From Spice Girls to Stereophonics - Our top gigs and festivals over the years
PUBLISHED: 19:15 25 April 2020 | UPDATED: 15:18 26 April 2020
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
What was your best-ever gig or festival? Live music might be on hold at the moment because of the coronavirus crisis, but our readers and staff have been sharing their top musical moments.
Nothing is more exciting than seeing your favourite band as a teenager - except, perhaps, catching up with them years later. Anna Bird had always wanted to see the Spice Girls, and at last her dream came true.
Anna, student services co-ordinator at One Sixth Form College in Ipswich, writes: “Saturday, June 15 2019 was a British summer’s day like any other for most - but not for me. This day was 23 years in the making. This day held the potential to transport me back to a simpler time.
“I am at Wembley and in front of my eyes are the Spice Girls. My inner 12-year-old is stood beside me with a tear in her eye. I was 12 in 1996.
“I used to have a Walkman, a cassette of the album Spice and the beginning of the idea that there is power in yourself.
“There was no ground-breaking moment, no epiphany, no lightning bolts. But that’s not how belief takes hold. It was just consistency, demonstration and confidence. An entire generation where “Girl Power” started as a slogan but became so much more…..like a movement.
“How lucky we are to have had them then. To instil in us the knowledge that we need now. To have it in the very fibre of our being when we need it most.
“Now I am here (at Wembley), staring up at a group of women in their 40s, singing every single word with them.
“I whoop, I cheer, scream and shout, because 12-year-old me would never forgive me if I didn’t. Thirty-five-year-old me wouldn’t either. I was there. I was part of it. And it was spectacular.”
Chemical Brothers took me back in time
Emma Lee also had to wait a long time to see one of her top bands, Chemical Brothers, at the All Points East festival in London in May 2019.
Emma writes: “I’ve been a fan of Chemical Brothers since the mid 90s, but had never seen them live until their headline show at All Points East festival in London last May.
“It was an inauspicious start. Soaked to the skin and a bit miserable after a freak, un-forecast downpour during Primal Scream’s set, I could have quite happily called it a night.
“I’m so glad I didn’t, because it turned out to be the best gig I’ve ever been to. A joyous dance-a-thon, hands in the air (I just didn’t care), massive, stupid grinning, out-of-character whooping, aching legs the next day from the ill-advised pogoing...I felt like I was in my 20s again.
“But this wasn’t just a nostalgia trip. Tracks from the duo’s latest album, No Geography, fitted into the set seamlessly among Go, Swoon, Hey Boy Hey Girl, Galvanize and Block Rockin’ Beats, accompanied by surreal and exhilarating visuals by their long-time artistic collaborators Adam Smith and Marcus Lyall.
“As I write this there’s no news about whether Latitude, which they’re due to close, will go ahead as planned, but in the meantime their 2019 Glastonbury set is on BBC iPlayer. If you fancy a lockdown kitchen rave, I highly recommend it.”
I couldn’t dance to Mud at Ipswich Gaumont
Many great names have appeared at the Ipswich Gaumont, now the Regent, over the years.
Judy Rimmer has fond memories of the first concert she ever went to there, back in 1974, to see Mud, who were maybe not quite glam-rock but thereabouts.
She writes: “A friend from school was the real fan, and we persuaded our parents to let the two of us go.
“Les Gray, their lead singer, had a powerful voice and personality - he wasn’t a traditional pin-up boy. But he still got the girls swooning and caused some excitement when he mopped his brow with a towel which he then threw into the crowd.
“Mud had recently topped the chart with Tiger Feet and were currently riding high with The Cat Crept In. All the teenagers in the audience (I was 13) had learned a little dance to go with these songs, as featured on Top of the Pops.
“Unfortunately, however, every time we tried to dance, a member of council staff came walking along the aisles to tell us to sit down again! I think the poor guy was fighting a losing battle.”
Getting soaked was part of festival fun
Thousands of people from across the region flock to Latitude each year.
