I love music, and I love live music. I’ve been to so many brilliant gigs in my time, it’s hard to pick out the real gems. It was a tough choice, but here are my top 5 best concerts ever. These spectacular performances will stay with me all my life.
5. Simply Red — Stadthalle, Vienna, 2010
No. 5 in my list of best concerts ever is the British band Simply Red. The Other Half and I, both being children of the 80s, remember the hits of Simply Red being on the radio when we were kids. We bought tickets right away when we heard they were coming to Vienna in 2010.
What a concert. And what a performer Mick Hucknall is. He took us for an unforgettable ride through their best-known hits, from “Money’s Too Tight To Mention” through to “Stars” and “Fairground”.
A gallop through my childhood
Mind you, I had dissolved in tears even before the first bars of the first song had played. The concert was prefaced by a film montage of images spanning Simply Red’s career. Maggie Thatcher outside №10 Downing Street, Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta at the White House…my childhood was flashing before my eyes!
It was never “cool” to be a Simply Red fan — if you liked them, you tended to keep that fact to yourself. But, at 40, I no longer care about being “cool”. I love Simply Red’s music and think I shall give their Greatest Hits album a whirl right now, starting with my favourite, Something Got Me Started!
Excuse me while I lean right into that flamboyant early 90s vibe…
4. Eddi Reader — Canary Wharf, London, 2001
Eddi Reader was already a household favourite of ours in the 80s, when she shot to fame with her band Fairground Attraction and the massive hit “Perfect”. She rather flew under my radar through the 90s, but roared back into my consciousness in 2001 when I went to see her live twice.
This was a lunchtime concert in the central atrium of London’s iconic Canary Wharf building. Free entertainment to lift the spirits of the hardworking souls who spend their lives there. And random law students who love Eddi Reader and are glad of any free stuff!
That crystal-clear voice with its unmistakeable Scottish burr soaring heavenwards into the steel and glass…it would have taken a particularly hard City heart not to have been moved by it!
“Hummingbird” was the star turn, giving both Eddi’s superlative singing and Tony Scott’s guitar playing all the space they needed to show off. “Bell, Book and Candle” is simply gorgeous, and a must for any Eddi Reader playlist.
3. Walk Off The Earth — Zenith, Munich, 2018
The Canadian group first came to my attention back in about 2013 with their smash hit YouTube video of their cover of Gotye’s “Somebody I Used To Know” — featuring them all playing a single guitar. I wasn’t able to go and see them when they went on tour that year…but have more than made up for it since. To date, I’ve been to see them 3 times. Twice in Vienna, once in Munich. The Munich concert blew my mind.
The set included their cover of Adele’s epic ballad “Hello” and the WOTE original hit “Nomad”. However, the true star of the evening was “Beard Guy” Mike Taylor who would sadly die later that year. Mike was a talented piano player and was given the stage at the end of the show for his own music-only rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for MEEEEEEEE!
Now, Germans are generally amazing at knowing ALL the words to the songs of acts they go to see. I’ve watched audiences of tens of thousands sing P!nk’s “Please Don’t Leave Me” and — weirdly — the British empire song “Land of Hope and Glory” perfectly from start to finish. I don’t even know the words to that song!
But the audience that evening only got as far as the first verse (“Mamaaaaaaa!”) before conceding defeat. That was of course my cue, as the token Brit in the audience, to pick up the slack. Knowing ALL the words to “Bohemian Rhapsody” is practically a patriotic duty for us, you see. And I wasn’t going to let an opportunity for a good singalong go to waste. So I sang with Mike right to the end. No holding back! By the end, the people standing in my immediate vicinity in the audience were actually cheering me on!
RIP, Mike “Beard Guy” Taylor. You are forever a part of my personal music history.
2. Mike Dawes — Porgy & Bess, Vienna, 2022
I’ve always loved the sound of acoustic guitar, so I leapt at the chance to visit the Acoustic Guitar Festival, held at Vienna’s renowned jazz club, Porgy & Bess. All the acts were very good — but one stood out by a country mile.
Mike Dawes, the British guitar player, had made a splash a few years before with an incredible cover of Van Halen’s “Jump”, uploaded onto YouTube. The man’s talent has to be seen to be believed and I was so excited to be seeing him perform live.
All I can say is: WOW. It is so very rare for a performance to be so moving that you have to remind yourself to draw breath! From earlier numbers like “Boogie Shred” to a cover of John Mayer’s “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” — all flawless. By the time “Jump” came up, I was euphoric. I knew that I was witnessing something extremely special and wanted to take each moment and stretch it out as far as possible.
