I have been meaning to compile a list of my top ten gigs for a while; firstly because I have been to so many now that it seems a good idea to just reflect upon the vast number of great bands I have seen and secondly because it is always interesting to see what other people (especially those who have also been to these gigs) think. I have chosen to exclude sets by bands at festivals because they are usually not as good as a proper headline show for various reasons (dodgy sound, no soundcheck, crowd not fully appreciative, reduced stage set etc.) and since I am now not going to another gig until I see Marillion in september, this seems a perfect time to take stock. While looking back through the list of gigs that I have been to in my life, I was surprised just how many I have been to. These gigs are not all recent ones (although some are very recent) but there is a good selection from the last few years of regular gigging. Obviously these things can change depending on what I am currently enjoying musically, but I think that these ten gigs will be in the list whatever my current favourite sub-genre. I hope you enjoy reading this, and maybe you can share experiences of some of these gigs, other gigs we've been to or any gigs that you have fond memories of. These gigs have all been reviewed on last.fm, so go there for the full review/setlists as I will not post links here. Here is my top ten:
10) The Reasoning (The Peel, Kingston-upon-Thames on 23/07/2010)
Support: Acoustic Zeppelin
I have seen a few gigs by The Reasoning but this one stands out as the best that I have seen. The-then seven piece lineup really gelled well that night creating a tight set that set the mood well for the High Voltage Festival weekend. Starting with a short acoustic set that showcased their songs in a beautiful stripped-down way; before the main electric set tore the roof off the place. The crowd were excellent, silent as the grave throughout the acoustic numbers and wildly enthusiastic during the main set, especially during the ending song Aching Hunger. The sound was excellent during the set, and this added to a great atmosphere and a great show by a band who I do not think have bettered this (yet..)!
9) Mostly Autumn (The Assembly, Leamington Spa on 02/04/2010)
Again, I have seen many great shows by Mostly Autumn, but this one stands out. It was the last show the band did with then-lead singer Heather Findlay before her departure to start a solo career. As a result, the band were firing on all cylinders and emotions were running high. While no real different material was played from the previous couple of tours, the setlist was a perfect retrospective of what the band had achieved up until that point. Hearing the 13 minute epic Mother Nature is always special, and chosing to finish the show with a particularly rocking version of Evergreen was an inspired move which really put the icing on the cake.
8) Alter Bridge (HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London on 22/10/2010)
Support: Slaves to Gravity
While Alter Bridge do not always come to mind while thinking about my favourite bands, this show always sticks with me. It was relentless, and Alter Bridge played a great selection of songs from their three excellent albums. The moody Slip to the Void set the tone and only a small acoustic section in the encore lowered the energy. The Apollo is always a great venue to see live music because of the excellent sound and sloped floor mean you can havea good view wherever you are. It was just a really powerful evening of heavy rock/metal music, by one of the best contemporary bands in the genre!
7) Nine Inch Nails (O2 Arena, London on 15/07/2009)
Support: Janes' Addiction & Mew
Nine Inch Nails come and go fairly regularly from my musical radar. I will go for long periods of time without listening to them, and then listen to them almost non-stop for days. This will always be a memorable gig for me though because of the variety of songs played, the amazing light show and the fact that this was part of NIN's 'Wave Goodbye' tour, as Trent Reznor was retiring NIN as a live act for the forseeable future. The O2 Arena is an excellent venue too, and even though we were seated right at the very top we had an excellent view of the proceedings. They played nearly all of my favourite NIN songs, often with particularly heavy arrangements; and a guest appearance by Gary Numan was a fun treat.
6) Saxon (O2 Academy, Leicester on 14/12/2011)
My first time seeing Saxon was a great show, but this (my second) was just out of this world. I was right at the front and determined to have a good time despite feeling rather down at the time. Playing a large proportion of their new album Call to Arms was great as this is probably one of the greatest Saxon albums for a long while. All the classics were out in force, and the enthusiastic crowd helped Biff Byford sing each song. HammerFall had many fans in the audience too, so at some moments it almost felt like a double-headline show despite the fact Saxon had much more time than HammerFall. NWOBHM is pretty unfashionable in the 21st Century, but Saxon prove night after night why that should not be the case.
