2014 in Review: My Year of Live Music (Part 1)

Time for an uncharacteristically candid post. As all undecadent non-hipsters tend to say, I had the immense pleasure of seeing a melange of old and new(er) musicians live this year. At this stage, you’re no doubt wondering why on earth I didn’t just review each gig as I went along. I mean, surely that’s what any run of the mill music journo would do, right? Well, not exactly. For starters, I’m not an aspiring music journo per se, so I’m kind of exempt from that particular expectation at the very least. HOKAY. Sooo! Here’s the part one of my Live Music Roundup (i.e., a fuzzy recollection of virtually every gig I attended in 2014 complete with a corresponding Spotify playlist. I know, hip right?)

Where better to start than back in January, with Maximo Park – My first gig of 2014. I’d not graced Liverpool’s O2 Academy since seeing Jake Bugg there the previous February (oh how the times have changed) and it certainly felt like longer. MP are a band I’ve revered for the best part of a decade, so I was especially pleased to have the opportunity of reliving the nostalgia of my early teens. I’d originally caught wind of the band whilst sat in the bath (of all places) one autumn evening. Indifferent to much of the samey indie fare played on Zane Lowe’s infamous evening show, the emotional bombast of ‘Graffiti’ had immediately caught my attention, and I distinctly remember straining to hear the name of this exuberant North-East ‘Indie’ band over the tinny shower radio, all those years ago. I’d previously flirted with the idea of seeing band back in 2009 at the same venue, but never did, so naturally jumped at the chance of seeing the Park in action. They were everything I expected and more.

My next live music affair, in April, was a little less intimate (but only just). Fronted by the eternally affable Guy Garvey, Elbow’s music is known for its heart, soul and uplifting magnificence. Amongst the group’s many strengths is their ability to transform a large Arena into a venue half its size, a feat seemingly at odds with its reputation as the world’s leading purveyor of sing-along anthems (an impression that is actually fairly unfounded). In fact, the atmosphere of the band’s largely ‘unplugged’ setlist (coupled with the non-resonant acoustics of the Echo Arena) differed somewhat from their less subdued end of tour appearance at the venue a year and a half previously. Nevertheless, seeing Bury’s finest in concert is always an uplifting, even life affirming experience. Much like Coldplay in days gone by, witnessing Elbow in a live setting is a bit like being given a warm embrace by a long lost friend. What more could you possibly want?

Fast forward to June, and I’m at Pond’s chaotic show at UoM’s Club Academy. I’m stood just to the left of a surprisingly excitable mosh pit, my eyes fixed firmly on the weedy form of one Nick Allbrook, the band’s principal lyricist and effectual frontman. Regaled in a tatty ombre jumper and exuding something of an androgynous aesthetic, Allbrook perches himself atop his monitor several times during the show. With each abrupt anarchic jolt I’m becoming increasingly certain that he’s going to take the plunge and dive into the crowd (I have a feeling he probably would if it were not for the meagre reach of his rather short guitar lead). Such onstage – or rather ‘offstage’ – tomfoolery is standard fare at many of the band’s shows, yet judging by the rambunctious exchange of giggles and grins, I have a feeling that the Perth five-piece were not quite expecting such a uproariously fabulous reception.

Onto July and Tame Impala, whose vibes, oscillating ‘backfrops’, scintillating vocals and grooves a-plenty combined with the quasi-baroquian interior of Manchester’s Albert Hall for a memorable live music experience. Fronted by psych-gaze maestro Kevin Parker, the Aussie outfit is actually a sibling of Pond with both bands sharing members (although at this stage it’s a case of the chicken and the egg, as it’s not entirely clear who came first). Yet despite their shared and overlapping heritage, it’s fair to say that both acts function as two separate and distinct branches from the same musical tree. Whereas Pond are often manic, Tame are resoundingly mellifluous. Directed by Parker’s imploring, sermonic vocals and synth-like guitar leads, the band rides a wave of momentum (in direct contrast to the former, who are much more likely to dive in headfirst). Surging high into the psychedelic stratosphere, groove after groove takes flight – some drift effortlessly, whereas other appear to dissipate amidst the hypnotic lighting behind the stage. Despite having to leave roughly 3/4 of the way through the set, the band’s performance was an engrossing one nevertheless and left me curious as to how things will pan out for Kevin Parker and co., in 2015 and beyond.

At this rate, I’m retroactively wondering if next month’s offering will leave me in a similarly trance-like state…

To August, and beyond!

 

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