Hi. Cos my brain hates me, I’m ranking and reviewing every single one of the 36 gigs I attended in 2022. If that’s something you’d like to read even more on, you can click here to go to the first half of this two-parter that’s now a three-parter since this was originally double the length of the first piece, OOPS.
Support: Marlon Williams
Venue: O2 Academy, Leeds
Date: 25th May
The big question: do the Solar Power songs get better when placed into a live context? The answer: not really. In some ways, they work a little better in that they keep being broken up by the non-Solar songs in Lorde’s catalogue so don’t eventually bleed into interchangeable nothingness. But, of course, that’s not exactly a compliment towards the Solar Power songs either; if the only way their beige-ness could be mitigated was by switching them up with the technicolour spectacle of Melodrama, a collection of songs which very much do get better when placed into a live context. To tell you the truth, I was considering selling on my tickets a month beforehand – since Lorde announced the dates before we’d even heard a single note of the 2021 album, the craft Kiwi – and only relented due to peeking at the setlist and seeing that a good 55% was made up of non-Solar Power songs.
I will say that I better understand what Lorde was going for on the album after having seen the live show, though. The stage design was gorgeous, that rotating plinth in the centre really catches the eye, and Lorde herself conjures up an almost parasocial intimacy as a performer. Even in a sold-out room with thousands of screaming fans, she really does make it feel like she’s talking exclusively to you between songs, like old friends catching up after a while. Plus, again, over half the set was non-Solar Power and those first two albums remain impeccable, life-changing pieces of pop. Have you ever experienced “Ribs” live? You have not lived until you’ve experienced “Ribs” live, and I really do mean ‘experienced.’
Support: Militarie Gun, Care Charmer
Venue: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Date: 18th August
Things I learned at my first hardcore show:
- Hardcore acts are here for a good time, not a long time.
- The energy from band and crowd are relentless, borderline exhausting, which probably explains the ‘not a long time’ part of things.
- Everybody stage-dives all the time. In fact, some people seem to go purely so they can break some kind of record for number of stage-dives during a set.
- Following on, don’t go anywhere near the front if you have no upper-body strength as people will eat shit because of you and you will feel bad.
- The official dance of hardcore shows appears to be the ska skank? That’s weird.
- “Crowd-killing” does not mean ‘to play so well that the crowd is absolutely dead by the end of your set.’ It instead refers to ‘crowd members who are so aggro and space-hogging that nobody else can properly join in.’ I was made aware of this distinction during Militarie Gun’s fantastic set when their frontman asked “Do Militarie Gun look like a crowd-killing band?” following a song with one guy forcibly controlling the pit and everyone immediately yelled “NO!”
Venue: Millennium Square, Leeds
Date: 13th July
Sometimes I forget that HAIM are a rock band fronted by capital-R Rockstars. Maybe it’s because their best music, and especially many a track on Women in Music Pt. III, fosters a closeness between listener and band that feels like hanging out with your cool older sisters. Welp, you can’t forget that HAIM are a rock band fronted by Rockstars when you see them live, that’s for damn sure. Oftentimes, their show resembled a stand-up set which keeps being interrupted by songs, all three sisters pinging their takes on the rockstar archetype off of each other like a finely-honed in-joke comedy trio. “Gasoline” eventually broke down into Este and Alana pitting the two sides of the crowd against each other in a sing-off for sisterly bragging rights, “3AM” got a full-on intro skit involving sexting, and crowd interaction was a constant throughout the night.
I was here for all of it, to be clear. Totally get if it sounds like nails on a chalkboard to some of you, but I bloody love HAIM and my long-overdue chance to finally see them live was loads of fun. All three sisters got equal time at the mic, compared to Danielle being lead on almost all album tracks, and the set was 90% Women in Music. Would’ve liked a few more cuts from the prior two albums, but Women is their best record so can’t complain. Also, everybody please leave Georgia off your 2022 “Running Up That Hill” covers rap sheets; she was doing that before it was cool (read: in Feb 2020 when I saw her open for Carly Rae Jepsen).
