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 Eurockéennes de Belfort 2013 festival experience

Ah, the pleasure in seeing again the Vosges mountains and the delicious Malsaucy lake and being back at “les Eurocks” as the festival attendees call it. That was indeed my 8th edition and probably one of the best thanks in particular to VIP invitations we got through my good friend Gilles. Indeed, no mud and very sunny this year…and many places to actually sit down and give a bit of a rest to our old bodies.

Radiohead, TV on the Radio, Pixies, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Daft Punk, Depeche Mode, Morrissey, Phoenix, Air, Massive Attack, Grinderman, Gnarls Barkley, Kanye West,… the list of great bands or artists I had seen from 2003 to 2009 is endless so how was this 25th edition ?

  • Day Two – 5th July 2013

No way for me to go to the first day as indeed the festival was held during four days this year to celebrate its specific anniversary so let’s start with Day Two.

Matthew E. White - Eurocks Belfort 2013

What a better way to start the festival than finally seeing summer arriving for Matthew E. White. This bearded guy from Michigan has recently done his first LP and his music is a mix of americana and soul, which made it a nice and easy enjoyable show.

Change of stage and mood (there are four of them in total, including the great “La Plage” one, where the stage is actually in suspension… above the water!) to see the young US Punk band Fidlar (meaning Fuck It Dog, Life’s A Risk – a skateboarder expression). Amazing energy and “joie de vivre” and more pogos that I have seen in my last twenty concerts.

Fidlar - Eurocks Belfort 2013 Woodkid - Eurocks Belfort 2013

The least I can say is that I felt utter disappointment on the contrary with Woodkid, the new French hype guy. Very pretentious and boring music, I may give him a second chance and listen to the record but really I did not enter his world to keep it nicely. The guy directed a couple of videos for Lana del Rey so the apple does not fall far from the tree as one says…

Today’s headliners were the Smashing Pumpkins, one of my favourite bands ever (I know, not in my Top 100, weird…) but I did not have great expectations as the only original member now is their leader Billy Corgan who plays with young musicians. How wrong I was ; they played a fantastic concert and their young drummer is particularly amazing. A very well-balanced set list with old and new songs, ballads and heavy monsters, hits and less famous songs. Go and see them if you can ; that was probably the best show of the week-end for me.

Smashing Pumpkins - Eurocks Belfort 2013

  • Day Three – 6th July 2013

Guest House - Eurocks Belfort 2013 Stand 2000 - Eurocks Belfort 2013

Always difficult to get away from our nice and relaxing guest house in the middle of the mountain to get back to the festival in the middle of thousands (127,000 people for the four days) of people, including a large majority of young girls and boys being there mainly to party and not giving a shit about bands playing. On the opposite, the festival brought many great street theatres troupes this year, including the hilarious Stand 2000 actors.

The Strypes - Eurocks Belfort 2013

The day started for me with the discovery of the very very young Irish band The Strypes. They are all between 15 and 17-year old and their drummer in particular looks like a young kid but boy, how they rock and withsuch style! A great discovery, let’s hope their 60’s rock influences will allow them to make great records and that they will age gracefully.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Robert Levon Been - Eurocks Belfort 2013 Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Peter Hayes - Eurocks Belfort 2013

Talking about style, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are probably the best example of it. Still a trio but now with a new female drummer, their Jesus and Mary Chain meets psychedelic rock influences have aged beautifully and their set was a constant pleasure. Good to see them back on shape after all the personal dramas they lived in recent years.

I had great hopes for the Dan Auerbach (from the Black Keys)-produced soul singer Valerie June but I must admit that the most interesting thing was her dress…

Valerie June - Eurocks Belfort 2013

Back to “la Plage” then, first to hear one of the DJ sets from Pedro Winter (the former Daft Punk manager) mixing great records from The Rapture to LCD Soundsystem and  then announcing the arrival of Dinosaur Jr. I saw them last time in the Parisian winter but they were at ease playing under the sun and their set was great, despite Lou Barlow’s technical issues with his bass. They are one of the best bands ever so nothing else to say.

