Gigs Of 2018

Classic Rock - - Contents -

It was also a crack­ing year for qual­ity live shows. We look back at some of our favourites.


Coventry Ri­coh Sta­dium

Tak­ing the piss out of the Rolling Stones isn’t just easy, it’s al­most com­pul­sory – like laugh­ing at re­li­gion or the Royal Fam­ily. They’ve been the Great­est Rock’n’Roll Band In The World for so long, it’s easy to take them for granted. But un­like re­li­gion or the Roy­als, they won’t be around for­ever.

The Stones’ songs still res­onate like few other bands’. The band have an un­canny knack for in­vok­ing the his­tory of the past few decades. They sound like fight­ing in the streets, like sex gods, se­rial killers and Stu­dio

54. They are blues­men, rock leg­ends and party starters. Street Fight­ing Man is the Paris ri­ots; Gimme Shel­ter is the death of the

60s – Al­ta­mont, Charles Man­son. Even Brown Sugar, the song that could sound out of date, a con­fus­ing race-and-rape fan­tasy in the #Metoo era, was tri­umphant. Which just goes to show that when you have that riff and the bit that goes ‘I say yeah, yeah, yeah, woooh!’ – surely the finest com­bi­na­tion of sounds since Lit­tle Richard hollered ‘Awop­bopaloobop-awop­bam­boom!’ – you can get away with any­thing.

Scott Row­ley

NICK MA­SON’S SAUCER­FUL OF SE­CRETS Lon­don Cam­den Ding­walls / Chalk Farm Round­house

Few, if any, ex­pected Nick Ma­son to re­visit Pink Floyd’s golden psy­che­delic era with an un­likely pick-up quin­tet com­pris­ing alumni from The Block­heads, The Orb and Span­dau Bal­let (let alone in such fine style), but his Saucer­ful Of Se­crets breathed a vi­tal spark of con­tem­po­rary rel­e­vance into a ne­glected cor­ner of Floyd’s recorded legacy.

A low-key Ding­walls de­but in May was elec­tri­fy­ing in its in­ti­macy, as In­ter­stel­lar Over­drive in­tro­duced a band that could repli­cate the early Floyd’s com­bi­na­tion of deft pop chops and in­spired im­pro­vi­sa­tional bril­liance. Snip­pets of Syd Bar­rett sin­gu­lar­ity (Lu­cifer Sam,

Bike) soared along­side The Nile Song’s gonzo mus­cle and One Of These Days’ tran­scen­dent menace.

Af­ter a tri­umphal Euro­pean tour, Guy Pratt, Lee Har­ris, Dom Beken, Gary Kemp and a beam­ing Ma­son took their road­honed sonic as­sault force a cou­ple of hun­dred yards up Chalk Farm Road to The Round­house in Septem­ber (where the nascent Floyd had played the venue’s open­ing night in Oc­to­ber 1966) and, with reti­nascorch­ing light show in tow and a set ex­panded to in­clude Syd’s leg­endary Veg­etable Man, all but tore the roof off.

Ian Fort­nam


Lon­don O2 Arena

The con­ver­sa­tion will have gone some­thing like this:

Steve Har­ris: “Hey, did you see Me­tal­lica’s lat­est stage pro­duc­tion?”

Bruce Dick­in­son: “Yeah. I wish we had some­thing like that. Wav­ing a Union flag around dur­ing The Trooper isn’t enough any more, is it?”

Har­ris: “Those flu­o­res­cent moths com­ing out of the floor, cir­cling in the air

and go­ing back in again… I couldn’t be­lieve my bleedin’ eyes. Enough is enough. I ain’t ’avin’ it!”

Dick­in­son: “Be­ing up­staged by Me­tal­lica is em­bar­rass­ing. Let’s show

’em how it’s re­ally done.”

And so Iron Maiden upped the vis­ual stakes on their Legacy Of The

Beast tour, with an al­most life-size Spit­fire dart­ing and swerv­ing above them dur­ing a swash­buck­ling open­ing ren­di­tion of Aces High. Later on, Dick­in­son glee­fully de­ployed a pair of flamethrow­ers to shoot flames out over the au­di­ence’s heads as the lev­els of py­ro­ma­nia and show­man­ship were ramped up across the board.

Of course, it wasn’t all about the delivery. An imag­i­na­tive mix of golden oldies with a smat­ter­ing of con­tem­po­rary tunes ticked ev­ery box. This time, though, the eye­balls as well as the ears were also given a right ol’ treat.

Dave Ling


Lon­don Koko

The Struts’ plan for world dom­i­na­tion was sim­ple: naff off to Amer­ica and stay there un­til Amer­ica had no op­tion but to sit up and take no­tice. A ring­ing en­dorse­ment from Dave Grohl and a whole heap of ra­dio play later, Derby’s finest are well on their way to achiev­ing that goal.

The down­side is that it’s meant their UK shows have been rare, al­though the hand­ful they have done have felt spe­cial. And none more so than their sold-out show at Cam­den’s Koko – the most tri­umphant of home­com­ings.

Hardly shy and re­tir­ing at the best of times, months on the road open­ing for the Foo Fighters served to am­plify The Struts’ al­ready bul­let­proof con­fi­dence to su­per­hu­man lev­els. In front of a 1,500-ca­pac­ity au­di­ence, Luke Spiller swag­gered, sashayed and, yes, strut­ted like this was a last-minute au­di­tion for the role of Fred­die Mer­cury in the Bo­hemian Rhap­sody movie.

The Struts’ new al­bum, Young & Danger­ous, was months away from be­ing re­leased, but new songs

Body Talk and Fire were em­braced as en­thu­si­as­ti­cally as num­bers from their de­but al­bum. Most mem­o­rable of all was a un-ironic cover of Springsteen’s Danc­ing In The Dark, com­plete with Spiller danc­ing with with a fan he’d pulled out of the au­di­ence, Courteney Cox-style.

