Are you ready? Next year is going to be massive. Grab your earplugs and dancing shoes – and don’t forget the credit card. You’re going to need it.
The big ones
Taylor Swift can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because she’s dead busy planning for 2018 Australian tour. Her reputation Stadium Tour – in celebration of her sixth studio album and fourth ARIA number one – kicks off in October, with shows in Melbourne (Etihad Stadium, October 26), Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. Tickets go on sale December 15 (December 12 for subscribers to her website.
Former 1Direction boy wonder Harry Styles (HiSense, April 24) so thoroughly blitzed the box office during his recent visit that a return tour was inevitable. He’s trying to move on from the manufactured pop that made him, with a decent solo album touted as “very David Bowie”. It wasn’t, owing more to earlier boyband escapee Robbie Williams.
New York’s LCD Soundsystem came out of retirement this year for a surprise album that was as good as anything in their back catalogue – a point proved when it hit number one in the US. July’s sold out gig at Margaret Court Arena was a blast of euphoric dance rock; in the open air of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl (February 15) the band should be something quite magical.
Sultry pop mannequin Lana Del Rey will play the same patch on March 31, airing tracks from her latest hit record Lust For Life. Early in her career, Lana copped flak for a total lack of stage presence, but is a good deal more relaxed (and mobile) these days.
Fresh from a triumphant showing at this year’s grand final, The Killers return for another run of arena shows (HiSense, May 4-6). Their ongoing popularity is remarkable for a group that peaked creatively with their 2004 debut. Still, they put on a great show – catnip for rock kids too young to remember a time when U2 weren’t a bit rubbish.
Macklemore (Festival Hall, Feb 6 & 7) played that other grand final, but is now better known here for the fuss some pollies caused when they trained to stop him playing his song Same Love (the song subsequently charted, five years after release). His slick, radio-friendly approach to rap finds the sweet, vanilla spot between The Streets and Eminem.
Looking more like the work experience kid at Officeworks, Ed Sheeran (Etihad Stadium, March 9-12) makes for an unlikely rock star. Still, his tender folky tunes have won fans the world over. Three Aussie capitals have sold out his all ages gigs, but some tickets remain to his marathon four night stay in Melbourne. He recently cancelled a run of international dates after falling off his bike, but we can assume he’ll be back in the saddle by March.
The Grammy Award-winning popster Bruno Mars (Rod Laver Arena, March 7-11) brings his 24K Magic tour to town for his first Australian show since he broke through with 2014’s inescapable Uptown Funk. Expect Michael Jackson-style spectacle. For some, the best news about his gig is he’s bringing rising star Dua Lipa, who will play a sideshow at Palais Theatre on March 12.
James Blunt (Palais Theatre, March 16) created a sensation back in 2012 when he announced his retirement from music after his single You’re Beautiful had been heard (at least twice) by every living creature on the planet. Sadly, he was only joking. These days he’s best known for joking, having repeatedly established he can dish out the gags on Twitter far better than most.
Swedish duo First Aid Kit have caused a polite stir after selling out both Laneway Festival sideshows. A third gig has been announced (Melbourne Recital Centre, April 7), with tickets note expected to last long. Something like a female Simon & Garfunkel, the pair specialise in stunning harmonies and lush arrangements.
Pop heavyweight Robbie Williams (Rod Laver, February 24 & 25) can still hold his own. His old band Take That are forever stuck in his shadow – rather than the other way around. The Heavy Entertainment Show has a whiff of a victory lap, tackling hits from his entire career. International reviews have described the best-selling show as “jubilant”.
When she’s not feuding with Taylor Swift, Katy Perry (Rod Laver, August 2) delivers the sort of garish extravaganza that might be dubbed “hyperactive Madonna”. Her latest album Witness was a bit of a fizzer (but so was Taylor’s), but she has enough hits up her sleeve to delight the faithful.
London-based synth pair Oh Wonder (Forum Theatre, Feb 23) made quite an impression back at the 2015 Falls Music Festival. Known for making effortless, slightly ethereal pop, they’re touring ace new record Ultralife.
If that’s not enough pop for you, keep a n eye out for One Direction also-ran Niall Horan (Margaret Court Arena, June 7) and plastic punk superstar Pink (Rod Laver Arena, from July 16), who will be playing an incredible 11 Melbourne dates.
UK Grime pioneer Dizzee Rascal (Forum Theatre, February 20) returns for his first Australian tour since 2014 for three nights only. He’s been pushing the hip hop envelope for almost two decades now. Recent album Raskit didn’t make quite the impact of his earlier work, but showed he’s lost none of his edge. From the other side of the Atlantic, Californian rapper Vince Staples (Forum Theatre, January 9) is back for four headline shows after his successful tour last year.
