Rockin’ Mike’s gigs of 2006.

1. Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Rescue Rooms, May.
Mexican guitar duo with thrash metal background (“We’re not fokkin flamenco!“) played very very fast indeed, while simultaneously using their guitars as percussion instruments. Metallica’s “One” bled seamlessly into Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”; the crowd went wild. For the encore, someone shouted out “Pink Floyd”, and the whole room sang along to a spontaneous cover of “Wish You Were Here”.

2. Secret Machines, Rescue Rooms, April.
The new album may have disappointed, but no other gig this year matched Secret Machines for sheer emotional intensity (shoegazing revival, anyone?) – or my subsequent knackered, drunk, overwhelmed review for pretentious purple prose. This was the gig where I learnt that precisely two pints of lager are needed to fuel a decent write-up; not a drop more, and not a drop less. I stuck to this formula rigidly for the rest of the year; it served me well.

3. Take That, Birmingham NEC, April.
The ultimate boyband bounced back as if they had never been away, and proved once and for all that yes, they really do have talent, personality, presence, warmth, and songs. Oh Boyzone, oh Westlife, how paltry do your achievements seem now.

Of course, Robbie Williams was still far to grand to share a stage with his erstwhile bandmates, appearing instead via the medium of hologram to beam in the first verse of “Could It Be Magic”. Oh, the honour. But that was eight months ago. As of today, Take That’s brilliant “Patience” is at #2 in the singles chart, whilst Robbie’s workmanlike cover of Lewis Taylor’s “Lovelight” is down to #120 in the download-only chart. In the album chart, Robbie’s patchy-at-best career destroyer Rudebox is down to #36, while Take That’s triumphant comeback album Beautiful World hangs on at #1.

You mark my words. Williams will be grovelling to Gary Barlow and the boys before 2007 is through. Grovelling, I tell you!

4. Imogen Heap, The Social, April.
Sampling herself as she sang and played, then immediately looping back the live samples in accumulating layers of sound, to sublime effect.

5. Pink, Nottingham Arena, November.
Suspended above the audience on a trapeze, and spinning around at high speed, upside-down, while doing the splits, and still delivering a note-perfect “Get The Party Started” – now that’s entertainment.

6. Greg Dulli & the Twilight Singers, Rescue Rooms, July.
Encore of the year, as another spontaneous Pink Floyd cover version graced the Rescue Rooms (see Rodrigo Y Gabriela above). The news of Syd Barrett’s death had just been announced, and so Dulli gave us a beautiful “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, which morphed into a heart-stopping version of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”, as unspoken references to Dulli’s struggles with his own demons hovered in the air.

7. The Long Blondes, Rescue Rooms, October.
That Kate Jackson, phwooar! Total star. The songs make so much more sense live, away from the disappointing generic-indie-sludge of the debut album. High point: a totally art-pop “Giddy Stratospheres”.

8. The Feeling, Rock City, November.
That Dan Gillespie-Sells, PHWOOAR! Total dish. Nice music for nice people, stripped of the glossy production of their recorded material and sounding vastly better for it.

9. Three Strange Angels, Djanogly Recital Hall, September.
Serious music ahoy! This superb percussion troupe performed pieces by Steve Reich, John Cage and many others.

10. The Automatic / Mumm-Ra, Trent University, October.
The acceptable face of NME-sanctioned student-friendly mainstream indie rock. Mumm-Ra were a bit boring, but The Automatic’s flute-led cover of Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” won me over. (Yes, I know how awful that sounds on paper. You’ll just have to take me on trust.) Great to see Trent Uni re-launching itself as a regular venue for live music, as well.

11. Madonna, Wembley Arena, August.
Displaying, unless I’m very much mistaken, occasional faint signs of actually being aware that an audience had paid (through the nose, as it happens) to come and see her, and that perhaps she could deign to, you know, entertain them. Quelle breakthrough!

12. Rodrigo Y Gabriela, Rock City, November.
Their second visit of the year, in a substantially larger venue. The intimacy of the earlier gig may have been lost – but everything else scaled up just fine, and we were all still left gasping at their sheer manual dexterity.

13. Juana Molina, The Social, August.
Like Imogen Heap before her (see above), Juana Molina is another solo performer who samples herself as she plays. Subtly dissonant electronica underpinned her gentle wispy folksiness, to spellbinding effect. God, I’ve become such a hack. Hungover after seeing the New Year in, and I could carry on bashing this sort of stuff out all day.

14. Morrissey, Nottingham Arena, December.
He seems to have arrived at a happy place – which might blunt his edge, but perhaps full-on adolescent angst in one’s late forties isn’t such a good look. Highpoint: an incandescent “Irish Blood, English Heart”. Oh, and the ritualised ripping and tossing of not one but two nice smart shirts. Tart.

