Five bands who should be heard and not seen

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)

Badly Drawn Boy – The Shining

October 20, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow (tickets)

Ryan Adams – Let It Ride

Death Cab For Cutie – Photobooth (live)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Over And Over Again (Lost And Found)

7 Responses to “Five bands who should be heard and not seen”

  1. Michael Says:

    August 7th, 2010 at 13:45

    I saw Death Cab For Cutie in the Venue in Edinburgh in Jan/Feb 2004 and they were excellent. Maybe it just worked better in a small venue.

  2. John Says:

    August 7th, 2010 at 20:06

    Tv Personalities. Great on record. Usually way to drunk/drugged to be able to play live.

  3. Robbie Says:

    August 8th, 2010 at 03:52

    Sorry to be the obligatory ‘what are you talking about’ commenter.
    For example Ryan Adams is a minefield. He’s only ever as good as his last record and even then enjoyment of a Ryan Adams gig seems to depend on which kind of Ryan you like. Watching two consecutive Academy gigs; one acoustic, hit packed but lifeless, rambling and indulgent(for my money) the other eloquent, tight and focused on Cold Roses was enough to restore lost faith. Immediately after leaving that show and meeting a friend I was informed it had been “shite” and “not as good as that acoustic show last year”.
    Dismissing a band or artist on one show is short sighted and not the sort of thing you’d expect from anyone who’s attempting any kind of criticism. Bands go through good and bad phases but ultimately what one person looks on as disappointing another might find exciting.

  4. DJ Paulie D Says:

    August 9th, 2010 at 18:00

    1)Sonic Youth @ ATP in 2000. Played over an hour of utter tuneless pish. The, just to tease us about how good it could have been, they came on for the encore and played an absolutely smoking version of Sunday.

    2)Oasis, any show after 1997 (makes me seem a bit of a fool for coughing up to see them 4 times since then)

    3)The Happy Mondays @ Glastonbury 2000(ish). Embarrasingly bad, even considering I expected it to be terrible.

    4)John Squire @ King Tuts 2002(ish). His first solo tour. Was all going well til he started singing.

    5)New Order @ The Barras 2001(iah) Crap to begin with and then walked off after 45 minutes.

  5. John D. Says:

    August 11th, 2010 at 13:52

    ho ho DJ Paulie I think Sonic Youth must have went through a 2 year period of murdering every song except “Sunday”, as I saw them do the exact same thing in 1998.

    Don’t agree with Robbie above, as if a band has brutalised your ears you’re hardly going to come back for seconds just to make sure they’re brutal.

    Must have been to the Badly Drawn Boy gig the Pop Cop writes of, as yeah, he was poor. What happened to him? The Beta Band at the Barras round 2002 (?) were also a pretty big disappointment. Franz last year were also pretty flat.

    I mind walking out of Mew at ABC 2 a few years ago – simply too boring.

  6. Murray Says:

    August 12th, 2010 at 10:05

    Ha I was at that Badly Drawn Boy gig. He was completely smashed and had to be led off stage and a fed umpteen cups of coffee. If memory serves me riht they even projected a picture of his new kid on stage to try and sober him up. I really enjoyed that gig although it was comical at times.

  7. ah fong Says:

    August 28th, 2010 at 20:41

    i sold that blink 182 CD on ebay for £65 a good few years back. dude ranch was a good album.
    seen adams twice, second time was good first time he was a total prick

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