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Monday 27 December 2010

This Year's Gigs

Following on my attempt at a top ten albums list - which I already disown - I thought I should reflect on live music in 2010. It was a mixture of good and bad, the good being the high number of excellent gigs I was lucky enough to get to, the bad being the loss of one of London's better small venues. The Luminaire in Kilburn will close its doors next week and will be sadly missed. Coming only a few months after What's Cookin' in Leytonstone has cut back to only one gig a month, let's hope this isn't the beginning of a trend.

My gig going in 2010 began in Brussels in January with two gigs in one night. The first was Jon Spencer's rockabilly combo, Heavy Trash, and they were good. But not half as good as Papa Boni & Kundi Bora, whose Congolese soukous sounds I discovered by accident - and you can discover them on YouTube. I popped into the Live Music Cafe on Avenue Anspach for a quick beer on my way back to my hotel. The next thing you know it is 2am and I am dancing round the tables with a friendly bunch of locals. A memorable night.

The last paid gig of the year was also in Brussels just a few weeks ago - Senegalese rapper Didier Awadi and guests performing his tribute to many of the African leaders that led their countries to independence, "Presidents d'Afrique". That was another excellent night, and there were many more in between.

I would find it impossible to choose a single "best gig of the year" as there were just too many highlights - long-time heroes such as Mike Heron at Cafe OTO and Hugh Masekela at the Royal Festival Hall and stalwarts such as Tom Russell and Otis Gibbs at the Luminaire and What's Cookin' respectively, to name but a few. So instead here are five of the songs that would make my fantasy compilation of the best live moments of 2010.

"Riot In Cell Block Number Nine" - Wanda Jackson

72 years young, Wanda fought her way to the Luminaire through the volcanic ash clouds to blow us all away in April. Her yell in the middle of this song was enough to set off another eruption. This is the original recording.

"Bonfires" - Rickie Lee Jones

This song from "Balm In Gilead", accompanied only by her own guitar, was one of the many highlights of a career-spanning set at the Union Chapel in July.

"Another Song In C" - Loudon Wainwright III

Loudon was on a double bill with Richard Thompson in the Festival Hall in June, as part of the latter's Meltdown Festival. Tommo was on sparkling form as always, but Loudon stole the show with this. This recording is from their joint US tour in 2009.

"Hedda Gabler" - John Cale

Also at the Festival Hall, February saw John Cale perform his classic "Paris 1919" in its entirety with band, string section and horn section. That was great. After the interval he came back with just the band and played a short set that was even better. I had never heard "Hedda Gabler" before but was completely stunned by it. This version comes from his 1979 LP "Sabotage Live". The version he played in February was even darker and even more impressive.

"Black Eyed Dog" - Lisa Hannigan

In January there was an all-star tribute concert to Nick Drake and his arranger Robert Kirby, who had recently passed away. The overall quality was a bit patchy, but there were some stand out performers including Krystle Warren, Teddy Thompson and Danny Thompson on bass, as he was on many of the original recordings. But Lisa Hannigan's "Black Eyed Dog" stood head and shoulders above everything else. This is the actual performance. I converted it from this clip from the subsequent "highlights" show on the BBC, most of which can be found on YouTube:

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