Hole in My Head

Best Live Music of 2022 in Review

All-time best gigs don't come along often, but in October and November 2022, I attended three all-time best gigs: Klangphonics, Symposium, and Nerina Pallot.

2022 was a good year all-round for gigs. I saw around 120 bands/artists, and here are reviews and photos of my favourites. There's techno, alternative rock, pop, heavy metal, minimalist piano, shoegaze, folk, and more.

Post-lockdowns, so many musicians just loved being in front of an audience again.

Kudos to the venues and sound engineers, who play an essential part in making the best live music sound as great as it does.

Klangphonics at The Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool

The three members of Klangphonics onstage to the left (synths, guitar and the drummer in the background mostly in darkness) and a dancing smiling audience to the right.

I discovered Klangphonics through one of their inventive and amusing short videos, Vacuum Cleaner Techno. It was an uncredited video and took some search skills to find the band responsible.

I was glad enough I made the effort after hearing their debut album Songs to Try, but the gig was another level of brilliance.

I drove into Liverpool on Bonfire Night with fireworks lighting the sky from every direction, and seemingly fire engine sirens blaring from every direction.

I was disappointed about the late start of the gig (I want sleep), but that disappointment went off as quickly as a firework as soon as I heard how great Klangphonic's brand of deep house/melodic techno sounded live - with the live guitar, drums and synths/sequencers sounding another level and then some compared to any recorded dance track I've heard over P.A. Admittedly I've never been a big clubber, but the set just got better and better, and just as I thought it couldn't get any better...it did, again, and again.

I don't know how Klangphonics did it, but maybe they kept ramping up the volume and pace and melody and quality of tunes.

I expected the set to be 45ish minutes given most bands with one album rarely pass that and Klangphonics' debut album is much shorter, but it was around 1 hour 30 minutes with barely a break (the drummer has some stamina to relentlessly keep time for so long), with most of the room dancing and smiling.

Made famous in those videos I mentioned, the police siren and light (reminding me of those fire engines outside) and Henry the Hoover even made an appearance for the encore. Was that the second or third encore? I lost count I was having so much fun.

One of the best gigs I've been to.

I didn't think I'd seen so many smiling people at a gig until...

Symposium at Islington Assembly Hall, London

Widescreen shot of gig with the stage to the right and Ross crowdsurfing to the left. Stagelighting is orange/yellow.

When Symposium announced they were reforming after 23 years, I was willing to cancel any plans and travel anywhere to attend their comeback gig. Over twenty years previously, I made a list of 1990s bands I wanted to see live - all but one had split or were on indefinite hiatus, and that one was from the US and unlikely to visit the UK again. Superdrag did come to the UK again, in 2003. I saw them twice at two brilliant London gigs.

Fountains of Wayne returned from the indefinite hiatus that seemed to occur between each album, and I first saw them live in Manchester in early 2004.

Next up was Silver Sun, who I travelled to Cardiff to see, arriving back home just before sunrise the next morning.

Over the years, every band reformed, including Ultrasound in 2010, who'd split in acrimonious circumstances.

The penultimate band from my list to reform was Slowdive in 2014. I felt excited like a child at Christmas at the prospect of seeing Slowdive live.

At this point, that old list was very much in my mind again, but the years ticked by with rumours of a Symposium reuinion that never came to fruition. Symposium's Wojtek covered Symposium's Fear of Flying, which gave me some hope, but still the years ticked by. Symposium weren't on streaming services, and their memory only seemed to be kept alive by Alan (AKA Xanthein, who ran a fansite and posted videos to YouTube) and another fan's Symposium Facebook Group.

Symposium reformation rumours finally reached fever pitch and came to fruition in Spring 2022, but they left us on tenterhooks for a while until announcing a gig...

I tried not to wish my life away in anticipation of the gig or to look forward to it too much.

But I needn't have worried...

Wojtek on bass in the middle smiling and looking at Ross to  his right, with Hagop on guitar in the background. Smoke effects and the lighting cast a blue haze.

It was a joyful gig with lots of smiles from band and audience. Singer Ross didn't seem to have lost any of his teenage energy, stagediving and crowdsurfing I think three times during the first four songs and getting back to the stage for the vocals.

The opening five tracks - Drink the Sunshine, One Day at a Time, Fairweather Friend and Bury You - were all highlights, making the set slightly top heavy, but maybe there had to be a slight comedown after such anticipation.

It was great to hear Fear of Flying and Blue, and the monster riffs of The End were epic, with Ross and Wojtek's alternating vocals raising every crowdsurfer to the high roof.

I pretty much love every Symposium song, but Killing Position hadn't been one of my favourites. It is now I've heard it live.

A fun encore ended with The Beatles' A Hard Days Night to end a night that made it feel great to be alive.

In an interview after the gig, Ross called it a "mass therapy session," and it definitely felt that way to me.

Another all-time great gig, less than 2 weeks after Klangphonics.

