The first few months of lockdown in 2020 introduced us to a world void of live music.
Gig-goers craved for that heart-racing hour of singing and screaming along with their favorite artists up close. At the same time, musicians all across the globe yearned for the day they could step foot onstage again while struggling to survive in these strange times.
Online concerts and festivals to stream in 2021
Things didn't have to be all doom and gloom though. To beat cabin fever while keeping everyone safe from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, artists and people behind the scenes had to find a workaround by taking things to where we all lived—online.
It all started with small digital shows streamed on social media and YouTube, until people began digging deeper into their creativity. Hitting the stage was possible again. Massive productions were suddenly becoming a reality in 2020. Sure, we couldn't all be together but it was the only way for people to reacquaint themselves with a world that seemed long gone.
On The Record: The music that shaped our 2020
From heavy metal shows, K-Pop productions, to next-level dance parties, here are 20 virtual concerts from the past year that present the brightest possibilities for live music in the digital realm:
Lamb of God: New Self-Titled Album & Ashes of the Wake
It had been a while since the world last hit any live shows with quarantine locking everyone indoors, so when Lamb of God announced their two-show event in September, metalheads worldwide were down to trash their living rooms.
The shows, which featured the heavy metal act's 2020 self-titled record and their seminal fourth studio album Ashes of the Wake in their entirety, brought us back to a familiar world of unrelenting moshpits. There were no frills, no pyrotechnics—just that straight up raw energy one of Richmond, Virgina's finest are known to deliver.
Woodz: Not Just A Concert
WOODZ, the moniker of UNIQ and former X1 member Cho Seungyoun for his solo project, held his first major concert on 27 September under the name Not Just A Concert – W BOX. Because of the pandemic, this was a predicament that was not considered unique to any artist, but WOODZ approached the format in a way that certainly made it stand out.
Making use of a boxlike stage, WOODZ offered an audiovisual feast, the set transforming with every song change to fit each shifting mood. On its own, the mixing in the stage lighting would have already been quite superb; but in the W BOX, it had engulfed the performances in a universe of their own.
WOODZ utilized various formats to keep his audience at home excited and engaged. From his performances with a live band (a first for him and something he said he had always wanted to do) and with his long-time comrades in the Inception Dance Crew, to pre-recorded videos that ranged from hilarious to deeply poignant, and a talk show where he’d interviewed his industry peers and collaborators Colde and Groovy Room, the entire show did not allow for any dull moment.
ShiGGa Shay: The 365 Mixed Reality Experience
While digitising appears as an impediment to many, ShiGGa Shay took it as a gracious invitation to the virtual realm. From its bursts of stars and flames to strobe lights lighting up the iconic Central Business District skyline, there’s no denying that the ‘365’ Mixed Reality Experience on 23 September was a spectacle to behold.
But it wasn’t an idea stewing in ShiGGa Shay’s mind for the longest time – instead, it all stemmed from a spontaneous proposal after the wrap-up of National Day Parade 2020.
“Benjamin from MRGE approached my team when we were at rehearsals for NDP 2020. He wanted to be the first in Southeast Asia to be able to hold a Mixed Reality concert live for artists around the region,” said ShiGGa Shay. “During this pandemic, shows, festivals or any sort of live entertainment were cancelled. This was an opportunity to bring a live show to the audience watching from home.”
MRGE added, "We felt compelled to create something for local and regional acts. Especially with our roots being in the local arts and entertainment scene, it might put us in an interesting position to charter a project like this.”
We The Fest 2020 Virtual Home Edition
The Jakarta-based music festival took their 2020 edition online for the first time ever. Normally a three-day music affair, the Virtual Home Edition took place over two days with the likes of Oh Wonder, Masego, RAC, HONNE, and Lewis Capaldi performing from wherever they were quarantined from in the world.
Ismaya Live co-founder Christian Rijanto promised an "Indonesian-made branded experience can compete with the best of the world has to offer" and they delivered as they managed to take the trademark WTF experience online - from photo shoots and bartending tips in between sets to Eats and Beats bundles to enjoy at home, plus exclusive WTF merch.
Corey Taylor: Forum or Against 'Em
Corey Taylor isn't one to keep things simple. In celebration of his debut solo album CMFT, the Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman threw a wild rock n' roll show at The Forum in Inglewood, California—complete with pyrotechnics and smoking babes—last October.
It was the kind of full arena production fans would've flipped to see in person, but due to the pandemic, Taylor could only play to his crew. He quipped a few times about how weird the show was as he closed numbers without the screams of his adoring followers.
Forum or Against Em ran for about two hours as the man of the show delivered all the tracks off of CMFT and fan-favorites from his Slipknot and Stone Sour catalogues and covers (he even played the piano at one point) along with a special performance by the fiery Cherry Bombs.
BTS: MAP OF THE SOUL ON:E
BTS' biggest virtual concert (so far) MAP OF THE SOUL ON:E took the world of livestreaming and online shows to the next level. The 2.5-hour-long back-to-back shows featured four stunning stages, as well as AR (augmented reality) and XR (extended reality) technology, and ARMY bomb reactions to enhance each performance.
