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Best of 2018: Live Music

by MIK SABIERS

WHETHER old-school punk — Toyah leading a rousing rendition of I Want to be Free in a new version of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee — to the goth pop promise of Pale Waves, by way of the stadium perfection of Taylor Swift or an eclectic and energising Robert Smith Meltdown, live music this year has continued to deliver a challenge to the status quo.

New York dream-pop duo Cults visited these shores with Offering, a third album full of memorable 60s-lite pop, mixing childlike vocals with dark and despondent lyrics touching on broken relationships but also on finding hope in hopeless situations. They were a wonder to behold.

Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour rolled into town with a set that filled stadiums but still managed to remain intimate, knowing and lots of fun and made all the more exciting with a surprise guest appearance from Robbie Williams. A true stadium-filling extravaganza from a pop star who has enhanced her reputation by finally speaking out more forthrightly on politics.

Robert Smith’s Meltdown was notable for its mix of amazing music from My Bloody Valentine to the Manics, Kristen Hersh, The Church, the Psychedelic Furs and more that gave a deep insight into the enigma that is the lead singer and creative force behind goth titans The Cure.

A shout-out also to the Pearl Harts, a female duo that launched their debut album Glitter & Spit by taking the audience on an accomplished, rapid and raucous ride through rock, metal, blues et al. Do catch them live.

But the unexpected highlight was veteran singer songwriter David Crosby — he of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fame. Playing his first ever British solo shows, his folk rock performance par excellence mixed not just great music but politics, protest, and necessary calls for change.

Despite his troubled life, the voice was pure, the music melodious, the message simple but maybe lacking some self-belief. Stand-out track What Are Their Names closed with the line, “Peace is not a lot to ask” and Crosby wryly commented: “I’ve been singing this song all over and it’s done no good at all.” The audience defiantly thought otherwise, instead singing along and amplifying that message.

There’s no doubt a bit more self-belief from all in the fight going forward may be just what’s needed to build that welcome message for change in 2019.

 

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