London 2014: Live Music

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Sam Smith

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Sam Smith
Manic Street Preachers


From rising stars to veteran singers, the soundtrack of London 2014 boasts a wealth of musical talent, says Vicki Forde.

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Global Stars


It comes as no surprise that the capital's largest music venue, the O2 Arena, welcomes the majority of the industry's current major players, some just for a night and others for a short residency. Beyoncé takes the crown for selling out most nights at the arena, with an impressive six gigs booked in. Armed with her new alter-ego, Yoncé, the queen of pop brings 'The Mrs Carter Show' back following a sell-out run last April. Having released her secret download-only album in late 2013 - introducing Yoncé with a particularly provocative launch video - some changes to the show could also be on the cards.

Seven-time Grammy Award-winner Taylor Swift follows up shortly behind with five nights scheduled in, concluding her mammoth 'Red Tour'. Incorporating electric and acoustic guitar, banjo, and piano into her shows, audiences are treated to a new take on her kiss and tell hits.

Justin Timberlake continues his career comeback with his first solo appearance at the O2 since 'FutureSex/LoveSounds' back in 2007. Following a seven-year hiatus from the music industry, Timberlake launched himself back into the spotlight in 2013 with the release of two studio albums - doubling his solo album output - and an NSYNC reunion performance at the MTV VMAs. After whetting their appetite with the NSYNC performance, Timberlake could well treat fans to live renditions of some of his classic hits alongside tracks from his new albums, The 20/20 Experience and The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2.

It's hard to mention the 2013 MTV VMAs without conjuring up an image of the controversial performance courtesy of Miley Cyrus, who will also be stopping by the O2 in 2014 as part of her 'Bangerz World Tour'. Whether she'll be bringing her now infamous PVC underwear and dancing teddy bears with her, however, is still to be determined. 


Award Ceremonies




Katy Perry has two separate appearances at the arena lined up: one for 'The Prismatic World Tour', promoting her latest album PRISM, and one for the 2014 BRIT Awards. Returning to the O2 once again, this year's awards will, surprisingly, be opened by the Arctic Monkeys. Previous years have seen the Sheffield-born quartet shun, mock and verbally attack the ceremony, deeming it a corporate affair. So, despite them being renowned for putting on great live shows, it could be worth tuning in simply to see if they can revive the golden years of the BRITs - when drunken speeches and public feuds came as standard. The Ivor Novello Award-winning band will also perform two headline shows at Finsbury Park later in the year, with support from Miles Kane, Tame Impala and Royal Blood.

Disclosure and Bastille lead the nominations for the Brits 2014, with four each in the same categories. Both acts will be performing live shows at Alexandra Palace in March. Further Brit nominees performing live in London this year include John Newman, nominated for Best British Male Solo Artist; Drake, up for Best International Male Solo Artist; and Rudimental, shortlisted for Best British Group, Best British Single and the coveted Best British Album of the Year.


Industry Newcomers

Sam Smith

Sam Smith


The O2's sister venues, Brixton Academy and Shepherd's Bush Empire, welcome an exciting raft of performers to their stages throughout the year. Already announced as the winner of this year's Critics' Choice Brit Award, Sam Smith will perform one night at Shepherd's Bush in February - as well as a gig at the Roundhouse in May - while his predecessor Tom Odell takes to the stage at Brixton Academy in the same month.

In addition to winning his first BRIT, Smith also topped the BBC's Sound of 2014 poll, which includes Adele, Ellie Goulding and Jessie J among its previous winners. Last year the title was claimed by LA sisters HAIM, who went on to release a debut album labelled 'one of the best pop albums of the year' by NME. The trio will be embarking on a promotional tour in 2014, performing at the Brixton Academy in March.

The Royal Albert Hall continues the Albert Sessions series in 2014, with performances from The 1975 and Jake Bugg. Launched in 2008, the initiative provides the chance for young performers to headline the renowned venue by offering reduced rental fees and therefore lower ticket costs. Previous years have seen The Wombats - the first ever band to headline a Sessions concert - Foals and Metronomy all take part in the scheme.


Veteran Singers

Manic Street Preachers

Manic Street Preachers


It's not just the newcomers taking to the London stages; Welsh veteran rockers the Manic Street Preachers will perform a medley of hits from their back catalogue and tracks from their forthcoming new album, Futurology, when they perform two live nights at the O2 Academy Brixton in April.

Hammersmith Apollo's stage is graced by a string of veteran performers including Status Quo, who have reunited for their last-ever live shows; The Stranglers, performing as part of their 'Ruby Anniversary' tour; and Rodriguez, who continues to tour the world after finding fame from the BAFTA and Oscar Award-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man.

The film tells the remarkable story of how, despite Rodriguez thinking his career was a flop, his music was actually a major success in South Africa, even becoming anti-Apartheid anthems. When two fans set out to find the man behind the voice - who in South Africa was rumoured to have committed suicide - they were astonished to find him alive and well in Detroit.  Upon discovering his star status, Rodriguez embarked on an emotionally charged South African tour and has since gone on to perform all around the world.


Intimate Gigs

Chvrches - (c) Eliot Hazel


(c) Eliot Hazel


Looking beyond London's major live music venues, some of this year's best gigs can be found at the capital's bars, clubs and underground locations. Young British band London Grammar will be bringing their distinctive sound to Troxy in February. A year ago scarcely anyone had heard of the electronic trio, twelve months on and they've booked their first headline tour and seen their debut album, If You Wait, be named the iTunes Album of the Year.

Elsewhere, The Forum's line-up includes Birdy, Chvrches, Shapeshifter and Maximo Park; Koko invites The Feeling, Katy B, Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip and Banks; and Scala indulges in a spot of Kaiser Chiefs, La Femme and Dan Croll.



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