The best of 2008 (um, part one): GOING OUT

Good day. We'd love to pretend that we've spent the last two months exclusively ensconced in new musical reconaissance, but to be honest we've been enjoying other things: the calm of winter; London's splendiferous graf; the sight of squirrels leaping from tree to tree via the slenderest, flimsiest of bare branches; the majestic grey heron you can spot by the New River, if you're lucky; tender chills on Highbury Fields; night foxes around Canonbury Green; dark drizzly nights illuminated by dubstep in the headphones; serious hunting for golden era hip-hop 12"s in secondhand stores; Pevsner churches around the City; baiting the punters queuing to see Razorlight / Keane etc play the Union Chapel, that sort of thing. Only our civic listmaking duty, twinned with a desire to avoid the charmless herd of braying "Fast Show Arsenal" types who've traipsed down from Hertfordshire and are currently lurking outside, has propelled us back to the QWERTY, but we're pleased, because much as we weren't going to bother, that would be a mild but undeserved dis to the many great things the year brought.

Anyway. It'd be hard to top ENB's fluttering, graceful "A Million Kisses To My Skin" which even edged out the Mariinsky Ballet coming to town to deftly execute Forsythe's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude" (we know, v. pretentious title, but that seems to come with the territory, pls don't let it put you off!), but then there was the joy of this young new ASM side coming good with that 3-1 over Nancy, and even Rovers' 2-3 capitulation at Millwall illustrated that the lower divisions can yet yield bloody great games, and there was "Afterlife" at the National and Pygmalion at the Old Vic (first half twee and over-vaudeville, but second half a sweet tourist-defying downbeat punch of perfectly played melancholy), and then there was the revelation of Capello's beloved Cy Twombly's "Cycles And Seasons" at the Tate Modern, and comedywise there was Brendan Dempsey @ Komedia and Ed Byrne and a (surprisingly ?) masterful Bill Bailey up in town: but if you want to know the best GIGS of the year then we guess - noting here the fact we had to miss (a) Sarandon / Pocketbooks (b) ENT / Hellbastard (c) LSO's Messiah and (d) *gregory webster* off Chapel Market, else they'd very likely all be placing - that the top ten HAS GOTTA BE, blinders all:

1. Ice Cube at the Electric Ballroom
2. Public Enemy at Brixton Academy
3. Zipper at Monkey Chews
4. Slayer at Hammersmith Apollo
5. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart at Buffalo Bars
6. Echo & the Bunnymen at the Royal Albert Hall
7. Pocketbooks at Chalk Farm
8. The Fall at the Astoria
9. Obituary at ULU
10. Morrissey in Hyde Park

Bubbling under: The Pains, Parallelograms and Pete Green at the Betsey Trotwood, all sorts of people at the Lexington, Half Man Half Biscuit at the Forum and for comedy value at least, the mulled wine (and mullet whine) that accompanied hoary rockers Sankt-Petersburg playing the Russia Winter Festival in a tremblingly freezing Trafalgar Square... As for "going out" lows, how about the inevitable Boxing Day defeat to a Buckinghamshire franchise. Or ejection from the League Cup during a freezing August (!) evening monsoon in Watford: terrible teams, terrible game, late goal heralding a burst of the Fratellis, long walk home, the pouring rain, stranger's hand on my favourite dress etc etc... And the grave disappointment of Rakim's Jazz Cafe no-show: we fell asleep when he never came. Maybe next time...

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