Wednesday 15 July 2009

Great Gigs

Mrs PM paid £120 to see Madonna at the Manchester Evening News Arena last week. Last night I paid £30 to see Nine Inch Nails and Jane’s Addiction at the same venue.

Why the difference in price?

Well you could argue that Madonna is, arguably, the greatest pop star in the world and has been for decades, especially after the recent death of Michael Jackson (did you know he’d died by the way? I think I saw something on the news).

I used to have a major crush on Madonna, though her music certainly didn’t float my boat. Mrs PM asked me if I wanted to see her and I would have gone had the ticket price been around £40, just to say that I had seen her. The £120 price tag put paid to that.

Mrs PM enjoyed the show but, because Madge danced around a lot, her voice suffered apparently. I don’t think Mrs PM would see her again, certainly not at that price.

As we talked about the show, I began thinking about all of the concerts I have been to over the years. I have lost count to be honest and I wonder exactly how much I have spent. I’ve decided to share some of the best with you. I have seen some amazing acts, not necessarily because of the music but the experience as well. Below are some of the greatest gigs and live performances I have seen (in no particular order):

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band – Bramhall Lane Sheffield (Sheffield United FC), 1988

Although I wasn’t a huge fan of “The Boss”, I thought that seeing him perform would be quite a good experience. I knew quite a lot of his songs, as I had a mate back in Walsall who was a huge fan. The album “Tunnel Of Love” had just been released and Bruce Springsteen was riding on a wave of popularity following “Born In The USA”. To be honest, I was just curious and my expectations were fairly low.

How wrong I was. Bruce Springsteen was magnificent. The first three songs he sang blew me away, the best being “She’s The One”, one of my favourite songs by the man. He was on stage for well over three hours (in two separate stints) and when the concert ended I wanted to stay for more.

Highlight: “She’s The One”

Alice Cooper – Manchester Apollo, 2000

I went to see Alice Cooper for the show rather than the music. I was only familiar with “Poison” and “School’s Out” and I had heard the title track of his current album “Brutal Planet”, which was enough to justify seeing him. The Apollo is a snug place and we had great seats at the front in the stalls with a perfect view of the stage.

And what a show it was. Alice Cooper is brutal and his show tells a story. By his own admission, the stage persona is a horrible person, who commits atrocities as he sings. Ultimately, he ends up in a strait jacket half way through the show and is punished by being brutally slain (in this case he was beheaded), before returning to life with “Feed My Frankenstein”. The great thing about this show was that I was introduced to classic Alice Cooper songs such as “Elected”, a song I had never heard before, but absolutely love.

Highlight: “Elected”

Def Leppard – Birmingham National Exhibition Centre, 1992

Def Leppard were the biggest rock band on the planet when I saw them in 1992. Unlike normal gigs, Def Leppard built the stage in the middle of the arena with the crowd all the way around, so absolutely everybody got a fantastic view of the band as they belted out all of their very best songs, up to and including the “Adrenalize” album.

During “Rocket”, the drum kit rose really high into the air, making me feel a little worried for Rick Allen. The encore was fantastic; Jo Elliott running around the immense stage whipping up the crowd to sing along to the extraordinary “Rock Of Ages”. This was Def Leppard at their absolute peak.

Highlight: “Rock Of Ages”

Queen – Knebworth, 1986

This is still, to date, the biggest gig I have ever been to. Supporting Queen were Big Country and Status Quo and they warmed the place up nicely. However, when Queen took the stage, it was as if we had been transported to a different place ruled by Freddie Mercury.

He was outrageous and absolutely mesmerising. The rest of the band played their part of course but Freddie was the leader; every one of us was in thrall and I have never seen such a great front man. We were quite a distance from the stage and had to rely on screens to see the band properly, which was a bit of a pain, but I enjoyed to concert nonetheless. I’m glad I can say that I saw Freddie Mercury before his sad death a few years later.

Highlight: “Radio Ga Ga” – 120,000 people clapping their hands in unison.

Foo Fighters – Manchester Evening News Arena, 2007

David Grohl is a legend and I leapt at the chance to see the Foo Fighters even though the ticket price exceeded my upper limit.

Our seats were quite far from the stage but that didn’t matter too much as they did an acoustic set almost directly in front of at the half way point. I’m sure he looked at us when he said “I haven’t played a song for you guys yet” before playing “But Honestly”.

