George East’s Top Ten Gigs of 2010

by George_East on December 30, 2010

Nothing goes better with the year’s end than a ‘best of…’ list. I will post my favourite films and albums of 2010 tomorrow, but first my 10 best gigs of the year.

1. Midlake/John Grant/Jason Lyttle – The Roundhouse

Beardy folkie Texans, Midlake, are the kind of band that I think I would have hated at 17. One flute would have been one too many back then, but two flutes is hippy dippy muso madness. Whether it is age or simply quality I don’t know, but their brand of pastoral American, like downer Fleet Foxes was superbly suited to a small venue like The Roundhouse.

But what made this the gig of the year was that the support act, John Grant, was simply awesome. Powerful songs of love or loss sung with passion in rich full voice with an amazing range. I had bought his debut album, The Queen of Denmark before the gig but didn’t get it until I saw him live.

The bonkers Jason Lyttle (formerly of Californian indie band, Grandaddy) encore with Midlake with the singer jumping around like a lunatic taking photos of himself and the crowd rounded off a brilliant night of live music.

2. Pavement – Brixton Academy

As my fellow Allthatlefties would no doubt attest to, I used to be something of a puritan when it came to music. I was always deeply suspicious of bands doing the reunion thing. It’s such an easy way to make a few quid from the loyal fanbase by trotting out songs you no longer believe in and without putting to much effort in. Blur’s Hyde Park reunion gig last year changed my mind.

I snapped up tickets for Pavement’s first gigs since their split in 1999 at London’s best venue, funnily enough the last place I saw them back in the day. Steve Malkmus standing on the edge of the stage was every bit as much the indie rock god as he was in 1993, as the rest of the band were obviously revelling in playing their back catalogue.

Two States providing a great shout-along highlight.

3.Fever Ray – Brixton Academy

Sweden’s mysterious Karin Dreijer Andersson’s one off electronic ensemble, Fever Ray, released one of the best albums of 2009. Their only London gig (one of two in total – the other was in Paris) was a doomy bassy atmospheric affair. The dry ice was so thick that the only thing that cut through it was the green lazers projected on to the stage giving the feeling that some fucked up version of the Northern Lights had followed the band from Scandinavia. Nary a guitar in sight.

My most un-me gig of the year – I loved every moment of it.

4. Bonnie Prince Billy/Trembling Bells – Shepherds Bush Empire

I have not previously managed to catch Will Oldham live. He was superb in this gig with the Cairo Gang supporting his new album, The Wonder Show of The World. The intensity of his performance with that voice which can be fragile and big at the same time. He seems to exist in a world of his own. Olde England folkies, The Trembling Bells – all maypoles and Morris – were good too, good enough for me to order their album the next day.

5. Billy Childish and the Musicians of the British Empire – ICA

To coincide with an exhibition of his art, Billy Childish played a one off gig at the ICA where he played 3 sets in different bands he has led over his musical career. I only saw the last set with the Musicians of the British Empire – his wife, Nurse Julie was almost late as she was nursing their new born child. A great set of raw stripped down blues with a wholly acapella John The Revelator the highlight of the set.

6. Drive-By Truckers – Shepherds Bush Empire

The first time also I’ve seen Alabama’s finest. I had thought that their most recent album, The Big To-Do was disappointing when compared to the brilliance of 2008’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark.  But live the mix of classic southern rock and country with their trademark 3 guitar attack made me reappraise my view of the album. A band with a huge live presence honed by their years of touring.

7. Echo & The Bunnymen – Brixton Academy

The awesome first two albums, Crocodiles and Heaven Up Here in full, plus am encore including The Killing Moon, Bring on The Dancing Horses and The Cutter. And Ian McCulloch wittering on about pork scratchings and delivering the worst Alec Guinness impersonation of all time. A great night out by any measure.

8. Stephanie Finch/Kelley Stlotz – The Borderline

I had never heard anything by either of these two before a friend got me tickets. I had been persuaded to go by the presence if the great Chuck Prophet (from Green on Red back in the day) playing with Stephanie Finch. Two great sets from two superb sing writers. It’s always great to discover new artists live.

9. Connie Bailey Rae – Somerset House

The only one of the Somerset House gigs I managed to see this year. I was hoping to get to see the XX and Noah and the Whale as well. The beautiful setting to her heartbreaking songs of the loss of her husband made the music even more powerful.

10. Goldfrapp – Hammersmith Apollo

Not as stunning as the gigs in support of Seventh Tree, but still a fantastically crazy performance from Alison and her band. The highlight was a version of her early classic, Black Cherry, with the high sythesiser parts that make the song so distinctive sung instead.

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