Liverpool…a City of Music
“2022 has been a great year for Liverpool music. But then again pretty much every year is a great year for music in our wonderful city so no great surprise there!
It seemed only fitting then that the BBC’s traditional New Year musical celebration, Jools Holland’s Hootenanny, ushered in 2023 in with Liverpool legends The Real Thing who, in a show full of musical big hitters, were easily the best thing on the screen bringing the studio to light with three of their classic tunes including Children of the Ghetto, one of the best songs ever to come out of the city.
It was a great start to a year which is set to be an even bigger year musically for us with the city having the honour of hosting Eurovision on behalf of the Ukraine. Eurovision is going to be absolutely massive for the city and that’s why the decision was made to bid to host the event. We are a city that recognises the power and unifying quality of music and the vital role it plays in Liverpool’s vibrant culture.
To my mind (and obviously I’m completely unbiased) Liverpool is always the premier music city in the UK but there was official confirmation earlier this year when music industry body the BPI announced that Liverpool was responsible for more album sales in 2022 than any other UK city outside of London. We are a city that oozes creativity and is swarming with musical talent, so it isn’t really a surprise that artists from here release great music every year. But even by our lofty standards the last 12 months have witnessed a bumper crop.
A personal favourite (and something which also ended up in many album of the year charts) was Dear Scott by Michael Head and the Red Elastic Band. I’ve known Mick since the very early days of the Pale Fountains and been a huge fan of his throughout his long, often chaotic musical career. Mick has a devoted army of fans across the world (and is revered by many other musicians for his song writing ability) but until now has never really escaped the cult hero category. Dear Scott, released by local label Modern Sky, changed all this, and brought him his first top ten album and a raft of grateful new listeners. The album is an absolute gem, showcasing Mick at his very best, and is beautifully produced by another local genius in Bill Ryder Jones. Do yourself a favour and have a listen to it or even better go into a record shop and buy yourself a copy as a little treat for yourself.
Other favourites from the last twelve months include a stunning debut from The Mysterines with Reeling, Stealing Sheep’s Wow Machine, and Crawlers made a massive statement of intent with their impressive Loud Without Noise EP. Michael Aldag, who came through our LIMF Academy is definitely one to watch and his Socializing EP is a great taster from someone who I’m convinced has a massive future.
Jamie Webster’s Moments album was released at the start of a momentous year for him with highlights including a storming set at Glastonbury, a celebratory show at the FanZone in Paris, and a triumphant homecoming gig at the Arena. Jamie continues to effortlessly mix the personal with the political and at times like these we need artists like Jamie more than ever. Billy Bragg was so impressed with Jamie’s performance at Glastonbury that he did a guest spot at Jamie’s Arena gig, performing Scousers Don’t Buy The Sun.
2022 saw the long-awaited return to something like ‘normal’ in the live music world. Things are still really challenging for venues across the city region, and we are incredibly lucky to have such a range of amazing independent venues run by people who are passionate about live music. Festivals such as Sound City, Africa Oyé, and our own LIMF all made very welcome returns. LIMF provided loads of highlights, but I particularly loved the Academy showcase gigs at the Stockroom and especially the performances of Amber Jay and Ni Maxine. I’d probably plump for Mick Head being my favourite gig of the year, but also loved a very touching In Harmony performance by young musicians at the Philharmonic Hall. We were fortunate enough to be treated to a guest spot by Domingo Hindoyan who the Phil are lucky enough to have as their Chief Conductor.
So what do we have to look forward to in 2023? Obviously, Eurovision will take over the city for a few weeks in May attracting artists, audiences from all over the world. We knew it was a big deal when we bid to host it but I don’t think any of us quite realised how big it actually is. 37 competing nations, 1200 media, and 160 million global audience for the grand final gives you a small indication of the sheer scale of the thing.
We arehosting on behalf of the Ukraine so that will be a large part of the actual event and the build up, but it is also an opportunity to show the world why we deserve to be seen as the foremost music city in the world. We have the UNESCO Music City designation, and we need to make this more visible and be more vocal about our amazing all year-round music offer and not just our incredible music heritage.
We should be welcoming people to the city whether they are arriving for Eurovision or for anything with messaging that makes people aware that in Liverpool, music really matters. We are a city of music and this is important to us. This messaging should be visible across the city but particularly at key entry points like John Lennon airport and Lime Street station. US cities like Nashville, Austen, and New Orleans do this as a matter of course and we should be doing it simply because it is true — we are a proper music city, and every day is a music day in Liverpool.
There is going to be a raft of exciting activity around Eurovision and more details of everything that will be happening and how people can get involved will be available in the near future. But outside of what will be a magical couple of Eurovision weeks, we already have so much to offer music fans and music tourists. I’ve already mentioned festivals like Oyé, Liverpool Irish Festival, Sound City and Cream on the Waterfront, but we also have huge club nights like Circus, grassroots venues such as 24 Kitchen St, District, Phase One, Invisible Wind Factory, Meraki and many more all providing exciting, vibrant and diverse music programming 52 weeks of the year.
2023 is going to be a momentous year for Liverpool music. Eurovision is a once in a lifetime event for the city. The eyes of the world will be on us providing the perfect opportunity to show everyone why we really are a City of Music.”