Hole at Shepherd’s Bush Empire (February 2010)
I should say that this was a Courtney Love gig (I don’t call it Hole without Eric), but it says Hole on the ticket, which is still pinned proudly to my kitchen notice board. Courtney Love long ago changed my life (the first time I saw ‘Doll Parts’ on MTV at twelve and something clicked in my brain that made it go ‘oh, I see – I’m wonky but OK’), but I had never seen her live – my last opportunity to do so had been at Glastonbury on the same day I’d taken my English A-Level so I had to skip that one. When my dear friend Neil managed to score us tickets to this small one-off comeback gig, it was a gift from heaven – particularly as Neil and I have spent so many evenings of our lives singing the whole of ‘Celebrity Skin’ from start to finish, not to mention that genuinely miraculous time I went up to the indie floor at Popcorn (Monday nights at Heaven, late 90s) and ‘Awful’ spontaneously started playing!
So, given Courtney’s peaks and troughs over the years, over cocktails and appetizers outside Balans at the Westfield, we prepared ourselves for the worst – we all recited the mantra that even if she was atrociously bad, even if she got onstage and fell over and walked off again, we would finally have been in the same room as Courtney Love. It would have been worth any ticket price.
We were equal parts anxious and excited as she came on. She launched straight into the opening of ‘Pretty On The Inside’, segued into ‘Sympathy For The Devil’; I pushed my way to the very front of the crowd for the first time at any gig since I was about 17. And I was lost. In years of love. From that moment onwards, until she sobbed her way through ‘Northern Star’ and I touched her ankle. While she played ‘Never Go Hungry Again’ because my friend Burak asked her to.
Whatever you say about the woman – and I will argue back until I’m blue in the face that she is one of the best songwriters of her generation, a genius, as distinctive a guitarist as any of the greats, and a true maverick – we have nobody else like her. To watch her live is like watching a performer without boundaries, and it is exhilarating and disconcerting and wonderful.
PJ Harvey at Somerset House (July 2004)
My boyfriend and I first bonded over a shared love for PJ Harvey. The night we met, we sat on a fire escape and sang her songs. A year later, he sold me a bass guitar and I asked him to go to see Polly at Somerset House with me. A man who loves PJ Harvey is a special creature, in my book.
It was the perfect summer evening and the perfect setting – Somerset House is one of my favourite places in the entire world, for ice skating or films or live music, beautiful. PJ was amazing – a performer of power and grace and the true charisma that you rarely see in the flesh, with her ‘Uh Huh Her’ album of the time a bit of rock n roll swagger. When she giggled her way uncontrollably through ‘Down By The Water’, my love for her was sealed anew. When she played ‘Good Fortune’ I agreed.
Leonard Cohen at O2 Arena (July 2008)
The Great Man has been a fixture in my life for as long as I can remember. Along with brown eyes and big teeth, and many other things, one of the features I have inherited from my mum is a love for Leonard Cohen.
So, it was only right that, when he made his comeback after so many years, we should go and see him together. Not only that but she bought us special VIP-package tickets and we made a proper family outing of it.
We ate a three-course dinner and listened to the sound check, clutching at each other and making sure that this was real, that it was really him and we were really this close. It was true.
We sat only about ten rows back, and I have never seen anybody command a room like it – this was a man who is the very best in the world at his job and, better than that, looked as though he was enjoying every second of it. My stepdad and I shared glasses, taking turns on mine because we have the same prescription and he forgot his. My mum and I danced at the front by the stage to ‘The Future’. My mum and Jimmy sang harmonies to everything. I sobbed to ‘Hallelujah’, which until that point I had thought was my least-favourite of all his songs. It was one of the very best nights of my life.