Miles fan Steve Bush has kindly shared his memories of Miles’s gig at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 1985 – and also provided a scan of his ticket and a review of the concert from the NME!
I had loved Miles’ music for many years, along with that of many jazz artists. I always had a particular penchant for trumpet players: Louis Armstrong, Freddie Hubbard and – most of all – Miles Davis. I liked most periods of his music, from Birth of the Cool up to On the Corner and beyond, although the churning maelstrom of the live albums from that period didn’t have much appeal. Still, I figured, at least he’s trying to do something different. Better than endless repetition.
By the 1980s, I was in my late twenties, and had never had the opportunity to see Miles Davis in concert. Of the new albums Miles had released in this period – The Man with the Horn, Star People and so on, I liked what I was hearing (unlike many others). This is perhaps explained by the fact that as well as my love of jazz, I also come from a rock background, and rockers tend not to be purists.
My opportunity to see Miles in concert came on Saturday, July 20 1985 at the Royal Festival Hall. The ticket (which I still have) cost £8. Now, to see Miles was – to me – a massive deal. He was (and is) up there with Louis, Duke, Parker, Coltrane, Hendrix… the Gods. But here was a God I could still see and hear.
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Our seats were in the ‘choir stalls’ at the rear of the stage, so we had a tremendous view, and as Miles usually had his back to the audience he was facing us most the time. When he followed the band onstage (walking with a stick, which he handed to a roadie) the place went nuts. I felt like a bloody teenager myself. I’d be a liar if I could say I remember all the tunes that were played. I didn’t write down the titles – I was too busy drinking it all in.
When the band kicked into “Human Nature” the audience leapt to their feet, screaming and yelling – tremendous atmosphere. I later obtained a bootleg cassette of the gig, but it went missing years ago and I’ve never been able to find another copy. I think the concert many have been broadcast by the BBC. I’ve been to hundreds of gigs/concerts over the years – starting at the age of eight (PJ Proby!). Given its place in my concert-going career, though, this first exposure to Miles Davis live will always be the greatest I ever attended.
I saw him twice more in London, once at the Wembley Conference Centre – which had a very lively crowd. The slow blues at this gig, which always seemed to come second in the sets these days, was really tremendous.
The other occasion was either at the RFH, or the Hammersmith Odeon. I really can’t remember which after all these years. One thing does stand out, though. I was standing right at the front of the stage apron, which was – of course – very crowded. Close by was a guy who kept yelling out clichés such as ‘Blow, man, blow’ or ‘Blow Miles, baby…’ This was clearly annoying Miles Davis, who turned around and fixed ME with a withering look. I shrugged my shoulders and pointed to the other guy, at which point Miles grinned and winked at me! I will never forget it.
These memories are distinctly unmusical, but I hope they at least give something of the flavour of my impressions of a man whose music I think of and play most every day, and always will do.
Many thanks to Steve for sharing his memories of the Miles gig. If you have any memories to share of Miles’s gigs from the 1980s, we’d love to hear them! Please email them to