Our critics' pick of the best live music gigs, updated weekly
The Fall, The Garage
Unusually, the set thundered on beyond the hour mark, with a raucous Bury. Smith even led the charge into an encore, of his early-Nineties rockabilly cover version, White Lightning. By his own unique standards, this really was as good as it gets.
The Lumineers, Brixton Academy
This is a band that stands out from, rather than blends into, an admittedly homogenised folk-rock scene. Wesley Schultz has a rasping, crackle of a voice that rose to a primal yelp during My Eyes, the standout song from Cleopatra; drummer and song-writing partner Jeremiah Fraites bustled about the stage switching from percussion to piano; all the while, Neyla Pekarek cajoled from her cello a melancholic counterpoint to the skittering folk.
Dave Gilmore, Royal Albert Hall
Every time Gilmour unleashes a solo we are reminded that we are listening to one of the all-time greats. There are certain things that he does better than any other guitar player: those long, tremulous, sustained notes that seem to rise up out of the ether and bleed off into eternity. But he also finds places to take those weeping notes, his fingers roaming freely over the entire fretboard, bending and twisting strings at will.
Bryan Ferry, London Palladium
There was something for everyone, but the mood was for the most part, thoughtful, melancholic and introspective – even nearly funereal at times – as the memory of tender embraces and lost loves seem to drift underneath Ferry’s trembling eyelids. His fans remained reverentially rapt until a final blast of hits including Love is the Drug and Virginia Plain brought them ecstatically to their feet
Tom Odell, Islington Academy
On his first show in nearly a year, with a new single and album on the way, there was a sense that he had something to prove. Which he duly did, electrifying the small stage at the intimate Islington Assembly Hall with a big, bold, bravura performance that forcefully reminded everyone present just what it was that they’d liked about him in the first place – and then added on top a whole layer of charismatic rock swagger.
Jeff Lynne's ELO, Manchester Arena
"Lynne’s shaggy hair and trademark shades have been in situ since the Seventies. He remains an unassuming frontman, a modest presence whose stage banter doesn’t go much beyond a few sincere thank-yous. But he has a remarkable talent for condensing complex ideas into easily digestible four-minute pop. At their best, ELO are like Abba in that respect, creating Spectoresque layers of sound that burst into huge choruses. So while new tunes like Ain’t it a Drag and When I Was a Boy proved to be highly engaging, they were dwarfed by the mighty peaks of Evil Woman or Showdown."
Years & Years, Wembley Arena
"The band’s dance roots translated well to a live gig. During showstoppers such as Take Shelter, Desire and King (the final encore), both the standing and seated sections became a unified mass of dancers. Surprisingly, though, it was during the slower, more tremblingly emotional songs – such as ballad Eyes Shut, for which Alexander abandoned his flamboyant performativity and simply sat at a piano – where the night really transformed into something special."
Hans Zimmer and Johnny Marr, Wembley Arena
When Zimmer wasn’t pounding the drums, strumming a banjo, plucking a Spanish guitar or playing the piano, he was either cherry-picking anecdotes about his career, or paying tribute to the late, great director Tony Scott, whose Crimson Tide he scored. As for Marr: keen to avoid the limelight, refraining from any pulse-quickening guitar solos, he was nonchalance itself.
All Saints, Koko
Their fans were driven giddy with the setlist of older hits, but the people most satisfied with the performance were All Saints themselves. The group’s return clearly relies on an element of nostalgia but some of their new songs give an engaging take on everything that has happened to the band – good and bad – since their heyday.
Last Shadow Puppets, Hackney Empire
"Onstage, in near-matching grey suits, their opening numbers had a bludgeoningly blokey heavy-rock dynamic. Turner – his two-piece had a matador-style cut to it, with snazzy black piping – snarled into the microphone, side-lit in shadowy red. With his hair slicked back, he wiggled his hips with an effortless poise which elicited high-pitched screams throughout."
Primal Scream, London Palladium
"Conventional rock wisdom states that leading with such a big song is actually a bad idea, as it sets a challenging precedent for the rest of the concert and leaves the band with one less ace up their sleeve. Primal Scream defied it with a setlist that pinballed exhilaratingly around their back catalogue, peppered with hits, surprises, changes of tempo and musical style - and that didn’t let up once in over an hour and a half. "
Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, Royal Albert Hall
"On stage they seemed happily relaxed in each other’s company. The jocular Heaton chattered away between songs; Abbott barely spoke when she was not singing. Yet she remained an ebullient presence, pouring her caramel voice into a catalogue of songs that ranged from the Eighties hits of Heaton’s old band The Housemartins, to new tracks such as such as the anti-establishment anthem Heatongrad and the lyrical argument against one of Heaton’s most hated words, (Man Is) The Biggest Bitch of All (unsurprisingly, he still pulls no punches when songwriting)."
Wolf Alice, Kentish Town Forum
"From Hole and Smashing Pumpkins to PJ Harvey and The Breeders, Wolf Alice wear their influences on their sleeves like a banner. They recall without recycling the reverb-heavy hooks and harmonies of those acts with laser-guided precision and execution, but you're left yearning for a touch more originality: they're still followers; an outfit yet to hone their sound. "
"The duo are now in their late fifties, and there was something infectiously joyous about their still evident delight and whole-hearted commitment to creating the magical sounds that got a packed throng of middle-aged strangers grinning together in the rapture of dance. Always an odd duo, Rick Smith soberly dressed in plaid shirt and accountant’s glasses pounded away at his bank of keyboards while Karl Hyde, his bleached hair and bug eyes making him seem even more the Shakespearean sprite, slithered and shook at the front of the stage."
