Alex Harford Photography & Travel

MUSIC

Greatest Gigs of the 2010s

I saw close to 600 live performances in the 2010s, which sounded a lot until I realised that only averages 60 a year, bearing in mind that includes support acts (I didn't attend many festivals). Scroll down for photos and brief reviews.

My most seen acts were British Sea Power (over 30 gigs), Mostly Autumn (over 20 gigs), Teenage Fanclub (12), Feeder (10), Heather Findlay (7) and Slowdive (7).

Given the above are all responsible for getting me into music in the early-2000s, I feel lucky they're all still touring (reformed in Slowdive's case).

British Sea Power were the standouts, including live soundtracks to a 1930s film, a recent BBC documentary and Polish animations, playing specially arranged songs with a brass band, plus full album sets, b-side sets and as well as bringing "Bingo with Bo Ningen" to the world, much more. Mostly Autumn played for over four hours one afternoon/evening, and I could've watched for four hours more. Teenage Fanclub played five albums in full and a b-sides set over three nights at the same venues. Ultrasound and Slowdive in particular were the reformations that got me ridiculously excited, and although the sound wasn't great at Slowdive's official return gig, future gigs more than made up for it. Feeder, the first band I went to see live (back in 2000), also returned with career-spanning two hour sets. I may have listened to post-rock more than any other genre in the 2010s. Yndi Halda returned sounding better than ever, and like bands such as Mono, God is An Astronaut and Tomorrow We Sail, just have to be witnessed live.

Fountains of Wayne are on an indefinite hiatus, Husky Rescue haven't been around for a while and Breathing Space are no more (their song Questioning Eyes by founder members Olivia Sparnenn and Iain Jennings is regularly performed by both in Mostly Autumn), but otherwise, the acts below are all playing live into the 2020s.

I made a Spotify playlist if anyone would like to check out these artists, and it's a good listen for me too: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6DBfmTKZKzRCeKaLRFVgHd and added "For fans of" suggestions considering my list includes relatively unknown acts, who obviously in my opinion deserve wider attention!

Alphabetised by first name.

AVA

For fans of: I've no comparison, though Ludivico Einaudi fans should find something to love.

MOTH Club, London | 10th December 2019

Anna Phoebe, Jordan Ajadi and Aisling Brouwer

Wow! One of those rare occasions where it felt like a privilege to be there. Violinist Anna Phoebe and pianist Aisling Brouwer combining perfectly, from the subtle and beautiful opener "Waves," to a resounding "Mulholland" closing the main set, the gig was transcendental at times. The sound was spot-on and better for being much louder than previous AVA gigs I've attended. The guests were outstanding too, especially the dancer, Jordan Ajadi, helping make the gig an experience visually and sonically. More of that kind of thing!

The Big Moon

For fans of: The History of Apple Pie, Our Girl, noise pop, grungey pop (their new album has taken a different direction).

The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent | 9th October 2017

The Big Moon

The P.A. was too quiet to start with, but "Silent Movie Susie," the song that attracted me to The Big Moon, still sounded excellent. And even better once the volume went up. Closer, "Sucker," was certainly loud and a highlight along with a superb cover of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (with a bit of Pixies' "Where is My Mind?" segued in) and The Big Moon's own barnstorming "Bonfire" (with frontwoman, Juliette Jackson, in the crowd). "The Road" was a surprise highlight. Good fun, good spiky songs and multiple vocals that work really well. It was a pleasant surprise for a one-album band to play over an hour. They're always the new bands I'm more likely to see again, and The Big Moon I will see again.

Breathing Space

The Robin 2, Bilston | 4th April 2010

Breathing Space

This gig came into its own a few songs in, with a cover of Mostly Autumn's "Hollow" followed by the gorgeous "Rain Song." I wasn't familiar with many other song titles, but there were more excellent Breathing Space-penned songs alongside Iain Jenning's Mostly Autumn contributions such as "Never the Rainbow" and an absolutely superb version of "The Gap is Too Wide" (one of the most majestic songs ever recorded) to end the 2-hour plus set that I would've been happy to go on for longer.

