Already this year, we've seen brilliant shows from Grimes, Foals and many more
The months leading up to Christmas always mark something of a dry spell when it comes to live music. Everyone's too busy eating and visiting relatives and eating some more. Come January though, the musical floodgates open like there's no tomorrow.
We're fewer than three months into 2016, and already we've witnessed some unbeatable live spectacles. From Grimes' apocalyptic Brixton show to Foals proving their Reading & Leeds capabilities at Wembley Arena, the next 9 months have a lot to live up to.
Here's the 14 best gigs and live acts of the year so far.
The 1975: "Our attention is held entirely by a band who are set on asserting who they've become," said our review of the band's Brixton Academy show. "Backed by a dazzling, neon cityscape of lights and visuals, they look the part of an arena band, and as they draw on the full spectrum of their sonic pallette, they sound like it too."
Christine & The Queens: "The set is a dynamic and infectious thing," we said of the French musician's KOKO show. "Christine skulks, then leaps across the stage as the music pulses and swells beneath her. She's flanked by two graceful but burly dancers, whose stature emphasises her own diminutive figure. It's a contrast that works to her advantage, compounding the wry irony in her lyrics."
Frightened Rabbit: The band played a secret show at London's Boston Music Rooms earlier this month. Writing of that performance, we said, "To see them with a handful of others in such an intimate setting is a true privilege - let alone as it gives an up close glimpse at the band they've become."
Halsey: In our review of Halsey's Brixton Academy gig, we said, "She blasts through the tracks from her debut album, Badlands, with a breakneck ferocity. She crouches to the ground, throws her head back and forth and stands spread-eagled at the top of a diamond-shaped platform, surveying the kingdom – no, community - of which she has found herself the leader."
Foals: The band's Wembley Arena show proved they're capable of headlining Reading & Leeds. "No arena show is complete without a staggering, rotating light show and visual display," we said in our review, "but Foals do not lean on this as a crutch. Bells and whistles there may be, but this is not another rock n' roll circus or pantomime. They're more than worthy Reading headliners, they're utterly unstoppable. Expect history to be made. "
Hinds: "For all their shambolic charm," we said of Grimes' 6 Music Festival performance, "Hinds' live performances are more and more fine-tuned with every performance they give, anchored by precisely judged mid-song pace changes and an infectious symbiosis. 'Garden' sounds like Cornershop's 'Brimful Of Asha' slowed down and sped up and fed through multiple distortion pedals. At one point, three of them stand side by side and strum in unison, like an earnest school band, before sticking their heads in the air in faux haughtiness and letting rip with 'Bamboo'."
The Maccabees: After their Brixton Academy gig, we said, "'Feel to Follow' jerked the crowd into lyrical and harmonic melancholy before progressing into the up-tempo strings inducing crowd bopping and sweaty embracing."
Ezra Furman: Furman performed at 6 Music Festival last month, after which we wrote, "Burning through tracks from Gigwise's album of 2015, Perpetual Motion People, like it's going out of fashion, Furman's intense, frenetic energy - all twitches and shrugs - is captivating to watch. It stirs the crowd (which includes Bristol's famous Big Jeff) into a frenzy."
Grimes: In our review of Grimes' Brixton show, we wrote, "Performed live, contorted into something even more alien by Grimes' onstage production, 'Go' and 'Realiti' are but two highlights in a set of untamed, gloriously imperfect power... One of the most powerful live performances of the year."
Hurts: In our review of the band's Brixton Academy show, we said, "If there was ever band to play up with pomp and ceremony, Hurts certainly know how to create a sense of occasion. A thin black lace curtain hands across the stage with latest album title 'SURRENDER' flashed across it. It's a fitting mantra, as we prepare to lose ourselves in the vision of this artfully-considered duo - and give ourselves up to all that they do best."
Lianna La Havas: The singer played a huge, yet somehow intimate, show at Royal Albert Hall this month. In our review of the show, we said, "Instead of using the Royal Albert Hall's grandiose walls as an excuse to open with a bombastic introduction, La Havas walks on alone, playing the guitar in heels (an impressive feat in its own right) to portray startling intimacy."
Aurora: "Her fidgety gesticulations - at times grand and theatrical, at others reminiscent of a child having a tantrum - only further endeared her to the crowd," we wrote of Aurora's beautiful Union Chapel gig. "'It's very strange to be the receiver of applauding people. The receiver of applaud. Applause. It's a strange language.' Whatever the word is, Aurora better get used to it."
John Grant: In our review of 6 Music Festival, we wrote, "In 'Snug Slacks', Grant asks, in his speak-singing baritone, "Is it difficult for you to be so beautiful / Or do you find the advantages tend to outweigh the disadvantages?" Somehow, he makes this convoluted pondering sound like pure poetry. Later, he's joined by Doves' Jimi Goodwin for 'Glacier', and his beautiful, soaring vibrato is unleashed. An incredible set."
Photo: Emma Viola Lilja / Jon Mo / Daniel Quesada