There’s a fair chance you’ve never listened to Blink-182’s live album The Mark, Tom & Travis Show, released back in 2000. As live albums go, it’s definitely the one I play the most. It energises the studio versions of the band’s best songs (at that time) and allows you to appreciate some fiendishly catchy punk-pop without the fluff that clogged up their early records.
So imagine how cheated I felt when I actually saw Blink-182 with my own eyes in 2004 at the Braehead Arena. The din coming out of the speakers made you wonder if the guitars were being channelled through a telephone line, while Tom DeLonge clearly lacked the ability to sing in tune. In short, the gig bore no resemblance to The Mark, Tom & Travis Show, which I only recently discovered was ‘tidied up’ with some overdubbing in the studio.
There’s therefore no chance I could be persuaded to see the Californians when they head back to Scotland this month, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a fondness for them, especially their 2003 self-titled album, which made The Pop Cop’s best albums of the decade list no less.
However, the Blink-182 paradox did get me thinking about other musicians whose live shows have delivered crushing disappointment and bad memories.
On November 14, 2008, the stars aligned to plant two of my favourites in Edinburgh on the same night. Ryan Adams at the Picture House vs Death Cab For Cutie at the Corn Exchange. How cruel! The decision was actually not that difficult. Two years earlier, I had witnessed the latter at the legendary Glasgow Barrowlands and almost fell asleep standing up. Death Cab For Cutie, I quickly discovered, are a band to be heard and not seen. I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.
Little did I realise, though, that Ryan Adams would deliver self-indulgence, brain-numbing guitar solos and dire chat. But the most unforgivable thing is that he played a 26-song set that wilfully missed out his best material – just one song from Heartbreaker – Come Pick Me Up – and one song from Gold – When The Stars Go Blue – in TWO AND A HALF HOURS is not what I signed up for. Thanks, Ryan. Thanks for nothing.
Few could argue that the Barras is the greatest venue for atmosphere in Scotland and witnessing anything other than a band at the peak of their powers there is a rarity. Nevertheless, Death Cab aren’t the only ones. Badly Drawn Boy also had a complete stinker in 2002 with a tragically passionless gig which was summed up by the desperate sight of Badders having a go at the crowd for not being more animated despite offering absolutely nothing to get animated about.
The fifth and final performance I’m going to single out was probably the most excruciating of all.
The date: November 20, 2005. The venue: ABC2 in Glasgow. The band: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. There’s no denying Alec Ounsworth’s strained, wobbly vocals are an acquired taste on record but having warmed to the Brooklyn hipsters on the strength of their marvellous self-titled debut album, I was simply unprepared for the aural molestation that came my way one winter’s night. All you could hear was the sound of one man wailing louder and ever more erratically through the microphone as though his pubes were being secretly pulled out one by one with tweezers.
Feel free to add your own gig nightmares in the comments section below.
Blink 182 – Going Away To College (live)
August 16, AECC, Aberdeen (sold out)
August 17, SECC, Glasgow (sold out)
Ryan Adams – Let It Ride
Death Cab For Cutie – Photobooth (live)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Over And Over Again (Lost And Found)