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« 2014: records of the year | Main | An explanation »

2014: gigs of the year

I've just looked back at 2013's equivalent post. The cornucopia of live delights recorded there was sadly not replicated in 2014. A couple of days at The Great Escape but only nine other gigs this year, so perhaps not incredibly meaningful to come up with a top five performances. But I saw some excellent sets, so I will anyway...

5. John Surman - Dome Studio, Brighton, 18 November

A treat to see a long-time hero for the first time. Wonderful horn playing and some nice duets with guest Norwegian singer Karin Krog in the second half. Soprano and baritone saxes and bass clarinet, sometimes alone, sometimes set against loops: mellow and satisfying.

4. Neil Young - Hyde Park, London, 12 July

A storming set, often crowd-pleasing ('Heart of Gold', 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart', etc), but only after he'd stretched the patience of less partisan festival-goers with some protracted guitar work-outs ('Love And Only Love', 'Goin' Home') and rewarded the cognoscenti with the rarely-performed 'Days That Used To Be'. A shame that after playing this well he then turned in a decidedly mediocre album in the shape of Storytone.

3. Jackson Browne - Royal Albert Hall, London, 25 November

I've seen Jackson half a dozen or more times over the years and he never disappoints. My favourite of those shows was probably one in Edinburgh with the collaborator who fits his style best - the great David Lindley. But this was a close runner-up: Greg Leisz's pedal steel filled some Lindley-shaped holes and the rest of the band were on fine form. Some stone classics performed unimpeachably in the course of a marathon 25 song set: 'These Days', 'Before The Deluge', 'Late For The Sky', 'For A Dancer', etc, etc. OK, the ones from the new album weren't quite in that league, but I was in no mood to quibble...

2. Powder Blue - The Great Escape, Brighton, 10 May

Reviewed here. One of those sweet festival moments when a band you've never heard of and have no expectations about grabs hold of your ears and makes you pay attention... Saskatoon's finest, playing Krautrock, shoegaze and a whole lot more. I gather there is a full length album due next year, which I'm looking forward to - I've been listening to Dream In Black a lot.

1. The Hold Steady - Great Escape, Brighton, 9 May

Also reviewed here. Another occasion where I was pleased to see live a band whose albums I've rated for some time. They took the gig by the scruff of its neck and never let go: a tight, explosive and thoroughly entertaining three quarters of an hour.

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