After 27 years of going to live gigs, during which time I reckon I’ve been to at least one every year, last night I achieved quite a remarkable aim – my first gig outside of the UK. My first gig outside of England was a Christmas present when the wife got us tickets to see Manic Street Preachers in Swansea back on 2016, but this was the first outside of the UK and was the main point of visiting Berlin this week.
A small venue on Karl Marx Strasse hosted Billy Bragg, an artist I’ve seen numerous times but not in a capacity where the audience are not in a singing-along mood. Billy did point out that it was a Tuesday night, I think it was more of an “we want to stand and watch and enjoy” attitude to the performance. The venue was the Heimathafen which is kind of a cross between the Bush Hall and Islington Assembly Hall.
I’m not going to make an effort to review the gig, but Billy did turn out a large number of his early hits interspersed with some of the country-influenced material from recent years. His album of American railroad classics barely got an airing despite him bringing second guitarist and steel guitar player CJ along with him.
No, what I want to focus on is the environment. Like Islington Assembly Hall, the social area and “dancefloor” are in same room, meaning that through the support act all you could hear was the mumble of conversation. Regardless of the language, this is distracting for the rest of the audience and I don’t like to think about the affect it has upon the artist.
To be honest, there was not a whole lot different between a UK and German gig experience. In both cases the security checks were the same, the merchandise prices are set by the artist, the beer does contain some pretty terrible lager (although the Schneider Weisse was one of the best gig beers I’ve ever had, and came in at 💶 3.50) and the performance was as great as expected. The trick would be to see a non English speaking performer outside of the UK, and see what the experience is like in that instance.
For me, I’m glad I finally got round to achieving this aim and my next step will be to see someone on a totally different continent.