Very much a year of two halves, split by Covid restrictions which lifted for normal gigs in July. Four barren months to start the year, kept sane by livestreams and TV live recordings then a trickle of socially distanced gigs.
These socially distanced events were hugely significant in the context of Lockdown. In the case of Kirk Brandon in Bath it was reorganised several times and I built a week’s holiday around it.
Toploader at the Madding Crowd, Bournemouth was as near a normal gig as one could get sat down and spaced out. Then there was the surreal and emotional experience of a folk club in rural Hampshire seeing The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s Phil Odgers play solo following the recent sudden death of co-frontman Stefan Cush.
I appreciated the efforts made to get these events up and running againts all odds…the artists, the stage crew, the bar staff, the promoters, the venue managers, security… the lot.
From July onwards I made the most I could of the free for all. 43 gigs or days of festivals; 106 different bands: eight of them twice and two of them (Kirk Brandon/Spear of Destiny and Peter Hook) three times.
I have looked back and I enjoyed every single gig, all to varying extents of course (and a few terrible support bands). I didn’t come away disappointed from any gig…even Jethro Tull. (I enjoyed the voyage of discovery but won’t be seeing him again.) It’s been a great period to see any live band due to the surge of enthusiasm and increased mutual appreciation of audience and artists in the post-Lockdown period.
Yes there were a few times I felt uneasy – the trip to the Greenwich O2 (Gorillaz) with such a big crowd and some tight smaller venues in the earlier post-Lockdown weeks – but didn’t catch anything. 43 maskless gigs and not a sniffle. After all that I went on an abortive trip to Bristol Airport to try and see The Skids in Glasgow and contracted Covid at some point in the subsequent days.
As I say I enjoyed them all but there are always favourites. Of course this can be based on a performance, the atmosphere, the crowd, the place, the company or it just being a bloody good night out and from this I have arrived at my top five gigs of 2021… in order (links to the blogs).
It’s hard to get down to a top five and Scritti Politti (Birmingham); Big Country (Liverpool); Heaven 17 (Bristol) and the newer Red Rum Club (Exeter) were all in the running.
There are also some magnificent live moments – single songs that make the whole trip worthwhile. These were some of them..and yes I’m a sucker for a surprise cover:
Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Bauhaus)
Blinded by the Sun (Chris Helme, Seahorses)
Altogether Now (The Farm)
What a Waster (Libertines)
Kids in America (Kim Wilde)
Wood Beez (Scritti Politti)
Life of Riley (Lightning Seeds)
Sheena is Punk Rocker (Ramonas)
Kings of the Wild Frontier (Adam Ant)
Love Will Tear Us A Part (Peter Hook + the Light)
Alcoholic (Starsailor) Haunted by You (Martin Rossiter, Gene)
Cosmic Dancer (Nick Cave)
Complete Control (Skids) Liberator (Spear of Destiny)
Ziggy Stardust (Bauhaus)
I feel a new Spotify playlist coming on.
I’ve just about finished my Covid bout – done my 10 days isolation – and there is a natural breather even if there isn’t an enforced one. Lots to look forward to. Next stop Exeter Pheonix Arts Centre.
Happy New Year 🤞
Rock on 2022 🎶🎵