Ed Cosens on his favourite Sheffield gigs
For the best part of two decades now, singer-songwriter Ed Cosens has been an ever-present influence on the Sheffield music scene. Since co-fronting Judan Suki in the early noughties with school pal Jon McClure and fellow bandmates Alex Turner and Matt Helders, Ed has been on a journey that has seen him top the charts and tour the world with Reverend and The Makers, soaking up life-changing experiences and honing his craft until the came to strike out on his own, releasing debut solo album ‘Fortunes Favour’ last month.
It’s been an incredibly tough time for the industry, so to celebrate the local venues that’ve provided some important steps on his musical story so far, Ed’s put together a guide to some of his favourite gigs experience in the Steel City.
Jimmy Cliff: Leadmill (2004)
It’s not often you get to see a true music legend perform. I’ve been lucky enough to see a couple – Stevie Wonder and Eric Burdon spring to mind – but to see one at the legendary Leadmill here in Sheffield was to good an opportunity to pass up. By 2004, I’d listened to and loved a lot of reggae music but had never really experienced it in a live situation. I went to the Leadmill that night full of anticipation and a real sense of wanting to experience something new to me. Coincidently, I’d watched the seminal film ‘The Harder They Come’ starring Jimmy himself not long before the gig. I remember his band taking to the stage first and, with a slickness I’d not really experienced before, seconds after picking up their instruments, dived straight into a short instrumental medley of Jimmy’s hits.The sound was incredible and immediately there was a real joyous vibe in the crowd. Jimmy took to the stage not long after and with a similar sense of timing and showmanship launched into his opening song without missing a beat. A particular highlight of the set was his mesmerising performance of ‘Many Rivers to Cross’, where his voice, despite his advancing years, was just as clear and crisp as the day he first sang it. My main memory of the gig was that joyous sense of togetherness and how incredibly good Jimmy and his band were – a real eye-opener for me. I don’t think I’ve been to a happier gig since.
Oasis: Sheffield Arena (1997)
For people of my age who were into music and the whole Britpop culture, especially here in the north, the Be Here Now tour were THE gigs to go to. Oasis, at the height of their fame and the Britpop movement at this time, were without doubt my favourite band and a huge reason why I was in a band myself. We all queued for three days to get tickets! This was a time before booking tickets online was really a thing, as the internet itself was still in its early days. No mobile phones, certainly no social media, so the only way to guarantee a ticket was to get in the queue and wait. There was a real community spirit between all those mad enough to queue; there were people with guitars playing all the Oasis songs and no trouble or bad vibes to be seen at all. It also transpired that my future wife, Rachel, was also somewhere in the queue, quite possibly only a few people away as we’ve later worked out! We were all there for one thing and one thing only: to get that golden ticket. The actual gig itself is a bit of a blur. I remember a hugely elaborate stage setup, mirroring the Be Here Now album cover, where the band themselves emerged from a giant red telephone box on the side of the stage and just a sense of absolute carnage at the front! More than just the gig, though, I knew it was just important to be there and to celebrate something that was such a big part of my life at that time.
Wilko Johnson: The Greystones (2011)
Wilko Johnson, for those who don’t know him, was a former member of 70s Rhythm and Blues band Dr Feelgood, and has also played with Ian Dury and the Blockheads amongst others. He is perhaps not as well-known as he should be, but his influence as a guitarist is much greater than his fame. He certainly had a big influence on me as a guitarist and opened my eyes to new ways of playing. I had seen Wilko once before whilst working behind the bar at The Boardwalk on Snig Hill – a much missed venue – just a few years earlier. This was my first time seeing him properly as a punter and to be able to see him at such an intimate venue meant I was more than excited. I met a couple of friends in the bar to have a couple of drinks before the gig, it was December-time, so rude not to, when all of a sudden the lights went out. Literally. There had been a power cut in the area and no one really seemed to know what was going on. After a short time, we got word that the power outage shouldn’t last too long so everyone in the now packed Greystones bar decided to hang on in hope the gig went ahead. Now, huge credit to the Greystones and its staff that they managed to keep the bar open and the beer flowing, which ultimately would be my undoing later that evening. Time ticked on and hope was beginning to ebb away when all of a sudden, at the last minute, the lights sprung back into life, welcomed by a huge cheer from the crowd, who only seconds later had begun to resign themselves to the long walk home. We were quickly herded into the backroom where to an especially rapturous greeting, Wilko took to the stage. It was magical. The less said about the end of this boozy evening the better, however!
Arctic Monkeys: Boardwalk (2005)
Having been really close to the Monkeys in those early days, I’d been to gigs and played with them on many occasions, so I was well aware that by the time of this gig something really interesting was beginning to happen for them. Their EP, Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys, had just been released and excitement was rife. This gig has always stuck in my mind, but not really because of seeing the guys play, as I’d seen that many times before, but it was the audience that made it memorable. This was the first time that the crowd pretty much sung back every lyric and had really started to go nuts. I especially remember when the opening strains of ‘When The Sun Goes Down’ (then still called ‘Scummy Man’) started: the volume of the singing visibly took Alex a bit by surprise and it really was a moment where I think we all knew things would never be the same again.
Richard Hawley: Leadmill (2003)
This gig was to promote Richard’s 2003 album, Lowedges, my favourite album of his, and I’d even go as far to say one of my favourite records full stop. I’d been recording not long prior to the gig with Colin Elliot, Richard’s co-producer and bass player, at the renowned Yellow Arch studios. It was a session only to do a couple of demo recordings with an early band of mine, and I was just my finding my feet really, but whilst in the studio Colin played me a couple of the tracks from Lowedges. I was blown away, and my love affair with Richard’s music began. The Leadmill on that night was busy, but certainly not full – which, quite frankly, at the time I couldn’t believe and I remember thinking, “Where is everyone?” It was maybe a year or so before Richard’s real breakthrough album, Coles Corner, so I guess the audience was only made up of those who’d already cottoned on! My overriding memory of the gig was just being transfixed by Richard, his guitars, and how the songs sounded being played live – just beautiful.
Fortunes Favour by Ed Cosens is out now via Distiller