Most Memorable Brighton Gigs of 2016

It was a horrendous year in many ways, but it wasn’t bad for music – despite the death of some brilliant musicians. Over Christmas we decided to treat ourselves to a little self-indulgence and look back at our favourite gigs of the last twelve months. Actually, that’s not true – what we’ve got here is a list of the most memorable shows we saw in and around Brighton last year. These are the gigs that have stuck with us, for one reason or another, even if the reason isn’t always a good one.

It turns out that the Brighton Source team managed 187 reviews over the year, which works out at roughly one every two days. To help us whittle it down we’ve chosen one gig from every month. So, in chronological order, here’s a dozen of the most interesting shows we reviewed in 2016.

Mystery Jets - Brighton Source - Resident Records - Ashley Laurence - Time for Heroes Photography
1. Mystery Jets
Resident Records, 20th January
Frontman Blaine Harrison was on fine, jocular form when Mystery Jets came to play an instore at Resident back in January. Though the record shop had recently annexed a neighbouring building to expand its floor space, there still wasn’t quite enough room for the crowd that piled in to hear the Eel Pie Islander’s latest album. Barely a week had passed since the news of Bowie’s death had hit us like a shockwave and Mystery Jets marked the occasion with a cover of ‘Five Years’, setting an appropriately apocalyptic mood for the year to come.
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Roots Manuva | Concorde2 | Brighton Source | Mike Tudor
2. Roots Manuva
Concorde2, 29th February
Having raised expectations with his 2015 record ‘Bleeds’, hailed by many as a true return to form, it was hard not to view this carcrash of a gig in the light of the album’s troubled lyrics and allusions to mental illness. In any case, Roots Manuva was clearly having a bad night, slurring his way through a set that our reviewer described as “mercifully short”. The rest of the tour was cancelled, but like us most fans were generous enough to wish him well despite the disappointment.
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3. Ludovico Einaudi
Brighton Dome, 11th March
As the first classical pianist to reach the top 15 of the UK album charts, with ‘Elements’ in late 2015, Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi was riding the wave of crossover appeal on this sold out tour. While The Guardian compared his music to the kitschy paintings of Thomas Kinkade (with a Westlife reference thrown in for good measure), our reviewer was bowled over by the spectacular light show, a warbling water gong and an expertly played set of lush and majestic piano music.
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Kimya Dawson | Brighton Source
4. Kimya Dawson
Patterns, 22nd April
It’s not often we find ourselves sitting on the floor of a nightclub singing nursery rhymes on a Friday night, but that’s the kind of thing that feels completely natural at a Kimya Dawson gig. The former Moldy Peaches singer hadn’t been to Brighton for three years and the packed-in Patterns crowd lapped up her unlikely mix of childish ditties and political rants. Prince had passed away the night before so the set took place before a projection of her musical hero and ended with an inevitable but poignant snippet of ‘When Doves Cry’.
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5. The Great Escape
Various Venues, 19th–21st May
Okay, so this is probably cheating given the sheer number of bands we saw over the weekend. Some of them had to be good, right? As usual we did a day-by-day review in three parts, covering standout sets from Meilyr Jones, MONEY and Haiku Salut – plus plenty more. Though we had fun squeezing into the Spiegeltent for a raucous set from US rockers The Wild Feathers, with hindsight their anti-Trump protest seems to have woefully underestimated what was swelling up stateside.
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Wild Life Festival | Brighton Airport | Brighton Source
6. Wild Life Festival
Shoreham Airport, 11th & 12th June
Wild Life Festival returned to the runway of Shoreham Airport for the second time, and repetition made the setting no less strange. Ice Cube, Busta Rhymes and De La Soul were among the names picked by curator-headliners Disclosure and Rudimental, with Jamie Woon our reviewer’s highlight. While the transport troubles that put a downer on the first year were much less of a headache, it felt at times like all the teenagers in Sussex had been let loose for the weekend. It must have been brilliant for them; less so for the security and paramedics.
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7. Love Supreme Festival
Glynde Place, 1st–3rd July
Over on the other side of Lewes, Love Supreme Festival was a different affair altogether. Still the only outdoor jazz event of its size, the festival continued to stretch the definition of the genre with a line-up that included Kelis, Average White Band and Kandace Springs. While Grace Jones made a spectacular splash on Saturday night, with a selection of impressive headgear, the finale was a classics-crammed Sunday set from the 88-year-old Burt Bacharach.
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8. Northern Soul Bank Holiday Special
Concorde2, 26th August
Brighton’s annual mod weekender kicked off with Wigan Casino legend Russ Winstanley presiding over the decks like a father figure at a family reunion. Though Dean Parrish was too ill to make the show, we still got to hear some live versions of classic tracks by Lorraine Silver, Tommy Hunt, and The Team. Northern Soul has always been about the dancing (and possibly the clothes) so even after the bands finished the natty crowd was still pulling moves until the early hours.
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Brian Wilson | Brighton Source
9. Together The People
Preston Park, 3rd & 4th September
For some, the novelty of seeing Brian Wilson performing ‘Pet Sounds’ in their local park made up for any amount of rain. For others it was the sight of Peter Hook strutting his way through a set of Joy Division and New Order hits – or Brett Anderson’s bony figure leading a revitalised Suede during their Sunday night send-off. A diverse booking policy meant Together The People offered at least one must-see act for several different generations of gig-goers. Even if the something-for-everyone approach led to occasional stretches of afternoon indifference, it also ensured a proper special occasion for those who braved the weather.
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10. Sleaford Mods
Brighton Dome, 31st October
The famously divisive Nottingham duo couldn’t help but split the audience when they came to play Brighton Dome – arguably a venue too big for them in a city at odds with the sentiment of their songs. While they did what they do with perfect aplomb, providing a refreshingly angry antidote to a year of political bullshit, the band’s limitations were perhaps highlighted by the concert hall context. “A short sharp dose of angry honesty is one thing,” said our review. “An hour or so of relentlessly abrasive beats is something else.”
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John Carpenter | Brighton Source
11. John Carpenter
Brighton Dome, 20th November
For fans of his movies, or anyone else who likes a good film score, this was a treat. The Master of Horror brought a five-piece band to recreate the theme music from many of his classic movies, with big-screen clips adding to the twin pleasures of fright and familiarity. Kicking off with Escape From New York and Assault On Precinct 13, through the sinister and repetitive piano parts of Halloween, this was a multimedia show that included plenty of laughs alongside the spooky soundtracks.
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Jeremy Corbyn | Brighton Source
12. People Powered
Brighton Dome, 16th December
Robert Wyatt came out of retirement to collaborate with Paul Weller for this ‘Concert for Corbyn’ at Brighton Dome. An edgy, politically-charged atmosphere made for a unique evening, which featured a dozen acts across two stages and a surprise appearance from the Labour leader himself. While Ghetto Priest got the bar dancing to deep conscious dub, Jim Jones and Temples cooked up a rock’n’roll storm on the main stage, leaving The Farm to finish off with a single-song set. As our review revealed, the next instalment of People Powered looks like it might be even better. Let’s hope 2017 goes the same way.
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