17] The Weather Station
Venue: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Date: 7th September
The kind of great show which elevates one’s appreciation of already great albums. Since Tamara couldn’t take an entire orchestra on tour with her – and especially not to a make-up show for having lost her voice the night of the original date six months earlier – Ignorance’s lush orchestrations which tended to hog all the conversation were forced to cede the floor to those songs’ rolling grooves and rock-solid songwriting. (Seriously, the groove on “Robber” is deep and moving even without the climactic strings.) Whilst the sparse piano ballads of How Is it That I Should Look at the Stars gained an added intimacy from being in the room, and their slightly flat dynamics on-record were negated by additional band accentuations like a sly bass note or cymbal brush. Tamara’s voice was in fine form, the band looked to be having a great time, and the crowd was fully respectful for a set which frequently slowed down to near-silence. Great show. Still wish that they could’ve somehow brought on the strings for “Parking Lot,” though.
16] The Chemical Brothers
Support: James Holroyd
Venue: Castle Howard, York
Date: 26th June
In terms of the Chems’ live shows, this was the weakest of the three I’ve been to so far. The setlist was in transition between eras as Tom & Ed tinker with the mash-ups and order, with some placements and pairings not really working – moving “Swoon” to after “Temptation/Star Guitar” should be considered a war crime; how DARE you fuck up perfection! It was an outdoor show which made for a great atmosphere when it finally got dark… it’s just that the Chems’ set started at 9:10 and it didn’t get dark until an entire hour later, so lots of the overwhelming strobes and spectacle designed to induce synaesthesia fell a bit flat in the daylight. And even with my high-quality earplugs, the audio could be muffled and overly-bassy which made new track “No Reason to Live” feel very static since all of its dynamics got swallowed up hard.
But this Chems show was a very special one for me as it enabled me to finally fulfil a promise I made back in 2019 after seeing their No Geography tour: the next time they played live, I was taking a bunch of my friends so we could all lose our minds together. A pledge I became fiercely committed to as the pandemic raged on and we continued to isolate in our various disparate parts of the country. So, when the Castle Howard show was announced, I bought four tickets for myself, Kelechi, Ciara, and Katie, bundled them all into my car (after Kelechi took a train from London) and we all had a great time together, everyone else meeting each other in-person for the first time. That was amazing. And a B+ Chems set still trounces many other artists’ A+++ efforts. “Dreaming” sounded like an absolute monster of a tune and needs releasing ASAP, the speakers fully blowing out during the “Escape Velocity” drop was nuts (and only made the drop upon reset even more mega), and “Galvanize” with friends is something else.
15] SOUL GLO
Venue: Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield
Date: 10th September
Sometimes, you can, in fact, overcome shit sound. I have absolutely no fucking idea what Jonathan Pierce was saying at any point of SOUL GLO’s 40-minute set. I don’t think I heard a single clear bass note during any song not named “Driponomics.” These guys could’ve been hyper-enthusiastically miming for all that the Yellow Arch’s soundsystem was able to broadcast. Not that it mattered a jot because HOLY FUCK, SOUL GLO LIVE! HOLY FUCK! YOU NEED TO SEE THIS BAND! SOUL GLO are the truth anyway, but HOLY FUCK, live they take that energy on-record to another level! I listen to Diaspora Problems and I want to run through walls. I saw them in concert and I felt like I could flip entire buildings! The relentless energy, their masterful crowd control, the pure feeling they put into every note playing like this might be the very last time! Unreal! Completely lost my voice screaming out the “Gold Chain Punk” chorus. If they play a venue with sound capable of handling them next time, I’m prepared to bump them up to being a Top 5 Live Show in the World Today.
Also, just wanted to note one thing. When SOUL GLO played, it’d been about 48 hours since Queen Elizabeth II died and this country was already doing an absolutely insufferable one about it. State-mandated grieving and shit, the kind that makes you feel like the crazy one for pointing out how ridiculous it all is. SOUL GLO’s walk-on music was a BBC bulletin of the Queen’s death followed by the blaring of eight airhorns and ten celebratory gunshot sound effects. Based, as the kids would say, but also genuinely much appreciated by me, the person who did not care about the Queen’s death and despised being made to feel like an asshole for not grieving.
Support: Maria Uzor
Venue: Heaven, London
Date: 14th October
Yeah, I interviewed Nic Offer before the show, but this would’ve been a fantastic night even without that fun career anecdote. !!! really do set out each time they take the stage to give their audience the best possible show they can, this blew past the last time I saw them (in 2017) and that was already a hell of a gig. No gimmicks, no fancy lights or visuals, just infectious energy which can barely be contained to the stage given how often Offer ventures into the crowd to dance with the surprisingly diverse group of fans filling out Heaven. Resultantly, the habit of adding an extended jam to damn-near every song on the setlist can feel a bit much, but the fact that I was gleefully throwing (what could generously be described as) shapes the whole set regardless likely negates that critique. Show really elevated the Let it Be Blue material, too; much fuller, groovier and urgent than on-record, where the COVID isolation of its recording is very noticeable.
