Pop, rock, rap and more
Krept and Konan
Krept and Konan’s last UK live show was at the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena, a rapturously received home town extravaganza with guest appearances from Stefflon Don and Stormzy. These dates, however, will find Britain’s most successful rap duo in more intimate surroundings. Their recent album, Revenge Is Sweet, meanwhile, showed an increasing maturity, with ruminations on mental health, suicide and loss amid the bragging.
Tour begins 21 January, Stylus, Leeds
Finally released after a series of delays – not to mention three albums that were apparently recorded, then scrapped – Schoolboy Q’s CrasH Talk completed his transformation from gangsta rapper to golf-playing proud father. Amid the bass-heavy party anthems, the lyrics were frequently agonised and self-baiting, marking out the rapper – an affiliate of Kendrick Lamar’s Black Hippy collective – as one of hip-hop’s more thoughtful, conflicted figures.
Tour begins 25 January, O2 Academy, Glasgow
The Madame X Tour – in which Madonna plays small venues for the first time since 1985 – has had good reviews and bad publicity in equal measure. The audience in Las Vegas booed her when her show started two hours late, and one US fan attempted to sue her for it – but critics rushed to acclaim the performances. We shall see when she comes to London, where the most expensive tickets are an eye-watering £1,200.
27 January–16 February, London Palladium
The Malian singer-songwriter has carved out a unique niche for herself, combining an acting career with an impressively wide-ranging approach to music that’s seen her collaborate with everyone from Herbie Hancock and Bobby Womack to Damon Albarn and Disclosure. It highlights a disinclination to be pinned down that also informs her solo work: her last album, 2018’s Fenfo, ran the gamut from traditional Malian kora to 60s soul influences.
Tour begins 30 January, Roundhouse, London
Carly Rae Jepsen
Carly Rae Jepsen’s career has never again scaled the commercial heights of her 2012 hit Call Me Maybe – the song with the greatest chorus of the 21st century according to Billboard – but she has instead developed into one of pop’s more intriguing characters, wresting control of her own artistic direction, making consistently fascinating albums, including 2019’s Dedicated, and gaining a noticeably older audience than her peers.
Tour begins 7 February, Victoria Warehouse, Manchester
Never let it be said that rock music no longer throws up anything unexpected: the Hu garnered 25m YouTube views for their 2018 debut single Yuve Yuve Yu, on which the Ulaanbaatar quartet melded heavy metal with Mongolian throat singing. Their debut album The Gereg became a global hit in 2019, a sign that they’d hit on something truly unique.
Tour begins 8 February, Chalk, Brighton
Tame Impala: The Slow Rush
The Slow Rush is the first album by the expansive Australian psychedelicists for five years, and the follow-up to Currents, which established them not merely as an adventurous musical force but an influence on mainstream pop. Rihanna covered one of its tracks, New Person, Same Old Mistakes; frontman Kevin Parker went on to collaborate with Lady Gaga, Kanye West and Travis Scott. Judging by the tracks that have trailed it, The Slow Rush elaborates on the synth-heavy direction of its predecessor.
A one-off gig for the largely female septet whose debut album Blume – a rare foray into jazz, or rather, a convincing blend of jazz, Afrobeat, funk, surf guitar and all points in between, for noted indie label Domino – was released to loud applause in August. But the band really come into their own on stage, adding a rawness and dynamism to their improvisations.
18 February, Village Underground, London
The 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form
The three singles thus far released from the 1975’s delayed fourth album have encompassed everything from two-step garage and distorted, yowling punk rock to monologues from Greta Thunberg. Who knows what else it might contain? Not every avenue the 1975 try to head down yields perfect results, but there’s something laudable about an arena-packing band so determined to avoid resting on their laurels.
Grimes: Miss Anthropocene
Grimes’ fifth album has had a tortuous gestation: initially scheduled for 2018, it was delayed amid arguments with her record label and considerable personal strife, including the death of her former manager and negative media coverage of her relationship with Elon Musk. It is apparently a dark concept album about “an anthropomorphic goddess”, which aims to make the notion of climate change “fun”. We shall see.
Lana Del Rey
2019 was a good year for the former Lizzy Grant. Her sixth album, the Joni Mitchell-influenced, Laurel Canyon-set Norman Fucking Rockwell!, topped a lot of critics’ end of year lists. Some publications went so far as to suggest it is one of the albums of the decade. The tour that bears its name has already visited the US and the Middle East. Her career-spanning set apparently ends with the album’s epic, 10-minute long centrepiece Venice Bitch.
Tour begins 25 February, O2 Arena, London
Barrington Hendricks promoted his third album of experimental hip-hop under the Jpegmafia name as “a disappointment”. No one else seemed to agree with that assessment, though. It was more approachable and melodic than his past work, yet its sound remained chaotically eclectic – he’s claimed influences from both Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Throbbing Gristle – and his stream-of-consciousness vocal style was as manic and provocative as ever. How its glitchy collage approach works live remains to be seen.
