OK, no more tickets in the kitchen rack for this year. Time to look back over some 26 concerts attended plus two festivals packed with performances. My favourites, in reverse order:
5. June Tabor & The Oysterband – St George's Church, Brighton, 27 October
A very welcome reunion featuring songs from the new Ragged Kingdom album, as well as revisiting 1990's classic Freedom and Rain. The first time I'd seen June Tabor, who is in wonderful, commanding voice and seems to draw the very best out of the fine Oysterband. They've thought carefully about the songs they do together, with some great traditional ballads mixed with some varied modern songs – highlights included Joy Division's 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', the Velvets' 'All Tomorrow's Parties' and an impressively different take on PJ Harvey's 'That Was My Veil'. The church is a special setting for music: visibility is a bit of a problem, but we were lucky... A memorable evening.
4. Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings – The Dome, Brighton, 12 November
Reviewed here. A magical evening from two mesmerising and empathetic performers.
3. Fullsceilidh Spelemannslag – Heb Celt Fest, Stornoway, 15 July
Reviewed here. An unexpected joy: irresistible Shetland fiddle overload in a wonderful setting.
2. The Decemberists – De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, 12 March
Reviewed here. This was the year I got The Decemberists after years of not really listening and assuming they were too pretentious for their own good. The irresistible The King Is Dead album opened my ears and this gig came at just the right time in my process of getting to know the back catalogue. Glorious stuff.
1. Patti Smith – De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, 28 January
Reviewed here. This was always going to be the one to beat: one of my all-time heroes on great form and 'Gloria' too...
Special mentions for some younger folk bubbling under this top five: Other Lives, Brasstronaut, Ahab (twice), Woodenbox (twice), Cloud Control (thrice) gave some really fine, energetic, enjoyable evenings this year and I'm sure there's wonderful stuff to come from them all, but they missed out here to the repertoire, experience and sheer class of some of the oldies. And older folks bubbling under included John Cale, Steve Earle and Mulatu Astatke.
All in all a really good year of live music, rather better than it was for records... on which more shortly.