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Thursday, 20 December 2018

Top 20 Favourite Gigs of 2018

Here goes, for the seventh successive year this blog indulges in celebrating the live music shows which have resonated the most over the last twelve months. In time honoured tradition, kudos is given to those stalwarts of the gig scene whose intrepid numbers tower above mine and continue to be the life blood for any artist who crosses the line into a professional performance. The debate whether art should be quantified into lists continues to rage, but as somebody who resides firmly in the objective camp there is no holding back on the seasonal task of reflecting fondly. So with a short drum roll, here are the gigs that possessed a touch of magical appeal to live long in the memory:

 1 American Aquarium - Night and Day Cafe, Manchester

"Probably best summing up American Aquarium is that they start out full of country sentiment before finding the fault lines of rock ‘n’ roll, not a bad place to be though. A wonderful fulfilling gig from an awesome band sums the night up perfectly. "
 2 Courtney Marie Andrews - St.Barnabas Church, Oxford (December)

"Courtney had little trouble finding the notes that give her vocals an air of supremacy. Aided by a crisp clear sound system and the obligatory pin-drop audience environment, everything that makes Courtney Marie Andrews an exceptional performing singer-songwriter was in place."
 3 Kacey Musgraves - O2 Academy, Birmingham

"This performance upon a return to the only Birmingham that really counts was absolutely adorable and a major advert for the magnetic attraction of top quality live music from an artist who clearly matters."
 4 Carter Sampson - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"The most engaging of voices adorns an impressively curated arsenal of song selection. The rich texture of a vocal honed in the land where the South spills into the West possesses the capability to melt the heart of a listener, made even more effective in the confines of the acoustically perfected Kitchen Garden."

5 Steve Earle and the Dukes - O2 Institute, Birmingham

"This evening specifically, and in general the recent shows by Steve Earle and the Dukes are vivid reminders to what a great folk ‘n’ country, rock ‘n’ roll band they are and what a fantastic song writer Steve Earle is. Grab these moments while you can. The legends tag is still intact and yes… there is still unfinished business."



6 First Aid Kit - O2 Academy, Birmingham

"Just to name three from this set to absolutely pierce your heart were the stunning ‘Stay Gold’, ‘Emmylou’ and ‘Fireworks’. You will have to step up the gig count to hear such an esteemed trio dealt so crisply and evocatively to an audience hanging onto every line, note and vocal breath."
 7 Kelly Willis - Maze, Nottingham

"Strolling onto the stage at 9 o’clock, it did not take Kelly long to hit her stride and slip into an effortless zone of a cultured artist perfectly equipped to deal the cut glass country song."

"A worthy candidate for gig of the year, even as we just pass the half way point."
8 My Darling Clementine - The Rep, Birmingham

"Where Lou and Michael eventually take this project, who knows? What is important is that someone carries on the mantle of projecting an iconic style and who better than My Darling Clementine to keep turning on the creative tap. Nights like these make it all worthwhile."
 9 The Lone Bellow - Band on the Wall, Manchester

"The Lone Bellow did not disappoint and like so many nights when top quality Americana rock bands grace us with their presence, dissatisfied customers were as scarce as the proverbial… You get the drift; it was a damn good night of live music."
10 Mary Gauthier - The Glee Club, Nottingham

"This powerful piece of singer-songwriter theatre proved all-consuming and unleashed the infinite potential of where song can take you. The fervent anti-war protestor, and thorn in the side of the perpetrators, still exists alongside a purveyor of focussing on the humanist angle of a tragic state of affairs."
11 Eilen Jewell - Biddulph Town Hall, Staffs

"...fully blessed that the chance to finally see Eilen Jewell play live had been grasped, and this gig-going adventure become a little richer.If Emmylou coined the phrase ‘Boulder to Birmingham’, then why not evoke the alliteration ‘Boise to Biddulph’. Deepest Idaho and the Potteries interwove this evening."
12 Jamie Wyatt + Beth Bombara - Tingewick Village Hall, Bucks

"Whether we call it country, Americana, folk rock or singer-songwriter, artists such as Jaime Wyatt and Beth Bombara are probably more important to its vibrant future than browsing your High Street music store for Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. Let them into your musical sphere either through their records or through seeing the live show and substantial rewards will freely flow. "

 13 Hayes Carll - Maze, Nottingham

"It is now a decade since Hayes strolled onto the Glee Club stage in Birmingham to the glorious tone of ‘Beaumont’ for the perfect introduction." 

"The replication of this Nottingham renewal is certainly a desired legacy. In this multi accessible digital age, nothing could surpass the frozen moment of being there. It was an honour and a privilege to be present."
 14 Bennett Wilson Poole - St. George's Hall, Bewdley

"Although it may be considered a side project in some respects, this set up is likely to take up much of the year and keep all concerned busy. The blistering performance delivered tonight proved ample evidence that no effort is wasted in making it a wholesale success. "
15 Gretchen Peters - Town Hall, Birmingham

"The immaculate surroundings of Birmingham Town Hall and the music of Gretchen Peters are the perfect fit. A hushed environment absorbed every word from the most meaningful array of songs you are likely to hear in a single set. This was Gretchen Peters in absolute control, cashing in on a lifetime of experience, association and striving to pen the momentous song."

16 Pokey LaFarge - O2 Institute, Birmingham

"Winners were all round though: a band having a ball of a time; an audience grasping a rare opportunity to see a true American roots band in full glory and maybe just a city showing that it can come to the fore with supporting this type of music."
17 Caroline Spence - Thimblemill Library, Smethwick

"Caroline Spence may have been 4,000 miles from her Nashville home, and on an inaugural overseas tour, but she settled into the surroundings without hesitation and went on to deliver a sublime performance of songs soaked to the core with southern sentiment. Any doubts that the promise of SPADES & ROSES would not live up to its billing drifted away into a cold Midlands night, suitably insulated by the warmth of the performance."
18 Don Gallardo + Hannah Aldridge - John Moore Foundation, Appleby Magna

"Thinking outside the box may be driven by survival but it leads to the most wonderful of musical experiences for fans offering a lifeline to live music. Hannah Aldridge and Don Gallardo feed off this. Those heading to Appleby Magna on a wet and blustery Good Friday evening had the perfect holiday feast."

19 Kim Richey and Ben Glover - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"Moments were also precious when each artist gave the other total space to deliver the immaculate individualistic song. ‘Kindness’ saw Ben conjure up some idealistic romanticism and perhaps set an agenda for many to follow. ‘A Place Called Home’ projected Kim Richey at her finest and possibly own the show’s Champagne three minutes."
20 Lucy Ward - Kitchen Garden, Birmingham

"The work of Lucy Ward continues to make her one of the most engaging and rewarding performers on the UK folk circuit. Tuning in is required, but art is far more satisfying and long lasting when the listener has to invest a little. Long may the fire burn in her songs..."

See you on the gig circuit in 2019 

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