was made up of her new album – she was great.
- Arcade Fire at Wembley Arena. Not many bands can persuade me to visit the soulless box that is Wembley Arena. But I’m glad I made an exception for Arcade Fire. They were (as always) sensational.
- Florence + the Machine at the Royal Festival Hall. I’m not a huge Florence fan but when she announced this sudden gig at the South Bank, I jumped at the chance to see her again. Through the magic of my South Bank membership, I got a front-row seat and loved every minute of the show.
- Pale Waves at Heaven. I saw Pale Waves twice this year, but I think the smaller show at Heaven just trumped the bigger show I saw later in the year at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I’m looking forward to seeing them again soon.
- David Byrne at the Hammersmith Odeon. It’s one of my great disappointments that I never saw Talking Heads live. This was my second time seeing David Byrne (the first time, he was playing with St Vincent) and this show was absolutely amazing. He did it again later in the year at the O2 Arena, so I’m glad I saw it in a smaller venue.
- The Cure at the Royal Festival Hall. This wasn’t billed as the Cure (for contractual reasons, I think) but everyone knew that’s what Robert Smith was planning. This was an incredible, chronological journey through the band’s music.
- Amanda Palmer at the Queen’s Hall. It’s been a couple of years since Amanda Palmer made this list and it’s great to report she’s back on top form. These shows at the Edinburgh Festival were a prototype for a tour she’s planning to take around the world over the next two years. I suggest you try really hard not to miss it. (I’ve just remembered that I saw her earlier in the year too – but that show is not on Songkick as it was a private event for her Patreon supporters. That was awesome too.)
- Soft Cell at the O2 Arena. I never saw Soft Cell when they were first around and I walked out of a Marc Almond show a couple of years ago. But there was no chance I’d miss this. Even the O2 couldn’t suck the life out of a Soft Cell show.
- All Saints at the Hammersmith Odeon. A little bit of cheese to end the year. All Saints were a bit of a guilty pleasure twenty years ago and they’re still a lot of fun these days.
Although I saw fewer shows this year, they must have been of higher quality than usual. I can’t believe that Sunflower Bean (who I saw twice), the Art of Noise, Belle and Sebastian or Heaven 17 didn’t make the top ten. Even Yes were far better than I’ve ever seen them before.
So that was 2018. I already have some interesting things lined up for 2019 – a Tears For Fears show that was postponed from this year, Chvrches (for what seems the first time for far too long), ABC and Nick Mason playing some old Pink Floyd numbers are among the tickets I’ve already bought. I also have ticket to see the Buzzcocks for the first time, but I’m not sure if that will still go ahead following the death of Pete Shelley.
What about you? What did you enjoy seeing live this year?