20 Unmissable UK Tours That Will Define Your 2020
There has never been a better time to be a fan of live rock. As the music business continues to evolve and art becomes ever more available at the tap of a smartphone screen, band investment into onstage performance has gone to another level. Both in terms of economic sustainability and solidifying connection with ever-more-stretched fanbases, shows present invaluable opportunity. More than that, from the punters’ perspective, the sheer visceral experience of seeing your heroes in the flesh remains the endorphin-spiking pinnacle of rock fandom.
From May’s bigger-than-ever Slam Dunk to June’s titanic Download to the metal feats of August’s Bloodstock, the festival calendar will offer its own slew of delights. Meanwhile, acts like Guns N’ Roses, Pearl Jam and Sabaton will be stopping on UK shores for landmark performances. We’re concentrating on multi-date tours here, though, with bands cutting a swathe right across the UK.
See you in the pit!
There’s nothing better than kicking off the year with a bang. Arriving on UK shores this week for the first time since last year’s incendiary Download festival headline slot, the 18-legged Iowan metal machine will be bringing the sledgehammer sounds of scintillating sixth LP We Are Not Your Kind and a bigger-than-ever production into nine UK/Irish arenas, staking an early claim for tour of the year. Two decades into their chaotic existence, we might think we know what to expect from Slipknot at this point, but having reiterated their purpose as a devastating live force, there’s every reason to expect the unexpected. With Polish nightmares Behemoth along for the ride, audiences should anticipate a full night of devilish delight.
Love her or hate her, there’s something absolutely irresistible about Los Angeles-based songstress Poppy. Although her countless YouTube videos and two previous LPs (2017’s Poppy.Computer and 2018’s Am I A Girl) laid bare her singular, cracked artistry, its only been since last June’s kawaii metal-tinged Choke EP that she’s marked herself out as a rock force worth keeping an eye on. Travelling further into darkness with third LP I Disagree, we’ve rated her as one of the most exciting young rock prospects in the world. Getting to see her in the flesh at March’s UK tour will undoubtedly be one of 2020’s strangest yet most fascinating live music moments.
While She Sleeps
It might only be a two-date run, but when Sheffield metalcore heavyweights While She Sleeps touch down in the Brixton and Manchester Academies at the end of January, it won’t just mark the pinnacle of their superb So What? album cycle, but also of their 14-year career up to this point. Having conscripted the help of Choir Noir for the final night of last year’s headline tour at the London Roundhouse, they’re clearly keen to keep pushing the horizon on their already-expansive sound, so who knows what surprises they have in store this time. Safe to say with some of their best ever music in their pocket, health struggles hopefully in the rearview and the awesome Every Time I Die and Vein in support it should be a celebration like no other.
Rage Against The Machine
Okay, it’s a bit of a speculative entry, this one. We know that Rage Against The Machine are returning this year. They’ve been officially announced as headliners at California’s massive Coachella festival in April, with three warm-up shows along the United States and Mexico borderland in El Paso, TX, Las Cruces, NM and Phoenix, AZ already planned. In election year, with a presidential impeachment still pending and America on the brink of war, however, we’d bet on more to follow. And, with Rage having been particularly vocal around the recent UK election, we’d be pretty confident of getting a stop or two on this side of the Atlantic, too.
Over the last few years, Philadelphia punks The Menzingers have grown from beloved underground heroes to one of the most compelling live acts on the planet outright. Blending blue collar grit and end of youth angst, their impressive songbook was swollen further still by last year’s superb sixth LP Hello Exile and with an eight-date UK/Ireland tour seeing them headline their biggest venues yet on these shores, the opportunity is there to get down and pour your hearts out with a band at the absolute top of their game. LA punks Spanish Love Songs and Philly comrades Mannequin Pussy complete a stacked bill.
Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes
It looks like the time might finally be at hand for Frank Carter to come fully into his own. Nine years since he walked away from Gallows – and just over 10 since their era-defining masterpiece Grey Britain – attention on his going concern has always been tempered somewhat by ‘what if?’ wonderings about a reunion and doubts over whether his output with The Rattlesnakes can ever really match up to what came before. Having rediscovered his swagger and laid down a statement with last year’s third LP End Of Suffering, however, thoughts have shifted onto just how good February’s biggest headline tour to date might be. With cutting-edge U.S. hip-hop/hardcore duo Ho99o9 in tow, the (blackened) sky’s the limit.