5) Journey (Wembley Arena, London on 04/06/2011)
Support: Foreigner & Styx
Three of the biggest names in melodic rock/AOR on one bill was always going to be a popular night. Styx and Foreigner were both amazing, but for me Journey really rocked the house. With a few numbers from recent album Eclipse (which is excellent) and a diverse selection of Journey classics had the crowd really singing along. It was almost a karaoke night, as all three bands played hit after hit to the adoring fans. Even the slightly more obscure or new songs got greeted with rapturous applause and enthusiasm. AOR will always have a large amount of cross-appeal, even to those who do not classify themselves as 'rock fans', so this gig will always be a special moment.
4) Nightwish (O2 Academy Brixon, London on 11/03/2009)
Support: Pain & Indica
Nightwish are, and have been, one of my favourite bands for a long time now; so I was obviously excited when they annouced a London date as part of their final leg of shows supporting 2007s excellent Dark Passion Play album. The band were on fire all night, especially frontwoman Anette Olzon who nailed old and new material alike. I was over the moon that two of my favourite Nightwish songs (The Poet and the Pendulum and Ghost Love Score) were played, and the second of those was defiantely a huge surprise for the crowd as it was the first time it had been played since Tarja Turunen had been fired from the band. That, and a first ever live performance of Romanticide made it a very magical evening by easily the greatest symphonic metal band.
3) Kamelot (The Koko, London on 28/03/2010)
Support: Leaves' Eyes & Adagio
Again, Kamelot are a band very high on my list of bands because of their unique blend of power, symphonic and progressive metal. In retrospect, I am very glad I made the effort to go to this show, as it was the last UK show the band ever did with singer Roy Khan who left the band a year later for medical and personal reasons. Although I am sure the band will hire a more than capable replacement, it was great to hear the songs sung by the great Khan, whose voice is just perfect for the dark and moody Kamelot sound. All my favourite songs were played, including a great deal from the Ghost Opera album which was my favourite album by the band at the time. Khan was mesmorising, despite the fact he is a rather 'reserved' frontman and the guitar pyrotechnics from Thomas Youngblood was great to watch. Just a fantastic show!
2) Lynyrd Skynyrd (HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London on 03/06/2012)
Support: Red White & Blues
This is the most recent gig that I have been to, and although it is still very fresh I can tell it will be one that I will always remember. Lynyrd Skynyrd are a band that are never far from my radar because of their easy-going brand of southern rock that suits all moods and occations. Southern rock has to be one of the easiest genres to get into because of it's simplistic but fun nature. All the essential Skynyrd were played by the band and the sold-out Apollo just had a big party in the pit singing along and dancing to the boogie tunes. The encore section of Free Bird with an extended guitar solo by the excellent Rickey Medlocke was easily the highlight of an excellent evening.
1) Guns N' Roses (Capital FM Arena, Nottingham on 19/05/2012)
Support: Thin Lizzy
Many people complain about Guns N' Roses for various reasons these days, but I wonder how many of the nay-sayers have actually been to a GN'R show recently? This is easily the longest show I have been to, as the band were on the stage for just shy of three hours. All the classic songs from the old days were played with a healthy selection of 'new' songs from the excellent Chinese Democracy album. This was another show that almost felt like a double-header as Thin Lizzy were played for well over an hour and recieve almost as much applause from the capacity crowd. Axl Rose was on top form vocally and being at the barrier right infront of the excellent DJ Ashba seeing him effortlessly solo and riff away was an experience in itself. Easily the best gig I have been to as it had everything; great songs, a great band and a great stageshow with tonnes and tonnes and pyro!
I hope you have enjoyed reading these rather truncated gig reviews, and I encourage people to share their own gig experiences :)