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Best gigs of 2022
Steve Beech

The best gigs of 2022 in London

From post-punk to professional whistlers, our choices are eclectic at the very least

Edited by
Georgia Evans
Written by
Time Out editors
&
Time Out contributors
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You know, this year has been a stinker at times. But there’s no better ailment to a shit piece of news than belting out your favourite songs so loud that you need a throat sweet when you get home (just me?). This year, we fully embrace post-pando gig life, with a wide variation of highlights across the board from the Time Out team. The Gen Zers put us all to shame with achingly cool Spotify rising stars, veteran metalheads got to revel in nostalgia built up over two decades of listening, and some of us embraced the camp theatrics of popstars wearing light-up bras. These are gigs that brought us nothing but joy. So don’t judge our taste, alright?

RECOMMENDED:
🎶 The 20 best albums of 2022
🎥 The best films of 2022 (so far)
🎵 The 22 best songs of 2022

The best gigs of 2022 in London

Lady Gaga - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, July 29
Photograph: Samir Hussein /Getty

1. Lady Gaga - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, July 29

This was probably the best gig of my life. And not just because I’ve been a fan of Gaga’s since her blood-splattered, bow-haired, bubble-dress ‘Poker Face’ days. Giving you the drama of an elaborate rock cabaret, this gig had all you’d want from Mother Monster. I didn’t care that I almost lost my life to 40-foot flames, I would've died happy. I got to see Gaga in a wild assortment of costumes, gyrating with a 12-strong brigade, dedicating her first night of the Chromatica Ball to Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow. Talented, brilliant, incredible, amazing, showstopping… – Georgia Evans, Deputy Commercial Editor

2. Orchestra Baobab - Union Chapel, August 9

I’ve never been to Senegal, but Orchestra Baobab have regularly taken me there. And I’ve never felt more like I’ve been in a sweaty Dakar bar than one fine day in August this year. It was the time of the second heatwave. I was perched on a pew in Union Chapel, ginger beer in hand. And here was my favourite band, on their fiftieth-anniversary tour, postponed due to Covid. They rattled through the famous ones from the 1982 album ‘Pirate’s Choice’, but with Orchestra Baobab it’s not really about that. They don’t have bangers. They have vibes. And so we got an hour and a half of floating riffs, blaring sax and dancing, dancing, dancing: just the tonic for the hellish heat outside. — Huw Oliver, UK Editor

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3. Emperor - Roundhouse, May 7

Emperor was a big part of my life about 20 years ago. Out of all the Norwegian black metal bands they were the most impressive. I'd long ago surrendered hope of seeing them live. Emperor sort of broke up ages ago, and even before that, they barely ever gigged. Despite not being so into extreme metal these days, the moment I heard about this out-of-the-blue Roundhouse show I knew I had to go. What I thought was going to be a semi-enjoyable exercise in nostalgia, was in fact one of the most intense and thrilling concert experiences of my life. The music – brutal and bombastic – was a perfect fit for London’s most idiosyncratic venue. — Joe Mackertich, Editor, London

Confidence Man - KOKO, November 1
Photograph: Piran Aston

4. Confidence Man - KOKO, November 1

When Janet Planet and Sugar Bones exploded onto the stage at KOKO wearing XXXL suits, fit with hilariously exaggerated shoulder pads that moved in time to the beat, I knew we were in for a wild ride. With champagne showers, multiple costume changes and high-energy dance moves, Confidence Man at Koko was a hedonistic, joyous hour and fifteen minutes of wall-to-wall bangers. If you don’t know about the enigmatic Australian dance-pop quartet that are behind bops like ‘C.O.O.L Party’ and ‘Toy Boy’, I strongly urge you to seek them out, even if it’s only to see front woman Janet Planet, drenched in champagne, gyrating in a flashing LED oversized cone bra. — India Lawrence, contributing writer

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5. Shygirl - Heaven, March 9

The pandemic might have put paid to live music for far longer than was comfortable, but for Shygirl’s long-anticipated ‘ALIAS’ tour in March, that came with one unexpected advantage. Two postponements and a full calendar year after she was initially supposed to tour her brilliant 2020 EP, the anticipation made for one of the liveliest atmospheres I’ve ever experienced in a venue as intimate as Heaven. It was an immensely gratifying return to gig-going that will stay with me for a long time. – Rosie Hewitson, Things To Do Editor, London

