Cage the Elephant: The Academy
The year got off to a flying start with Cage the Elephant making their long awaited headline show in Ireland, in The Academy. Not only was it an amazing gig to shoot, thank you Matt Shultz for being one of the best front-men of any modern band, but also because the music and the atmosphere. It was genuinely electric. I've only been a casual fan to this point yet the gig gives me shivers to think of it. The setlist, fucking hell it was unreal. I can’t think of how any one person could come out of the gig with anything but “gig of the year” on their lips, and it was only bleedin’ January!! It could have been all downhill from there, but thankfully not.
Hamilton Leithauser: Workmans Club
I was not prepared for how great Hamilton Leithauser's gig in the Workmans Club would be. I heard the singles from his current album with Rostam, but hadn’t yet given it a spin. The Walkmen had always sort of disappointed me live,so I felt like I could potentially take it or leave it with this gig. This was a completely different ball game to a Walkmen show, the tunes were all fantastic, and I loved his banter and tales in between songs. He did a stunning rendition of In A Black Out, finger picking the acoustic guitar and holding the crowd in the palm of his hands with his signature voice. His story about the origin of the lyrics for The Brides Dad was a fun wedding tale ahead of playing said song. Often singers can bore you by over-explaining but Hamilton nails it, and it makes you pay more attention to the lyrics. The gig was under an hour and it left everyone wanting more. I can’t wait until he returns, however long that will be.
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The Moonlandingz: Whelans
After seeing Fat White Family early in 2016, and it being one of my favourite gigs of that year, I couldn’t miss Lias Saoudi’s return to Whelans with The Moonlandingz. They may not have built up the hardcore fanbase of FWF yet but that has changed now that they’ve played our shores. Their debut LP was released that Friday, so the band and crowd were well up for a mad show. Lias, aka Johnny Rocket, arrived out with black make up on his face and cling film wrapped around… kitchen roll(?) to his midriff, swinging beers and a bottle of wine. They started with their three most popular & well known songs, a brave move for any band, and yet the gig got better and better as it went along. The duet with Slow Club’s Rebecca Lucy Taylor for The Strangle of Anna was both strange and brilliant. The band barreled towards the end with some b-sides and yet the momentum kept rising, with only one song providing a bit of respite for the crowd before Man in My Lyfe near tore Whelans apart. They were a band to rival Cage the Elephant for best performance of the year.
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Metronomy: Body & Soul
When I took Joseph Mount’s portrait last year it looked there was to be no touring at all for the album. Thankfully he broke that sabbatical in 2017 for a handful of dates, followed by full on festival schedule in which they came to Ireland for Body & Soul. It was my first time at the festival and, I must admit, they were the band that swung it for me to go. They headlined the first night and they were as brilliant as ever. Photographers managed to be granted 4 songs to shoot, possibly in the confusion of all the initial songs segueing into each other. They kept the momentum going and barely let it up, even debuting a new song, which is still in my head. They always look like they are having a blast on stage while lashing out their unique brand of pop brilliance. I can’t recommend seeing them live enough. Even my GoldenPlec partner in crime for the weekend, who previously wasn’t convinced by them, was completely won over.
HMLTD: Workmans Club
HMLTD were recommended to many of us at team GoldenPlec by Niall, who moved to London last year and has caught them a few times, citing them as quickly filling the top spots for his favourite gigs of the year. While we may not have got the full London experience, with a half busy but very enthusiastic crowd mixed in with some technical issues for the band, it was still a solid display of their potential. My GP friends and I all looked at each other and agreed that HMLTD would be the perfect band for a Halloween night. They are in line with Moonlandingz/Fat White Family for a raucous gig experience, full of showmanship, sweat and catchy tunes. The unusual twists and turns to songs like To the Door keep things interesting, mixing glam, psych rock and electronic all in one. Broken guitar strings and faulty PA meant we were denied an encore but the next time everyone in the room will be back with friends in tow to experience them.
