In no particular order, the ten best sets from 2022.
The Armed – ArcTanGent Festival, August 20th 2022
I’ve wanted to see The Armed for a while – sadly I discovered them after reading a friend’s incredible description of their previous London show and, with the Moth Club show cancelled due to the pandemic (that should absolutely be rescheduled at some point!), this was finally my chance. From the first note this is one of the most insane, energetic, gigs I’ve witnessed. Guitars are thrown, mic stands are ruined, crowds are surfed upon. It’s utter chaos. It’s everything I wanted.
Kendrick Lamar – Glastonbury Festival, 26th June 2022
I’m not usually a big fan of the big Pyramid Stage headline sets, mostly due to how far back you end up in the crowd but, for Kendrick Lamar, it’s worth making my way towards the front for it. It’s a set of tracks from pretty much his whole discography and the use of dancers on stage make it as much a piece of theatre as it is a live piece of music. There’s definitely live instruments but they’re hidden out of sight so as to not distract from the performance on stage. The whole set ended with a chant for women’s rights, with the changes to abortion law in the USA on everyone’s minds.
Biffy Clyro – Den Grå Hal, Copenhagen, 29th September 2022
When the UK shows are all in arenas and the European shows are in much smaller venues a quick trip across to the continent is usually worth it. Den Grå Hal was an odd venue, in a community that seems to live separate from the rest of society, but that also meant reasonable drinks! In a way it’s a shame that the set is devoid of the first three albums but the newest two albums sound great and it’s sort of about the communal experience, singing along, etc. The fact they sound tighter than they’ve ever sounded doesn’t hurt either.
Tigran Hamasyan – The Barbican, 14th July 2022
Performing songs from his recent album, StandArt, reimagining songs from the Great American Songbook, Tigran Hamasyan is a unique performer. His inspirations seem to be quite varied, taking inspiration from the music of his native Armenia alongside jazz and, occasionally, metal. It’s an energetic set with the most incredible dynamic range to it. It’s unusual to be at a seated show at the Barbican while headbanging. Great fun though.
Knower – Heaven, London, 2nd September 2022
I discovered Knower during the pandemic off the back of youtube suggesting Louis Cole videos – I’d seen the live session videos but was curious to see how it works as a duo live set. While relying a lot more on prerecorded music, the duo used visuals brilliantly to make things more interesting. The live drumming helped, as did the excellent vocals on the night. The crowd singing along just really rounded this experience off nicely.
Iglooghost – The Southbank Centre, January 22nd 2022
Creating an entire world for the Southbank Centre show, filled with musical artefacts which were then utilised in the live performance, Iglooghost put on a very unique show – another one where being seated felt a little wrong but the way it was performed made up for it. The music of Iglooghost blows my mind and the performance was as magical as the music itself.
Mclusky – The Lexington, London, 20th May 2022
One of my favourite bands playing a much smaller than usual show on the day of my birth? What’s not to love. Technical issues aside (an electrocuted Falko is never ideal) the setlist was great and, once the crowd got going, it’s carnage. With every lively set I catch upstairs at The Lexington I wonder how much longer that floor is going to survive.
Pom Poko – Norwich Arts Centre, 3rd February 2022
Pom Poko have a sort of Deerhoof-esque sound to them – lively, with a sort of crazy drum sound and slightly left-field guitar parts. The vocals represent undistilled joy. At Norwich Arts Centre you’re so wrapped up in their energetic performance that it’s hard not to move as the band move. The music is weird but also somehow familiar. It’s one of the few gigs this year where I’ve come away with all the records on the merch stall.
Phoebe Bridgers – Glastonbury Festival, 24th June 2022
Coming on stage to Down With The Sickness, it didn’t take long to really get a feel for what Phoebe Bridgers fans are like, the singalongs often exceeding any other set I saw over the Glastonbury weekend. It was a wonderful set and Pheobe sounds great, even if she gets drowned out by an adoring crowd frequently.
Frontierer – ArcTanGent Festival, 20th August 2022
Frontierer’s 2021 album, Oxidized, was an utterly terrifying body of work – the way each song progressed, the way the high pitch guitar squeals attack the listener, just the sheer complexity and brutality of it. The terrifying nature is transferred well to live performance – you can try and keep track of one member’s movements but then suddenly the other guitarist is at the top of the stage truss or flying over your head. The vocals sound incredible. My only possible gripe is that, last time I saw them at ArcTanGent, it was dark enough in the tent for the light show to really bring the unease – it was a little too early in the day for that this time. Putting that aside though, easily one of the best sets all weekend!