Bowling For Soup & Simple Plan
Together Again, You’re Welcome, read the posters for this much anticipated reunion of laugh-a-minute Texan pop-punks Bowling For Soup and their Canadian brethren in Simple Plan. Picking up some 17 years after they last toured together for the best part of a year through 2003, no-one in particular may have been specifically asking that the turn of the millennium dream team get back together, but it’s safe to say that nostalgia will play a massive role over February’s six-date run, regardless. These lads have never been ones to take themselves too seriously, of course, so we can expect every throwback hook to come spiked with tongue-in-cheek attitude and self-deprecating good humour. Not Ur Girlfrenz, featuring 14-year-old drummer and YouTube sensation, Maren Alford will be opening, too, so expect full-fat fun all night long.
Although they’ve cropped up sporadically for support slots and festival headliners here and there over the last few years, it feels like Glasgow rockers Twin Atlantic have been away for an awfully long time. They’ll be setting that right in 2020. Fourth LP Power is slated to drop on January 24, with a short run of some of their smallest headline shows to date set to coincide with release, before a proper headline tour in March. Channelling the electronic textures of the Glasgow club scene into some of their biggest sounding compositions to date, the record is an unabashed banger. We just can’t wait to see how these brave new sounds go down in front of their notoriously partisan live audiences.
In the best possible way, you know what you’re getting when Brian Fallon rolls into town. Sure, the New Jersey songsmith’s last two visits to these shores have seen him step away from The Howling Weather, with July 2018’s Gaslight Anthem reunion returning to The 59 Sound for a 10-year celebration before last February’s Songs From The Hymnal celebration saw him take the stage solo acoustic. But with third LP Local Honey coming out on March 27 and gorgeous lead single You Have Stolen My Heart having already set an incredibly high bar, we can expect his full-band return in May to be exactly the sort of soul-swelling showcase fans have been longing for.
Lamb Of God & Kreator
Fans of getting the shit kicked out of them should block book some recovery time at the end of April. As if the return of peerless Virginian groove metal rednecks Lamb Of God wasn’t enough, they’re bringing Teutonic thrash royalty Kreator and maniac Texan upstarts Power Trip along to make sure that no face goes unsmashed. Speculation continues to run rife on whether and when we can expect new music from each of the outfits on this slobberknocker of a triple bill, but unheralded levels of sonic violence are already guaranteed. We’re just trying to figure out whether we’ll have any gas left in the tank to throw down to Redneck having already battled through Pleasure To Kill and Executioner’s Tax (Swing Of The Axe). Expect absolute carnage.
There’s an argument that Rammstein’s simply titled Europe Stadium Tour in support of their untitled seventh album was already the hottest ticket of 2019, begging the question of what more can be accomplished in 2020. If there’s ever been a band who know how to turn up the heat, however, it’s the German industrial titans. Playing Coventry’s Ricoh Arena, Belfast’s Boucher Road and – particularly – Cardiff’s massive Principality Stadium, the potential is there for them to surpass the huge spectacle witnessed during last year’s outing at Stadium MK, getting closer to the sheer awe of the show they delivered at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium. Rest assured, though, Rammstein could find a way to make a performance down your local seem monumental, so if you’re lucky enough to get to any of these spectaculars, expect an eyebrow-singeing treat.
Another of rock’s new breed who’re impossible to really get a handle on until you’ve seen them in the flesh, Las Vegas brothers Palaye Royale will be back mid-February to give interested parties the chance to see the whites of their (well-shaded) eyes. Although their preening aesthetic and the high-theatrics of their performance have led doubters to label them vacuous poseurs, getting to see the unhinged energy and sweat-soaked commitment of their live performance banishes any doubts. With Jamie Campbell Bower-fronted rockers Counterfeit in support, this might not just be the prettiest, but also the most defiantly hard-fought run of the year.
Faith No More
When rumblings of the Faith No More reunion started, it was easy to presume that they’d be back to inhabit the upper end of festival bills, glimpsed, by most, as specks on the horizon or via 50-foot LED screens. Although that’s proven to be the case on the continent and in Ireland – where they’re set to headline the first ever Sunstroke festival at Punchestown Racecourse – the UK is being treated to a four-date headline run in the comparatively intimate surrounds of Academy venues. Although no new music has materialised yet, the San Fran funk-metallers remain far from cash-grab reunion territory, with 2015’s brilliant Sol Invictus still relatively fresh in fans’ memories and the tantalising possibility that these dates are just the start of a new creative cycle hanging deliciously in the background.