13] My Chemical Romance
Support: Cassyette, Barns Courtney, Placebo
Venue: Stadium MK Dons, Milton Keynes
Date: 21st May
Some shows you can’t objectively cover, if we’re being honest with ourselves. Two years, two postponements, three lockdowns, and one virus later; myself, Ciara and Ben finally saw My Chemical Romance. Technically, this one had been 11 years in the making since I’d rejected the opportunity to go to the Danger Days tour with my Dad on account of my crippling anxiety at the time giving me intimidating false impressions of what gigs were like. And was it worth the wait? Well, despite the position, yeah definitely. Can I remember much specific about it? Not exactly, but that’s more because I was in a blissed-out state of glee the entire time. Look, the second that they launched into “I’m Not Okay (I Promise),” all my critical and long-term memory faculties went out the window. I was in that moment and, when I think back on the feelings of bewildered ‘holy shit, this is actually real’ joy that lasted the entire headline show, the moment was sweet. Gerard was dead sassy; my pan-arse got all the nourishment it needed during “DESTROYA.”
12] Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Support: Stella Donnelly
Venue: The Foundry, Sheffield
Date: 3rd June
Each time I see Rolling Blackouts live, I leave feeling like I don’t need to see them again. They don’t put on a particularly big or revelatory show. They don’t do much in the way of crowd interaction. By and large, the songs sound rather the same as they do on-record just with a little extra muscle from being right in front of them as they play. Each of the three times I’ve been, I come away thinking that that’ll do me. I have gained a greater appreciation for the complexity of their songwriting, how each instrument snakes around and locks into each other, and I’ve heard some of my favourite modern guitar songs played live. That should be it, right?
Except, as you could probably already tell given the “three times” and the placement on this ranking, I keep on coming back over and over again. Turns out that having one of the strongest songbooks in modern indie and a tight-as-hell band unit is actually all one needs to put on a high-quality show. RBCF are a really fucking good band, you guys! The structure of their set this time was a bit strange, as they deliberately ran through all of the Endless Rooms material in one go at the set’s middle with the bookends being the greatest hits of previous releases, but these songs, folks! These songs! Have you heard “Cars in Space?” Somehow, it’s even better live and I didn’t think that was an achievable feat! Whenever they next come to the UK, I’ll be one of the first snapping up tickets again.
Big shout-outs to Stella Donnelly, too! Her opening set was a tonne of fun, arguably a little better than RBCF’s since she’s more at ease interacting with a crowd. Was hoping to go to her headline tour in November until the whole hip thing.
11] Big Thief
Venue: Manchester Academy, Manchester
Date: 24th February
Remember way back in the pre-amble of the first part where I said that no gig can overcome a shit crowd? Here’s the exception that proves the rule. The crowd at Big Thief were… weird. Rudely disinterested during the ambient drone opener (whose name I didn’t catch) that the band all came out to introduce and expressly request we not talk through. There was a couple who spent much of the opening third of the show trying to start high-tempo dance parties despite Big Thief not being that kind of band (fairly certain they were tripping). One woman had clearly dragged their unwilling boyfriend along and he loudly insulted her and the music almost the entire time. And I kept getting unwanted chatter from stereotypical Needle Drop-type ‘fans’ who just wanted to talk about the gig instead of actually listening to the fucking gig they paid to attend.
Yet, even with all that going on… Big Thief are a magical band to witness perform. There’s a reason why their promotional materials feature all four members clung tight to each other. It really does feel like watching four limbs in harmonious sync with one another, pushing each to play on the limit where things could fall apart at any second. “Not” is truly electrifying as a live number for precisely that reason, each band member going off on their own tangent yet still miraculously sounding in total lock-step. Their set was almost 75% Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You material, so it barely scratched the surface of their discography, yet was still full of incredible moments: “Simulation Swarm,” the rockier take on the title track, the campfire lilt of “Dried Roses.” Even with a weird crowd, an opener that didn’t quite work, and a strange five-minute lull where Adrianne Lenker tried to tell some rambling story about being rude to an air hostess which didn’t go anywhere, this was a hell of a show. The kind that makes me say things like ‘best band in the world right now.’
Tomorrow, it’s over, I promise.