Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Top 30 Favourite Gigs of 2017

Surely the most indulgent 'end of year list' and likely to be the most unique. Live music continues to be at the heart of ripping away the filters between artist and audience. It has also been the cornerstone of this blog since tentative steps were made to review a Ruth Moody show back in January 2012. In this age of capturing the live experience in a digital haze, the relevance of gig reviews does raise its head, especially when you throw in the notion of living and celebrating the moment. Only a handful of gigs attended this year were spared the obligatory review, and these were entirely at the mercy of creativity running aground. You know your filter system of gig choice is working when virtually all your shows throw up positive moments to allow the thought process to generate review material. However, objectivity does rule the day and the inevitable desire to rank has led to this blog's longest running list carrying over to its sixth renewal. For more insight into each special night, feel free to click on the review link. Happy gig going and see you at a venue in 2018...

#1 Chuck Prophet - The Rescue Rooms, Nottingham

"an enthralled Nottingham crowd soaked up a whole two hours of vintage Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express"

"the enjoyment of the music was enhanced by finding the venue’s sound sweet spot"

"a perfect resting place in the personal gig memory vault had been created making this one of the standard markers for at least the rest of the year – probably longer"


#2 American Aquarium - The Bullingdon, Oxford

"it was hard pushed to think of a more profound and enjoyable gig in the first three months of 2017"

"American Aquarium is as complete an alt-country band that you are likely to come across"

"there was certainly something special in an unfiltered atmosphere to move an audience in a multitude of ways"

#3 Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Symphony Hall, Birmingham

"This was a gilt-edged artisan on top of his game and a supporting cast in the 400 Unit matching him each note, chord and interlude"

"there is probably no tighter band around today than Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit"

"perfectly at home in the sort of environment that greeted him this evening"
#4 Miranda Lambert - Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham

"she strolled around the stage belting out this nostalgia-fuelled classic"

"it was a privilege to be in her presence (with a few thousand others) for a thankful, fabulous hour and a half"

"artist at the pulse of contemporary country music"


#5 Danny & the Champions of the World - The Bullingdon, Oxford

"Danny Wilson will forever be the humble front person of a band that has cracked the code of giving an exhilarating live experience"

"this was another classic performance from a band in perfect tune with their surroundings, audience, intent and motives"

"a packed Bullingdon rocked passionately"

#6 Brent Cobb - Hare & Hounds, Birmingham

"blessed with the poetic tendencies to turn the most insignificant of observations into majestic songs"

"Luring you into a transfixed zone was the redeeming feature of this gig"

"for the time, moment and setting, the arrangement on show was spot on"


#7 Hurray for the Riff Raff - The Cookie, Leicester

"a performance that bristled with emotion, musical chemistry, and a lead protagonist emerging as a spokesperson for resistance through song"

"Alynda Segarra gave an absolute dominant performance"

"If any doubts lingered about the record being one of the hottest and most powerful releases of the year, then spending just over an hour in the company of Alynda Segarra and her four band members unequivocally removed them"

#8 The Kennedys - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"a stroke of the Stratocaster turned it into a mystical musical wand"

"When they do return it will be a highly prized evening of outstanding folk ‘n’ roll music"

"Maura’s supreme folk vocals and Pete’s sublime guitar playing"


#9 Margo Price - The Bullingdon, Oxford

"deliver them {songs} as impassioned as you did in Oxford last night and the book of legacy will write itself"

"This may be the last time she jumps into the audience without a security person in sight. Oh the joys of a small venue"

"Live music is far more connective and meaningful in the right environment"

#10 Rhiannon Giddens - Town Hall, Birmingham

"the quality and absorbing nature of the music beamed in harmony with the venue’s ever manoeuvring lights"

"a world-class artist on a stage that she totally owned"

"This took her talents to a new height alongside the banjo, fiddle and creative nous to dig deep into the past to illuminate the world of folk music"



#11 Brandy Clark - Town Hall, Birmingham

 "Brandy Clark adopted the pose of the archetypal country music singer"

"Long may this remain the de facto format for Brandy Clark as it optimises the baring of her songs’ souls"

"the consummate role of the relaxed touring performer"


#12 Laura Marling - Institute, Birmingham

"Watching Laura Marling perform is an absorbing experience as she retains a knack of holding you to every note, breath and lyric"

"Capturing this performance in an isolated mind enabled the true beauty of her music to flourish and prosper"

"the joy of losing yourself in a literary melange of predominately acoustic and occasionally electric is a privilege"

