Column: We cannot live without live music and the precious memories it creates

Bruce Springsteen surrounded by 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium (Pic: Allan Crow)Bruce Springsteen surrounded by 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium (Pic: Allan Crow)
Bruce Springsteen surrounded by 80,000 fans at Wembley Stadium (Pic: Allan Crow)
The long wait to return to gigs, big and small

A summer without live music feels so wrong.

Whether it’s a festival or an intimate acoustic gig, the memories and moments they create are priceless.

For the good of our soul, we can’t allow this pandemic to bring them to an end.

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It’s 40 years since I saw my first ever live gig - Nazareth at the Usher Hall, 1979 –- and the joy of watching a band perform has never diminished.

It isn’t just the gig. It’s the entire process, from spotting the ad with tour dates to buying the ticket, queuing, finding the best spot, watching the venue fill and then, that tingling moment when the crew start to climb the rigging to take their places and you just know the lights are moments from going down.

Truly great gigs generate momentum of their own. Truly great performers can control an entire crowd, tens of thousands strong, and raise the bar with every call and response until they hit the home run of the classics you’ve waited all night to hear.

“The older you get, the more it means” said Bruce Springsteen as he wrapped another three-hour plus live show.

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I’ve seen him live more than any other artist - from the Playhouse in Edinburgh in 1981 to four stadium gigs in four cities in ten days in 2016 - and his music has been my lockdown soundtrack.

His Western Stars album has been on repeat daily for five months and it still charms and beguiles.

With our summer gigs all canned - Nick Cave, Richard Hawley, and a few in the ‘tempting’ file just begging to be added - my connection to live music has been through my earphones.

Working from home allows you to curate your own soundtrack to replace the lost chatter of the office; the black humour, the occasional slammed phone, the bustle, all muted for some time to come.

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It doesn’t quite replace those glorious summer nights at a festival, but then, how do you replicate the sheer magic of Festival Number6 at Portmeirion - where they filmed ‘The Prisoner’ - or Hyde Park dancing with glee as Paul Simon wrapped his Graceland album set with a joyous You Can Call Me Al, or watching Roger Waters fly a WW2 plane on a zipwire the length of Wembley to smash into a wall that spanned the width of the stadium?

And it’s live music I’ve turned to time and again for that connection, that sense of being back in a stadium, a theatre or a field, in a crowd many thousands deep all lost in the moment.

I have a photo of Springsteen standing at the end of a walkway which took him deep into the crowd at Wembley Stadium. He stands with one arm raised, surrounded by 80,000 people.

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It took me back to that night at the Playhouse. I can still vividly recall the moment the impact of Clarence Clemons’ sax solo smacked me full in the chest and sent me reeling into my upturned seat in the stalls.

Afterwards, we barrelled round to my dad’s house behind the stage door and waited on Springsteen. I had this notion of stowing away and living on E Street – I still do. Music does that to you.

And we need these moments more than ever. The older you get, the more they mean …

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