Ten gigs to remember…

I will not give you a figure (although I have it!) but I already spent a huge portion of my time on Earth attending gigs. It also means money spent on tickets, travels, tens of merchandising and gallons of beer! Jim & Greg from Sound Opinions recently did one of their shows on the concerts which made them what they are. I thought it would be a cool idea for this blog. You will find below a selection of ten concerts. A few massive live bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, U2 or again Bruce Springsteen could have been there for sure but these next ten are really special to me.

  • Prince – Paris, Bercy – 14th June 1987 – Setlist

Difficult not to select Prince in this list. I was lucky enough to catch him live three times but the first concert was definitely the best. He was at the peak of his career and had released his first post-Revolution LP “Sign O’ The Times” a few months earlier. I remember the stage was amazing while retaining a very natural feel. And Mr Prince Roger Nelson was also playing his beautiful peach harp-shaped guitar…

  • Happy Mondays / My Bloody Valentine – Paris, New Morning – 22nd March 1989 – Setlist

I must admit I am not sure which band was supporting which but I remember sweat was literally pouring on the walls of the tiny New Morning theatre, which was more a jazz location than a Madchester / Noisy Pop one! I also remember experiencing Happy Monday’s Bez dancing like hell with MBV on stage as if his life were depending on it!

  • Neil Young – Paris, Zenith – 7th July 1993 – Setlist

Neil Young is one of the best performers of all times and I guess you do not need to read this blog to discover this as a fact. I have attended six gigs of his and they have all been gorgeous. In my mind, the first time I caught him live on stage with the immense Booker T and the MG’s gave me shivers down my spine throughout all the concert and for good reasons probably. I saw him last year in 2019 at Hyde Park and he was playing like a guy in his twenties.

  • Jeff Buckley – Paris, Olympia – 6th July 1995 – Setlist

Jeff Buckley… The saddest history of them all… He gave us one hell of an album with “Grace” and was destined to be one of the greatest… It was unfortunately not meant to be but that night was one of the most moving moments I experienced in my life. This was an extraordinary performance by a beautiful human being. Pretty awesome setlist as well from acapella opener “Dream Brother” to final Big Star cover song “Kanga Roo“.

  • Radiohead – Paris, Cigale – 16th April 1996 – Setlist

Radiohead is probably my favourite band of the last 25 years and when I am asked which style of music I listen to, I generally reply that I like every genre but with a specific love of bands such as The Velvet Underground or Radiohead. I went to seven Radiohead gigs in my life and I must say their initiative of releasing one new video concert every week during this lockdown period was a real sign of class. In 1996, they were far from releasing their next to come masterpieces but that night they way the played tracks from “The Bends” with so much passion was the start of a love story between me and the band.

  • Tom Waits – Paris, Grand Rex – 24th July 2008 – Setlist

…and here we go, twelve years later, back in Paris as if living in Brazil or Strasbourg never happened… Catching Tom Waits on stage is quite difficult to say the least as the great man very rarely tours (no sign of him in Europe since then). What made this concert standing up above the rest was probably the musicianship and atmosphere the audience had that night and the feeling we were all in a different and fairy world.

  • Arcade Fire – Austin City Limits festival, Texas – 18th September 2011 – Setlist

Is there a better band than Canadians Arcade Fire on stage in terms of intensity, passion and dedication? Probably not. Is there a cooler musical city in the world than Austin, Texas? Probably not either… Attending Austin City Limits festival was a dream come true for this blog’s main shareholder and his Paulistano buddy. No ticket picture this time and no way to find the original wristband…

  • Iggy Pop – London, Royal Albert Hall – 13th May 2016 – Setlist

Finally, a concert happening in my favourite city in the world! Was it the best concert I have ever seen? Difficult to answer such a question but the way Iggy Pop performed that night was probably as good as in his years with The Stooges but with more experience and life troubles behind him. Based mainly on his three best albums, i.e. “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life” from his Bowie Berlin years and recent “Post Pop Depression“, what made this show so special was also his backing band…which basically was Queens Of The Stone Age on this tour. Spotting Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Mani (The Stone Roses) and Kate Moss while leaving the Hall probably added up to the excitement that night.

