The best London gigs in 2014

Check out our pick of this year's concerts and festivals in the capital

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1

ESG

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?

  1. Koko 1a Camden High St, NW1 7JE
  2. Fri Jan 17
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2

Outfit

  • Critics choice

Laying calypso-tinged melodies and funk rhythms over spooky, gnarled electronic textures, these impressive, chillwave-toned Scousers are the rising stars of UK synth-pop. They play tonight from their great debut album, 'Performance'.

  1. XOYO 32-37 Cowper St, EC2A 4AP
  2. Wed Jan 29
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3

Taylor Swift

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.

  1. The O2 Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX
  2. Until Tue Feb 11
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4

Fuck Buttons

Mixing up terrifically, thrillingly abrasive electronic distortion with sublime melodies and psychotropic post-house, Fuck Buttons formed to make one soundtrack in 2004 and have since released three extraordinary albums. The latest is called 'Slow Focus', and it should reach a far bigger audience than ever before, after two of the Worcester duo's tracks made it onto the soundtrack of the London Olympic opening ceremony last year.

  1. The Forum 9-17 Highgate Rd, NW5 1JY
  2. Fri Feb 7 - Sat Feb 8
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5

Suzanne Vega

  • Critics choice

The supremely accomplished, utterly engaging political-and-personal pop singer is back for her first UK tour in yonks. Sometimes minimal and a capella, and occasionally flying off on a breezy, boho-jazz bent, Vega returns to perform perennial faves 'Luka', 'Tom's Diner' and 'Marlene on the Wall' alongside new material.

  1. Barbican Hall Barbican Centre, Silk St, EC2Y 8BS
  2. Fri Feb 7
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6

Foals

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.

  1. Alexandra Palace Alexandra Palace Way, N22 7AY
  2. Sat Feb 15
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7

Warpaint

  • Critics choice

After a meteoric rise in 2011, the LA quartet return to the UK for some more eerily sweet psychedelia and experimental melodrama. They're still playing from their debut album 'The Fool' – think 'A Kiss in the Dreamhouse'-era Siouxsie meets The Breeders – but they've had plenty of time to work on new material too, and will play new songs from their forthcoming, self-titled second album on this British tour.

  1. Koko 1a Camden High St, NW1 7JE
  2. Tue Feb 18
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8

St Vincent

  • Critics choice

The amazing Annie Clark, fresh from a collaborative tour with David Byrne, arrives in London to perform her alluringly nuanced songcraft. Her material ranges from Disney-soundtrack-worthy ballads to beautiful, complex, Robert Fripp-esque guitar abuse – all delivered with a hefty load of tightly-wound emotion.

  1. O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire Shepherd's Bush Green, W12 8TT
  2. Thu Feb 20
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9

Jungle

  • Critics choice

This London duo have come from nowhere to become one of 2013's hype sensations, thanks to the viral video of a six-year-old breakdancing for their single 'Platoon'. Well, that's a bit unfair – their steamy, grooving, creeping neo-soul tracks are something pretty special too.

  1. Village Underground 54 Holywell Lane, EC2A 3PQ
  2. Tue Mar 4
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10

Haim

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.

  1. O2 Academy Brixton 211 Stockwell Rd, SW9 9SL
  2. Thu Mar 6
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11

Disclosure

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'.

  1. Alexandra Palace Alexandra Palace Way, N22 7AY
  2. Sat Mar 8
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12

Robert Glasper

  • Critics choice

Halfway between J Dilla and Brad Mehldau, jazz-fusion pianist Glasper is one of a kind. With his band he mixes fluent technique with a peerless understanding of fractured hip-hop rhythms, favouring compact, minimalist chord sequences and hooky themes. Listen out for the percussive fireworks between Glasper and drummer Chris Dave.

  1. Hammersmith Apollo 45 Queen Caroline St, W6 9QH
  2. Wed Mar 12
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13

Rodriguez

  • Critics choice

Headlining singer-songwriter Sixto Diaz Rodriguez – to whom the overused word 'legendary' truly applies – makes a rare visit to London. A Detroit native who dropped out of the music industry in the ’70s after releasing two albums (now considered lost classics), Rodriguez is back in the public eye thanks to an Oscar-winning film about his disappearance, 'Searching for Sugar Man'. He's returned to touring and is preparing songs for a belated third album.

  1. Hammersmith Apollo 45 Queen Caroline St, W6 9QH
  2. Thu Mar 13
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14

Franz Ferdinand

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?

  1. Roundhouse Chalk Farm Rd, NW1 8EH
  2. Wed Jul 16
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15

Bassekou Kouyaté And Ngoni Ba

  • Critics choice

Described by blues legend Taj Mahal as a 'genius', Malian bandleader Kouyaté has spent his career connecting the lute-like ngoni with the wider global blues tradition. He showcases his incredible chops with backing from his six-piece Ngoni Ba group.

  1. Union Chapel Compton Terrace, N1 2UN
  2. Thu Mar 20
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16

Earl Sweatshirt

  • Critics choice

Tyler The Creator may have the Twitter followers and the online column inches, but the thinking person's favourite member of LA skate-rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All is Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, aka Earl Sweatshirt. He's in London to bust out tracks from his excellent debut album, 'Doris', in his fluent, dark and downbeat style.

  1. Electric Brixton Brixton Hill, SW2 1RJ
  2. Thu Mar 27
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17

Azealia Banks

  • Critics choice

At the tender age of 22 and with only one officially released EP to her name, Azealia Amanda Banks has become a festival-headlining rap sensation. That's down to three things: her knack for publicity (she's had prominent Twitter feuds with everyone from Angel Haze to The Stone Roses), some canny collaborations (including Machinedrum and Pharrell) and her tight, fast, expletive-riddled flow. Live, she has a habit of busting out freaky moves while dressed as a dinosaur or a mermaid. Tonight you can look forward to hearing tracks from Banks's epically delayed debut album, 'Broke With Expensive Taste': it was announced last January and still doesn't have a release date.

  1. O2 Academy Brixton 211 Stockwell Rd, SW9 9SL
  2. Fri Sep 19
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18

Justin Timberlake

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.

  1. The O2 Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX
  2. Tue Jun 10
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19

Toy

  • Critics choice

Scowling like the Stones and riffing like the Stooges, burning through OMD-like synth ballads, krautrock grooves and Hawkwindian chugs with the same ferocity, and taking tips from the psych-noise rush of My Bloody Valentine and Ride along the way, Toy are one of London's best young bands. Catch them tonight as they play from their new album 'Join the Dots' and their 2012 debut.

  1. O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire Shepherd's Bush Green, W12 8TT
  2. Sat Apr 26
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20

Miley Cyrus

The Disney star turned twerkaholic wrecking ball finally swings into London on her 'Bangerz' tour. If it's anything like her recent awards show performances, tonight will be a tawdry, headline-grabbing, attention-seeking, must-see masterclass in quintessential pop spectacle. And when you've got half the music industry writing open letters about your bum, who cares if you've only got a couple of decent tunes?

  1. The O2 Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX
  2. Tue May 6
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