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis writes: “In 2010 we took our kids to their first ever festival - Latitude. They had the best time playing in the family area (while I gorged myself of all the street food). Every year since we said we’d go back but never quite made it as life got in the way.
“When I saw that one of my favourite bands, the Stereophonics, was stepping in to fill for the headliners who’d had to drop out on Saturday night last year, I told my husband I didn’t care what else was going on - we were going to Latitude 2019.
“It was a hot, sticky day. We parked in a field car park about 20 minutes’ walk from the entrance, noting the huge pile of dung and gnarly tree on our way as markers to get back to our vehicle in the dark later that night.
“It was so much better than I remembered. Being a massive foodie, we headed straight for the grub (katsu chicken). I’ll never forget taking my first bite, only for the heavens to open, thunder and all, meaning we had to make a mad dash for cover.
“We spent the first hour or so soaked to the skin. But surely that was just part of the fun. We had an amazing day - watching Jason Manford, kooky theatre in the woods, me embarrassing my 13-year-old daughter with ‘mum dancing’ at the kitchen disco, my son sitting on his dad’s shoulders rocking out to Stereophonics tunes I’d listened to endlessly in my teens.
“We still got lost on the way back to the car...but walking back to the distant sound of The Chemical Brothers end set, with boxes of warm cookie dough and ice cream, we didn’t really care. Roll on Latitude 2021!”
Another Latitude fan, Anwar Salmon, recalled in the Norwich Remembers Facebook group “the most surprising, heart warming spiritual gig”, He said: “’m not religious at all, but on the lakeside stage at Latitude 2018, the gospel choir was incredible, moving, amazing, spine- tingling. It had it all, in the sunshine️ and the amount of people all over the bridge... an incredible moment I’ll never forget.”
We’ll leave the mud at Glastonbury
Natalie Sadler also went to a rain-soaked festival. She writes: “Glastonbury 2014 was a muddy one. Not one of the worst ever but it rained, a lot.
“It was a challenge trudging through the claggy mud trying to get between stages, but it also made me realise that when you have great bands, plenty of beer and good company, it just doesn’t matter.
“It was the year Dolly Parton played the Pyramid Stage and I have never been so crushed in all my life, it was incredible to see so many people packed onto one field to see such this country legend - in fact at one stage it was actually quite terrifying as I realised there really was no way out.
“Following Parton was Suffolk’s very own Ed Sheeran, someone I had written about, followed closely but never seen perform live. He was incredible, as anyone who saw him in Ipswich last summer will testify to.
“He was the antithesis to the eccentric Parton - unassuming, bordering on bashful, calm, and down to Earth. The crowd took a collective breath in when he took to the stage and opened his set. The hype died down as we watched in awe as Ed commanded this huge audience with his natural talent.
“On the Friday night one of my all-time favourite bands, Elbow, had played the Pyramid before Arcade Fire took the headline spot. They too stunned with their unobtrusive style.
“This year Glasto, like so many other gigs and festivals, is cancelled so perhaps we will rewatch footage of 2014 at home with the children. We might even add face paint and put flowers in our hair but we will leave the mud at Glastonbury.”
More festivals to remember
Many music fans are prepared to travel for festivals. Sophie Barnett writes: ”My best-ever festival has to be Benicassim in Spain. I have been for the last two years (and I am set to go in July if lockdown if lifted) and I have had the best weekends of my life there.
“I go with my football team from my university days and we have made lots of new friends through the festival, who we now meet up with back home in the UK. We sunbathe on the beach all day and then watch some of our favourite artists together at night. It has almost become tradition and I can’t wait to go back!”
Danielle Lett says: “Going to festivals and gigs is my main hobby, so you can imagine how gutted I am that I won’t be able to go to any for the foreseeable future. My favourite festival is Download Festival, which I go to every year, but my favourite recent festival memory is going to All Points East last year. The weather was spot on that day, and the lineup was perfect for me, with so many of my favourite artists there, including Bring Me The Horizon who were headlining, Architects, Employed To Serve, Run The Jewels and Scarlxrd.
