Sunday, January 22, 2023


We’re back in business, baby! Two years after Dr Fauci warped down from Soviet Russia to mask our innocents and 5G our babies, a certain normality has returned to these rainy isles. True, cost-of-living concerns and post-lockdown ennui have had a negative effect on gig attendance across the board, but my friends and I, at least, have done our damndest to keep the industry afloat – not difficult, admittedly, as so many acts have returned from their enforced hiatus re-energised and raring to go.

I went a total of 120 shows last year, and before kicking off the Top 50, I’d like to take the opportunity to list the substantial number of acts that didn’t quite make the cut, but are still definitely worth your time and money:

Advance Base, Alvvays, Amyl And The Sniffers, Anamanaguchi, Anna von Hausswolf, Astrel K, Belle and Sebastian, Bo Ningen, Calexico, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Damon Albarn, Daniel Rossen, Dream Wife, Ebony Steel Band, Einsturzende Neubaten, Elton John, Ensemble Nist-Nah, Fatoumata Diawara, Grandaddy, Gustaf, Holy Holy, Ichiko Aoba, Japanese Breakfast, Jeffrey Lewis, Jonathan Bree, Katy J Pearson, Keeley Forsyth, Kiwi Jr, Kyoto Kyoto, Low, Mabe Fratti, Mario Batkovic, Mary Lattimore, Melt-Banana, Nine Inch Nails, No Violet, Nouvelle Vague, Otoboke Beaver, Primal Scream, Robocobra Quartet, Shellac, Slothrust, Songs In The Key of London, Spoon, Surfbort, The Armed, The Besnard Lakes, The Comet Is Coming, The Dears, The Golden Dregs, The Hold Steady, The K***s, The Love Unlimited Synth Orchestra, The National, The Umlauts, Tricot, Ural Thomas, Voka Gentle, Wet Leg and Yard Act.

As for those who did make the cut, I present, without further ado: The Top 50 Live Acts of 2022.

50. BLACK KIDS- London 100 Club

It may have been a whole 15 years(!) since Reggie Youngblood and pals first became MySpace sensations, but they still ain't gonna teach your boyfriend how to dance with you. A super-fun nostalgia hit from one of the great lost Noughties hype bands.

49. ILLUMINATI HOTTIES- London Moth Club

A sturdy power-pop core, spiced with genre influences ranging from post-hardcore to alt-country, topped with a dollop of good old rock-star pizzazz. Hot stuff indeed!

48. PET SHOP BOYS- London Electric Ballroom

A once-in-a-lifetime treat to experience the legendary synth-pop duo in a venue as intimate as the Ballroom. Very stripped down by their standards of course, but who needs gimmicks when you've written 'It's A Sin'...

47. MICHAEL ROTHER- London Clapham Grand

It's not everyday you witness former members of Kraftwerk (Rother), The Jam (Paul Weller) and Joy Division/New Order (Stephen Morris) sharing the same stage, but then again, it’s not everyday two thousand people descend to Clapham to celebrate a half-century of motorik pioneers NEU!

46. TYLER THE CREATOR- Barcelona Primavera Festival

WOLFGANG! Frankly, this might have sneaked into the list simply for transforming Primavera’s aptly nicknamed “Mordor” region into a literal Alpine vista, but Tyler’s consummate showmanship and eccentric sensibilities would have carried this headline set even without the bells and whistles.  

45. QUASI- London Shacklewell Arms

You don't really get this sort of vibrant "held-together-by-spit-and-chewing gum" style of indie-rock any more, so I particularly relished this blast-from-the-pre-Pitchfork-past. Plus, it’s always an honour to witness Janet Weiss kicking out the jams.

44. BLACK COUNTRY NEW ROAD- Brighton Patterns

It’s a brave move to ditch two albums-worth of material and start from scratch after your lead singer quits, but if there was a band to pull it off, it'd be one forged from the ashes of Nervous Conditions. Trad-folk, Pogues-y rabble-rousers, bouncy indie-pop, delicate piano numbers and an 80's style power ballad- these may only be initial sketches whilst the band forges a new, post-Issac identity, but I’m pretty excited to see what they conjure up next.

