Londongiggers’ Top 5 London Gigs of the Year 2012

Posted: December 29, 2012 in Concerts of 2012, Top lists
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Londongiggers’ Top 5 London Gigs of the Year 2012

The last two years have been pretty much dominated by Art Rock and alternative bands with Fever Ray and Metronomy taking the crown in 2010 and 2011 respectively, so who does this year’s accolade belong to. Well, it’s been an extra-ordinary year, in fact, ranking as one of the best ever and certainly up there with 2005 and 2009 which I count as my two best ever for live music.

To give you some idea of the calibre of those years – top of the tree for 2005 was U2 with a no-holds bar show at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales on their Vertigo tour and for 2009, the Blur reunion at Hyde Park, London.

Now as I have mentioned Cardiff which is clearly not in London at which, as my nom de plume suggests, most of live music experiences take place, I have to explain that when you cannot get tickets to see an artist in your home town because of exceptional demand, you go where you can. Occasionally I do venture to venues outside London and even abroad if required.
Now that I’ve that cleared up, I will digress for a moment into recalling this amazing venue that is the Millenium Stadium. The proud of home of Welsh international rugby matches and former FA cup final venue with its 70000 plus capacity, produced the most excellent crowd singing in response to a powerhouse of a set littered with hit after hit and interspersed with tracks from arguably U2’s greatest album since The Joshua Tree. It was crazy 24 hours as the night before I had just seen Coldplay in at the Crystal Palace National Athletics Stadium – a theme I shall return to when we finally get into the Top 5. It was an unforgettable night ; also with great support acts in the form of The Killers and Starsailor.
I will always regard the year 2005 as my personal gold standard for live music but who measures up this year. Well, I can honestly state this is the first time I cannot split the decision, such is the testament to the quality of music this year. So for the first time and hopefully the last there are 3 acts in the top slot.
Joint Number 1 are :

= No.1 – Coldplay, Paralympics Closing Ceremony, Olympic Stadium, Sunday 10th September

Coldplay (centre-stage) play "Paradise" during the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, September 9th 2012, Olympic Stadium, London

Coldplay (centre-stage) play “Paradise” during the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, September 9th 2012, Olympic Stadium, London

I mentioned just before that I saw Coldplay play an athletics track in 2005. Well, they played another one this – only slightly bigger. Now I will be perfectly honest, Coldplay are not and probably never will be my favourite live band. I quite like some of their music on CD but in a normal year, it would not make me rush out and buy concert tickets. I’m sure that many in the Olympics Stadium that windy slightly chilly evening in September would have agreed. However, this was not a normal year. This was 2012. Moreover, this show came on the back of 7 glorious weeks of Olympics and Paralympics euphoria. Everything was seen in rose coloured spectacles, the only experience to which I could liken it was probably that of the Summer of Love in San Francisco, 1967 – only without the drugs. The combination of this euphoria, the spectacular set, the backdrop, the lighting, the stadium itself , the volunteers or games makers as they became known, the 80,000 spectators, the knowledge of millions watching on TV live around the world made for a powerful combination that conspired to make tracks from Coldplay such as “Yellow”,” Clocks” and “Paradise” sound epic. Rihanna’s grand entry on a pirate ship to the stage and subsequent duet with Chris Martin on “Princess of China” only added to sublimely surreal and grandiose feeling of the occasion. Was this epic £11million extravaganza worth it? You bet it was. Never mind 2012, this will go down in my Top 10 of time concerts.

=No.1 – Elton John, Peace One Day Concert, Wembley Arena, Friday 21st September

Sir Elton John tinkles the ivorie, Wembley Arena, London, September 21st 2012

Sir Elton John tinkles the Ivories, Wembley Arena, London, September 21st 2012

Sir Elton was back at his absolutely peak as he brought his rocking “A” game to this charity gig promoting Peace One Day’s objective to institutionalise Peace Day 21 September and highlight the activities of individual and organisation in bringing about peace and the reduction of violence in conflict areas. As Elton, looking relaxed and very lively, tinkled the rock ‘n’ roll ivories, he went through an anthology of seventies, eighties hits such as “Bennie and the Jets”, “ Philadelphia Freedom” and “I’m Still Standing” as well as more recent numbers like “Hey Ahab”. Yes the Rocket Man was on top form and after toe-tapping, knee-slapping and singing my way through the set, I remember coming out of the former 1948 Olympics venue (Wembley Arena) with a massive smile on my face.

=No.1 – Gotye, Hammersmith Apollo, Monday 12th November

Gotye's Musical and Cinematic Masterpiece, Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

Gotye’s Musical and Cinematic Masterpiece, Hammersmith Apollo, London, November 12th 2012

Had it not been for the aforementioned rocking powers of Sir Elton and the Coldplay/Paralympics Closing Ceremony combination, in another year Gotye would have been my choice pick as sole gig of the year. Most famous for this year’s world wide hit “Someone that I Used to Know”, the combination of the cinematic visual imagery, much of it involving animated characters or elements of pop art was perfectly in synch with the imaginatively crafted – sometimes darkly ethereal electro indie music of this Melbourne based artist and his band. The gig transcended music and became a piece of art. Absolutely masterful.

No.4 – Grace Jones, Lovebox Festival 10 Year Anniversary, Victoria Park, Sunday 18th July

Grace Jones bangs the Drum at the Lovebox Festival 10Year Anniversary, Victoria Park, London, July 18th 2012

Grace Jones bangs the Drum at the Lovebox Festival 10Year Anniversary, Victoria Park, London, July 18th 2012

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Up until the summer, this concert had been the frontrunner to take the top spot in 2012. Having seen Grace Jones twice before and enjoyed her gigs immensely, I didn’t think it could get any better. I was wrong. This set scaled the full gamut of Jones career from “La Vie on Rose” through to the soul-rock fusion of “William’s Blood” and for once, included a track I’d been dying to her sing live, her second UK single from 1980 – the seductively dark “ Private Life”. Jones, with her flamboyant costume and headpiece changes after virtually every song was the perfect Headliner to close the 10 year anniversary of the Lovebox festival on what was a deliciously camp final day line-up with Sam Sparro Nile Rogers and Chic & Lana Del Rey among the supporting line-up. The day felt at times like park life meets Studio 54. The 64 year old Jones demonstrated the energy of someone half her age and finished off in spectacular fashion hula-hooping her way through final song “Slave to the Rhythm”. I did not stop dancing throughout the whole gig.

No.5 Florence and the Machine, Royal Albert Hall, April 3rd

Florence and the Machine at the Royal Albert Hall, London, April 3rd 2012

Florence and the Machine at the Royal Albert Hall, London, April 3rd 2012

What I can say – Florence Welch is the darling at present of the UK art and indie rock scene. I wrote 3 years ago when I saw at the intimate Shepherd’s Bush Empire that while there still some rough edges her performances could only improve. And so it came to pass as this performance at the Royal Albert in spring saw her come of age. Taking many tracks from the aptly named 2nd album “Ceremonials” and a few from first album “Lungs” she bravely gambled on a concert where “the Machine” turned into an Orchestra and the song arrangements became classical and choral in nature. Most in the audience had not been expecting this change of style but in the context of the grandiose venue of the Royal Albert Hall, the gamble payed off and the concert was a triumph. Standing ovations all-round!

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