XFM Winter Wonderland 2014 - O2 Apollo, Manchester

The line up of this years XFM Winter Wonderland was beyond brilliant. Ben Howard AND George Ezra?! Plus Liam Fray and Catfish and The Bottlemen?! Under one roof? Yes. Bloody well yes. 

In my head, it was going to be like a festival. In some ways it was, with each act having a short set to play. The difference though, is that at a festival everyone is hyped for the band on stage, which isn't what I noticed last Monday. I realised that as the night progressed, a lot of the crowd had only come for one or two acts, leaving the crowd quite subdued and it never really got going.

This was confirmed for me when Liam Fray walked onto stage, an act that is iconic to Manchester and half the crowd didn't even know who he was, let alone the stripped back versions of lesser known Courteeners tracks. For me, the highlight of the night was Catfish and The Bottlemen, they were about as rock n' roll the evening got. They woke the crowd up and gave an intense, energetic performance as always.

Although I missed the first 2 acts, (Missoula cocktails were needed) Circa Waves and Bears Den being on the lineup showed how 2015 is going to be a big year for them both. However, the decision to give Wild Beasts the second biggest slot left me puzzled as Catfish or George Ezra would've been more fitting. Speaking of George Ezra, why did he only do 3 songs when I had to stand through what felt like a lifetime of Jimi Goodwin? There was the inevitable sing along to Budapest and the crowd sang louder than him for the majority. His whole set brought shivers down my spine and a yearning to hear more of his unique voice.

Now onto the headline, the reason most of the crowd were there, Ben Howard. This was the fourth time I'd seen Ben Howard and although each time he gets better and his band get bigger, I feel he could've done so much more with the set he produced. Tracks off his new album are experimental and can be quite self indulging when played live, leaving the crowd to get bored and chat between themselves. I was waiting for that 'wow' moment that I've experienced when seeing him before, but it never came. His decision to play songs only off 'I Forget Where We Were' during the 45 minute slot was a risk, which probably didn't payoff. When facing a mixed crowd it probably would've been to at least throw in a few tracks off his Mercury Prize - nominated debut, 'Every Kingdom.' Also Ben, why do you always sit down on stage? Us short arses can't see you.


  1. I've become quite a fan of George Ezra recently and would love to see him live!! Gisforgingers xx

    1. He's really brilliant live, I just wish I got to see more!