The Best Gigs of 2014 – Part 1

Kate Bush’s Hammersmith Apollo residency… Prince’s small, almost-secret shows… Metallica’s controversial headlining slot at Glastonbury… To say 2014 has been a memorable one for big gigs by huge names would be an understatement, but at Gigslutz our reviewers prefer shows that are a little more understated, including one in a pub and one in the back of the van…

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Foals W/ Cage The Elephant @ Alexandra Palace, London 14.02.14
Foals and Cage The Elephant were both bands that I had wanted to see for a very long time indeed, so you can imagine how chuffed I was when it was announced that Foals were touring AND Cage The Elephant were the support – talk about killing two birds with one stone! The gig itself was incredible: Cage delivered a performance worthy of a band playing a headline set and Foals played all of my favourites to perfection – highlights of the gig had to be when the whole crowd sat down for ‘Spanish Sahara’ and of course, the intense build-up and finale of ‘Two Steps, Twice’. The antics of the frontmen for both bands made for a real spectacle and a show that I won’t forget for a while. Junior Cobbinah

Cate Le Bon @ Komedia, Brighton 17.02.14
Cate Le Bon could be the love-child of Nico and John Cale. Often – and myopically – compared to the former Velvets chanteuse due to the haunted and Teutonic quality of her voice, the Welsh singer shares more with her countryman than their Carmarthenshire roots; namely, a knack for creating melodic, experimental pop music that refuses to follow conventional arrangements, and utilises the traditional voice, guitar, bass & drums format to produce music that sounds vital and wholly original. On a wet Monday night at Brighton’s intimate Komedia, Le Bon and her band tore through an hour long set of songs drawn from her recent album Mug Museum, along with a few old favourites to please the die-hards in the audience. In an alternative reality where Simon Cowell and his ilk haven’t removed the quirk from mainstream pop music and neutered its capacity to thrill and challenge audiences, Cate Le Bon would be selling out the O2 Arena. Paul Sng

The Jezabels W/ Champs @ Rescue Rooms, Nottingham 24.02.14
Having not done my homework properly, I went along to Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms (a strong contender for favourite small venue) expecting to review Isle Of Wight duo Champs, and whoever happened to be warming up for them. It turns out that Champs were in fact the support act (who showcased the gentle tones of their debut, Down Like Gold, beautifully), leaving me with a strong lesson learned regarding support acts and the importance of catching them. Had I been lucky enough to have seen Depeche Mode’s Touring The Angel shows I may have seen a four-piece Australian act called The Jezabels supporting, whose anthemic-Americana-cum-disco-pop/rock tracks became some of my tracks of the year by the time they were half way through opener ‘The Brink’ back in February. Dan Bull

The Strypes @ The Academy, Dublin 12.04.14
The Strypes returned to Dublin’s Academy for the third time, and gave a flawless performance as always. Between zooming through their fast, electric and bluesy tunes, frontman Farrelly touched the many hands desperately grasping the stage going crazy for the Irish rockers. The band performed some of their newer songs off their EP, 4 Track Mind, released in February. ‘Hard To Say No’ and ‘So They Say’ went down exceptionally well. Guitarist McClorey, confidently gave eye contact to the girls in the front row, whilst slamming on his guitar for their hit songs ‘Blue Collar Jane’ and ‘What A Shame’. The set slowed down briefly for their indulgent song ‘Angel Eyes’, before their manic, memorable encore including their most popular track, ‘Can’t Judge A Book’. Tara Shiels

Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott @ The Kings Arms, Salford 17.04.14
Paul Heaton’s operatic, pub landlord caricature has been dusted off and brought back out this year, accompanied by former Beautiful South frontwoman Jacqui Abbott, for his most successful venture since the band dispersed due to “musical similarities” back in 2007. 2014 has seen the duo tour the UK twice, peaking at #3 with their album and making the Radio 2 A-List, but this gig at Paul’s pub, previewing the new material to the press and pals, is where the magic happened. During a 12-song set, which also saw Beautiful South and Housemartins numbers performed, Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott reminded us of why their uniqueness was so successful first time round, and why it’s only right that it is again. Dan Bull

The Pizza Underground @ Dot To Dot, Manchester 25.05.14
My most memorable gig of 2014 was The Pizza Underground, when the Dot to Dot Festival brought Macaulay Culkin and co to Manchester. Trippy lights and spinning pizza montages formed the backdrop to the stage, as reinventions of Velvet Underground and Lou Reed classics made for one of the most surreal experiences of my life. ‘She’s A Pizza Gal’ and ‘Take A Bite Of The Wild Slice’ were audience favourites, hilariously shit but that’s what made it so good. And when we all thought it couldn’t get any weirder, a dude dressed as Kurt Cobain came onstage – announced as “Nevermound” – and informed us he would be “singing Nirvana songs in the past tense”. It’s a night I’ll never forget. Elli Brazzill

Arctic Monkeys @ Marlay Park, Dublin 12.07.14
A drizzly Irish summer’s day filled with thousands of Arctic Monkeys fans, in a massive field. First support act Royal Blood were full of energy and excitement, followed by Miles Kane who performed songs including ‘Come Closer’ and ‘Taking Over’. The final support act was Jake Bugg who, for many, stole the show. Darkness fell, and the Monkeys strutted onto the stage in all their glory. They opened with ‘Do I Wanna Know’, and by the end of their rocking third song of the night (‘Arabella’) people were getting yanked out of the hectic mosh pit – along with their muddy wellies and messy hair. Highlights of their set have to be ‘Knee Socks’, ‘I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ and ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’. But for true fans, Alex Turner’s acoustic version of ‘A Certain Romance’ stole the show. Tara Shiels

Gramotones / Paul Weller @ The Mouth of The Tyne Festival, Newcastle 12.07.14
For me, 2014 has been a great year for gigs, with many stand-out live moments: Miles Kane at Kendal Calling, Modern Faces at the Alhambra, Pete MacLeod at the Roxy. However, seeing Gramotones and Paul Weller at The Mouth of the Tyne Festival completely nailed it for me. The weather was perfect, the scenery was Game of Thrones-esque, and when Gramotones’ Sid, Jake, Ryan and James belted out ‘Soldier’s Kiss’, a rush of adrenaline hit my body faster than an ISS flyover. For me, it was gonna take something special to follow, and with the Paul Weller band consisting of Steve Cradock, Steve Pilgrim, Andy Lewis and a couple of Moons in the line-up, the guys delivered big time with a performance those in attendance will remember for a very long time. From the Jam to The Style Council to the solo material, it was all top-drawer. Bazza Mills

Click here for Part 2 of The Best Gigs of 2014

Dan Bull

Dan Bull

Reviews Editor
London. Likes: Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, Prince Charles Cinema, Duran Duran Dislikes: Soreen, All-hits setlists, "I liked them before everyone else..."