Happy New Year, and to kick off a week or so of “I Love 2006” nostalgia: my gigs of the years (i.e. the ones I went to…Im sure there were loads better I missed out on).

Honourable mentions to those that just missed out: Adele @ Luminaire (only played three songs but the girl is special), Boy George @ Bush Hall (Owner of the finest pop voice around, still camp, and bitchy as you like… still brilliant), Jason Spaceman @ Barbican (Beautiful Beautiful, but sometimes so beautiful it got boring), Badly Drawn Boy @ 6music, Kid Koala @ Cargo, Robyn @ Hoxton… that’ll do! I could go on listing for ever!

On to the Top 10 (with a bonus Gogol Bordello at 11, simply because his energy and charisma live has to be seen to be believed, even if I’m not so keen on the music).

Robert Owens

1. Coldcut @ Shepherds Bush Empire (25/02)

Following in the footsteps of the Gorillaz who dragged all their “featurings” on to one crowded stage, Coldcut gathered together half a dozen of their finest accomplices for our listening pleasure. While album the launch party was plagued by technical gremlins this time out they were virtually flawless.

The gig was absolutely phenomenal, Roots Manuva displayed admirable nodding and staring at the balcony skills, Robert Owens sung his heart out and who could forget Jon Spencers bearded howlings, but its always good to get a second opinion…here are a few I googled:

Playlouder declared “People Hold On” as uplifting as ever, slated the “clumsy, overly distorted appearance of Jon Spencer” and worshipped at the feet of Lord Rodney: “Resplendent in suit and a cravat and looking very much like a younger John Coltrane, he holds the stage with style and delivers the night’s showstopper ‘True Skool’“.

Contactmusic’s heart stopped beating at one point but was revived by the bass, while being stunned by the feat of VJing talent on display.

The self confessed “Sad Video Gimp” who reviewed the gig for Big Chill bemoaned the lack of reception for Robert Owens bona-fide “House Legend”:

“I distinctly heard some younger fans loudly ask what the hell were Coldcut doing playing this rubbish? Perhaps the spirit of eclecticism in which their début ‘What’s That Noise’ album arrived has since evolved..?”

To prove that music is nothing if not a matter of subjective opinion a poster on the Beebs Collective site moaned about it being an utter waste of money:

“Roots Manuva seemingly had spent the night smoking weed, he couldn’t stop himself from laughing, and Jon Spencer needs some singing lessons, even I can scream like he did on stage. I almost walked out before the encore. I haven’t actually listened to the new album yet, but as a long time fan of Coldcut something tells me I should avoid it like the plague.”

Info:

If you went, and didn’t almost walk out you can buy the gig cut up into bite sized MP3’s or on CD from Tune Tribe for a frankly extortionate £7.99 or 79p a track.

My YouTube video’s of the gig (must get around to posting the full clips)
Walk a Mile (feat. Robert Owens & Mpho Skeef)
Everything is under control (feat. Jon Spencer, Juice Aleem, Mike Ladd, and Mr Manuva MC)
Timber
Man In A Garage (feat. John Matthias)
This Island Earth (feat. Robert Owens & Mpho Skeef)
Beats’n’Pieces feat. Mike Ladd & Juice Aleem
Can-Can mash-up
Revolution
Timber

Godfather

2. James Brown @ Roundhouse for the BBC Electric Proms (27/10)

I almost ended up wasting my spare ticket to this, so lukewarm was the response of friends to the chance of seeing The Godfather of Soul. Thankfully one friend shared my wide eyed excitement at this special intimate performance for the BBC, and we were both duly rewarded with one of those gigs you remember for the rest of your life! (and that’s before we realised this actually was our last chance to see the great man).

The abiding thought for the night was, just how good must he of been in his pomp? At 73, unable to dance for more than short spells, and with his voice not what it was, he put on a two and a half hour show better than 95% of acts I’ve seen in my life.

