A one-line review of every gig I’ve been to in February 2024

This monthly series is probably more for my benefit than yours, but maybe your interest will be piqued by one of the reviews. Maybe you’ll scroll straight past. Maybe you’ll unsubscribe thinking what did I see in this blog in the first place?

Pet Shop Boys Dreamworld: Greatest Hits Live, Picturehouse Central, 4 Feb – The eagle-eyed among you will spot that I have already seen this show three times in person and once on the tellybox from Glastonbury, but why wouldn’t you take one last opportunity* to watch one of the greatest pop songbooks of the last forty years on the big screen?

Neil Tennant in Pet Shop Boys: Dreamworld

*Editor’s note: Martin has subsequently spent about one squillion pounds to go and see it in person again at the Royal Opera House later this year.

Julia Rampen, Ink@84, Highbury, London, 8 Feb – Not a gig, but a former colleague and friend doing a launch for her debut novel, The Bay, which is loosely based on the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster and examines the relationship between one member of the ageing population in the town and a young Chinese immigrant, and which is getting glowing reviews. Buy it here.

Julian Rampen’s debut novel, The Bay

Zerosome, Shacklewell Arms, Dalston, 8 Feb – I went straight from Julia’s book launch to this, for no reason really than that I’d looked at what was on nearby afterwards and this seemed a good bet. Zerosome opened the evening with an absolutely fearsome noise – one guitar, drums and a vocalist/poet which seemed mostly improvised music under blurred repetitive phrases with incredible attitude. Loved it.

Zerosome at the Shacklewell Arms, Dalston

spresso, Shacklewell Arms, Dalston, 8 Feb – I rarely get to show off like this but spresso includes the brilliant Mica Levy – WHO I HAVE SUPPORTED – and this musical vehicle sees them in cahoots with Leisha Thomas aka Alpha Maid and drummer Zach Toppin, and this was also a fearsome noise that put me in mind of Rema-Rema and World Domination Enterprises. I felt like the only person in the audience over thirty and it was crushingly full and crushingly loud and a brilliant, brilliant night. Felt like I’d got a golden ticket by going to see it. Went home and had to play Minecraft to calm down.

Spresso at the Shacklewell Arms, Dalston

The JetSets, City Wall Wine Bar, Rochester, 9 Feb – Playing 50s rock’n’roll and rockabilly covers and a couple of their own songs, with some properly authentic upright bass, in a slightly weird venue where a fight broke out before they started.

The JetSets at City Wall, Rochester

Unknown band, Unknown pub, Rochester, 9 Feb – Yeah, it turned into that kind of night …

An unknown band in an unknown pub that I found myself in, Rochester

SassyhiyaHey AlamoJemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something, The Night Owl, Finsbury Park, 10 Feb –  … and that’s how I ended up too tired to go to this the following day even though I had a ticket.

ABC, London Palladium, London, 17 Feb – A-Z affectionately, 1 to 10 alphabetically, from here to eternity without in betweens, we wangled our way right down to the front row to see them playing Lexicon of Love in full with an orchestra. It is without a doubt my favourite pop album of all time and I was sitting with my uncle, whose original vinyl copy I taped on to a TDK D90 way back in 1982. I was directly in front of bass player Andy Carr and it was a joy (and an education) to be able to really closely watch him playing all those epic bass parts originally played by Mark Lickley and Brad Lang.

ABC at the London Palladium

Madame Mutante, The Grace, Highbury & Islington, 22 Feb – High priestesses of glam’n’rock’n’roll with blisteringly powerful vocals, precision bass and wicked guitar.

Madame Mutante at The Grace, Highbury & Islington

Emily Breeze, The Grace, Highbury & Islington, 22 Feb – Emily’s songs are often serious and bleak in subject matter but she brings such a sparkly joie de vivre to performing them with a very tight backing band as well.

Emily Breeze at The Grace, Highbury & Islington

Cowleyfornia, O2 Academy, Oxford, 23 Feb – I turned my trip to watch Leyton Orient play at Oxford United into a long weekend and took in this local band showcase gig, but missed the first act, sorry Cowleyfornia.

Maisy’s Rainbow Dream, O2 Academy, Oxford, 23 Feb – Power-pop trio that put me slightly in mind of early XTC but not as quirky. Although they did actually have a Maisy book on stage with them which is quite quirky, I concede.

Maisy’s Rainbow Dream at O2 Academy, Oxford

In-Flight Movie, O2 Academy, Oxford, 23 Feb – The band I was most looking forward to from my scouting of the acts online, it was mostly electronic – seemingly without any laptop or sequencing and all played live – and they have one especially cool track Easy that sounds like Ever Fallen In Love but if DAF had remixed New Order doing it.

In-Flight Movie at O2 Academy, Oxford

London Grafitti, O2 Academy, Oxford, 23 Feb – 90s-style grunge I would have said, I found it a bit over-tense to be honest.

London Grafitti at O2 Academy, Oxford

Mid Air, O2 Academy, Oxford, 23 Feb – They weren’t quite my thing, and weren’t quite Fleetwood Mac, but fairplay to any band at this level trying to pull off four people singing vocals in synch most of the time.

Mid Air at O2 Academy, Oxford

Unknown artist, Unknown pub, Oxford, 23 Feb – Yeah it happened again, twice in a month, although this was mainly motivated by the fact that as soon as the gig finished I dashed into the nearest pub with the football on in order to catch the end of Leeds United’s astonishing comeback turnaround against Leicester City.

An unknown artist in an unknown pub that I found myself in, Oxford. But mostly a picture of Daniel Farke on the tellybox.

Nadine Shah, Rough Trade East, London, 26 Feb – A stripped-down three-piece mostly electronic rendition of songs off her new album, Nadine is one of the most intense live performers I’ve ever seen and right up there as one of my favourite new artists of the last decade.

Nadine Shah at Rough Trade East

Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense, Good Shepherd Studios, Leytonstone, 29 Feb – The eagle-eyed among you will spot that I have already seen this during its limited run back in the cinema in October but it was being put on in a little pop-up cinema a bus ride away from my flat, and why wouldn’t you take one last opportunity to watch one of the greatest concert movies of all time on the big(-ish) screen? The thing I always come away reminded of is that you often think of them as vox/guitar/bass/drums but actually they are collectively so multi-talented in it, here’s David taking the lead solo, here’s Tina on guitar or keys, here’s Jerry on whatever the song needs, oh look, the Tom Tom Club have rocked up etc etc …

David Byrne in Stop Making Sense