Without even having to discuss it, we decided: we were going to buy all the CDs we could after the show. Dawes happened to be at the merch stall when we reached the front of the queue. I am not usually a touchy-feely person at all and tend to keep my distance from people I don’t know. But the concert had been so wonderful and my feelings were so whipped up — I simply had to find some way to impress on Dawes just how thankful I was for being able to be there. I *may* have launched myself bodily at him to give him a big bear hug…which he didn’t seem to mind, especially when he realised I was a fellow Brit!
No. 1 among my best concerts ever: Dave Matthews — The Union Chapel, London, 2001
Dave Matthews had long been a household name in the States, able to fill massive arenas at the drop of a mic. But he was an all but unknown quantity in the UK. I’d only got into his music because of a mix tape that my American penpal had sent me, which featured the songs “Crash Into Me” and “Satellite”. I bought the CD album “Crash”…but even that was difficult to find in British music shops. No one cared about him on this side of the pond!
My university flatmate was also a music buff and knew all about my — somewhat odd and eclectic — music taste. At home listening to the radio one day, she heard that Matthews was currently in the UK. Rather unusually for an American artist, he was trying to “break into the British market”. I say unusual because American artists generally either stride right into the British music market without any effort…or they just don’t find it worthy of their attention.
But Dave Matthews was gamely giving this hitherto unbothered British market a go. And, to that end, was spending a couple of days in London. Which sojourn would include an intimate one-off concert in the Union Chapel, a deconsecrated church in the smart northern suburb of Islington.
A ticket to the concert of my life
By some process of fate or black magic, said music-mad flatmate had won a ticket to this concert in a radio giveaway. Which she promptly handed over to me when I got home from that day’s lectures. “I think you’ll appreciate this more than me”, she said in her usual laconic style before slouching off to the kitchen to make yet another a toasted cheese sandwich.
Rocking up at the venue later that evening, I was met with a scene of great excitement. Having heard that their idol was in town for a concert like no other, there were hundreds of Americans crowding around the venue. As I walked past, several tried to buy my ticket off me — offering me up to 1000 pounds for it! That would have more or less covered my university tuition fees for the year…but I wasn’t tempted. I was going into that church to see Dave Matthews play!
And I tell you: there was no price you could have put on that concert experience. There is nothing quite like church acoustics to make sound soar. And Matthews’ incredible guitar skills and voice as he ran through his solo set made my skin tingle. His rendition of “Satellite” was the stuff of legend.
Eric Bibb — York Barbican, 1999/2000
Bibb wasn’t actually the headline act at this concert. That was the African group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who had enjoyed a huge wave of popularity in the UK after their music featured in an advert for Heinz Baked Beans, of all things.
My goodness, Bibb made me lose all interest in the main show as soon as he played the opening chords to “Tell Ol’ Bill”, the first song of that evening. It was taken from the album “Roadworks” which he was promoting at the time — and which I bought swiftly after the show.
I’ve loved his music ever since. Those silky vocals over classic blues guitar — a simply captivating performer and I’d love to go and see him again. My favourite tracks are without doubt “Saucer & Cup” and “In My Father’s House”.
[Fun fact: Bibb randomly pops up in “The Color of Water” by James McBride, as the devoted admirer of the author’s sister. The book is well worth a read.]
Elton John — Farewell Tour, Stadthalle, Vienna, 2019
Do I really need to tell you that this was fabulous? Honky Cat, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues, Tiny Dancer…all the best hits, one after the other. We were on our feet singing for three hours straight. Elton John is in a league all of his own.
Kylie Minogue — Gasometer, Vienna, 2018
The Australian pop princess doesn’t disappoint. Hopping nimbly from one classic hit to the next, looking like a sexy Antipodean Tinkerbell. Kylie’s music was an inalienable part of the soundtrack to my childhood and youth. I loved her in the 80s and I love her now. Her rendition of “Slow” that evening was thrilling.
The Kings of Convenience — Tivoli, Utrecht, 2022
We’ve seen these guys at least 3 times, and every time’s a winner. Yet this outing in Utrecht’s Tivoli concert hall was the standout performance. The acoustics there can’t be beaten.
P!nk — Innsbruck, 2010
This concert was during the era where P!nk was incorporating daring highwire circus acts into her performances. Indeed, the gig that day started with her ziplining onto the stage from a black box suspended high over the concert grounds.
P!nk lined up one hit after another for us like pearls on a necklace and didn’t miss a single note. Great music in an outdoor venue, surrounded by Austria’s best alpine scenery…can it get any better? Yes, it can — if you’ve got support acts like Nikka Costa, that is! “Everybody Got Their Something”, one of the tunes she belted out as part of her high-octane set, is still a favourite.
Photo: YuriArcursPeopleimages on Envato Elements