With a huge tight as you like band, including two drummers, two MC’s, a band leader, a couple of hot panted dancers (J on one cheek B on the other), 4 or 5 backing singers, brass, two lead guitarists, bass, percussion and keys, this was American soul revue at its finest. The BBC pulled out all the stops, and Brown raised his game. The London Community Gospel Choir ended the night with the gospel power of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”, Max Beesley looked terrified as he accompanied Brown on grand piano for “Georgia”, while the Sugababes cooed and were gently patronised during “Try Me”… “How old are y’all, Have you left school yet?

By the end of the night Brown packed the stage with The Zutons, the Sugababes, his full band and back-up group, a gospel choir and his management and PR team.

In a four star review The Guardian loved the sublime “Its a man’s man’s world”, and admired his tight grip on his band:

On Funky Good Time, Brown pulls one of his three guitarists forward and asks him: “If Wes Montgomery were here tonight, how would he sound?” The sideman gives a pretty good answer, and Brown follows up with: “How would Jimi Hendrix sound?“”

Someone called Charlie posting on a student forum succinctly summed it all up:

“Seriously, if you haven’t seen James Brown live then your life is missing something, something big! Go and see him before he gets too old to stand up or dies.”

James Brown 1933-2006

Listen: James Brown “King Heroin” (MP3) – A man who should know delivers a genius warning on the drugs perils.

James Brown “Coldcut meet The Godfather (The Payback mix)” (MP3) – After remixing Erib & Rakim, Urban handed Coldcut the James Brown catalogue to play with.

Double Dee & Steinski – Lesson 2 — The James Brown Mix” (MP3) – Steinski classic from 1984.

James Brown – “Hot (I Need To Be Loved Loved Loved)(Re-edit)” (MP3)

Head over to Beats In Space where Steinski himself is presenting a special tribute to James Brown (with Steve’s favourite Godfather tracks)

Watch: James Brown @ The Roundhouse (YouTube clips)

Photo’s from the night

James Brown interviewed while off his face (YouTube)

BBC News report on James Brown being laid to rest at The Apollo in Harlem

Read: List of just some of the tracks that sample James Brown’s music.

BBC Obituary

Bard 3. Billy Bragg @ Barking Broadway (01/05)

Read the Original Review

“One hundred and seventy two Billy Bragg fans and his mum eagerly awaited this rare homecoming gig. The man that put Barking on the map, now determined that it doesn’t get put back on the map with a BNP success in the local elections.

Billy apologizes for the very political opening, but everyone knows there’s more than politics to a Bragg show. It is at times almost stand up comedy with short breaks for songs, and the tunes themselves tweaked for comic effect. On the subject of David Cameron love for The Smiths: “It’s like Karl Rove coming out and saying he always liked Black Flag”. “I’ve been having nightmares that Cameron says I like the Smiths but the artist I love the most is… Billy Bragg“. At this point he wakes up screaming, and his wife will ask “are you having the Cameron dream darling?”

With his beloved Hammers reaching the FA Cup final, football was a recurring theme. He blew bubbles out of a gun mid song, and the good and bad omens for West Hams cup final success were mulled over. The flag of St George will spring up in windows and on vans across the country as the World Cup approaches, and Billy unfurled his own flag to return to a theme he’s talked about before… being proud of being English.

Mid way through his set Bragg changed the mood again first with “Debris” a Small Faces song about Ronnie Lanes dad, and then “Tank Park Blues” (lyrics) a moving tribute to Billys own father. Accompanied beautifully by Ian McLagan (of the Small Faces) on piano it was impossible not to end up with a lump in the throat after those two.

There were too many great moments, funny quips, passionate speeches, and stone cold classics to go into detail. New material like “I keep the faith” held its own against the oldies, Woody Guthrie made a topical appearance with Bills reworking of “You fascists are bound to lose” and how else could he end but with a barnstorming song he claimed only ever to play when in Essex, “A13″. Complete with Grays, Thurrock updated to Lakeside, Thurrock.”

