The Top Ten

Before WordPress I had a blog on the photosharing site multiply.com 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…

Big Day Out – 19/01/07 – Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

The closest NZ and Oz can come to a Reading or a V festival, the BDO is eagerly anticipated and usually pulls at least one massive band, having attracted (I believe) Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers amongst others, in the past. It all takes place in a rugby stadium in the middle of an industrial estate, so it doesn’t have a great deal going for it in the ambience stakes. It’s hardly Hylands Park or Worthy Farm, but it was a lovely sunny day, so… Having been inside 10 minutes though, I realized just

Big Day Out Mt Smart Stadium Jan 2007
Mt Smart Stadium

how far it was from Reading or V, when I attempted to purchase a nice cold beer. I like to drink beer at gigs. I especially like to drink beer at outdoor gigs in the middle of summer. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to get tanked and throw cups of warm urine at the stage or dance naked in the mud, but I do like to be able to get a cold alcoholic beverage and watch the bands I’ve paid a not inconsiderable amount to see. Whilst I consume my drink. Not going to happen at Big Day Out though. No, no, no, no, no. In order to prevent anyone getting in the slightest bit intoxicated, and to avoid the possibility of any under-18s having to put up with the horrifying sight of adults drinking beer, the organisers concocted the most complicated and time consuming assault course which potential drinkers must negotiate before quenching their thirsts. I queued 5 separate times, collecting various wristbands, tokens and stamps and magic passwords along the way, before I was able to drink my 4 small plastic bottles of slightly below room temperature gnat’s piss (marketed under the name Lion Red), in a fenced off enclosure, in earshot, but only just in view of, the stage. Waste of fucking time if you ask me. Anyway, rant over. Now bands come.

We wandered between the Other Stage and the twin main stage and because it was a rugby stadium and not a farmer’s field, it was relatively easy to move about. Kasabian?

Big Day Out Kasabian Jan 2007
Kasabian

Brilliant. Bloody brilliant. They had two albums out at this point, and basically played the best 4 off each. Really great live. My Chemical Romance? Utter shite, emo teenpop Bebo bollocks with eyeliner. Scribe? Please god, make it stop. The Vines? Not bad, not bad. Didn’t hear the one track I remembered, but a decent enough racket nevertheless. The Streets? Doesn’t really work on a big stage in a big tent, not for me anyway. Saw bits and pieces of things as we wandered around, but manoeuvered ourselves nice and early into a good vantage point from which to see The Killers, and then push on from there to get a prime spot for Muse right afterwards. The Killers were very disappointing, very disappointing indeed. They just lacked the oomph that made them so good the previous times I’d send them, and the new album (Sam’s Town) seemed to be 95% filler so after they’d done ‘Somebody Told Me’ and ‘Mr Brightside’, which they knocked off very early in the set, it went most definitely downhill. Anyway, the rest of crowd seemed to love it, and before the end of the set we had wriggled and squirmed our way to the crash barriers in front of Muse’s stage. Not THE crash barriers, just the crash barriers around the ‘Exclusive’ zone, which we couldn’t be arsed to queue for.

Big Day Out Muse Jan 2007
Muse

Anyway, the anticipation, as the sun went down over Mt Smart Stadium, was pretty much unbearable. I had wanted to see Muse since seeing their triumphant 2002 Glastonbury performance on TV. They really brought something different to rock music, well, to be fair, they brought several well established facets together in a new and exciting way. What really grabbed me was the virtuoso musicianship, and the sheer noise that 3 people could bash out. So, like I said, I was well up for this. With the roadies safely out of sight and the interval music faded out, the show was about to start. The Wagnerian opening bars of ‘Knights of Cydonia’ crashed out of the PA and the three skinny runts from a quaint holiday town in Devon wandered on to rapturous cheers. Matt Bellamy’s falsetto warble intro seemed even more falsetto than on record, and they dragged out the intro to tortuous lengths. I personally don’t particularly go for the self-indulgent warbling nonsense or the Sparky’s Magic Piano or the John Williams movie score elements to their music, but it does provide an efficient foil to the thunderously good rock bits. Anyway, that’s undoubtedly what sets them apart from most of the rest. In actual fact, I like less than half of their recorded output – none of their albums has more than 3 or 4 truly excellent tracks on in my humbliest of humble opinions. Anyway, the self-indulgent warbling nonsense at the beginning of ‘Knights…’ was finally at an end, and like a barrel tipping over the falls, the guitars came crashing in for the rocky bit. Always the best bit of any gig* , this intro was a particularly fine example. It’s like Queen suddenly goes all Iron Maiden. The crowd was jumping in unison, chanting along to the riff. What an entrance. As it was just an hour set, they played just the major sluggers and pretty much none of the filler stuff. ‘Plug In Baby’, ‘New Born’, ‘Supermassive Blackhole’, ‘Starlight’ etc etc. Fucking, fucking, fucking brilliant. This gig went straight into the top 5 gigs of all time, with immediate effect, but always on the proviso that it would be re-adjudged in a year’s time, in the cold light of day, so to speak. Three years down the line though, it’s still up there, and will be hard to dislodge now.

Tool was actually the headline act that day, but we were so rocked out by Muse that there was no way they could come even close, hence we made an early dash for the gates and the train home.

*see Metallica Dec 88

Big Day Out ticket Jan 2007