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A Brief History of the Somerset House Series

Live music at Somerset House

The Summer Series at Somerset House, in partnership with American Express, offers a truly eclectic programme of contemporary music to owners of Amex credit cards and the general public, showcasing up-and-coming performers alongside more established artists.

This innovative approach has led fans to revel in some truly historic moments from the music calendar over the years, in the grand surroundings of the Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court. There have been too many illustrious acts to name them all, but here’s a roundup of the most memorable moments of the last decade:

2003: Underworld

Bands such as Ash, Morcheeba and Röyksopp ensured that the summer of 2003 was a beautifully understated affair under the stars at Somerset House. However, this all changed when Underworld took to the stage with their raucous set of progressive dance tracks, with the crowd’s reaction to Born Slippy a particularly memorable highlight.

2005: Sigur Rós

2005 was a special year, with the likes of Doves, Queens of the Stone Age and Bloc Party all playing outstanding sets to the Somerset House crowd. But it was Icelandic outfit Sigur Rós who really stole the show. The sight of the courtyard’s neo-classical walls glowing pink with the setting sun and the projection screens blazing with cinematic lights as the band tinkled through the uplifting Hoppípolla was a very special moment.

2008: Adele

Fresh off the back of her hugely successful debut album 19, it was Adele who delivered the standout performance from the 2008 Summer Series. Listening to the star sing favourites such as Chasing Pavements and Cold Shoulder in the glorious surroundings of the Court was the highlight of the series.

2011: Eels

In a star-studded year where Ellie Goulding, Blondie and Professor Green all earned gushing plaudits, it was unassuming American indie rockers Eels who were the unlikely highlight of the Series. Despite looking like a cross between Chas & Dave and Amish balladeers, Eels’ willingness to play a mammoth 26-song set with unbridled enthusiasm ensured they went down a storm.

2013: Goldfrapp

Although last year’s line-up included the likes of chart-toppers Tom Odell and Jessie Ware, it was electronic duo Goldfrapp who arguably stole the show. The lasers dancing around the walls of the Fountain Court during the chorus to Strict Machine drove the crowd into a state of joyous bliss not seen throughout the entire Series.

Photograph by wonker

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