Buy: The gig is available on a DVD included with Part.2 of Billy Bragg’s Complete Works Boxset.

MP3: “Cold & Bitter Tears (live)” (MP3) – a terrible recording of Bill & Ted Hawkins but a favourite of mine, the highlight of which is the classic “I hate to do the dishes, and I know the reason why… putting on your apron makes want to cry”.

“Unisex Chip Shop (Live)” (MP3) – Bill Bailey writes a Billy Bragg mickeytake and is joined by Bill at Glastonbury to perform it (Billys son says its one of his favourite Bragg songs!). Great stuff.

Mandy May's pic of Jarvis Jumping

4. Jarvis Cocker @ Roundhouse (16/12)

Unfortunately I never got round to reviewing Jarvis, but suffice to say The Roundhouse’s run of absolutely blindingly good gigs continues: Here’s what a few other said:

Jarvis Cocker takes a look around the cast iron pillars of the Camden Roundhouse and says, half to himself, “It’s got history, much like meself.” Set opener ‘Fat Children’ thunders around the old engine shed menacingly, Jarvis venting about the lamplit threat from misspent youths, blaming the parents who are “breeding maggots without the sense to become flies.” Yet it’s the slower songs that work best tonight, as befits a man who uses a microphone stand as a hanger for his well-cut jacket.
‘Baby’s Coming Back to Me’ is rendered delicate, like chandeliers tingling from the lovemaking upstairs, by glockenspiels so big you could build a cold frame out of them. (Playlouder)

His show at the Roundhouse turns out to be more of An Evening With Jarvis Cocker, which is fine because he is an amusing man.

Between songs there are riffs on Christmas, obesity, the town of Corby, and the hippie history of the Roundhouse, with particular reference to the fact that it now bans smoking. One exasperated fan yells at him to get on with it.

‘Since you ask so nicely,’ he slyly retorts, ‘I will.’ (Calibre)

A heckling wag in the audience shouts, “Go on granddad!” prompting Cocker to affect a trembly voice and remind us all, “I saw things in the Britpop wars. I fought for your right to indie dance!” The between-song banter never lets up (Channel 4)

Each track was spliced together by a witticism, such as “I love Christmas, except for the baggy skin on satsumas that look like excess skin on a fat person,” and “Sorry about the no smoking policy – especially since we’re using a ludicrous amount of smoke effects up here”. (This Is London)

A big, big rendition of Black Magic sees Jarvis going a bit mental on top of one of the speaker stacks and yelling like his life depended on it. The geezer in front of me wakes up and starts shaking his head around, a sweaty ponytail in the mouth for me. Super. (PaperJam)

We get the delightful I Will Kill Again, a mellow but sly hi there! to the kind of man that’s adopted a secure lifestyle, classical music and the acoustic guitar to go along with his overpaid salary and huge home. (“And people tell me what a real nice guy you are.”) It’s highlights all the way, really.

As the first encore we also get the Christmas No1 that-should-have-been, Cunts Are Still Running the World. And the evening is rounded off as Cocker, backed by a great band including Richard Hawley, invokes the spirit of Hawkwind, “from inside the bricks” of the Roundhouse, and delivers a blistering cover of Silver Machine. Oh, and as a treat for lonesome bachelor rock journalists everywhere, there’s a new song: drawing on Cocker’s own single years, and inspired by the Christmastide in Hoxton when his first card of Advent arrived from the local curry house. It’s called One-Man Show and is another bingbongbung banga. (The Guardian)

Reviews: The Guardian / This Is London / PaperJam / Playlouder /

Video’s from the Roundhouse gig (YouTube) / Photo’s of the gig

Jarvis – “Don’t Let Him Waste Your Time” (YouTube) – fantastic video for new single

Pulp – “Bad Cover Version” (YouTube) – Genius Live Aid spoof video

Brass Eye Pulp Spoof (YouTube)

Photo by Ms P

5. Scissor Sisters @ The Scala (19/06)

Full Review here

“The Scala erupted into a cacophony of whoops, yells, and frenzied applause – not for the arrival of the Sisters – but rather for the appearance of Elton John & his partner David Furnish. Covered in some serious bling Elton waved and grinned from a walkway a foot above the crowd.

