Live Review of the Year 2006

Punter, promoter, performer?

Whichever category you fall into, the live music circuit can’t have failed to embrace you this year. Without trying to sound too New Labour, 2006 has been all about choice and partnerships between the industry and its consumers.

Can you remember a year where the choice and number of shows on offer was so much that you actually had to consider if you could fit them into your calendar?

2006 had it all. From fads like glow sticks and flash mob gigs, to Jacko’s “live return.”

Festival season seemed to chalk up a festival for most essential consumables (lager, mobiles, ice cream) while charities also got in on the act with a litany of charity gigs backed by the likes of Dirty Pretty Things, Noel Gallagher and Lily Allen. Even the BBC decided to throw a festival with its Electric Proms series.

Old dogs like the New York Dolls and George Michael made long-time-coming returns to the stage; heck, even Jay-Z decided to come out of retirement.

The kids didn’t do too bad either. The Kooks, Larrikin Love and The Pipettes toured relentlessly, though collectively even they could not beat the number of times Jose “God Not Him Again” Gonzalez appeared on a bill.

Electronica enjoyed an excellent showing this year, proving that the genre wasn’t simply about DJs in tight shirts fiddling with knobs (geetar bands do a lot of that too). It’s no surprise that four of our top 10 dip their toes in the genre.

Of course there were far too many shows, bands and unique experiences for us to raise our glasses to, but let them be raised anyway. To the following performers and festivals, we salute you for putting a great show…


1. Muse

As if their sound, show and standing audience couldn’t get any bigger, Muse went supernova, wowing tens of thousands with a staggering series of live shows this summer. So much so, that they have booked two night at the 90,000 capacity Wembley Stadium for summer 2007.

Reviewing their live show from the intimacy of London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Michael Hubbard said: “Music this grandiose, ambitious, fully realised and uncompromising needs no introduction or excuse.”

2. The Knife

The adage “you had to be there…” never rang so true. By their standards they stepped out into the open, by anyone else’s The Knife kept their presence on the live scene in 2006 pretty low key. For those that made it, they were rewarded with the most warped and enchanting of live experiences.

Reviewing their live show, carnevale mask firmly on, Michael Hubbard said: “Less than an hour after they arrived, they departed to their shadowy, futuristic, freakishly delicious world without encore, leaving a bewildered, amazed, stunned audience desperate for more… (of)… this most beautiful of experiences. The Knife had tonight produced that rare thing – a completely unique live music experience that will be talked about for years to come by those of us lucky enough to have witnessed it.”

3. Hot Chip

Their Mercury nominated album The Warning popped up from nowhere, their passports soon began taking them everywhere. Hot Chip merged their unavoidable sound with live sensibilities to carve out another essential experience.

Reviewing their live show, Jamil Ahmad said: “Hot Chip creep through your pores and massage you in waves, lifting your metabolism within biological limits. In other words, in Hot Chip live, you have here a perfectly legal, risk-free pill which will leave your pupils dilated and a grin on your face, without so much as a gurn mark on your lips.”

4. Ryan Adams

The hardest working man in rock ‘n’ roll casually uploaded eight albums under various guises online for download. Maybe his label didn’t send him a birthday card. Nothing as extravagant quite compares however, with seeing the character of a genius like Adams up close and personal.

Reviewing his live show, John Murphy said: “It may have been a bit shambolic, some may even have called it unprofessional, but if you want a smooth flawless, dare I say bland, performance, then go to see James Blunt. This was Ryan Adams at his eccentric best, and it doesn’t get much better than that.”

5. Tool

It’s inconceivable that The Knife haven’t taken a leaf from Tool’s live show. The screens, the animations, the nightmare future feel and a serious knack for being the tightest band in the world. Period. They all contribute to a visceral experience which, after more than a decade, has yet to lose its intensity.

Reviewing their live show, Tom Woods said: “The images switch between the trippy Plasticine creatures that frequent Tool’s music videos, to a hallucinogenic wash of colours and shapes; with each song a different story appears to be played out, adding a unique and fascinating dimension to the evening’s proceedings.”

6. Arctic Monkeys

You don’t become the band of the year with the fastest-selling British album of all time without cultivating a following. And so it was that the Arctic Monkeys moved from now legendary pub shows “oop north” through a Babushka doll sequence of venues to their crowning moment on the Main Stage at the year’s Carling Weekend festival.