British Sea Power

For fans of: occasionally off-the-wall indie rock and post-punk with a mix of post-rock, indie pop etc., soundtracks, gigs in unusual locations.

The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield | 14th June 2014

British Sea Power perform their soundtrack to Man of Aran

I was away travelling for the original performances of Man of Aran, British Sea Power's 2009 soundtrack to the 1934 film set on Ireland's Aran Islands. It was worth the wait when it finally came around again, courtesy of Sheffield's Doc/Fest. I'd waited for a live performance to watch the film for the first time, and like the film, the soundtrack ranges from the beautiful to the brutal - and played out epically live. I liked how the band faced the film while playing.

The Haunt, Brighton | 2nd March 2012

British Sea Power played three sets, the first backing to poet Jock Scot, then a set comprised of bassist Hamilton's songs (highlights included rarities like the dark but strangely upbeat acoustic "Moley and Me" and "A Lovely Day Tomorrow").

The final set was the highlight, with cracking performances of songs from the Valhalla Dancehall album and Zeus EP, and a great sounding new song. Highlights included "kW-h," the ridiculously-good-live "Mongk II," the always sublime "Bear" and "Carrion/All in It" to end, with band and bear crowd surfing.

The Haunt, Brighton | 6th April 2012

A more 'normal' BSP gig, with former keyboardist Eamon crowdsurfing with a marching drum that ended up on his head

The Decline of British Sea Power played in full, in order. It was strange to know what was coming next but hugely satisfying. The epic "Lately," a haunting "The Lonely" and "A Wooden Horse" were highlights away from the usual staples like "Remember Me." It was good to see Eamon back, and crowdsurfing with marching-drum on his head, though I could hardly hear his keys during the set. The encore included rarer tracks such as (the sounds like its title) "Heavenly Waters" and a manic "The Scottish Wildlife Experience," culminating in a crazy climax of Brakes' "All Night Disco Party" and BSP's "Rock in A."

The Haunt, Brighton | 4th May 2012

Open Season played in order in full, and mostly Open Season era b-sides, of which covers of traditional Czech folk song, "Fakir," and Múm's "Green Grass of Tunnel" were highlights. In the Open Season set, magical versions of "The Land Beyond" and "True Adventures" = Wow. I'd missed the Open Season tours, so was very excited for this gig, and even after being used to BSP's excellent gigs, it exceeded expectations.

BFI Southbank, London | 15th June 2012

From the Sea to the Land Beyond performed live to the BBC documentary featuring archive footage of the British coast. Amazing at times. What's not to like about reworked instrumental versions of some of my favourite songs? I'm glad it was sit-down as I had a bad cold so was super chilled out.

Gorilla, Manchester | 12th April 2013

The best night of my three on this tour, and up there with the best of Krankenhaus in Brighton. "Bear" was beautiful and the build up as the set neared it's conclusion sounded as good as BSP ever have, with an awesome "Remember Me" and "Carrion." "Something Wicked" was probably the only song that sounded slightly disappointing. The band looked blown away by the reaction to "The Great Skua," with the crowd belting out the anthemic ending vocals. The Arcade Fire would kill for a live song as effective.

Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton | 21st July 2019

The last few songs were like a classic BSP gig, with main-frontman Yan in the crowd amongst two giant bears. The new songs suggested British Sea Power will be as good as ever entering the 2020s, with "Green Goddess" sounding as anthemic as anything they've done, and other songs sounding like a refreshed mix of the back catalogue, including the motorik beats and catchy guitar refrain of "Katzenjammer."

Eupana

For fans of: Mono, The Evpatoria Report, cinematic instrumental rock music.

Aladdin, Kristiansand | 24th September 2016

Eupana at VIVID Post-Rock Festival

Beautiful melodies that lead to searing crescendos, heavier than I expected based on the album, and even more enjoyable in the live arena. I didn't want Eupana's set to end. They're a band I never thought I'd have the opportunity to see live, so I'm delighted I have. "Communique" is one of the best live songs I've heard.

Feeder

For fans of: Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins, 90s alternative rock, grunge, melodic rock.

