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The best virtual concerts of the year

Written by Music

In this, the year of the virtual concert, actual gigging feels like a distant fantasy. Out are the days of rubbing shoulders with strangers in sweaty mosh pits, in with the days of sitting in front of your laptop hoping that the stream wont lag. Our writers have gathered together and given us a comprehensive roundup of the best virtual gigs they attended.

Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now show

Charli’s recent record is practically tailor-made for virtual performance, leaning into the PC music genre of her peers and giving an upbeat and appropriately glitchy live performance for the Boiler Room streaming platform.

Since Charli XCX’s latest album how I’m feeling now was written, produced and released during lockdown as a musical exploration of how Charli feels during quarantine, it seems appropriate that the first live performance of the record was a virtual one. 

A £5 entry fee and exclusive access to limited edition merch meant the livestream’s chat was packed with fellow listeners and despite some expected lag and buffering, Charli and Boiler Room pulled off a great live event. Her boyfriend acting as a cameraman, Charli performed eight fan-favourite hits from how i’m feeling now (‘claws’, ‘forever’, ‘detonate’ and more) with the technical mishaps actually seeming quite well suited to the glitchcore and hyperpop sound of Dylan Brady and AG Cook’s production and Charli’s own vocoder-heavy vocals. 

It was definitely a makeshift performance with the popstar dancing around her living room in sunglasses, capris and an oversized shirt but Charli made up for the often unpolished nature of livestreamed performances with incomparable high energy, wrapping up her performance with an intimate Q&A session that would often go ignored by many artists. 

Charli has gone on to perform at other virtual concerts, such as producer AG Cook’s ‘Appleville’ alongside Kero Kero Bonito, Hannah Diamond and 100 gecs, the latter of which even holding their own virtual concert called ‘Square Garden’ on a Minecraft server during lockdown.

Leo Dawson

Corey Taylor – CMFT album livestream

Corey Taylor. A name that some of you might be looking at and think to yourself, “Who? Jeez, Grace, you’ve lost me once again.” Then some of you- I’m looking at you my lovely fellow metal-heads- who instantly shoot up at the sound of that name because you know he is arguably one of the best and most talented singers today.

For those of you who fell in the former category, Corey Taylor is a metal/ hard rock singer, most notably known for his involvement in popular bands Stone Sour and Slipknot. Recently, however, Taylor branched away from his bands a bit to release a solo album, CMFT, on 2 October. I won’t go into my usual rants of how amazing this album is as the point of this article is to talk about the live stream concert he put on last Friday, but I will say no matter what type of music you listen to, you must go listen to this album right now. I don’t even care if you don’t finish this article to go to your music app as long as you go listen to it. 

Anyways, now onto the actual point of this article. As I said, last Friday, Corey Taylor, like many other artists, put on a virtual concert for fans as, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, live concerts are tragically unable to happen. However, Taylor did not pull back for this show. Though it was online, he somehow made it feel like you were right there in the pit with him. From stage effects to continuing to speak to the “crowd” to his innate connection to his fans, I personally was transported out of my bedroom and to his concert which was a truly amazing experience. Taylor also didn’t hold out on his actual performance either. He sang his heart out and jumped around the stage just like he would at any show. 

My inability to be able to go to concerts has probably been the most difficult adjustment for me with this pandemic. But thanks to Corey Taylor and his willingness to go all out for a virtual concert for his fans, I was able to experience that inexplicably joyful feeling once again.

Grace Lazzaro

Frankie Cosmos – Instagram lives

The highlight of those one-walk-a-day lockdown weeks came every Friday for me, in the form of Frankie Cosmos (the band name of New York musician Greta Kline) livestreams, broadcast late-night on Instagram for ten weeks.

The best parts of Cosmos’ songs have always been the songwriting itself, the humorous observations of lyrics, odes to pets and best friends, wrapped up in catchy melodies and delivered with a skilful mix of sincerity and wit. This all translates perfectly to an Instagram stream which is lo-fi by its wifi-dependent nature, the wavering sound quality unimportant when all you really need is a voice and a few notes on an instrument. Her bedroom-pop songs sounded perfect and intimate exactly where they were penned.

The lively comments (arguably half of the fun of a livestream) were full of people reciting their favourite lyrics in all-caps, and inside jokes being created in real time through phone keyboard typos across the world. Beloved deep Bandcamp cuts (‘Be Normal Frankie’, ‘Solitaire’) were played for the first time in years, the set lists handwritten based off fan requests from an immeasurably extensive back catalogue. In the absence of bandmates, Cosmos’ family joined in, with her parents and brother offering harmonies and keyboard accompaniment they’d only practiced that day.

After the music was over, the stream turned collaborative, with split-screen conversations with friends and bandmates, including chats with keyboardist and merch designer Lauren Martin, instantly entertaining and hilarious as only best friends can be. In the absence of real-life connection, this was a novel way to learn more about the people behind the music, and ask them the stupid (mainly food-related) questions you’d always wondered about.

These sweet bursts of music stripped back to its joyful bones gave my weird lockdown weeks structure, and offset some of that live music longing in the most playful way possible.

Leonie Bellini

Last modified: 15th October 2020

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