Part and parcel of being opinionated music lovers is that we go and experience lots of music in its natural habitat – on a stage – and then we decide how good it was. Some spectacles are so powerful that they evoke emotions strong enough to form memories through the drunkenness. It’s a rarity but that’s why some here have to name several before deciding upon their Favourite Gig of 2013. There is zero reason for you to be reading this but if you’ve read this far, you’ll get at least halfway down before clicking the cross.
It would be too easy to brag about going to Las Vegas to see Def Leppard performing Hysteria in its entirety (yes, it’s something worth bragging about) or seeing Goatwhore play live on a boat on the Colorado River when I went to SXSW (doubly worth bragging about) but the two gigs closest to my heart are Deafheaven @ Birthdays in October and Biffy Clyro headlining Reading Festival in August. I’m going to choose the latter because I’ve been a fan of the band since ’57’ was released and I had missed all of their coming-of-age gigs to date: the arena shows at Wembley and The O2; the Sonisphere Festival headline spot. This was my first time witnessing the might of Biffy fucking Clyro owning a crowd of tens of thousands and it was magnificent and I hope to all that pyro again sooner rather than later.
There were an serious amount of contenders for this one (God Damn being an unstoppable force, Baby Godzilla wrecking the Black Heart, Turbowolf’s masterful support slot to Cancer Bats way back in March, and The Hives being better than everyone at Download Festival this year), but the truth is that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at the Hammersmith Apollo ranks up there as one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. Sure, it’s not “metal”, but there’s more darkness and intensity in Nick Cave and co.’s live performances than every death metal band I saw in 2013 put together. The material from their latest record, Push the Sky Away, is almost post-rock in the sheer force of will the band deliver it live, and Warren Ellis still plays a fiddle with more vim and vigour than every poseur shredder guitarist on the circuit today.
Finch at The Ritz in Manchester on their What It Is To Burn 10th anniversary tour [REVIEW]. There’s that old chesnut, that when you can catch up with someone after ten years and it doesn’t feel like ten minutes, that’s when you know who your best friends are. It’s the same with bands. Finch’s first record is still crammed with the same potential and vitality that could barely fit into tiny clubs ten years ago. And God, did those boys show it, like the word hiatus had never even been spoken. On top of this, ‘Ender’, a song never played live before this tour, turned out to be as tender as we could have wished for. There’s a sense of loss that we never got to hear a third album from this lot – yet if this is their last farewell, it stands as one of the fondest. All reunion tours should be like this one.
Altar of Plagues at Candlefest in August. A performance that evoked so much – pain, devastation, loss and complete destruction. They finally played ‘Neptune is Dead’ – something people had been hoping for since the release of Mammal in 2011, and it was utterly perfect in its weight. A sad event being that it was the last time the band would ever play live in the UK, but felt triumphant in its finality.
Wardruna at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre is a show the like of which I have never seen before. Hypnotic, spiritual and breathtakingly heartfelt, the Norwegians put on a show you’d have to be clinically dead not to be moved by.
letlive // Electric Ballroom
Quite unbelievably I haven’t been to all that many shows this year (apart from my own band’s) but two performances stick out for me, Stray From The Path at The Backbooth, Orlando and Against Me! at O-East, Tokyo. Stray From The Path were just electric that night and the energy in the tiny main room of The Backbooth was incredible, but I think I’m going to have to give the award to Against Me! because they were quite simply amazing, despite a relatively sparse crowd who didn’t really seem to know the songs. I think the fact I was super excited after not having seen them for about three years kind of swung the bias in their favour too. Cannot wait for the new record!
There are still people knocking about who claim letlive. are all hype, they’re wrong. If further proof was ever needed this show at the Old Blue Last provided it. Jason Butler has always been a fantastic and unpredictable front man and all the chaos you’d expect from a show of this size was present, yet this gig provided so much more as well. The new songs from The Blackest Beautiful sounded incredible and the raw, visceral delivery from a wild eyed Jason provoked an emotional purge from the band and the crowd alike. letlive. delivered a show that most punk bands could only dream of.
Amon Amarth @ Manchester O2 Academy - 13 November 2013 (c/o Gary Wolstenholme)
Amon Amarth at Defenders of the Faith in London.
Intronaut on various dates on our US tour. They all kind of meld into one, but they’re one of the most enjoyable live bands I’ve seen this year.