Tour begins 27 February, EartH, London
The Guardian called Michael Kiwanuka’s eponymous third album – a song cycle displaying the influences of gospel, psychedelic soul and Jimi Hendrix, co-produced by Danger Mouse and London hip-hop auteur Inflo – “one of the greatest albums of the decade”, evidence of how finely crafted its songs were, and how perfectly it balanced the retro and contemporary. In addition, he is a gripping live performer, capable of expanding his material without seeming indulgent.
Tour begins 1 March, O2 Academy, Birmingham
Saxophonist and composer Cassie Kinoshi’s 10-piece band are in the thick of London’s young jazz revival: their lineup shares members with Sons of Kemet, Kokoroko and Maisha. Their Mercury-nominated debut album Driftglass was an uncompromising, politically engaged yet accessible melding of 60s Blue Note and South African jazz with funk, hip hop and neo-soul, marked out by the sharpness of Kinoshi’s writing.
Tour begins 15 March, Blue Arrow, Glasgow
Kelis’s 1999 debut album Kaleidoscope marked not just her own arrival but a leap in the profile of producers Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo, AKA the Neptunes. Her career since has been uneven, pinballing from chart-friendly EDM to collaborations with TV on the Radio’s David Sitek, but on this tour she returns to her debut, now 20 years old and still sounding, as she would put it, young, fresh and new.
Tour begins 16 March, Albert Hall, Manchester
Despite being recorded without the pair ever actually meeting up in the studio, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey’s most recent album, Who, proved an unexpected triumph: a tough, bolshy collection of songs and a distinct improvement on 2006’s Endless Wire. Their recent live shows have been impressive too, spiking the usual classics with deeper dives into their back catalogue.
Tour begins 16 March, Manchester Arena
Baxter Dury: The Night Chancers
Baxter Dury already had a cult following, but his last album, Prince of Tears, was a considerable step forward and one of 2017’s best: musically eclectic, its lyrics alternately thoughtful and scabrously funny, the sound of an artist finally coming into his own. The menacing, darkly comic single Slumlord – a jaded view of the world of social media, packed with “scary people saying silly shit” – suggests its follow-up is of the same standard.
Released 20 March
It’s five years since Dan Snaith released an album under the Caribou name, the brilliant Our Love. In the interim, he has seemed more preoccupied by his straightforwardly dancefloor-facing alias Daphni. All of which makes Caribou’s forthcoming return with a new album, Suddenly, and a series of live dates, all the more welcome. The single You and I suggests there has been no dip in the quality of his warm, melancholy electronica.
Tour begins 30 March, Brighton Dome
2019 was a good year for Ohio-born, LA-based rapper Trippie Redd. His mixtape A Love Letter to You 4 entered the US charts at No 1, evidence of his shift from Soundcloud cultdom to mainstream success. Stylistically varied or hopelessly unfocussed, depending on your perspective, its best moments suggested an artist who could turn his hand to anything from guitar-heavy emo rap to straight-up club bangers.
Tour begins 4 April, Brixton Academy, London
Styles has by some distance the most successful solo career of any ex-One Directioner. There have been more takers for his brand of pop-by-way-of-classic-rock than his former bandmates’ dalliances with R&B and Sheeran-esque acoustic whimsy. Whether recently released second album Fine Line will repeat the commercial performance of his eponymous debut remains to be seen, but the level of devotion Styles inspires suggests it will.
Tour begins 15 April, Birmingham Arena
Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets
Saucerful of Secrets, in which the Pink Floyd drummer and a range of musical associates including Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp charge through key tracks from Pink Floyd’s pre-Dark Side of the Moon repertoire, could well have flopped. Instead, it’s been a huge success, garnering praise from his former bandmates and fans alike. These gigs come under the banner of More Games for May, a reference to Pink Floyd’s 1967 gig at the Royal Festival Hall.
Tour begins 23 April, G Live, Guilford
Justin Vernon’s musical progress from his folky debut For Emma, Forever Ago has been one of the more interesting in alt-rock, taking in detours to electronica, R&B and hip-hop: his most recent album i,i featured cameo roles for everyone from rap producer Wheezy to Bruce Hornsby, which gives you an idea of its breadth. It’s also pleasing that experimental music can end up in venues this big.
Tour begins 26 April, Wembley Arena, London
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Nick Cave’s most recent live activities have involved solo performances and an unmoderated audience Q&A – a kind of IRL version of his Red Hand Files website, where fans are invited to ask him anything. This tour, however, brings back backing band the Bad Seeds, in the wake of their wildly acclaimed 2019 album Ghosteen. It will be intriguing to see how that album’s beatless songs work in arena-sized venues.
Tour begins 2 May, Birmingham Arena
An offshoot of Radio 3’s beloved Unclassified show, this series of gigs at the Southbank Centre pitches modern classical composers against artists working in the field of electronica. Owen Pallett and Daniel Avery offer new compositions in earlier instalments, but this final show features electronic sound artist Tim Hecker alongside composer Daniel Elms.
