Conveniently I recently exchanged a '20 greatest gigs' email with a friend of mine. Brace yourselves for an edited transcript.
1. Brian Wilson: The first time, doing Pet Sounds at the Royal Festival Hall. Simply the greatest moment of my life. Just completely unexpected and I was an emotional mess. I have never known an audience reaction like there was at that show. The Smile gig(s) ran it close though, and were arguably superior musically if that's possible.
2. Fairport Convention: 30th anniversary, Cropredy. So many highlights. RT and Jerry Donahue doing 'Sloth' sticks in my mind and the fact that they played 'Angel Delight'. Great weather, good company, just a perfect weekend. 2007 runs it a very close second though, especially Swarb being on such form which I never thought I'd see again.
3. Has to be 'Maiden: It's a toss up between the Early Years tour two years ago where they only did stuff from the first four albums and Twickenham last year where they did stuff from the first seven. I have to go for Twickenham because it was simply the greatest show I have ever seen, and they played 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. At one point a thirty foot mummy emerged from a sphinx behind the drum kit and shot fire from its eyes. Until this gig, my wife tolerated Maiden. Now she's convinced they're her favourite band.
4. Richard Thompson: Which gig? Lord knows. I'm gonna say my first one at the London Palladium in 1994 (yep, with Dave Mattacks on drums). That gig confirmed to me that RT is the greatest guitar player in the world. Other memorable ones were the Mock Tudor tour, 1000 Years of Popular Music in San Francisco and his last tour which I saw in Bristol. He's never really done a bad show though.
5. OMD: Reunion gig performing the whole of Architecture And Morality. I don't know what I was expecting, but they were stunning. Absolutely brilliant. Again, I have rarely experienced an atmosphere like it. My wife was convinced that they were her favourite band.
6. Yes: 35th anniversary tour, Hammersmith. Prog heaven, classic line up, Wakeman was wearing a cloak. It doesn't get much better than that.
7. Sparks: Shepherds Bush Empire, 1994. It was their first UK appearance in a decade and this was the gig that made the music world sit up and realise just how important a band Sparks are. It was listed in Q magazine's 'Greatest Gigs Of All Time' feature some years later, not that I use Q as any sort of benchmark for opinion, but anyway. It was an incredible gig which was also strangely emotional. There was another one of those indefinable atmospheres where you just know you are witnessing something really special. I've seen them three times since and they really are truly unique.
8. The Pogues: My first time, at Newport. I was an obsessive fan and Shane fucking well left just as the tour was about to start. Joe Strummer stepped in and rescued it which was just amazing. Me and my mates were right at the front of the queue so we could get to the barrier where we stood for ages to secure the best spot in the house. Then, about forty seconds after the band came on stage security had to pull us out before we were crushed to death. Brilliant!
9. Bruce Springsteen: The Rising tour, Crystal Palace stadium. The guy is unbelievable. Three hours of pure entertainment, a great set list and the best sound I've ever heard at an outdoor show.
10. Marillion: So sue me. Which gig? Hmm, the Christmas tour 2008, in Cardiff. Small venue, perfect set list (apart from no Fish era material) and I was standing right in front of Steve Rothery who is my favourite guitarist of all time (after Richard Thompson).
11. Fish: Hammersmith Odeon, 1990. My first 'proper' gig and it didn't disappoint. Atmosphere, performance, tears. The audience sang 'Lavender' so loudly that you couldn't hear the band - it was amazing and I don't even like 'Lavender'. My mate's dad drove us but didn't really have a clue about how gigs work so he dropped us off, drove round for a bit, and popped back to the Odeon to see if we were finished. We weren't - Fish hadn't even come on stage yet. However, he got chatting to the sound guy in the lobby who asked if he fancied staying for the show, so he ended up watching the whole thing from the sound desk. Unbelievable.
