The best London gigs in 2014
Book tickets now for these must-see concerts next year
Wed Dec 18 2013
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When Mrs Scroggins bought her teenage daughters – Renee, Valerie, Deborah and Marie – musical instruments in the early ’80s, all she was doing was trying to keep them off the streets of the South Bronx. She wasn't to know that she had just accidentally created a band who would pioneer punk-funk, release a single on Factory Records, support The Clash and Grandmaster Flash and get mined for samples by dozens of hip hop producers. ESG's heir minimal, super-funky, bass-heavy polyrhythmic sound hasn't changed much over the years, and they can still bust out an ass-shaking rendition of 'Moody' with nothing but a bass, a drum kit, a couple of congas and Renee's soulful vocals. They claim they're breaking up after their current tour. Do you really want to risk not catching them live while you still can?
One of America's biggest pop success stories of the past decade, Taylor Alison Swift's not yet 25 and she's already broken sales records, filled several shelves with awards and amassed a personal fortune of over $200 million. That's down to her incredibly infectious songs, which mix up Shania Twain-style country-pop with teen-friendly themes – but also to the steely-eyed determination and ambition which compelled Swift to move to Nashville at the age of 14, enter the lucrative country music market and then explosively cross over into the pop world with her second album 'Fearless'. Now she stops off in London on her biggest tour yet, promoting her fourth record 'Red' with a dramatic, flawlessly choreographed pop show complete with props, pyrotechnics, plenty of dancers and costume changes – and the odd number where Taylor strips it all back with a banjo or piano.
Oxford quintet Foals graduated in the class of 2008, when their debut album 'Antidotes' set them out as the smartest of the indie punk-funk pack, and – to judge by their latest record, 'Holy Fire' – have evolved into one of the country's finest alternative rock bands. Their unselfconscious intelligence and knack for smart, danceable pop tunes is now matched by a new love for sludgy riffs, funk grooves and organic improvisation, making them a fearsome live act.
The three Haim sisters (plus a drummer, no relation) bring their brilliant and breezy West Coast harmonies and epic, R&B-influenced pop – as much Wilson Phillips as Fleetwood Mac – to the UK. They're already big news, having won the BBC Sound of 2013 poll, and they're getting supermassive off the back of their great debut album 'Days Are Gone'. They're great live too: chatting with the audience, rocking out righteously, banging various bits of percussion and (in eldest sister Este's case) pulling some excellent bass faces. As we found out when we interviewed them in September, they've almost adopted London as a second home, so they should be on top form tonight.
Raised in Reigate and now based in south London, Disclosure are the scarily young Lawrence brothers, Guy and Howard. They've been making forward-thinking dance music since 2010 but made a big breakout dent with their garage/house remix of Jessie Ware's 'Running', and have since stepped it up with a series of big singles featuring Sam Smith, AlunaGeorge and Eliza Doolittle. Get ready for hands in the air and feet on the dancefloor as they play from their debut album 'Settle'.
Glasgow's indie heroes return to the stage, showcasing tracks from their fourth record 'Right Thought, Right Words, Right Action' alongside funky, literate, new wave-inspired Franz classics like 'Take Me Out', 'The Dark of the Matinée' and 'Do You Want To'. Sharp riffs, sharp dance moves and probably sharp suits too: what more could you want?
From Disney Channel star to *NSync, from 'Justified' to 'Suit and Tie', JT is an irrepressible performer who was responsible for some of the most impressive R&B – and dance moves – of the noughties. Even if parts of his new album 'The 20:20 Experience' were a tad bloated, Trousersnake has enough huge, falsettoed pop hits to keep an audience grooving all night. And despite his frequent hilarious appearances on Jimmy Fallon's show in the US, don't count on any April foolishness from Justin tonight.
- Critics choice
Pixies, Metronomy, Daniel Avery, Danny Brown, Dusky, George Fitzgerald, Innervisions: Dixon And Ame, James Holden, Jessy Lanza, John Wizards, Jon Hopkins, Omar Souleyman, Oneohtrix Point Never, Seun Kuti And Fela's Egypt 80, Sky Ferreira, The Temper Trap, Warpaint. The leftfield festival returns for another year – and it's a one-dayer no longer: Field Day 2014 will take up a whole weekend in June. Over the last few years Field Day has become one of the best festivals in London, with a consistently excellent booking policy covering the world's best alternative acts, ranging from weird pop and indie rock to underground dance producers and folk musicians. Hopefully double the days means double the talent, and the organisers have got off to a good start by booking US alt rock titans Pixies as Sunday headliners, and a host of great Saturday acts including bleep-pop master Joe Mount and his Metronomy project (returning to Field Day as headliners), electronic forward-thinkers Daniel Avery, John Hopkins, Oneohtrix Point Never and James Holden, Syrian electro-folk guru Omar Souleyman, Seun Kuti leading his dad Fela Kuti's band, US alt pop singer Sky Ferreira, John Wizards with their blend of South African township music and Western electronica, offbeat rapper Danny Brown, and ever-popular indie bands The Temper Trap and Warpaint. Quite a line-up – and there's more still to come…
More proof that third place can mean brass as well as bronze, the British/Irish pretty boys continue their terrifying rise. Five nights at The O2 in 2013, Wembley in 2014… by 2015 they’ll be singing in space (and their hair still won’t move). If you're buying tickets ‘as a present for someone’, make sure your ears are prepared for the piercing shrieks of 90,000 teenage girls.
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