Maybe it was Foals’ triumphant show at London’s illustrious Royal Albert Hall in March? An early-year warning shot to those later to see them at Glastonbury, T In The Park and Reading and Leeds, which basically said ‘we will own you’. Or maybe it was Arctic Monkeys’ ballsy choice of comeback show at Glastonbury – a do-or-die moment which was either going to be a repeat of their jittery headline slot in 2007 or successfully launch the album of their career in front of an audience of millions (only one answer to that)? Or maybe 24-hours later it was The Rolling Stones putting years of speculation to bed and finally ticking Pilton off their ever-shrinking To-Do list. Or maybe it was The Killers at Wembley Stadium? The Stones Roses at Finsbury Park? MIA at Bestival? Skrillex at Leeds? Kraftwerk at the Tate Modern? Noel playing with Damon? Jay-Z tangling with JT? You get the idea… 2013 was overflowing with fantastic live highlights.
Just for the record, one of mine was seeing Missouri punks Radkey in a cramped pub in Camden, north London in the Autumn – there was so much heat in the room the posters were peeling off the wall, I couldn’t see a thing and I left with more beer in my hair than my bottle. It was awesome.
Tweet us your suggestions using #bestgigof2013 – or post a comment on our timeline to tell us what was so great about your favourite gig of the year.
To try and provide some kind of order we’ve put together a list of 20 you can vote on in our Rate My – get stuck in. In the meantime, if you’re struggling for inspiration, here some NME writers on their favourite shows in 2013:
Matt Wilkinson, New Bands Editor
Fifth and forth places go to Merchandise and Parquet Courts on a bridge somewhere at SXSW at 2am. Third is Fat White Family bringing the house down at The Queens Head in Brixton at 2am. Second is Palma Violets at NME Radar’s secret Great Escape show at 2am. And first is Dean Blunt at the 100 Club at what seemed like 2am, but was actually much earlier. Before coming onstage Blunt shrouded the entire venue in so much dry ice that you couldn’t even see the person next to you. Then he piped the sound of pouring rain through the speakers for 25 draining minutes, before finally revealing himself and delivering one of the most impassioned, riveting live sets I’ve ever seen – incorporating warped hip hop, post-punk, an aloofness that only the true outsiders in music ever seem to really tap into, great visual aesthetics and a dubby, bullish belligerence that made it very clear that he, Blunt, was the artist and we, the crowd, were the minions. Despite all of this stuff clashing like hell when I think about it now, at the time it all made perfect sense. The gig ended, naturally, with all the smoke setting off the fire alarms, causing half of central London’s fire department to scream their way into the venue while the gobsmacked crowd spluttered their way outside, jaws well and truly dropped.
Kevin EG Perry, Assistant Editor NME.com
Okay, yeah granted: There are more polished performers out there than Mac DeMarco, Pierce McGarry, Peter Sugar and Joe McMurray. There are a lot of people who take it more professionally, sure. But since when was rock’n’roll about taking things seriously? There ain’t a band alive right now who are more fun than Mac DeMarco and his gang. At the Scala in October they returned to the UK at the top of their game. They covered The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’ as a heavy metal screamer, crowd-surfed to ‘Still Together’, and Mac and Pierce, still playing their instruments, got down on their knees during ‘Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans’ to share a sloppy kiss, Mac’s thin, porny moustache mingling with Pierce’s full ginger beard. Unforgettable.
Eve Barlow, Deputy Editor, NME
Ask me the morning after a brilliantly entertaining evening what my favourite gig of the year is, and I’ll say the show I went to the night before. Last night (Tuesday December 9), I went to see Haim (surprise, surprise) play the Kentish Town Forum. The only gig in recent memory that came close to it was one by another band called Haim who played the Roundhouse in September, closely followed by some other group (also named Haim) who brought Camden’s KOKO to its knees in the Spring. In 2013, Haim have evolved from a humour-laden, raw-and-ready live band into a three-headed, confetti-canon assisted, rock’n’roll machine. And the most exciting thing about this year’s best live act? They’re only just getting started.
David Renshaw, News Reporter
Two things to know about me. Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been my favourite live bands for years and I am also very lazy. So when I found out Karen O and co. were playing a tiny gig basically across the road from my flat in July I was there as soon as I could be bothered to get off the sofa. I’m joking (a bit) as the convenience of it all was the least exciting thing about the gig. Crammed into the tiny Islington Academy, it was like being zoomed back to the early days of the band but with all the benefits that 10+ years of touring have brought to the trio. ‘Date With The Night’ exploded into life, Karen O’s guttural scream on ‘Art Star’ surrounded me and ‘Maps’ plucked at the heartstrings as I finally got to see the band in glorious widescreen where previous I have peered from the back of a festival or huge hall. ‘Sacrilege’ topped it all off, gospel and art-rock seeming to burst out of the walls and flooding the streets of North London like Arsenal fans on a Saturday. All of that and I got home before 10:30. Perfect.
Rhian Daly, Assistant Reviews Editor
After a four night residency at Dalston venue Birthdays in May, the Birmingham band conquered the much grander Shepherds Bush Empire with ease last week. With custom built Peace lights, their standard confetti cannons gone industrial-sized and tracks from one of the year’s best albums, it was everything you’d expect from Harry, Doug, Dom and Sam done a hundred times slicker. Plus an early glimpse of what their new album could sound like in the groove-laden glimmer of fresh track ‘Money’ reinforced the feeling that, in 2014, Peace will be taking things seriously next level.
Laura Snapes, Features Editor
33 years before Savages played their first gig of 2013 at London’s Electric Ballroom, post-punk geniuses Wire played an iconoclastic show at the same venue, though it was more an experimental Dadaist performance than anything resembling your typical night out in Camden. The skinhead-heavy crowd bottled them, but Wire were undeterred, recording proceedings to release them as a live album, 1981’s ‘Document And Experience’. Savages guitarist Gemma Thompson referenced the record directly when it came to setting up Savages’ unconventional show there this February – the sound of a creaking grandfather clock chimed mournfully as punters streamed in past the Budweiser banners, and around half an hour after doors opened, their unconventional support act began. Female dancers clad in white laid down at the bar-end of the room and began using their feet to push themselves towards the stage. When they reached the other end, they rose as if in slow-motion and started dancing (though that feels like the wrong word) like reanimated corpses. This went on for half an hour, and was equally captivating, comical and torturous. Oh yeah, and Savages played: they were brilliant and brutal as ever.
Tom Howard, Reviews Editor
Last time we’d seen Kanye West was on the Watch The Throne tour. Next time we’d see Kanye West was on the Yeezus Tour. This landed in the middle, so it was just… Kanye West being Kanye West at Hammersmith Apollo (February 24). He wore a straight jacket. He wore a yeti mask. He wore a mask encrusted with diamonds. He did nothing from ‘Watch The Throne’. He played ‘Runaway’ for far too long. He had a rant and no one listened. But it didn’t matter, because it was every bit as huge and ridiculous and his 2013 would turn out to be.