  • Moses Sumney – End of the Road festival, Dorset – 2nd September 2017

Another obvious choice as End of the Road has probably been my favourite time of the year since I have discovered it. No edition this year for the same obvious reasons which have made 2020 such a weird year so far but memories from past editions as still there. Moses Sumney’s gig that year was a shocker to me as I had no clue whatsoever about who he was and what kind of music he was playing. I am not sure being able to better characterize his art today but I know for sure he is one of my favourite current artists following the emotional encounter I had that day at the beautiful Garden Stage.

  • David Byrne – London, Eventim Apollo – 19th June 2018 – Setlist / New York, Hudson Theatre – 25th January 2020 – Setlist

Last but not least to end up this list of concerts, let me introduce you to Mr. David Byrne, originally from Scotland but better known as the singer of New York band Talking Heads. I went to his London concert just because his new album was quite good and also because I had good memories about the previous gigs I had seen. However, nothing was preparing me for such a beautiful conceptual thing. Surrounded by eleven musicians from all over the world, each of them wearing an elegant grey suit, free of their moves and barefoot, David Byrne had never sung so well. The setlist was extraordinary with songs from all periods of his musical career. If you add up a beautiful stage, lots of fund and energy plus a pinch of political conscience, you will get a recipe of a fantastic gig. The good news is that this tour had a continuity on Broadway in late 2019 and early 2020. I must admit I loved it so much that I succeeded in seeing it again in New York at the start of the year.

So ten nights out of hundreds of great performances may look like a difficult choice to make but I guess it was done quite naturally. Regrets, I had a few (how did I do not to see Nirvana live?…) but overall I would like to thank all these artists for the 1,304 concerts I have been to (indeed, here is the number!).

My Californian rock trip, July 2016

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The blog has been away for a few months but for good reasons. First, there has been a change of office in order to deal with the exponential growth of readers all around the globe but the main reason is that one of the blog’s best reporter has been sent to the USA and more precisely in California for a couple of weeks.

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As for all good Californian journeys, better to start with San Francisco not only because the temperature difference is low vs. London but also as this is a great rock’n’roll place. A bit disappointing to be honest as the Haight and Ashbury district is not really what it used to be when bands such as Jefferson Airplane or the Grateful Dead were leading the psychedelic world but one can still sense a bit of hippie vibes when hanging around in the city. Funny as well to see for real places such as Grace Cathedral Park, as sung by Mark Kozelek in his Red House Painters days. The real music highs I experienced were the visit of the great Haight Ashbury Music Center guitar store but moreover the way I found a quite rare American edition of Virgins and Philistines by the Colourfield for only $9! I have been looking for the vinyl version of this record for a long time and found it in a store who had only a few vinyls…in a country where basically this is getting very difficult and rare to find records’ store.

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Change of atmosphere a few days later on our way from the Death Valley to Joshua Tree. “This is 9am ; let’s stop for breakfast… this place seems nice…funny that this is called Bagdad Café like that in the movie…but stop, that’s the one actually!” Yes, indeed, quite unexpected but great. For some reason, this movie has been really popular in France and Japan… and that’s it really but one cannot forget the fantastic cover of the soundtrack done by the late Jeff Buckley.

I would lie if I were to say that visiting the Joshua Tree National Park was only to see the beauties of this weird and atypical place. U2 made indeed the place more famous than it used to be with their 1987 LP and this is also the home of the Rancho de la Luna studio, home for instance of many Queens of the Stone Age records and the latest Iggy Pop LP too. However, I really booked our motel there as it looked nice, cheap and quite easy vs. our overall road trip. What a surprise then to realise at the reception desk that this is actually the motel where U2 stayed and had many famous pictures taken for the promotion of the album…close to 30 years ago now… Great place with just a few rooms and a special vibe as one can guess.

After San Francisco, Big Sur, Sequoia National Park, Death Valley and Joshua Tree, our last stop was in Los Angeles and in particular on Venice Beach. No way for a music and records lover not to pay a visit to Amoeba records which is probably the biggest independent records’ store in the world right now with Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas. Quite an amazing place indeed. I was impressed in particular by the way so many records were so well labelled and organised in such a big store and I must say it was quite easy to find out what one was looking for. But the real totally unexpected event of it was to spot Jesse Hugues, leader and singer of the Eagles of Death Metal hanging around in the store, without nobody really recognising him. I met him for a chat and although a lot of not-so-nice comments have been made about him recently, he was charming and very warm. I could really felt that the Bataclan November events were still very much in his heart and soul and that the guy feels connected forever with French people with what happened that night.

