2019 In Live Music

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

If you know me you know I love a good year in review post, so you can expect no different as 2019 draws to a close. This year I outshined the last, and topped 2018's 17 shows with a delicious 24, including a trip to Paris and being on stage with Craig David...

After starting the year at Brixton Academy for Enter Shikari which was of course 10/10, I then wasted no time and jumped straight into a 5-date tour around the country for The 1975, surprise surprise. These shows were really special for me as the last tour I did was a really dark, strange period of my life, but this time I was able to take my girlfriend along for the ride. It was so special to merge such important parts of my life together, and we had such a great time visiting cities old and new, and getting to dance every night with people i've met simply because of this band. With Cardiff, Manchester, Sheffield and two nights at London's O2 Arena, a stand out for me would have to be their hometown, Manchester. The stan-fam didn't end there, as we all somehow managed to waggle our way into The 1975's War Child show at The Garage. A tiny 500 capacity venue that treated us to old favourites like The City and She Way Out, which haven't been played in years.

March was the first of my firsts in 2019, when I finally got to see Panic! At The Disco at The O2. Brendon Urie's voice is absolutely unstoppable and I was completely mesmerised by the stage presence that one individual man holds so powerfully. His version of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody was honestly life changing and i'm so mad at myself for missing all previous opportunities to see Panic live - you can be sure that I won't be doing that again! Another first this year was renowned cover band Boyce Avenue. The American pop/rock band visited the UK with a couple of dates at London's beautiful Union Chapel. My old age makes me a massive fan of mellow, sit-down gigs, and Alejandro's vocals worked perfectly in the church setting. 

After a couple of firsts, I then went on to a last, when Lower Than Atlantis played their last ever show. After all the dramas of Mike Duce spending the show before not singing a single word due to losing his voice, I was apprehensive at what to expect from the Brixton show. But regardless of the slightly wobbly circumstances, it was a nice send-off for a band that has soundtracked a lot of my teenage years.

Crawling back into firsts, I then went to see Zara Larsson at Electric Brixton, and this show was a definite stand-out of the year for me. I absolutely love a pop show, but had no idea what to expect from Zara; not only are her vocals absolutely on point, the set was jam-packed with choreography, and Paige and I spent the whole show confused at how we'd missed how outrageously good looking she is before now?! I'd absolutely jump at the chance of seeing her again and would definitely recommend to anyone that loves a good sing and dance at a gig. Talking of pop shows, when the Jonas Brothers were announced for Capital FM's Summertime Ball I didn't even have to look twice at who else was on the line-up before buying tickets. To my surprise the whole line up actually featured an array of artists I was into (Halsey, Khalid, Anne Marie, Maroon 5), but of course it was Joe, Nick and Kevin that stole the show for me and even more so when they brought out Busted to sing Year 3000 together - safe to say, I lost myself...

Another 2019 stand-out was Halsey's one off show at Camden's Electric Ballroom. I've seen Halsey a handful of times before and she's never disappointed, but this show was one of a kind, as the New Jersey born singer pretty much played her whole discography, including treating us to Nightmare twice, and an appearance from (now ex) boyfriend Yungblud for their single 11 Minutes. A few days later it was back to Wembley Stadium again to relive my childhood at the Spice Girls. Despite the mixed reviews from the press, I absolutely loved this show and had so much fun going down memory lane and singing along to all the old favourites. The atmosphere in the stadium was unmatchable and although 80% of the crowd was definitely young-mum's on their yearly night out going absolutely wild on the gins, I couldn't fault the show at all.

My only show in July was undoubtably the show of the year, if not of my whole entire life. You guessed it, Craig David at Kew Gardens. I've already gone into the deets about that crazy experience in this post, so i'll save you from repetition, but even 5 months later I am still completely gobsmacked at what happened that night. I owe so, so much to Craig for everything he's done for me over the years, and that guy will have my continued support forever and a day.

