These amazing gigs had objectively perfect set lists

Robyn. Nirvana. Beyoncé. Don't even try and tell us we're wrong

Ah, gigs. Remember them? They were great, weren’t they? As lockdown continues and live shows remain off the cards – at least for the time being – now seems like a fitting time to delve back into the archives in search of the perfect set. And these gigs all rank up there, jammed full with outrageously brilliant twists, and leaving you stunned, speechless and a little bit dizzy afterwards. These are set lists that strike the perfect balance between crowd-pleasers and deep cuts, finding artists at their career peaks. Let’s raise a warm pint and salute them.

Arcade Fire, Hyde Park, London, 2011

Arcade Fire, Hyde Park, 2011

When Arcade Fire brought ‘The Suburbs’ to London’s Hyde Park in 2011, they had a triple-threat of three great albums up their sleeves to pick from. And the Canadians wasted absolutely no time in hoiking the biggest anthems straight out from ‘Funeral’ and ‘Neon Bible’ – and muddling it all up with a huge delve into their now-classic third record. There’s little on this earth that can beat thousands and thousands of people roaring along to ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ in unison, either.


Arcade Fire played:

‘Ready to Start’
Wake Up
‘No Cars Go’
‘Speaking in Tongues’
‘Crown of Love’
‘The Suburbs’
‘The Suburbs (Continued)’
‘Month of May’
‘Rebellion (Lies)’
‘Neighborhood #2 (Laika)’
‘We Used to Wait’
‘Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)’
‘Keep the Car Running’
‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)’
‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’

Sleater-Kinney, Roundhouse, London, 2015

Sleater Kinney roundhouse

This band has always had a gift for veering off in surprising directions: with every record, you can bank on them doing more or less the precise opposite of what’s first expected. And so when Carrie Brownstein, Janet Weiss and Corin Tucker announced they were reuniting in 2015, a stale greatest hits victory lap around the touring circuit was never really on the cards – it might be good enough for some bands, but certainly not Sleater-Kinney. Instead, they came back with ‘No Cities to Love’ (easily one of their best albums) and at their first UK show in a decade, dug deep into the majority of their back-catalogue – while giving plenty of space to the newer anthems in-waiting. Ending an encore with ‘Modern Girl’ and ‘Dig Me Out’ in flawlessly quick succession is just showing off. This tour ended up being one of the last chances for fans to catch now-departed drummer Weiss behind the kit.

Sleater-Kinney played

‘Price Tag’
‘The End of You’
‘What’s Mine Is Yours’
‘One Beat’
‘Bury Our Friends’
‘Surface Envy’
‘Get Up’
‘No Cities to Love’
‘Turn It On’
‘No Anthems’
‘A New Wave’
‘Words and Guitar’
‘Gimme Love’
‘Youth Decay’
‘Let’s Call It Love’
‘Modern Girl’
‘Dig Me Out’

Kendrick Lamar, O2 Arena, London, 2018


Kendrick Lamar

By the time ‘DAMN’ came around, Kendrick Lamar was truly peerless, easily one of the most influential and innovative artists of a generation. And for this landmark London show, the Compton rapper eschewed glitzy guest spots and showy gimmicks in favour of something more minimal – this show was all about Kendrick. Instead, he gave us an onslaught of dexterous hits with a rapid fire section of deeper cuts, a brief nod to Travis Scott and a cover of Top Dawg Entertainment label-mate Schoolboy Q thrown in for good measure. Damn indeed.

Kendrick played

‘King Kunta’
‘untitled 07 | 2014 – 2016’
‘Goosebumps’ (Travis Scott cover)
‘Collard Greens’ (ScHoolboy Q cover)
‘Swimming Pools’ (Drank)
‘Backseat Freestyle’
‘Money Trees’
‘m.A.A.d city’
‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’

Robyn, Alexandra Palace, London, 2019

Robyn, Alexandra Palace

When it comes to racking up pop banger after pop banger, Robyn does not fuck about. It’s nigh-on impossible to fit all her hits into an evening, but draped in illustrious and gigantic net curtains, she certainly gave it her best at Ally Pally. For viscous, clubbier cuts from newest record ‘Honey’ the cavernous venue transformed into a heady slice of 3am mayhem. During the deliciously defiant ‘Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do’, Robyn trotted gleefully across the stage dressed as a matador. The crowd took the vocal wheel for a fair portion of ‘Dancing on My Own’. And with countless collaborations to choose from, she trawled out one of her biggest smashers to date – the giddily euphoric ‘Love is Free’, recorded with La Bagatelle Magique. All the more prescient and fitting considering that the death of Robyn’s La Bagatelle bandmate Christian Falk informed much of ‘Honey’.

