Can you gig it? Our music journalists talk about their best gigs

Entertainment | Published:

There's nothing quite like the experience that comes with a live music show.

No record, MP3 or CD can compare to really being there – feeling the music thudding in your chest, the energy palpable.

You might have spent hours trying to desperately get tickets, forking out a fortune to buy them before making the pilgrimage to the venue to behold what you've been dying to see for days, weeks or months.

No TV performance or radio rendition can immerse you in the electric atmosphere – the excitement, the sing-alongs and the occasional mosh pit.

Where else would you tolerate the pushing and shoving of total strangers other than when you're standing before your favourite band? No one's a stranger at a gig – you're all suddenly friends, united by a common, and very real, love.

We're celebrating live music here at Weekend in the hope that it'll inspire you to go to a gig. Our Andy shares his fondest memories, and some of our other contributors do too.

Check out our entertainment website, Native Monster, for gig listings, and dust off your dancing shoes.

Four kids and 100 Angels crowded into the spit'n'sawdust joint, looking forward to a night of high octane thrills. I can still visualise the venue, the drummer who also worked at Gould's Record Store, in Great Bridge; the singer who, comically, wore a codpiece; the Hell's Angels who were politeness itself when they asked us to pass them a packet of fags from the cigarette machine. It was intoxicating, wild, hedonistic. It was rock'n'roll and I wanted in.

The next week, my brother and I went to the Odeon, in Birmingham, to see Big Country and a band called White China. The support blew the Scottish headliners away. The list inside the wardrobe grew: Tears For Fears, REM, Lloyd Cole and an insane Marc Almond gig in which a couple got rather intimate during the show on a first-floor balcony in a dodgy Birmingham club while Marc gave people in the front row electric shocks from a microphone that had a loose connection.


We spent nights at JB's, in Dudley, watching the UK's coolest bands as they began their long and lonely road to the top. At Junction 10, in Walsall, the owners let me hang out backstage; watching questionable bands behave disgracefully but being hot-wired into the visceral thrills of live music. At the Irish Centre, the manager gave me an AAA pass. I ended up in a dressing room with The Happy Mondays, drugged-up and on some distant planet – them, not me. It looked like a battlefield hospital ward, bodies were strewn across the floor. The dressing room for James was similar. A few weeks later, Paul Heaton, then singer for The Beautiful South, got in a strop and sat on the drum riser, eating tangerines and throwing the pips and peel into the crowd.

Every gig was different – and plenty were indifferent.

I was swept away by the beauty and majesty of The Blue Nile with Shawn Colvin at Birmingham Town Hall; I cried at Clint Mansell at Birmingham's beautiful Symphony Hall earlier this year. I watched Prince get his groove on in Birmingham and London; saw James Brown shimmy across the stage like only James Brown could and saw a smacked-up Guns'n'Roses catch helicopters to a gig in Milton Keynes, while running off stage to refuel on narcotics between tunes.

Festivals like Glastonbury, Reading and Pheonix passed in the usual blur of funny cigarettes, too many bottles of red wine and midnight walks with members of the Boo Radleys that ended with more drugs and tall stories. Sinead O'Connor flirted before a gig with the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen; Kylie was a perfectly-formed pop princess who hung out for 30 minutes before thrilling 30,000 fans in a Scottish field and there were too many Oasis nights to remember. From London to Toronto via Kansas, St Louis, Dublin and Lord knows where else; Noel was always charming and brilliant on stage. His brother was invariably a git.


The list in the wardrobe came to an abrupt end. I ran out of space. There weren't enough lines to fit in the pre-Ocean Colour Scene band, The Fanatics, who played around Brum; nor Patti Smith and Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell, who on separate evenings filled the upstairs rooms of small pubs in London for secret gigs. Taxis were shared with Talking Heads and in one year I consumed 235 shows – living on a diet of Lucozade for breakfast, real ale for lunch and gigs for supper.

Live music became a religion; a means of escape from the humdrum and the daily round. It became a reason to become happy when things got bad; a chance to ramp up the celebrations in good times. Bruce Springsteen thrilled at Villa Park, the Royal Albert Hall, the NEC and Coventry's Ricoh Arena. Sir Paul McCartney recited poetry at Hay-on-Wye; The Red Hot Chili Peppers thrilled in Los Angeles and again in Coventry; Jeff Buckley was one of the best of all time; Foo Fighters dazzled a few hundred fans in London, then tore it up in front of 50,000-odd at a stadium show; The Rolling Stones were imperious at Wembley and nights at Wolverhampton's Civic – watching Paul Weller, New Order, the Manic Street Preachers – were too many to remember.

Mates have similar stories: of Adele, Coldplay and Jeff Buckley at tiny clubs in Birmingham and Wolverhampton, of The Rolling Stones at Eel Pie Island, of nights that have changed lives forever.

Coolest gig: Led Zeppelin at Earls Court in 1975. This was my first proper foray into rock and roll and what a night. Robert Plant flashing his bare chest and setting hearts aflutter, swirling smoke writhing across the stage, lasers and a giant screen above the stage relaying the concert so that those of us in the cheap seats at the back could see.

Coolest gig: A few years ago, me and a mate, who works for British Airways, found out Irish punk veterans Stiff Little Fingers were playing a tiny club (Gruta 77) in Madrid. He blagged us some cheap flights and I blagged us press tickets to the show. We arrived at the hotel early doors, ditched our bags and went to, err, see the sights.

The band showed why they were so highly rated in their heyday and proved that even now, no one else can hold a candle to them for pure talent.

Summer of '69 also casts me back to the days of under 18s rock night Generation at Wolverhampton Civic. So when I was given the chance to review his show at the then LG Arena back in November 2014, I jumped at the opportunity. We turned up a little late and nearly had some form of panic attack when we saw just how close to the stage we were. And his show was sublime from start to end.

Coolest gig: The coolest came on January 27, 1986, when the Red Wedge tour visited Birmingham Odeon. Red Wedge

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