This was the third time I’d seen the full Big Big Train line up play live and it came just at the right time and the wrong time. It was a time when I needed my spirits lifting, so I spent the following day exploring Winchester which was a wonderfully relaxing time. The gig did clash with England’s World Cup semi-final match, which meant more empty seats than usual and a few people surreptitiously checking their phones during the show.
The Beatrix Players were an excellent support act, I was very impressed with their performance. The BBT set was decidedly more proggy than the two previous London shows I’d been to and it was good to see the band let their hair down a bit more. This was however a warm up gig for their triumphant headlining show at Night of the Prog in Loreley, Germany and I am still kicking myself for not finding a way to attend that show. I think that’s probably taken it down the list as a result.
Honourable mentions –I was meant to be cutting down on my gig going in 2018, but having embraced the “live music as therapy’ mantra over the past few years I ended up seeing more live music than ever before this year.
Focus at the Earl Haig in Cardiff was the only gig I could walk to from my house. Hocus Pocus has been a big song in my life and it was good to hear that live. The whole show was superb and the guitarist and drummer blew me away.
Steven Wilson at St David’s Hall in Cardiff was an important show for me, as I’ve loved his music since Porcupine Tree’s Stupid Dream in ‘99. The show happened when I was at a bit of a personal low, I was a bit too far from the action seating wise and the guy in front of me flouting the no photos or filming rule, so it wasn’t quite the experience I wanted which robbed it of a top three finish. I’m glad I have a blu-ray from the same tour to allow me to appreciate it more.
Zervas & Pepper were the band I saw most, and all three shows were absolutely brilliant. As was as in Hay, I also saw them at St Johns Church in Cardiff with the full band and Christopher Rees in support and then more recently at The Globe in Cardiff.
Magenta at The Globe was something special, as they played both We are Legend and Seven in their entirety and the whole band was on fire. Like last year their Acapela show was also noteworthy as Alan Reed played too and joined them for a superb version of Don’t Give up, which was just one of many highlights.
TC&I would be the number one gig for most people who attended their shows in their hometown of Swindon. This was as close as we are likely to see to a full XTC reunion, with bass player and singer/songwriter Colin Moulding reuniting with original drummer Terry Chambers and rounding things out with some other excellent musicians. I’m a relatively new XTC fan so don’t have the history others do. It was the fourth night of a residency and we seemed to be surrounded by people who had already been earlier in the week which changed the atmosphere and also two people in the row behind me talked through the whole show which really didn’t help.
The Zombies at The Tramshed in Cardiff was the biggest surprise for me. I went on a bit of a whim and was blown away by the songs and the performances. Hearing Zombies and Argent songs was amazing, but having never heard Old and Wise by the Alan Parsons Project before - I’m seeing their singer Colin Blunstone solo next year as a result of this show.
Francis Dunnery at The New Crown in Merthyr Tydfil was a small, intimate gig and all the better for it. I brushed up on my It Bites knowledge and listened to a lot of his solo material in readiness for this show. The stories he told in between the songs were as entertaining as the songs themselves and he certainly knows his way around a guitar.
Blancmange at Acapela in Pentyrch near Cardiff was very good too. I enjoyed the mix of classic songs and ones from the excellent latest album too and the atmosphere was amazing.
Pearl Jam at the O2 in London was a rescheduled show, after Eddie Vedder lost his voice on the original date. I went with my regular PJ gig buddy Rob Williams and the new date meant we got to see the inflatable Trump baby at least. They did a typically eclectic and long set, with thirty three songs played altogether. They are as strong live as ever and I’m pleased that they ‘Let Stone sing’ but after years of getting up close at smaller gigs I felt oddly disconnected sitting up in the gods. I now think my days of attending stadium gigs may be coming to an end.