Dinsosaur Jr. - J. Mascis - Eurocks Belfort 2013 Dinosaur Jr. - Lou Barlow - Eurocks Belfort 2013

Lou Doillon - Eurocks Belfort 2013 Two Door Cinema Club - Eurocks Belfort 2013

After a few other partially-seen shows (Lou Doillon, nice but a bit dull – Is Tropical, energizing dance rock influenced by the Klaxons – Two Door Cinema Club, enjoyable but not exciting band – Fauve, new annoying French hype band), what I had left of energy was dedicated to Phoenix, the headliners of the third day. The way this band is now famous is quite reassuring as it means we could still find bands having success like R.E.M. had in the past for instance, i.e. keeping on believing in your music and deciding that people will finally come to you through hard work and good songs. I was a bit suspicious on my side as the last concert was not as great at the first ones but they were really good tonight and this tour has an excellent set-list, even if I would have liked to hear more old songs. But the new LP gets better and better with every listen and I hope I will enjoy them as much when I see them again in Rock en Seine in late August.

Phoenix - Eurocks Belfort 2013

  • Day Four – 7th July 2013

Are festivals tiring when the last day arrives : YES ! Is it ridiculous to still go to festivals when you are closer to 50-year old than 40 : PROBABLY ! Is it rewarding and will I keep going in rock festivals : YOU BET!

Palma Violets - Eurocks Belfort 2013

Fewer interesting bands to see today which was not a bad thing as quality is much crucial than quantity. The first band I saw were Palma Violets. I had seen them in the very tiny “Boule Noire” theatre last autumn for the festival des Inrocks in Paris and they have survived the hype, made a fine first LP “180” and are getting huge in the UK. They were probably the most energizing bands of the festivals and even if their music is still a bit rough (The Clash meets the Libertines), their attitude and the way they rock are fresh in the current music scene.

The Black Angels - Eurocks Belfort 2013

The music played by the Austin, Tx band The Black Angels on the “Grande Scène” is probably less energetic but their modern psychedelic rock makes them one of the current very solid bands. Their set was full of subtleties and seeing them under the Belfort sun reminded them probably of their beautiful Texas state.

From Australia, the Kevin Parker-lead band Tame Impala have been probably the hippest one last year, with their LP “Lonerism” elected album of the year by New Musical Express and in every music critics top 10 (including this site!). Not the kind a band you abandon yourself to at first sight, one has to enter their world step by step to truly appreciate their beautiful psychedelic (again!) music. Tame Impala - Eurocks Belfort 2013

My Bloody Valentine - Eurocks Belfort 2013

The last and only time I had seen My Bloody Valentine was in 1989 (with Happy Mondays as opening act!) and it has been quite marketed everywhere that their new excellent LP went out this year after a 22-year hiatus. I had read that their shoegazing music on stage was a torture for the ears but that was not true at all. For sure, better to have earplugs and sure again they are not the most talkative band ever but when things work, their music is a real beauty. The kind of bands totally apart from the rest of the music scene, like, say, The Cure (and not only for Kevin Shields haircut), the fact in having them around is a miracle per se.

Blur - Eurocks Belfort 2013

And here were at last, our last concert of the week, the reason we came back to “les Eurockéennes de Belfort” : B-L-U-R ! A truly great band amongst the great, they never really disbanded, even if Damon Albarn was working on hundreds of musical projects and Graham Coxon did not really know if he was still part of the band… They more or less reunited through friendship last year and did a fantastic new single “Under the Westway” so I was very excited to see them again after all these years. The guys were fit and showing us pleasure in being here (their only French date) and the show was great…as expected. It is true that it would really be good for them to make another LP but the songs they have are so good that the crowd was enjoying every moment of it. Very smart set list as well, starting with their “disco” hit Girls & Boys and finishing with four perfect songs. Seeing Blur is like feeling like Dorian Gray, especially at 1.30 am throughout the night after three tiring days!

Blur - Damon Albarn - Eurocks Belfort 2013

See you soon Belfort for a personal 9th edition.

Attendance - Eurocks Belfort 2013