Best live band right now? Could be.

Dave Ever­ley

The TexaS gen­Tle­Men Lon­don Shep­herd’s Bush Bush Hall

Don’t let the name fool you; this is no band of straigh­ta­head south­ern hicks. Pre­vi­ously an in-de­mand backing group for the coun­tri­fied likes of Shakey Graves and Nikki Lane,

The Texas Gen­tle­men mix Amer­i­cana, jazz, surfy har­monies, blues, rock’n’roll and a bunch of other stuff into in­fec­tious nuggets and jams. All of which came to light – in qui­etly, sur­pris­ingly mag­nif­i­cent style – at this mid­week show.

We liked the Gen­tle­men’s

de­but al­bum, TX Jelly, but this gig was a whole other level of mu­si­cal mas­tery. With­out say­ing a great deal, and with any es­tab­lished ‘hits’ in their reper­toire, they con­veyed the full weight of their col­lec­tive tal­ents with ef­fort­less class and charisma. They didn’t even play our per­sonal favourites, and we still came away think­ing it was the best thing we’d seen all year – and one of the best gigs we’d been to…well, ever.

But maybe that’s what you get with a team of shithot ses­sion play­ers who click like this; a colour­ful, bound­aries-be-damned but su­per tight fu­sion, built on first-class tunes. And best of all, they made it look so damn fun and easy.

Polly Glass

The Sheep­dogS

Lon­don The Lex­ing­ton

When it comes to leech­ing in­spi­ra­tion from the

1970s, The Sheep­dogs do it with more so­phis­ti­ca­tion than just about any­one. A south­ern-rock hy­brid formed a mere 600 miles north-west of the Ma­son Dixon line, they’re about 53 per cent All­man Broth­ers and 47 per cent ev­ery­thing else. And if Greta Van Fleet’s sonic sim­i­lar­ity to Led Zep­pelin makes you fear­ful of bands who sound like other bands, fear not, for The Sheep­dogs have songs. Real songs. Lots of them.

When the band hit Lon­don in April, they played 11 songs from their new al­bum Chang­ing Colours. It had qui­etly been added to stream­ing ser­vices a few weeks ear­lier, but a do­mes­tic phys­i­cal re­lease didn’t ar­rive un­til six weeks af­ter the show, and such em­pha­sis on un­heard ma­te­rial can be a recipe for dis­gruntle­ment. But it didn’t mat­ter. The Sheep­dogs killed. It was a ‘great­est hits’ set, with each new cho­rus some­how, al­most mag­i­cally, in­stantly mem­o­rable. It was slick, play­ful, bril­liantly played and, in a venue this small, per­fec­tion. And when you walk home with your head filled with songs you’ve never heard be­fore, you know you’ve been wit­ness to some­thing spe­cial.

Fraser Lewry

Queen + adaM laMbeRT

Wem­b­ley Arena

Some shows come with a guar­an­teed good time, and Queen head­lin­ing Wem­b­ley, this time cel­e­brat­ing 40 years of their News Of The

World al­bum. is surely one of them. The guitar-shaped stage stretched into the arena, and vast screens loomed over­head beam­ing im­ages of the band and Frank (the ro­bot) to the thou­sands of die-hard fans. It was a bonkers set-list, too: Seven Seas Of Rhye, Fat Bot­tomed Girls, We Are The Cham­pi­ons, An­other One Bites The Dust, Ra­dio Ga Ga… on it went with a 24 time­less clas­sics – com­plete with Brian May solo­ing in space in­side a ro­bot’s hand for full rock’n’roll ridicu­lous­ness.

It was a true cel­e­bra­tion of Queen and their fans, as May waved his selfie stick around and Adam Lambert found him­self ei­ther rid­ing a bike or sit­ting atop Frank’s head. A proper show, in other words. There was a touch­ing nod to Fred­die Mer­cury in there too. Not just as a trib­ute, but as a re­minder to the cyn­ics who bash this in­car­na­tion of the band.

No, this isn’t Fred’s Queen (ob­vi­ously), but it’s one of the best nights out in rock.

Luke Mor­ton

peaRl JaM

Lon­don O2 Arena

Pearl Jam were sup­posed to play two nights here in June, but Ed­die Ved­der blew out his voice and was forced to can­cel the sec­ond night. Thank­fully, PJ made good on their pledge to re­turn swiftly and make amends..

These days, Pearl Jam are the quin­tes­sen­tial clas­sic rock band. They’ve got the crazy good songs – Alive, Given To

Fly, Even Flow – mas­sive guitar so­los (Mike McCready is rock’s most un­der­rated player) and they’re handy with a few cov­ers – tonight Tom Petty, The Who and Bob Dy­lan… And in Ved­der, they have a front­man who had the au­di­ence in the palm of his hand to such a de­gree that at one point he sim­ply asks them to take three steps back to avoid a crush at the front and the crowd moves en masse, with­out fuss, on his cue – it was jaw-drop­ping.

At the cli­max, they came back for a le­git, old-school, cur­few bustin’, house-light­sup en­core. Peo­ple had al­ready flooded for the ex­its, but those who re­mained were treated to McCready go­ing full Hen­drix, Gos­sard, Ament and Cameron play­ing like their lives de­pended upon it and Ved­der end­ing the whole shindig with a shit-eat­ing grin and a dev­il­may-care mi­cro­phone stand smash. In­cred­i­ble scenes.

Siân Llewellyn

Iron Maiden

Nick Ma­son’s Saucer­ful Of Se­crets

Queen + Adam Lambert

The Struts

Pearl Jam

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