There were years when I seemed to be out all day and up all night, in pursuit of great rock’n’roll and a generally rowdy time.
Those days are now somewhat behind me, and I’d have to say that it mostly takes something special to lure me forth into the sweating throngs of yore.
Bob’s Never-Ending Tour is a rock saga that I will never tire of being witness to and I’d walk through fire to see Babyshambles at their best, despite the witless mutterings Pete Doherty provokes among people who just don’t get how good he can be.
Looking at what’s coming up over the next month or so, however, I am resigned to becoming once more the creature of the night I once was. Here come Arcade Fire, for instance – and who wouldn’t want to see them? – quickly followed by The Decemberists, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Richmond Fontaine, The Hold Steady, Babyshambles. . .and in April, of course, Dylan is back.
We were talking in the office this morning about how great this line-up looked and the chat then turned to the great shows we’d seen and we started quickly scribbling down lists.
Without giving it much thought, I’d suddenly filled a small notebook with great gigs I’ve seen – but with a gun pointed at my head, and Michael Bonner cocking the trigger, managed to narrow my list down to four unforgettable shows…
1. David Bowie.
London Wembley Arena, 1975
An early night of the Ziggy Stardust tour at Bristol Colston Hall was definitely a major contender for the best gig I’ve ever seen, but for sheer dramatic spectacle and great music, the five Station To Station/Thin White Duke shows at Wembley (then the Empire Pool) remain unbeatable, the shows I most want to see again to find out if they were really as good as I thought they were at the time, when every night seemed simply brilliant.
2. Bob Dylan
London Wembley Arena, 1987
Most longstanding Bob fans were appalled by this show and what they considered the desecration by Dylan of his classic back catalogue. I thought it was an inspired vandalisation, brutal and challenging, a scorched earth triumph, charred and astonishing.
3. Jimi Hendrix
Cardiff Sofia Gardens, 1967
How mind-blowing do you think this was for a 15-year old, especially as Jimi was headlining a package tour that also included Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd in their brief but unforgettable prime? I went into this show a music fan and came out a prisoner of rock’n’roll.
4. The 101’ers
The Elgin, Ladbroke Grove, 1975
Joe Strummer marched into legend with The Clash, but this is where it all started for him – in the back room of a Labdbroke Grove pub where The 101’ers played a Thursday night residency for a crowd of rowdy regulars, many of whom remain defiantly convinced The Clash were never this great. I think I saw nearly all the shows, and there was nowhere else in the world I would have wanted to be on those Thursday nights. It’d be great to hear from anyone else who was there.