What makes an amazing gig? What aspect of a show is it that propels a gig goers experience from “yeah, they we’re good…” to “Holy Mother of God that was the greatest two hours of my life!”?
This week I have mostly been scrupulously watching DVDs of classic live shows of days gone by, from The Who Live At Leeds, to Hendrix at Woodstock, as well as using my 15 years of gig going and playing experience in order to create a formula that solves this very quandary. My results are as follows:
Tunes x (Energy + Charisma) = Great Gig
Show my work? I always hated this bit, but fine:
Let’s face it. When you go watch a band you want to hear the hits. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the odd b-side, or obscure cover thrown into a band’s set, quite the opposite; However if I had paid £50 for an Oasis ticket, you’d best believe there’d be trouble if they didn’t play “Don’t Look Back In anger”. There’s kind of an unwritten contract between punter and band to this effect. When this contract isn’t adhered to (Radiohead, I’m looking at you) it can rub some section of the audience up the wrong way and a gigs atmosphere can fall flat. I’m not saying bands should exclusively play their biggest selling hits, but in my experience, peppering sets with well known songs to get the crowd going is always integral in creating a memorable gig.
So, energy and charisma: Well, for me, there’s nothing quite like a band that throw everything into a live show. If up on stage, the band looks like they’re having a ball, chances are that energy will transfer itself to the audience and a great atmosphere will be created as a result. Some bands have a more static approach to live shows and rely more on a front-mans charisma to stamp their mark as a great live band (see Liam Gallagher, Julian Casablancas, etc) and this can work really well. When the energy/charisma balance is just right, however, that’s when the magic happens. Awesome front-men such as Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, Jarvis Cocker and, oh go on then, Matt Bowman have mastered this art and know how to rouse a crowd into frenzy, making sure no one leaves the venue without a smile on there face.
So there it is: My foolproof formula for live music perfection. Is this useful? Does it even make sense? What do I know; I got a D in maths…
My top five gigs ever...
The Strokes – Leeds Festival 2002
With only one album under their trendy belts, The Strokes headlined Leeds Festival n the pouring rain at Temple Newsham. in 2002. Oozing cool and playing every track from the now classic album “Is This It?” the NYC quintet blew me away.
Pulp – Leeds Festival 2011
I had never seen a Pulp gig until this show. I had always assumed, from interviews and the bands videos, that Jarvis Cocker would be a good front-man; but boy, what a front-man! Mincing and jerking his way around the stage and spouting hilarious one-liners in between awesome tune after awesome tune, he completely owned the show. Pure, unadulterated charisma…
The Walkmen – Alhambra, Paris 2011
If you’re going to just stand there and sing, you’d better have a cracking voice. Hamilton Leithauser (cracking name too) has an amazing voice. So much so that 5 gig-weary Pigeons stood silent for an hour and a half, gawping in awe at the sheer ferocity of The Walkmans singers pipes. We came for ‘The Rat’ (their biggest song…) and stayed for the ‘How to be a Rock and Roll Singer’ lesson.
Arctic Monkeys – Escobar, Wakefield 2005
When we supported Arctic monkeys at this gig you could tell something special was happening. On the back of a three-track demo posted on Myspace, The Monkeys had created an unprecedented amount of buzz. 200 kids squeezed in the tiny bar and proceed to go out-of-their-minds-crazy for the entire duration of the set. I’d never seen such a frenzied scene at a gig; you could just tell that they were going to be huge
Iggy and The Stooges – A field in Spain 2007
I can’t remember the name of the festival we played with Iggy Pop in 2007 in Spain, but I remember in was in the middle of nowhere, it was summer and it was 1000 degrees centigrade. The festival had sold poorly, due bad advertizing and look quite empty, yet Iggy slithered on stage like a leathery, punk-lizard in the sweltering heat and performed like he was headlining Glastonbury. Professional, unbelievably energetic and weirdly sexy…