Annual Bishara Live Music Wrap-up 2016

Another year, another bunch of music gigs. The previous two roundups averaged 20 gigs a year, but I came up a little short this year at 17 (that I could account for). My idea going into January was to enact more quality control into my events by weeding out some of the old timers who just go through the motions in favor of younger, more vibrant acts. Not sure I succeeded (ahem, Stevie Wonder, RHCP), but I did see at least one pretty awesome younger act in The Wild Feathers.

So without further ado, from Las Vegas to London, here they are in chronological order:

Jason Isbell  – Kentish Town Forum, Jan 22 (paid face value: £22.20)

This was the third year running that I caught a Jason Isbell show, and the fifth gig overall in those three years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Jason is one of the best live acts performing today, and one of the most talented songwriters in the world. And for just 22 pounds? Fuggedaboutit. The only small downside — albeit one that did not impact me — was that the venue was moved from the larger Shepherd’s Bush Empire to the Kentish Town Forum, so people were scrambling to find a place just to stand with a view.

Lindi Ortega – Islington Assembly Hall, Feb 4 (cannot remember cost, but it was about £14)

My second time seeing this Canadian-Latina Nashville transplant with a monster voice perform in London. She was just as awesome as she was two years before that (or was it three?). She can absolutely hold her own as a songwriter too — which is what saddened me somewhat when I saw her Instagram post discussing her struggle to fix a broken vintage Gibson acoustic guitar because she couldn’t really afford to.

Dave Stewart – book reading and gig  at Hospital Club, March 7 (Cost: about £20 with a free copy of Dave’s autobiography thrown in. I was kindly invited to this event by a friend who is a member of the club)

Wonderful 2-3 hours of the ex-Eurythmics icon reading chapters of his book interspersed with moments of him playing guitar, telling stories, and sharing demo tracks — including an isolated version of Stevie Wonder’s harmonica solo on “There Must Be An Angel (playing with my heart).” According to Dave, Wonder kept them waiting for hours in a Santa Monica recording studio, until they had finally had enough and went back to their West Hollywood hotel at 2am — only to get a call saying Stevie was ready and waiting for them back in SM. Back in the car then….

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My live music wrap-up 2015

Well hello all. I know I’ve gone silent in the second half of 2015. I got busy, what can I say? But I’m back with the second annual Bishara live music wrap-up.

Last year I attended a good 20 gigs, and 2015 was no different (boosted by a music-themed Nashville to LA road trip in October). So without further ado, here they are in chronological order:

Ryan Adams (Hammersmith Apollo, paid £25, face value was  £36), Feb 27.

Mr. Adams is probably my favorite rocker on the planet at the moment. He’s a gifted songwriter with a sweet voice and a style that ranges from hard riffs, to country crooning to cover songs (see his brilliant end-to-end cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 album).

This performance was marred by a lot of chatter at the back of the theater (which Adams derisively commented on a number of times), but no matter. We just moved up to the front and heard terrific ballads like this one below. I’d see Adams anytime anywhere.


Passenger (Union Chapel – paid 49 pounds, face ? but it was a lot less), April 20.

A poor man’s Ed Sheeran, which is no small feat. In fact Passenger (aka Mike Rosenberg) opened up for Sheeran at Wembley last summer (the show that got away from me).

Passenger is a gifted finger picker and accomplished songwriter, chiefly for ‘Let Her Go’, a clip from which you can watch below. Union Chapel is also a personal favorite venue. Short gig but a winner.

#lethergo #passenger #solo #acoustic #unionchappel

A video posted by MB (@motez56) on


Eric Clapton (Royal Albert Hall – paid £50 vs £100 face value), May 18.

Clapton at Albert Hall. Need I say any more? BB King had died that week and so Slowhand played some stellar tributes, like the one below, taken from my seat in the lower level. I purchased the ticket via touts outside (RAH is always a tout hangout) and sat next to an American who had originally purchased the ticket for $250 for his girlfriend who didn’t make the trip. They had a fight the day before and he hopped on the plane without her. Her loss; my gain.

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My live music wrapup 2014, part 2

Here we go with Part Duex. I listed eight shows on the last post, and another 12 here. I’m sure there were a bunch of others (I’m leaving out a Black Star gig where Mos Def and Talib Kweli didn’t show up until 11.30pm, at which point my buddy had to leave), but those are all the stubs I found, or concerts I remembered off the top of my head from the past 12 months, starting with:

Lindi Ortega (The Garage – Paid face £12), Jan 30

Lively, crimson-wearing Canadian Latina playing Nashville music (confusing, I know). Terrific Show. Set the stage nicely for the next night’s gig which was….

Taylor Swift (O2 Arena – Face value ? Paid £96.20 with fees through Viagogo) Feb 1

Would you believe me if I told you this was one of the most impressive live performances I’ve ever seen? The show was an extravaganza. Dozens of dancers, some on stilts, she was on a trapeze-like contraption for while… Swift can sing, she writes her own songs, she can play multiple instruments, she can dance (ok, maybe not her best skill), and she has awesome stage presence. Why all the haters? The abuse I got for seeing her was surprising.

