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  • Lawrence Bailey

Looking back at better times

The accepted thing is to use the last column of the year to look back over the last twelve months. However, I’ve officially decided that 2020 never happened. So let’s do something different.

A while back, when the notion of lockdown was new and slightly fun, one of the many social media diversions doing the rounds was to name the best music gig you could remember.

I missed out from joining in at the time but, hey, it turns out that I have a weekly column. So, dear reader, let me take you back to 30th October 2009. You wouldn’t think it to look at her but my other half is a committed devotee of fire-breathing, blood-drippin’, hard-metal music.

Anyhow, she was complaining one night that we’d never seen a particular band together. I’ll freely admit that what happened next was probably the alcohol talking which is why I don’t recall agreeing we’d go see them wherever they were next playing.

I’ll also admit I didn’t expect that within 24 hours, she would have booked a New York city break which included a Metallica gig – the band in question - plus the Halloween parade and the world-famous marathon. And that is how I found myself sat in Madison Square Gardens on the second night of an amazing two-day event to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Things kicked off in slightly incongruous fashion with that hard-bitten rocker, Tom Hanks, doing an introductory spiel. Then the lights went down and the night combusted as veteran Jerry Lee Lewis went screaming into “Great Balls of Fire”. It was one hell of a warm-up. The main event was made up of segments in which Hall of Fame headliners each performed a set with invited guests.

In the first, soul queen Aretha Franklin had Annie Lennox and Lenny Kravitz in her line up. If the night had ended when they finished their rendition of “Chain of Fools” I would have walked out happy. As it was, Jeff Beck had drafted Sting, Buddy Guy and Billy Gibbons for his session and proceeded to blow away the arena with an amazing succession of numbers. It was finally the turn of Metallica to own the stage and they took possession aided and abetted by Lou Reed, Ozzy Osborn and Ray Davies.

It sounds like a weird combination of artists but what’s even more weird is how the “heavy” treatment came over so right.

The final act of the night was Bono and U2. They were joined by the Black Eyed Peas, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith.

I don’t believe there’s ever been a more powerful rendition of the timeless “Because the Night”, mainly as the chorus literally included a cast of thousands. The set was coming to a close but as Bono with Fergie and Will-i-am hit the first chords of the Rolling Stones classic “Gimme Shelter”, so the entire place erupted.

Nineteen and a half thousand people, including me, leapt to their feet in screaming delirium as an unbilled Mick Jagger appeared to strut his stuff. I still smile as I remember the excitement and emotion of that night, and what turned out to be my last visit to the Big Apple. In these dark and worrisome days, I find I’d much rather recall those far better times and pray they will come again. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way either.

Have a Safe and Happy New Year everyone.

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