Friday, February 4, 2011

Top Five of Two Thousand and Ten: #5. Live Music (worldwide)

Seeing your musical idols and heroes live in the flesh can, in my opinion, result in one of two outcomes. Either you see a false pawn of an industry of cool, or, you realise their humanity, their brilliance in a world that has dealt them the kind of fate you can relate too (and more). Seeing Neil Young live at the start of 2009 for me was the first instance of the latter. It was 43degC in Melbourne and Neil walked out looking like a middle aged accountant at a BBQ- linen shirt, cargo pants and leather sandals. But that's where the comparison stopped as he played with ferocity for over 2 hours in the intense heat. He ended the set playing until every guitar string broke.

But enough of 2009, this post is about 2010 and I was able to see a lot of live music throughout the year. From seeing friends and favourites at the Wellington Botanical Gardens in January to the local indigenous music in the Chaing Rai markets in Thailand, the local radio music of bus drivers in Albania to the influenced styles of open minded Japanese artists on Shikoku Island and Dixieland Jazz players in Tokyo. It was a year of taking on what the encountered world had to offer.

There had been a purpose to this. I had left Aotearoa on March 9th with a purpose to see and hear more music. I'd left behind my ipod and any copy of any of my previously owned music. This has caused frustration at times, yet it has also forced me to listen to the live world as I have encountered it. See other people's music as they saw it.

Shortly arriving in the UK on July 19th I noticed that Bonnie 'Prince' Billy was playing. I think his music has a depth to it I rarely find anywhere else. So, surviving on baked beans for a fortnight allowed me to pay for the ticket at the Shepard's Bush Empire. And it was a thrill, to see a musician who hadn't been sucked into the suckers of the music industry. To give you an idea of his depth Johnny Cash covered one of his songs in his American Recordings.

Well, to tell the event succinctly, I went to see a true musician play at one of the world's iconic venues and didn't come away disappointed. Seeing this musician's ability in the flesh has left me more of a devotee than I had ever been before.

The music was amazing, because I got the feeling (much as I had with Neil Young) that these musicians in front of me were playing music with their own passion for it and we were just lucky bystanders who became part of the sound and part of the experience. That to me is really good music.

The other delight of the year was seeing a concert with Gillian Welsh, Dave Rawlings, Old Crow Medicine Show, John Paul Jones (best known as bassist for Led Zeppelin) and Mumford and Sons at the Troxy on September 17th. I'm not sure how I feel about the whole idea of people recording parts of concerts and putting them on YouTube- but it gives you get a taster of that night.

Gillian is just super- she seems to be all about the music, never bowing to the idea that she must cake herself in makeup or have a stylish haircut in order to be a respected musician. Unfortunately, in the above video her mic wasn't working and she looks across to the right at the sound man trying to get the attention of the sound man who wasn't paying any. So I give you the below as well.

I never learnt to play an instrument, as much as I would have liked to the chance and determination weren't there. This means I'll always be limited to being a music appreciator. 2010 felt like a year in which I did that well.


  1. Nicola (of RBB), you're wise beyond your years.

  2. Thanks Richard (of RBB). My added title only increases my wisdom.