This was supposed to be a low key try out of their new material, but as The Times pointed out in a 4 star review: “The Scissor Sisters don’t do low-key and within a minute of the flamboyant five’s appearance on Scala’s small stage a full-scale pop party was under way. Admittedly, Scissor Sisters couldn’t have picked a better crowd had they held auditions themselves.“

Tonight Jake sports tight electric blue trousers and silk waistcoat matched with a yellow chiffon top that may or may not be the one Jane Torvill wore doing the Bolero in 1984. On Bass, Babydaddy looks like Omid Djalili dressed as Elvis while playing a banjo designed by Kiss. Ana Matronic has lost weight, and sporting a Harriwell-esque barnet looks fantastic, like a young Beverly D’Angelo. Meanwhile Del Marquis somehow squeezed into yellow britches buttoned up to his nipples, and a bright pink shirt. Most people would look ridiculous… but the Scissor Sisters couldn’t look cooler if they tried.

New single “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin” is possibly the best thing they’ve ever done, and co-writer Elton John hollered his approval, sticking two thumbs up and waving frantically throughout. It uses that old Scissor Sisters trick of having hints of a few 80’s classics, with Spears “Dancin” like Leo Sayer. There’s more than a whiff of The Nolan Sisters in there too, which is no bad thing as far as i’m concerned, and the Buck Rodgers laser gun sound effects are simply the icing on a particularly sickly but delicious cake.

The place erupted for a performance of “Comfortably Numb” which was quite simply IMMENSE! The Scala can sometimes suffer from dodgy sound, but for Comfortably Numb it was like listening in Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound. Absolutely magical.”

Spank

6. Spank Rock/Mr Hudson/Sway @ Barfly (23/05)

Read the full review

“The Barfly is bursting at the seams, with guest list liggers, and industry insiders swelling the numbers: “One of the worst crowds ever – It was like standing in Madame Tussauds, with people seemingly only there to gain scene points for seeing a much touted band at a small venue” said Caught In The Crossfire. More than one person was “crushed… unable to move, couldn’t see anything… thought i was gonna pass out”, while others simply gave up and went home. A crying shame, as despite a serious case of jet lag, Spank Rock tore the place up.

MC Spank Rock (Naeem Juwan) declared that it was going to be a mad night as they were as “drunk as shit”. An insane transatlantic schedule must have fried their brains, having played Cargo on Friday, flown back to the States to support Gnarls Barkley on Sunday, and now (Tuesday) London again.

Mad electro throbs signal the arrival of “Backyard Betty“. Naeem prowls the stage, splitting his attention between the audience, and the distraction of a gaggle of ladies he’s invited up to sit at the side. “Rick Rubin” and “What It Look Like” follow in rapid succession as producers XXXchange and Chris Rockswell lay down a foundation of speaker blowing bass and nintendo bleeps for Spank Rock to playfully rhyme over:

“Ass-shaking competition champ, ooh that pussy gets damp, pump that– pump that– pump that amp.”

The lyrics would make Prince blush, but its done with a sense of humour and knowing wink far from the bitches and ho’s of fiddy cent (or perhaps im kidding myself there?). On the fantastic “Bump” Spank Rock meets his match as Amanduh Blank having sat watching side stage grabs the mic and steals the show with her own deliciously filthy flow. For the rest of the evening the two play off each other, whether clambering on-top of the speakers or Amanduh flashing her knickers at Spank. It is we’re told his birthday!

Better still was to come with the single “Sweet Talk“, starting off with pounding bass and frenzied guitar licks before transforming mid way though into a classic Motown sound, with a hook to die for. Suddenly the stage is crowded as Spank beckons ladies from the audience up to dance, with some blokes joining the fun as well. At the end even the cramped conditions, and industry liggers couldn’t stop the Spank Rock party.