If that wasn't enough, Hagop and Wojtek played an excellent acoustic set at Banquet Records in Kingston the following night, including the rarely played Stay on the Outside.

Hagop and Wojtek sat playing acoustic guitars. The record store walls and ceiling are covered in music releases and music posters. My kind of place!

Nerina Pallot at The Glee Club, Birmingham

Nerina Pallot sings with acoustic guitar.

My other all-time great gig in 2022 came the month before, with Nerina Pallot sounding better than ever.

The first two tracks from I Don't Know What I'm Doing (Nerina Pallot's latest album), Cold Places and Alice at the Beach, were an outstanding start. Cold Places especially, with the way it dramatically builds and builds to its conclusion.

Like her vocals and piano playing, Nerina's band were superb too (they're also known for great work with Michael Kiwanuka).

Piano duties went to a band member for a magical version of The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

With Nerina's engaging and often very funny chat throughout, that was the song Nerina hoped Elton John would play on his radio show when she heard he'd be playing a track of hers. It wasn't. But Pallot was still delighted Elton John had even heard of her.

Amongst the genre hopping, there's usually at least one monster pop song in a Nerina Pallot set, and tonight it was the turn of the super catchy singalong Put Your Hands Up.

A vote for solo guitar between Rousseau and Blessed (one of my favourites) was won by Rousseau, but Nerina played a beautifully moving Blessed too. It nearly brought me to tears.

Many of my favourite songs were missing from the set, but that's a compliment because Nerina has such a strong back catalogue (particularly her last four albums) that she could pick a completely different set, and it'd still be brilliant. I do love to hear new songs though, and 8 tonight were from the latest album; other highlights being the emotional Mama, and There's a River.

On that note, Nerina Pallot also features in my best albums of 2022.

Battle Beast at Club Academy, Manchester

A silhouetted crowd with Battle beast on the stage with yellow and purple lighting.

The sound wasn't great initially, but Noora Louhimo's powerful vocals stand out, and it soon warmed up with the guitars, drums and bass loud, and crisp keyboards perfect in the mix (very important to Battle Beast's brand of melodic heavy metal).

Lots from excellent new album Circus of Doom. I hoped to hear No More Hollywood Endings and was delighted to hear its opening, and it did not disappoint.

I loved every song, although I didn't think Beyond the Burning Skies worked best as a set closer.

No disappointment though. One of the best gig atmospheres/noise I'd been to since before lockdowns, with band and crowd having a great time.

Circus of Doom features in my best albums of 2022.

Katherine Priddy at Band on the Wall, Manchester

Priddy and guitar in the spotlight and foreground to the right, with George Boomsma and guitar in the background. Around the musicians it's dark with smoke effects catching the stage lights.

Katherine Priddy has my favourite vocals in folk music, and her voice sounds even more wonderful and emotive live.

Without knowing anything about her music, I first listened to Katherine Priddy after seeing a song called The Isle of Eigg, as I love the Hebrides. The song was one of the highlights tonight, and Priddy's anecdote about travelling to Eigg in the infamous Scottish weather was fun.

The whole night was a joyful and super relaxing sit-down gig. Other highlights included Wolf and new song, Boat on a River.

It was also fun to chat to Katherine after the gig. As she suggested onstage, many of us would be relearning social skills post-pandemic lockdowns.

Toria Wooff provided excellent support, and I left the gig with the maximum possible number of CDs (without buying duplicates, the pedant in me says).

Yard Act at The Sugarmill, Stoke-on-Trent

Yard Act onstage from a side balcony with the crowd to the right. The band are laughing/smiling.

With the set decided impromptu from a fan throwing printed setlists as the band walked onstage ("the customer is always right" said frontman James Smith), opener The Overload set the tone for a brilliant gig, with fun chat about oatcakes, audience votes, the frontman taking part in a "Goarrn Stoke" chant, and attempted "Happy Birthday" on bass guitar from an audience request. A fun and lively atmosphere.

Slow Crush and Mannequin Pussy at Future Yard, Birkenhead

Slow Crush in silhouette against light blue light.

For massive walls of melody, Slow Crush are the best I've seen outside of Slowdive. Like drowning in waves of beautiful noise. Outstanding.

The best band I didn't specifically choose to see in 2022, Mannequin Pussy headlined at Future Yard.

Mannequin Pussy onstage, the middle guitarist and bassist shouting into their microphones.

Occasional dreamy noise pop but mostly punk, with hardcore punk and powerful monologues about what it's like to be a woman in music (I have an article coming about why music is so male-dominated) and the US and UK governments that ended in us all screaming that launched into more hardcore punk. Hardcore punk isn't usually my thing, but I hope to see Mannequin Pussy again.

Cathartic and brilliant.

First band Tits Up were good too, making this the best triple-header of the year.

Fabrizio Paterlini at Carole Nash Hall, Manchester

Fabrizio Paterlini sits by the piano while talking to the audience (not pictured).

