Top 17 of 2017 – Rock N Roll Cocktail’s Best Shows of the Year
What a year it’s been for me here in the UK. 52 gigs, 102 bands, countless venues, hours and hours of editing, numerous beers and shots of whiskey across several European countries, and the long-awaited release of my new book Down in Front. It wasn’t easy to narrow this list down to 17 as II spent the last 8 days across Italy drinking wine and distilling this down to what I think is the best of the best. Let’s dive in.
Ginger Wildheart’s Birthday Bash – The Garage, London – Ginger pulled out his “Springsteen” set….. three and a half hours of pure genius including a tribute to Tom Petty, a blistering AC/DC montage and special guests for days including Alex Kane, Jim Jones, Bernie Tormé, Backyard Babies axe man Dregen and even a special close out with Frank Turner. Add in sets from Hey Hello and The Wildhearts and you have one of the most incredible shows I’ve seen this year and beyond. Another highlight was hearing songs from Ginger’s most recent album, the brilliant country infused ‘Ghost in the Tanglewood’.
Chk Chk Chk -Festsaal Kreuzberg, Berlin – Being a metal guy at heart, I tend to lean towards the heavier stuff, specializing in hardcore and ’80s hair metal (yeah, I’m all over the place). I also have a special place in that headbanging space for well-written pop with an edge. For example, the first time I saw Scissor Sisters I was blown away, and now they are one of my all-time favorite bands. I never thought I would have another musical awakening like that, but I did—and it was in Berlin. The band was called !!! (Chk Chk Chk), and they absolutely blew my mind.
Stevie Pearce and the Hooligans – Several Shows Across the UK – Former Warrior Soul/ Love Hate axe man Stevie Pearce goes solo and hits a home run with a ball to the wall rock n roll classic. This record is solid from start to finish and the live show turns it up to eleven. Watch for the re-release of this record through Cargo Records in March followed by additional tour dates, but in the meantime buy and stream this gem immediately and look for big things from the Hooligans in 2018.
Tom Chaplin – O2 Academy, Dublin – The voice of Keane made one of the most remarkable records I’ve heard in years with the release of The Wave earlier this year. I tell you, every song this guy touches turns to gold. Maybe not in the case of sales and chart numbers, but I’ve seen him three times this year and there hasn’t been a bad song in any of the sets. In fact, he’s unearthed a gem or two from Keane that makes me celebrate their back catalog even more.
Spoon – O2 Forum Kentish Town, London – Spoon is a very special type of band, one that has to be heard just once to recognize and celebrate their genius. Watching this band perform live begs the question, how on earth does any band write such remarkable music over and over again? From its beginnings, Kill the Moonlight forward, each of this band’s records has displayed growth—not just pushing the boundaries, but exploring how far they can take a simple idea and have it blossom into something weird and unexpected, yet remarkably catchy. 2017 saw the release of Hot Thoughts and it’s one of my favorite records of the year.
Cheap Trick – O2 Forum, Kentish Town – London – I have seen Cheap Trick live more than a dozen times now and they never cease to live up to the announcement that precedes this legendary quartet taking the stage, “The best fucking rock band you’ve ever seen.” This time though was different as it was the first time I would be seeing the band perform in London. Forty years strong, the band continues to fire on all cylinders. Touring in support of their brilliant new record, We’re All Alright, Cheap Trick brought their latest show to the O2 Forum Kentish Town in north London. The magnetism of Robin Zander, the charisma of Rick Nielsen, the thundering 12 string bass of Tom Petersson, and the bombastic drums of Nielsen’s son Daxx played an incredibly diverse set full of deep cuts, hits, and new material.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – O2 Brixton Academy, London – My final, final show of 2017 was one that I’ve been waiting all year for. Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes at the legendary O2 Brixton Academy in London. Frank made a record called Blossom a couple of years ago that is a post-hardcore top ten for me. Falling somewhere between Quicksand, Fugazi, and Refused, this record is solid from start to finish. It’s the kind of album that defines an artist’s career and one that we will all look back on twenty years later as not only a game changer but as an iconic source of inspiration for those who chose to follow.
The Professionals – The Garage, London – 35 years later, the band formed from the ashes of the Sex Pistols by Paul Cook and Steve Jones return to release their long-awaited new album What In The World. It’s a no-frills return to form from the original punk rock supergroup that reunited a few years ago minus one pistol and plus one new frontman in the form of Tom Spencer. Spencer was invited to come to rehearsals, to sing and play guitar while Steve Jones was being lured back to the UK to join. As it became obvious Steve wouldn’t be heading over, and with rehearsals feeling better and better – the new line up was born. To celebrate the release of the new record the band played a very special show at The Garage in London. Not only was it a celebration of the new record, but it was also the exact day 40 years later when the punk rock masterpiece Nevermind the Bollocks was released. The band were absolutely on fire and sounded top notch as they tore through a setlist featuring songs old and new.
