Today’s Guardian lists ‘50 Gigs that Transformed Live Music Forever’. Here’s a few that they missed.

The Beatles

Litherland Town Hall, Liverpool, December 27, 1960

Newly returned from their first gruelling Hamburg stint, The Beatles capture their home town. Writes Mark Lewisohn: “As the curtains shuffled open and Paul launched himself into Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’, everyone suddenly and spontaneously crushed forward to the front of the stage, swept away by the group’s sheer magnetism. Five hundred hours on stage in Hamburg had forged a style that would conquer the world. [They] were an absolute powerhouse, creating an inexplicable and unprecedented frenzy among the spellbound teenagers… they too were bewildered by the incredible scene they were invoking. Beatlemania was enjoying its birth pangs.”

The Who

Railway Hotel, Harrow, July 14, 1964

Billed as The High Numbers, The Who are seen by future co-manager Kit Lambert for the first time. Lambert: “They were playing there in this room with just one red bulb glowing and an extraordinary audience that they had collected. They were the loudest group I'd ever heard and they gave the whole thing a satanic quality. It just seemed to me that this had to be the face of the late Sixties. There was Keith Moon, the drummer, raised on a high stool dominating the group, battering away for all his life was worth. The rest of the group was playing on a stage made out of beer crates. And the ceiling came right down on top of them so that when Pete Townshend – the lead guitarist – was playing, he’d bang his guitar against the ceiling, and one night he physically poked a hole through the ceiling because it was getting in his way. It was only made of paper and cardboard, and he went straight through. This went down tremendously with the audience. And that's how the whole thing started.” 

Led Zeppelin

Tea Party, Boston, USA, January 29, 1969

The birth of head-banging at Led Zep’s legendary four-and-a-half-hour show, probably their longest performance ever. John Paul Jones: “As far as I’m concerned, the key Led Zeppelin gig – the one that just put everything into focus – was one that we played on our first American tour at the Boston Tea Party. We’d played our usual one-hour set, using all the material from the first album and Page’s ‘White Summer’ guitar piece and, by the end, the audience just wouldn’t let us off the stage. It was in such a state that we had to start throwing ideas around – just thinking of songs that we might all know or that some of us knew a part of, and work it from there. So, we’d go back on and play things like ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and ‘Please Please Me’ – old Beatles favourites. I mean, just anything that would come in our head, and the response was quite amazing. There were kids actually bashing their heads against the stage – I’ve never seen that at a gig before or since, and when we finally left the stage we’d played for four plus hours. Peter [manager Grant] was absolutely ecstatic. He was crying – if you can imagine that – and hugging us all. You know with this huge grizzly bear hug. I suppose it was then that we realised just what Led Zeppelin was going to become.” 

The Rolling Stones

Hyde Park, July 5, 1969

The Stones come of age. It was the requiem for Brian Jones and the debut of Mick Taylor, the concert where The Rolling Stones began their new life as ‘The Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band In The World’, as they were introduced, for the first time, by Sam Cutler, who worked for the concert’s promoters, Blackhill Enterprises. Mick read a poem, butterflies were released and the crowd numbered over 250,000, the biggest crowd assembled in London since the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, but the Stones were not at their best. “We played pretty bad,” Keith confessed later. “We hadn’t played in years.” In Melody Maker, Chris Welch wrote:  “[It was a] a nostalgic, out-of-tune ritual that summed up a decade of pop.”

Elvis Presley

International Hotel, Las Vegas, July 31, 1969

Elvis returns from the dead(end world of crap movies), playing his first truly live show since before he went into the army. Las Vegas bows to the New World Order. Writes Peter Garulnick: “With his own handpicked band behind him, he simply rocked, and almost in that instant, the whole room exploded. … It would have been a scene of rare abandon in any setting, but for Las Vegas, the ultimate repository of blasé show business values, carrying with it an implied embrace of genuine spontaneity on the performer’s part.”

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Harvard Square Theatre, Cambridge, Massachusetts, May 9, 1974

Bruce becomes ‘the future of rock’n’roll’. Jon Landau, Springsteen’s future manager, then a writer for Boston’s Real Paper, sees his protégé for the first time, and writes: “I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock and rolls future and its name is Bruce Springsteen… There is no one I would rather watch on a stage today.

David Bowie

O’Keefe Centre, Toronto, June 16, 1974

The birth of rock theatre. After the tour, David never repeated this kind of concert and, of course, it never reached the UK. CC wrote in Melody Maker: “A few thousand lucky Canadians witnessed a completely new concept in rock theatre last weekend … It now seems likely that Bowie WAS speaking the truth when he announced his retirement from rock on the stage at the Hammersmith Odeon last year. For the act that David presents on this tour has as much to do with rock and roll as Bob Dylan has with the gloss of Las Vegas. The one-and-a-half-hour, 20-song show is a completely rehearsed and choreographed routine where every step and nuance has been perfected down to the last detail. There isn't one iota of spontaneity about the whole show. It is straight off a musical stage – a piece of theatre complete with extravagant mechanical sets, dancers and a band that stands reservedly to stage right and never even receives so much as a cursory acknowledgement, like an orchestra in the theatre pits.”

Bruce Springsteen

Wembley Stadium, July 4, 1985

Bruce shows London that he really is The Boss. The middle concert of three at Wembley Stadium, all of which I attended. I simply enjoyed the first night so much I didn’t want to miss any of them. CC writes: “On the 4th – American Independence Day – Bruce walked out alone, armed with only an acoustic guitar and sang The River track ‘Independence Day’, a ballad, to a crowd of 80,000 or more who’d been waiting around for hours and were gagging for rock’n’roll. That takes sheer bottle, I thought. Then it was into a blistering ‘Born In The USA’. On one of the shows – I can’t remember which – Bruce played the Stones’ ‘Street Fighting Man’, doubtless because it refers to ‘London town’. After three hours or more, all the shows closed with gloriously delivered renderings of ‘Twist And Shout’ – lasting about 20-minutes. It wasn't the first concert at Wembley Stadium but Bruce showed how it should be done.

1 comment:

John Cooper said...

Street Fighting Man was played on the 6th. Amazing show,made Wembley seem like both the smallest club and the entire universe at the same time, easily the best Stadium concert I've seen