Simon Armitage occupies a fairly unique cultural position. On one hand he is one of the nation's best-known poets; tipped for the Poet Laureate and known to students across the land from their GCSE anthologies (it speaks highly of his work that he is known and liked by said GCSE students, according to some very rough polling by your reviewer). Simultaneously he is something of a counter-cultural icon; many will have first come across his work in the halcyon days of Mark and Lard's Radio 1 show in the early 1990s and he has a passion for post-punk groups such as the Fall and Young Marble Giants.
Gig is Armitage's second collection of memoirs, alongside 1998's equally excellent All Points North, and as with the previous volume this is a varied collection of recollections, poems, anecdotes and gig reviews. These, in part at least, have a common theme in exploring Armitage's forty-something reflections on his career as a poet and frustrated rock-star, including the formation of the band The Scaremongers (I know, but it's better than Fantastic Gammon; Armitage's father wryly suggests Midlife Crisis), through which he lives out some of his adolescent dreams of rock stardom.
The book is infused with his usual self-deprecating humour, as well as Armitage's genuine passion for rock music, poetry and that corner of West Yorkshire that "begins where the goalpost of the M1 meets the crossbar of the M62". At times, it's also a moving account; Armitage reflects thoughtfully on the condition of the forty-something male, and on the events and individuals who have influenced him in a touching, sensitive way. As a (nearly) forty-something frustrated rock-star myself, I enjoyed every page of this; and if you are contemplating a mid-life crisis, buy this before you spend thousands of pounds on a powerful sports car you don't need!