Friday, December 21, 2007

Gigs of 2007

My gig of the year this year was pretty much a no-brainer, it has to be Prince.

1. Prince - O2 Arena: Yes, he may be a weird fucker off stage but put him on stage and the guy just has it (whatever 'it' is). This gig was at the tail end of his 21 night stint in London, and the general consensus was that the guy rocks. Yes, there are some duff songs - but this was mainly a Prince plays the 'hits' concert and some of those songs are pretty damn good.

And the rest - in no particular order - were:

2. The Hold Steady - Borderline / Shepherds Bush Empire / Electric Ballroom: Yes, Ok, so I am cheating a bit here, by counting all three HS gigs as one entry. If you still haven't either got into this band or seen them live, where have you been?! Recording a new album and due back in the UK in Summer 2008. If you like bands to look like they are enjoying and love what they do on stage, I urge you to go and see them.

3. Scorpions - Apollo Hammersmith: Seriously, who would have thought I would be standing in front of Rudi and Klaus again after all these years. I had pretty much given up on the Scorps in the mid 90s; but nostalgia took hold and I booked a ticket to then find out that not only were MSG supporting, but that Uli Roth would be performing a few numbers with the band. Yes, pre Lovedrive material in the set. Suddenly, things were looking up. The Gig itself presented the sorry stake that Michael Schenker is now in - too pissed and off his face on smack to be able to stand during the MSG set. A true shame. The Scorps themselves however reminded me, 15 years on since the last time I'd seen them, why I always rated them as a live band. I may even be there the next time on this evidence.

4. The Weakerthans - Mean Fiddler: I LOVE this band. This was almost as good as the first time I saw them. One of the best bands of the last decade.

5. Ray Davies - Roundhouse: It can be easy at times to forget just how many great tunes Ray Davies has written. Indeed, how many certified Classic tunes he has written. This gig brought it all home, and the classic Kinks numbers were interspersed with some newer stuff and some entertaining banter. Legend.

6. Ryan Adams - Apollo Hammersmith: I had been wanting to see Adams for a couple of years now, and had somehow managed to miss him on a number of occasions. But, it was worth the wait. Great songs, great harmonies, a tight band (nice to see Neal Cassel). Interestingly sparse stage lighting which wasn't to everyone's taste, but focussed you even more on the music. Two and a half hours of pleasure.

7. Lucinda Williams - The indigO2: No 'Essence' , no 'Car Wheels on a Gravel Road' , my two favourite songs, but Williams is a great performer, and anyone who can throw 'Riders on the storm' into their set without it sounding stupid is obviously going to be on to a winner. COME ON !

8. Crowded House - Wembley Arena: They were great, and they still are great. Neil Finn is a wonderful songwriter, and hearing these songs live was a pleasure.

9. Aimee Mann - The indigO2: First off support act, Jenny Owen Youngs, was one of the finds of the year. Funny, quirky (anyone who can do a folk version of Nelly's 'Hott in Here' deserves to be heard!) and definitely someone to watch 2008/09. Mann herself wasn't really here to promote an album (although did debut a couple of tracks from the new one that comes out in 2008). Now seen her many times, and never disappoints.

10. Kate Rusby - Blackheath Halls: Silver Christmas Trees on stage, and a Christmas themed gig consisting of a set of around half material from Rusby's albums and half of folk versions (alternate tunes) of Christmas carols. All this performed on acoustic guitar, violin, bass, squeezebox, and (for a few numbers) a 6 piece brass band drawn from the armed forces. It sounded great, and demonstrated why rusby is one of the most popular performers on the modern Folk scene. What sets Rusby apart is her rapport with the audience, and her ability to put a smile on your face.

Honourable mention: Shawn Colvin - Shepherds Bush Empire

Monday, December 17, 2007

Singles of 2007

Picking singles is the hardest thing these days, with track downloads, and I have no doubt missed some horrible pop tunes that should be on here, but this list is still pretty good. These are in no particular order, after the top 5, which have all been my favourite of the year at some point in 2007, and I still couldn't decide who should have the overall crown.

1. Cassette - The Smartest Bomb : I am probably on a the few people that actually bought this, but I love it. It is very 80s in its sound, but it just really works for me.
2. Bruce Spingsteeen - Radio Nowhere : The first signs that the Boss was back and playing some classy, catchy rock again.
3. Funeral for a Friend - Into Oblivion (Reunion) :
4. Foo Fighters - The Pretender : Let's make no mistake, when the FF are good, they are very good; and this single is true class.
5. Public Enemy - Harder than you Think : Not sure where they've sampled the horns from on this, but couple with Chuck D in full flow, this was one of the stand out tracks on PE's latest album.

6. Kings of Leon - Charmer : KoL do their best pixies impersonation
7. Groove Armada - Song 4 Mutya : I know, let's right a tune about an ex-Sugababe and then get her to sing it too - madness. One of the best pop records of the year.
8. Ryan Adams - Two/Halloween Head : Great tunes, great songwriter, great album.
9. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black : Well, it looks like she may now have gone to rehab. personal problems aside, this song (from one of the best records of 2006) is still a great slice of 60s influenced soul.
10. Arcade Fire - Keep the Car Running Whilst the album still disappointed me a bit, this is still great.
11. Avril Lavigne - Girlfriend : Yes, it is very annoying, but I still liked it despite myself.
12. Kelly Clarkson - Never Again : Pat Benatar reborn
13. PJ Harvey - When under Ether : John Peel would have liked it, I do.
14. Grinderman - No Pussy Blues : Well, precisley.
15. The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy : Whoahhh ...
16. Jenny Owen Youngs - Fuck was I : A pleasnt surprise as support for Aimee Mann.
17. McQueen - Running out of Things to Say : As I get further down this list, i know the feeling. A good honest all female rock band deliver a good tune.
18. Manic Street Preachers - Your Love Alone : Another one of those songs that i really wanted to hate this year, but it is so damn catchy that i sing it every time.
19. Queens of the Stone Age - 3s & 7s : Just a great rock song.
20. Good Charlotte - Keep your Hands off my Girl : I don't like GC. No really. I think they suck. However, I had to admit that this song got under my skin for quite a while earlier this year.