15. Bugz In The Attic, Rescue Rooms, September.
Their so-called “DJ” had by far the easiest job – not even pretending to play any records, but contenting himself with squeezing the occasional hooter and waving his arms around a lot. Nice work if you can get it.

16. Scissor Sisters / The Gossip, Nottingham Arena, November.
The Gossip’s Beth Ditto was a hoot, although her band fell way short of what was needed for an arena-sized gig. As, to a lesser but marked extent, did the Sizzah Sistahs. Much as I will always love them, they just aren’t a natural arena act, and little less mega-success would suit them well.

Also memorable for being told to sit down by the world’s most miserable woman in the seat behind, while the rest of the arena continued to bop gaily around us. Grr.

17. Hidden Cameras, The Social, September.
In 2004, they released my favourite album of the year and played one of the best gigs of the year. In 2006, the law of diminishing returns kicked in. Nice enough, and still in a different league from most, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Cameras were stuck in an underachieving indie rut, and treading water. (No, not a mixed metaphor. You can still tread water in a rut, if the rut is deep enough.)

18. Journey South, Royal Concert Hall, October.
Much enlivened by our proximity to Journey South’s mam and dad, who – once they spotted me taking notes – spun me the whole “proud parents” line as if I was Kate Bloody Thornton, bless ’em. And who wouldn’t? In many ways, this was actually the most entertaining show I went to all year. It’s just that not all of those ways were, you know, good ways. But at least some of them were, and one genuinely wishes the boys well.

19. Camera Obscura, The Social, October.
A potentially great gig was all but wrecked by the ridiculous heat inside the venue, as a packed crowd gasped for air and the band struggled to keep their instruments in tune. I ended up spending the second half of the set public-spiritedly propping the exit door open with my foot, and craning my neck round the corner to see the tops of the performers’ heads.

20. David Essex, Royal Concert Hall, September.
The very epitome of silver-foxiness. The old hits were fab, the vast swathes of new material markedly less so. Don’t read my review; it’s way too cheesy and it makes me blush. Hack.

21. The Osmonds, Royal Concert Hall, March.
Ooh, we had letters over this one! As MissMish remarked, it was all rather like being beaten repeatedly over the head with a Hallmark greetings card – although the six-song medley from The Plan, the brothers’ 1973 attempt at a deep & meaningful “concept” album, certainly rocked my world.

22. Guillemots / Joan As Police Woman, Rescue Rooms, June.
Joan’s understated performance, backed by various assorted Guillemots, fell flat with the annoyingly chatty crowd, while the Guillemots themselves were all tricksy clever-cleverness at the expense of emotional congruence, hem-hem.

23. ADULT. / Battant, The Social, February.
Battant were fun, but ADULT. were f**king dreadful. The glowstick-waving Nathan Barleys down the front lapped it all up, but the rest of us were merely nonplussed.

24. The Fallout Trust / Computerman, The Social, February.
Totally forgettable – as was my first ever review for t’local paper, which never actually made it to print. Not the most auspicious of starts.

25. Victorian English Gentlemens Club / Das Wanderlust, The Social, September.
Hanging around in an almost deserted Social, this was one of those nights where I questioned my calling. The acts did their best, but it was all rather futile.

26. Jools Holland, Chatsworth House, July.
This was my treat to K’s parents, in an attempt to give them a jolly night out after the sudden loss of their daughter. We all duly played the parts of people having a jolly night out, but it was all more than a little strained.

27. Hope Of The States, Rescue Rooms, June.
Retreating into generic “angular post-punk” (YAWN) was a daft move to make, and it came as no surprise when the band split up a few months later. You could see even then that their hearts weren’t really in it.

28. The Puppini Sisters, The Social, October.
The climax of an atrociously mis-conceived Halloween “burlesque” night, which once again fell foul of the Social’s malfunctioning air conditioning units (since fixed, I have been told). Far too late, far too hot, far too packed, and altogether the wrong venue for this grossly over-hyped novelty act.

29. Amp Fiddler, The Social, September.
Studiously tasteful soul-funk workouts, untouched by any notions of songcraft or musical variety. Started off as pleasant enough background music, before escalating in dullness to the point where only my professional duty kept me inside the venue.

30. Emmylou Harris, Royal Concert Hall, August.
Timid, listless, dull and worthy – and that was just the backing musicians. I’ve seen more passion and commitment at a supermarket checkout. Unburdened by any professional duty (I actually paid, gasp, real money for this one), I sailed out halfway through, and joined K down the pub (he had lasted all of twenty minutes).

(ADMIN: Later in the week, I’m going to retro-publish my Nottingham Evening Post reviews on the blog, back-dated as appropriate, and link to them from the list above. Because I’m completist like that.)

Update: Job done. All the old Evening Post reviews are up on the site, and back-linked from this list.

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