The live music industry, like so many others, took a battering across 2020 and 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic made it at first impossible and then unreliable to put on events. Festivals such as Glastonbury and BST Hyde Park, among others, pulled their events altogether for the two years. And so 2022 was a ridiculously welcome return to form for those festivals along with so many others. Sure, there have continued to be many events that have had to be postponed or cancelled altogether at late notice or acts shuffling their schedules due to both restriction changes or illness in their camps, but 2022 was the true antidote musicians, event venues and fans have really been in desperate need of.
For Rockshot Magazine, and myself in particular, 2022 was an opportunity to take our cameras back to where they thrive. And my first opportunity to snap came on my very first day at my new day job, and thankfully just around the corner from my new office to catch none other than the magnificent Florence + The Machine play a special, intimate show at London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Next for me was a long overdue return to Worthy Farm in Pilton, Somerset for Glastonbury Festival. 2019 was the last festival, with both 2020 and 2021 events being cancelled after headliners had already been announced. And while Taylor Swift couldn’t be enticed to return for the 2022 edition, another sun-soaked weekend saw both artists and fans enthralled. Thursday saw the likes of Melanie C, festival founder Michael Eavis himself and Bastille take over the Williams Green tent for some low-key build up.
Friday brought massive acts from across the globe as well some rising stars to the plethora of stages, of which I was only able to make it to a handful to witness. I must confess to wandering over to the Pyramid to catch one of my favourites Crowded House, only to then make fast friends with my neighbours and hang out for the duration of the evening!
One of the highlights, of course, was the youngest Glastonbury Festival headliner ever – Billie Eilish – who had been upgraded to an other stage afternoon slot at the previous edition in 2019 and who stepped up in style to close out the first night of 2022’s festival.
Saturday was another glorious sun-soaked day that saw the likes of Kitty Liv, Brass Against, Tems, Skunk Anansie, Laura Veirs, Celeste and Leon Bridges perform incredible sets across the vast arrays of Glastonbury’s stages. Sir Paul McCartney’s Pyramid stage headline set made headlines for it’s 3+ hour runtime and special guests Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl. But it was Jessie Ware, over on the Park Stage, that closed Saturday’s music out for me before a wonder down to see the flame-engulfed spider of Arcadia.
Sunday had an unannounced appearance by George Ezra at the John Peel tent pulling in huge crowds before the legend that is Diana Ross took over the Pyramid field for a legendary “legends” slot. Elbow brought out “Little Amal” in what was an incredible use of their Pyramid Stage time. Kacey Musgraves channeled the sun over on The Other before Lorde brought her arena show production to the Pyramid. But that was it for my camera. I enjoyed Pet Shop Boys from the very back of The Other field with my family before that was it for another year.
While one of the annoying clashes of the summer is Glastonbury in Somerset taking place at the same time BST Hyde Park in London kicks off, the multi-weekend event continues into July. This year, I was lucky enough to make it down for a couple of events. First up was The Rolling Stones’ second show in Hyde Park of the summer as part of their “Sixty” tour, celebrating six decades of The Stones, just a year after the passing for drummer Charlie Watts. Playing across the three stages ahead of Mick Jagger’s men were The Dinner Party, bluesman Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Australian deadpan singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett and Geordie breakthrough star Sam Fender.
But it was The Rolling Stones themselves of course, even dwindling in terms of original line-up, that drew the biggest cheers and singalong moments. In their 60th year as a band, and with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood all pushing 80, the energy they put out still challenges the biggest pop and rock acts touring today.
The following weekend, it was the turn of Seattle mainstays Pearl Jam to take over Hyde Park for not one, but two incredible shows. For day one, support across the three festival site stages was provided courtesy of Simon Townshend, The Murder Capital, Daytime TV, White Reaper, Cat Power, The Glorious Sons and the legendary Pixies. In town to cover the Wimbledon tennis championships, even tennis legend John McEnroe joined Eddie Vedder’s men on stage, brandishing a guitar!
Following a lot of outdoor action over the summer, it was time to hit to autumn headline tour circuit. First up for me was a return to one of my favourite local venues, the Brixton Academy, to catch a full show from Clairo, who I’d caught a glimpse of between George Ezra and Diana Ross at Glastonbury.
Next up was a trek up to deepest, darkest North London to Alexandra Palace for a return to absolutely standout form for Scotsman Paolo Nutini. But I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the incredible support rustled up for his show by way of London quartet The Big Moon! Ok, so I may have been “encouraged” to leave the venue by nine (yes nine) burley security guards for proceeding to enjoy a beverage at the back of the arena after taking photos because I had my backpack (full of camera gear) with me, but that’s another story.
It was back to my favourite Brixton Academy next for one of my favourite hard rock bands, the Taylor Momsen-led The Pretty Reckless. As cliched as some of the tunes might be, this was hands down the most fun show of my year!
By now you might be able to tell that I absolutely love the Brixton Academy. So it was back to the South London venue for the only UK stop on French synth-pop-rock outfit Phoenix’s tour in support of seventh record Alpha Zulu.
By now, I’m on a first name basis with the lovely folks at the Brixton Academy. But even that didn’t help when Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal of Placebo put out a no filming/photo request of fans and limited us music photographers to just two songs and from restricted zones on either side of the stage. Still, I always love a good Placebo show and even with Molko struggling with an illness that would force them to postpone their remaining dates on this tour, a fun night was had by all.
Yep, you guessed it! It was back to the Brixton Academy for the final time this year to catch wonderful rising star Holly Humberstone play to a sold out crowd just days before her 23rd birthday. She made a point to bring out support act Adam Melchor during her set. While muted in a number of ways, I really can’t wait to see what Humberstone brings to live shows once she puts her debut record out.
For my last show of 2022, I returned to tiny London Bridge venue Omeara for the first time since catching Foo Fighters’ guitarist Chris Shiflett play a small Honky Tonk show there in April 2019. This time, it was catch the enigmatic Lera Lynn play a stripped-back duo show with her partner in both life and music – Tom Lombardo.
What an incredible year of live music 2022 has been. And that’s just the handful of shows and festivals I’ve made it to. I simply cannot wait to see what 2023 has in store!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the horrible tragedy that occurred at the Brixton Academy on Thursday 15th December 2022 as Nigerian Afro-pop star Asake had started the third of three shows at the venue. My thoughts are with those injured and still suffering from critical injuries as well as the families of music fan Rebecca Ikumelo and venue security contractor Gaby Hutchinson who have tragically died as a result of injuries sustained during the crush that ensued as fans without tickets allegedly attempted to force their way into the venue in a manner not seen since the notorious 1980s days after Simon Parkes took over the former Astoria Variety Cinema, reopening it as the Brixton Academy we know and love today. As this article would have demonstrated, I absolutely love this place that sits just down the road from where I grew up in South East London. I have the deepest respect for the venue management and security personnel and do hope an investigation can lead to improvements in crowd management for safer shows for all in future.
Words and photography by Kalpesh Patel during 2022