August saw my second and last visit to The O2 in 2019, this time with queen Ariana Grande. As if we weren't excited enough to just go to the show, when we arrived a very kind man upgraded us to Golden Circle so we got to be super close to the runway which was pretty overwhelming. As you would predict, this show was spectacular and Ariana's vocals are effortlessly flawless. A couple of days letter Paige and I set off to Reading Festival, where I completely abused the vodka on day 1 and barely remember much of The 1975's headline set - oops! Across the weekend we caught PVRIS, Enter Shikari, Yungblud, Clairo, Hayley Kiyoko, AJ Tracey, Mayday Parade, Twenty One Pilots, and even squeezed ourselves into the (very hot) tent for Bullet For My Valentine's secret set. But of course the stand out for me was Billie Eilish - i've been dying to see her since I discovered Ocean Eyes years ago, and the 17 year old did not disappoint. Apparently pulling in the biggest non-headliner crowd ever seen at Reading, Billie had the entire field eating out of the palm of her hand in 30 degree heat, and I am so, so excited to see her again at her arena tour next year.

From one festival to another, next up was the newly established Gunnersville Festival in West London. Lauren, Paige and I headed to the Sunday offering which featured You Me At Six, Deaf Havana, Jimmy Eat World, The Maine and a handful of other bands. I was really impressed with this festival considering it was it's first run; the layout was easy, small but not cramped, and food and drink wasn't as extortionately priced as a lot of festivals. Jimmy Eat World tugged on all our heart strings when they played A Cinderella Story favourite Hear You Me, and You Me At Six treated us all to their singles in chronological order - Bite My Tongue is still one of my all-time favourite songs ever. So good!

Next up was Dirty Hit favourites Pale Waves who headlined London's O2 Forum in September. I noticed vast improvements in lead singer Heather's vocals and general stage presence at this show, and I was in my element when they played all three of my favourites; My Obsession, Noises and Karl. A week later was unfortunately a very disappointing show from someone who has always overly impressed me in the past. Headlining Camden's Electric Ballroom, Alma played a set that premiered not 1, not 2, but seven brand new songs. Although most of these tracks sounded good, it was a confusing choice of setlist as this wasn't advertised as an album preview show. The Finish popstar ignored every single song from her Heavy Rules Mixtape (which aided Alma to be my top played artist on Spotify last year!), as well as her huge French Montana collaboration, Phases. To make matters even more confusing, Alma also didn't play When I Die, the lead track from her new era and arguably one of her biggest?! Really disappointing from someone who put on such an incredible show at Heaven last year.

The 1975 @ Pitchfork Festival, Paris // © JYDMRA

In November I jumped on the Eurostar to this years Pitchfork festival that saw The 1975 headlining the Saturday. Paris was a nice city, but the festival is what truly made the trip. I unfortunately didn't think much of Charli XCX (soz) but at least enjoyed her bringing out Christine And The Queens for their track Gone. But as always, The 1975 put on a great show, and despite only having an hour set scheduled, Matty of course ignored all the rules and played over when adding extra songs, like Paris (obviously), to the setlist. I loved that this festival always had something going on, with one stage starting as soon as the other finished.

A week later it was finally, after nearly 20 years, time to see Christina Aguilera at Wembley Arena. I was worried that i'd have such high expectations of the evening that i'd be left somewhat disappointed, but that couldn't have been any further from the truth when Christina stole my heart for the entire 90 minutes. Playing all the fan favourites from Dirrty to Lady Marmalade, The Voice Within to Beautiful, and Candyman to Ain't No Other Man, I was completely in awe of the power that she held in her hands while on stage. As predicted, her vocals were out of this world, and there was so many costume changes that I lost count - and yes, she did wear the chaps! It was clear the respect the fans had for her return to London, and I am so, so pleased I finally got to see my childhood hero.

Finally, I rounded the year up seeing my number 1 (yet again), Craig David, as he played a special set for Radio 2 at the BBC Radio Theatre. This intimate one-off show was home to just 350 lucky winners playing hits old and new, and reminding us just why we're still just as excited about Born To Do It 20 years later. There would've been no other way to end my 2019, and with a handful of events already lined up, i'm excited for what 2020 has in store...

© Image Source: Andrew Timms

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