The 23-song setlists stayed consistent for both days, with some variation for the encore selection, as well as outfit changes for the solo performances.
Performing their solos for the first time ever, each performance showcased intricate and detailed sets from RM's podium and flaming microphone for 'Intro: Persona' to SUGA's haunting visuals for 'Shadow', ticking clocks and laser lights for Jungkook's intense performance of 'My Time' to Jimin's sultry 'Filter' and lightning-quick outfit change, The Little Prince-inspired set for Jin's effervescent 'Moon' to V's whimsical carousel for 'Inner Child', plus J-Hope's vibrant 'Outro:Ego'.
LINKIN PARK: Projekt Revolution
Linkin Park brought us back to 2002 for their Las Vegas stop of the Projekt Revolution tour.
With Hybrid Theory classics, 'My December', and a cover of Deftones' 'My Own Summer,' Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution livestream unleashed memories of nu metal from the early 2000's.
The never-before-seen performance—in all its grainy 1024 × 768 glory—was part of Linkin Park's 20th anniversary celebration for their groundbreaking debut album Hybrid Theory. It was streamed shortly after members Mike Shinoda, Joseph Hahn, Brad Delson, Rob Bourdon, and Phoenix held their first group interview together since 2017, where they answered fan-submitted questions and reminisced their days with the late Chester Bennington.
After their Yokohama Arena concert couldn't push through due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Japanese metalcore act coldrain mounted their first online show in October.
At nearly four hours long, coldrain TV didn't just offer neck-breaking performances from the band but also some light-hearted segments where members caught a dolphin show at an aquarium, raced Tamiya cars, visited a temple, and many more.
Billie Eilish: Where Do We Go? the Livestream
To adjust to the new normal following the cancellation of her arena world tour, Billie Eilish gathered fans from all across the globe in front of their screens for her first online concert, Where Do We Go? The Livestream.
Billie Eilish's hour-long online concert, which she was co-creative director of, immersed fans into a world born out of the 'Therefore I Am' singer's head. With the help of XR technology (extended reality, courtesy of XR Studios) and massive LED walls, these animated environments came to life.
A massive arachnid came out to play during 'you should see me in a crown.' Eilish and her brother, FINNEAS, later on, sat beneath the stars as they performed 'i love you,' before diving into shark-infested waters for 'ilomilo.'
Where Do We Go? The Livestream displayed another visual aspect of Eilish's creativity and proved there's still so much has yet to offer.
Architects: Live at The Royal Albert Hall
Architects took over the iconic Royal Albert Hall in London with crushing riffs and ferocious screams for their first virtual concert in November.
While the only people in the audience were their tech and crew, the post-metalcore quintet filled the venue's deserted halls with their fury and unwavering power. It might have been a foreign feeling, not being able to hear the cries of their fans throughout their set, but it didn't seem to bother or affect them. They carried on and even introduced three new tracks off of their upcoming record For Those That Wish To Exist (dropping on February 26) to their digital crowd.
Joji: The Extravaganza
Breaking from the world's sense of "normal," 88rising star Joji threw his self-directed online show The Extravaganza, which entailed over an hour of relentless fun and never-seen-before antics.
Featuring a bulk of songs from his sophomore album, Nectar, Joji poured his heart and soul into performances of ‘Upgrade’, ‘Ew’, ‘Like You Do’, and more, intermingled with crowd-favourites from his discography including ‘Attention’, ‘Yeah Right’, and ‘Slow Dancing In The Dark’.
Each performance also flaunted the different aspects of Joji’s personality, ranging from comedic delivery from short skits, singing while caught in precarious scenarios, and soulful serenades clad in a prim-and-proper suit and shades to match.
Tomorrowland Around The World, The Digital Festival
The first online edition of Belgian EDM festival Tomorrowland, featured a world-class lineup with names like Martin Garrix, David Guetta, Steve Aoki, Armin van Burren, Timmy Trumpet, Charlotte De Witte, Katy Perry, Tiësto, and many more. And, in true Tomorrowland fashion, it was something out of this world.
Going above and beyond a live stream event, Tomorrowland Around the World featured a diverse mix of festival content brought to life by 3D design, video production, gaming and special effects. Usually taking place in Boom, Belgium, this year’s festival was held in Pāpiliōnem, a magical, forgotten island “in the middle of the ocean”, where “Mother Nature reigns, and welcomes the People of Tomorrow from all corners of the world to discover all of her miracles”.
The performance stages were a wonderment of its own. The festival had eight stages recreated in a game-like environment, all of which had an expansive surface for 32,000 trees and plants, as well as 750 virtual lamps drawn by hand. Special effects, firework displays, laser shows and the realistic crowd and sound effects were also added to artists performances.
SB19: Live from Manila
With their nationwide tour cut short by the pandemic, SB19 still found a way to showcase their talents and connect with their global fanbase via their first online concert.