Robyn played…

‘Send to Robin Immediately’
‘Hang With Me’ (Paola cover)
‘Ever Again’
‘Be Mine!’
‘Because It’s in the Music’
‘Between the Lines’
‘Love Is Free (Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique song)’
‘Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do’
‘Dancing on My Own’
‘Missing U’
‘Call Your Girlfriend’
‘Trust Me’ (Mr. Tophat cover)
‘Stars 4-Ever’
‘With Every Heartbeat’
‘Human Being’
‘Who Do You Love?’ (Kindness featuring Kindness)

Talking Heads, Hollywood’s Pantages Theater, Los Angeles, 1983

Talking heads, 1983

Oversized suits. Ludicrous shoulder-pads. Boom-boxes. Frontman theatrics. Talking Heads’ ‘Speaking in Tongues’ tour had the lot, and at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater – where the band’s game-changing concert film Stop Making Sense was shot – they delivered set-list perfection. Somehow David Byrne was still innovating nearly four decades later, when NME dubbed his 2018 solo live show perhaps “the best live show of all time”, breathless words he cheekily cribbed for an EP documenting the tour.

Talking Heads played…

‘Psycho Killer’
‘Thank You for Sending Me an Angel’
‘Found a Job’
‘Slippery People’
‘Big Blue Plymouth (Eyes Wide Open)’ (David Byrne cover)
‘Burning Down the House’
‘Life During Wartime’
‘Making Flippy Floppy’
‘What a Day That Was’ David Byrne song
‘This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)’
‘Once in a Lifetime’
‘Big Business / I Zimbra’
‘Houses in Motion’
‘Genius of Love’ (Tom Tom Club cover)
‘Girlfriend Is Better’
‘Take Me to the River’ (Al Green cover)
‘Crosseyed and Painless’

Prince, O2 Arena, London, 2007

Prince, O2 Arena, London

In 2007 the late legend Prince ruled over London for a mighty 21 nights on the trot, and packed an equally impressive number of god-tier song choices. His decision to virtually neglect ‘Planet Earth’ – his most recent record at the time, which he gave away for free with The Daily Mail – was a curious, but not unwelcome one. Instead, 21 Nights in London: The Earth Tour was wall-to-wall hits.

Prince played…

‘I Feel for You’
‘Somewhere Here on Earth’
‘U Got the Look’
‘Chelsea Rodgers’
‘Le Freak’ (Chic cover)
‘Sexy Dancer’
‘A Love Bizarre’ (Sheila E. cover)
‘Pass the Peas’ (The J.B.’s cover)
‘Diamonds and Pearls’
‘The Beautiful Ones’
‘Little Red Corvette’
‘I Would Die 4 U’
‘Under the Cherry Moon’
‘Sometimes It Snows in April’
‘Purple Rain’
‘Take Me With U’
‘Let’s Go Crazy’
‘Nothing Compares 2 U’
‘Sign o’ the Times’
‘When Doves Cry’
‘Darling Nikki’
‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’
‘Alphabet St.’
‘Irresistible Bitch’
‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’
‘Raspberry Beret’
‘When You Were Mine’
‘Girls & Boys’

Beyoncé, Coachella, Indi, California, 2018

Beyonce at Coachella

In 2018 Beyoncé became the first black woman to headline Coachella, and only the third female headliner overall; the resulting show was historic in every sense of the word. Quite rightly, fans rebranded the entire festival ‘Beychella’. The show was a celebration of black culture from start to finish, and with the setlist, Bey continually referenced musical history, weaving her own music together with everything from Sister Nancy and Fela Kuti to Kendrick Lamar and James Weldon Johnson’s ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’.

It was wildly complex, with a hundred multi-talented dancers, musicians and vocalists on stage for the duration of performance. Rehearsals alone went on for months – the team put in 11-hour days. The resulting headline set went beyond being merely a gig. It was meticulous, breathtaking theatre.

