Well those of you who had the foresight to subscribe to my mailing list will have had my traditional year-end brochure posted through your letterboxes this morning. Those of you who don't live in Wigan, well you won't have had them posted through your letterbox, but fear not because over the next couple of days or so all the interesting lists will be posted on here.
So we'll start off with the relatively boring one. My top 15 concerts of 2006. As ever there are certain rules; the concerts must have been attended by me, in person, in the year of 06 (ok so that was a pretty obvious rule) and every act can only chart once in this list. So if I saw an act more than once, you only get the best of those occasions in this list.
15. The Flaming Lips (Apollo, Manchester – 25th April)
I’m still not convinced entirely about the musical merits of Wayne Coyne and the boys but there is one thing that is beyond question…they sure do put on one hell of a show. This was the better of the two I saw in 2006, if only because second time around was just the same as this virtually. Still for an “experience” the Lips are a band you just have to see at least once in your lifetime.
14. Metric (Life Café, Manchester – 30th August)
Ok, so the Life Café does suck as a venue unless you queue up to get in at half past 4 the week before or something, but that shouldn’t detract from what was still a great concert. It seems as if mainstream success will elude them over here, but that’s not my fault is it?
13. Girls Aloud (MEN Arena, Manchester – 27th May)
Well it had to go in somewhere. I still think that in-between the songs the girls are pretty dull and mechanical but you can’t deny that there are some classic pop songs in the GA canon, and you got all of them here.
12. Giant Drag (Night & Day, Manchester – 20th April)
There’s no doubting that Annie is an odd-ball, (“Aids is so gnarly”) but Giant Drag are a pretty awesome outfit live. That two of them make so much noise would be amazing enough if the chap didn’t also manage to play the drums and the keyboard at the same time.
11. Gemma Hayes (Liverpool Academy 3 – 2nd March)
Slightly spoiled by that cock-knob who spent the whole evening shouting “I love you Gemma” at the top of his voice, this was nevertheless a great night. Not quite up to the superb Tunstall gig at the same venue in early 2005 but this was still well worth it.
10. Martha Wainwright (The Lowry, Salford – 31st May)
Well her 2005 effort made my concert of the year and whilst this wasn’t quite up to that standard it was still very good indeed. Mostly just Martha and her guitar this was a perfect example of the talent she has, and throw in a surprise Thea Gilmore spot (and an excellent support act in the form of Catherine Feeney) and not even the fact that I was ill during this could spoil it all that much.
9. Depeche Mode (MEN Arena, Manchester – 30th March)
I’ve always liked the Mode but it was only in 2006 that I felt the urge to go and see them. And boy am I glad I did. Yes it’s all a little faintly preposterous when you go and watch them, but you can’t deny that 20 years of hits give them a great back catalogue of tunes to plunder and the boys are on as good a form as they’ve ever been.
8. Divine Comedy (Carling Academy, Liverpool – 4th November)
Another act who we did the “double” with this year; this one was better than the earlier one for the facts that there wasn’t a really tall bloke stood in front of me in this one, Duke Special was the support act and Neil Hannon seemed on top of the world throughout this one. He might, sadly, be coming more and more of an irrelevance to the charts but form like this proves that it’s the general public’s loss, not his.
7. Nerina Pallot (The Lowry, Salford – 30th May)
It is no exaggeration to say that this year any of the top 7 could have taken the top spot. I mean that. Not that what preceded this one was rubbish, but that I would be completely happy with any of them topping the list. Of course that is a numerical impossibility so some tough decisions have to be made. This was great though, not least because I shared some Lasagne with Nerina prior to the concert. (Ok, so I just happened to be in the same restaurant as her, but we did both have lasagne). Much like in 2005 when Nerina went down such a storm in Warwick whilst supporting Suzanne Vega, I had a feeling of great pride. I know that seems a bit odd, but having been a fan of hers from back in the day it’s just nice to see someone who so obviously deserves it having success. And let’s face it, if I thought for sure the Suzanne Vega reference had been aimed at me this would have probably placed even higher. Hey I’m nothing if not biased.
