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
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.
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.