The Top Ten

Before WordPress I had a blog on the photosharing site but that mysteriously disappeared without warning (and the domain name has since resurfaced as something else entirely). One of the posts I published was my all time top 10 concerts, I think it might even have sown the seed in my mind for starting this blog, which was initially for gig reviews and little else. Then the gigs got more and more scarce but my appetite for writing stayed healthy so I’ve tried to launch other blogs, but I can never really sustain the same enthusiasm levels as I can when going on about music. So, I am re-hashing blog posts from history now. I know the top 5 probably hasn’t changed since I wrote this the first time (7 years ago maybe?) but maybe the rest has. Who knows.

Here are my top ten gigs in ascending order from 10

10 Hawkwind @ Fairfield Halls, 1989

Difficult to choose a best one of 3 or 4 excellent Hawkwind gigs, but this was the first one. I only knew half of the songs in those days, so a lot of it was a journey of discovery.

9  Datsuns @ The Astoria, 2002

As with #10, the first of several epic performances. They’ve never put in a less than amazing show, but the first time will always be the greatest. One of the very  best live acts on the circuit, even now.

8  Queens Of The Stone Age @ The Forum, 2002

Awesome due to the fact that I only knew the first 3 or 4 tracks off Songs For The Deaf, and the rest of it blew me away completely. I scarcely listen to them any more, which definitely makes this gig the odd one out on this list.

7  Def Leppard @ Brixton Academy, 2003

The very best of big hair and spandex rock, American stylee. The consummate professionals, made me wonder why I’d never seen them before. I’d go and see them again, I really would.

6  Dandy Warhols @ Brixton Academy, 2003

Much better than I expected them to be. I thought they’d be all sloppy and stoned and shit but they are incredibly tight (for a tripped out jam band).

5  Muse @ Big Day Out, 2007

Awesomeness abounds. Hideous environs, awful festival saved by a great performance.

4  Rush @ Wembley Arena, 1992

My heroes. Possibly the best sound I’ve ever heard at Wembley (to put it another way, possibly the only time it hasn’t been shit). They were just so fucking good.

3  Porcupine Tree @ Bloomsbury Theatre, 1999

Reignited a love affair with the works of Steven Wilson that had taken a bit of a back seat while rave happened. There is very little he has ever been involved in that I don’t absolutely adore. I probably listen to his stuff more than Rush or Nada Surf, even.

2  Nada Surf @ ULU, 2003

They taunted me by not playing again in the UK during the 2 1/2 years I lived there after this. Now Matthew Caws lives there and they play there (relatively) regularly and I know I’ll probably never see them again, much as I would like to.

1  Metallica @ Hammersmith Odeon, 1988

Best because of what it meant to me, as well as the fact that Metallica fucking kick ass live. I have since passed up the opportunity to see them in Christchurch, I would definitely see them if they played in Dunedin (as has been rumoured once) but that’s about it. It’s all about the time and the place.


The top 3 or 4 are never likely to change (especially not now I live in Dunedin!) but the rest are somewhat fluid and there are a few at the lower reaches of the top ten that might drop out in favour of others, depending on mood, what I’m listening to when you ask me etc etc. NMA hasn’t quite made the cut, neither has Maiden or Sabbath. Oh the fickleness of Aoide (the muse of song, classics nerds)

I haven’t included any electronic acts, as the circumstances in which I saw them make it less easy to be objective about things (i.e. I was trolleyed) but Orbital or Eat Static at Brixton might have made the cut on another day, as might The Orb. If I wrote a list of top 10 most trolleyed gigs then they’d definitely be on it.

I have tickets to see The Cult and Steven Wilson in the next couple of months. I would be very surprised if Astbury & Duffy came anywhere near getting themselves on this list, but I would be mildly disappointed if Steven Wilson doesn’t disturb the order of things. To say I am looking forward to that one is something of an understatement. I’m flying up to Auckland on my own for that one…


Def Leppard + The Darkness – 27/02/03 – Brixton Academy

Def Leppard ticket Feb 2003I discovered Def Leppard just before ‘Hysteria’ came out. I remember reading in the Sunday supplements about Rick Allen’s remarkable three-limbed comeback, and going out and buying the cassette, thinking it was the best album ever, then promptly dumping them as being ‘too soft’. Fast forward a quarter of a century or so, and I find myself queuing to get into the Brixton Academy with a couple of thousand financial advisors, accountants and other sensibly coiffeured and conservatively attired 30-50 year olds reliving their youth – an extremely un-metal crowd.

The Academy was absolutely filled to bustin’, so much so that we (my future wife and I, at our first gig together) missed almost all of The Darkness whilst queuing at the coat check and then fighting our way to the bar. No real shame though, they were a fad and a half and wound me the fuck up. If I want comedy metal, I’ll listen to Spinal Tap or Bad News, thanks.

So, on came ver Leppard. They’re all knocking 50 now, but they still look really young, far more healthy and slim than most bands of their era. Viv Campbell had replaced the sadly missed Steve Clarke a decade ago, so I guess he was a pretty established member by now, but I considered him a new face, and an unexpected surprise for me (told you I was out of touch with Leppard). Right from the off, it was classic Leppard all the way – they certainly know what the crowd want, and what the crowd wants is the old stuff. They played very little from Adrenalize onwards, and played a good half-dozen from Hysteria alone. On Through The Night, High ‘n’ Dry and Pyromania were also pretty well represented. What a show. They are seriously good live, so tight and energetic, and for once the Academy sound was pretty decent. Joe Elliott still has a great voice – all the high notes still being hit with remarkable accuracy.

I think I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better display of twin lead guitars – Phil Collen and Viv Campbell were truly incredible – easily as good as Smiff & Murry aaht of Maiden, and with a bit less facial contorsion histrionics too. Rick Savage took things a bit too far, posing about wearing a single leather fingerless glove, but he sounded alright I guess. As well as watching the duelling guitars, I spent a lot of the gig fixated on Rick Allen. I had read so many accounts about his struggle to get back on the ‘throne’ after an arm, I was fascinated to see how it actually worked. At first I was convinced he was being aided and abetted by a drum machine or another drummer hiding in the wings (apparently Bros did this, the limp fuckers), he was producing that much riddim. He was easily as good as all the four-limbed tub-thumbers I’ve seen – his feet were just a blur having taken on the additional work of an arm. One of the best in the business, and no mistake, and played one of the few drum solos I’ve been able to sit through without mentally picking the quickest route to the bar. Fucking. Awesome. Gig.