12. Peter Gabriel: The 'Us' tour at Earls Court. Stunning. I got there early (3.00 pm) and bought my ticket (cheaply as it was his last one) from a tout. I then queued up/hung out with the handful of hardcore fans who were already there and we got stoned, sunburnt, and excited. Being there so early meant that I was on the barrier for the gig with a perfect view. Sinead O'Connor popped up (literally, on a hydraulic lift) for some backing vocals. Manu Katche was/is one of the best drummers I have ever seen. There was a state of the art stage show. I cried, again.
13. Steeleye Span: Glastonbury Festival, 1995. My first (and favourite) Glastonbury. It was hot and lots of my new university mates were there, including a few like minded folkies. We decided to see Steeleye Span instead of The Cure which was by no means an easy decision but I figured The Cure were younger so I'd get more opportunities to see them. Steeleye were the highlight of the weekend - a really intimate gig in the Avalon Tent where we moshed for about two hours with some punks. The band couldn't believe how much love they were getting and appeared visibly (and vocally) stunned, raising their game accordingly. I seem to recall we gave them three encores they were that good. When my friend Sarah (who I haven't seen in ten years) recently got in touch on Facebook, her message opened with the words "Remember moshing to Steeleye Span at Glastonbury?" Yep, I most certainly do. And I still haven't seen The Cure.
14. Yazoo: Very recently, Colston Hall. One of my all time favourite bands and Vince Clarke's finest hour. In common with OMD, no one believed a reunion would ever happen so this gig was completely unexpected. I still can't believe I've seen them. Alison Moyet is one of the finest singers I have heard and the show had a fantastic presentation. Under-rated doesn't even come close.
15. Radiohead: Glastonbury Festival, 1997. Up until this point I hated Radiohead - and I mean really hated them - even more than I hate The Fugees. Anyway, they utterly blew me away. It was like watching Pink Floyd or something and I really have no idea where it came from. It's not easy to admit you are wrong and I was wrong. I remember very little else about that Glastonbury except that it rained for three days and had a rubbish line up. Radiohead saved it single-handedly. Their recent (second) Victoria Park show was even better but the significance of that Glastonbury performance was huge.
16. The Waterboys: Glastonbury, twice, different years. One was a Mike Scott solo show for which I was on the barrier so close I could actually touch him although I didn't - that would've been weird. It was awesome; two of the tracks made it onto a cd single.
The other show was a full electric set in one of the tents. It was so packed by the time I got there that they wouldn't let anyone else in. Undeterred, I snuck in under the side of the tent - "goodbye, squares!" - where I witnessed a quite brilliant and dare I say, life affirming, performance. The Waterboys pretty much are Glastonbury as well as being one of my favourite bands.
17. The Wedding Present: Very recently, festival warm-up gig at my local pub. This band, along with The Smiths, made all my teenage inadequacies seem alright. They mean more to me personally than almost any other band. The set list was exactly what you would want, they played a blinder (people on the band's forum have even claimed it was their best ever gig), and the sight of people older than me, moshing, was something to behold. I got my picture taken with David Gedge like a proper fanboy.
18. Jean Michel Jarre: Birmingham Symphony Hall, March 2008. It was Jean Michel Jarre, playing the whole of Oxygene, on about 200 vintage synthesisers. He did a massive solo on a Moog key-tar. It was incredible. Just incredible.
19. Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick: The Albert Hole, Bedminster, some years ago. Proper folk. Probably the smallest gig I've ever been to and it was brilliant. That Martin Carthy's a boring b*stard though, isn't he?
20. It's no good. I can't not include Morrissey even if it means using a double negative - or a triple negative if you include Morrissey himself. Birmingham Academy, 2002, was amazing. It's that small venue thing again. He played some obscure stuff, some Smiths stuff and some really good new songs. He was so far out of public favour at this point that the audience were even more 'hardcore' than usual.
Ridiculously, I haven't been able to include any of the following in my top 20:
Band of Hope
The Rolling Stones