Top ten London gigs in May

Start off the summer with some of the best live music London has to offer


Public Service Broadcasting

Critics' choice

Sample-heavy soundscapes are this excellent London duo's stock-in-trade. Using live guitar, drums and synths – and sometimes piano, brass or even banjo – they create eerie, white-knuckle instrumentals with vocal tracks from old radio broadcasts, public information films and crackly archive speeches. This London date is part of a tour in support of their new album 'The Race for Space', which tells the story of the battle between the US and the USSR to take mankind beyond the surface of the Earth. Their live show uses projections of archive footage to take their musical histories into new, audiovisual dimensions.

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Rough Trade East Thursday May 7 2015 - Sunday November 29 2015


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.

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Royal Albert Hall Thursday May 7 2015 - Wednesday May 27 2015

Belle And Sebastian

Critics' choice

For the devoted hordes, Stuart Murdoch's veteran gaggle of Glaswegian popsters are consummate practitioners of liltingly melancholic and lyrically wry, indie-pop songcraft. For others, they're the very definition of mimsy and twee. If you're still undecided after all these years, this show a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament will be a good chance to make up your mind. They'll be showcasing material from new album 'Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance' and no doubt a few favourites along the way, too.

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Central Hall Westminster Monday May 11 2015 - Saturday July 18 2015


Critics' choice

Twin daughters of the late Buena Vista Social Club percussionist Anga Díaz, Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz have picked up plenty of props for their cajón-laced, stripped-back soul in English and Yoruba. Fans of traditional Afro-Cuban music, FKA Twigs and CocoRosie alike will find something to groove to here.

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Islington Assembly Hall Tuesday May 12 2015 - Tuesday November 3 2015

Django Django

Critics' choice

The groovy Edinburghers are back for more  melancholy electropop, playing a London show to follow the release of their long-awaited second album ‘Born Under Saturn’. If you haven’t yet, listen to their awesome new single ‘First Light’ – a great addition to their Beck-meets-The Beta Band-and-Bon Iver sound.

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Koko Tuesday May 19 2015


Critics' choice

Everyone knows that a swan can break a man’s arm with its wing, but did you know that New York noise rock band Swans were at one point capable of making entire audiences get spontaneously reacquainted their half-digested lunch?

Okay, admittedly that’s an urban myth – or, as the group’s stentorian frontman Michael Gira has put it, ‘a bunch of shit’. Swans never actually made anyone vomit through sheer force of sound, but since reforming in 2010 – in an era of health and safety and noise control – they’ve still had audience members spending the next few days suffering from not just ringing ears but full-blown aural flashbacks. We’re talking seriously ‘oof!’-worthy levels of sound and fury.

That’s not to say that Swans don’t do subtlety. On their incredible new LP ‘To Be Kind’, Gira and co flash in an instant from ground-shaking, clash-of-the-titans riffs to periods of eerie calm, underpinned by churning drums and topped with the kind of vocals that you’d expect from a particularly scary blood cult. Then it’s back to those piledriver riffs, sometimes continuing on one apocalyptic note for up to half an hour. As long as the PA is up to the challenge, this’ll be one of the most awe-inspiringly, beautifully extreme gigs in London this year. But if all you’re looking for is an excuse to vom, you’d probably be better off going to Thorpe Park.

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Roundhouse Thursday May 21 2015


Critics' choice

When Mrs Scroggins bought her teenage daughters – Renee, Valerie, Deborah and Marie – musical instruments in the mid-’70s, all she was doing was trying to keep them off the streets of the South Bronx. She had no idea she’d just created one of the most exciting and influential bands to come out of the music scene of ’80s New York.

ESG (short for Emerald, Sapphire and Gold) distilled the black and Hispanic sounds of the city into a tight, stripped-down new genre: punk-funk. The sisters ended up supporting The Clash and Grandmaster Flash, playing at the city’s legendary Danceteria and Paradise Garage venues, and being sampled by just about every hip hop producer going.

ESG have been grooving on and off ever since and are still a family business: Renee’s daughters Nicole and Chistelle Scroggins are part of the current line-up. They’ve picked up a new generation of fans, too, thanks to releases and reissues with Soho-based Soul Jazz Records. More than 30 years on, the group’s minimal, funky, bass-heavy, polyrhythmic sound hasn’t changed much at all, and they can still bust out ass-shaking renditions of their classics with nothing but a bass, a drum kit, a few congas and Renee’s hip, soulful vocals. Start practising your moves now if you want any chance of keeping up with the Scrogginses.

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Oval Space Saturday May 23 2015


Critics' choice

Twenty years after their last London show, Ride are back to shake the Roundhouse. Renowned as one of the defining bands of the ’90s shoegaze scene, they pair high volume, strong melodies and plenty of reverb with a classic-rockin’ approach that was always at odds with peers such as Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. As a result their brilliant first two albums have become touchstones for a generation of young bands, plenty of whom will be vying for tickets to catch their long-awaited, oft-rumoured return to the stage as a prelude to their headline set at Field Day.

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Roundhouse Sunday May 24 2015

Fleetwood Mac

Critics' choice

Cheer up, sad sacks: the Mac are back – and better than ever. Well, better than they were for last year’s partial reunion, because there’s nothing partial about it this time: Christine is (officially) in.

The band’s 2013 tour was a joyous, momentous musical occasion. Fleetwood Mac, it turned out, were still a brilliant live band: Stevie Nicks was still all wavy-armed and magical, Lindsey Buckingham could still shred, and John McVie and Mick Fleetwood still looked like they were both auditioning for the part of Steptoe. But there was a big woman-and-piano-shaped hole on the side of the stage. For their return to The O2 next summer, they’ve filled that hole with the only woman who could do it justice: original singer and keyboardist (and John’s ex-wife: awkies) Christine McVie.

The woman born Christine Anne Perfect (seriously) made a brief cameo with the band in London last year, but now, for the first time since she left the band in 1998, you can hear the writer of ‘You Make Loving Fun’, ‘Little Lies’ and ‘Everywhere’ belt them out like they deserve to be belted. Fleetwood Mac are a walking greatest-hits package, and they just got a little greater.

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The O2 Wednesday May 27 2015 - Saturday June 27 2015



Really?! Rush at the 02 Arena NOT not only on this list but at the very top?! REALLY?! Are you really serious about that?!