Top 3 live shows

Top 3 live shows you’ve seen…

Bruce Springsteen. Leeds Arena. July 2013
Just a pure celebration of his songs. Like a Boss jukebox. Such a privilege to see him perform live. Genius. Such a great atmosphere, the crowd into every chord of every song.

Pet Shop Boys. Birmingham NEC. June 1991
Mind-blowing show – if you’ve never seen it, you should watch on YouTube. Ground-breaking production. A friend lent my DVD of the show and thought it was a collection on video promos, which tells you how good it was. Influenced most live shows going forward.

Morrissey. Sheffield City Hall. February 1995
Just after Vauxhall & I, he was at the height of his powers on this tour. Came on with a knuckle-duster and cuts to his face and hands. Crazy, before the real craziness of today. The songs from the album sounded amazing.

  1. Arcade Fire - King’s College London 2005.
  2. My Bloody Valentine - The ICA 2008.
  3. Taylor Swift - Wembley Stadium 2018.

I’ve a very strong top 10 which could all be 2nd or 3rd. But Arcade Fire remains the best even though I’ve gone off them. They played the first album in full. It was just stunning. Perfect sound and atmosphere. Me and my mate had to find a late bar (might have been The ICA) to get a final drink and to just work out and take in what an amazing gig we’d just witnessed.

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Way too difficult to decide! Off the top of my head:

Ligament - Buffalo Bar 2006
New Order - Reading Festival 1993
Beastie Boys - London Astoria 1994

The Smashing Pumpkins. Lowell, MA. April 29th, 2000. First time seeing them and it was as incredible as I’d hoped. Experiencing the tuned down version of Zero they were doing on that tour felt like getting hit by a truck. I also vividly remember Billy leading a “What the fuck is going on?” chant as a joke during the amazing and divisive Once in a Lifetime cover due to it being played on radio. Incredible setlist - Tear, With Every Light, and Blank Page were huge surprises.

The Smashing Pumpkins. Vancouver, BC. September 24th, 2007. The most intense concert I’ve ever been to. I dehydrated myself and sat outside for over nine hours in an attempt to get first row, and many others who did the same ended up getting pulled over the barrier within the first few minutes. It was pure chaos when they played Zero and Bullet with Butterfly Wings, I’ve never experienced anything like it. I know everyone hates the production on Zeitgeist, but those songs absolutely shine live. Jimmy is a monster.

The Smashing Pumpkins. Philadelphia, PA. May 1st, 2000. My second time seeing them in three days and ever. Just as amazing as the first show.


This is my clear No. 1

  1. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Padua, Italy - Skeleton Tree Tour 2017.

  2. Fugazi, Kentish Town Forum, 2002 - their final gig. Just amazing.

  1. Twilight Sad - Parc Cituadella, Barcelona
  2. Low - Barbican (Double Negative Tour)
  3. VMO/Vampillia - Le Guess Who

Maybe. MBV at ICA, Bjork at Connect, Anohni at Primavera are up there too.

  1. The Icarus Line @ Gullivers, manchester, 2013

In front of a crowd of 50-ish they tore through 7 out of ‘Slave Vows’ 8 tracks, plus ‘Junkadelic’. Band were ferociously tight but frontman Joe Cardamone was something else. A truly shamanic performance from the best frontman I’ve ever seen.

  1. Liars @ Night And Day Cafe Manchester, 2001

I’d read a review in Uncut magazine the day of the gig describing them as ‘PIL playing the hits of The Birthday Party’ so i decided to go watch. Came out feeling like I’d been struck by lightning, brutally funky gig which i left with my shirt soaked and stuck to my back.

  1. Daft Punk @ Wireless, leeds '07

Not a huge fan of their records or big outdoor gigs but stood right in front of that pyramid i felt like i was being beamed into the future.

Honourable mentions… primal scream on the ‘xtrmntr’ tour, manics ‘holy bible’ anniversary, lcd soundsystem in '06, sheep on drugs Phoenix fest '93

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  1. Iron Maiden, Brisbane Australia, 2008
    I was but a wee lad an a huge fan of Maiden so this gig was huge for us. They only played songs from the glory days and had brought massive set pieces to decorate the stage. Banger after banger this gig is still hard to beat. Ended up seeing them on the end of the same tour a year later and it wasn’t as good.

  2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Vancouver BC, 2011
    The masters of their genre just before they started releasing subpar albums. They had very cool ambience with projector video was far more interesting than most live instrumental bands.

  3. (undecided but possibly Idles at Visions Fest last year)

Daft Punk, Rockness 2007
All time favourite gig. Just an absolute joyous moment. Strangers hugging and dancing together. Suppose it’s well documented now. Legendary shows. Feel lucky to have seen them.

David Byrne, Hydro Glasgow 2018
I smiled non stop throughout the whole thing. Great mix of solo and Talking Heads hits. Stage show was fantastic.

LCD Soundsystem, SWG3 Glasgow 2018
Could have picked any of the many times i’ve seen them (two nights in a row at the Barras the year before comes close) but something about this one brings back the fondest memories, think my girlfriend enjoying it as much if not more than me had something to do with it. A year to the day from a particularly shite time, things had somehow fallen into place. Perfect day for an outdoor gig.

Robyn at Ally Pally the other month there comes very very close. Radiohead’s Glasgow Green show for In Rainbows when it started raining at the end of Paranoid Android… Beastie Boys at SECC in '04


Vampillia are phenomenal live! The front guy is a force to be reckoned with.

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Oh man, I forgot about David Byrne at the O2 in 2018. It needs to be in my top 3 too.