I’ve also never seen such a powerful dynamic from an audience (90% of whom wer under 16, but hey). Ed Sheeran came on to do a couple of duets, that was very cool. Which inspired me to get tix for…

Ed Sheeran (Royal Albert Hall, paid face £50  ) March 4

This was a charity gig for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Sheeran was introduced by Roger Daltrey and Noel Gallagher as ‘a top lad’ who doesn’t back out of commitments, though he’s one of the most sought-after entertainers in the world right now. He’s effectively a one-man band, and to be metaphorically naked on stage with 20,000 eyeballs staring at you is no easy task. Sheeran basked in it, using effects pedals when necessary, sometimes rapping (he does an outstanding cover of Lil’ Kim’s ‘Lighters Up’), and getting the crowd to either stay quiet or sing along when required.

Highlight was his mate Passenger coming up to duet. Two hipsters with tiny guitars harmonizing at the Albert Hall, check it out:

Red Hot Chili Peppers (Coliseo de Puerto Rico – Face $187.25, paid $183.30), April 6

Look how much the tickets were priced at. Factor in that I flew from London to Puerto Rico (via Miami) to watch these 50-something rockers (ex-new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who is 35). They played for just 1.45mins – no encores. LAME.

I wish I got into them when Fruciante was still in the band. They still have great energy, but … something’s missing.

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My live music wrapup, 2014 Part 1

Hey all, starting 2015 I thought I’d get more active with blogging about music, as well as all the sports stuff I follow.

Since I attend, on average, about a gig every single week here in London, I thought I’d compile a list of all the gigs I can remember going to this year.  And then…I’m going to follow that post up with a series of posts listing the best concerts I’ve been to in my entire life (yeah, I’m going to go way back on some of those shows).

So.. trolling through my stub collection, here’s what I’ve got for 2014…so far (being the frugal fan, I must also mention whether I got a deal on the tix too):

Boyz II Men (Indigo at the O2 – face £41 / Paid avg £22.50) Dec 5

I was expecting more. It was a great venue and a good crowd who were really up for it, but the three remaining members of Boyz (maybe the greatest R&B band in the past 30 years?) played for just 1.15 mins and had backing vocal tracks accompanying them. A little too effortless for my liking, but it was fun.

Sun Kil Moon (St John at Hackney Church – paid face £28) Dec 3

One of the strangest gigs I’ve ever been to. Singer Mark Kozelek has a haunting voice and is the most ‘literal’ lyricist I know of (song titles include ‘Richard Ramirez Died of Natural Causes’). But he was sitting for most of the gig, and we got there late, stuck way in the back of a huge chapel (1400 capacity). He mumbled often in between songs, and started a strange beef with the band ‘The War on Drugs’ who were playing a gig across town the same night. After launching into a cover of ‘I got you babe’ with a female member of the crowd, and a few Christmas carols, he rounded off the night with an impromptu encore entitled ‘The War on Drugs: Suck My Cock’. There you have it.

Rich Robinson (of The Black Crowes) – (O2 Islington Academy – paid face, £70 for VIP ticket including pre-gig meet and greet and private acoustic 3 song session). Nov 12

Rich is one of my all-time favorite guitarists and the show was a treat. He’s a great dude too, and getting a signed photo pre-gig made it even better. Catch him either solo or with The Crowes any chance you get.

Ryan Adams (O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire – Face £35 / Paid avg £22.50) Sept 18

Probably my favorite singer-songwriter out there at the moment. Just a tremendous talent and his new self-titled album worth playing on loop. Johnny Depp came out and played three songs with the band for encores. How bout that for a good night out?

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The recording studio conundrum: preservation vs. redevelopment

Hello all, this weekend AlJazeera English published my article about the changing face of music and film studios in London.

I embarked on this mission because the iconic Sarm Studios (formerly Basing Street Studios, where Bob Marley lived for a year and recorded two albums) is a short walk from my flat in Notting Hill. I noticed that it was being converted into flats (with plush studios moved into the basement, along with new facilities opened on Ladbroke Grove) and decided to look into how big a trend this was in London.

I had no idea.

Over the past 10-15 years, well over a dozen notable music studios have closed in London alone. It’s an expansive list, ranging from the groundbreaking (Olympic Studios in Chiswick, where Hendrix recorded all three of his studio albums, and the Stones did their best work – now a Cinema), to the niche (Maison Rouge, in Fulham, known for 80s bands Wham! and Duran Duran – now a car park for Chelsea FC).

Along with Abbey Road, one studio that was rescued — despite planning permission to convert it into flats — is Church Studios in Crouch End. Ironically, singer-songwriter David Gray owned the converted church (founded by Dave Stewart of the Eurithmics) and was behind the move. Eventually, it found its way into the hands of Adele’s producer who modernized it in time for U2 to record their new album a few months back.

Here’s a partial list of London studios shut down in recent years: Read more of this post

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