The Best Singer-Songwriter Livestreams of Lockdown (So Far)
For many of us, lockdown has meant days of boredom and finding inventive ways to entertain ourselves. For musicians, however, the period has opened up a new form of entertainment and an opportunity to engage with their fanbase, livestreaming performances from the comfort of their own homes.
Its simple and effective format has meant that vast number of artists have partaken in livestreaming, particularly within the field of singer-songwriters, given its suitability for a simple set-up. With so many to choose from and as artists find more creative ways to engage with their following, we've rounded up some of the best singer-songwriter lockdown performances so far.
Filling over half of the set-list with covers, swoony icon James Blake delivered an unexpected performance to his Instagram livstream. Opening with ‘The Colour in Anything’, with Blake claiming it is the “saddest song he’s ever written”, the tone of the livestream was instantly set: casual, friendly, and awe-inspiring. Blake’s cover of Billie Eillish’s ‘when the party’s over’ caused much excitement in the chat, as the singer hit every single note wonderfully. Demonstrating the lower and higher registers of Blake’s vocals, this cover was perfect in highlighting his lovable appeal; his funky shirt of choice only added to this, no doubt.
Your Quarantine Dream Team (The Encore)
Featuring names such as Jordan Mackampa and Luz, the second edition of livestreamed Your Quarantine Dream Team from singer-songwriter Lewis Watson was a huge success, with a broad range of artists for fans of Watson to discover. Viewers also caught a glimpse into the lineup’s personal lives, struggles and lockdown rituals through Watson’s humorous interview style. The stand-out performance was Amber Run’s Joe Keogh, whose casual chat to Watson contrasted immensely to the beautiful vocals he exhibited. Despite lacking band mates, he filled the sound well and evidently left many viewers in awe.
Every Thursday, iconic singer-songwriter Frank Turner performs a different album of his in chronological order, to raise money for independent venues. Thus far, Turner has covered some brilliant places, raising over £13,000 for Southampton’s The Joiners and other impressively high amounts for Winchester’s The Railway Inn and The Leicester Shed. Each livestream set up is exactly the same, with Turner positioning himself in a cosy corner and with wife Jess Guise cheering along. For such a good cause, it’s impossible to pick just one livestream of his, so his entire Independent Venue Love Series makes the cut.
With his first stream in partnership with WHO/Global Citizen’s Together At Home project, multi-platinum star Hozier covered all of the bases for his vast fanbase. Performing his biggest hit ‘Take Me To Church’, alongside other fan favourites such as ‘Work Song’, he also included a Britney Spears cover; if anybody could make ‘Toxic’ sound ethereal, it would be Hozier. His humble nature shone through this livestream, as he delivered a little something for every viewer.
Delivering both high-quality tunes and banter, Alex Vargas outshone others in Mahogany’s Isolation Sessions. The lockdown madness seemed to have hit the singer-songwriter strongly, with his a string of humorous comments throughout. The simple set-up, just Vargas and his guitar, made for an intimate performance, which was increased more with his interactions with the hundreds of comments flooding in. Following a viewer's decision, he concluded the livestream with ‘Shackled Up’, a single which aptly captures Vargas’ talents. Though struggling to pin a comment on the Instagram livestream, the singer-songwriter was clearly in his element whilst he sang some fan favourites.
Dublin artist Orla Gartland pleased fans across the world with the release of her fourth EP Freckle Season earlier this year, and her lockdown livestreams have allowed fans to feel even more connected to her. A casual set-up, with phone-checking between songs, Gartland’s livestreams have provided a little bit of everything, with lots of viewer interaction. Performing some new songs from the EP like ‘Figure It Out’, alongside a medley of Kate Bush and Cyndi Lauper, Gartland presented herself as the friendly, humble musician that she is loved for. A highlight was her unique take on substituting the lack of a band, singing humorously in the style of synths and drums.
If you’ve ever seen this up-and-coming Australian artist live, you’ll know just how hilarious she is, alongside her talents as a songwriter. This came through just as strongly over livestream, as Stella Donnelly took part in New York’s Baby’s All Right event. Her easy-going nature was demonstrated here, with humorous comments punctuating randomly throughout the stream. Each song showcased her vocals talents, as she somehow managed to fill the sound despite lacking the usual backing support. ‘Beware of the Dogs’, the title track of her 2019 record, was outstanding. With support from her partner Marcel, she also managed to pull off playing the harmonica coupled with the electric guitar.
Each Sunday, Laura Marling livestreams guitar tutorials on her Instagram for some of her most popular songs. These offer a different experience to watch than others, feeling more intimate and personal. Alongside hearing her wonderful musicianship skills, her livestreams are also a productive time-filler. After all, what better time is there to learn an instrument or a new song than in lockdown? Marling also performed songs from her recent record Songs For Our Daughter from her living room for a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert.
Courtney Barnett and Lucius & friends
Over on Instagram Live, Lucius coupled with Courtney Barnett and hosted some well-known names to showcase their talents in support of Oxfam’s COVID-19 relief fund. With the cosiest looking fireplace behind and the obligatory PJ attire, the set-up of this livestream felt heartily autumnal, despite being in March. Aside from its cosiness, Barnett’s and Lucius’ livestream was a great success, opening with Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’. Later highlights were Sharon Van Etten’s performance of Velvet Underground’s ‘I Found a Reason’, and Lucius’ and Barnett’s performance of Bob Dylan's ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’, but the entire four hours were highly entertaining. If you weren’t able to catch it live, it’s well worth catching up on, where you can catch performances from the likes of Emily King, Sheryl Crow, The War On Drugs and more.
Over three consecutive Fridays, South London singer-songwriter Matt Maltese performed fan favourites from each of his EP and albums. Each livestream positioned Maltese at his piano (where else?), looking very homely. Most memorable, though, was his stream of In a New Bed, as much of these songs are hardly touched on his live tours. This EP has some of his most powerful material, and performed live is immense to witness. Despite the impersonal nature of performing to a screen, the artist's efforts to engage with viewers did not go unnoticed.