As you can see from our list of TOP 30 LIVE ACTS OF 2012, we saw some amazing musicians in the year 2012, in Manchester, London, Glasgow, Brighton, Leeds, Liverpool, York and Tokyo. Here are just some of our highlights and stories:
We started the year off brilliantly with three back-to-back ANI DIFRANCO shows, at Brighton’s Concorde and twice at London’s Union Chapel, the latter being particularly memorable. The New Orleans-based artist remains a musical and political inspiration to many across the globe. At the London shows, I enjoyed tour manager Heidi’s behind-the-scenes stories (she started off as a mega-fan, transitioning to merch girl, now in full bloom as an incredibly efficient TM), and I can reassure any concerned fans that the now stripped-down Ani has definitely not lost her touch. The classics “Shameless,” “Swan Dive” and “Overlap” were performed with her characteristic passion and precision, while new tracks including “Which Side Are You On?” go to show that, although she has undoubtedly shifted into somewhat less angst-ridden territory, Ani has kept her political edge very much intact and can safely hold on to her title as one of the world’s most gifted and socially-conscious living guitarists and lyricists. As CEO of her own label Righteous Babe Records, Ani DiFranco is a shining example of how retaining independence away from the music industry need not result in career suicide, and in fact can lead you to much greener pastures.
Just as I began to suspect that the UK was lacking in female singer-songwriters of notable depth comes along Scotland’s RACHEL SERMANNI. Her intimate gig at The Castle in Manchester Northern Quarter was so powerful that it brought tears to my eyes. This is a singer and writer who creates from the soul, and, despite her youth, clearly has a lot of thoughts and experiences spinning around her mind and beautiful ways of interpreting them. I had her debut album “Under Mountains” on loop for a long while after its release, and am excited to see where she heads next. Ever-humble, Rachel naturally embodies the grace that many musicians struggle to manufacture.
THE JEZABELS are one of the most talented bands I have seen live, and one of the friendliest on the circuit. All the way from Sydney, their London KOKO show in February blew the stage and with their Aussie stamp firmly now planted on the packed London venue, I expected them to take the UK by storm. The disturbingly myopic vision of the mainstream UK music media has meant that the band still have some convincing to do on this side of the globe. It seems that this rousing pitch-perfect London show, as well as subsequent support slots for Garbage and Skunk Anansie, haven’t been able to persuade the UK to embrace this Australian AMP award-winning foursome. KOKO was a blazing show, with Hayley Mary’s vocals beautifully resounding, Nik’s mental drumming throbbing through the veins, Heather’s classically-trained keys impressing, and Sam’s romantic guitar strums lingering: true gentlewomen and men who come together as professionals, perform as artists, and behave with poise and charm. I can only say that those who aren’t following them are missing out.
Accomplished Canadian musician KATHLEEN EDWARDS gave a memorable performance at Manchester’s Ruby Lounge. Edwards writes beautiful music and lyrics, and her latest Polaris-nominated album “Voyageur” is excellent. Sadly, we’re not expecting her to be in town again too soon after she voiced dissatisfaction with her Europe tour while onstage. The brilliant and charming HANNAH GEORGAS joined Edwards on her tour and was the perfect accompaniment, making this one of the best singer-songwriter combinations of the year.