9. David Sanborn Band/Al Jarreau @ Wembley Arena, November 1984
We were sitting high up behind the stage with a great view of two of the great modern American drummers: Steve Gadd (with Sanborn) and Ricky Lawson (with Jarreau). To be honest, my parents and I left in the middle of Al’s set but Sanborn was fantastic with Marcus Miller and Hiram Bullock running amok on the huge Arena stage. The saxophonist was at his commercial peak here and probably could have headlined the show.
8. Marc Almond @ The Palladium, 12th October 1986
I have absolutely no memory of why I was at this gig but it was a genuine eye-opener. Almond was long past his pop fame and seemed to be acting out his own private, Berlin-inspired drama. Looking at the footage today, I’m still not sure if it’s brilliant or total sh*te.
7. Miles Davis @ Hammersmith Odeon, 21st April 1982
I remember someone shouting ‘Turn the guitar down!’ Poor Mike Stern wasn’t the critics’ flavour of the month and Miles was obviously exceptionally ill, but the gig was unforgettable. One of my first and very best. I saw Miles three or four times during the ’80s but this was the bomb for sheer atmosphere and occasion.
6. Robert Palmer @ Hammersmith Odeon, 25th September 1988
There really isn’t anyone around these days like the much-missed Robert with his gravelly voice, weirdly cosmopolitan compositions and ever-present smirk. He had a highly-drilled, sh*t-hot band with him at the Hammie Odeon too featuring Frank Blair on bass and Eddie Martinez on guitar. The gig started with a five-minute Dony Wynn drum solo which fair blew the minds of my brother and I.
5. Yes/No People @ Limelight, 9th September 1986
I think this gig was part of what was then known as the Soho Jazz Festival. There was a lively crowd of ‘jazz revival’ hipsters and rare-groove fans – this was my first taste of an underground scene that was quickly building momentum. DJ Baz Fe Jazz kicked off with some Blue Note post-bop (yes, people actually danced to that stuff) and then Yes/No People featured Steve Williamson on sax and the cracking Mondesir brothers (Mark and Mike) rhythm section. The band only lasted a year or so but nearly dented the charts with their ‘Mr Johnson’ single.
4. John McLaughlin/Mahavishnu Orchestra @ Hammersmith Odeon, 12th July 1984
The sign on the door said ‘Billy Cobham will not be appearing’ – heartbreaking to me at the time (McLaughlin apparently dumped Billy just a week before the tour). But Danny Gottlieb sat in with some style and John rattled off some outstanding licks in black shirt and black headband. It was bloody loud too. It was the first time many British fans had seen him since Mahavishnu Mark 1 days and as such there was a big hippie turnout.
3. Bill Withers @ Hammersmith Odeon, 18th September 1988
From memory, Bill spent most of the gig sitting at the front of the stage, talking about his life and career while Pieces Of A Dream accompanied with gentle jazz/funk. Bill wore a sweater and golfing slacks and seemed incredibly old, more Val Doonican than Curtis Mayfield.
2. Weather Report @ Dominion Theatre, 26th June 1984
The duels between keys man Zawinul and drummer Omar Hakim were spellbinding. This was clearly the dog’s b*ll*cks. Well, it was better than Duran Duran anyway. Omar’s huge shades, trash-can cymbal and big grin linger in the memory.
1. Level 42 @ Wembley Arena, 12th January 1989
Level again, but this time for all the wrong reasons. We were in the back row of the dreaded Arena, and the band were flogging their substandard Staring At The Sun album. The audience reaction to the ‘new stuff’ was distinctly subdued. After a contractually-obliged encore of ‘Chinese Way’, Mark King returned to the stage alone. ‘You ‘ad a good night?’ he bawled. The audience erupted. ‘Well, you can all go and f**k off home then’, deadpanned the thunder-thumbed one. Reply – and further encore – came there none…
Mike Stern/Bob Berg Band @ Town & Country Club, November 1989
Will Downing @ Hammersmith Odeon, 20th November 1988
Coltrane Legacy (Alice/Ravi Coltrane, Reggie Workman, Rashid Ali) @ Logan Hall, 10th July 1987
Ry Cooder @ Hammersmith Odeon, 27th May 1982
Bill Frisell @ Town & Country Club, 24th April 1989
Ornette Coleman/Prime Time @ Town & Country Club, 28th August 1988
Check out the first selection of memorable gigs here.
Were you at any of these concerts? Let me know your memories.
6 thoughts on “Memorable Gigs Of The 1980s (Part Two)”
Hey, what about Neil from ‘The Young Ones’ at Hamm Odeon, circa ’86 ?!
I thought about that but don’t remember much about it apart from the fact that it seemed to take him hours to come on…
I was at the Sanborn gig at wembley area. Also wondered why Sanborn wasn’t headlining!
Band at peak of powers (Steve Gadd, Miller and Hiram!!!) and first time I’d seen Sanborn live having only heard LP’s few weeks before, and I’d only been playing alto for some months. Taught myself from listening to Sanborn and Grover on Vinyl, guys have it so easy now with digital but guess it hones the ears to another level 🙂
Then saw Sanborn at his peak at Hammersmith Odeon, which I’ve heard him say was on of his best gigs ever. We were stood on the stage extension into the crowd and so were a few feet away. There is a superb video on Youtube from German concert Ohne? coffee house gig which he plays to an equally impressive standard. Feel very fortunate to have been in that time and place for such special concerts 🙂
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Thanks for those great memories, Brian. That Sanborn/Bullock era was fantastic, so many memories. When ‘jazz’ could mix with ‘rock’ and ‘funk’, and still be very popular. I have watched bits of that ‘Ohne Filter’ German gig that you mention – nice. Another recommendation would be Sanborn’s ‘Night Music’ US TV show. A lot of episodes are on YouTube if you haven’t seen? It features a house band of Marcus, Hiram and Omar Hakim! Not too shabby…
I saw the Bill Withers gig too, I was amazed at how effortless it was for him and none of us realised at the time that it would be one of his last ever stage appearances.
I remember the Al Jarreau gig too with Sanborn supporting, there were some great musicians on stage that night.
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Cool – a couple of goodies there. Wish there was some footage of the Withers one on YouTube.