“And my favourite gig memory is actually the most recent one I went to. I saw the band Employed To Serve headline The Underworld in Camden back in March, and it was incredible, as it was a sold out show in a 500-cap venue. There were no barriers, so we could all get up on stage and crowd surf, which I did for the first time that night.
“It was also a couple of days before the lockdown was imposed and all gigs and events got cancelled, so we all made sure it was one to remember.”
Ray Harding, from Witchford, said his best-ever was “Summertyne Festival 2019, Sage in Gateshead. The highlight was a river cruise down the Tyne, with Seattle-based band Massey Ferguson.”
Recalling local festivals, Simon Richardson said in Norwich Remembers: “Most if all of the festivals I’ve attended have been at Earlham Park. First one in 1964 with the Kinks, then the Hollies, Marmalade, Chris Farlowe, Geno Washington, Albert Cooper, the Supremes, Dean Friedman, Magnum, and the Lee Vasey Big Band with a guest appearance by myself.”
Jane Armitage said: “I enjoyed the atmosphere at the Barsham fairs, great bands, good food, Cancan girls, colourful costumes and Bruce Lacey and his weird art sculptures.
“I also enjoyed open air concerts at UEA with Free, Small Faces, Troggs, Crazy world of Arthur Brown, happy days, Kinks, Chris Farlowe etc. Late 60s - it always seemed to be hot and sunny. Happy days.”
Frankly, they were great
Simon Weir writes: “I’ve seen a lot of bands in the past 30 years - both as a fan and as a reviewer - and there’s no doubt that the two best performances I’ve ever seen were both in 2016, were both in Rock City in Nottingham, and were both by blokes called Frank.
“First was the hardest-working man in rock and roll, Frank Turner - playing his 2,000th show (now out on DVD and CD). Not just a party atmosphere, but also a note-perfect collection of toe-tapping, almost anthemic songs - with a suitably soulful acoustic set in the middle. Clever, captivating and hugely fun - a great show.
“I thought that wouldn’t be topped, but then I saw - very much at the other, punkier end of the spectrum - Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes. I’ve never seen energy like it. Even hanging back on the edge of the crowd was like being caught in a riptide: an immersive, relentless battering of the senses. I was so impressed I went to see them again, two days later, at the Brixton Academy (also now available as an album, called 23).
“That was the first time I’d gone to watch anyone twice in a week since seeing the band kept off the top of my personal best-gigs list by the two Franks: the Stone Roses, in London in 1988. I’ve seen both Franks multiple times since then and they never disappoint. But you never forget your first time...”
The Seekers are still my favourites
Paul Geater writes: “Tough one. Deep Purple at the Regent? Bryan Adams at Portman Road? Almost made it.
But the top two are Foo Fighters, Ipswich Regent in June 2006 and The Seekers, Royal Albert Hall in 2014.
The Foo Fighters sell-out show was an acoustic set by Dave Grohl and an expanded band for what would later become their Skin and Bones album and DVD.
Not as loud and “shouty” as their normal work, the melodic nature of much of their work really came through. The acoustic versions of Cold Day in the Sun and Next Year are among my favourite tracks of all time - and the quiet version of Times Like These is also a totally different song to their rock classics.
But my all-time favourite concert has to be The Seekers in the Royal Albert Hall. As a child in the 1960s they were my favourite group (I was too young to call them a band then) and Morningtown Ride and The Carnival is Over can still make me well up.
I remember crying at the end of a BBC programme called “Farewell to the Seekers” in 1968. But their music lived on in my heart.
Their music wasn’t cool at school where I came to love rock, or at university where I discovered New Wave.
But when The Seekers re-formed and released new compilations I always secretly listened to them. Singer Judith Durham visited the Regent in the 1990s.
However in 2014 they embarked on another “farewell” tour. Still the same line-up as the 60s and we got tickets for their show at the Royal Albert Hall. The only time we’ve ever been there. It was sensational. All the old favourites were there as well as some fantastic new songs. I was a 55-year-old schoolboy and,yep, Morningtown Ride sung live brought the tears flowing again.
