The homecoming gig is the figure of mythology for both band and fan, frequently the point where the link between musician and punter is clear, tangible and explicit.
Often the scene of celebration, the homecoming can also reveal the group’s idiosyncrasies, with some choosing to side step entirely the “pack out a bloody huge arena” route for something more personal. Whatever the intent or reaction associated with homecoming gigs, they remain one of the most fascinating parts of a band’s tour. Clashmusic.com charts ten of the most memorable.
1. Oasis – Maine Road, 1996
Noel Gallagher swaps centre circle for centre stage
Perhaps the king of all the homecoming gigs, as Noel Gallagher swaps centre circle for centre stage at the home of his sporting idols Manchester City. These gigs, spread over two nights, captured the band as they reached the stratosphere. The eighteen months since their debut single had seen the band arrested and reach the top of the charts – Knebworth, “Be Here Now” and cocaine chaos were still in the future. This was perhaps the band’s true highpoint, with Noel’s union jack guitar proving to be one of Britpop’s most iconic images.
2. The Verve – Haigh Hall And Country Park, Wigan – 1999
What began in ridicule ended in triumph. After years of promises and uncompromising lives shows, The Verve finally became everything Richard Ashcroft had boasted of: they truly were the biggest and best band on the planet. A shame then, that the internal divisions that had wracked the group for a decade finally overtook them shortly later. This was their finest moment, and their last gig with guitarist and co-writer Nick McCabe. Without him, the band would collapse within a year.
3. Pulp – Sheffield Arena – 1996
The Britpop era is riddled with heroic homecomings, but none is more mythical than the elevation of indie finger waggler Jarvis Cocker to popstar status. This gig was meant to be a celebration, but was pushed into the incendiary after the singer’s antics at the Brit Awards, just a few weeks before. With The Mirror selling “Justice For Jarvis” t-shirts outside, and a packed crowd inside, it seemed Cocker had all the fame and adoration he dreamed of during his long years in the wilderness. However, it wasn’t all to his taste, as the bitter comedown record “This Is Hardcore” proved.
4. Franz Ferdinand – Pavement Outside “Mono”, Glasgow – 2007
Never ones to play the game by the rules, Franz Ferdinand proved that the words “small scale” and “homecoming” can be used in the same sentence when they performed on a pavement in front of the hip Glasgow record shop Mono. Part of a mini-festival organised by the record shop itself, the band evoked memories of their early days in the club meets art gallery bohemia of the Chateau. By tapping into the DIY spirit that spawned them, the band reminded fans that despite their place at the top of the pop charts they were still record geeks at heart.
5. Manic Street Preachers – Millenium Stadium, Cardiff – 1999
At the turn of the Millenium many people’s thoughts turned to the future. What would the future hold? How would we react to it? In the case of the Manics, the future would see them struggle to find any meaning in a post-Strokes musical landscape. This gig would be the turning point: the band finally given the attention they craved, yet unable to do anything with it. The controversy that had surrounded the band for a decade finally dissipated, this gig prompted angry letters from fans to the music press as the Manics struggled to regain the fire that had fuelled their greatest work.
6. Dexter Gordon – Village Vanguard, New York – 1976
…a real life motion picture
Not so much a homecoming gig but a real life motion picture. Legendary jazz musician Dexter Gordon had gone into self imposed exile, living in Paris free from the racial persecution he saw in the United States. In his absence jazz had lurched through a variety of phases, struggling to redefine itself in the face of the overwhelming popularity of rock. His return in 1976 has become the stuff of myth, reminding critics of a Golden Age of jazz and reuniting much of the old guard before a New York audience. The gig was recorded and released, becoming one of the most popular jazz recordings of all time and sealing the legend of Dexter Gordon.
7. The Stone Roses – Empire Ballroom, Blackpool – 1989
So perhaps this is stretching the definition of “homecoming”, but since the Roses were loath to play Manchester this’ll have to do. After years spent on the sidelines, Brown & Co were finally getting the recognition they craved, and as part of the Madchester boom were pulling their home city along with them. This gig captured the band just as it seemed they would go on to conquer the world – forget the overblown Spike Island, this was the band’s true greatest moment. Ahead of them lay years in the wilderness, and a badly thought out “Second Coming”, but their legacy remains.
8. The Libertines – Kentish Town Forum, London – 2004
Before these babes became a ‘Shambles Pete ‘n’ Carl were the inseparable brothers of Albion, two Dickensian guitar pickers recounting wastrel tales. This gig at the Forum came as Christmas was approaching, and saw the band pick a series of unlikely support acts. Famously, the duo placed Cockney novelty act Chas and Dave in front of 3,000 indie kids – and it worked! A reminder that once, before the tabloids took hold, it really was all about the music.
9. Portishead – Tsunami Benefit Concert, Bristol – 2005
After a seven year slumber, legendary trip hop act Portishead re-emerged in fine form to help those affected by the 2004 Tsunami. Renowned as musical visionaries due to such albums as “Dummy” fans had long since assumed the band to be finished, but were surprised by this sudden reformation. Joined onstage by fellow Bristol alumni Massive Attack, the group played one of the best sets of their career before an ecstatic and disbelieving crowd. Oh, and they helped save lives in the process.
10. The View – The Doghouse, Dundee – 2007
Well we would say so, wouldn’t we? A week after playing the ten times larger Caird Hall venue, Clash Magazine set up the coup of the year: The View back in their former rehearsal room. Apparently a ‘secret’ gig, virtually the whole of Dundee tried to gain entry as the lucky few inside partied like never before. Its fair to that we couldn’t have got a wilder reaction if we’d dressed up as foxes and jumped into a chicken pen.