I’ve seen the Foos three times in total, the other two times were in sports grounds in front of huge crowds. However, paradoxically, the Manchester Evening News Arena, a huge venue in its won right, the show seemed much more intimate, and therefore the best of them.

Highlight: “But Honestly”

Aerosmith – Monsters Of Rock, Castle Donnington, 1990

The Monsters Of Rock festival in 1990 was headlined by one of my favourite bands, Whitesnake, with Aerosmith in support. I had discovered Aerosmith in the late eighties with the release of “Permanent Vacation” and had become a big fan. That year, I drove my ex-wife up the wall with “Love In An Elevator” – she hated it.

After Thunder, the Quireboys and Poison, we decided to get a little closer to the stage, just as Aerosmith appeared. They blitzed through their set so magnificently that I barely had time to catch my breath. They pumped out song after song with consummate ease; Steve Tyler had the audience in the palm of his hand.

Whitesnake were, to be honest, a disappointment after Aerosmith. The difference was that Whitesnake seemed to be a bunch of egotistical individuals but Aerosmith were a team. It was a real shame that Aerosmith weren’t the headline act.

Highlight: “Rag Doll”

Metallica – Manchester Evening News Arena, 2009

I was never into Metallica in the 80’s but in recent years the band has grown on me immensely. Last year, I bought “Death Magnetic” and I have to admit it is one of the best albums I own. With a little bit of apprehension, I allowed a mate to persuade me to see the band. I feared that they would be a little too thrashy for me. I was so wrong.

Like Def Leppard, the stage was in the centre of the arena so we had a fantastic view of the band. The laser show that kicked off the gig (to “That Was Just Your Life”) was breath-taking (see the picture above). The music was polished, professional and perfect, something I didn’t expect at all.

I will have no hesitation seeing them again on their next tour.

Highlight: “The Day That Never Comes”

Whitesnake – Liverpool Royal Court, 1984

I am a huge fan of early Whitesnake, particularly the early 80’s material. In 1984, a couple of years before Whitesnake became absolutely huge. I saw the band at the Royal Court in Liverpool, a relatively intimate venue for a band like this. The line up was the classic one, featuring Jon Lord (from Deep Purple), Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden. However, what made this special was the presence of Cozy Powell on the drums.

This was the first time I saw the band and it was the best by far. David Coverdale was immense on stage and his voice was perfect. Halfway through the gig, Cozy Powell was allowed ten minutes or so to turn the stage into a crazy zone. He performed an outstanding drum solo to my favourite piece of classical music, “Mars, The Bringer Of War” from The Planet Suite by Gustav Holst, complete with an amazing light show.

This really was Whitesnake at their very best.

Highlight: Cozy Powell’s drum solo

Rammstein – Manchester Evening News Arena, 2005

You haven’t lived until you’ve seen this crazy bunch of Germans live. Complete with flame throwers and a cooking pot (don’t ask) they produced one of the most mesmerising, strange yet enjoyable shows I have ever seen.

The music was superb and the heavy industrial rock music whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy. Almost everybody in the English speaking audience was singing along with the German lyrics, including myself.

If you like pyrotechnics, flames and fun you will not be disappointed seeing this controversial band.

Highlight: “Feuer Frei” complete with flame throwers.

Rush – Manchester evening News Arena, 2004

Rush can do no wrong in my eyes; they are quite simply the greatest band on the planet. I have seen them four times (not nearly enough) but the best one was their 30th Anniversary Tour where they played most if not all of their greatest songs from their hugely successful career.

With eighteen albums behind them, they had a colossal number of songs to choose from, and I believe they got their set absolutely spot on. There were so many songs that they were on stage for well over three hours, including a short break.

The concert was clinical, spectacular and perfect. Long may they reign and, please guys, come back to Manchester again.

Highlight: “La Villa Strangiato”

Sometimes I think I’m getting a little too old for concerts, particularly since my music of choice is generally loud and heavy. Yet when I think back on the concerts above and the great music that these and other bands are producing, I reconsider and say, so what? You are as old as you feel, and these guys make me feel young.


Susan said...

Bramwell Lane in 1988 was the first time I went to see Bruce Springsteen and it was unbelievable. I've seen him many times since but I'll never forget the first time.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Susan,

He's certainly good value for money (at least he was the one time I saw him).