The Best of 2009 - Editor's Picks by Alan Hewitt.
Well, over the years I have been asked “what’s your favourite gig?/book? Etc… so often that I thought I would save everyone the bother and compile my very own “Best of 2009” for your delectation, so here goes….
Hmmm a toughie this one, so I think I might have to cheat and mention more than one. Gigs have been fewer on the ground in ’09 by my standards but nonetheless, there have been some belters so here are my selections in several categories…
1. Best Orchestral Performance: RLPO “Pictures At An Exhibition” Philharmonic Hall Liverpool 14th May 2009 - a truly glorious all Russian affair which really got the emotions going!
2. Best Non-Genesis Related Concert: Chris De Burgh Philharmonic Hall Liverpool 27th April 2009. Yes, I know that many of you might be shocked by this one! I have been a fan of Chris’ since the heady days when he used to support Supertamp and the man still knows how to put on a show. Here ably supported by band, choir and orchestra, I know I wasn’t the only one crying my eyes out when he performed the Scouse anthem, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” a show that was definitely “High On Emotion” if Chris doesn’t mind me pinching one of his own song titles!
3. Best Genesis Tribute Band Concert: Always a tough choice, with so many great bands around, but for me the clear winner this time round has to be ReGenesis at the Shepherds Bush Empire Theatre London on 14th November. The first, and still, for my money, the best Genesis tribute band on the UK scene. This show took me back to the days when it was fun and exciting to watch a tribute band with the emphasis on the word FUN - which this gig indeed, was!
Best Genesis or Related Artist Concert: Err… well let me see, with only a handful of gigs by Peter in South America or a larger selection by Steve Hackett somewhat closer to home to choose from, I think I will have to opt for the latter. I managed to cram in twelve shows by Steve this year and I think that without doubt the best one was the first; Vaillant Palace Genoa Italy 12th March. I wasn’t even expecting to be taking part in these gigs so when the invitation came, it was all the more enjoyable. The new look band took existing classics and completely reinvigorated them as well as giving us a sneak preview of some of the new material still to come - wonderful stuff!
Well, there’s only one contender in it as far as I am concerned. Star
Trek XI! Once a Star Trek fan, always a Star Trek fan as they say. The franchise
went a little stale though in the two films which preceded this one but it is
certainly back with a bang here and a wonderful twist in the tale which I won’t
spoil for anyone who has yet to see the film - brilliant stuff!
BEST TV SERIES
Once again, only one possible option. BBC TV’s Life. If ever there was
someone who should be declared a “National Treasure” then that person
is David Attenborough. This was the BBC at its very best and another thoroughly
riveting series throughout.
BEST MUSIC/CONCERT VIDEO
Well, there has been so much material arriving here at TWR HQ over the past
twelve months that this is a tough one. Mind you, in terms of “new”
material rather than archival stuff, then there is only one possible choice.
Rick Wakeman performing The Six Wives Of Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace.
Gigs that sadly I missed, but the DVD certainly gives a brilliant flavour of
what it was like to be in attendance. No one does Prog Rock like Rick Wakeman,
and here he is at his flamboyant best - as indeed is our narrator; the one and
only Brian Blessed!
BEST NEW ALBUM
2009 was a quiet year in terms of new product coming my way. I know most Progheads out there will be tearing what remains of their hair out when they read this, but I am not really a massive fan of what is misleadingly referred to as “Neo Prog” these days. I have been there, read the book, saw the film and even bought the T shirt (which now no longer fits!) so finding something that genuinely excites me among the massive number of “new” bands/albums which clamour for attention is always a difficult proposition. However, one band did stick out as being worthy of investigation and indeed had been recommended to me by several people. Recommendation is always a good indicator and when the press plaudits are equally fulsome, there must be something worth a look and so I decided to investigate the latest offering from Muse. The Resistance lived up to all my expectations; exciting, musically adept and above all fun, this is one of the best new albums I have heard in ages!
A category I have to sub-divide into two: Fiction and Non- Fiction. When you are as avid a reader as I am this is always going to be a difficult one to limit to a single title but here goes….
BEST NON-FICTION BOOK
Without doubt, the most fascinating book that I have read this year has to
be; The English Resistance - The Underground War Against The Normans by Peter
Rex. As an Englishman who is as proud of my heritage as any Scotsman, Welshman
or Irishman is of theirs, this was an enthralling study of one of the least
documented periods of the history of my own country. History is always the province
of the victors but here is an alternative view of events from this period which
certainly opened my eyes and made me want to find out more for myself. Anyone
who thinks that Genocide and ethnic cleansing are relatively new occurrences
could do far worse than read this book - gripping and thought provoking stuff!
BEST FICTION BOOK
I don’t tend to read fiction as often these days as I used to, sadly (although I do still undertake my annual pilgrimages through The Hobbit/The Lord of The Rings and The Chronicles Of Narnia) but I was pleased to re-discover an old friend from my school days recently in the shape of The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, whom most of you will know from his other more well-known work: The Day Of The Triffids, which was recently massacred again on TV by the BBC - when will they ever learn?! This is an altogether more convincing post-apocalyptic story of a society in which the “Norm” is strictly defined and controlled and anything that does not conform is cast out. OK, so the idea certainly isn’t new, but with the story told predominantly through the eyes of children, this is a truly frightening view of a world in which non-conformity carries with it the harshest of penalties - a message which has a certain resonance in these troubled times!
And there you have it, folks, an insight into what your editor is doing when
he isn’t hard at work slaving over another edition of TWR.