#13 Whitney Rose - Maze, Nottingham

"The result was a heart bending array of real deal country tunes"

"If Whitney supplied the three chords and the heartache, Will was spot on with the twang"

"the stylistic way in which she upholds the tradition of her beloved genre"


#14 Cale Tyson - Hare & Hounds, Birmingham

"His music and stage show never fails to deliver"

"this inaugural Birmingham show ensured that momentum continues to build"

"the five-piece band in pulsating form from the moment the opening bars of ‘Staying Kind’ fired the started gun"



#15 Angel Snow - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"the stars were certainly aligned this evening, whether your ears were tuned into the vocals, electric or acoustic guitar"

 "a vocal skill that allowed each song to blossom"

"If music is the voice of the soul, the live version spoke loud this evening"



#16 Michael McDermott - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"packs a powerful punch when fully immersed into his songs"

"a songwriter personifying the well-worn statement of ‘heart on your sleeve’"

"an unbelievable strength of living and breathing every lyric of his work and exposing them for an audience to share the effect"


#17 The Stray Birds - Hare & Hounds, Birmingham

 "a stark talent shines through"

"flexing their musical muscles to deliver a first rate show"

"Oliver Craven, Maya de Vitry and Charlie Muench sharing their delightful musical talents with a live audience"


#18 Wild Ponies - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"This is country, folk, rock ‘n’ roll or anything you want it to be, as long as you respect tradition, integrity and the power of song"

"the live performance melted any aversion to a heart rendering emotive song"

"fast becoming perennial favourites on the UK touring circuit"


#19 Emily Barker - Glee Club, Birmingham

"Emily Barker is more than the sum of any record she has released"

"Whatever course she undertakes, the quality stamp mark via her talent and astuteness will be proudly displayed"

"the songs possessed a strong feel in the live arena"


#20 Carrie Elkin + Danny Schmidt - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"a joyous glow which radiated from each performer"

"the night soared to some seriously high levels of contemporary US folk song writing"

"the high spots were fantastically brought to life through the evening’s presentation"


#21 Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough - St.George's Hall, Bewdley

"music emanating from the Delta and the Gulf waters of the South that inspired an exceptional display of musical craft"

"Will Kimbrough’s presence left a distinguished profound indent on the evening" 

"the trademark swampy vocals of Brigitte DeMeyer took your mind to faraway places with their sultry feel"


#22 Turnpike Troubadours - Thekla, Bristol

"Turnpike Troubadours lived up to every ounce of their projected proclamation as a treasured live act"

"full on display of raucous outlaw country music"

"The fixated and absorbing presence of Evan Felker as lead vocalist and band focal point grew as the show progressed"



#23 Chastity Brown + Otis Gibbs- Hare & Hounds, Birmingham

"headed by an instinctive trait to be able to spin an artistic web around the audience"

"both artists encompass the wide wonderful world of Americana music"

"underpinning of a very personal take on folk music"


#24 Hannah Aldridge - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"Exceptional songs, perceptive insight, a cutting aura and an open heart, all go a long way to defining the music of Hannah Aldridge"

"The real beauty of live music is that it cannot be replicated in other mediums"

"fairly intense, highly articulate and forever revealing"


#25 John Craigie - Thimblemill Library, Smethwick

"timeless appeal of the folk-inspired acoustic guitar"

"Allow him the space and time, and this guy will deliver"

"fully embedded into the contemporary power of song"




#26 Jarrod Dickenson - Glee Club, Birmingham

 "just witnessed another first rate Jarrod Dickenson show "

"Texan singer-songwriter, cutting a strong figure on stage with precise vocals to match"

"an effortless performance"

#27 Andrew Combs - Glee Club, Birmingham

"his songs are akin to a sculptor etching each mark on their masterpiece"

"limitless appeal of Andrew’s song writing strength"

"a relevant piece of the 2017 musical adventure jigsaw"
#28 Ben Glover - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"a special setting for Ben’s highly acclaimed songs to burst into life"

 "the time has come to step out of the shadows as a performing artist in the UK"

"an artist and performer of moving capability"

#29 Kim Lowing and the Greenwood - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"Kim’s live performance continues to flourish with each show"

"played with an accomplished finesse and sang with a blossoming elegance"

"Black Country band crossing over the divide to play a Birmingham venue"


#30 Emily Mae Winters - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"here for the long term on a platform that may yet evolve"

"so reminiscent of Natalie Maines"

"Emily retains the natural charisma and flair to hold an audience on her own"

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