Live music in 2007 was dominated Prince and his 21 nights in London for me and for the majority of the music press. I guess that the consensus is that the star of the show in 2008 has been Leonard Cohen who was kind of forced back into the live arena by a huge fraud by a former manager. I do really regret not making the effort to get to one of his fabulously reviewed shows, hopefully he'll be back in '09. Also missed in 2008 were Sigur Ros, who managed to twice play in my back yard (well, London) whilst I was hundreds of miles away. Next time, next time. I did however get to see some stunners, it remains true that music is best served live, with beer.
There's no need to delve too deeply into Iceland Airwaves again. I've spoken about it at length here, here, here, here and here. Suffice to say it was well up to scratch, at least as good as ever, and I'll be back in October 2009. Off the top of my head, highlights were Retro Stefson, Reykjavik!, Ghostigital, FM Belfast, Half Tiger, Boys In A Band, Matias Tellez, Jan Mayen, Spregjuhollin, Vicky and loads more.
As for the rest, I can pick out 6 highlights - 3 old and established and 3 new and exciting. The highlight of the lot I think was my first (and then second) ever live viewings of Bjork. Somehow I'd managed to avoid her for all these years but over two nights in Hammersmith early in the year I put that right as she gave two of the most exciting, innovative and exhilarating shows I've seen for some time. they were shows full of highlights. Two more old-timers in the last few weeks of the year, firstly a slightly surprising high was provided when me, Mrs iceblah and two mother iceblahs trotted off to the O2 arena for a night billed as 'Ultimate Manilow' (really, that's what the tickets said). It was tremendous fun, you can count the number of classic songs that Barry (can I call him Barry?) has on the fingers of, well, 3 or 4 hands at least. Sure, it was less innovative than Bjork but it was pure fun with a very healthy dose of humour and darn good songs. Pure showbiz, and huge smiles (and glowsticks!) everywhere, proper feelgood stuff. And finally, 3 nights ago, more classic songcraft in the form of legendary London Irish giants the Pogues. Shane MacGowan was much less incoherent than I expected throughout a set full of classics, raucous booze-fueled singalongs to the likes of Dirty Old Town, Tuesday Morning and Rainy Night In Soho before Christmas truly arrived in the form of penultimate song Fairytale Of New York, and as the lyrics finished and the instrumental playout belted onwards the snow fell, not just on stage but all over the venue, you'd need a heart of rock not to feel festive and a little teary.
As for the newer bands, Half Tiger were impressive at Airwaves as I mention above, but also back in London later in the year in what was essentially a living room gig in Kilburn. I saw White Collar Weapons (left) several times throughout the year, and they were always excellent, particularly at The Luminaire in Kilburn and then a couple of weeks ago in Farringdon - both bands are well worth seeking out, you will not be disappointed. Finally, the mighty hilarious and incomparable Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer (right) and his quest to reunite hip-hop with the Queen's English. Highly entertaining, but just who is that mysterious man?..