Now, you might think that live music is a curious choice for this piece to focus on, at the end of a year that was almost a total write-off for gigs from around mid-March. But hey, there were a few live albums this year, from artists old and new, to remind us of the power of live music.
At the very top of the tree is Check Shirt Wizard – Live In ’77, by Rory Gallagher. Released in March, I said in my review that I’d be dumbfounded if there was a better album this year, and I stand by that statement. Check Shirt Wizard is a breath-taking document of what Rory brought to the stage back then – a four piece on full throttle, barnstorming, dynamic form, led by a man with a musical mojo of mythic proportions. If you want to get in the mood, check out this footage of ‘Calling Card’, from a Hammersmith Odeon performance that year.
One of the few other bands I managed to catch before live music came to a crashing halt was Wille & The Bandits, in their new four-piece incarnation. To my mind they're a band who deserve considerably more attention than they currently seem to get, as they manage to extend their blues foundations into prog rock terrain, with world music influences thrown into the mix for good measure. To demonstrate my point, here they are with 12 minutes' worth of the epic instrumental 'Angel', from a 2020 performance in France.
I can't say I've devoted a lot of time to watching the streaming of live shows, though naturally quite a few artists have gone down this road in an effort to keep the home fires burning. Sometimes that's just been a matter of timing - shows in the States often hit our screens in the middle of the night here in Europe. But there's also the missing ingredient to contend with - the magic of simply being there, in the room when the music is being made, and being part of the interaction with the artist. And with that in mind, let's hope this pandemic beats a retreat before too long, so that we can all get back to enjoying live music for real.