Crazy to think it’s almost a full year since I was at a non ‘virtual’ live music event.
From my first gig – Pet Shop Boys at the Armadillo in ‘99 – and the first trip away – The NME Awards Tour at Newcastle Academy in '07 with The View & The Automatic (both which narrowly missed out on the 10), to my last gig – Lewis Capaldi & MS&TBT in Aberdeen just under a year ago, I’ve lost count of the amount of shows I’ve been to over the years.
With a current lack of live music due to the pandemic, I’ve been reminiscing, and thought I’d be cool to list my top 10 favourite shows. I’ve not included the same act more than once, but it was still pretty difficult with loads of incredible gigs missing out.
Here's the 10 (in date order…)
1) Arctic Monkeys @ Barrowland – March 2007
My introduction to the famous Glasgow Barrowland and what a night for it. The Sheffield-rockers were touring their flawless debut album ‘Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not’ and my mate Ewan managed to get a pair of tickets through the fan club ballot.
The band played the album in full, along with selected tracks from their forthcoming follow up, giving us the chance to hear the likes of Brianstorm & Fluorescent Adolescent for the first time. It was one of those shows where it’s full-on mayhem from the moment the band step onstage until the lights come on at the end. It also remains one of only two gigs I’ve ever been to, where I’ve been offered ridiculous money for my ticket while waiting to get in – the other was Gerry Cinnamon at the same venue 10 years later.
2) Apple Scruffs, Dead Sea Souls & The Ray Summers @ Harleys – October 2008
I couldn’t list my favourite gigs without mentioning the legendary Harleys Bar in Bathgate. Every weekend between 2007-2010, the function room was packed out to the extent that the roof below would bulge under the weight of the crowd. The West Lothian gig scene was on fire at the time, with Harleys/ The Attic/ RATT all putting on regular shows, not to mention The Big Bash events in Whitburn.
It’s difficult to pick out a particular Harleys gig, with shows from The Dykeenies, The Law, Twisted Wheel, ENERGY! (Fatherson) & Sergeant just a few that spring to mind, but Lavi & Blair’s ‘Streetrogue’ night with Scruffs, DSS & TRS all on the same bill was particularly bouncing.
3) Glasvegas @ Barrowland – December 2008
I’ve seen Glasvegas over 100 times (since the first time at Livi Nitespot out of all places), but 2008 was the year they really exploded, and there was something extra special about the shows that year. The two nights at ABC2 to coincide with the album launch, the rammed Futures Stage at T in the Park and the trip to Dr. Martens Studio in Camden were all standout memories, but the festive Barrowland show was something special.
The stunning Christmas EP ‘A snowflake fell’ had just been released, and the band returned to headline the venue after supporting Dirty Pretty Things & The Wombats there previously. The four-piece were on top form; that wall of sound, the anthems, the mayhem for ‘Go Square Go’ and the paper snowflakes falling at the gig finale. Magical.
4) Paul McCartney @ Hampden Park – June 2010
I find it difficult to list a band as one of my all-time favourites without ever having seen them live, so the chance to catch a living Beatle in concert couldn’t be missed. It was a glorious sunny day at the national stadium with my dad (on Father's Day nonetheless) and the perfect setting for a marathon of Beatles & Wings classics.
It was one of those shows which seemed never-ending (in a good way), as he just kept playing banger after banger from his endless back catalogue. The singalong for Hey Jude, the complete silence from the crowd for Let it Be and the Mull of Kintyre performance complete with full pipe band as the sun went down. Incredible.
I got to see him again at the Hydro a few years back and once again he didn’t fail to impress.
5) The Libertines @ Leeds Festival – August 2010
The Libs were one of the first bands I loved from the indie scene (along with Arctic Monkeys & The View), but I was too young to see them the first time around, so me and Ewan always said if they ever got back together then we’d be at their first show, wherever that may be. We didn’t expect it to be as early as 2010, but as soon as the announcement was made, the tickets were in our baskets.
