In the old, dirty (and cheaper) London like the 1970s of these photos you’d see concert ads like these plastered everywhere, and in areas like Camden and Ladbroke Grove with a happening music scene and a more bohemian population the walls were often like dense collages of old and new posters pasted on top of each other in thick layers.
This constantly-changing gallery was a highly visible sign of the vibrancy of the city’s music scene, and these cheaply-printed, often illegally posted posters were a very rock and roll form of advertising. More than an email alert anyway.
A couple of gigs well worth going to above, like The Police with The Cramps at the Lyceum, and Rockpile with The Specials (bottom of the bill!) at the Palais, while below on the right there is a poster advertising the strange combo of bland soft-rockers Sad Cafe with punk poet John Cooper Clarke. Think I’d rather have gone to see Motörhead at The Music Machine..
This must be the strangest one though: Prog Rockers Curved Air with the New York Dolls third on the bill. I like to think people had more eclectic tastes back then, but more than likely the Dolls got booed off or had beer cans thrown at them by angry hippies.
I’ve seen some great headliner/support combos in my day: Orange Juice/The Pale Fountains, The Pretenders/UB40, U2/Public Enemy, and Siouxsie & The Banshees/The Associates. Sadly that last one was a bit of a disaster as the punks in the audience didn’t care for their avant-garde artpop and showered Billy Mackenzie in spit and beer the whole time they were on. The poor sod just stood there in a big fur coat and took it with a massive grin on his face.
I never saw this lot in concert but the song has the word “Wall” in the title and it’s live too, so what the hell.
This was the only record by The Tubes I ever owned but I’d loved to have seen them live because their shows were (in)famous — for reasons which are clear from this clip, especially the last few minutes. I think seeing this would have blown my teenage mind.
I saw U2 at the Hammersmith Palais the same year as this clip (1981) and it might not be hip to admit it now but they were fantastic, one of the best live bands I’ve seen and one of the best rock concerts I’ve ever been to. To use the vernacular, they really tore the roof off the sucker. Bono himself said at the end that it was one of the best gigs they’d played so far outside of Dublin.
Funnily enough I only really went to see the support band: Altered Images.
I was in two minds about going to see budding pop princess Charli XCX live at a tiny club in Boston on Saturday night. Not that I think there should be an age limit on enjoying modern pop music, but I did have a nagging doubt that maybe, maybe, someone of my advanced years shouldn’t really be at the concert of a 20-year-old member of the social media generation who makes videos that look like Instagrammed Tumblr blogs and sings lines like “You were old school, I was on the new shit” where “old school” probably means music made in the 1990s. Was I just being some ridiculous oldest swinger in town?
But I love her album so I went anyway and I’m very glad I did because she was tremendous and the crowd, while leaning very young (and gay), had a smattering of more, um, senior folk too, so I wasn’t alone.
The genre of synth-heavy dancepop she works in is more of a studio medium and isn’t exactly noted for live performance, but — damn, girlfriend — Charli didn’t just have the goods vocally but as a performer she was one of the most energetic and feisty I’ve seen in years. With her intensity and wild black hair I kept thinking of a young Siouxsie Sioux singing Britney Spears songs, and the way she was jumping around for the whole show I think she must have injected herself with pure Red Bull before she hit the stage. She really got the sold-out crowd going too and, being right at the front, I found myself in a minor mosh-pit of bouncing, dancing bodies which I think I really was too old for.
I don’t have any decent video of the show I went to but this clip from the night before in Montreal is pretty much the same as the gig I was at.
My only gripe is that her set was really short and she didn’t play an encore either which surprised me considering the wild response she was getting. But then I went outside after and there she was on the street mingling with the crowd and posing for photos. Maybe the encore is too much of a conventional, rockist gesture for der kidz now, and hanging out together after the show and sharing photos is the new thing. How should I know? I’m old.
I went to two concerts in three days last week, I don’t think I even did that at the height of my gig-going early 20s. The two shows and artists couldn’t have been more different, except that they were both fantastic. All the videos here were shot by my lovely wife at the actual shows.
First up on Thursday night was Father John Misty with his California-flavoured country-rock. The audience was all plaid shirts and beards, and for an encore the band did a cover of Canned Heat’s “On The Road Again” which should give you the general vibe. Old-timey dude rock can still be a wonderful thing with a band as tight and skilled as this lot were, and Father John (aka Josh Tillman) is a terrific front man, all slinky Jagger-esque moves and laconic stoner humour. Man has a hell of a voice too.
The next band we were seeing would have to be very good to top that show which made me a little nervous as the next band was Saint Etienne. Sorry, I mean OMFG SAINT ETIENNE!!!!!!
St. Et exist in an alternate pop universe from the very trad, dad Father John Misty, with the “band” being Pete and Bob standing behind a bank of synthesizers and Sarah Cracknell (swoon) vamping it up like the indie disco queen in her sparkly dress and feather boa — the only “real” instrument being the cowbell played by backing singer (and semi-legend) Debsey Wykes.
Whatever nerves I had evaporated a few seconds into the opening number “Lose That Girl”, and the wildly enthusiastic cheers and gleeful, arm-waving singing-along from the audience that greeted every number made me realize that the place was filled with people like me: fans from way back who have never had the chance to see them live before and were just beside themselves with joy that finally, here they were. I think Sarah and the band were pleasantly taken aback by the delirious noise and appeared quite chuffed by it — at one point I saw Bob exchange a sheepish grin with Debsey that seemed to be saying “Blimey!” It was a magical night for me too, I was smiling and dancing and singing the whole time.
With a set that included “Like A Motorway”, “You’re In A Bad Way”, “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”, “Nothing Can Stop Us Now” (the highlight for me), and “He’s On The Phone” we had plenty to go mental for. On the way there I joked to the wife that for me this was like seeing The Beatles which was obviously meant as jokey hyperbole, but by the end it didn’t seem that way.
(That isn’t me singing along very badly in the background of the Saint Etienne videos by the way.)
I don’t have a bucket list of things to do before I die but if I did seeing Saint Etienne live would be on it — not very near the top but somewhere on it at least. They’re probably my favourite band of the last 20 years and I’ve never seen them. I moved to the States soon after their first album came out and on the very rare occasions they’ve toured over here since they’ve never come anywhere near where I was living. But now — hallelujah! — they’re playing Boston next month and I HAVE TICKETS!!!
They’d better be bloody good now after I’ve waited all these years.