T. S. Eliot once contended that “April is the cruelest month”. I’m not convinced, Tom. Enter January – the month when everyone’s skint, it’s freezing, and a ruddy plumpness is all that remains of Christmas. And that is precisely why we need some amazing gigs to look forward to. Of course, a lot hangs in the balance for live music as we head towards the new year, but we’re veering towards the side of optimism as we round up our highlights for January and February.
Symphonic punk outfit Godspeed You! Black Emperor make achingly beautiful records that flit between elegy and aggression with a widescreen grandeur. Spring 2021 saw them release one of the best albums of their 27-year career, and they’re bringing it to Manchester Academy in January.
Bristol EBM band SCALPING – purveyors of a pummelling blend of techno, punk, post-rock and metal – have quickly established themselves among the country’s most electrifying live bands, igniting venues and festivals across UK and Europe with a precise, unrelenting energy. Catch them at Salford den of debauchery The White Hotel, supported by Manchester’s own Mandy, Indiana.
Abstract Orchestra are a Leeds-based hip-hop big band featuring musicians that have recorded and toured with the top acts in the world. At The Blues Kitchen, watch them perform some of J Dilla’s best loved cuts from his sprawling back catalogue. Think jazz orchestration meets hip-hop beats, guest rappers and vocalists.
Reaching further into the year, seven-time Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Billie Eilish is heading to Manchester Arena with Happier Than Ever, The World Tour, while Berlin-based chanteuse Anika – a founding member of cult electro-psych outfit Exploded View – will be performing tunes from her avant-pop album Change at YES.
Read about all of the above, below, and remember that you can listen to all of the artists we cover in our Spotify playlist:
Here are our picks
In summer 2021, Berlin-based chanteuse Anika dropped her first solo album in over a decade. Drawing on the skittering, austere electronics of Broadcast and Boards of Canada, Change is a perfectly formed slice of avant-garde pop. Watch her perform songs from it live at YES, accompanied by a full new band.
Stockholm-based post punk band Viagra Boys’s new album Welfare Jazz sees them further explore the grubby underbelly of society, championing the world’s underdogs while taking aim at subjects like toxic masculinity and misogyny.
Join Joe Feeley a Mancunian through and through, who guides you into Manchester’s two pillars of cultural excellence with his Rock and Goal tour.
‘Interruptions: Sounds’ is an online collection of new audio works by seven artists, spanning spoken word, ambient sound and musical tracks.
MediaCity has a packed programme of festive exhibitions, light illuminations and shows, making it a cultural winter for all.
Band on the Wall’s World of Music choir makes singing accessible for everyone regardless of musical ability and experience, learning songs in harmony by ear.
It’s not just Symphony Orchestras or big name artists that perform as the RNCM, their lunchtime and spotlight concerts showcase the best student performers in more intimate settings.
The RNCM Brass Band Festival is back with a two-day showcase of some of the UK’s leading brass bands, plus top international soloists.
The RNCM Symphony Orchestra is joined by organist Anna Lapwood and conductor Anu Tali for an evening of specially selected symphonic works.
RNCM welcomes back the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers for a show of skill, stamina and red-hot rhythms to stir your soul.