Last but by no mean least, I had been warmly recommended by a Garideche Hell’s Angels’ hipster not to leave L.A. without attending a show at the Hollywood Bowl. I did not manage to make it as the shows were not great when we were there but I had booked in advance to spend our last night at the Greek Theater to see The National, one of my favourite bands ever. The Greek Theatre bears the same concept as the Hollywood Bowl, in the sense that the audience sits outside in an amphitheatre surrounded by a beautiful landscape. Amazing place…and another great show for the National. On top of singing their usual beautiful songs which were chosen amongst all their past LP’s, the band played a few songs from their future LP which is still under a work in progress phase. Very interesting songs with more electro sounds although final versions may be quite different. The band were excellent as usual and their singer Matt Berninger particularly happy to be there, as shown with his recurring beetle-on-stage jokes. Great invitees on stage as well with Adam Granduciel from the The War on Drugs and Annie Clarke from St. Vincent…and a concert from The National would not be the same without the splendid a capella performance of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” so the show ended beautifully.

No “Californication”, neither “California uber alles”, just a great trip in one of the greatest rock’n’roll places in the world.

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TOP 100 Artists/Bands of all Times : 56 – 60

I know, I know, the working week is tough without a new episode of our TOP 100 but here is your reward.

60. Robert Wyatt

 from : Bristol, England / first great sounds : 60’s / style : delicate protest songs / essential albums : Rock Bottom (1974) , Old Rottenhat (1985)

There are basically two periods concerning Robert Wyatt : the first one when he was party-beast drummer in jazz-rock British ensemble The Soft Machine and the second one when he became the man of a beautiful voice and inventive keyboards sounds after being paralyzed from the waist down due to him falling down from a window at one party too many. His oeuvre is unique and can not be linked with that of any other musicians due to the kind of music he plays. Very much on the left side politically speaking, Robert has been showing all his life how to make beautiful and sensitive protest music.

59. Jeff Buckley

 from : Orange County, California, USA  / first great sounds : 90’s / style : sensitive authentic rock / essential album : Grace (1994)

Jeff Buckley would probably be rated much higher here if he had been able to have a longer career. Son of the great Tim Buckley, him passing away in 1997 was probably the saddest news in the history of rock music such was his talent. At the same time very much respectful and passionate about his predecessors, he was still able to bring something new and fresh in his music. Grace is a perfect debut album although I must admit that listening to it is a mix of pleasure and sadness.

58. The Clash

from : London, England / first great sounds : 70’s / style : punk rock / essential albums : The Clash (1977) / London Calling (1979)

Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon, The Clash is one of these bands when you can give the musicians’ names at a glance so great were their personalities and crafts. With Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks, The Clash were the leaders of the UK punk movement of the late 70’s but they were more than that. With Strummer and Jones, they had two amazing songwriters and with Simonon and Headon, they had one of the best rhythm sections ever (although the first one basically learnt bass when playing the first shows!). Authenticity, conquering the US, drugs’ abuse, friendship, betrayal, redemption, their own story is one of the greatest ever written as well.

57. Arcade Fire

Image result for arcade fire live 2007 from : Montreal, Canada / first great sounds : 00’s  / style : hyper-enthusiastic rock  / essential albums : Funeral (2004), The Suburbs (2010) / Click for more on the blog

Arcade Fire came out of nowhere in 2004 with their first LP “Funeral” and the least one can say is that this album made a strong impact in the rock world. There are one of these rare bands that succeed in bringing together the general non-music-lovers’ audience, the rock critics, their peers and your regular indie-rock fan (hello me!). The best environment to enjoy Arcade Fire is to see them on stage as I defy anyone to resists to such enthusiastic songs!

56. Primal Scream

 from : Glasgow, Scotland / first great sounds : 80’s  / style : screamadelica / essential albums : Screamadelica (1991), Vanishing Point (1997) / Click for more on the blog : complete discographylive

Virgins and Philistines avid followers will not be surprised to see Primal Scream in our TOP 100 thanks to the different posts we have already done about this great band and their leader Bobby Gillespie in particular. I would only recommend once more to listen again and again to “Screamadelica” if you want to feel the hedonism and positive feeling that one could find in the music business in the UK in the early 90’s. Don’t fight it, feel it!