2016 was not just another year. It was the year where the world turned itself upside down, perhaps no more so in the music world. We sadly learnt that Bowie was not immortal, nor Prince, nor Cohen. These illustrious greats, these wordsmiths, these musicians who formed the very tapestry of modern music were suddenly no longer among us, all too human, gone too soon. It was a sobering year, and many more didn’t make it to the end.
But 2016 also delivered some of the finest live music experiences going. Numerous musicians made their first visit to UK shores for some years, several stepped up on the festival bills and at Glastonbury, the referendum result was cast aside in a celebration of unity and togetherness. Thenorthernchords was lucky to attend some superb events once more this year, with over a hundred different artists seen. In a year of tragedy, music could still remind us of triumph.
So, without further ado, may we present our Top #25 Performances of 2016
First Direct Arena, Leeds, 04.12.16.
A veil of uncertainty clouds the future of New York emo stalwarts Brand New. With their end signalled to be within the next twenty-four months, the band’s support slots for Biffy Clyro were perhaps the first notes of an extended swansong. If so, they couldn’t have started it in a better way, bringing out soaring, angst-ridden renditions of Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t and Jesus. Under flashes of chaotic light, Jesse Lacey and co reminded those present of the legacy they will leave behind – but here’s to hoping that they might delay retirement a little longer.
|Brand New performing live in Michigan in 2016.|
(Credit to Scott Legato.)
First Direct Arena, Leeds, 05.02.16.
Generally, a support act isn’t meant to overshadow the main attraction. But after Shinedown’s performance on the Carnival of Madness Tour before Black Stone Cherry, it was always going to be a difficult act for the latter to follow. The Jacksonville hard rockers turned out a consummately professional performance that was no less enjoyable for its adherence to convention, with highlights including their stunning staple cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Simple Man and a punchy, chunky Sound of Madness. But perhaps the highlight is their power-ballad Second Chance, all superb riffs and cheesy air-punching. They return to the UK next May in support of Iron Maiden too; a must-see for rock fans in need of a good time.
|Shinedown performing live in Leeds in 2016..|
(Credit to Katy Blackwood.)
The Fulford Arms, York, 16.10.16.
Few gigs came more intimate than Bluetones frontman Mark Morriss’ show in an old pub. Yet it suited the singer and guitarist down to a tee, allowing him to mine his natural skill as a raconteur and a filthy sense of humour alongside some excellently rendered gritty acoustic pop. What stood out best though were his oddball cover choices – his left-field picks of Elton John’s Daniel and the new-wave sex-stomp of Rio were truly magnificent. Morriss often cut close to the bone with his jokes but his waggish geniality allowed him to easily break down the barriers between performer and audience for an friendly show that never lost the personal touch.
|Mark Morriss performing live in Frankfurt in 2014.|
(Credit to regioactive.de)
Manchester Arena, Manchester, 14.12.16.
When it was announced that the Red Hot Chili Peppers would bring Japanese teenage outfit Babymetal to the UK as their support act, more than a few eyebrows were raised. But their match is more logical than doubters assume; both play their music with a keen sense of theatrical humour, both fuse melodic pop with heavy riffs and both are known for ridiculous fashion choices. As such, Babymetal – Su-metal, Yuimetal, Moametal and the Kami Band – were absolutely brilliant, from the J-pop metalcore of Megitsune to the groove-laden, anthemic Karate. Some may dismiss Babymetal as a joke, a one-trick pony; but in Manchester, they ably staked a claim as a credible live artist.
|Babymetal performing live in London in 2016.|
(Credit to TeamRock.)
O2 Academy Leeds, Leeds, 27.01.16.
Bristol’s politically-charged godfathers of trip-hop may have headlined Hyde Park with Patti Smith this year, but it was their intimate show at the O2 Academy in Leeds that really set pulses racing. Eschewing some of their biggest hits, they instead rolled out new material including a riveting Voodoo in My Blood, with guest vocals from support act Young Fathers and the eerie Ritual Spirt. If the music was great, the visuals were even better – all rendered in the style of old Ceefax pages, with real-time news headlines painting a violent image of early 2016, dire warnings that have become spookily prophetic in hindsight. Hits? Who needs the hits when it’s this good?
|Massive Attack performing live in London in 2016.|
(Credit to The Telegraph.)