43. NATION OF LANGUAGE- London Lafayette

My head-canon posits Nation of Language as the fated rivals of fellow alternative band Land of Talk, fighting pitched and bloody battles over the US-Canadian border. In reality, this 80’s-tastic trio beguile us with top-tier synth-pop anthemics and have no apparent animus towards their maple-syrup eating cousins at all.

42. SUZANNE CIANI- London EartH

The 76-year-old modular synth pioneer brought her quadraphonic soundscapes to the cavernous EartH Theatre and I don’t think I’ll ever hear anything sound so pristine again. A real treat for the senses.

41. PAVEMENT- Barcelona Primavera Festival

An honest-to-God Greatest Hits set from the John Peel favourites, made even better by the fact the band actually looked like they wanted to be there (not always a given). A slacker-rock bonanza.

40. PARTY DOZEN- London Shacklewell Arms

Or, as I like to refer to them, The Doom Sax. Three separate people told me this Sydney duo would be up my dingy musical alley, and their uncompromisingly skronky ways certainly dusted off the old cobwebs.

39. ST VINCENT- London Hammersmith Apollo

After the numbing soullessness of Annie’s 2017 Brixton Academy show, I declared that I-I-I-I-I don't wanna be her cheerleader no more, but after her piano show with Doveman later that year and this kitschy, fun and stylish return to form, I think I’m comfortably if cautiously back on the St Vincent bandwagon.

38. KISHI BASHI- London EartH

Loop pedals and violins aren’t the novelty they used to be, but of all the fine practitioners of the art, Kaoru Ishibashi is perhaps the most colourful. It’s a shame EartH’s acoustics didn’t always do justice to his luscious string-drenched indie-pop, but the man could have carried the whole show with sheer charisma alone.

37. ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE- Brighton Komedia

My annual dose of cosmic Japanese psych wizardry. If there’s one song I could happily live within for eternity, "Disco Pink Lady Lemonade" would likely top the poll.


Bouncing to "Take Me Out" in a sweaty student nightclub? No, I’m not nineteen again, but Alex Kapranos and pals almost made me think I was. My back on the other hand, not so much…

35. LOS BITCHOS- London Social

'Let The Festivities Begin' seems to be as much a mission statement as it is an album title, and this proved a super-fun launch party for a super-fun record. Cumbian-psych is clearly where it’s at.


The exuberant, genre-melding Swiss 12-piece provided a well-needed shot of joy after the gothic soul-scouring of Lingua Ignota. Another fine discovery courtesy of the Oto website.

33. ZA! & LA TRANSMEGACOBLA – Barcelona Primavera Festival

There’s a joke that Primavera is Shellac plus 300 other bands, but I reckon the true heart of the festival, the one that sticks two fingers up at the crypto sponsorship and lost-en-route-to-Benicassim types and calls out to the Catalans and lovers of the weird are Za!, an absolutely batshit experimental duo now accompanied by a similarly batshit ensemble. Magnífic!

32. AIMING FOR ENRIKE- London Boston Music Room

Do you like shedloads of effects pedals and sonic awesomeness? Then this Norwegian guitar-and-drum duo will blow your mind (and eardrums).


He came, he covered The Legend of Zelda theme, he conquered. A premium 90 minutes of jazz brilliance from the saxophone maestro, only diminished by the acoustics and humidity of the venue.


30. THE BURNING HELL- London Bush Hall

The warm, whimsical and decidedly weird Canadian folksters have become an unmissable live proposition, and there’s objectively few finer ways way to end a week than with a rousing sing-along to "F***k The Government, I Love You".

29. EZRA FURMAN- London Roundhouse

Ezra’s best London show since the Perpetual Motion People era, fizzling with vitality and rock ‘n roll fire. That late-set run of “Driving Down To LA” →My Zero” →Love You So Bad” →Suck The Blood From My Wound” was as perfect an encapsulation of this once-in-a-generation songwriting talent as you could possibly hope for.

