Here at Songkick HQ, we have the pleasure of seeing our fair share of shows. We thought we’d take the time out to let you know about some of our favourites from this past year in the hope that you may discover some new acts of your own to check out live in 2020.
Am I a sucker for distorted guitar? Yes. Do I think there are few things in life better than ear-crunching punk gigs? Also yes. Did I start writing this ‘best of 2019’ review in October after seeing these 3 lads from Brighton, because I knew that they wouldn’t be topped in the months that followed? Also yes (and apologies to The Skints!).
But enough about me, you wanna hear about Gender Roles. If you like your bands shouty, fuzzy and hairy, you’re going to enjoy a Gender Roles gig. Their perfect mix of slow grunge, fast punk and intense vocals was what made these guys the standout show for me this year. Definitely catch them while they’re still playing these smaller rooms and while you can still chat with them at the merch stand!
For fans of Beabadoobee, Gus Dapperton, Brad Stank
2019 was a colossal year for bedroom-pop star Clairo, and in a very different way too to her viral YouTube successes of 2017 with tracks Pretty Girl and Flaming Hot Cheetos. 2019 saw Clairo release her debut record, Immunity, thereby laying down a marker for the type of pop star that she wants to be. This was laid bare for all to see at her Electric Ballroom show in Camden this December.
Rather than making a grand entrance soundtracked by one of her hits, Clairo kicked off the show with album-opener, Alewife’, a track entrenched in struggles with mental health. She is clearly super focussed on her craft and this really showed in the way that she was able to engage a playful crowd with the more delicate moments of her set. Clairo clearly cares about her fans deeply, but she cares about them seeing her in the right light — as an artist, not just as a pop star.
Immunity is an incredibly mature record that Clairo has brilliantly translated to the live stage. I for one can’t wait to see what’s to come from such an immensely talented artist who is still in her formative years.
For fans of Little Mix, Justin Bieber, One Direction
For many European K-Pop fans, it was the start of an amazing summer when Wembley Stadium opened its doors on June 1, 2019. It was only the second time K-pop sensation BTS visited the UK, but the seven-member band managed to sell 90.000 seats at Wembley Stadium — twice! Surrounded by die-hard fans in a sea full of lightsticks, I felt truly at home singing along to songs from their latest album, as well as a variation of songs from their six-year catalogue. For every lover of pop music with a soft spot for girl and boy bands, I would recommend giving this trailblazing group at least one try live — if you can get tickets, that is!
For fans of George Ezra, Vance Joy, The Head and the Heart
Last month, Hozier played 5 nights at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. The prolific singer-songwriter packed the historic space each night, bringing fans an eclectic mix of old and new tracks, gorgeous visuals, and of course the powerful vocals he’s renowned for. On the third night, the set included everything from As It Was to Take Me To Church, alongside his new track Jackboot Jump. Hozier gave us a science lesson behind the song No Plan and raised every rainbow flag brought up to the stage. Seeing Hozier live was more than just going to a concert for this fan — it was a spiritual experience.
For fans of Kikagaku Moyo, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Menahan Street Band
Yes, Khruangbin is the coolest band ever. They ooze style and substance abundantly in equal measure. Their uniquely century-spanning presence evokes both 1960s psychedelia and space-age futurism, whilst their virtuosic music blends influence from a buffet of Thai, Iranian, and Spanish sources, to name a few. I couldn’t wait to see them in the flesh.
I joined the flock of eager London fans on this chilly Tuesday evening, wrestling my way to the front to bask in the warm, laid-back grooves from the magical trio: nonchalant drummer DJ, jelly-kneed bassist Laura Lee, and guitar wizard Mark Speer. And boy did they put on a show. Light from twelve disco balls glistened behind unmistakable silhouettes as they rolled out tune after tune. The crowd went wild for synchronised knee melts to the twangy riffs of Dern Kala as well as when Laura spoke robotic tones into a green telephone for Evan Finds the Third Room. Yes, they even squeezed in an impossibly seamless medley of tracks spanning from Dr Dre, to Spandau Ballet. What a band.
For fans of Boy & Bear, San Cisco, Lime Cordiale
They say that “Every cloud has a silver lining’ and at Bushstock in the summer this was proven to be true. In this instance, the cloud was the fact that I had seriously sprained my ankle the week before attending Bushstock (a festival held in London’s Shepherd’s Bush) so I was hobbling from venue to venue on crutches while on some pretty strong pain killers. The silver lining came in the form of people allowing me to get to the front of the crowd at Bush Hall to watch Matt Corby. Matt, my artist of the decade according to Spotify, lit up the stage with his beautifully crafted songs and amazing vocals. Being close enough to almost reach out and touch him was an amazing experience. With a mix of singing, piano playing, guitar, and flute, the man can do it all. He finished with Miracle Love as the whole crowd sang the words back to him. Great song. Great voice. Great hair.
For fans of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Pond, Glass Animals
Tame Impala are undoubtedly my favourite band of all time — Kevin Parker’s gentle voice and psychedelic-rock wizardry have accompanied me through my highest and lowest moments, so I was immensely excited to see his Coachella headline show come to the O2 in London. The arena was packed and the crowd electric with excitement — selling out such a big venue a testament to how newer “poppier” tunes have massively increased his fanbase — and the roof was nearly ripped off as a trippy pre-festival video marked the start of the gig.
Kevin Parker had promised a huge show packed with visual effects, and a monumental confetti explosion during the opening Let It Happen set a precedent for the rest of the gig. Unprecedented lazers followed during Elephant, and a huge Kevin Parker visual with a *third* eye accompanied New Person, Same Old Mistakes. Allowing this special group to bathe you in bright lights and huge chords is pure euphoria, and with new music on the horizon, there’s no act on the planet I could recommend seeing more!
For fans of Ingrid Michaelson, The Bird and the Bee, Kimbra, Jason Derulo (only joking)
I had assumed that being a fan of Imogen Heap’s for possibly half of my existence would have sufficiently readied me for the performance I would witness on this frosty November evening — how naive! I’d never seen a live performance of hers, which ultimately empowered me to enter The Roundhouse that night guided by little more than curiosity; in hindsight, a blessing.
When the honourable Ms Heap took to the stage (adorned in, what anybody not afforded her cartoonish charm, would have looked like a bedazzled bin-bag) and gave us a whirlwind tour of her entire discography. This of course included the infamous Hide and Seek, re-optimized for its involvement in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child — a great way to involve those who haven’t sold one of their kidneys for a ticket yet. The reunification of Imogen and her longtime creative partner, Guy Sigsworth, was just the icing on the cake. The highlight? A live tutorial of her music-making gloves: wearable tech, which permitted her to theatrically augment and toy with the performance, while us mere mortals could do nothing but watch, oohing and aahing throughout in a display almost too wholesome to have occurred in North London.
For fans of rousing lyrics, powerful vocals, and great guitar music
Rapidly ascending his way up the venue scale, it was a special treat to see Sam Fender play a small east-end Working Men’s Club as part of Annie Mac’s AMP gig series. Soon after making a splash at SXSW in Austin with a packed schedule of showcases, the Brit award winner showed off his Geordie tan and jet-lagged eyes to a captive, adoring army of fans. Packing a punch with upbeat tunes like Hypersonic Missiles and White Privilege, he balanced powerful lyricism and hard topics with playful charm, whilst melancholy Leave Fast made his voice the spectacle. In the intimate space under the twinkly disco-ball lights, you could feel the love from the crowd as well as Fender’s undeniable connection with his band. With Brixton Academy and Alexandra Palace on the horizon, 2019 was his year.