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…


Rush – 08/09/04 – Wembley Arena

Rush ticket Sep 2004Possibly one of the most eagerly anticipated concerts of my life – Rush had been soooo good when I saw them before, and they had bypassed the UK on the last 3 or 4 tours so I would have paid double or triple the face value just to sit in row Z. As it happens, the seats were halfway back on the side, so not bad really.

After a couple of pre-gig pints in the Globe on Baker Street (that’s where you go when you’re off up Wembley way innit) we strode through the turnstiles at about 20 past 8, into the under-stand bar/merchandise area to find it strangely deserted, and some muffled music coming from the arena. I didn’t realise there was a support act? Hang on, either they have invited a Rush tribute act to support, or, or, or, no, fuck, it can’t be, that’s ‘Spirit Of Radio’ – that’s Rush. We’ve missed the fucking start of the fucking gig. They must have started at 8. I’ve waited all these years, and I’ve missed the fucking start of the fucking gig. Fucksticks. So we sprinted round what seemed like the entire arena to find our entrance, and yes, there they were, twenty minutes into their set.

Considering they are renowned for playing 3hr sets, I shouldn’t really have worried too much about missing the first couple, but that’s not the point, is it. The best thing about Rush is that you are guaranteed a decent trawl through the classics, and they constantly pull out little surprises. As well as the usual favourites, I was psyched to hear ‘Between The Wheels’ (contains the best Lifeson solo of all, IMHFO), ‘By-Tor’ and ‘The Trees’. Unfortunately, the sound was well, fucking awful, to be honest. The stage set was pretty minimal, and compared to Madonna’s show a few months prior, pretty amateurish, but it’s ALL about the music with Rush. Really odd crowd too. Almost all male (no surprise there) but no long hair, no black T-Shirts, hardly any rock element at all – they all looked quite blokey and footbally. I don’t know what I was expecting really, but not blokey and footbally.

The atmosphere was fantastic though, and there was lots of air guitar and all in all it was a bloody great show. Not as good as the previous time, purely down to the pants sound. Leads me to wonder how they managed to sound so good in 92.

Rush + Primus – 17/04/92 – Wembley Arena

Rush Kerrang! advert Apr 1992

The big one. Rush tours almost always bypass the UK, and I had been itching to see them for a few years so I literally bit the arm off Star Green Box Office to get my ticket. I hadn’t been massively impressed by Presto, but with Roll The Bones they seemed to be getting back on track, and emphasizing the guitar again, but to be honest I would have gone to see them if they’d put out an album of soul covers.

Rush NME advert Apr 1992

First up though, a band I’d never heard of, Primus. They were superb, and I can see why they were invited on this tour. Les Claypool is a bass virtuoso, easily as good as Geddy Lee, albeit more slappy and funky and certainly less ‘my bag’, but a virtuoso nonetheless. The air of anticipation around the whole arena was really palpable as Primus’ roadies broke down their gear and cleared the stage. I knew every single Rush bass line note for note, and although I couldn’t quite play all the fiddly bits, it was Geddy Lee that really taught me to play the bass. My seat, about halfway back, up the side, was probably not good enough to get me a great view of the band, and there was no giant screen, nor much in the way of stage set.

Their traditional fanfare, the opening bars of the Three Stooges theme music came on, and they soon launched into ‘Force Ten’. I could not believe how good they were. The sound was remarkably good for Wembley, and I was playing air bass in no time. They played a good half dozen ‘3rd era’ tracks before they even went near ‘Roll The Bones’- ‘Dreamline’ was the first, and I think it’s certainly one of the strongest on that album.

Rush ticket Apr 1992

I needn’t have worried about them not playing enough old stuff – they played songs from every album I think, including the ‘Overture’ from 2112  and the only drum solo that doesn’t make me cringe, ‘The Rhythm Method’ (or whatever name it went by at that time). It’s a tired old cliché but it has to be said – all three of them really are maestros, all at the very top of their respective trees. At the time I was pretty much obsessed with Geddy Lee, I knew enough to know how awesome Neil Peart and Alex Lifeson were, but as a student of the bass, I focused on what Geddy was doing. It was several years before I would really study and properly appreciate the technical genius of the other two. My favourite albums have (usually always, I go through phases) always been from the ‘3rd era’ and those are the tracks that stick in my mind from this gig, but I know I screamed all the words and plucked all the notes to each song they served up. After a couple of encores, they finished up with ‘Spirit of Radio’ and that was it – 2hrs of progressive rock bliss, now just a memory. It was to be years before they came here again.

The Prodigy – 31/12/91 – Brixton Academy

Not a Prodigy gig, as such, they were the ‘live’ act at the ‘Yikes’ NYE bash. Three different DJs had already played ‘Your Love’ before the Prodigy even came on, and they were still very new to the game – ‘Everybody In The Place’ was released the week before, I think. Notable gig because Keith Flint was just the dancer in those days, wearing a ridiculous black and white Pierrot costume. Like Bez but ten times faster. Outstanding event, the absolute best ‘all night’ type of affair I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.

Time ticket Dec 1991