28. TEETH OF THE SEA- London Lexington

The sound of a brutal 80's cyber-punk dystopia distilled into fifty visceral minutes of industrial/electro/psych brilliance: yes, Teeth of the Sea have been appointed house band for Rainy Fascism Island.

27. SPARKS- London Roundhouse

Truly, the Alpha Maels. What more can be said?

26. HOLY FUCK- Birmingham Hare & Hounds

Almost too much propulsive electro-percussive magnificence for a small pub attic in Brum to contain. And yes, Allen remains as Lovely as ever.

25. DAKHABRAKHA- London Barbican

An exhilarating blast of "ethno-chaos" from the big-hatted Ukrainian folk mavericks, earning a rapturous reception from a sold-out Barbican. Slava Ukraini!

24. XENIA RUBINOS- London Kings Place

Do you know who’s wildly underrated as a live performer? Xenia Rubinos. Eclectic, creative, dynamic, fluidly moving between genres, with a great sense of theatre- this is the kind of stuff we need more of.

23. LINGUA IGNOTA- London EartH

Not since Pharmakon caused a monitor to burst into actual flame have I witnessed a musical artist as primally intense as Kristin Hayter. Harrowing yet sublime.

22. SUN RA ARKESTRA- London EartH

The intergalactic avant-garde jazz wizards made a long-awaited pit-stop on planet EartH, under the ever-watchful eye of Marshall Allen, now 98 years of age and still as irrepressible as ever.

21. DAN DEACON- London Alexandra Palace

Yeah, I spent £35 just to see half an hour of Dan Deacon, and je ne regrette rien. The sheer euphoria of the Crystal Cat dance-off could have powered us through the winter fuel crisis.

20. MAVIS STAPLES- London Union Chapel

She’s inevitably more reliant on her backing singers than back in her hey-day (I mean, she is 83), but come on - Mavis Staples! In the flesh! At Union Chapel! A truly radiant human being who can still pack a wallop musically, it’s no surprise she got a standing ovation before singing a single note.

19. TUNE-YARDS- London All Points East Festival

For some unforgivable reason I’d forgotten how much of a powerhouse Merrill Garbus is live, and that’s not just because she felt like a breath of fresh air amongst all the staid indie-rock on display at All Points East. Inventive, day-glo art-pop of the most joyous kind.

18. AROOJ AFTAB- London Barbican

Not every artist sells out the Barbican on their second ever London date, but I think it’s fair to say not every artist is Arooj Aftab. A spectacular display of musicianship from the Pakistani-American prodigy and her phenomenal ensemble.

17. MDOU MOCTAR- London EartH

Earlier this year, Dalston was shredded out of existence - but all concerned agreed it was worth it. I’ve waiting 4 years to witness the Tuareg Hendrix in the flesh (no thanks to the Home Office) and he surpassed even my heady expectations.

16. COLIN STETSON- London Union Chapel

Witnessing this saxophonic sorcerer in full flow is like experiencing a primal force of nature; a literally breathtaking affair for everyone in the vicinity.

15. LES SAVY FAV- Barcelona Primavera Festival

Suits are discarded, monitors are climbed, tables are crowsurfed, bottles of red wine are downed, shirts are shredded into bandanas, minds are blown. This is how you kick off a festival, my friends!

14. PATTI SMITH- London Palladium

I remain bitter this wasn’t the chilled outdoor-festival-in-nice-parkland experience it was initially advertised as (see also: Kamasi Washington), but just being in the same room as one of the most iconic musical artists of the last 50 years kinda compensated. And yes, I did lose my voice during “Gloria”. Again.

13. DONGYANG GOZUPA- London Purcell Rooms

This South Korean trio totally blew my mind at last year's K-Music Festival, but I think they surpassed themselves here. Feverishly dramatic instrumentals that could score the Apocalypse.

