Best Places to Hear Live Music in London
London is a musical city. If you want proof, look at the tourists backing up traffic while attempting to recreate The Beatles’ iconic Abbey Road cover. Or simply turn on the radio. Ed Sheeran’s 2011 release, “The City,” sings London’s praises. Get off the tube at Baker Street and Gerry Rafferty’s saxophone riff bursts into your ears. “Waterloo Sunset” by the Kinks pictures Terry (Stamp) and Julie (Christie) meeting at Waterloo Station. “West End Girls,” by The Pet Shop Boys, personified young women in London during the 1980s. Adele sang everything she loves about the city in “Hometown Glory.” Blur chills on an optimistic London anthem in “For Tomorrow.” And who could forget “London Calling” by The Clash? There are so many songs about London, and city’s musical legacy lives on today with promising new musicians and exciting venues like Union Chapel, The Queen of Hoxton, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, and The Troubadour.
Sixty years old in 2014, The Troubadour is a coffee shop, wine gallery, and art space that happens to have had a music room in the cellar. It’s where Sammy Davies Jr., Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon all played back in the day. Led Zeppelin was also known to come and jam after nearby gigs. Tom Robinson and Elvis Costello have played here too. Now that’s a venue with musical heritage.
Voted London’s Favorite Music Venue in 2014, the Union Chapel is not only a music space, but also a working church, restaurant, and center for those who are in crisis or homeless. A host of big names including Tom Jones, Adele, Bono, and The Edge have all played here—it really encapsulates what a music venue should be.
Number 100 Oxford Street is a London landmark that opened in a basement during WW2 in 1942. Well-known artists have played here, including Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper. Legend has it that a Chinese food delivery was thrown on stage for the Sex Pistols midway through a performance of Anarchy in the UK.
The Queen of Hoxton
The name may sound like a pub, but this destination is a bar, club, and art gallery all in one single space. The ground floor hosts a gaming room with vintage pinball and table football (Hoxton hipsters love this). The rooftop garden includes a bar and barbecue kitchen all on AstroTurf, and downstairs is a music venue where Gold Panda, Django Django, and Miles Kane have all performed.
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club
This club is a Soho staple, with an owner, Ronnie, who used to shout at anyone who talked during a performance. Things are a bit more relaxed now, but it’s still an intimate internationally renowned club, thanks to the appearances by Sarah Vaughn, Count Basie, Miles Davies back in the day.