Black Country New Road – Ants from Up There
Knotty, arty, indebted to the post-rock of Slint, bedecked with sprechgesang vocals and unruly sax, Black Country New Road’s debut album, For the First Time, was acclaimed as one of 2021’s best: Chaos Space Marine, the first track to be released from its follow-up, suggests things continuing in a suitably abstruse vein.
• Released on 4 February
One of many artists belatedly touring a highlight album of 2021 – We’re All in This Alone Together was as well-received as Dave’s Mercury prize-winning 2019 debut, Psychodrama. There’s a convincing argument that he’s currently the best rapper in Britain: it’s hard to think of anyone else addressing serious issues so eloquently.
• Tour begins 15 February, Motorpoint Arena Nottingham
Guns N’ Roses – Hard Skool
Not an album, but an EP, containing two new songs – Hard Skool and Absurd, both leftovers from 2008’s preposterous Chinese Democracy – but the fact that it’s the first new GNR release to feature guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan for more than 25 years gives it cachet.
• 25 February
A belated victory lap, biggest-ever tour for UK rap’s biggest star – including three nights at London’s O2 Arena – that was meant to be in support of his 2019 album Heavy Is the Head but ended up being delayed twice as a result of Covid.
• Tour begins 13 March, Motorpoint Arena Cardiff
Midlake – For the Sake of Bethel Woods
The first album in eight years from the revered US folk-rock band – who apparently reconvened after keyboard player Jesse Chandler’s late father appeared to him in a dream and told him to “get the band back together”. Single Meanwhile… is an enticing taster: a lovely, softly psychedelic glide.
• 18 March
Let’s Eat Grandma – Two Ribbons
Three years on from their award-winning second studio album I’m All Ears, the off-beam duo of Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth return. The two tracks released thus far see them staying on the path that’s led from weird teenage curiosity status to a cheeringly idiosyncratic take on pop.
• 8 April
Wet Leg – Wet Leg
Wet Leg were one of 2021’s big alt-rock breakthroughs: the deadpan Chaise Longue was one of the year’s best singles. But it also had a certain kind of novelty about it – the funny track at No 6 in John Peel’s Festive 50, for those old enough to remember such things. Their eponymous debut album should establish whether they’re in it for the long haul.
• 8 April
The weird time-lag caused by Covid in full effect: here’s Dua Lipa finally touring the biggest pop album of 2020, Future Nostalgia, at the point where, ordinarily, you would be thinking about a follow-up. Still, the songs are fabulous pop-disco confections and given the strong visual identity she has developed, you’d imagine the staging will be something else.
• Tour begins 15 April, AO Arena Manchester
The 2020 Mercury prize winner is one of Britain’s finest singer-songwriters: his loose, emotive, powerful hybrid of soul, psychedelia and funk is hugely impressive; his live performances, where the songs are allowed space to stretch out, are consistently fantastic.
• Tour begins 6 May, O2 Academy Glasgow
Her third album, Solar Power, won a decidedly mixed response: for every critic enthralled by its homespun, understated quality, another found it underbaked and solipsistic. But she’s a reliably compelling and inventive live performer: it should be intriguing to see what she cooks up for this tour.
• Tour begins 25 May, O2 Academy Leeds
Quite what form Abba’s virtual return to the stage will take remains a closely guarded secret. “Abbatars” are involved, as is a full live band, but not, as most people seemed to assume, holograms. It has to be something special to warrant the hype that has built up around the shows in recent months.
• Tour begins 27 May, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London
Another female artist whose eagerly awaited 2021 album saw her deliberately stepping back from the overheated climate of pop mania – the sonically muted Happier Than Ever largely depicted being a teenage superstar as a life of misery. Whether that mutes the chorus of teenage screams at these arena gigs remains to be seen.
• Tour begins 3 June, SSE Arena Belfast
Ross’s most recent album, Thank You, was pretty awful, but – with all due respect – who goes to see Diana Ross in 2022 in the hope of hearing new material? Better to focus on the setlist from her 2020 US dates, which was as packed with Supremes and disco-era hits as anyone could wish.
• Tour begins 10 June, Cardiff Castle
An impressive number of big-hitters at the summer’s biggest metal event, fully covering the hard rock waterfront: Kiss, Iron Maiden and Biffy Clyro headline; Deftones, Korn, Megadeth and Sepultura lurk a little further down the bill; should Dying Fetus, Venom Prison or Malevolence be more your thing they’re appearing, too.
• 10-12 June, Donnington Park, Derby
Fender’s UK arena tour in spring is already sold out, evidence of a soaring popularity founded in the fact that there isn’t really anyone else like him at the moment: a young artist making stadium-ready guitar rock with a furious political bent. There is strong support at this 40,000-capacity gig from Fontaines DC and Beabadoobee, among others.
• 15 July, Finsbury Park, London
All Points East/Field Day
Six events over two weekends, with a spectacular lineup: Gorillaz, Idles, Kraftwerk, the Chemical Brothers, Tame Impala, Nick Cave, the National, Dry Cleaning, Self Esteem, Greentea Peng, Floating Points, Perfume Genius and a host more, making it the ideal event for anyone who fancies an eclectic array of artists.
