Sharon Van Etten Sharon Van Etten’s (SVE) four piece band (drums; bass; two keyboards) take the stage and a stark drum beat sets the scene for a minute or three. The cool promise of ecstasy fills the air before Sharon appears with just microphone in hand and belts out the line: ‘our love’s for real’. Everything about her is unrecognisable from when I last saw her seven years ago at the Queen’s Club in Sheffield. She’s embraced the classic rocker look - think Chrissie Hynde - shorn black hair; tattoos, red lippy and leather pants but what is remarkable is the confidence, swagger and sheer energy that she brings to the performance. Her moves are positively Jagger-esque (‘touching your face’) and tightly choreographed as she poses for the cameras and commands eye contact. The sound is bigger, darker, keyboard heavy and mostly guitar free.


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Skunk Anansie The atmosphere in the Manchester Academy was electric as the crowd waited for returning heroes Skunk Anansie to play a career spanning mega set.


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Yo La Tengo Yo La Tengo (YLT) have been around for some 35 years and have 15 studio albums to their credit. Since Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley formed the band they’ve had 14 bass players, but James McNew has occupied that spot since 1992, so they are now a very stable musical trio. When asked later how the band manages to be so relaxed on stage they agree that it’s down to their confidence in each other as musicians.


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Johnny Marr I'm back at the Royal Festival Hall for part two of my Meltdown residency and as if Johnny Marr wasn't enough, the criminally overlooked Mystery Jets are here to offer support.


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Anna Calvi Anna Calvi is an artist who seemed to emerge fully-formed with her acclaimed debut album in 2011. Winning early endorsement from luminaries like Brian Eno and Bill Ryder-Jones, she played support gigs for the likes of Nick Cave and The Arctic Monkeys before she had even released an album. The debit album spectacularly demonstrated her abilities as a singer, songwriter and guitarist, as well as demonstrating a trend-setting grasp of style and presentation in the vein of early Roxy Music. Her third album, ‘Hunter’, was released in 2018.


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Doves After a 9 year hiatus that came at a time when the Manchester band had just achieved a seldom seen kid breakthrough of their own with Kingdom Of Rust, Jimi, Jez and Andy, aka Doves are back. Their show at Somerset House proved that the band have picked up exactly where they left off, and reminded us why they are one of the greatest British bands of modern times.


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Mac DeMarco It’s the first hot day of summer, and Margate is packed. The beachfront is full of bikini-clad sunbathers, Kentish families slurping melted 99s and locals strolling with panting dogs.


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Foals Foals take Birmingham by storm for two sold-out nights of pure magnificence. Without a doubt, Digbeth Arena is one of Birmingham’s most creative and innovative music venues, boasting an impressive large open-air space bordered by railway arches and loading bays. Ready to take the packed space on a journey through jittery dance rock and spacey atmospheres, Foals jump onto the stage performing new material from the off, a bizarro rendition of an instant bop hit, ‘On The Luna’ graces the crowd this evening, fresh off the grill from their latest album, 'Part 1 Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost'. The boys immediately lead into one of the their most popular hits, ‘Mountain at My Gates’. This pulsating duo of opening tracks raised hands and pints across the arena. And as if bringing luscious guitar licks and harmonies wasn’t already enough, Foals’ latest stage design incorporates captivating abstract video design in the background to really transport you to another place.


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Idlewild Before tonight's gig to promote their new album 'Interview Music', if anyone had asked me how long headline act Idlewild had been performing, I would have never have said that they started in 1995. 24-years has rocketed by for me, but for them they appear to be very fresh indeed.  In fact, if we take a moment to reflect on their careers: starting about the same time as Coldplay, the whole music scene itself feels as though it has slowly but surely moved away from Coldplay's more relaxed style, to where Idlewild have been "at" for all their career.


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JAWS Having released four sonically diverse singles and ahead of their highly anticipated fourth album and return, JAWS announced a quartet of live dates around the UK. Calling at Glasgow, Manchester, London and finally their hometown of Birmingham, the shows were curiously large for the band and after following their meteoric rise as a completely unsigned band, I was intrigued to see how they matched up to these larger venues at their Birmingham date.


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Tom Walker Over the last year, Scottish beanie wearing success Tom Walker released his Number 1 debut album ‘What a Time to be Alive’, which nabbed British Breakthrough Award at the BRIT Awards as well as selling out an early 2019 and late 2019 tour.


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Sundara Karma The glam-some foursome return to stage with a collection of their most adventurous and sonically-challenging gems from their discography. Following the recent release of their latest album, ‘Ulfilas’ Alphabet’, Sundara Karma proved they are capable of an even more conceptual feel, both musically and visually - moving more towards the ‘glam rock’ genre, the boys are demonstrating a beautiful fusion of music that feels like the lovechild of Bowie and Queen.


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Skinny Lister Skinny Lister are on the road again on the back of critically acclaimed 4th album ‘The Story Is…’ 30 dates covering the UK and mainland Europe before heading off to the States, then back for festival season. There’s a reason they’re touted as one of the hardest working bands out there.


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Sleeper In a time when the country seems to be in a never-ending cycle of political chaos, it is nice to be reminded of a time when we were considered cool (and even a little rebellious). The Brit-Pop era of the 90s brought us Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Suede and, of course, Tony Blair. Amongst them, although never quite reaching the same giddy heights of stardom, were Sleeper. Reforming in the past couple of years, their reunion has resulted in a new album and sell-out gigs. It seems that they are living up to their name and are now finally getting the wider recognition that their music deserves.


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