Things move at a different pace for Japanese kawaii-metal giants BABYMETAL. That’s why February’s four-date UK tour – taking in some of the country’s greatest live venues – was written into our diaries well over six months ago. Rolling in off bonkers third LP METAL GALAXY, we have frankly no idea to expect from the accompanying live extravaganza. “The album’s main theme is that BABYMETAL are on an odyssey to the METAL GALAXY,” screamed the press release. “Welcome to the world of BABYMETAL!!” If you’ve not had the pleasure of experiencing them live yet, getting to see the act who’ve sold-out the Tokyo Dome on multiple occasions in front of crowds of a few thousand feels like a pretty good point to jump in. And if you’re already a fully indoctrinated devotee? Well, we don’t need to tell you why to get along…
Evanescence & Within Temptation
For a certain breed of metal fan, the pairing of Arkansas rockers Evanescence and Dutch symphonic metallers Within Temptation for this Spring’s Worlds Collide tour is the stuff of dreams come true. In Amy Lee and Sharon Den Adel, obviously, they’ve got two of the most iconic frontwomen of their generation. Beyond that, however, they’re two of the bands who’ve most convincingly delivered mainstream metal crossover in the 21st Century. Having seen tickets snapped up for London’s April 7 date, further arena shows in Glasgow, Leeds and Birmingham have been added at the end of the month. If you’ve ever punched the air while singing yourself hoarse to Bring Me To Life or Ice Queen, you’d be a fool not to get in for this.
When word of Napalm Death’s mammoth European tour scheduled for February leaked out, fans of unapologetically horrible sonic heaviosity were understandably overjoyed. When word that they’d be joined by legendary NOLA sludgers Eyehategod, Baltimore death metallers Misery Index, Finnish grindcore lunatics Rotten Sound and Virginian speedsters Bat followed, it seemed almost too good to be true. With their sixteenth album (reportedly titled Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism) primed for release, though, there’s never been a better time for the Brummie icons to hammer home their importance as trailblazers and figureheads still at the forefront of extreme music almost 30 years down the line.
It was a strong – if understated – 2019 for Massachusetts pop-rockers PVRIS. Releasing comeback single Death Of Me as far back as July, and their fascinatingly pop-oriented EP Hallucinations at the end of October, as well as delivering strident performances at Reading & Leeds, the stage was well set to resume their ascent towards superstardom. That process begins properly with February’s intimate UK tour. Performing at Glasgow’s St. Luke’s, Manchester’s Gorilla and London’s Electric Brixton, not only do these shows represent a rare chance to get up close with Lynn Gunn & co, but also a first chance to hear music from their upcoming third LP, with select ticket holders invited to listen in to new music before each show. Get excited!
Every chance to see Osaka quintet Crossfaith live is one to be warmly embraced. An all-action live force like few others, they never fail to deliver energy and vibrancy that’s quite simply a cut above. Beyond that, though, their 2020 UK/Europe Synchronicity tour promises to be the first step in their next evolution as a band. “EX_MACHINA is officially done, and now we face the next step for tripping into another dimension,” frontman Kenta Koie enthuses. “It’s our full UK / EU headlining tour – welcome to Synchronicity 2020! You can expect something new you’ve never heard from us yet. See you guys in the pit!” We’ll be the ones throwing-down like maniacs.
My Chemical Romance
Yes, this is another speculative entry. Having read into recent omens, however – like the band’s recent cryptic, but frankly on-the-nose teasing of something involving the UK in June on social media – we’d be pretty sure that Great Britain will be getting at least one (if not more) performances from reunited emo icons My Chemical Romance before the year’s end. Details are, understandably, still pretty sparse around MCR plans for 2020, but judging by reports from their sell-out return at Los Angeles’ The Shrine on December 20, not an ounce of their once-in-a-generation brilliance has dissipated in their absence, and there’s no ceiling on where they could go with this return. Wherever they show up, expect us to be pressed against a barrier somewhere, screaming ‘When I was a young boy…’ until our lungs give out…
The Hella Mega Tour
We saved the best to last. Bringing together three of the biggest rock outfits of the last quarter century, the Hella Mega Tour is the sort of once-in-a-lifetime event that barely ever even happens anymore. “It’s kind of a Green Day idea,” reflected Billie Joe Armstrong, chatting to Zane Lowe’s Beats1 about heading out for one of the biggest jaunts in the history of rock. “And we talked about how we weren’t really wanting to do stadiums, and do something that was like throwback to Monsters Of Rock Tour. There was, of course, Fall Out Boy and Weezer, and now we’re stoked.” From the fans perspective, stoked is an understatement. With both Green Day and Weezer due to drop new music early this year, it’ll surely be a showcase for fresh material. But who are we kidding? This tour is an already-guaranteed endorphin-overload, and we just can’t wait to see three festival-headline standard acts duelling it out to see who truly has the greatest hits…