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Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: The Academy
The return of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club has to make my list for this year, particularly since they started their first tour in quite some time in Dublin. I got to see the guys soundcheck some of their new material ahead of the show, in which they played a good amount of new songs from their upcoming album, Wrong Creatures. Usually a band playing a fair chunk of new material can be off putting when they have an extensive back catalogue of favourites to work through, but I enjoyed hearing the debut of these tracks live. The gig also had the BRMC trait of being very loud indeed. The boys & girl are back, Pete might be grayer but they are still sounding mighty.
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BNQT: The Button Factory
BNQT is a ‘supergroup’ consisting of Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Jason Lytle (Grandaddy), Fran Healy (Travis), Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses) with Midlake as the core band. On this date of the tour we were minus Alex & Ben but it didn’t take away from a mighty and fun gig. Everyone on stage is having the time of their lives, running through choice favourites from each band in between cuts from BNQT’s debut album. They also peppered the gig with some classic covers of Neil Young, The Beatles and finished with Tom Petty’s Won’t Back Down. I went in to this gig tired, half thinking of leaving a few songs after I shot the show, but left with a bit of pep in my step and a big smile on my face for what I got to witness. Their name isn't well known, so it was to a smaller crowd than any of these band members would normally get in their own gig which added to the ‘you had to be there’ vibe of the show. If HMLTD were Halloween, then this band were Christmas.
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The best gigs that I didn't shoot this year were...
Interpol: Alexandra Palace
I couldn’t miss Interpol playing Turn On The Bright Lights from start to finish for its 15th anniversary tour. They announced they were to do the set at Electric Picnic, but I’ve retired from going to EP. A trip over the water to London was in order to see them play in Ally Pally. The buzz about the night was great, the weather was sunny and people were handing out Interpol related samples of the book Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman to those queuing. Bar someone getting sick beside us fifteen minutes before they were due onstage, the night was a treat. They launched straight into Untitled, played the whole album and capped the main set off with Specialist, one of their best tracks which just missed being on the album. They returned to play a ‘greatest hits’ set, even playing a new song which is not in their tendency to do since they toured TOTBL. I was envious of the photographers shooting the show, the lights were so much better than when I got the chance to shoot the band on their last Irish visit.
Alice Cooper: The Olympia
Buying the ticket to Alice Cooper started off as a laugh. I couldn’t be more happy for that spur of the moment decision because it was one of the most entertaining and fun shows I’ve ever seen. To think I very nearly could have photographed the show too near kills me. Missing out on The Thin Air asking for people to cover this show is my biggest regret of 2017. At least I was there and didn’t let an amazing show pass me by. He played all the hits I knew, and everything I didn't know entertained the hell out of me as well. It was a bit cheesey at times watching the guitarists in near competition with each other to throw as many plecs to the crowd as they could, but it's just all a bit of fun and showmanship while they are playing killer leads on guitar. The pyrotechnics and theatricality of it was a hoot. Alice Cooper, what a legend.
Depeche Mode: 3Arena
This was my second time catching Depeche Mode on this tour, the first time being at NOS Alive in Lisbon. I really hoped to photograph this show and had my name to it but to get into why it didn’t happen would lead to a rant and who needs that, right? This is about the show, and it was way better than Lisbon and possibly the best show I’ve seen of Depeche Mode out of the four times I’ve seen them. The set list was incredible, while focusing on their more recent noughties and later nineties output through the first half, they showed how after all this time they still have great songs and are not content to stick around as a nostalgia act.
The latter half was a blitzkrieg of classics which didn’t let up until it was time for them to leave. Martin Gore’s ‘acoustic’ moments were the best I’ve seen yet, with A Question of Lust and Strangelove getting an airing. Dave Gahan has more energy now than most front-men under half his age. He controls the crowd like we are puppets and he is the master, no better is this visible than during Never Let Me Down as he gets the signature famous crowd wave going midway through the song. This always gives me shivers down my spine to participate, and to look around at the view. God knows how it feels from their vantage point. Once again, they are unreal.