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2017 Round-up Bob Oram’s best live gigs of the year

WHEN you think you’ve seen everything, a few weeks ago Dan Bejar ambles onto the stage at the Scala in London and within minutes I’m aghast at his brilliance.

His unique voice, so essential to the feel of his songs on record, is perfectly matched by the huge cinematic soundscapes created by the incredibly talented musicians of his band Destroyer.

Like the Citizens in football, they’ve shaken live music out of its inertia and prove that not only is new LP Ken a masterpiece but that Destroyer are the greatest “unknown” band in the world.

That adjective might be applied also to suave curmudgeon Dunstan Bruce, whose bands The Existential Angst of Dunstan Bruce and Interrobang?! have been equally amazing, whether performing in Suffolk fields or intimate venues.

Loud Women went from strength to strength, with Jelly Cleaver an astonishing new talent, Lilith Ai triumphant with her band on May Day in Barnsley, Guttfull, the brilliant dirty-sax feminist punk band blistering in their intensity, Dream Nails an effervescent tonic for life and love and Argonaut never ceasing to amaze live.

The incredible lyrical dexterity of that voice for the voiceless Lowkey was an absolute joy at the Coronet in London but it was the audience who stole the show as young and old, black and white, raised fists and waved flags while collectively pouring out emotions in memory of Grenfell and for hope of a better future.

At 75, the mighty U-Roy had the calm, wise air of a sprightly ancient kung-fu master at the Jazz Cafe in the capital. Mixed live by the Mad Professor, the godfather of toasting gave an impressive performance with the Robotics and his dulcet tones will linger long in my memory.

In London again, The Charlemagnes blew off the cobwebs from an illustrious career at the St Moritz in June, with an intensity befitting a clash between the E Street Band and the Sonics. Describing themselves as “A belly full of fire, a mouth full of fillings and an ashtray full of broken dreams,” this was a glorious return to form.

But in what was an amazing year, nothing surpassed British and US legends The Mekons at their Mekonville festival in rural Suffolk last summer. Seeing the original 1977 line-up and their various other guises up to the present day was fantastic.

Over three days, they showcased their unique country, punk, rock, folk and blues and their ability to blend genres and influences, depending on mood and time, made for a legendary weekend.

Laced with humour, there was a glorious vibe and energy, driven along by Man of Gwent Jon Langford.


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