My last gig of 1997, in which two wonderful bands stirred me out of my doldrums for a few hours.
“Last night, a demon saved my life. And a Damon made it worth living.”
My last gig in 1997 marked a turning point in my life. I’d arrived in London the previous December with the express purpose of seeing all my favourite bands live, and over the course on 1997, that’s exactly what I did. But now, precisely fifty two weeks after my first gig in London – also at the Brixton Academy – things felt different. I no longer felt able to just live from gig to gig. I was losing my love for music, and to be honest, I was also losing my interest in life in general. Depression hit me hard, and my gigging life took a serious blow. I’d been to 23 gigs throughout 1997, but in the first half of 1998, I would go to only one.
I’d been to see My Life Story the previous night, and had found it a very lacklustre experience due to my low mood, with me going through the motions of gigging, singing along and cheering without really feeling it. Happily, this night’s combination of two bands I loved very much helped to lift my spirits out of the doldrums, if just for a few hours. First up came the Super Furry Animals, my fourth time seeing them. From my diary:
“SFA: “Demons”, impossibly beautiful, as was Gruff’s voice. I think I might have just fallen in love with one of the least glamourous, most image-free popstars in the world. Would you believe it? They STARTED with “The Man Don’t Give A Fuck”!! Bizarre. “Demons”, a tear stains the corner of my eye. Oh and all their other songs, including some new ones, were robustly life-affirming, yes. There were no motions to go through on this night.”
I was not in any kind of mood to try to concoct a coherent narrative of this gig, so my diary entry is full of disjointed statements, fragments of thoughts and feelings. But my low spirits were definitely uplifted by what I witnessed.
“I fell in love with everything on stage. Gruff: he sings, and suddenly you know you could never be short of reasons for living. “Take me, break me, any way you fancy” were his last words, hollered, head shaking, at least one heart breaking, beautifully. One blinding reason not to be indifferent to life. “Demons”, how could any band dare to follow that?
Blur: this is how.”
I’d followed Blur since “There’s No Other Way” had popped up on a music video show back in 1991, but it was their second album “Modern Life Is Rubbish” that had turned me into a proper fan. When “For Tomorrow” came out in 1993, I was an 18 year old in Australia dreaming of escaping to London, and nothing encapsulated the magic and romance of that city quite so perfectly as that song. Blur had never grabbed hold of my heart quite so strongly as, for example, the Manics or Suede, but I still loved them a great deal.
“This gig proved that, with their frighteningly varied back catalogue, veering haphazardly round every spectrum of 90s pop, they can claim their status as one of the great bands of the decade without batting an eyelid.”
My diary entry for this gig carried on in a fragmentary style, as though I was just throwing down every thought that came to my head, lacking the energy to turn it into a neat story.
“They did “For Tomorrow”, so I must love them forever. Brass section. It worked. I must get a recording of one of these gigs. I must get their latest album. Their last gig in London, maybe. “This Is A Low” the hugest anthem, sad, yet defiant, yet all the more sad because of it. “Parklife” features that cockney geezer. Girls in front of me get even more excited than they did at the sight of Damon. Least it was a call for the balcony posse to leap up and party as one and stuff the security with their no standing permitted. But why did they do “Badhead” but not “End Of The Century”? Never mind for it was lovely. But why did they do “Coping” and not “Chemical World”? I do mind that. Happy about the heavy emphasis on “Modern Life Is Rubbish” though.”
When I tried to attain coherence, I just found myself overwhelmingly impressed by the unexpected amount of classics in their back catalogue that we were privileged to witness that night.
“There were all these songs I knew, yet it felt as though I was hearing them from a previously untested angle which infused them with some mystical X factor, that magic spell that certain songs cast that makes you feel you’ll never be quite right ’til you hear that word, that chorus, that “oh!” or “aaaah” again. Eg: “On Our Own”, or is it “On Your Own”? I’d never really noticed it before. But it was one of the greatest points of the set, Damon repeatedly hollering “Now your on yer ohooow-oooohown!” “Girls and Boys”, “Death Of A Party”, “There’s No Other Way” (!!!) you get the idea. Only the epochal can surf style so successfully. In an alternate adolescence Alex would’ve been my pop god.”
I wish I could say that this gig was enough to turn my life around, to make me veer away from the path to depression that I was hurtling down, and regain my love of music, life and gigs. Sadly, it wasn’t, and I had a very horrible 1998 ahead of me. But these two wonderful bands still took me out of the darkness for a few hours that night, and for that, they both hold a special place in my heart.