12. HOT CONGOTRONICS- London Royal Festival Hall

A wildly successful collaboration between synth-pop faves Hot Chip and Central African legends Kasai Allstars, featuring a lot of enthusiastic if disjointed dancing and an extraordinarily banging rendition of 'Over and Over'.

11. SIGUR ROS- London Brixton Academy

They may lack the orchestral resplendence of years past, and Jonsi is starting to struggle a teensy bit with the high notes, but the Icelandic post-rock legends remain one of the most unapologetically epic bands of our time. “Untitled 8” will forever be the high water-mark for all set-closers to match.

10. JEHNNY BETH- Barcelona Razzmatazz

If you thought Jehnny Beth was intense in Savages, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The musical equivalent of a hadouken to the face.


9. CIRCUIT DES YEUX- London Milton Court

In the dimension where I am an omnipotent deity respected and worshipped by all, Haley Fohr will be lauded by the masses and Ed Sheeran will be tried at the cultural equivalent of The Hague. In the less-good dimension where we currently exist, we’ll have to suffice with “Black Fly” and "Neutron Star" with string ensembles, and I’m pretty content with that.


Now THAT'S what I call live music! Like a Dadaist Bo Ningen, the Parisien trio unleashed unfiltered psych chaos on an unsuspecting Folklore, before wrapping up with a weirdly Blues Brothers-esque encore. Absolutely tremendous.

7. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS – Barcelona Primavera Festival

Another near-Biblical show from a frontman so potent, he renders almost all others irrelevant.

6. !!!- London Heaven

Every year or so, Nic Offer and gang swings into town, unleashes a giga-ton of funk-infused dance-punk upon us undeserving souls, then heads back to wherever gurning dance-machines call “home”. This is a situation that continues to please me greatly.

5. THE ROLLING STONES- London Hyde Park

Perhaps it was the fact this was their first London show in 60 years without Charlie Watts, but Mick, Keef and Ronnie knocked this one out of the stratosphere. Jagger remains a dynamo mere weeks away from his 79th birthday, the setlist had impeccable flow – not least the closing run of Paint It Black, Gimme Shelter, Jumpin' Jack Flash and Sympathy For The Devil - and to experience the riff from “Satisfaction”, one of THE elemental moments of rock ‘n roll history, performed by its progenitor felt like an almost holy moment. I was sceptical I was even going to enjoy the Stones coming in, but I can honestly say this felt truly special.

4. THE MAGNETIC FIELDS- London Hammersmith Apollo

Stephin Merritt and his merry (?) troubadours played "The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side" for the first time in twelve years and it made me deeply, deeply, happy.

3. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM- London Brixton Academy

You know, as fun as it would be to have Daft Punk play my house, I think I'd rather stick with James Murphy at Brixton, cheers.

2. EFTERKLANG- Birmingham Hare & Hounds

Live music in its many forms can elicit all the emotions under the sun, but if you were to ask me what band makes me happy in the purest, most uncomplicated sense, Rasmus, Casper, Mads and co. would definitely be near the peak, playing weird instruments and high-fiving everyone. Indeed, this atmosphere in Kings Heath this August evening was so celebratory, one random member (not me) was inspired to spontaneously propose to her boyfriend. He said yes.

1. ARCADE FIRE- London Koko

The news that Win Butler was a sleazy old man emerged around June this year, resulting in many friends and acquaintances wrestling with the ethics of attending their upcoming tour (I chose not to go in the end). But the fact remains that Arcade Fire’s intimate album launch show at KOKO was without a doubt the gig I enjoyed most this year, and even if my relationship with the band that meant most to me, that introduced me to so many friends and cool things, is irreparable, or at least never fully recoverable due to the actions of their objectively worst member, I have one last positive memory of screaming along to "Wake Up" at the top of my lungs. Now I know what Morrissey fans feel like...

(And for previous editions of this self-indulgent nonsense, now in its 17th year, here are the lists for 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021- sadly the photo links are STILL busted but I plan to sort that out before the heat-death of the Universe.)