With a setlist filled with songs from their debut album Get in the Zone, a couple of Filipino rock classics, and unreleased tracks, the P-pop group gave it their all and dedicated the show to their fans. "Unstoppable force kami pag kasama namin ang A'TIN," said Sejun.
"After yung ilang weeks na naghirap tayo, kahit hindi tayo sure sa kakalabasan nang concert na to, ngayon nararamdaman ko na worth it lahat nag pinahihirap natin. [A'TIN] ang lakas namin at sila din yung kahinaan namin kaya maraming maraming salamat sa lahat ng tulong nyo...hindi nyo alam kung gaano ninyo kami pinasaya ngayong araw," said Stell.
The show left fans wanting for more, proving the demand for live music in the digital platform.
Dua Lipa: Studio 2054
Dua Lipa helped the world forget its worries for an hour and 10 minutes of neon lights and glitter, throbbing basslines, and energy that can tear off your roof with her online dance party Studio 2054.
The stellar production, brought to you by Ceremony London and director Liz Clare, delivered a smooth and uninterrupted experience for fans. Each stage and set shared different looks into this female alpha's personality and tastes as she moved from one area to the next without losing her breath or missing a single note.
There wasn't a minute of downtime, just all-good fun on the dancefloor with special appearances by Elton John, Kylie Minogue, Angèle, Bad Bunny, FKA Twigs, J Balvin, Tainy, DJ The Blessed Madonna, and Dua Lipa's 'Prisoner' collaborator Miley Cyrus.
TesseracT's Portals: A Cinematic Live Experience
British progressive metal act TesseracT brought your classic live concert setup to the next level with Portals: A Cinematic Live Experience.
Portals was divided into five dramatic and hair-raising chapters, covering highlights from their expansive catalogue. Offered in 4K with a superb mix care of guitarist and writer Acle Kahney, the online show opened with tracks off of Altered State. While this is the only record that doesn't feature the vocal stylings of frontman Daniel Tompkins, he made these songs his own as they ran through the 'Of Matter' trilogy before stepping into 'King' from their latest record Sonder.
A rush of nostalgia hit hard as TesseracT ran through the acts of 'Concealing Fate,' taking fans back to their studio performance of the One offerings from nine years ago.
Overall, Portals gave the world of live music another peek at what could be possible on this new platform. It was a delight for prog fans (especially those who haven't had the chance to see them in person) and definitely something future productions could learn a thing or two from.
By December, the standard for virtual concerts had already risen, so Alden Richards and his team had to think ahead for his 10th-anniversary concert Alden's Reality.
With their VR goggles, fans dove head-first into a romantic date with Asia's Multimedia Star. Between numbers, he toured them around his house and shared his life story and his hopes and dreams. It was Alden's "thank you" to his thousands of die-hard supporters all across the globe.
"All I wanted to do is to acknowledge people and to thank them for being with me in the past 10 years," he told Bandwagon in an interview.
NCT: RESONANCE ‘Global Wave’
A full NCT comeback doesn’t happen often, with the last one in 2018; which is why NCT: RESONANCE ‘Global Wave’ was anticipated by so many.
The 21-song setlist also featured the group’s singles from the recent NCT 2020 two-part album, Resonance; such as the addicting 'Make A Wish,' vocal powerhouse 'From Home,' swaggy 90s 'Love,' and the infectious EDM track 'Work It.' And stunning AR effects buoyed the hard-hitting songs into visual candy. The event’s charm, however, gave way when previously unperformed songs such as 'Nectar' and 'All About You' were premiered to the world; because let’s be honest—there’s nothing like seeing a song performed for the first time! The charm of the song 'All About You' truly showed form with its dynamic video-call stylings that made the online concert feel more connected.
As music events move towards more online concerts—NCT shows that the ability to shapeshift and adapt is what truly makes a concert worth watching.
WEVERSE: 2021 NEW YEAR'S EVE LIVE
To cap off 2020, Weverse threw the ultimate Big Hit Entertainment festival with their 2021 New Year's Eve Live concert. The KINTEX Exhibition Center in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea was jam-packed with performances by BTS, GFRIEND, TXT, ENHYPEN, NU'EST, Lee Hyun, Bumzu, and a tribute number in honor of the late rock icon, Shin Hae Chul.
Just like with BTS' MAP OF THE SOUL ON:E concert, the Weverse New Year's Eve celebration powered by Kiswe was also offered with 4K and multi-screen views so you couldn't miss a single moment between sets and meet and greets.
Justin Bieber: T-Mobile NYE LIVE
Justin Bieber finally made his comeback to the live stage after three years to cap off 2020 with a special New Year's Eve concert. Held at The Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, the 'Holy' singer's first virtual show featured multi-camera control and a 1080-definition broadcast via VenewLive, so it was like you were right there with Billie Eilish (who fangirled hard from a balcony with a fan sign).
Bieber's 85-minute set was packed with 21 of his greatest hits (and his latest offering 'Anyone'), unbeatable dance moves, stunning lights and lasers, fireworks, and a 150-drone display.
Check out the online concerts and festivals you can stream in 2021.