Tuning up for a year of musical greats

With a whole host of venues, Yorkshire has a lot to offer music lovers. James Nuttall looks forward to another year of great live music.

Paul Weller is avoiding big arenas this year and will be performing in smaller venues in Halifax and York in March.
Paul Weller is avoiding big arenas this year and will be performing in smaller venues in Halifax and York in March.

Last year saw a thriving Yorkshire music scene. Live At Leeds, now going into its eighth year, took home the Best Metropolitan Festival award after its biggest year, ever. Yorkshire-born and bred folk singer Kate Rusby successfully launched the first ever Underneath the Stars Festival at Cannon Hall Farm in Barnsley, with the help of her family production team. And the newly-built First Direct Arena in Leeds has gone from strength to strength, attracting some of the biggest acts in the world onto its stage. 2015 shows promise of even more success.

One of the world’s biggest bands will be gracing the First Direct Arena on January 20. For their latest tour, the remaining Queen members, Roger Taylor and Brian May, have teamed up with Adam Lambert. March will see US big-hitters The Black Keys at the venue too. Having released their eighth studio album, Turn Blue, in May, their second Top 10 album in the UK, the duo consisting of Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach are expected to sell out the 13,500 capacity arena in Leeds city centre.

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The day before The Black Keys, an even bigger hitter: Lionel Richie. Now 65, the soul singer shows no sign of slowing down, having played 70 stadium shows and festivals, in the last twelve months. Selling over 100 million records in his career, he is one of the best-selling artists of all time, outselling the likes of Stevie Wonder and The Beach Boys.

British punk rocker Paul Weller, former frontman of The Jam, is personally giving the arenas a miss, this year. Instead, he has taken the unusual step of going to towns that are often forgotten on major tour trails. Fortunately for Yorkshire fans, he will be calling in the county twice on this tour: at the Halifax Victoria Theatre on March 18, and the York Barbican on March 20. It is no real surprise that tickets for these dates sold incredibly quickly, with so many fans desperate to see a true British icon in a more intimate setting than the enormous auditoriums Weller usually performs in.

Leeds’ O2 Academy continues to thrive; 2015 will see the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Ryan Adams, and The War On Drugs play there in February. The NME Awards tour will also be calling in at the O2, that month, with headliners Palma Violets closing the evening. Artists lined up for later on in the year include Placebo, Kodaline and UFO.

Although Leeds may be a hub of musical happenings, there is also plenty going on all over Yorkshire. York will see 10cc bring their live show to the Barbican on February 9. In a career spanning over four decades, the band has racked up eleven Top 10 hits, including I’m Not In Love and Rubber Bullets, and sold over 15 million records in the UK alone. Famous fans include The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde and Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant.

Also coming to The Barbican just a few weeks later on February 25 is Katherine Jenkins. The Welsh songstress has become one of the most-loved classical singers in the UK. Her nine albums have managed to shift over eight million copies between them, and she is the recipient of two Classical BRIT Awards. More recent accolades for the 34- year-old include headlining the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at Buckingham Palace, last year, as well as being awarded an OBE in the 2014 New Year’s Honours List.

Underneath the Stars Festival will return again for 2015. This year’s line-up boasts a member of Radiohead, Philip Selway, who will appear over the weekend. Other popular festivals making a comeback include: Live at Leeds, Tramlines festival in Sheffield, Beacons Festival in Skipton, and the ever-growing Bingley Music Live. Last year’s headliners included some of the festival’s biggest names so far, including the Pet Shop Boys, Shed Seven and Example. This year promises to be even bigger.

Sheffield’s Motor Point Arena is also offering an assortment of different music events for the new year. Family-friendly pop acts such as McBusted, Take That and Olly Murs will all be appearing at the arena; as will heavy metal band Slipknot, and 
the thumping hip hop beats of Usher.

Teenage girls from all over Yorkshire will, no doubt, be descending on the city over the Halloween weekend, when superstars One Direction play three nights at the arena – two of which have already sold out.

But it’s not just the big names that are coming to Yorkshire in 2015. Smaller venues all over the place are hosting a vast array of fantastic live bands. In Leeds alone, the likes of the Belgrave Music Hall, The Brudenell Social Club and Nation of Shopkeepers have packed calendars of acts lined up.

The Hebden Bridge Trades Club, nominated as one of NME’s Best Small Venues, continues to be a popular place to play for a wide range of acts.

In the past, it’s seen big names like Patti Smith play there. This month sees Heavenly Records celebrate its 25th Birthday Weekend at The Trades, with headline sets from bands signed to the label, including: Temples, who made the UK Top 10 this year with their début album, TOY, and Cherry Ghost.

Similarly, Fibbers in York is looking forward to another packed year. This year, acts such as Lene Lovich, Charlie Simpson and Limehouse Lizzy will play the intimate venue in the centre of the city.

We may only be in the first week of the new year, but the venues in Yorkshire already have a packed calendar, taking us well into the summer months.

This really does promise to be a year that will not disappoint live music lovers, whatever their tastes are.

• The First Direct Arena opened its doors officially on September 4 2013, with an Elton John concert, although Bruce Springsteen had already played a show there on July 24.

• Music at City Varieties in Leeds in 2015 includes Fairport Convention and The Searchers.

• The Brudenell Social Club’s calendar has performances from Hudson Taylor, Mike Peters, The Subways and many others.

• Leeds O2 Academy was nominated for the TPi Awards 2010 for the country’s favourite venue. It was first opened by Prince Albert in 1885 as a Grade II listed building.