William Aston Hall, Wrexham | 5th March 2018

The best Feeder gig for a long time. The two-hour, full of surprises set helped, with returns for old classics "Yesterday Went Too Soon," "My Perfect Day" and an equally blistering and melodically uplifting "Stereo World." An acoustic of the rarely played "Silent Cry" was a highlight. "Piece By Piece" sounded a little flat compared to everything else but was still good to hear. "Figure You Out" sounded great after I thought it was too slow on release. The only downside was a very loud and distorted "Just A Day" encore. The video backdrops were some of the best I've seen, featuring artwork from past releases.

O2 Academy, Birmingham | 14th March 2018

As Wrexham, plus "Cement." As well as the Polythene tracks, "Figure You Out" and "Eskimo" sounded awesome and it's always great to hear "Yesterday Went Too Soon."

The Ritz, Manchester | 3rd October 2016

The crowd went wild for Buck Rogers - the most electric atmosphere I've experienced at a gig

Most of the new songs sounded great, particularly "Geezer" and "Eskimo" with their Polythene-esque metal sound. The reaction to "Buck Rogers" was crazier than ever after the 4-year gap without a Feeder gig – the whole place lifted, using The Ritz's bouncy floor to its full effect. It was disappointing to hear nothing from Generation Freakshow and an unadventurous set, but there were so many good songs that Lost & Found was the only lowlight.

(as Renegades) Ruby Lounge, Manchester | 26th January 2010

Feeder go punk and sound awesome with it, along with metal-tinged new epic "Down by the River" and a couple of old Feeder 'covers'. I enjoyed the new material more, but it was good to hear the old songs and see everyone go wild for the oft-requested "Tangerine."

Fountains of Wayne

Club Academy, Manchester | 11th November 2011

Yes yes. Everything from the debut album sounded meaty and fantastic. All of the new songs sounded great, "Cold Comfort Flowers" being a highlight, and even those not amongst my favourites (e.g. "Dip in the Ocean"). "It Must Be Summer" as the sole song from Utopia Parkway was a shame but it sounded great. "Stacy's Mom" lounge version was fun(ish).

God is An Astronaut

For fans of: One of the most powerful rock bands I've seen live. Recorded, they range from chilled electronic post-rock to verging on post-metal.

Academy 3, Manchester | 6th December 2012

God is An Astronaut

You wouldn't believe many of God is An Astronaut's albums can seem chilled out if you'd only seen them live. Expanding from a 3-piece to a 5-piece since my previous GIAA gigs added to the incredible and at times blistering sound. "From the Dust to the Beyond" was stratospheric, with a hauntingly heavy ending. "Suicide by Star" - a track I fell in love with live - was another highlight, gradually building to its dramatic conclusion. GIAA have moments of beauty though, such as "Forever Lost." "All is Violent, All is Bright" is always excellent - from an album God is An Astronaut are performing in full in 2020.

Heather Findlay

For fans of: Where do I start? Stevie Nicks, great vocals, Neil Young, Sandy Denny, Pink Floyd, Mostly Autumn, Heart.

Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton | 13th December 2018

The Heather Findlay Trio: Martin Ledger, Heather Findlay and Sarah Dean

The support act not arriving wouldn't usually be the greatest start to a gig, but Heather stepping in to support herself made this an extra-special occasion from the start. I especially loved the vocals on the new Odin Dragonfly song (still unreleased), and the trio performed a magical Pink Floyd cover ("Grantchester Meadows," I think).

From the planned set, "Winter Winds" (a Sandy Denny cover) was sublime and is easily one of my favourite cover songs. I even prefer it to the wonderful original. "Magnolia Half Moon," another Odin Dragonfly song, is always special live. Two tracks from I Am Snow; "Dark Eyes" and the title track, were also beautiful. Christmas fun followed, with a spellbinding rendition of the medieval carol, "Gaudete."

As the set ran late, I hoped I wouldn't miss my train, but I was willing to risk that for what would probably be my Desert Island Disc, "Shrinking Violet." I'm used to hearing it with a full rock band lineup that builds to an epic Pink Floyd-esque conclusion, but it was just as beautiful as an acoustic three-piece and the perfect way to end the gig.

