In early 2018 I was reminiscing about gigs I had been to, particular during my time in the US in the second half of the 1980’s. I had not kept much in the way of a diary but I remembered quite a few, sometimes with a good idea of the venue and maybe an approximate date. While trying to narrow things down I came across The Setlist Wiki at setlist.fm and created an account. I hadn’t looked at it since then until a couple of days ago when I managed to work out the exact date I saw Billy Bragg in Burlington Vermont. Although there were setlists for other dates on the same tour that one wasn’t listed, so I added it and now I have eight artists listed on my setlist profile, although that corresponds to just four concerts.
The first concert (and still probably my favourite ever gig) was Siouxsie and the Banshees at Boston Common on 14 Aug 1987. They were supported by Julian Cope, who I had not heard of, and I was late so I only caught the last couple of his songs. Siouxsie had incredible stage presence and I became a fan, subsequently buying three albums (Juju, A Kiss in the Dreamhouse and Hyaena). I still have an ancient Siouxsie T-Shirt which I may even have bought at the gig – it is getting a bit threadbare so I only wear it on special occasions. If you don’t know Siouxsie check out the opening of their 1983 concert at the Royal Albert Hall here on YouTube (with Robert Smith of The Cure on guitar). More recently I have come to appreciate Julian Cope and wish I had caught his full set.
The next concert was only four days later on 18 Aug 1987 (I don’t remember them being that close but apparently they were). It was at Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts with Gene Loves Jezebel opening for New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen. I had been a big fan of Joy Division, owning two of their albums (Closer and Still), but I never got to see them live as Ian Curtis killed himself in 1980 and I only found out about them a couple of years later when I went to university. The band reformed as New Order and at some point I bought their 1987 album Substance. Not as much to my taste as Joy Division but I was still keen to see them live, although I was there more for Echo and the Bunnymen (Ocean Rain was I think the second album I ever bought). By the way, my vinyl was destroyed in a house fire while I lived in the US but I still have a list of all 76 records, which is why I know these things. I recently bought the expanded version of Ocean Rain as a download from iTunes – The Killing Moon is such a great track. Another aside is that in the 1990s someone gave me both Joy Division studio albums on vinyl and I still listen to them. But enough of that.
Now we skip to 29 Oct 1988 when I drove from Hanover NH to Burlington Vermont to see Michelle Shocked and Billy Bragg perform a benefit concert for Bernie Sanders, then Mayor of Burlington who was running for congress. The concert was at the Flynn Centre for the Performing Arts and unlike the other two which I had attended on my own, this time a few of us went together in at least two cars. I think by then I had bought my Fiat X1/9 which was a only a two seater and I gave a lift to woman called Nicky Bunting. Billy Bragg was the main draw for me (I had his 1986 album Talking with the Taxman about Poetry) but Mishelle Shocked was good too. Bernie Sanders was there and got up on stage to speak.
Finally I marked myself as having attended a much more recent gig by The Fall at the Green Man Festival in Wales on 22 Aug 2015. I had got into The Fall through listening to the John Peel Show at university from 1982 to 1985 before heading off to the US. I had a few albums including Dragnet and This Nation’s Saving Grace and I had read Renegade: The Life and Tales of Mark E Smith but all those years I had never seen The Fall perform live. So it was one of my must-see gigs when I went to the Green Man Festival. They didn’t disappoint. Mark came on, went straight into the first song, didn’t say a word between songs and walked off as soon as the last song finished. Everybody knew that there was no point even trying to get him to do an encore – that was it. But who needs more? I thought it was great and spent most of the gig in the mosh pit, even sustaining some superficial injuries:-) There will be no more opportunities as Mark passed away in January 2018.