May Highlights 2019

Posted: Friday 31 May 2019

May gave us just the tiniest glimpse of summer and the start of festival season, but whilst we were trying to keep up with the weather’s ever-changing moods, we also enjoyed numerous nights of live music. Here’s a look at some of our favourite bits from the month gone by.


O2 Academy Brixton | 2-3 May

Okay, we know we included Dave in last month’s highlights, but after his two sold-out performances at O2 Academy Brixton, we couldn’t not tell you about it. Storming the charts with his number one debut album, Psychodrama, Dave has been the rapper on everyone’s lips over the past couple months and having grown up just down the road in Streatham, we knew these shows were going to be extra special. A giant, laser shooting skull stood pride of place on the stage (yes, really) and from the moment he stepped foot on the stage, Dave commanded the crowd with every word that rolled off his tongue.

Special guests were plentiful, too, with Headie One, AJ Tracey, Mo Stack, Burna Boy, Fredo, J Hus, D Block Europe AND Stormzy all making an appearance, with the latter breaking out into new single ‘Vossi Bop’ for the first time, within hours of it topping the charts. Dave also made one fan a special guest during ‘Thiago Silva’, bringing them up on stage to rap AJ Tracey’s part in the song and making this homecoming gig truly feel like a family affair.


O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester | Friday 24 May

On Friday 24 May, bands, musicians and the people of Manchester came together to raise an almighty amount of funds for the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity, A Bed Every Night. Headlined by indie legends, Courteeners, with Blossoms, Bugzy Malone and more throughout the night, it was an extremely special event, with fans able to watch their hometown heroes in the intimate setting of O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester.

Chants from the locals echoed around the venue from the moment it all kicked off, everyone listening with intent as the mayor explained how shows like this were helping keep 300 people off the street. A poignant, but celebratory evening, you could feel the love in the room for the city and the band’s hit-filled sets went down an absolute storm, so we can only hope Raise The Roof makes its return next year for more unforgettable moments.


O2 Forum Kentish Town | Monday 27 May

Lizzo has become one of the standout artists of 2019. Full of energy and spirit, she’s made all of us love ourselves that little bit more and has been spreading joy with the funky pop beats of her new album, Cuz I Love You. Hitting O2 Forum Kentish Town for one of the hottest and most in-demand gigs of the year, she strutted her way onto stage and kicked things off with the album’s title track, with the infamous artwork draped from the ceiling behind her.

A truly empowering performance, the crowd were having the time of their life, (which included Bastille’s Dan Smith and comedians Katherine Ryan and Sarah Pascoe, to name a few), but then it’s hard not to smile when you’re in the presence of Lizzo’s bubbly personality. Dancing was the main activity for the night, with Lizzo’s vocals effortlessly soundtracking her badass moves and twerking. Then, just as we thought it couldn’t get any better, she whipped out a flute for ‘Coconut Oil’ and gave the most stunning solo we’ve ever witnessed. A magical performance, it marked a real moment in Lizzo’s career and we all knew that it’d be the last time we’d be watching her in this intimate setting, making it all that little bit extra special.


O2 Academy Sheffield | Tuesday 28 May

It’s not every day that you have people queuing outside a venue before most people have even gotten out of bed, but that was the case when Anne Marie rolled into town. Eager fans were perched by the doors for hours to make sure they got the best seat in the house and their dedication was certainly worth it.

First making her name as Rudimental’s live vocalist, before launching her solo career with the infectious ‘Do It Right’ and ‘Ciao Adios’, the wait for her debut album last year felt like a long one. Upon its release though, the world knew it had found their new favourite pop star. Full of happy beats and self-love anthems, it’s a record that speaks to everyone and that was made clear by the variety of people in the audience at her O2 Academy Sheffield show. Performing some of the album’s biggest smashes, including ‘Alarm’ and ‘2002’, she also treated the grinning crowd to her collaborative singles, including Marshmello hit, ‘FRIENDS’ and Clean Bandit banger, ‘Rockabye’. Every word was sung back twice as loud and Anne Marie showed nothing but love for her audience, verifying that she’s one of the most humble and relatable artists around right now.


O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire | Tuesday 14 May

Ahead of his massive autumn arena tour, comedian Jack Whitehall took to the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire stage to practice his new material on the people of London in an intimate setting. Known for his hilarious comedy sketches and TV shows, Jack has become one of the country’s favourite stand-up stars, so to have him on stage giving an exclusive look at his new show was a treat for the soul.