Reviewing them, in Sheffield of course, John Murphy said: “Bass player Andy Nicholson grinned like a Cheshire Cat throughout, which is understandable when you’re watching a bunch of teenagers bellow out “it’s getting tense, could get tenser, could all go a bit Frank Spencer” back at you…”

7. DJ Shadow

The Outsider emerges from the darkness. He says he’s gone hip-hop. True to form, Shadow then decides he’s touring for six months and he’d quite like to play Entroducing and The Private Press. The result? A pretty much perfect two hours.

Reviewing the final night of his world tour, Chris Saunders said: “Climbing up a ladder to reach his platform, half way up a wall of monitors, he cracks his knuckles, says hello to the fans and kicks into Ticking Clocks..”

8. Morrissey

Mozza cemented further both his revival and rightful place as a national institution with Ringleader of the Tormentors. Ever the showman, his world tour had indie kids and forty-somethings weeping Smiths lyrics.

Reviewing him, Zan Buckner said: “When you are introduced as the “world’s greatest living Englishman” as Morrissey was at his South by Southwest Music Festival appearance in Austin, you have a lot to live up to. Morrissey did not disappoint.”

9. Cat Power

Chan Marshall + stage = Bliss. It helps that she eased out perhaps her greatest effort yet, The Greatest.

Reviewing her, Steve Hands said: “Cat Power and her songs of brutal sympathies and delicate tragedies, strange comforts and unsettling familiarities. A paradox of virtue and sly sensuality, as mighty as Aphrodite and as frail as Icarus without his Factor 10.”

10. Klaxons

Luminous Nikes, shiny hoodies, builders jackets, thick black shades and glow sticks. The Klaxons should be farming the stuff from the merchandise stalls. Watching 15-year-olds in 2006 clobber up with new rave chic is pretty amusing, but it’s all in the spirit of things. The Klaxons seem to have this on tap and release it from their magick bottle each time they perform.

Reviewing them, Ian Roullier said: “While Klaxons certainly won’t please any chin-stroking musos they are all the better for it with their amphetamine-drenched performance focused on energy and fun.”


Glastonbury’s fallow year may have left a gaping hole in the festival calendar, but there was plenty going on to try to patch it up. Boy were there some good moments:

1. Bestival

Probably the best Glastonbury substitute with fancy dress, the Scissor Sisters and a crowd of Glasto refugees on the Isle of Wight, all manner of lunacy and banter ensued.

Reviewing the weekend, Jenni Cole said: “This is a festival. This is Albion. Thank you Bestival. Can we come again next year?”

2. Benicassim

Not the cheapest option, however money can’t buy an experience like this. Our preview of a festival paradise located on a sleepy town by the Med may have sounded like a flakey travel agent’s hard sell. That was until we got there and realised it was true.

Reviewing the festival, Jamil Ahmad said: “Words can’t really describe the feeling of floating in the sea after a few beers, knowing that in a few hours the festival launch night, Fibstart, begins. There are at least 14 hours left of this festival day. That 8am start seems so long ago.”

3. Secret Garden Party

A Glastonbury nephew set in the tranquil English countryside, Secret Garden was a much smaller scale affair. From leftfield to folk, to pop, to hipster indie, those who were lost were certainly found by the end of this remarkable weekend.

Reviewing the weekend, Neil Jones said: “The Secret Garden Party is a festival where the participants are the artists too, because they can’t help but be. As our temporary haven comes to a slow halt back at the public campfire, it’s soon to be back to the real world with a smile and a sack-load of memories.”

4. Carling Weekend

Rain, alcohol, 50,000 northerners and the most popular bands in the country. A torrid affair at the best of times, but the Carling Weekend served up two of the year’s best festival performances with Arctic Monkeys preceding Muse one after the other.

Braving the Leeds leg, John Murphy said: “It was a glorious, if rather wet, end to a superb weekend and rumour has it that there wasn’t even any of the traditional riots and tent burning of previous years. As we left the site, speculating on potential 2007 headliners, one thing was sure – next August Bank Holiday can’t come soon enough…”

5. BBC Electric Proms

The Beeb finally justified its licence fee by commandeering Camden High Street for a week of gigs from the grand Roundhouse to holes like the Barfly. Kasabian played with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Nitin Sawhney played a studio, lots of indie bands played, erm, the Barfly, Damon Albarn played in yet another band. Hit and miss, but largely hit. Well it was Auntie.

Reviewing one of the final nights of the Electric Proms, Michael Hubbard said:”while questions over the festival’s guiding concept went unanswered, the inaugural year’s programme had undeniably presented a superb diversity of acts, given value for money and all but assured the festival’s success in 2007.”

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