For me, live music is so much more important than recorded music. Yes, there are many albums which I completely fall in love with. But listening to a record doesn’t compare to the feeling of seeing a band live. Music is about so much more than just a song, just a melody and just an album. Music is about bringing people together, and sharing a moment that you will never forget. This year I was lucky enough to attend 10 different festivals, and experience so many different things, many of which I will never forget. Here is a list of my 10 favourite gigs of the year. Trying to write down why I loved each experience so much is difficult as you cannot put into words some experiences, but i’ve tried anyway.
1. Coldplay- The Pyramid Stage, Glastonbury Festival
‘Thousands of People, all covered in mud, who love this place with every drop of their blood’
Glastonbury is my favourite place on the whole planet. Nothing comes close to that atmosphere, that togetherness and that feeling of being at that festival. For me, it’s the most beautiful feeling in the world. Before this performance, I was a Coldplay fan. I have always loved their first two albums and was looking forward to seeing them. However, the performance they gave was completely out of this world. They are such an incredible live band and for them to headline this festival, for the third time, is a match made in heaven. The songs are epic, sounds and suit a festival better than anywhere else. The bands love and long time association with the festival make this the perfect place to see a band like Coldplay.
The crowd also made it for me, I was surrounded by people from all over the world, all singing along to every single word, loving every minute of it, and for many, by the end of it tears were really streaming down their faces. And walking round the festival for the rest of the weekend and hearing people sing the melody from Viva La Vida, you knew that you were part of something. This was one of those moments I will never forget, and always feel honoured to be a part of. Incredible.
2. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros- The Old Vic Tunnels
A gig is best when it is more than just a gig, when it becomes a whole experience. Edward Sharpe’s debut album was one of my favourites of 2009, and after watching countless videos of them on YouTube I was beyond excited to get tickets to one of these gigs. But what I actually got when I walked in far exceeded any expectations I already had. They created a whole universe in these underground tunnels. I wrote a whole review about this gig here, so read that to find out more about it. There is lots of photos too. I think this band are one of the best around, and its a shame more people don’t know it.
3. Bon Iver- Hammersmith Apollo
This man created my album of the year, the self titled Bon Iver Bon Iver. It is a stunning record, but live it was another experience completely. He doesn’t tour the UK much and so I think for a lot of people, including me, it was the first time they had the opportunity to see him live. The first album For Emma, Forever Ago affected a lot of people in a very personal way and so it was no surprise at the amount of tears present at this gig. Afterwards I felt like I had never done before after a gig, emotionally drained, and in complete awe of what had just happened. Go and see this man, just amazing.
4. Paul McCartney- Liverpool Echo Arena
I saw Paul McCartney in 2009 at the O2 Arena. But when he announced he was playing in Liverpool, his home town, I jumped at the opportunity to see him again. He is 69 and still an incredible performer. For about 2 and a half hours he wowed the audience with songs from his back catalogue of Beatles tracks, Wings and solo stuff. This man is a true legend and it was an honor to be able to see such a special performance in Liverpool.
5. Arcade Fire- Benicassim Festival
This was the third time I have seen Arcade Fire, and by far their best performance. It was the last night of their tour and they completely gave the audience everything. I didn’t enjoy Benicassim as a festival at all, but this performance and some others made it worth while. I think Arcade Fire are one of the best bands on the planet still making music.
6. Pulp- Park Stage, Glastonbury Festival
Pulp were one of the not-so-secret Special Guests at this years Glastonbury Festival. They played the Park Stage, usually home to small folky bands. I found out about it a couple of hours before, and since their wasn’t anyone else I wanted to see on that Saturday afternoon, I went and waited at the front of the stage and so was luckily enough to be right down the front (even if I did have to sit through the dreadful set from Tame Impala). Jarvis Cocker is quite simply a national legend. His humour between songs made it so special- and you could tell he completely understood Glastonbury as a festival. And taking a quote from the man himself ‘Glastonbury is more than just a festival, it’s a feeling’.
7. Primal Scream- Bestival
Primal Scream are an amazing live band. I first saw them at Benicassim and was amazed at how many song I knew. Bestival is an amazing festival as it is, full of character and spirit. This performance was in the Big Top tent at about 1am I think, and WOW, what a party. Amazing band.
8. Beyonce- Glastonbury Festival
I love Beyonce. I think she is a very unique kind of popstar and a inspirational woman. She completely stormed Glastonbury, and being the first female to headline is 20 years I think? When she played ‘Halo’ with videos of Glastonbury in the background, you knew she understood the festival. I also loved how grateful she seems for being given the opportunity to play- it seemed like we were all living out her dream together.
9. Joanna Newsom- End of the Road Festival
Joanna Newsom is someone I have been dying to see live for years. And when she announced she was playing End of the Road, I knew I had to go. She gave a completely flawless performance. Her voice has been altered as she’s had a lot of throat issues over the years, but I think this has actually worked a little in her favour. The unique, slightly shrill qualities of her voice are gone but what we are left with is a mellower version. She played solo, and I was completely entranced for the whole thing.
10. Willy Mason- WOOD Festival
Before this gig I didn’t really know who Willy Mason was. We were actually trying to work out if he was a young guy or an old guy with long hair (Willy Nelson). There was something very special about the atmosphere at this gig, it felt like everyone was incomplete awe of what we were experiencing. WOOD festival is a stunning place as it is, the festival feels like you are part of a great big family, I really hope it continues into 2012.
Special mention to Antony and the Johnsons at Wilderness Festival. Bring on 2012!