Top 10 Live Sets of 2021

My favourite gigs and festival sets of the year

And yes, this is a picture of me falling head-first onto the stage at VUKOVI’s live show at Patterns, Brighton

For me, 2021 has been one rollercoaster of a year, with extreme highs, and some extreme lows.

One of the biggest highs for everyone in the UK, however, would have to be the re-introduction of live music, an essential part of our culture, that had been sorely missed.

For me, I was lucky enough to see a plethora of live music, in a number of different venues and festivals. I will be rounding up my favourites of the year, with the very first list of my list week.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 live sets of 2021.

10: Gender Roles at The Prince Albert, Brighton

Photo Credits: LOUT Promotions

The second gig of this year that I was able to enjoy, and also one of the most tightly packed (creating more of an intimate vibe, obviously).

I had missed the little attic that The Prince Albert use for their live gigs dearly, and to be able to visit there again, with a band whose musical style and aesthetic embodies Brighton quite a bit, was nothing short of an absolute pleasure.

It was awesome, screaming to tracks like “Dead Or Alive” with so many others, within arms reach of the band itself (although I’d wager most people in the crowd were).

9: Eagles Of Death Metal at Chalk, Brighton

Photo Credits: Sara-Louise Bowrey Photography

This was the last gig I went to in 2021. And frankly, it was an amazing way to top the whole thing off.

For the most part, I’ve only experienced live sets with only one other person. But to see Eagles Of Death Metal with a small group of friends made things even more enjoyable.

And speaking of enjoyable, the band themselves were the most pleasant surprise to come out of the whole experience. I must admit that I did need a little quick-fire session in Eagles Of Death Metal and their music before going to the gig. But with how catchy so many of their singles were, I found myself belting along to a fair few of their hits.

8: Comeback Kid at Slam-Dunk Festival, Hatfield

Photo Credits: Dearohwell Photography

Slam Dunk Festival as a whole was a…..unique experience for myself (in a nutshell, I drank a lot). That being said, the main reason for me putting Comeback Kid as my highlight of the day, was that they were one of the few artists I actually remember.

This was my first time going to Slam Dunk Festival. And the primary thing I enjoyed most about it, was that it really tapped into my inner 14 year old.

Looking back on it, Comeback Kid was definitely one of the more memorable artists that I enjoyed listening to as a teen. So it was both weird and wonderful to finally see them live for the first time.

7: Kid Kapichi at Patterns, Brighton

Photo Credits: Chris Watkins/PunkInFocus

The best way to describe this gig, was that it was pure, untampered fun. Every second of Kid Kapichi’s live set was wild, and every second of it I loved.

Ever since I listened to Kid Kapichi’s debut album This Time Next Year, I had been thoroughly excited to see them live. And I must admit, this live show was arguably one of my most highly anticipated of the year.

And by golly did they deliver upon the hype I built up for it. Their set flew by, but I feel that truly reflects upon how much fun me and my friend were having throughout the entire thing.

After how enjoyable this gig was, I would jump at the chance to see Kid Kapichi play once more.

6: Mykki Blanco at Patterns, Brighton

Photo Credits: Colm Kelly (this was taken for the Dublin show of the same tour; I couldn’t find photos of the Brighton show anywhere)

I don’t know what it was about Mykki Blanco’s set, but it re-awakened that same feeling I had when experiencing live music again for the first time since lockdown. Bear in mind, this was only in November, and I had seen a number of live sets beforehand.

I think that Mykki just had such an amazing stage presence, but also connected with the crowd exceptionally. My aforementioned feelings of feeling like I was at a gig for the first time in ages, was likely a result of that.

Mykki’s performance, and those from the supporting acts really displayed the highest levels of creativity and artistry. This fully reminded me of one of the best benefits seeing live music can offer; it gives music lovers so many great opportunities to discover new song and new artists.

5: YUNGBLUD at Chalk, Brighton

Photo Credits: iso400.com

While we’re on the subject of seeing live music again for the first time, YUNGBLUD’s live performance at Chalk was officially the first live show I have been to since march of 2020; so around a year and a half.

It was a surreal experience to say the least; finally witnessing live music again in what had felt like eternity. And what’s better, I got to see one of my favourite artists for the first time since Reading festival 2019.

As if YUNGBLUD knew it was my first time seeing live music again, he made this particular set extra special by implementing a more acoustic style to his familiar songs. This really helped to make the entire thing incredibly intimate. And by the way the others in the crowd were engaging with YUNGBLUD, almost everyone seemed to feel the same way.

4: Nile Rodgers & Chic at Victorious Festival, Portsmouth

Photo Credits: Lorne Thomson/Redferns (this was taken at a different festival to Victorious; the only ones I could find were stock images)

Victorious Festival as a whole was one of my absolute highlights of 2021. However, it was primarily the idea of being back at a festival that made the whole experience so memorable.

That isn’t to say that there wasn’t a sheer amount of amazing live sets that I could’ve put on here. In fact, sets like the Madness headline, or the Jaguar Skills set would be very honourable mentions. One live set that I couldn’t not put on this list, however, was that of Nile Rodgers and Chic.

This was the last live set of Victorious 2021 that I went and saw, and it feels incredibly surreal to say that I’ve now witnessed classics such as “Le Freak”, “Good Times” and “Everybody Dance” live. It was the best kind of souvenir I could ever take home from such an incredible weekend.

3: VUKOVI at Patterns, Brighton

Photo Credits: RORY.

All I can really say about VUKOVI’s set at Patterns this year, was that it went off!

Me and my friend have been big fans of the Glaswegian rock group for years, and have seen them live before. However, this gig would serve as the first time I would’ve seen them in my hometown.

And I honestly think that me and my friend may have hyped ourselves up for this gig, maybe a little bit too much. Nevertheless, this live show made for one of the most fun and chaotic live shows I have been to in a very long time.

While VUKOVI was another band that I remember seeing at 2021’s Slam Dunk Festival, it felt far more enjoyable seeing the band go all out, with a much fuller setlist.

2: Soft Cell at Eventim Apollo, London

Photo Credits: Jim Dyson/Getty

Moving on from a chaotically good experience to a far more enjoyable experience by merit of being orderly, Soft Cell’s live show at Eventim Apollo this year was one of the most well organised and put together shows I saw in 2021.

Granted, all spectators of the show were seated. However, that didn’t detract from how much I enjoyed this live set in the slightest. Besides which, I had a great view of what is a truly incredible band, one that has changed my friends life and mine for the better.

I absolutely loved how the setlist was essentially divided into two halves; the first showcasing the less well-known tracks for the die-hard fans who would’ve showed up earlier, and the second half essentially playing the entirety of their iconic debut album, Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret.

I was bewitched by Soft Cell and their performance throughout, and I truly felt their world and their lives through their performance. I know that does sound a bit corny, but maybe it was being in London that helped.

Funnily enough, there is one more live set in london that I enjoyed even more than this one…

1: Bring Me The Horizon at The O2 Arena, London

Photo Credits: Francis Beach

Not only was Bring Me The Horizon’s O2 show an incredible live set, but it really was a defining moment for 2021 in general.

Many people seem to be in agreement that this was a phenomenal live show, which I think I could credit to one primary factor; Bring Me The Horizon were one of those bands that really grabbed the events of 2020 and the pandemic by the horns. the resulting piece of this was their 2020 EP/album POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR (honestly, me and my friend were asking around in the crowd if this was an album or an EP, and we got very mixed answers).

But back to why their live performance was brilliant; given that 2021 has stood as the year in which live gigs return post-pandemic, it would’ve been the first time that many have heard their POST HUMAN: SURVIVAL HORROR material live. In a nutshell, Bring Me The Horizon’s live performance felt like one big post-pandemic celebration (it’s just a shame to think that the pandemic is actually far from over, it seems).

Aside from this, that day also marked my very first time properly visiting the O2. And honestly, it is undoubtedly the best music venue I have ever been to. I was having an incredible time hours before the gig even started, and the good vibes were lasting the entire day.

By combining such a pivotal live set with my first time at such an incredible venue, and you have an easy pick for my number 1 favourite live show of 2021.

So What About 2022?

As for 2022, I already have a number of great gigs to look forward to, such as Yves Tumor, Lynks, and Dorian Electra. In addition, I hope to return to Reading Festival once more next year, and have the tickets to do so.

However, with all of the uncertainty still surrounding the pandemic, I can only hope that none of these live shows get cancelled. Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that 2022 will serve as an even more brilliant year than this one, when it comes to the revival of live music.

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My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

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Joe Boothby

Joe Boothby

My articles mainly revolve around music reviews and analysis. A bit like Anthony Fantano, but just a decade behind.

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