Beautiful minimal acoustic piano including favourites such as My Piano, The Clouds along with lots from the superb Transitions set of EPs, with engaging chat and anecdotes between sets, over 1.5 hours in total.

Feeder at Academy, Manchester

Feeder's setlist from the night, printed on A4 paper

After 22 years of seeing Feeder live (they were my first gig, back in 2000), if there was one song I hadn't heard that I could've picked (that stood a chance of being played), it was Radiation. And tonight, Feeder played Radiation! It's a dark and dreamy metal guitar epic and was one of my live highlights of the year.

The new Torpedo material sounded very good, and my three favourites from pre-lockdown Tallulah were played.

I moved forwards to get away from some annoying talkers (shouters), and it was slightly disappointing Feeder didn't play more older tracks after Grant's suggestions in the lead up to the tour.

But Feeder remain one of the best live bands around, and the likes of Buck Rogers (another favourite of mine) and Just a Day went down a storm as always.

Feeder's latest album, Torpedo, features in my best albums of 2022.

The Big Moon at Academy 2, Manchester

The Big Moon singing and playing onstage with orange lighting.

After loving the noise pop leanings of The Big Moon's debut album, I wasn't a big fan of the Barcelona album, until hearing tracks from it live tonight and relistening after the gig. The tracks from it sounded great live, especially the anthemic Your Light, which suddenly became one of my favourite tracks by The Big Moon.

The acapella opening and the rest of Formidable was another highlight, along with all the vocal harmonies, latest single Trouble, and another new track called Two Lines.

Another uplifting gig, like many in 2022.

The Big Moon feature in my best albums of 2022.

The Wytches at Eleven, Stoke-on-Trent

Wytches onstage with their logo on a bright screen behind them.

Early in 2022, one of the best post-everything-cancelled gigs, with Wytches' noisy and melodic garage rock (that at times strays into Black Sabbath-esque heavy metal) sounding excellent. It was great to hear Gravedweller and Digsaw live.

Support band Sit Down (not a James tribute) were very good.

Texas at Victoria Hall, Stoke-on-Trent

Texas played the Southside album in full for their first set - not an album I'm a big fan of, but it was enjoyable live.

The main set kicked of with an excellent rocky Halo, with other highlights including Summer Son, a cover of Orange Juice's Rip it Up, material from the new album, and of course the big 90s hit Say What You Want.

Deep Purple at Arena, Birmingham

I tend to avoid arena gigs, as the band are often dots, the expensive prices, and the sound is regularly below average. I'd seen Deep Purple before, and the sound was good but the setlist disappointing. I decided to give them another chance (for £50, ticket prices are reasonable as arenas go).

Highway Star (a song I loved as a kid thanks to a 16-bit version on Rock & Roll Racing) opened and was like an onslaught I never wanted to end, it's driving guitars and rhythm section setting a great sound for the gig straight from the bat.

While I love Deep Purple's organ sound as part of their tracks, it doesn't work well for long keyboard solos. Tonight's keyboard solo from Don Airey used a piano setting, and with many popular tunes in the medley, was much better for it.

Rather than the band being dots, I was sat in a disappointing restricted view (which the booking process didn't warn of).

The music matters most, and it was an excellent set and sound.

Other Highlights

Other highlights included Silver Sun, Graywave, Tears for Fears, Meadowlake, Slowdive, AVAWAVES, Mostly Autumn, Torres, Hazel's Maze, and Sea Power.

Reverse Death Note

P.S. As for that list I mentioned in the Symposium review, a friend called it a 'Reverse Death Note' and suggested I make another one! David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Sandy Denny, Freddie Mercury, Jon Lee, Karen Carpenter, and not forgetting two members of bands from my original list; Adam Schlesinger from Fountains of Wayne, and James Broad from Silver Sun.

P.P.S. I lied about that Klangphonics Vacuum Cleaner Techno video being amusing. It was hilarious and I repeatedly watched it for 2 or 3 days.


Back to top ↑

Coming Next

Best 90s Retro Nintendo Games & OST Reviews


Why is Music Male-Dominated? Music Industry Sexism Collage of outputs from Midjourney and the music career prompts, male-dominated apart from the prompt 'personal assistant at a record label'


Instrumental Shoegaze & Dream Pop (Spotify) | (Deezer)

2023 Favourite Songs (Spotify)

Post-Rock Songs by Non-Post-Rock Bands (Spotify) | (Deezer)

Hidden Gems & Forgotten Tracks Year by Year (from 1950-2022) (Spotify)

Shoegaze & Dream Pop of the Dreamiest Kind (IYL Slowdive) (Spotify) | (Deezer)

Post-Rock with Synths (Spotify) | (Deezer)

Post-Rock Party: Post-Rock to Dance or Workout To (Spotify)

Girls Like Us: Inspiration from Under the Radar (Spotify)

250ish Great Cover Songs (from famous to obscure, faithful to unique) (Spotify) | (Deezer)

Mailing List

Maximum 1 e-mail a month sent (probably much less). Details not shared with anyone.