London’s live music scene is beginning to look a lot more like its usual, brilliant self. Although we’re not quite out of the woods yet, the coming months are packed with blockbuster gigs, many of which have already sold out — Adele, Olivia Rodrigo, Elton John and Michael Kiwanuka among them.
Not to worry, though — there are still plenty of tickets left for some cracking gigs. And if a show is fully booked but has a waiting list, put your name down: a slim silver lining to all the self-isolation is that ticket-holders are likelier than ever to drop out at the last minute, which means there’s always a chance you could take it off their hands. They get their money back, you get to see your favourite artist, and the venue doesn’t lose out. Sorted.
Here are 25 of the hottest shows coming up in the capital.
We’ve been waiting to hear more from The Smile — a supergroup consisting of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood with Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner — ever since they made their debut as surprise guests on the Glastonbury livestream last summer. The trio play three shows in 24 hours here.
Jan 29-30, Magazine London, SE10, £77, magazinelondon.co.uk
The last time Dave headlined solo shows in London back in 2019, it was at Brixton Academy. No small feat, but it’s dwarfed by the two arena dates the Streatham rapper has booked in here, performing in front of 40,000 people across both nights.
Feb 21-22, The O2, SE10, from £48, theo2.co.uk
Take a trip back to the Eighties with Laura Mvula, whose latest album Pink Noise revelled in the sublime, synth-soaked sounds of the decade. With more than a dash of Prince, it was a triumph of a record — hear cuts from that and the rest of her back catalogue in west London.
Mar 10, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, from £32, academymusicgroup.com
Sparsely powerful and deeply personal, Keeley Forsyth’s music is a force to behold, especially in the live setting. The Oldham-born artist will excavate her hauntingly brilliant 2019 album Debris at this gig, and explore her upcoming release Limbs, due out on February 25.
Mar 11, Milton Court, EC2Y, £17.50, barbican.org.uk
Named as a Rising Star at last year’s BRIT Awards, there’s plenty of buzz hovering around this 21-year-old — anyone who’s heard her heartbreak single Black Hole and subsequently had the chorus permanently stuck in their head for weeks afterwards will understand why people are so excited.
Mar 24, O2 Academy Brixton, SW9, from £24, academymusicgroup.com
Like much of his music, Slowthai’s live shows are always feisty affairs; don’t be surprised if you get swept into a mosh when the rowdier tunes get aired. But on latest album TYRON, the Northampton artist showcased his gentler side too, making these Brixton gigs a fascinating prospect.
Mar 30-31, O2 Academy Brixton, SW9, from £32, academymusicgroup.com
Be Sweet, the lead single off Japanese Breakfast’s new album Jubilee, has a fair claim to stake as one of 2021’s best pop songs; a sugary, addictive snack of a track. The whole LP turned out to be a winner, in fact, and will be celebrated here in north London.
Mar 30, O2 Forum Kentish Town, NW5, £22, academymusicgroup.com
Leeds four-piece Yard Act sold out a February show at Shoreditch’s Village Underground so quickly that they were booked at its larger sister venue, EartH, for just a couple of months after. Off-centre instrumentals and darkly comedic, incisive social commentaries will be on the menu here.
Apr 5, EartH, N16, £17.50, earthackney.co.uk
Kojey Radical feels like he’s long overdue his shot at the big time. The Hoxton rapper dropped his first project back in 2014 and has since been proving himself as a potent artistic force, but we’re still waiting for his debut album — it’ll arrive in March, coupled with this biggest ever headline gig.
Apr 8, O2 Academy Brixton, SW9, from £18, academymusicgroup.com
A fixture on pretty much every single “ones to watch for 2022” list, Isle of Wight duo Wet Leg are very much the Next Big Thing in the indie rock world. A burst of smart, snappy, sardonic singles have all been giddily received, and this show at the newly reopened Koko has (unsurprisingly) sold out. Get yourself on the waiting list and keep those fingers crossed.
Apr 26, Koko, NW1, £13.75, koko.co.uk
Even the doomiest of Covid soothsayers probably wouldn’t have thought we’d have to have quite this long for a big old arena party to celebrate Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia. Released all the way back in March 2020, the joyous album will finally get the gigs it deserves with two nights at the O2.
May 2-3, The O2, SE10, from £44, theo2.co.uk
It’s been 10 years since Metronomy released The English Riviera, which earned them a Mercury Prize nomination and fully established them as a force in the UK music scene. In the decade since, they’ve pushed their sound in all different directions, and will tie it together at this huge Ally Pally gig.