Spank Rock Acapella’s to download

McAlmont

7. David McAlmont @ The Jazz Cafe (21/08)

Read the full review/MP3’s etc

“Its great covering tracks originally recorded by people like Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday, because you’ve got nothing to lose” says McAlmont, ignoring the evidence of jazz hobbit Jamie Cullam, and Robbie Williams who both released crooned covers album’s that caused many to swing while they were listening. If youre going to cover the greats… you’d better not be ordinary.

The first track of the evening “Night & Day” has in recent years been sullied by Bono and co, but tonight its exquisite. A fantastic laid back double bass groove allows McAlmont to deliver the lyrics as if they were his own.

Made famous by Whitney “Saving All My Love For You” is also delivered with panache, where a more mundane voice would run the risk of sounding karaoke like, here you momentarily forget the original.

Theres even time for a bit of root vegetable and sweetmeat based innuendo courtesy of Bessie Smiths 1929 saucefest “Kitchen Man“. McAlmont takes great delight in the hilariously suggestive lyrics, “When I eat his donuts” he fnarrs “all I leave is the hole, anytime he wants to, why, he can use my sugar bowl.” A little bit too much detail you might say 🙂 but the pinker section of the crowd love it, and everyone else, myself included creases up in laughter. Fantastic stuff.

And so for the encore and the evenings “surprise” guest… Bernard Butler. To an ecstatic response the pair play four songs, including “Falling“, and “Tonight” a classic from their 1995 debut album. David introduces the never recorded “Goodbye” as one of the songs EMI said they didn’t want. He mutters about how terribly they were treated, particularly by one person who he best be quiet about… Butler by his side more succinctly declares that “the guy was a total wanker”.

However unlikely a full time return seems you can only hope that this isn’t the last time we see the pair on stage together. They may have endured quarrels, and record company bullshit but both must know that together they make a glorious glorious sound, and that must be hard to close the door on forever.

Video from the gig (YouTube) / My pics

MP3: David McAlmont – “Night & Day” (MP3)

CSS

8. CSS @ Dingwalls (10/09)

Read the full review

“Hello Dingleberries, we’re CSS”

Dingwalls, renamed Dingleberries for the night by lead singer Lovefoxxx welcomed Cansei De Ser Sexy to their second London gig in just a few days with wild abandon (or at least what passes for wild abandon in the capital). Blogger The Nipper got a little overexcited proclaiming them “indisputably the greatest pop group in the world right now” although live they’re less electro pop and a lot more electro punk than on record. Its impossible to take your eyes off Lovefoxx or avoid being caught up in her endearingly bonkers energy rush. She stores water bottles down her top, duets with random members of the audience, hugs people, and of course throws herself into the crowd legs flailing until she is somehow returned to the stage in one piece.

“We’ve got this friend who likes to sleep with a lot of guys..she’s a girl. And she asked us to write her a song that she could sleep with guys to… so we wrote her this… “

Lovefoxxx introducing what must be the next single “Music Is My Hot Hot Sex”. Judging by the reaction of internet reviewers the rise of CSS won’t be slowing down anytime soon, “Wow Wow Wow… I can honestly say its the best small-venue gig I’ve ever been too… it really felt like I was part of a soon-to-be-HUGE phenomenon” said D on Myspace, while over on the UK Dance forum Drak was equally effusive:

“The best gig I have been to, ever! I am still awe-struck. CSS are a …force of nature. Anyone who gets the chance to go and get trodden on in the stampede they inspire when they play should do so. It’s a privilege to be battered at their feet”.

Personally I wouldn’t quite go that far, but CSS are certainly a breath of fresh air in the slightly stale and overly humourless world of electro, or is it still electro clash? With fashion designers, directors, and composers among their members they’re clever without ever being arch, and can now boast a must see live show to go with their must hear LP.