7 June, Royal Festival Hall, London
The Radiohead frontman’s solo tour is named after his 2014 album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes rather than its 2019 successor Anima. He is accompanied by producer Nigel Godrich and visual artist Tarik Barri providing live projections. Thus far, the setlist has occasionally taken in Radiohead tracks, but largely concentrated on Yorke’s solo oeuvre and the work of his supergroup Atoms for Peace. By all accounts, the live performances add a drive and focus to his experimental electronica.
Tour begins 19 June, SEC Centre, Glasgow
The news that Diana Ross will fill the Sunday afternoon “legend” slot at this year’s Glastonbury festival was greeted with widespread delight: it’s a combination that looks about as close to a nailed-on success as it’s possible to get. But Glastonbury is merely one stop on a UK tour, and if the setlist is anything like that of her acclaimed Vegas residency – heavy on Supremes hits and her Chic-produced disco era – it’s going to be a treat.
Tour begins 30 June, Leeds Arena
This year’s British Summertime gigs in Hyde Park include a pop extravaganza headlined by Little Mix, and Pearl Jam performing with the Pixies as support, but the pick of them may be the arrival in the UK of Taylor Swift’s self-styled Lover Fest, wherein she eschews her usual stadiums in favour of taking her most recent album around the world’s festivals. “The Lover album is open fields, sunsets, + SUMMER,” she explained on Instagram. “I want to perform it in a way that feels authentic.”
11 July, Hyde Park, London
The breakout teen sensation of 2019, whose debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? spawned five US platinum singles, returns to the UK for a series of arena gigs. The sense that her home-produced brand of dark electronics, adolescent psychodrama and gothic sci-fi imagery is a cut above has been bolstered by critical acclaim and comparisons not to her pop peers, but Nirvana – the latter courtesy of Dave Grohl.
Tour begins 21 July, Manchester Arena
You can get a sense of how far Stormzy has outstripped his UK hip-hop peers by the sheer geographical variety of dates on the tour supporting his second album, Heavy Is the Head. His sound is still rooted in British grime, as evidenced by recent single Wiley Flow, but his gigs take in not just Europe but the Middle East, China and Australasia. The biggest shows, however, will be in Britain: a stadium-sized victory lap.
Tour begins 2 September, O2 Arena, London
The mammoth Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour enters its third year with a string of UK dates. Thus far it has proved notable not merely for its vast commercial success – the first leg alone grossed $125m – but the degree of acclaim it’s received. It is a beautifully staged two-and-a-half-hour extravaganza in which the hits are rolled out with considerable gusto – apparently for the final time.
Tour begins 2 November, O2 Arena, London
Classical and opera
Prisoner of the State
Beethoven will dominate the concert schedules in his 250th anniversary year, and his only opera, Fidelio, gets a new production at Covent Garden, with Lise Davidsen and Jonas Kaufmann heading the cast. Before that, however, the BBC Symphony Orchestra begins its year with the European premiere of David Lang’s contemporary take on the Fidelio story; Claron McFadden is the unnamed woman struggling to save her partner from wrongful imprisonment.
11 January, Barbican, London
Nixon in China
For more than a quarter of a century John Adams’s first was indelibly associated with Peter Sellars’ original 1987 production. But recently there have been a whole new generation of Nixon stagings, including John Fulljames’s version, first seen in Copenhagen and now shared with Scottish Opera. Joana Carneiro conducts a cast led by Eric Greene as Richard Nixon and Mark LeBrocq as Mao Tse-Tung.
18-22 February, Theatre Royal, Glasgow; 27-29 February, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Beethoven: 1808 Reconstructed
The Philharmonia reconstructs the historic concert that Beethoven gave in Vienna on 22 December 1808, which included the premieres of his Fifth and Sixth Symphonies and the Fourth Piano Concerto, as well as the Choral Fantasy. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts the monumental programme, which also includes movements from the Mass in C and the concert aria Ah! Perfido.
15 March, Royal Festival Hall, London
The Complete Varèse
In a pair of concerts, one with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the other with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts a survey of the achievement of the most uncompromising and forward-looking of the 20th-century’s great modernists. She pairs Edgard Varèse’s music with that of Debussy; BCMG’s London concert also includes works by Rebecca Saunders and Gérard Grisey.
4 May, CBSO Centre, Birmingham; 7 May, Symphony Hall, Birmingham; 9 May, Royal Festival Hall, London; 10 May, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
The Nightingale/Bluebeard’s Castle
The centrepiece of Welsh National Opera’s summer season is a double bill of Stravinsky and Bartók, conducted by Tomáš Hanus. Puppeteer Mark Down stages The Nightingale, promising life-size puppets alongside the cast of eight singers, while WNO’s former artistic director David Pountney directs Bluebeard’s Castle, with Bryn Terfel as Bluebeard and Michelle DeYoung as Judith.
9, 11 & 13 June, Millennium Centre, Cardiff
This Canadian-born, London-based composer is one of the artists-in-residence at the 73rd Aldeburgh festival. As well as Tracery, a new multi-speaker, split-screen installation, there’s the first performance of a work commissioned for soprano Juliet Fraser and the Bozzini Quartet, and the UK premiere of Miller’s A Large House for string orchestra and percussion.
13, 16 and 20 June, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh