Back in January we gave you our music predictions for the Ones To Watch in 2012, so it's only fitting that we round things off with a look back at the London gigs and bands that we — and you — enjoyed watching the most.
What with the Jubilympics taking place this year, there have been quite a few high profile musical events across London. We found the Torch Relay Concert at Hyde Park in July a tad tacky (and corporate), yet it proved to be a brilliant way to connect the Olympic flame with thousands of people. Of the summer festivals in the city, Hard Rock Calling packed some punch but, overall, we thought it could try harder.
Lovebox returned to Victoria Park for another terrific outing with a line-up including Grace Jones, Lana Del Rey and Patrick Wolf. Somerset House’s annual melange of outdoor concerts, meanwhile, continued its stellar tradition this year with the likes of Katy B, Paloma Faith, Charlotte Gainsbourg and French electro-progbots M83.
Wireless Festival had spectacular sets and a faultless atmosphere, which we enjoyed despite — again — a very heavy corporate presence. One of the best performances at Wireless was by Santigold, whose gig in Heaven a couple of months earlier remains among our favourite live shows of the past 12 months. It was sassy and very, very fun. Another international act whose London visit we particularly loved this year was Swedish audio-visual entity iamamiwhoami (pictured). Fronted by Jonna Lee, who meandered among stunned members of the audience during this standout gig at Southbank Centre (as part of the ever-expansive Ether Festival), iamamiwhoami's electro-pop treats and beats went down a storm with London fans, ending with an insatiable standing ovation.
French chanteuse Camille also wowed us with a polished and jovial show at the Barbican, while the return by Tori Amos to the Royal Albert Hall this Autumn left us practically lost for words. Accompanied by a full orchestra (Metropole Orkest from the Netherlands), Amos made what may come across as ‘just good’ on her latest record Gold Dust, sound incredible in the live setting. As Londonist reader Beki Barton commented on our review: "I am a huge fan of her music so of course I am a tad biased but this show was amazing". Similarly, Martha Wainwright's Shepherds Bush show in support of new album Come Home to Mama gave us thrills. Freed from the slightly underwhelming production on the record, Wainwright's new songs really came into their own on stage.
Of our local talent, Saint Saviour continued giving us aural pleasure this year with both her debut album, Union (taking inspiration from Bermondsey's Union Street), and a mesmerising album launch show at St Pancras Church in June. Later that month, Marina and the Diamonds belatedly launched her second album, Electra Heart, at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill and — put it this way, we crushed on her heavily. Bombay Bicycle Club's homecoming live set at Alexandra Palace saw them confidently deploying arena showmanship and Summer Camp's sell-out show at Scala left us wanting more and more.
Another Scala gig which made an impression was Chairlift's return to London in support of latest album, Something. The gig’s top moment came half-way through with single Met Before, during which one could feel the room contract with elation at the charged and faithful-to-the-album-version rendition given to the track on stage. There was even a surprise piñata to play with before the arrival of the last song of the set. You can't go wrong with a piñata.
We've now given up hope on X-Factor alumnus Diana Vickers ever releasing her long overdue second album, but after her superb live performance at Cargo in February we were rather holding out for it. It was a bravo and a thumb held firmly up from us.
We interviewed Sarah Cracknell in the run up to the release of Saint Etienne's latest album, Words and Music by Saint Etienne, which we loved. Having then attended their Palladium show, however, on stage they struck us as a band falling short of their heyday. Still, the night certainly treated us to several moments of pure pop paradise with the airing of "Sylvie", "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and "He's On The Phone".
The Coldplay gig at Emirates Stadium in July certainly hit the spot. As Londonist reader, Jess, commented: "[T]he only words to describe it were: truly amazing! The atmosphere in that stadium was electric and gave me goosebumps".
A few weeks ago we asked our Facebook Likers what their favourite London music gig of 2012 was and the response has, as you can imagine, been fairly eclectic. Molly Brookfield says: "Eugene McGuinness released a fantastic new album and put on some incredible live shows across London this summer and autumn". Molly also really enjoyed one of his support acts, Coves. Anne Forest thought that the series of gigs for the Teenage Cancer Trust by Roger Daltrey was "fabulous" and both Steve Way and Samantha Lizars enjoyed Frank Turner's Wembley appearance.
Brad Chuck also loved this year's Somerset House season, having attended the Paloma Faith show. "Fab location but even better performance", he reports. According to Paulina Skora, the Lumineers, who performed at Koko in November, "absolutely killed it!". For Tony Houghton, Shonen Knife's Osaka Ramones gig "was just awesome". Amy Bogue describes Poliça's Camp Basement gig as "double drumming amazingness" whilst Matt Wolfendale's gig pick of the year is The Heavy at the Borderline. He refers to them as "simply the best live band around at the moment".
Other reader top tips include Chilly Gonzales & the LSO's show at the Barbican (as Tristan More explains: "He's the only artist to successfully crowd-surf the Barbican Hall. True fact") and Lambchop's gig at Cadogan Hall, which Jon Gilmartin describes as "Bliss served with perfection".
All in all, we're sure you'll agree that 2012 was a fantastic year for live music in London and we are very excited to continue bringing you previews and reviews of shows coming up in 2013. Do be sure to tell us about anything we've missed out, using the comment section below.
Happy new musical year!
iamamiwhoami was photographed by Poppy Cockburn