Despite the fact I go to a lot of gigs, there always feels like there are more I want to be at. Legendary festival sets or guest appearances. Shows that I regret missing or wish I was born early enough to experience. So here’s my rundown of the different sets I wish I got to see.
Jay-Z and Kanye West – Watch the Throne Tour (2011-2012)
I was always going to pick Jay-Z as he has some truly iconic moments. The Collision Course show with Linkin Park holds a special place in my heart. And the way he trolled Noel Gallagher as he started his Glastonbury set was pure genius. But ultimately I have to go for the Watch the Throne Tour. I don’t think it needs too much justification. To be able to see 2 of the biggest icons of the 21st century at the top of their game working together would have been amazing.
Nirvana – Reading (1992)
Speaking of being a troll, Kurt Cobain’s entrance to their Reading set is hilarious. After people kept speculating that his drug use had got so extreme he couldn’t play the show, he gets wheeled on stage in a wheelchair and wearing a hospital gown. Then they rip into the most iconic performance seen at Reading festival. Again with the honourable mention, I have to throw in the Unplugged in New York show. watching back the videos it is also spellbinding, just in a different way. Plus through ‘The Man Who Sold the World’, it was the first step in rehabilitating David Bowie for me, after a childhood of having him rammed in my ears by my Dad.
David Bowie – Glass Spider (1987)
Now that I’ve come full circle and am avidly a Bowie fan, I couldn’t leave him off. For the specific tour I’m going to trust my super fan father and opt for the late 80s Glass Spider tour. He had the recording on VHS. I vividly remember being sat on the floor, watching grainy footage of this hugely elaborate stage show. The tone is set in the first few minutes as Bowie descends from the head of a gigantic neon spider, as he does his own voiceover. It’s mad!
Sex Pistols – Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall (1976)
This list wouldn’t be complete without ‘The Gig that Changed the World’. It’s the show everyone says they were at, but less than 50 people were actually there. Canonised in the movie 24 Hour Party People, it seems that everyone there became somebody. Driving the Manchester music scene forward in exciting directions. I wish I was there for selfish reasons. As exciting as it woul have been to see the raw energy of The Sex Pistols, I wish I was there just in case I got lucky and had become the untalented 5th member of The Buzzcocks.
LCD Soundsytem – Madison Square Garden (2011)
The farewell show that ended up just being a see you soon. A show that when I’ve watched it back, has made me cry. They aimed to end their career on a high with a show that was singular, strange and unrepeatable. Which it very much seems like they did. They’re one of my favourite bands so this had to be on the list. Plus the accompanying film about this show is a tremendous insight into the mind of a creative auteur. But maybe I’m a little bit biased.
Tupac and Biggie – Madison Square Garden (1993)
We’re back to the garden for this one and I’m cheating a little bit. Before the beef. Before East Coast vs. West Coast. Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. were friends. They were two young rappers with a growing reputation. And the first time they worked on something together, was live on stage at MSG, as guests of Big Daddy Kane. For 5 minutes, they took the stage along with Shyhiem and Scoob to deliver a freestyle that is regarded by many as the best ever. And from the patchy recording that’s been chucked on YouTube it sounds absolutely fire.
Talking Heads – Speaking In Tongues Tour (1983)
When we’re talking about famous shows and charismatic frontmen, it’d be hard not to include David Byrne and Talking Heads. This show specifically is documented in the fantastic film Stop Making Sense. And it is peak Talking Heads. There’s a larger than life stage show. And THAT larger than life suit. The Tom Tom Club features at one point to perform Genius of Love. Add in that it’s my favourite Talking Heads album and you can see why it is a must see.
Radiohead – Glastonbury (1997)
I couldn’t have made this list without a Glastonbury set. And Radiohead’s 1997 headliner slot has to fill that vacancy. For me this was the first year I started to understand what Glastonbury was about. I remember seeing lots of muddy people on the news. Stories about stages sinking. And with all this drama I was drawn into watching highlights on BBC. I’m not going to claim to have suddenly been swept away by the artistic genius of Radiohead at 8 years old. I was more into Spice Girls at the time. But I remember it was striking how despite all the chaos, Radiohead showed up, kept it simple and just rocked it. I’ve watched the full set back several times since then, and its wall to wall classics. One of the best bands ever, at their best, playing their best show, at the best festival.
Björk – Manchester International Festival (2011)
Björk is one of the artists that has continually just evaded me. Numerous times I have been excited about her tour, only for it to instantly sell out. Or the dates are annoyingly impossible. Case in point, the debut of the Biophilia live show at MIF. Though I was moving back to Manchester, it fell just a few weeks before I could realistically get up there. The Biophilia show itself sounds like it was a pretty epic one. A visual and musical performance, in which Björk had invented entirely new instruments to create the sound she wanted (including using a Tesla coil – see the video!). When people talk about how art and music come together, this is the kind of show that combines it all for an entirely unique experience.
Daft Punk – Alive (2007)
I think this live show is remarkable. They reworked and remixed nearly 30 of their songs, bringing them all together into a single coherent and unrelenting show. It is my favourite live record. The way the atmosphere has been recorded and maintained in the album is absolutely ridiculous. There’s just so much energy still on the tracks, without diluting the music. And videos of their live show set up look amazing, as they bring their music to the masses from atop a pyramid of lights. I wish I was there, and my obsession with the live album is the whole reason for this list.
Words by Matt Paul.