# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - December 2008

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 24 / 11 / 2008

Miscellaneous - December 2008


In his regular 'Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll' column, Ben Howarth writes about his discovery this year of the joy of being able to sit down at rock gigs

Ah, Christmas once again. It can only mean one thing - a multitude of album of the year polls. The problem with this is obvious. At a time when various publications are trying to tell me what I should have bought this year, I am spending what little money I have left on everybody else. So, sorry 'Mojo', it’s too late. I won’t be buying your choice of album of the year (the Fleet Foxes). But I have done my own list, and - bucking my recent habit of selecting albums no one else seems to like - I have picked an album which 'Mojo' gave five stars too. I changed the order of this list at least six times, mainly because I had nothing else to do, but ultimately I decided that Bon Iver was the album I would most recommend to someone that hadn’t heard it. Of course, these polls are always a tad incomplete. I don’t work in the offices of a major music publication, and therefore I’m still waiting to hear some of my most anticipated 2008 albums (as I pointed out in this column this time last year). Apologies especially to Ben Folds (who, I’m sure, skips first to see where he ranks on the Albums of the Year list before turning to my column when he visits Pennyblackmusic) - I may have spent most of 2008 listening to your music, but I’ve yet to hear the new album. Hopefully some kind person will deposit it in my stocking on Dec 25. The musical year for me has, however, not been defined by new albums. Instead, 2008 has been the year of sitting down. "Sitting down where ?", you ask. Well, of course, I’ve done rather a lot of it at home, and occasionally I sit at our usual table in the Baring, where I am a regular at the pub quiz. But the best sitting has been done at gigs and concerts. For much of my life I’ve accepted the received wisdom that standing at gigs was better. Steve Lamacq said so, it must be the case. But I don’t think I’ve ever been to a standing gig and ended up in the same place I started. As we all know, a particularly determined class of rude person dominates the UK gig scene. Someone can always be relied on to decide their view would be much better if they stole yours. Given this, it is surprising that I hadn’t realised I preferred seated gigs, with their constant view of the stage, before now. Somewhere to put your glass down is a mere bonuses. I’ve had an especially good year for gig viewing, and with the honourable exception of the Drive By Truckers, all my highlights have come in seated venues. It started when I saw the Eels at the Royal Festival Hall. Once a rock band, comparable to Nirvana and 'Odelay'-era Beck, E now performs a quiet and reflective show. O this occasion he was accompanied by only one other person. Even if we had been standing up, no one would have had any cause to move at all. I was one of the youngest people in the room when I saw Pentangle in Covent Garden, borrowing a venue that for the rest of the year has played host to the Lion King musical. I rather expect that most of the audience - though they would have been of the right age to see Pentangle in their 60s incarnation - had actually discovered the band in recent years, seeking them out after discovering their doomed contemporary Nick Drake, in exactly the same way as I did. This was a virtuoso performance, and again, it merited being watched and listened to carefully, without having to worry about some piss artist showering you with cheap lager on their way back from the bar. Better still was Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, performing the songs from their Oscar winning film 'Once' and also relishing the chance to perform Glen’s older songs with the Frames in the sort of venue (the Barbican) they should have been playing in for years. One Pennyblackmusic reader objected to my review of Willard Grant Conspiracy on the grounds that I had the nerve to include a dig at Nick Cave (a talented man, but alas, clearly not as talented as he thinks he is - oh, whoops, I‘ve done it again). And yet, this show was simply exceptional, and in a slightly smaller theatre, felt like a personal audience with the band. Earlier in the day, Exeter City FC had secured their return to the Football League at Wembley, so it was already an especially happy day. Best of all, though, was Bruce. Springsteen live did that amazing thing. It lived up to the absurdly overblown reputation it arrived with. I have never seen a better performance, and I suspect I never will, unless he decides to do one of those classic albums shows, and gives us 'Born To Run' in full. As the recession clamps down on our wallets, it may be the case that bands are forced to return to ‘traditional’ music venues, their audience increasingly unlikely to fork out £40 or more for an evening’s entertainment. But this brief sojourn of rock music into venues that are actually managed professionally has made 2008 - quite an ordinary year for album releases, if I’m being honest - my best ever year for live music.

Also In Condemned to Rock 'n' Roll

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