6. The Hedrons (Night & Day, Manchester – 8th November)
It may seem a bit strange that a concert that was probably attended by about 20 people (at best) could make it so high in the list but this fully deserves it’s place. It’s a certifiable Matt-Fact™ that The Hedrons kick arse live and this was the best of the three times that I saw them in 2006. Our part in the “mad rush to the front of the stage” as The Hedrons kicked off their set even made it into a review on the BBC website. There, quite simply, wasn’t a duff song from start to finish and although there may indeed have been a small crowd I can’t imagine that anyone who was there left feeling anything other than elation. And Soup recognised me afterwards as well. So all in all another winner!
5. Lily Allen (Manchester Academy – 21st October)
Some people, and I am not in anyway at all whatsoever suggesting that Lauren Laverne is one of them, seem to have a thing against Lily for not “feeling it” or for not being “real”. Well if any of those people had been in the Manchester Academy for this concert they could not have failed to be convinced otherwise. Because Lily proved to be that good. Whirling through the album and adding in the choice B-sides, the only thing that really fell flat were the covers. She had the crowd eating out of the palms of her hands and sealed a wonderful night by telling her dad to “F**k off” and although I said it at the time, it bears repeating. Who hasn’t, at one time in their life, wanted to tell Keith Allen to f**k off?
4. The Pipettes (Manchester Academy 2 – 25th September)
We were so psyched for this one that we actually went early to get to the front (or at least within the first few rows of people); and for once that was rewarded in the form of the rather good support act The Hot Puppies. Barring the odd altercation with people who tried to push in front there was a carnival type atmosphere throughout this one. The anticipation was high, but the reality blew even the highest expectations away. I can quite honestly say that I have probably never danced like a loon quite as much at ANY other concert that I’ve ever been too. Rosay is just delightful “in the flesh” as well (although of course that has absolutely no bearing in my considerations at all). And everyone loved it. It’s no lie to say that I’ve been to concerts where much more famous and bigger-selling artists have failed to whip up even a fraction of the frenzy that the Pipettes did here.
3. The Like (Manchester Academy 3 – 9th March)
There were funnier meetings with The Like over the course of 2006 (my particular highlight being when the Gee’s favourite Z-Berg totally ignored him but recognised me instantly) but this was the best concert; not surprising considering it was a headline date. The atmosphere for this was so good that the aforementioned Elizabeth raved about the “awesome Manchester crowd” in various interviews in the weeks and months afterwards. They were having fun; we were having fun…what more do you really need?
2. Pet Shop Boys (Liverpool Summer Pops – 2nd July)
It will come as little surprise to you to find out that the Pet Shop Boys are my all-time favourite act; in fact it will probably come as more of a surprise that this isn’t my top pick of the year. But as I’ve said before, any of the top 7 could quite comfortably and this was certainly the best PSB show that I’ve seen live and in person yet. Those who say that the PSB aren’t a “live” act miss the point. They’re not a live act who will compromise their beliefs that’s for sure; the only musician who appears on stage at any time is Chris Lowe and whilst the pageantry of Performance has been scaled down this is still a fantastic show, and from a set list point of view would have to be their best yet. I could crow about this until the cows come home, but it was superb from start to finish. And just think, this wasn’t even quite the “best” of the year either.
1. Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins (The Lowry, Salford - 23rd April)
Well in the end it HAD to be didn’t it? I mean really it is fair to say that either of the Jenny Lewis shows I saw in 2006 could have been a worthy winner of this countdown but this was the better show. It would be easy to say that I’ve only picked this because of those special “moments” that me and Jenny shared both before the show and during it (even if I do say so myself, the front row tickets were just brilliant) but that would be to dismiss just what an excellent concert this truly was. This would have been number one without her touching my chest or saying hello to me a number of times throughout the concert. :-D