Year In Review: Fifteen Of The Best Live Performances Of 2018

on Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Words: Saam Das

We've had the pleasure of going to a number of gigs and festivals across the year and across the lands - from our native London to Sussex coastal voyages to Rockaway Beach and The Great Escape, with a cheeky debut visit to Handmade Festival in Leicester. We've collated fifteen of our favourite live sets of 2018 below.

Snapped Ankles @ Rockaway Beach (Butlin's Bognor Regis, 13 January 2018)

The "music fest at Butlin's" approach has been done with some success by All Tomorrow Parties at Minehead, and Rockaway Beach is well on its way as establishing itself as an important staple of the calendar. Our first festival of 2018 also saw our first great performance of the year, as the delightfully costumed Londoners Snapped Ankles delivered a bizarre and joyous set of shamanistic experimentalism and hilarious witticisms.

Peter Hook & The Light @ Rockaway Beach (Butlin's Bognor Regis, 14 January 2018)

Bringing Rockaway Beach 2018 to a close as well as a weary audience to their feet, the superb Peter Hook & The Light breathed new life into the Joy Division/New Order musician's incredible back catalogues. Iconic tracks including 'Disorder' and 'Blue Monday' built up brilliantly to the ever-emotional 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' - a special finale to a wonderful festival.

Tiny Giant @ Are You Listening? Festival (Reading, 29 April 2018)

The might of Chloe Alper and Mat CollisTiny Giant were the first band we caught at 2018's Are You Listening? Festival, aka the other brill music festival in Reading. Sharing a similar quiet/loud dynamic to the likes of The Joy Formidable, tracks like the brilliant 'School Of Hard Knocks' proved understandably popular for a hefty early crowd at Oakford Social Club.

Valeras @ Are You Listening? Festival (Reading, 29 April 2018)

There was something mesmerising about Valeras and their visually impressive hair flailing at Reading's Sub89 accompanying their bombastic sound, at times not too dissimilar from Wolf Alice. Combining elements including grunge and psych, they also importantly filled the Are You Listening? Festival's cowbell quotient, much to the delight of a highly receptive hometown audience.

Deerful @ Are You Listening? Festival (Reading, 29 April 2018)

We had the pleasure of witnessing the charm and wit of Emma Winston (performing as Deerful) in full flow at South Street Studio. Her blend of indie-pop and electronica was as entrancing as her amusingly awkward audience interactions. This juxtaposition was best encapsulated in the Game Boy-driven 'Two Thousand One Hundred And Sixty' (unexpectedly echoing Bloc Party's 'The Pioneers') which inspired a small breakaway dance duo, partly fuelled by two quite full glasses of wine.

Her's @ Handmade Festival (Leicester, 5 May 2018)

An early slot at a festival can be a toughie. But Liverpool-based off-kilter twosome Her's made light work of their afternoon set on the O2 Academy Main Stage at Leicester's 2018 Handmade Festival. Coming across as the ultimate odd-couple, their lo-fi wonky pop accompanied by a unique joie de vivre was an unexpected delight. So much so that we went well out of our way to catch them again at The Great Escape Festival later in 2018.

Black Futures @ Handmade Festival (Leicester, 6 May 2018)

Noise merchants Black Futures offered one the most beguiling live sets of the year - at Handmade, the energetic duo were dressed in black juxtaposed against a mysterious silent quartet adorned in white coveralls, whose only liberation appeared to be a bit of nodding at the end of the performance. Several months on, we're still confused and amazed.

Easy Life @ Handmade Festival (Leicester, 6 May 2018)

Jazzy in disposition and somewhat also in musical style, Easy Life made playing a main stage festival slot to new fans look...well...easy. Led by the enigmatic Murray Cameron, Easy Life's sounds encompass the likes of Jamie T and The Streets, with a surprising brass-based tinge. Their live efforts were noted by BBC producers, leading to a TV debut on 'Later With Jools Holland' in October 2018.

Boy Azooga @ The Great Escape Festival (Brighton, 17 May 2018)

There's something wonderfully whimsical about seeing bands by a sunny seaside, and it was no different in May 2018, as Boy Azooga made a lovely Thursday afternoon of The Great Escape Festival a little lovelier. The Welsh wonders have been developing a reputation as one of Britain's finest new bands, and their bouncy nostalgia was in fine fettle in Brighton.

Maison Book Girl @ The Great Escape Festival (Brighton, 18 May 2018)

We're often trying to broaden our musical horizons, and a Friday night J-pop line-up at The Great Escape gave us the double whammy of heralded star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (KPP) (who counts Charli XCX as a collaborator) and girl-group-with-a-difference, Maison Book Girl. Their absurdist industrial pop was complemented perfectly by the best synchronised dance moves we saw all year. And we almost didn't even see them, due to how ludicrously smoke-filled The Arch was - something the band even amusingly and endearingly noted.

Haiku Hands @ Birthdays (22 May 2018)

Haiku Hands down, this Aussie trio of rabble rousers were our favourite live act of 2018. We'd already caught them in an afternoon slot at The Great Escape, where they were one of the most buzz-worthy acts of the festival, and we also made sure to see them in October at Corsica Studios, but it was their triumphant Birthdays gig that was the best of the best. (Of the best, sir.) Part Beastie Boys, part pop, full on fun.

Sam Fender @ Community Festival (Finsbury Park, 1 July 2018)

Nominated for the BBC Sound Of 2018, and announced as a winner of The BRITs' Critic Choice Award, 2018 proved to be a breakthrough year for Northern troubadour Sam Fender. His rousing sound and rich vocals served him well in the live arena also, with a stunning performance at London's burgeoning Community Festival at Finsbury Park.

The Go! Team @ Kaleidoscope Festival (Alexandra Palace, 21 July 2018)

There are a few bands that can evoke joy in the same effusive manner as The Go! Team can, and we're pleased to say that their appearance at new London festival, Kaleidoscope was no different. On a warm summer's day outside of the iconic Alexandra Palace in North London, the band appropriately ran through their hits, both new and old. Led by ever-enthusiastic frontwoman Ninja and backed by a dazzling array of instrumentation, this was an apt demonstration that the now-veterans haven't lost a step.

The Flaming Lips @ Kaleidoscope Festival (Alexandra Palace, 21 July 2018)

Legendary Oklahoma outfit The Flaming Lips are renowned for their live show, and exceeded expectations in their appropriate billing as first ever headliners at Kaleidoscope. Not content with simply delivering psychedelic hit after hit, they brought a wider sense of psychedelia to Ally Pally in an undoubtedly hitherto unseen manner - confetti and giant balloons aplenty, and the delirious sight of Wayne Coyne fighting a literal uphill battle as he tried to bounce atop the crowd in a huge plastic sphere.

Flamingods @ Smithfield Market (26 August 2018)

In the unusual setting of a London meat market, exotic experimentalists Flamingods raised spirits on a particularly rainy afternoon, celebrating 150 years of Smithfield Market. Their leftfield sounds reflected a smorgasbord of bands including King Khan & The Shrines and Kula Shaker, both connecting the band with their roots and expanding our tiny minds in a most welcome manner.

For more of our top things from 2018, click here.

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