The biggest surprise about Liam Gallagher (Festival Hall, January 5) isn’t that he’s still touring (that Oasis reunion is no closer to happening), but that his new record is actually pretty brilliant. Raw and rocky, it finds him on stronger ground than anything since, well, Wonderwall.
Fellow 90s legends Foo Fighters (Etihad Stadium, January 30) also have a new album to tout – Concrete and Gold, which topped the Aussie charts when released back in September. They’re joined on this tour by the ever popular Weezer.
It’s always great to see Scottish stalwarts Belle and Sebastian (Palais Theatre, May 4) return to our fair city. Straddling the gap between dangerously twee and serenely beautiful, their intellectual yet heartfelt brand of wry indie translates into a glorious two hours (or so) of live music.
Likewise, slow burn alt-rock favourites The National (Sidney Myer Music Bowl, March 1) tend to meet a warm welcome in Melbourne. There’s something about their grizzled, lived in, slightly hungover rock that seems to suit our town. Their records verge on the laconic, but live they have a restless, urgent and utterly hypnotic energy.
The War on Drugs (Forum Theatre, Feb 13 & 14, Sold Out) have a similar mesmerising quality, blending psychedelica with the sort of gossamer folk that Fleet Foxes (Palais Theatre, January 3) do so well. In a similar vein, the splendidly gloomy Father John Misty (Forum Theatre, February 9) will delight his dedicated army of disciples with a Laneway sideshow.
If you prefer your rock soft with a dancy, French vibe, Phoenix are back at Margaret Court Arena on February 26 to tour new (pretty decent) album Ti Amo.
The big music money these days isn’t the next big thing so much as the last good thing. Whatever decade you grew up in, there’s a chance to put on your rose tinted glasses and dance like it’s Schoolies week all over again. Even the Noughties are starting a revival, with Britpop bad boys The Libertines (Forum Theatre, February 28) on a reunion tour (and playing Melbourne for the first time with both singers). Peers Franz Ferdinand are also rumoured for a return to Oz.
The 1970s are represented by some big hitters including Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant (Palais Theatre, April 1), Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters (Rod Laver Arena, February 3) and Queen minus the late, great Freddie Mercury – which is kind of like a cone without gelato (Rod Laver Arena, August 29 & 30). Wash that down with some red, red wine courtesy of perennial smoothy Neil Diamond (Rod Laver Arena, April 3).
Considering the 1980s have never quite gone out of fashion, it’s a surprise to see the decade underrepresented in next year’s schedule, although that could be down to some serious barrel-scraping over the last eighteen months. But if the 80s are petering out, the 1990s are in boom.
Alanis Morissette is back in Australia for the first time in 20 years to celebrate two decades of her seminal angst-rock album Jagged Little Pill (Palais Theatre, January 23 & 24). Once kissed by a rose, Seal is taking a break from The Voice to tour a new album of classic covers and play his greatest hits (Hamer Hall, April 6). Shoegazing legends Slowdive (Forum Theatre, February 8) have reunited for their first record in 22 years, thrilling former bedroom indie kids the world over. Chill out merchants Morcheeba (170 Russell, March 30) and Thievery Corporation (Forum Theatre, March 11) are also back to blissfully lower the temperature, while eclectic dance-punk-electro-rockers Primal Scream (Forum Theatre, February 18) and gravelly voiced art-rockers Gomez (170 Russell, April 1 & 2) for their first Aussie tour in a good long while. On the R&B front, I Love the 90s (Showgrounds, March 16) is a one day nostalgia festival featuring Naughty By Nature, Blackstreet and Sisqo.
Out of left-field
If that’s all too predictable, consider New Orleans group Hurray For The Riff Raff (Corner Hotel, March 24), whose The Navigator was one of this year’s most unappreciated delights, blending 70s funk and folk with something indefinably modern. Lead singer Alynda Segarra should appeal equally to fans of Rodriguez, Joni Mitchell and PJ Harvey.
Seattle group Car Seat Headrest (Croxton Bandroom, February 28) are best known for the song they weren’t allowed to release – Just What I Needed/Not Just What I Needed, which interpolated Just What I Needed by The Cars (who then pulled permission). They’re a straggly, pleasingly shambolic group in the vein of our own Courtney Barnett.
We have no idea what to expect from a David Duchovny gig (170 Russell, February 23), which is the main reason for going. It’s almost impossible to imagine the man who was (and is) Mulder as a pop star, but stranger things have happened. We want to believe.