Best Concerts Ever: Full Top Ten

I’m being nagged for my top 10 favourite gigs. This is, of course, just shows that I’ve been to. I caught footage of mid-70s Led Zep on TV the other day, so I’m pretty sure better shows have been played.

1. SMASHING PUMPKINS/FILTER

Wembley Arena, May 1996

(Review here)

The highlight of all highlights begins as the Pumpkins play another untitled track with incredible tribal percussion that threatens to cause the roof to cave in. The deep rumbling basslines resonate around the room, booming up through the floorboards. The sound is clear and pristine tonight, perfect conditions for a little experimentalism. Jimmy Chamberlain shows his true ingenuity as a drummer by holding the steady, complicated rhythms together as Billy and James churn out guitar lines in a vaguely Eastern-sounding fashion. The sound swells and holds for a full eight minutes before dying down to the percussion-based theme, and then something extraordinary happens.

2. RADIOHEAD/MANICS
Reading Festival, 1994

Saturday’s headliners Primal Scream were oddly disappointing – even if they had Dave Gahan as a guest star – because there was just no possible way they could have beaten the back-to-back double act that was Radiohead and the Manics. Two bands I personally rooted for, as much for their good-natured personalities as their music, and they never sounded better. I always felt afterwards that Richie had used this as a test run: see if they could survive without him before doing his disappearing act. I remember the surprisingly gorgeous James Dean Bradfield – a regular at the PR agency where I was doing an internship that summer – saying, “I gotta go play in front of 50,000 people” with a mixture of pride and terror to which I could only smile and wish him luck. They pulled off the challenge admirably. Radiohead were their consistent, excellent best.

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Memory Lane: Download

Note: these interviews were conducted when I was 17-19 years old and running a music fanzine, so if they seem rather amateurish, it’s because they were. The italics are notes added 10-15 years after the event.

This is actually two pieces cut together; my recent recollections of a week back in June ’96, plus an earlier telephone interview I’ve edited in after finding it in the attic (which answers my own question of why I didn’t bother to interview them when we met.)

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CK: It’s very electronic, it’s very improvised and very experimental. I expect each evening to be different and spontaneous. I don’t know how well I’m answering your question …

Thousands of miles away in Vancouver, cEvin Key is on the telephone. I ask the man born Kevin William Crompton what the hell influences their weird noises.

CK: I don’t know. I know it sounds weird, but we don’t work like that. The thing is that we’ve been doing this for so long with Skinny Puppy that Download came about as a result of having too much pressure build up during that record. It was a lot of fun just to make a record with friends – and not doing it just to please a record company or whatever. Download was created as a stress release, which is somewhat how Skinny Puppy was formed. We just sort of found ourselves with a band. It wasn’t a case of being influenced. That is the antithesis of this album. The influences came from having original people to do it with. Mark Skybey is always doing totally different stuff, and Genesis (P Orridge) was great to collaborate with, and Philth – who’s more of a techno artist … Dwayne was always frustrated that we weren’t able to explore more of their ideas in Skinny Puppy, so Download was a special thing for us. We were getting a lot out of it, so it was good.

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Memory Lane: Rhys Fulber

This is another old find – must be from late 1997 – which accompanies the Cubanate one for Cybase23. I have re-edited it and added in a bit more information, because frankly it wasn’t very interesting. Rhys Fulber is a founder member of pioneers FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY and techno chart-toppers DELERIUM.

Gurgle gurgle gurgle! The sound is quite unlike anything I have ever heard. He does it again – a little laugh that sounds like a gurgling hiccup – almost exactly like a young infant. Gurgle gurgle gurgle! It’s absolutely fascinating. I’ve never heard a laugh quite like it – it is quite the oddest giggle in existence, and it’s utterly infectious. The laugh belongs to a chap in his late twenties, with long hair, a cute baby face and funny little glasses perched on the end of his angular nose. He looks a lot thinner than I remember him, and his hair is longer. It’s a stoner’s laugh. He’s got that hazy stoned quality about him, even when he’s sober. He laughs a lot. He’s attractive in a geeky kind of way, and he’s an underground legend in his own lifetime. His name is Rhys Fulber.

Rhys: Industrial fanzines are so narrow in their outlook. I mean, I never listen to that music.

Rhys feels uncomfortable with his association with industrial music, even though Rhys Fulber, and partner-in-crime Bill Leeb have produced some of the greatest music in the industrial genre. Front Line Assembly’s Plasticity and Delirium’s Incantation are still two of the finest dancefloor favourites in the Western hemisphere, yet Rhys is bored with the music he’s been making, and wants to try something else.

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