I think this really was the Farewell to the Seekers - certainly for those of us who don’t live in Australia. But there will never, ever be another concert as good as that so far as I am concerned.”
Getting the VIP treatment
Charlotte Rayner, a music teacher at One Sixth Form College in Ipswich, said: “My favourite gig has to be Coheed and Cambria last year at the Roundhouse in Camden. I brought a VIP ticket which meant you got to meet the band and then hear an acoustic song before the rest of the audience entered. This is my favourite band of all time. The highlight is always when the whole audience start singing along.
“Being at gigs is one of my favourite things to do in life.”
From Blur to the Manics
John Nice from Bury St Edmunds writes: “I was obsessive about going to gigs when I was younger. I saw Blur and Manic Street Preachers at the Cambridge Junction before they hit the big time.
“I remember the Blur bass player, Alex James, whacking the lead singer, Damon Albarn, over the head with his guitar by mistake.
“One of the best gigs I saw was by The Charlatans. This took place at the Cambridge Corn Exchange right in the midst of MADCHESTER. The Charlatans had just released a song called The Only One I Know and it’s a cliché, but when the opening bars of that song were played, the roof took off and the place went mad.
“At the end of the gig, they did an epic version of a song called Sproston Green, and it really made you feel part of a music moment that saw the return of flares to the mainstream and made Manchester seem like the epicentre of the world.
“Unfortunately, I never got to see The Stone Roses live, but I’ve seen Ian Brown a few times in recent years.
“When I hear any music from that era it transports you back to those carefree times where the most important thing in life was your haircut.
“More recently I enjoyed seeing The Killers at Hyde Park with my wife and sister. Elbow were supporting and on the downside, when they played their epic ‘throw your curtains wide’ song, I was queuing up for a falafel.
“On the upside, it was a glorious sunny day, the atmosphere was one of unity and when the first bars of Mr Brighstide kicked in, the place erupted like England had just won the World Cup.”
James Brown strutting his stuff at 72
A top gig for Charles Thomson was James Brown at the Kentish Town Forum, June 2005. He writes: “I bagged a front row spot. Aged 72, he strutted on stage, hurled the microphone stand towards the crowd and tugged the cord so it flew back towards him.
“With split-second timing, he span around on the spot and the mic landed back in his hand, inches from his face. The consummate showman until the end. His huge band played like a jackhammer and he sang and danced like a man decades his junior. I saw him several times but there was magic in the air that night. The audience was mainly young and people were rhapsodising about it as we poured out towards the tube. It was a euphoric experience.”
Wolf Alice offered sheer variety
The UEA in Norwich has staged many great gigs over the years.
Caroline Sword’s favourite concert there was by Wolf Alice,-on November 17, 2017
Caroline writes: “A band that never fails to give me goosebumps live, my all time favourite, Wolf Alice. Formed fully in 2012 with lead singer and guitarist Ellie Rowsell along with; Joel Amey on Drums, Joff Oddie on the guitar and Theo Ellis on bass. Wolf Alice have since released two albums, toured with bands such as Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age and Liam Gallagher and not only that but they also won the Mercury Music Prize in 2018.
“After seeing them play twice before, I immediately got tickets for their tour in 2017 when they released their new album Visions of a Life.
“The sold out venue was packed full of golden glittered fans, psyched up with the support acts Superfood and Sunflower Bean. The time came at last, the lights went out completely and everybody roared as the band made their presence across the stage.
“Favourites from 2015 album My Love is Cool were mixed in with the set list along with fresh tracks such as the heavy, teen-angst ridden Yuk Foo and the dreamy Don’t Delete the Kisses, with a fashionable glitter ball sparkling in the centre.
“What attracts me to this band is the sheer variety they can offer. One of my personal favourites is the longest track and also the namesake of their album “Visions of a Life” itself. Pushing eight minutes, it has three distinct musical sections that form a journey or as proclaimed, a vision of a life. Seeing Wolf Alice live takes you through a full spectrum of experiences that they have gone through themselves and transformed into music.”
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