Introducing his warm-up act whilst dressed as a mime, it was clear from the offset this was going to be another brilliantly bonkers night from Jack and as soon as he was on stage, the giggles began. Covering a wide range of relatable topics, including vegans, being single and a wild story about his dad getting diarrhoea in Chernobyl, he gave us a weird and wonderful insight into his mind and let us tell you, it’s a strange place to be. Firing t-shirts into the crowd mid-show and heckling anybody that needed the loo, his audience interaction certainly hasn’t wavered despite the size of the venues he now performs at and it’s fantastic to see that there’s still so much energy and creative nonsense coming from the 30-year-old that can make us all laugh until our faces hurt.


O2 Forum Kentish Town | Tuesday 28 May

After two sold out shows at O2 Academy Brixton, The Specials graced the stage at O2 Forum Kentish Town for something far more intimate and (no pun intended) it was a very special gig indeed. It’s hard to believe that their debut album, which is seen by many as a defining record in the UK ska scene and an album that kick-started the two-tone revolution, is 40 years old this year! It’s also testimony to the power of the band that their new album, Encore, hit the number one spot.

The gig was a huge celebration of all that is great and timeless about the band, with a set full of classics, including ‘Message To You Rudy’, ‘Monkey Man’ and of course, ‘Too Much Too Young’. The entire audience, from the very front to the back of the balcony, were singing and dancing together as one, the band’s infectious melodies bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together for a night full of fun! It felt brilliant to have them back, so here’s to another 40 years of great music and great memories.


O2 Academy Bristol | Sunday 23 May

Multi-talented saxophonist and jazz musician, Kamasi Washington made a pit stop at O2 Academy Bristol this month as part of his extensive headline tour across the UK and what a performance it was! Working his way through many of the tracks from last year’s stunning release, Heaven And Earth, alongside his soul fusion band, The Next Step, it was a wonderful meeting of genres and rhythms from around the world.

Velveteen-like melodies flow out of Kamasi’s saxophone with ease, while the rest of his band get involved with solos and big jam sessions that make this feel like a union, rather than a solo act and left audience members grinning from ear-to-ear. Having made ground-breaking steps to bring jazz music into the 21st century, Kamasi Washington is now a highly sought-after live act and it’s easy to see why. Bold, bright and beautiful, everything about the show is magnificent, from the costumes to the choruses, it all compliments each other in a magical way and truly deserves to be seen by music lovers everywhere.


O2 Academy Oxford | Wednesday 15 May

Irish indie-folk singer, SOAK took to the road not long after the release of new album, Grim Town, to perform the record’s coming-of-age anthems to hundreds of adoring fans. Before her headline performance at O2 Academy Oxford, she joined forces with the Young Women’s Music Project to do a Q&A, giving tips and advice on overcoming depression and handling a career in music, amongst other things, which set up the night in truly inspiring way.

Once she was on the stage, the crowd reacted to every word, singing along to their favourite songs and keeping still and quiet during the emotional moments. For someone who started their life as a musician so young, SOAK has mastered the art of live performance and is as much herself on stage as she is a performer, cracking jokes and creating a warming atmosphere that only makes you love her more. She even enjoyed one of our specially made SOAK cocktails, so she’s welcome back anytime!


O2 Academy Brixton | Saturday 11 May

The last time Lower Than Atlantis headlined O2 Academy Brixton, it was to celebrate the release of their fifth studio album, Safe In Sound. Sadly, their return wasn’t for such as joyous occasion, as this would in fact be their last live show, ever. Announcing their decision to split at the end of 2018, the rock world struggled as they lost another of the scene’s standout bands and these final shows were met with both cheers and tears.

Despite frontman, Mike Duce, being struck with illness days before, the band managed to continue with the show and deliver the farewell that both they and their fans deserved. Starting big with ‘Get Over It’ and ‘Dumb’, the band then crammed in as many songs from their 10+ year career as possible, with ‘English Kids In America’ and ‘Deadliest Catch’ becoming the clear winners of the night. After a sombre sing-a-long to ‘Another Sad Song’, the band booted things back into gear with ‘Had Enough’ and ‘Here We Go’ to see out the show, with echoes of love and cheers surrounding the room as the band handed out their equipment to the crowd and left the stage for the final time.


