Compared with friends and other people of my age, I haven’t seen many bands live outside of pubs and clubs. Basically, I find it either too noisy or too quiet, and definitely way too crowded. And then there are the merchandise prices.

However, I have seen a few bands, a bit more than a handful, who at some point had a record deal and/or management. Read on, then, to find the nine acts that I have seen live (and if I forgot one, they can’t have been very good), in order of it happening.

1. The Bootleg Beatles

My first ever gig, at Middlesbrough Town Hall, was a strange sort of sitting down and rattling jewellery/dancing in the aisles carnival atmosphere. The ultimate Beatles tribute act – no Barry Wom or Ron Nasty here – The Bootleg Beatles have been regularly copied (most famously by Beatlemania) but never bettered, except by the Fab Four themselves.

This was a great evening, lots of costume changes, but most importantly, a really good tribute act (the first?) to a “great little band” (McCartney’s words, not mine).

2. Little Angels

Cheesy, trying-too-hard pop rock, the Little Angels are from Yorkshire so I suppose that is why they were chosen to support Van Halen at Sheffield Arena in 1993. Surprisingly below average group, I’m not sure if they’re still going but lead singer Toby Jepson hosts a show on Planet Rock, where his hosting style is similarly cheesy and trying-too-hard.

3. Van Halen

It’s nearly a year since Eddie Van Halen passed away. I was fortunate enough to see the guitar legend in 1993, with Sammy Hagar in the line-up on vocals. He’s not David Lee Roth, but good in his own right. There were plenty of highlights (drinking beer on the coach on the way down, while listening to rock music, for example), but my favourite bit was probably when Eddie did the key solos, sticking a lit cigarette behind the nut of the guitar to make it look like the guitar was burning.

4. Magnapop

Not a bloody clue. Supported REM at Huddersfield stadium.

5. Belly

The only remarkable thing about this group, again supporting REM, was that they weren’t Echobelly.

6. Beautiful South

Oasis were supposed to be the support for this gig, but in typical Gallagher fashion, they fell out the night before, leaving Beautiful South to step in (they were due to support a few other dates, apparently).

Pleasantly blown away by how good the Beautiful South actually were that afternoon. Far better than I’d have expected if I bought tickets to see just them, I think.

7. REM

The trip to Huddersfield was to see REM. Curiously, a ton of people I knew went to the gig, some on the same coach, even though the ticket had been booked separately and unknowingly.

I remember this being a really good show. The Monster album was doing well in the charts, but the band was having some health problems, such as drummer Bill Berry’s brain aneurysm a few months earlier. Despite that, and likely pain for Mills and Stipe who would later go under the knife on the same tour, this is one of the most memorable gigs in the list.

8. Skin

Saw these guys at Middlesbrough Town Hall, with some mates. Got a badge. They did a cover of Word Up (as played by Gun, rather than the original) and that is all I remember.

9. The Hollies

No, really. The Hollies toured provincial theatre-sized venues in 2009, touring their album Then, Now, Always with former Cliff Richard backing singer Peter Howarth on lead vocals. I wasn’t expecting much, but Ceri and I accompanied my parents and it was a really good show!

10. Tony Hadley

Bit of a cheat, this one. In January 2020, our twins were part of the Young Voices shows at Sheffield Arena. The star attraction of the show was Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley! Obviously the stars of the show were the children, from dozens of schools, a vast choir of voices. Hadley was alright.

Bit of a Short List?

As I sit in my 45th year, this list may seem a bit short. To be honest, I’ve seen hundreds of acts, but mostly X-Factor audition standard turns, club acts, a few strong pub bands (there was a great Led Zeppelin tribute I saw in 2003), that sort of thing.

I haven’t been without the opportunity to see live acts, either. I nearly committed to the 1994 Donnington Monsters of Rock (Aerosmith, Extreme, Sepultura, Pantera… oh, and Skin), but opted to spend my limited funds on a fortnight in France. Oh, and there’s the time a load of live acts were on locally as part of Live Aid, which included rock’n’roller Joe Brown. Me and Dad cycled over to the racecourse to watch that. I fell off my bike on loose gravel and ended up with gashed knees and hands.

Mostly, though, it’s the crowds. Hands in the air, jumping up and down, dancing… I can’t be doing with that at all. I just want to listen.

You can keep your live music. (I reserve the right to change this opinion.)

(Image by Andrew Hurley from Wallasey, England, United Kingdom – Peter Buck (REM), CC BY-SA 2.0)