2020, the year of the virtual concert: A selection of soul-stirring music and spectacle delivered to us by artists online
If it ain’t the best time of the year again.
Christmas was here.
We’re almost done with whatever this year was.
The delusion that the next one will somehow be the g-o-a-t is at fever pitch.
But the most of all, it is that glorious time of the year again when we get to practise (and indulge in) the high art of listicles.
Even the purest of the purists line up to pay their respects.
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You know how it is.
The competition is tight.
So we have decided to bring you not just one, but three j-u-i-c-y listicles rolled into one.
Not only will you discover here some of the finest online/virtual/digital concerts/performances that took place this plague year, but God willing you will also discover some absolute soul stirring artists and records that will bring back to your mind’s eye visions of the Big Bang and beyond.
In order to keep things clean and simple, since nine-year-olds are the target audience of this piece, the format followed is the name of the artist (in bold) with the recommended record next to it. In the description below, we briefly discuss the said album and/or a live performance by the said artist this year which caught our fancy.
1. Christine and the Queens — La vita nuova
At the tail end of February, when the world was just getting its first glimpse at what the coming months would look like, the French singer-songwriter released a stunning six-track EP, accompanied by a short film shot at the Palais Garnier opera house.
Christine became one of the first artists to embrace performing online, following the lockdown in Paris. And how. One of her first performances of the record (with some friends to help out inside a studio), is a prime example of the DIY energy and ingenuity, accompanied by remarkable talent, that a lot of us have come to recognise over the past year with regard to “live music”.
Over the months, Chris went on to put some amazing performances on the interwebs, including a cover of Travis Scott’s HIGHEST IN THE ROOM (we’ll get to him as well in a bit), but this one still remains one of our favourites.
2. Baxter Dury — The Night Chancers
Another record to come out in the early days of the pandemic restrictions, the English artist’s sixth studio album feels like a night out with your best chum, cruising and stumbling through the city, after a hard day of dealing with life.
In April, Baxter went live for London’s Royal Albert Hall in the most Baxter Dury fashion. For someone who is at times described as unable to escape his father’s shadow, here he was, performing with his own teenage son on guitar, getting an absolute kick out of it.
Tune in for the incredible record that is The Night Chancers, stay for the Durys.
3. Phoebe Bridgers — Punisher
Bridgers released her second studio album in mid-June to a resounding critical acclaim, firmly establishing her place as one of the most talented and consistent artists out there today. And her latest might as well be the crowning jewel of a discography that has seen her meteoric rise in the last five or so years. An emotionally expansive and thoroughly engrossing record, Punisher rewards repeated listening as it slowly gets under your skin.
In October, the American singer-songwriter took to the stage at West Hollywood’s famed Troubadour to perform for Save Our Stages Fest, a virtual benefit festival organised to aid independent music venues at risk of closing permanently due to the pandemic. In a set featuring tracks from not just her new album, but her entire catalogue, this was one to savour.
4. Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes — What Kinda Music
One of the more pleasant surprises of the year was the collaboration between UK’s musician/producer Tom Misch and drummer Yussef Dayes. The result – an experimental, pulsating, genre-blending record with the power of giving you an instant dopamine hit. What more could you ask for in a year like this?
Playing two tracks from the record for NPR’s home edition of the Tiny Desk, the duo (along with some surprise guests!) deliver one of the most well synchronised and edited performances. The only downside though is the absence of Freddie Gibbs (who himself released the terrific Alfredo, along with The Alchemist, earlier this year) from the track Nightrider. But beggars can’t be choosers and all that.
5. Travis Scott — Astroworld
I know, I know. It’s been more than a couple of years since Astroworld came out and you have probably listened to Travis telling you that your relationship is not an ocean but a just a pool a bazillion times. But this is not so much about the record, than about this particular performance.
Over the years, the rapper has nailed his marketing and promotional game, and 2020 was no different (and we’re not even talking about that McDonald's deal). In April, he collaborated with the insanely popular video-game Fortnite to give an in-game performance. I won’t waste much time describing it, just experience the future for yourself.
Other notable records/performances —
6. Porridge Radio — Every Bad
The British indie rock band released their wonderful second studio record in March. Here, watch the band give a performance at Camberwell’s St Giles Church.
7. Lianne La Havas — Lianne La Havas
The British singer-songwriter released her third studio record in October. Her performance for the Focus Music Festival was something to behold.
8. Matt Berninger — Serpentine Prison
Here you have it — Matt Berninger (of the National) in a Christmas jumper, performing for KEXP.
9. Dave Grohl and Greg Kurstin covering Drake’s Hotline Bling.
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