Hacienda Classical, Royal Albert Hall
"Most of the old ravers seemed to have long swapped pills for pies, much reducing the range and energy of their moves. But move they did, with the audience on their feet from the first bar, grinning and grooving and singing along with a lusty delight that more than compensated for the failure of the DJs to actually trust the orchestra to do its job."
Natalie Merchant, Royal Albert Hall
"It is a feat to create an intimate atmosphere in a venue so large. Merchant used her honeyed alto, now more textured and grainy, to convey emotion with dynamics and timbre.
On River, a song about her late friend River Phoenix, softer passages gave rise to a rich unleashing of power as her voice filled the Hall. Wonder was stripped back, jazzy and sparse, allowing her timeless lyrics to come to the fore."
Grimes, Brixton Academy
"Such talent easily punctured her hapless, chirruping veneer. Grimes may be managed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation - currently involved in an ugly lawsuit with Rita Ora, no less - but there are no pin-striped fingerprints on her live performance, nor her decision to choose deep cuts and sludgy remixes over perfect-rendition radio plays on stage."
The 1975, Brixton Academy
"While the set list overindulged slightly in songs that were released only a week ago, Healy’s honesty, enthusiasm and charisma ensured the fans didn’t weary of the new material, which is eclectic enough to form a show in itself. It’s possible that this is the start of The 1975 being taken seriously."
Adele, Belfast SSE Arena
"It’s worth at least half of the ticket price just to hear the jokes Adele cracks. With that Catherine Tate “Am I bovvered” accent, she told sweary, Chaucerian stories about everything from popping Immodiums to stop her needing the toilet to pumping breast milk at the Oscars.
It’s an old fashioned skill, much in the way that her music channels older singers like Stevie Nicks and Barbra Streisand. And yet it is also something that makes her feel more open and genuinely closer to her audience than any of her contemporaries sharing their life on social media."
Jamie xx, Alexandra Palace
"From the second he launched into a remix of David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, the audience was in a state of glee, two-pint sized glasses held aloft among the inevitable sea of mobile phones. Moments drawn from In Colour commanded the most attention, whether it was on the jittery, jungle-inflected two-step of Gosh or the elegiac Loud Places in which Croft sings, “I go to loud places/To search for someone to be quiet with."
The Cult, The Scotch of St James
“This is really intimate… so be careful,” Ian Astbury warned fans squeezed into the tiny cellar. The audience was pressed up so close to their favourite band that the singer promised a group hug at the end of the show. What he got was a middle-aged mosh pit, in which stocky 50-year-olds shed the cares of a lifetime to reconnect with the passion and exuberance of their youth. And that was just the band to let them do it."
Jess Glynne, Brixton Academy
"Perhaps the best moment of the night was Take Me Home (the Children In Need single): even in the packed, sweaty venue, Glynne’s powerful tones and raw – but always melodious – vulnerability created an awed stillness... The singer seemed likable and down to earth; quietly confident, rather than cocky. It's clear why her fans adore her."
"“I need something new,” singer Jehnny Beth entreated, unaccompanied, before the band exploded into life, driving her plea into the faces of the audience until it became a pure demand...This all-female group are like the fashion-shoot dream of a rock band brought to life. They are impossibly compelling."
The Who, Wembley Arena
"The veteran rock icons played with high voltage virtuosity. The show has already been greeted feverishly around the world, for providing the kind of no-nonsense barrage of unassailable rock classics, which, in this heritage-rock era, only the Stones and Paul McCartney can rival. Whatever it is that they’re doing, it’s unlikely that The Who, in this form, will give it up voluntarily."
Marianne Faithfull, Roundhouse
"Marianne Faithfull returned to London’s Roundhouse for the first time since the swinging Sixties, like a roguish old villain returning to the scene of a crime. This was a fantastic and very moving concert, in which Faithfull lent her peculiar, distinctive talents to utterly inhabiting songs from a wild and wayward life. She told a long tale of her own wicked ways, of innocence ruined, hearts broken, drugs taken, a life of romance, squalor and survival that has left her still yearning for a love and redemption she can perhaps only truly find on stage."
Massive Attack, Brixton Academy
" The Bristol collective pierced the conscience repeatedly on the first of three sold-out London gigs. New faces like Mercury winners Young Fathers and rising star Azekel pop up alongside old cohort and fellow Bristol trip-hop godfather, Tricky... They might be musical veterans but Massive Attack still feel more relevant and thought provoking than most younger acts and, like their final number and near theme tune Splitting the Atom, are still trying to harness the power of their own conflict as a force for good."
The Libertines, O2 Arena
"Never in their wildest dreams would the band's cultish fans have imagined that the four-piece's long-awaited comeback would have washed them up here, at the cavernous O2 Arena. None of them would have hoped for it.
But Pete Doherty, Carl Barat, Gary Powell and John Hassall walked on stage 15 minutes early and gave one of the most professional performances of their careers. Like at their memorable gig at Brixton Academy in 2004, ears were left ears ringing, hearts pounding."
The Maccabees, Brixton Academy
"At their best, as they were in Brixton, The Maccabees are sublime, whether it’s on the loud-quiet guitar crunch of 2009’s Wall of Arms, or during the more delicate harmonies of Feel to Follow. Dispelling any qualms that The Maccabees have nowhere to go, this was a performance ebullient enough to suggest they could now headline a major festival – perhaps even Glastonbury."
Kris Kristofferson, Union Chapel
"It was hard to believe, during Kris Kristofferson’s sold-out evening at Islington’s Union Chapel, that the country singer-songwriter will turn 80 this year. Standing alone with his guitar, he glided with ease through nearly 30 songs in a raw, 90-minute acoustic set and proved that, despite the years that have passed, he can still perform with the rugged spirit of a small-town troubadour."