And what a weekend we had in Bramham Park. The band played on the Friday night (just before Arcade Fire, also one of the best live bands I’ve seen), and it was just complete mayhem, from the moment they kicked off with Horror Show to closing with What a Waster & I Get Along. Amazing to see the band on stage together and the performance was electric.
6) Frank Turner @ Wembley Arena – April 2012
After watching folk-punk singer Frank Turner perform club shows and tiny venues for around half a decade, it was an absolute must to travel to London and catch his first ever Arena headline, and it didn’t fail to disappoint (support from Billy Bragg was another plus!)
A fantastic couple of days in London with Jamie & Swinton, and even if we were rough as fuck on the day of the show, the gig (and more pints) cured the hangover.
He invited his mum on stage to play the harmonica at one point, and Billy Bragg joined him for a cover of Dylan’s ‘Times they are A Changing’. Could see how much the gig meant to him – Also the first time I’ve ever seen an artist get a tattoo between main set & encore. I still believe!
7) Skerryvore, Tide Lines, Trail West + More @ Gig in the Goil – May 2017
After the successful one-day trial of Gig in the Goil in 2016, I got to book an entire weekend of live music at Lochgoilhead the following year, leading with a strong headline bill of Skerryvore, Tide Lines & Trail West. It was an absolute buzz to welcome 50+ artists to a sold out Drimsynie Estate during what ended up being the hottest weekend of the year.
I managed to catch a bit of every set across the weekend, and not one act I didn’t enjoy (obviously- I booked them), but it was special seeing 3 of the best trad acts around closing each of the 3 nights (along with Heron Valley on the Friday), and paving the way for the future of the festival.
8) Runrig @ Stirling Castle – August 2018
I’ve never felt such a vast range of emotions at a gig as Runrig’s ‘Last Dance’ at Stirling Castle, bringing down the curtain on an incredible 45-year career. I had been lucky to catch the band on various occasions over the years, including their Berlin & Manchester shows as part of the ‘Final Mile’ tour, but this 3-hour set under the lights of Stirling Castle was simply unforgettable.
A weekend of camping and drams with a load of best mates (plus a brilliant Ted Christopher show in the city on the Friday night) was brought to an end on the Saturday evening – From jumping about mental to The Story, to the poignant moment a skene of Geese flew past during Going Home, to the mass crowd-acapella for Every River to the tearful finale of Hearts of Olden Glory.
I’m not sure I’ll ever attend a show quite like that again.
9) Lewis Capaldi, The Snuts, Luke La Volpe & MS&TBT @ Princes Street Gardens – August 2019
An all-star West Lothian line-up, on a scorching Summers day, under the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. What more can be said. Lewis was touring off the back of the incredible success of his debut album and decided to enlist the help of the best in WL to open the show, a testament to his loyalty and support of the other acts in the local scene.
Having seen each of the acts perform in front of no more than a handful of people, it was incredible to stand back and watch them playing to a sold-out Princes Street Gardens, with them all absolutely smashing it.
Lewis’ set ended with endless confetti, a huge crowd singalong to Someone you Loved, and fireworks. Perfect.
10) Gerry Cinnamon @ Hydro – December 2019
I had been following Gerry for a good few years by this point, and although I was excited about the Hydro show (his return after supporting Ocean Colour Scene 3 years earlier), I wasn’t quite sure how it would go down.
Horrendous weather, ‘Mad Friday’ before Christmas, 2+ hour bar queues, but holy fuck. What a show. At most gigs, there’s always someone beside you chatting over every second song and being a pain in the arse, but absolutely everybody in the Hydro was 100% up for it, and every single person knew every word to every single song.
One man and a guitar. Electric atmosphere. Anthemic. Cover of Billy Connolly’s ‘I wish I was in Glasgow’ was a highlight, truly a special night. Bring on Hampden.