Video:
CSS live @ Dingwalls (Youtube)
MP3:
Lets Make Love & Listen To Death From Above (Spank Rock mix)” – Cansei de Ser Sexy
Music Is My Hot Hot Sex” – Cansei de Ser Sexy

Divine Comedy

9. Divine Comedy @ BBC 6 Music (15/08)

Read the full review

“…I got my cheeky back…like Justin”

So said Neil Hannon and new album “Victory for the comic muse” certainly finds him in rude health, sounding confident and relaxed. Free from record company hassles The Divine Comedy appear happy in their own skin once more.

Unsurprisingly then I jumped at the chance to loiter around in the background as Neil, accompanied by John Evans on guitar recorded a session in the BBC 6 music hub. The grand sounding “Hub” is actually a couple of sofas and a coffee machine with probably room for a dozen at most.

“A Lady Of A Certain Age” is my personal favourite of the new songs, and it turned out to be the highlight of the session, with the acoustic arrangement and slightly slower pace focusing the mind on its beautifully observed lyrics. Its a fantastic, and sadly rare moment when a gig takes you by surprise and from nowhere you get tingles down your spine. There was something about Hannon sat five foot away delivering the songs poignant lines with such clarity that did just that. Call me a soppy old sod if you like but goosebumps there were. At the end of the song there was a moment of silence as Neil remained hunched over his guitar, and the audience suffered a collective fear of applauding too soon on live radio, “finished!” Neil jokingly prompted.

Supergrass - Camden Crawl 2006

10. Supergrass @ The Camden Crawl 2006 (20/04)

Read the full Crawl reviews

This years worst kept secret were Supergrass playing probably their smallest venue (150 capacity) in a good dozen years. I thought arriving for the first band at 7 was perhaps over cautious but… by 9.30, two hours before Supergrass are due to play theres a queue of 100+ desperately trying to shoehorn themselves in.

From the off the place went mental, beers were thrown, sweat was sweated, and classics were belted out, with the crowd gleefully singing along. Somewhere in the middle of it all was a very happy me, loving every second but also mildly concerned at the safety of my camera amidst the carnage, and attempting to get something more than a beer soaked blur of a shot.

Playing a 50 minute set, with some new material, but also classics like “Caught By the Fuzz”, “Lenny”, and winner of the make the crowd go fucking mental award for the night “Pumping on your stereo”. Finishing up with “Strange Ones” Danny Goffey flung himself into the audience, crowd surfing his way to the exit, losing a shoe in the process, but departing triumphant if slightly ungainly. Artrocker perfectly summed it up: “we’re all feeling like lucky little piggies to have witnessed it. I won’t go on about it. You’ll only wish you’d been there.” Although the cheeky wee bastards did nick one of my pics without asking.

Gogol

11. Gogol Bordello @ KoKo (06/07)

Read the full review

Five minutes before Gogol Bordello take to the stage and I’m indulging in some idle banter with a friendly security guy down the front:

“Have you seen Gogol Bordello before then?”

Security: “No…you?”

“No, been meaning to for ages, but I’ve heard its an amazing show”

Security: “Oh you think it might be a bit lively then?”

“I think you might have a bit of a busy evening”

Spin forward twenty minutes and several leg flailing crowd surfers later, and lead singer Eugene Hutz leaps unannounced onto his shoulders. Staggering around with Hutz’s legs wrapped around his neck he’s a picture of bafflement, but the grin on his face is unmistakable. If Gogol Bordello have a calling card this is it. In the street afterwards you can pick out the people who were there by their smiles (due to the inferno like temperature you can also pick them out from the huge sweatmarks..but we’ll gloss over that.)

Hutz has the energy and stage presence of a young Iggy Pop, careering about the stage or repeatedly diving into the audience mid song. In all my visits to KoKo or Camden Palais I’ve never seen it buzzing like this.

Video: Youtube videos of the gig from LondonYank here