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Not sure about 2 and 3 but No1. would be…

Sufjan Stevens - Brighton Dome 2011

Just the most uplifting, beautiful show. Impossible Soul in full. Would relive that show every day if possible


Saw GY!BE around this time as well and oh my, what a show! Getting stuff from Slow Riot and Skinny Fists. Thought I’d never get to see them as they went on that hiatus just as I discovered them. One of my favourites.

  1. Why? - Star & Garter, Manchester - 2006/7

Sweatbox venue, 21st Century Pop Song in the encore, my favourite drumming performance from Josiah Wolf - somehow played drums and glockenspiel simultaneously.

  1. Hope of the States - Fugitives & Refugees, Buffalo Bar - 2006

Played the fan shared Dust Rackets for the first and (i think) only time live. Everyone sat down, candles lit everywhere. I could’ve chosen any of their gigs because they were a really special band anyway. But for this the message board lot turned out in full force, travelling from all over the country. Even by their standards, this was a really wonderful experience.

  1. Sufjan Stevens - Adz Tour - Princess Theatre, Manchester - 2011

For everything @rich-t said basically.

A perfectly balanced setlist Dance routines! Lights!

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I can’t do a definitive top 3 but one of the best was the Mclusky reunion show in the Welsh Club in Cardiff a few years back. I had seen them there many times in their previous incarnation, but this time the place was absolutely heaving and everyone was a mass of sweat screaming out all the words. They are touring again soon, hoping they can recreate this in Bristol.

Blimey - so many great gigs. Going to keep it to indoor gigs only to try and keep it sensible, although Guns N Roses with Faith No More and Soundgarden at Wembley Stadium in '92, Nirvana day at Reading '92 and The Cure headlining Great Expectations in '93 are all seared into my formative live music memory…

1) The Manic Street Preachers @ The Astoria - 21/12/94

Richey Edwards’ last ever gig with the band. With a quarter of a century of up and down discography since then, it might be easy to discount just what a thrilling band they were for awhile. So much frantic energy - I guess how people a generation before had felt about The Clash. I liked Generation Terrorists and Gold Against The Soul, but they hadn’t fully backed up the talk - The Holy Bible was a stone cold classic from the very first time I heard it however. This show was a couple of days before Christmas, so everyone was in a party mood. The band tore through a bunch of Holy Bible stuff early on, before actually getting quite festive and playing a bunch of the hits plus some covers. When they finished the encore things turned a bit darker however. I’ve seen bands rather tiresomely smash up their equipment before but nothing like this - it was literally like they were trying to obliterate their existence as a band. I remember The Melody Maker review noting that “The destruction could not have been more complete if they’d torn up the stage and taken a shit in the hole.” They had been under massive pressure at the time and this was the final night of the tour - for all their early talk of releasing a classic album and then splitting up, at that stage I genuinely wouldn’t have been surprised to never hear from them again. After the other band members had left the stage Richey stayed standing at the front just metronomically smashing his forehead into a microphone until his face was a mask of blood. Even at the time all the ‘4REAL’ stuff was bullshit, but looking back someone should have been there to help what was clearly a very troubled man. Sad looking back at what came afterwards, but utterly vital at the time.

2) The Prodigy @ Brixton Academy - 25/03/95

The first all nighter I went to at Brixton Academy, and also the first time I took speed - heady days. Support came from The Chemical Brothers and Empirion, who were both great in their own right. The Prodigy vibe had been building from the previous summer when Music From The Jilted Generation had gone massive. In pre-internet days, there was no indication of what the live show would be - dance acts at the time were typically huddled away behind a bank of electronics. Not so The Prodigy - they smashed onto the stage, with Keith surfing over the crowd in a zorb (a long time before Wayne Coyne made this his schtick). They hadn’t got far into their set before the floor down the front, which had been levelled out especially for the gig, collapsed such was the intensity of the crowd. One of the most intense gigs I’ve ever been to.

3) Tom Waits @ Hammersmith Apollo - 23/11/04

Had kind of assumed that I would never get to see him live, so was ridiculously excited when he announced a lone UK date. Tickets sold out pretty much instantaneously, but I was so determined to go that I forked out £200 for one from an online tout (was offered £500 for it outside the venue on the night). Worth every penny as the show was everything you would hope from Tom Waits - a great, ramshackle band, homemade instruments around the stage, a career covering setlist and best of all, just random musings from the great man himself. Pretty starry crowd too - I was sat just down from Phil Jupitus, and also spotted Tim Burton and Johnny Depp in the crowd. Absolutely enchanting stuff.

Been to a few of the others mentioned in this thread (Arcade Fire, MBV, New Order) and there are so many great gig memories :+1:


Tough one! Probably:

Bjork (Hammersmith Apollo 2008)- Was feeling really ill that day, but every moment of that gig was utter magic. I’ve seen Bjork since and nothing has quite reached that level.
Arcade Fire (Manchester Academy 2005)- The show that got me into live music. “In The Backseat” with the audience carrying on the refrain after they’d left the stage remains one of my all-time favourite moments.
Sigur Ros (Latitude 2008)- The band at their majestic best. Brass bands, confetti, balloons, but most of all, the most epic 90 minutes of music.

Kamasi Washington, Joanna Newsom, Sufjan Stevens (Age of Adz), Flaming Lips, David Byrne, Wildbirds & Peacedrums and Wolf Parade would probably complete my Top 10.

Yeah they’re just a phenomenal band all round. Love this video of them;


This night and their date at the Forum (I think towards the end of 94) are right up there for me too- redefined my idea of what made a great gig at the time.

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