6. Rema - O2 Academy Brixton, November 8

22-year-old afrobeat rising star from Nigeria, Rema, emerged from the inside of a red telephone box at O2 Academy Brixton in November, as a fitting introduction for the opening night of his first-ever UK tour. Performing his acclaimed debut album ‘Raves and Roses’ along with famed tracks ‘Dumebi’ and ‘Calm Down’, Rema affirmed his transformation from local musician to global superstar with his playful, fiery stage presence and mesmerising vocals. With surprise appearances from Dave and Fireboy DML, the concert felt like a roaring party in celebration of Rema's success. — Ellie Muir, contributing writer

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Erykah Badu - Southbank Centre, November 6
Photograph: Arnaud Mbaki

7. Erykah Badu - Southbank Centre, November 6

Erykah Badu’s two nights at the Queen Elizabeth Hall felt like something special. The emblematic R&B singer kept us waiting for a full 40 minutes, but boy, was it worth it. Backed by a nine-strong live band, Badu belted out hit after hit to celebrate 25 years of her debut album, ‘Baduizm’. Swirling in synths, bluesy piano, and thundering drums, her spellbinding vocals were enough to cast the audience into a strange sort of neo-soul trance – one where they stayed on their feet with applause for the entire show. — Chiara Wilkinson, Chief Features Writer, UK

8. Pat Metheny - Eventim Apollo, June 12.

Listen to me, Pat Metheny is the greatest living jazz guitarist. Maybe even the best jazz guitarist ever; a master of fluid lines, chordal cleverness, shreddy dexterity and the owner of the biggest mop of hair in the genre. Seeing him slide through classic after classic, from early bangers to experimental free jazz wild ones, was like watching magic happen. Beautiful, jazzy magic.  — Eddy Frankel, Art & Culture Editor, London

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9. Diana Ross - The O2, June 23

Watching a living legend perform is never going to be a bad idea, even if they’re autotuned to the hilt – who remembers the Queen’s 70th Jubilee concert? – with the backing singers bearing the brunt of the work. But seeing a Supreme in concert isn’t so much about hitting the high notes, but being in the presence of someone so ingrained in musical folklore, they don’t need to. Plus the outfit changes were chef’s kiss. Never stop rocking those feathered jackets, Di. — Jess Phillips, Senior Social Media Editor

Tropical Fuck Storm - Studio 9294, September 30
Photograph: Tropical Fuck Storm

10. Tropical Fuck Storm - Studio 9294, September 30

When Aussie rock legends Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin stepped away from The Drones and rebooted (along with Lauren Hammel and Erica Dunn) as Tropical Fuck Storm, we should’ve known that mellowing out wasn’t on the radar. The band’s late September London show was total proof: an all-bite, no-frills blare of arching punk blues and thickly fuzzy noise rock, track after track belted out to a tiny Studio 9294 (incidentally, perfectly sized for this kind of stuff) – plus a loose, rampant cover of ‘Staying Alive’. Glorious. — Ed Cunningham, contributing writer

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11. Molly Lewis - Laylow, November 3

The world of professional whistlers might be a small one, but Molly Lewis’s first-ever London engagement is still big news. From the small Australian town of Mullumbimby via her current home of Los Angeles, Molly’s schtick is impeccable; razzle-dazzle Rat Pack panache meets end-of-the-pier vaudeville banter which has the Notting Hill basement crowd tittering with glee. And that’s before the whistling even starts; hypnotic, tiki dreamscapes that make the perfect accompaniment to cocktail hour. — Leonie Cooper, Food & Drink Editor, London

12. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - O2 Academy Brixton, June 7

The New York trio have been away for aeons and could have probably squeaked an arena comeback show thanks to the enduring, Gen Z-friendly popularity of their timeless hit ‘Maps’. But much as the mellow new album ‘Cool It Down’ marks a slower pace, the point of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs live is that they’re forever those scrappy, angular, unimpeachably hip art poppers they were 20 years ago. In the dark of Brixton, Karen O looked exactly the same as she did two decades before, the support acts – Porridge Radio and Dry Cleaning – were immaculately picked representatives of the new generation, and basically the audience got to roleplay being hip again, which was just peachy. – Andrzej Lukowski, Theatre & Dance Editor, UK

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Tame Impala - All Points East, August 25
Photograph: Sharon Lopez

13. Tame Impala - All Points East, August 25

Getting to see Tame Impala's long-awaited headline set at All Points East was like something out of a psychedelic fever dream. There was dancing (thanks to the groovier tracks on the latest release, 'The Slow Rush'), there was headbanging ('Elephant''s gnarly riff will do that to you), there was the collective excitement of a crowd kept inside for two years, and there were, of course, some very crazy lights and visuals. I even went on some guy's shoulders, which I haven't done since I was a literal teenager. Best night of the year! — Grace Beard, Deputy Travel Editor

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