O2 Academy Glasgow | Saturday 18 May

The autumn of 2018 brought the third full-length album from Scottish alternative trio, Fatherson and it marked a shift in sound for the band. Playing with atmospherics, dark piano melodies and gritty guitars, it was a far more mature record for the band and gave us 10 stunning songs that intertwine with each other perfectly.

After an initial run of headline shows to honour its release, the band decided to get back on the horse this month and play a hometown show that they’d never forget. Having worked their way up through some of Glasgow’s finest venues, it was now time to tackle their biggest to date, O2 Academy Glasgow. Filled with 2,500 of their fans, family and friends, the atmosphere was electric and emotions were running high as they began with the mighty ‘Charm School’ and ‘Lost Little Boys’. Probably one of the loudest crowds we’ve heard in a long time, there was nothing but love and respect for Fatherson in this room and this was made clear by the overpowering amount of voices singing back the words to ‘An Island’ and ‘I Like Not Knowing’. Playing a perfect selection of songs from across their three records, the band then rounded it all up with a stunning rendition of ‘Open Book’ and much-loved ballad, ‘James’, which had people swaying in harmony until they had to walk out the door. This was an extremely special night for an extremely special band and Fatherson can carry on knowing they’ve done Scotland proud.


O2 Academy Leeds | Saturday 4 May

Our first festival of the month was the fantastic Live at Leeds. Bringing some of the biggest rising stars and fresh-faced bands to the city centre for a day of live music, it’s a highlight of many people’s year. Hitting the O2 Academy Leeds stage over the course of the day were indie upstarts, Marsicans, noise-duo, Drenge, rock ‘n’ roll newcomers, The Sherlocks and headliners, Sundara Karma, but it was man of the moment, Sam Fender, who really stole the show. With people queueing round the block to catch a glimpse of the Geordie lad, his set was a packed-out performance that included singles, ‘Dead Boys’ and ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, as well as a cover of Oasis, which as you can imagine, went down an absolute treat.


Various Venues | 6-8 May

Selling out an entire tour months before it happens and before you’ve even released your debut album is quite an achievement, but when you take into account that the venues Dermot Kennedy sold out are O2 Academy Brixton, O2 Academy Bristol and O2 Institute Birmingham, it’s really quite astonishing. The Irish singer-songwriter has been steadily making his presence known over the past year, releasing a handful of brooding singles that have seen his popularity soar and embarking on a gruelling tour schedule that barely gave him a day off. The hard work has more than paid off though, as the crowds have doubled in size and the airwaves are making way for his mesmerising music.

Squeezing in the headline shows before he sets out on a summer of festivals, they were the perfect setting to see how far he’d come in such a short amount of time. Despite not having a full body of work to his name yet, there was no shortage of songs on the setlist, with ‘All My Friends’, ‘Lost’ and ‘Young & Free’ setting up the show perfectly. Offernig three new songs, Dermot was giving a taste of what could be coming from his debut, but it was the slow and solemn ‘An Evening I Will Not Forget’ that cast a stunning and silent spell on the room. Though it’s his incredibly powerful voice that first grabs your attention, the minute details that Dermot puts into his performance are something to be applauded. Working with his band to take you on a journey, from the hypnotic transitions between songs, to the gentler moments that take your breath away, everything about his live show is special and the best bit is, there’s still so much more to come.

May well and truly kicked off festival season, with Live At Leeds, Dot To Dot and Handmade all taking over our venues for weekends packed full of bands, but our personal highlight was The Great Escape. Hundreds of bands, artists and industry moguls headed to Brighton to see music’s brightest stars and although we couldn’t fit everything in, we gave it a good go, here’s some of our favourite acts from the weekend.

Tamzene - 'Lullaby'
Kamakaze- Fire In The Booth
Hot Milk - 'Wide Awake'
Lewis Capaldi - 'Someone You Loved'
Halfnoise - 'Who Could You Be'
James Bay - 'Wild Love'
Superlove - 'Book A Holiday'
Marsicans - 'Your Eyes'
Sons Of The East - 'It Must Be Luck'
itoldyouiwouldeatyou - 'Almost Zero'

There aren’t many things better than discovering a new band or artist whose music you instantly connect with. Whether they’re touring the nation making their name or supporting big acts globally, we’re here to put a spotlight on the musically-gifted people with a bright future ahead of them. This month, we introduced you to the badass new pop singer, Julia Michaels.

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