My first gig of the 2020s will be Heather Findlay, so if I make a similar list in 10 years...

The Robin 2, Bilston | 20th November 2012

Excellent. A reworking of Mostly Autumn's "Bitterness Burnt" (with extra drum banging from Heather) sounded superb, as did the rocky Phoenix Suite EP material, and a Heather and Chris Johnson acoustic of "Gaze" while Alex Cromarty's broken snare stand was fixed. The best ever "Carpe Diem" featured in the encore, a song that hadn't been a favourite of mine before. Odin Dragonfly as support was rather special. Photos here: alexharford.uk/photos/heather-findlay-band-robin-bilston-2012.

The Robin 2, Bilston | 27th November 2011

My first Heather Findlay full-band gig, and it was fantastic. Highlights included "Phoenix," the totally unplugged "Flowers for Guns," "Unoriginal Sin" (not one of my favourite Mostly Autumn songs, but the re-jigged version tonight was superb) and of course "Shrinking Violet," even without the flutes. Dave Kilminster playing the flute lines on guitar during "Caught in a Fold" was great too.

Husky Rescue

For fans of: Dreamy chilled out pop/electronic music that even sounds like Finland at times.

O2 Academy, London | 5th March 2010

Husky Rescue during "We Shall Burn Bright" (it's rare I remember what song a photo was taken during!)

I fell in love for the night. Chilled-out bliss, especially "City Lights" and "New Light of Tomorrow," with exquisite vocals from Reeta-Leena Korhola and occasional emphatic tracks such as "We Shall Burn Bright," which on the night seemed like the most anthemic few minutes in history. "Summertime Cowboy" was incredibly danceable too. I miss this band.

Joe Hisaishi

For fans of: Studio Ghibli soundtracks, Andre Desplat, Elgar.

Palais des Congres, Paris | 9th June 2017

Joe Hisaishi with the Lamoureux Orchestra and Choir

I adore Studio Ghibli films such as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, and Joe Hisaishi plays a massive part in that for his wonderful music. He's one of my heroes, and was in Paris to play and conduct tracks from his Studio Ghibli soundtracks.

The start of this concert, with "Nausicaa Requiem" and "Legend of Ashitaka" to begin the Princess Mononoke medley, was amongst the best 20ish minutes of live music I've witnessed. For the second time, live music made me cry. Of my favourites, only "One Summer's Day" was left in the programme, which was great on solo piano, but would've been even better including the orchestra.

A symphonic marching band came into the crowd to play tracks from Laputa: Castle in the Sky, which was fun at first but sounded messy, with a mish-mash of different volume coming from everywhere and not completely in time.

That didn't matter, as Porco Rosso's "Bygone Days" was a highlight later in the set, with a final encore of "Ashitaka & San."

Palais des Congres, Paris | 10th June 2017

Same set, different seat. As well as the incredible opening again, highlights included less familiar pieces such as those from Kiki’s Delivery Service and Porco Rosso.

Manic Street Preachers

For fans of: Alternative rock, stadium-ready pop rock, punk.

O2 Arena, London | 17th December 2011

Manic Street Preachers

The Manics plough through all 38 singles. Despite spending most of the day in bed with a bad cold, this was excellent, with a surprisingly good sound high up on a side tier. I was sat next to a guy who'd travelled from the Outer Hebrides for the gig, which was pretty cool given that was a dream destination back then (I've since spent two months there). The only disappointment was the lack of songs from Journal for Plague Lovers - I'd forgotten there were no singles from it. Guest vocalists included Gruff Rhys and Nina Persson.

The Ritz, Manchester | 27th September 2013

I finally got to hear my favourite Manics song, "Sleepflower," live! I'd thought about it before the gig and when James Dean Bradfield said "This is the first time we've played this one on the tour..." I felt I knew what was coming. Other highlights were a solo acoustic of "The Everlasting" and anthemic closer "Everything Must Go," which isn't usually one of my favourite Manics tunes.

Mélanie Pain

For fans of: French pop, Keren Ann, Nouvelle Vague.

