There is no such thing as a sure thing in the fickle world of popular music. Apart from the certainty Adele will sell shedloads of albums. And Stiff Little Fingers will be playing Barrowland on St Patrick’s Day. And The Smiths will not be reforming. But beyond that, it’s hard to say who will cut a swathe through the rock and pop landscape of 2016. Here is what we can predict so far.
There will be Bowie
Wasn’t the album supposed to be dead by now? Try telling that to the legions of slavering David Bowie fans who will happily live with the likelihood they will never see their hero play live again knowing that his recording renaissance continues apace with Blackstar, the first must-have album of the new year, released on Bowie’s 69th birthday. His right-hand producer Tony Visconti is again at the tiller, name-dropping the progressive rapper Kendrick Lamar as an influence and stating that “the goal was to avoid rock’n’roll”, an assertion bolstered by the disorientating but strangely seductive music which has already been released. In addition, it is known that Bowie handpicked a group of New York jazz musicians to play on the recording, that LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy contributes percussion to a couple of tracks and that there has been talk of free jazz and “far-out chords” as well as comparisons with Bowie’s peerless trilogy of Berlin albums, Low, “Heroes” and Lodger. Some of this will be borne out come 8 January.
There will be Beatles
Just as the music world never seems to run out of Bob Dylan bootlegs, so the ways in which The Beatles’ music can be rebooted reaches another creative level with The Sessions, a new live spectacular from the producers who masterminded Elvis Presley In Concert, which is billed as “a live re-staging of The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios”. A cast of 45 musicians, including seven vocalists doing the harmony work of four Beatles (well, they did enjoy multi-tracking) and a 21-piece orchestra, are charged with replicating as religiously as possible the sound of the classic material recorded by the Fab Four at Abbey Road Studios, while performing in a reproduction of Abbey Road’s Studio 2. Talk about high fidelity. The Sessions premieres at the Royal Albert Hall before landing at the Hydro (7 May) and the AECC (10 May).
There will be blood-curdling volume at the EIF
The Edinburgh International Festival successfully wooed a new audience with a rock and pop-friendly programme in 2015. The cross-fertilisation continues in 2016 with the mercilessly loud Mogwai booked for a live performance of their soundtrack to Atomic – Living in Dread and Promise, Mark Cousins’ documentary on Hiroshima. Mogwai bassist Dominic Aitchison is also involved in another EIF collaboration, provisionally titled Flit, alongside Portishead’s Adrian Utley, Martin Green of Lau, Becky Unthank and animators White Robot.
There will be album nostalgia
Anyone would think Britpop was 20 years old... Ocean Colour Scene mark the 20th birthday of their breakthrough album, Moseley Shoals, in January by returning to the intimate venues they would have been played back in the day. Manic Street Preachers, on the other hand, go big with an arena tour in celebration of their commercial high point, Everything Must Go, also now a strapping 20 years old (Hydro, 21 May). And brace yourselves for double drummer action, face paint and highwayman chic as Adam Ant revisits the second Adam & the Ants album, Kings of the Wild Frontier, simply because he can (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 5 June).
There will be album goodbyes
Expect a valediction of sorts from Runrig, who have decided that The Story, out at the end of January, will be their final studio album. There’s still plenty scope for live albums though, given their tour in February followed by a summer rendezvous at Edinburgh Castle (23 July).
There will be old dudes
There has been much excitement expended already over Robert Plant’s involvement in Celtic Connections’ tribute concert to the late Bert Jansch at the end of January, but he’s not the only veteran performer worth keeping company with in 2016. Bryan Ferry and Barry Manilow both swing around once more, hitting Perth/Stirling in mid-April and Glasgow in mid-June respectively, though Jeff Lynne’s ELO – that’ll be Jeff Lynne and band playing the works of ELO, rather than any other incarnation of the chart-slaying 70s pop band – is arguably the hotter ticket (Hydro, 12 April), with the injection of some new songs from comeback album Alone in the Universe. The connoisseur’s choice, however, is soul/R&B singer/guitarist Shuggie Otis, who had some chart success in his native US in the 1970s but has been rediscovered in more recent times, most likely thanks to the interweb’s way of outing neglected talent. Otis has adopted the Bob Dylan touring model of circumnavigating the globe repeatedly and is due to hit Edinburgh’s Liquid Room on 20 February.
There will be young(er) bucks
Glasgow’s De Rosa are first out the traps with their third album Weem on Mogwai’s Rock Action Records. From the same neck of the woods, indie rockers Holy Esque release their debut album, At Hope’s Ravine, in February, though it is likely to be White, featuring former members of Kassidy plus flamboyant frontman Leo Condie, who will make the bigger noise, when they take their electro pop charm offensive to Aberdeen, Inverness, Edinburgh and their native Glasgow in mid-February (see interview, p18). One-man band Jack Garratt is being positioned as the new year breakout act, appearing in all the usual industry tip lists and already announced as winner of the 2016 Brits Critics’ Choice Award. If such shameless manoeuvring can work for the feeble likes of James Bay and Years & Years, then why not Garratt? Check him out in Glasgow and Edinburgh at the start of April.
There will be divas
With new albums by Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Kylie, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga expected in the next 12 months, 2016 could easily be the year of the pop diva. Mariah Carey walks among us – Hydro, 15 March, for those who wish to touch the hem of her garment – while Janet Jackson makes her belated live return (Hydro, 4 April), armed with new album Unbreakable. Adele plays her biggest Scottish shows yet (Hydro, 25 and26 March), while Rihanna is playing Hampden Park in June, by which time she may have released her long-awaited eighth album, Anti.
There will be soundtracks
Specifically, live soundtracks. Suede showcase their new album Night Thoughts (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 8 February) with its accompanying film as a backdrop. Acclaimed film composer Clint Mansell, formerly of grebo rockers Pop Will Eat Itself, presents an evening of his atmospheric, often disturbing music for the likes of Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan (Royal Concert Hall, 29 March). And the Glasgow Film Festival hosts the premiere of Where You’re Meant To Be, a musical road movie starring Aidan Moffat, with additional live music shenanigans (Barrowland, 19 February).
There will be Wilko
And Wilko Johnson, who did not die, following a diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer, graces Glasgow with his huge presence on 14 April. Just saying.