My favourite gigs of 2021 by Neil Renton

Neil Renton takes us through his favourite concerts of the year. Featuring The Specials, The Courteeners, beabadoobee and more.


There wasn’t a great deal to celebrate in 2021, a year filled with more uncertainty than ever before. Yet, for a few months, gigs returned. In front of proper live audiences instead of being over Zoom.


Here are some of the highlights from concerts that hit Edinburgh and beyond.

The after-concert concert


The Specials at The Usher Hall in early September was the first concert I’d been to in ages. And while Terry Hall and the rat of the band gave the type of performance you’d expect, it was the scenes after it that will stay long in the memory. As the crowd left, a random musician started playing drums outside the venue resulting in a mass of folk dancing in joy. It was all very special.

Primal Scream at TRNMST


A lot was made of Liam Gallagher’s headline show at the festival and quite rightly. However, let’s not dismiss the impact Primal Scream had on the weekend. Bobby Gillespie looked every inch the style icon while Andrew Innes demonstrated his superior guitar skills. Call them rock, call them dance or call them one of the most important acts of their generation.


The Courteeners singalong

Liam Fray admitted to the Edinburgh audience that he was struggling with his voice but he needed have worried. When the band started 'Small Bones' the crowd responded by chanting the words of one of their best tracks.

Bow Anderson covering a classic

One of Scotland’s brightest talents played a couple of hometown gigs in Edinburgh. The audience at Sneaky Pete’s was packed with her friends and family and they were treated to a polished set. Especially when it came to her stripped-back cover of Tears For Fears classic ‘Everybody Wants To Rule The World.’ It’s one of those covers that’s different from the original but just as good.


beabadoobee proving she’s more than just a sample



Rapper Powfu might have taken a bit of her song 'Coffee' and turned it into a social media sensation with 'Death Bed (Coffee For Your Head)' but beabadoobee has so much more to offer. Her grunge rock attitude has seen her become an international star giving her a diverse following. And at the Liquid Rooms in Edinburgh, she ripped through her songs of angst anthems.

Suede catching everyone out


The legends of the British guitar scene had already mesmerised the audience at the Usher Hall with a complete playing of the Coming Up album. Then they did an encore. Then another featuring 'So Young', 'Metal Mickey' and 'Animal Nitrate'. Then, as the Usher Hall was emptying, the band returned to the stage to do one more song. 'New Generation' caused punters to run back in to see the band perform the track from Dog Man Star. Judging by the energy singer Brett Anderson had, they could have played for longer.


The Sea Girls moshpit


It’s a thing now, isn’t it? At the front of gigs, a clearing gets made and everyone stands around in a circle before all jumping and running into each other. And it’s fun. Just ask those caught up in it when Sea Girls played The Liquid Rooms in September. 'Damage Done' sent gig members into each other and raptures at the same time.


Stereophonics drummer Jamie Morrison smashing it


One of the highlights of the Welsh’s rockers show at the Usher Hall was drummer Jamie Morrison. Perched behind his drums and above his bandmates, he channelled the spirit of the great sticks people. Moon. Bonham. Animal from The Muppets. And during 'Mr and Mrs Smith' he pulled in the kind of display that singer Kelly Jones joked had caused Morrison to have a panic attack. Standing in awe of his flying arms and the sound that followed, he wasn’t the only one.