Jazz Cafe, London | 28th January 2011

Mélanie Pain

I had a spare night in London and found out about Mélanie Pain when looking for gigs. A wonderful set, with Mélanie, a guitarist and keyboardist/pianist, with a chilled out and fun vibe (lots of laughs and crowd participation) which made a nice change to my usual gigs and suited the songs well.

Mono

For fans of: Beautiful instrumental rock crossed with classical music.

Gorilla, Manchester | 14th November 2016

Mono

I wasn't sure how this gig would go, as I wasn't a big fan of the newest album at the time (it's grown on me since). I needn't have worried, as it was the best sound I'd heard at a Mono gig, with wonderful noise and subtle moments. Plenty of my favourites were played, including beautiful versions of "Ashes in the Snow" and "Dream Odyssey." The only downside was the talkers, and the set ending on my least favourite from the new album, which sounded better live, but was nowhere near the most epic way to end. But what came previously more than made up for it.

(with The Holy Ground Orchestra) Koko, London | 7th June 2011

The orchestra was often drowned out, but when it wasn't the sound combined with Mono was absolutely incredible, and the setlist was great.

Mostly Autumn

For fans of: Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, classic rock with an occasional Celtic twist.

Assembly, Leamington Spa | 13th December 2015

Christmas fun to end 6-hours of mostly Mostly Autumn playing live

I can't believe this gig was four years ago, as it seems like yesterday. An opening acoustic set, with each band member singing a song, was magical. I thought the talent of Mostly Autumn's band members couldn't surprise me any more after 13 years as a fan, but I was wrong. If I had to pick highlights, Angela Gordon (singing "Magpie," I think) and surprisingly stepping forward from behind the drum kit to sing and play guitar on a self-penned song about superheroes, Alex Cromarty.

After support from violinist-extraordinaire Anna Phoebe, the dark Dressed in Voices album was played in full and sounded the best it's sounded live.

The main set and Pink Floyd covers didn't sound as powerful as they had in York a month earlier, but were still superb.

To round off the night, the Christmas songs were brilliant, with a return for older regulars like "I Believe in Father Christmas" and "Fairytale of New York" (with added violin). A seemingly impromptu "White Christmas" playfully forced on everyone by Bryan Josh, with solos from each band member, was ridiculously good fun.

So from 4pm-10:10pm, with Mostly Autumn playing for over 4 hours in total. A ridiculous idea? A ridiculously good idea. Bruce Springsteen, eat your heart out.

Grand Opera House, York | 13th November 2015

I sighed when I realised Dressed in Voices, my least favourite Mostly Autumn album, was being played in full again, as I'd seen it live a few times - but I enjoyed it again!

"The Night Sky," at the start of the second set, was amazingly atmospheric and incredible. Ten Pink Floyd tracks followed, with "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and "Great Gig in the Sky" the highlights, with Olivia Sparnenn doing a stunning job on vocals. I became a Pink Floyd fan ahead of this gig.

The set ended with a few Mostly Autumn tracks. The penultimate, "The Gap is Too Wide," was one of the most incredible things I've ever heard. It's always amazing, but the venue's sound and Anna Phoebe's violin-playing combined with Bryan Josh's lead guitar, with the already epic choral and instrumental backing behind them, took it to another level. For the first time, live music made me cry.

Assembly, Leamington Spa | 9th October 2016

Just the three sets from Mostly Autumn after the previous year's Leamington epic. The "acoustic" set ended in a full band "Evergreen," the highlight before then Angela Gordon singing on a spellbinding version of Christy Moore's "Ride On." I'd love to hear a recording of that.

A covers set followed. My highlight was probably Pink Floyd's "Us and Them." It was no surprise (no pun intended) guitarist Chris Johnson picked a Radiohead song and "Fake Plastic Trees" was another highlight. The highlights in the main set featured Anna Phoebe's amazing violin playing on "The Night Sky" (always epic) and "The House on the Hill." I always love hearing "Answer the Question" and "The Spirit of Autumn Past" - two staples in the set when I began attending Mostly Autumn gigs.

This was the gig when I finally realised how good Chris Johnson's "Silver Glass" is.