LOOM – O2 Academy, Islington, London – The surprise of the year for me came in the form of UK post-punk buzz band LOOM who were absolutely killer opening for The Dead Kennedys. I’ve never even heard of these guys before but now I am obsessed with their self-titled record. It sounds like Nirvana crossed with Social Distortion with a touch of Joy Division/Interpol—it’s bloody brilliant.
KISS – O2 Arena, London – This is the sixth time I’ve seen the self-proclaimed “hottest band in the land,” and for me it really does get better with each show. I would go see these guys every night of the week if it were possible, and what better place to host such an epic event than London’s legendary O2 Arena. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Tommy Thayer, and Eric Singer took to the stage in front of a capacity crowd to display exactly why they are the kings of the nighttime world.
Sloburn – The Garage, London – When legendary stoner rock band Kyuss split up in 1996 after releasing 4 genre-defining albums, their future was unwritten. Guitarist Josh Homme went on to form Queens of the Stone Age while frontman John Garcia would experiment with several musical projects. Arguably the best was a short-lived band called Slo Burn. Even though they technically only released a 4 song EP more than 20 years ago, the legacy and appetite for the band lives on—big time. (There is an album recorded for Red Ant Records in 2001 that is incredibly difficult to find.) Fast forward to the Garage in London. It was hotter than hell in 600 capacity venue and it was jam-packed. I managed to squeeze my way into the photo pit about 30 seconds before the band hit the stage. I think I saw Kyuss once on the Sky Valley tour and I remember seeing Unida in NYC years ago, but Slo Burn was sort of a mythical band that no one thought would resurface.
Iron Maiden – 3Arena, Dublin – If I never see another metal show in my life I’d probably be ok after last Saturday night. Iron Maiden made a triumphant return to Dublin, their first appearance in seven years. Touring in support of the band’s 16th album—their first double album—Maiden treated the sold-out 3Arena to a juggernaut of a show. It was everything a Dungeons and Dragons loving metal fan could love—and more. Theatrics, ghoulishly epic stage props, Mayan ruins, and a larger than life Eddie getting his heart ripped open set the stage for the undisputed kings of metal.
Starsailor – KOKO, London – When I watch James Walsh and Starsailor perform, I think to myself, how can any band in the world create such glorious music? The fact that they not only perform their studio albums perfectly in a live setting but also turn them up a notch is a feat that a lot of their peers can’t accomplish. I’ve seen the band six or seven times over the past two decades, and I would without a doubt say they sounded better than ever before in London.
Big Wreck – Gramercy Theatre, New York City – Big Wreck is a very special kind of band. One that has a truly unique sound, an unrivaled live show, and a frontman who does a remarkable job transporting the listener through storytelling and thought-provoking lyrics. I haven’t seen Big Wreck since 1994 back in my hometown of St. Louis as the band rarely tours the lower States because they remain quite popular in Canada and the New York/ New England area with a rabid fan base. During a business trip to New York City I saw that the band was playing a show at the Gramercy. I extended my trip by one day to see this one, and holy hell was it worth it.
The Moonlandingz – O2 Brixton Academy, London – Another surprise for me this year was discovering The Moonlandingz as they opened for GOAT. This is a band based on a fictitious band from a song from a band called the Fat White Family. Did you get all that? Either way, the lead singer comes out with a lemon in his mouth, a bottle of tequila in one hand, a mic in the other and his hair caked in lard. I thought to myself, what the f*ck is this? Then I was lost in the brilliance of the songs. These guys made not only one of the best records of 2017 but one of my all-time favorite records. They have also pretty much dominated the best of year-end lists across the media in Europe. You can pre-order the deluxe edition of this masterpiece coming out on January 26th here.
My Vitriol – KOKO & Scala: I’ve seen them twice this year and they get better and better with each show. I’d be lying a bit if I said I didn’t move to the UK just to see these guys live again. My Vitriol is one of the few bands today who retain this mystique while staying connected to their fans. 2016 saw the release of the long-awaited, direct to fans, Pledge Music campaign for The Secret Sessions. Was it worth waiting 15 years? Absolutely. I wrote a review earlier this year after their brilliant show at Scala which dives deeper into the significance and evolution of the band via that release which you can read here.
Liam Gallagher – Alexandra Palace – What a way to end the year, Liam Fucking Gallagher at the legendary Alexandra Palace in London. I’ve seen Oasis twice, Noel’s High Flying Birds, and even Beady Eye, but holy hell has Liam found his post-Oasis sweet spot. Brilliant show and an incredible new record. Show of the year and Record of the Year go to Rock n Roll Royalty Kingpin, Liam Gallagher.
What were your favorite shows of 2017? Did you see any of the above? Join the conversation in the comment section below and share your thoughts. Thanks for reading!