• 19, 20, 25-28 August, Victoria Park, London
End of the Road
Only one artist is thus far confirmed for the 2022 End of the Road – Pixies – but the lineup is invariably well-curated and eclectic, lurking somewhere between leftfield alt-rock, folk dance music and, increasingly, jazz. The beautiful surroundings, complete with peacocks, make End of the Road one of the most loved of the larger boutique festivals.
• 1-4 Sepember, Larmer Tree Gardens, near Blandford, Dorset
In 2022, the Cure will be 44 years old. With a mammoth back catalogue to wrangle, their gigs have become epics: when they last played live, in 2019, their average set featured 27 songs. They last put out a new album in 2008, but two – possibly their last – are apparently planned for release at some point.
• Tour begins 1 December, 3Arena Dublin
Rosalía – Motomani
Rosalía’s 2018 album El Mal Querer – a brilliant fusion of flamenco and experimental electronic music – catapulted the Spanish singer-songwriter to global stardom. Its follow-up is, in her own words, “brave”, “very different” and apparently influenced by the sound of reggaeton.
• Release date TBC
That the band are headlining the Reading and Leeds festivals indicates a new album is incoming (they were spotted recording it in Suffolk over the summer). However, details are scarce about the follow-up to 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino – a relative commercial disappointment compared with its immediate predecessor, the multi-platinum global smash AM.
• Release date TBC
Classical and opera
The Ordering of Moses
Seventy years after it was composed, Canadian American Robert Nathaniel Dett’s oratorio “from scripture and folklore” finally receives its first performance in Britain. Joshua Wielerstein conducts the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus; Chrystal E Williams and Rodrick Dixon are the soloists.
• Symphony Hall, Birmingham, 23 February
Toward the Unknown Region – RVW 150
To mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams, the Hallé Orchestra and the BBC Philharmonic share a cycle of his nine symphonies. Ryan Wigglesworth, Mark Elder and Andrew Davis and John Wilson are the conductors, and the programmes include other VW works, including Job and Toward the Unknown Region.
• Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 26 February – 12 May
Tamara Stefanovich: 20 Sonatas
A history of the piano sonata in three recitals: the ever-imaginative Tamara Stefanovich presents a marathon guide to the evolution of the most significant of musical forms. Domenico Scarlatti and Soler provide the baroque starting points for her survey, which extends into the 20th century with works by Hindemith, Eisler and Ustvolskaya.
• Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 27 February
America, the Beautiful
The centrepiece of violinist Pekka Kuusisto’s residency with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is the UK premiere of Shrink, the concerto written for him in 2019 by Nico Muhly. It’s embedded in an all-American programme that also includes Missy Mazzoli’s Dissolve, O My Heart, Barber’s Adagio for Strings and Copland’s Appalachian Spring.
• Holy Trinity, St Andrews, 16 March; Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 17 March; City Halls, Glasgow, 18 March
Deborah Warner follows her much admired 2019 Royal Opera production of Billy Budd with another Britten staging, which was first seen in Madrid last May. Allan Clayton takes the title role, with Maria Bengtsson as Ellen Orford and Bryn Terfel as Balstrode; Mark Elder conducts.
• Royal Opera House, London, 17-31 March
Five days of new music with the London Philharmonic and Philharmonia orchestras, London Sinfonietta, Arditti Quartet and Bang On a Can All-Stars. Soloists include Nicolas Hodges, Meredith Monk, Mark Knoop and Clare Chase, while among the dozen premieres are works by Rebecca Saunders, George Lewis, Mason Bates, Tansy Davies, Betsy Jolas, Liza Lim and Alex Paxton.
• Southbank Centre, London, 30 March-3 April
The Strauss Project
Andris Nelsons conducts both his orchestras in four concerts devoted to Richard Strauss. His Barbican appearances with the Leipzig Gewandhaus focus on the symphonic poems, while at the Royal Festival Hall the Boston Symphony programmes feature An Alpine Symphony and the Symphonia Domestica, prefaced by the Four Last Songs and extracts from the opera Salome respectively.
• Barbican, London EC2, 9 and 10 May, Royal Festival Hall, London, 12 and 13 May
Glyndebourne’s summer season opens with the first professional production in Britain in more than half a century of Ethel Smyth’s best known opera. Directed by Melly Still and conducted by Robin Ticciati, it will be sung for the first time in French, the original language of the libretto, with a cast headed by Markus Brück and Clémentine Margaine.• Glyndebourne Opera House, Lewes, 21 May-24 June
Originally scheduled for last summer’s Aldeburgh festival, Tom Coult’s first opera finally reaches the stage, in Music Theatre Wales’s production, directed by Jude Christian. With a libretto by Alice Birch, it’s the story of a woman who seizes the chance to escape her humdrum life as time accelerates around her.
• Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh, 3 and 5 June, then touring
Opera North follows its hugely successful concert staging of The Ring cycle with a similar treatment of Wagner’s final music drama. Richard Farnes conducts once again, with PJ Harris the director this time; Toby Spence is Parsifal, Brindley Sherratt Gurnemanz and Katarina Karnéus Kundry.
• Grand theatre, Leeds, 4-10 June, then touring to 26 June