The Robin 2, Bilston | 8th December 2013

Highlights included Iain Jennings and Olivia Sparnenn performing the beautiful "Rain Song," "Nowhere to Hide" and a brilliant version of "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday" with only jingle bells and the wonderful vocal harmonies of Olivia and Hannah Hird remaining till the end.

Mostly Autumn's Christmas gigs are so much fun, and apart from being with family, the best thing about Christmas!

The Robin 2, Bilston | 4th June 2018

"Storms Over Still Water" made a welcome appearance and "Silver Glass" has become a massive highlight, just like the tear-jerking "Silhouettes of Stolen Ghosts" with Olivia and Iain always is. I was also delighted to hear three of my four favourites from most recent album (at the time), Sight of Day.

The New Mendicants

For fans of: Pernice Brothers, Teenage Fanclub.

International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester | 13th June 2013

Fantastic vocal harmonies, a great setting and wonderful humour from Norman Blake and Joe Pernice. For once I found out about a Teenage Fanclub side-project in time to catch them early on. Highlights included Teenage Fanclub's "It's All In My Mind" and covers of "Finding You" by The Go-Betweens and "Butcher's Tale" by The Zombies.

Photos and review of The New Mendicants.

The Polyphonic Spree

For fans of: ???

Club Academy, Manchester | 9th September 2015

The Polyphonic Spree

A life-affirming bundle of joy. I can't believe it was 12 years since I first (and last) saw The Polyphonic Spree. I don't know how they do it. I watch YouTube clips online and think "What the?" It must be great to perform with the whole crowd smiling back at you. The play through of The Beginning Stages of... was the definite highlight, but the whole gig was fun, with a couple of Happy Birthday renditions for band members. I didn't think it was possible to come close to the first time I saw The Polyphonic Spree (when they played "Soldier Girl" three times, broke the venue curfew and were promptly dropped by their record label the next day), but they came close. I'm pleased to see they have a new album due - hopefully that means another UK tour. Must see live.

The Philharmonia Orchestra

Bridgewater Hall, Manchester | 15th September 2012

The BBC's Planet Earth in Concert. At times this was brilliant – the snow leopard and accompanying music was my highlight, along with the humour of the thieving penguin from Frozen Planet, an encore preview of a forthcoming series.

Rhythm of the 90s

The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent | 6th October 2018

The only covers band to make my list. Feel good fun, and I even enjoyed some songs I don't like. It was great to hear dance classics by the likes of Haddaway, Fragma, Planet Perfecto and Corona with a band setup, and the singer was excellent. I mustn't have heard many of these songs in 10+ years.

Silver Sun

For fans of: Pop songs with crunchy guitars and vocal harmonies to die for, Weezer, Fountains of Wayne, Posies.

Academy 2, London | 24th November 2017

Silver Sun

Silver Sun gigs are pretty straightforward. They simply turn up and play the songs. And sound great. The set kicked off with a life-affirming "Last Day." The announced b-side I hoped would be "High Times" was instead an excellent "17 Times." After the glorious "Golden Skin" I thought "I hope they play 'There Goes Summer'" - it was up next and my highlight of the set. Songs that are always a great pleasure to hear live - and songs I'm never quite sure I'll hear live again.

sleepmakeswaves

For fans of: Rocky melodic post-rock and progressive metal.

Boston Music Room, London | 10th May 2014

sleepmakeswaves

I only knew a few songs by sleepmakeswaves before this gig – but they blew everyone else at the Beyond the Redshift day festival off the park. They were full of enthusiasm and energy and you could tell they were delighted to be there, with the furious pace barely dipping and melodies bursting out between the heavy guitars.

Slowdive

For fans of: They made their take on the shoegaze sound famous, but DIIV and Beach House are current bands influenced by Slowdive. No one does it better than Slowdive, but the likes of Soon, She Said and Deserta are up there.

The Garage, London | 29th March 2017

Slowdive

I remember making a list of bands in response to a forum post in the early-2000s, of split bands you'd love to see live. Unbelievably, all bar one of those 7 or 8 bands reformed, and I've seen them live. Slowdive are the most recent, and the band I was most excited about (I'm still holding out for a Symposium reunion).

This was the most serendipitous gig on my list. It was announced at very short notice, and I was in London that night to see The Shins. The Shins are responsible for probably the best gig I've attended, but I sold that ticket after I bought a ticket for this Slowdive gig (which sold out in minutes).

It's the best overall Slowdive gig I've attended, with superb sound for every song. It was like being drowned in waves of beautiful noise at times. An unreleased song at the time, "No Longer Making Time," sounded like a mix of every previous Slowdive album and fresh at the same time.

Although recorded sound never captures the live experience, the video recording gives some idea if turned up beyond eleven.

The Forum, London | 19th December 2014

"Avalyn," "Catch the Breeze" and a reworked "Crazy for You" near the start of the set sounded immense – some of the best live noise I've ever heard. "Avalyn" in particular was jaw-dropping. The outro of "When the Sun Hits" was in a similar vein.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Gorilla, Manchester | 23rd February 2017

Sophie Ellis-Bextor and band

Way more fun than I expected and makes me think I should see more pop acts live. Sophie Ellis-Bextor is an entertainer who knows how to get the crowd going, with a good band. Songs from the Familia album were highlights, plus an excellent mini-acoustic set, and the dance classics at the end (maybe I would say this, but live dance music always sounds better with the classic rock band set up), followed by an unmiked acoustic in the audience.

Teenage Fanclub

For fans of: Teenage Fanclub. Or Big Star-esque 90s alt-rock with great vocal harmonies.

Electric Ballroom, London | 14th November 2018

Ray McGinley, Dave McGowan, Paul Quinn, Norman Blake, Gerry Love and a Norman mask on the monitor in front of Norman (courtesy of Brendan O'Hare)

Two of my favourite albums (Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain) played in full with a great sound and the usual feel-good atmosphere of a Teenage Fanclub gig added to by the high jinks of former-drummer Brendan O'Hare's occasional appearances onstage (not always with an instrument).

Norman's guitar string broke during "Neil Jung," my favourite Teenage Fanclub song, so we got the opening twice. That alone would've made it the perfect gig. I never thought I'd see Teenage Fanclub as a seven-piece, and "Speed of Light" sounded immense with that seven.

Academy 3, Manchester | 7th November 2018

Howdy! played in full and a joy from start to finish, with "Near You" sounding especially wonderful. The upbeat "The Shadows" was a b-side highlight. Also "Thaw Me," "Every Step," "The Count," "Long Hair" and obviously the magical "Broken" (with the crowd singing the end). This gig just edges the Birmingham equivalent, where Kylie Minogue's "Like A Virgin" was a shambolic but awesome finish when the band didn't know how to end it.

Academy 2, Birmingham | 9th November 2018

The fuzzed up pop of Bandwagonesque had a superb meatier sound tonight. "Alcoholiday" (a fan favourite but only a 'like' for me) was a surprise highlight. "Is This Music?," "Metal Baby" and Brendan singing "Sidewinder" were other highlights. From the Thirteen set, I loved "Get Funky" and the "Gene Clarke" instrumental intro.

Gorilla, Manchester | 7th September 2016

It was great to have Teenage Fanclub back on tour after a few years away. I managed to grab a last minute ticket for this sold out gig that fell on my birthday. The setlist was excellent - highlights included "Don't Look Back," "I Dont Want Control of You," a rocky "Sometimes I Don't Need to Believe in Anything" (a surprise for me as it hadn't stood out before) and from the new album, "The Darkest Part of the Night," which has become one of my favourite songs.

Tomorrow We Sail

For fans of: Yndi Halda, The Ascent of Everest, folky post-rock.

The Crescent, Salford | 3rd May 2015

Tomorrow We Sail

Sent shivers through my core. All I knew about Tomorrow We Sail before this gig was that they were a post-rock band from Leeds. They turned out to be one of the best live bands I've seen, with a beautiful sound and songs that took unexpected turns. They were immensely powerful at times, especially when all seven band members sang at once. They played one old song, and the rest new, which boded well for the forthcoming album (long-awaited, but turned out to be a favourite of 2018). I bought their debut at this gig. YouTube live video.

Tweedy & Jeff Tweedy

For fans of: Wilco.

Jeff Tweedy

The Ritz, Manchester | 30th January 2015

Aside from the bass being too loud where I was standing at times (in front of the bass amp), the Tweedy gig started good and got better. A brilliant "California Stars" ended the encore. As always when Jeff Tweedy is around, there was great banter with the crowd. A really fun gig.

And what a treat to have a Jeff Tweedy acoustic before Tweedy's encore. "Passenger Side" was the highlight. I love pretty much anything from the A.M. album and wish it featured in Wilco sets more.

Ultrasound

For fans of: They only really sound like Ultrasound, but elements of indie rock, glam rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock and more are present, with great melodies thrown in for good measure.

Ruby Lounge, Manchester | 23rd November 2012

Ultrasound in a dark Ruby Lounge

My favourites from both albums at the time; the melody-bursting rock of "Suckle" (this was the highlight – wow), "Floodlit World," the epic "Between Two Rivers" (quite possibly the best song about Liverpool) and "Welfare State" were played. "Same Band" was epic, despite it not being one of my favourites on record. "Deus Ex Natura" was a surprisingly impressive highlight - a song I've grown to love since. I wish I'd seen Ultrasound sooner and since. They're touring in 2020, so if I'm not away, I'll be there.

Wolf Alice

For fans of: A mix of rock and pop subgenres such as grunge and shoegaze.

The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent | 22nd May 2014

Wolf Alice

It was a surprise to see Wolf Alice in a half-full Sugarmill, but cool to see them shortly before they began selling out much bigger venues. They were the best new band I'd seen for a while; energetic, loud, subtle and fragile in equal measure, with an air of confidence about their songs. It was also refreshing to see a band who were yet to release an album play for almost an hour. I've seen many bands with one album play for barely half an hour, even when they have the songs to back it up.

See Wolf Alice in 2014 for more.

Wilco

For fans of: Alt-country, alt rock, experimental rock. They don't really sound like anyone I know.

Academy, Manchester | 25th October 2011

Highlights from the new album included opener "Art of Almost" and "Dawned On Me." The gig was good for the first half, but from "Box Full of Letters" onwards it was fantastic. I didn't expect to hear a song from A.M. (probably my favourite Wilco album) so that more than made up for the omission of "Jesus, Etc." I've always thought "Handshake Drugs" decent on record, but tonight it was one of the highlights, with lead guitarist, Nels Cline, casually shredding his guitar to bits in the background. They're so good live, I always come away with an appreciation for a previously underappreciated song from a Wilco or Jeff Tweedy gig. "Impossible Germany" is one of the best live songs I've ever heard.

Yndi Halda

For fans of: Mono, beautiful cinematic post-rock, classical.

Oslo Hackney, London | 1st April 2016

Yndi Halda

A crisp, clear and absolutely beautiful sound. Three new songs (unfortunately not "Helena," my favourite from Under Summer) and one old. The set ended with magical in-the-crowd bells. I wondered if I'd contributed somehow, as Yndi Halda had asked me to send them a video of the bells from 2008!

Aladdin, Kristiansand | 23rd September 2016

"Together Those Leaves" became my favourite live song of Yndi Halda's in 2016 - so beautiful, with a mightily beautiful ending (which I still think is too short). The rest of the gig was great too, but the London gig edges it.

Phew

This list was longer than I intended, but I still missed out loads of awesomeness. If I had to pick the five best gigs, I'd go for:

  • Mostly Autumn's 6-hour epic in Leamington.
  • British Sea Power performing Man of Aran in Sheffield.
  • Husky Rescue in London.
  • Joe Hisaishi in Paris.
  • Teenage Fanclub playing Grand Prix and Songs from Northern Britain in London.
  • Slowdive at The Garage in London.
  • Tomorrow We Sail in Salford.
  • Mono in Manchester.

And even that's eight, or nine if I count both of Joe Hisaishi's Paris concerts. Here's to another decade of gigs...

What are your best gig memories of the 2010s? Who are you looking forward to seeing in the 2020s and who should I see? Comment below!

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