Beyoncé played…

‘Marching Band Intro’
‘Crazy in Love’
‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ (James Weldon Johnson cover)
‘Sorry / Me, Myself & I’
‘Kitty Kat’ (Acapella)
‘Bow Down’
‘I Been On’
‘Drunk in Love’
‘Diva / Everybody Mad’
‘Feeling Myself’ (Nicki Minaj cover)
‘Top Off’ (DJ Khaled cover)
‘Bug-A-Boo Roll Call’
‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’
‘Who Taught You To Hate Yourself?’
‘I Care’
‘Blow / Hip-Hop Star’
‘Mi genté (Remix)’ (J Balvin & Willy William cover)
‘Baby Boy’
‘You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No)’ (Dawn Penn cover)
‘Hold Up’
‘Check on It’
‘Déjà Vu’
‘Green Light’ (with JAY-Z)
‘The Buzz Interlude’
‘Run the World (Girls)’
‘We Should All Be Feminists’
‘Lose My Breath’ (with Destiny’s Child)
‘Say My Name’ (with Destiny’s Child)
‘Soldier’ (with Destiny’s Child)
‘Get Me Bodied’
‘Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)’
‘Love on Top’
‘Shining’ (DJ Khaled song)

David Bowie, Glastonbury, Worthy Farm, Somerset, 2000

David Bowie, Glastonbury, 2000

When David Bowie headlined Worthy Farm in 2000, it was his second time here. Way back in 1971 (when Glastonbury still consisted of several thousand hippies gathering in a field) he played the second-ever edition of Michael Eavis’ festival. Largely performing solo, Bowie performed at 5am, and at one point a confused and, erm, refreshed reveller joined him on stage to do backing harmonies. Eventually, Bowie kindly dismissed her by suggesting she “go and get some bacon and eggs”. Bowie’s return – this time to the Pyramid – was a little less low-key, and is rightly regarded as one of the greatest headline sets in the festival’s 50 year history. Just take a look at that infinite conveyor belt of musical magic.

David Bowie played…

‘Wild Is the Wind’ (Johnny Mathis cover)
‘China Girl’ (Iggy Pop cover)
‘Life on Mars?’
‘Absolute Beginners’
‘Ashes to Ashes’
‘Rebel Rebel’
‘Little Wonder’
‘Golden Years’
‘All the Young Dudes’
‘The Man Who Sold the World’
‘Station to Station’
‘Hallo Spaceboy’
‘Under Pressure’ (Queen cover)
‘Ziggy Stardust’
‘Let’s Dance’
‘I’m Afraid of Americans’

Nirvana, Reading Festival, 1992

By the time Nirvana headlined Reading in 1992, they had taken grunge global: ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ had just become the band’s biggest smash hit and ‘Nevermind’ would go onto sell a mind-boggling 10 million copies. The show, which would tragically be Nirvana’s last UK gig before the death of Kurt Cobain, had everything.

The set began with Cobain entering the stage in a wheelchair, wearing a platinum blonde wig – a statement of sorts directed at journalists busy speculating about Cobain’s health, and his relationship with Courtney Love. And from there, the pace didn’t let up: hulking cuts such as ‘Lithium’ jostled for space with prolonged jam versions of ‘Smoke on the Water’ and a historically chaotic version of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’.

Nirvana played…

‘Drain You’
‘In Bloom’
‘Come as You Are’
‘About a Girl’
‘Lounge Act’
‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’
‘On a Plain’
‘Negative Creep’
Been a Son’
‘All Apologies’
‘Stay Away’
‘Spank Thru’
‘Love Buzz (Shocking Blue cover
‘The Money Will Roll Right In’ (Fang cover)’
‘D-7’ (Wipers cover)
‘Territorial Pissings’
‘The Star-Spangled Banner’

Daft Punk, Paris-Bercy arena, 2007

Daft Punk have toured exactly twice since releasing their first album 23 years ago – witnessing the robotic duo in the cyborg- flesh is a rare event. For the lucky sods who managed to catch the ‘Alive’ tour in 2007, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter pulled out all the stops, hosting an all-encompassing audio-visual spectacle worth waiting for. And their headline show their hometown is surely their greatest show of all time. Revisit it by digging out the disco ball, and sticking on live album ‘Alive 2007’.

Daft Punk played…

‘Robot Rock / Oh Yeah’
‘Touch It / Technologic’
‘Television Rules the Nation / Crescendolls’
‘Too Long / Steam Machine’
‘Around the World / Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’
‘Burnin’ / Too Long’
‘Face to Face / Short Circuit’
‘One More Time / Aerodynamic’
‘Aerodynamic Beats / Forget About the World’
‘The Prime Time of Your Life / Brainwasher / Rollin’ & Scratchin’ / Alive’
‘Da Funk / Daftendirekt’
‘Superheroes / Human After All / Rock’n Roll’
‘Human After All’ / ‘Together’ / ‘One More Time (Reprise)’ / ‘Music Sounds Better With You’ medley