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