May 7, Alexandra Palace, N22, £34, alexandrapalace.com
Finally free of the five-album deal she signed with Atlantic as a 16-year-old, Charli XCX looks set to strive forward with the experimental hyper-pop style she’s so successfully helped to popularise in recent years — we’ll hear the fruits of all that here.
May 19, Alexandra Palace, N22, £34, alexandrapalace.com
Years & Years
Having broken all our hearts with his role as Ritchie in the profoundly moving TV series It’s A Sin in 2021, this year Olly Alexander will turn his attention back to being an arena-sized pop star. He brings his chart-topping Years & Years project to Wembley to mark the release of a new album, Night Call.
May 26, SSE Arena, Wembley, HA9, from £36, ssearena.co.uk
Kiwi megastar Lorde will play four shows in London — three at the Roundhouse, followed by one at Ally Pally a few weeks later — and it’s no surprise that they’ve all sold out. All four gigs are operating with waiting lists though, so if you’re desperate to see her live, add your name to the queue.
There aren’t many artists around today who could book out 10 nights at the O2 (Prince still holds the record with 21) but Queen are one of them. The legendary rockers, fronted by Adam Lambert, come to London as part of a worldwide tour that started back in 2019.
Jun 5-21, The O2, SE10, from £91, theo2.co.uk
Talking of musicians who have the power to sell out a run of shows at London’s biggest arena: enter Billie Eilish. The last time the 20-year-old played a solo gig in the capital, in 2019, it was at Kingston nightclub Pryzm. Now, with the pop world conquered, she returns for six O2 gigs.
Jun 10-26, The O2, SE10, from £88, theo2.co.uk
Grace Jones’s Meltdown
The Grace Jones-curated edition of Meltdown — the Southbank Centre’s long-running concert series — was first scheduled for 2020, then 2021, and now 2022. Jones’s own gig has already sold out, but the others have tickets left: most notably Solange, alongside the likes of Peaches, Meshell Ndegeocello and Oumou Sangaré.
June 10-19, Southbank Centre, SE1, various prices, southbankcentre.co.uk
An artist whose sound morphs and moulds into new shapes with each project, John Grant continued his journey with the release of his fifth solo album, Boy From Michigan, at the beginning of 2021. He’ll play through cuts from that, and his varied back catalogue, in Shepherd’s Bush.
Jun 16, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire, W12, £38, academymusicgroup.com
The tragedies of not having a ticket for Glastonbury are many, and not being able to see Diana Ross in the Sunday legend’s slot on the Pyramid Stage is certainly one of them. You can go some way to vanquishing the FOMO by nabbing a ticket for when the famed vocalist comes to London for these two nights instead.
Jun 23-24, The O2, SE10, from £65, theo2.co.uk
After breaking records with his last world tour (260 shows raking in more than half a billion quid), Ed Sheeran has said this upcoming set of stadium gigs might be his last for quite a while. If that does turn out to be true, he’s going out with a bang: five nights at Wembley Stadium as part of a Europe-wide victory lap.
Jun 24-Jul 1, Wembley Stadium, HA9, from £55, wembleystadium.com
Annie Clark, AKA St Vincent, has always been one to look forward to with her innovative approach to guitar music, but on her latest album Daddy’s Home, she took inspiration from the past: specifically, the deeply grooved 1970s guitar records she was introduced to as a child. Expect a rock show with a twist in Hammersmith.
Jun 29, Eventim Apollo, W6, from £33, eventimapollo.com
Rescheduled from February thanks to the vocal cord surgery that Lindsey Jordan underwent at the end of last year, this north London gig should see the indie rock favourite back in fine voice with her solo project Snail Mail, blasting out her heart-on-sleeve anthems.
Jun 29, O2 Forum Kentish Town, NW5, £22, academymusicgroup.com
North Shields guitarist Sam Fender is now — to use a technical term — absolutely bloody massive. He’s already sold out gigs at Wembley Arena in April, and he’ll follow it up with this 40,000-capacity outdoor show, supported by a stellar cast of Fontaines D.C., Declan McKenna, Beabadoobee, Goat Girl and more.
Jul 16, Finsbury Park, N4, £53, festivalrepublic.com
LA sisters Haim are another group to have been patiently waiting for their chance to play some big London concerts during the pandemic, having twice cancelled and rescheduled their plans. Undeterred, the band promised fans last year they'll "go even harder as soon as we’re allowed to play for you". Sounds like a plan.
Jul 21, The O2, SE10, from £30, theo2.co.uk