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  • Sex Pistols London Gigs

The 15 Greatest London Gigs

When it comes to a truly exceptional gig, it’s hard to pin down exactly what makes it so special. There is no formula. It cannot be engineered.

Sometimes it can be a sense that you are seeing the start of something new or witnessing the end of an era. The character of the venue may inspire, the context may electrify or you might just be lucky enough to catch a band at the pinnacle of their powers. Whatever it is, you can feel it – an electricity in the air. The band feels it too and feeds on it. A connection is made.

When you are at a truly great gig everyone knows it and it lives long in the memory. Over the decades, London has seen its fair share of legendary performances: gigs that launched extraordinary talents, defined a generation or even changed the course of musical history altogether. Here are 15 gigs that shook the capital and the music world:
 

London’s Best Ever Gigs

 

Sixties

 

Jimi Hendrix

Scotch of St James
24 September 1966

Nobody had seen a guitarist quite like Jimi Hendrix when he came to London in 1966. The Scotch of St James was where Hendrix first unleashed his wild other-worldly guitar sound. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Pink Floyd

UFO Club
March 1967

In 1967, Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett still in tow took audiences at the UFO club on an epic trip with their sonic experimentation, homemade light shows and frontiersmen spirit. Paisley abounded as people wigged out to the birth of British psychedelia and to a band that would continue to push boundaries for decades to come.

The Beatles

Rooftop Of Apple Offices
30th January 1969

The Beatles may not have known it, but their performance on the roof of the Apple Building at 3 Saville Row would be their last ever gig. The Fab Four had not played together in public for nearly five years but boy, could they still play. The crowds in the streets below went wild, the establishment were not amused. Although the show and the Beatles as a group finished prematurely, it was a fitting finale to an incredible band.

 

 

The Rolling Stones

Hyde Park 

7th May 1969

This legendary free concert took place just two days after the death of guitarist Brian Jones. With emotions running high, The Stones tried to make sense of the tragedy as well as live up to the hype surrounding the gig. This may may not have been their finest performance but it marked a dramatic end to the 1960s.

Rolling Stones Hyde Park 1969 concert

By ingen uppgift (http://www.stonesvikings.com/stockholm1966.htm) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Seventies

 

Led Zeppelin

Royal Albert Hall
9th January 1970

Led Zeppelin were on the verge of superstardom when they played this show at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall. Nearly two hours of blistering blues and rock & roll later and it was clear that not only were they one of the greatest live bands of all time but that the 1970s would belong to them.

 

David Bowie

Rainbow Theatre
19th August 1972 

When Bowie introduced Ziggy Stardust to the world, he transformed the humble rock gig into theatre with costumes changes, dry ice, mime, sexual ambiguity and some phenomenal songs. The Rainbow Theatre show was a game-changer.

 

Bob Marley

Lyceum Theatre
19th July 1975

The Lyceum Theatre gig saw Bob Marley bring Rastafarianism and reggae to the mainstream. The band were on incredible form, tighter than tight, and Marley was operating on another level altogether. The crowd together in a spirit of unity sang along at the top of their lungs to tracks such as No Woman No Cry. Marley had the power to inspire.


 

Sex Pistols

100 Club
30th March 1976

The Lesser Free Trade Hall show in Manchester may have been the gig that inspired numerous people to start bands including future members of Joy Division, but the 100 Club shows saw the Sex Pistols at their chaotic best. The band, fronted by Johnny Rotten, debuted at the Oxford Street venue in March 1976 and anarchy in the UK was suddenly on the cards.

sex pistols live in concert

Image from National Archives of Norway’s Flickr-Album “Protest”

 

Kate Bush

Hammersmith Odeon
May 13th 1979

This was Kate Bush’s first and, until very recently, last ever live tour.  More than your average concert, the Hammersmith Odeon show was a genre-blurring tour-de-force of music, dance, poetry, mime, burlesque, magic and theatre. Her flare as a visual performer was undisputed as she glided through 17 costume changes and 24 songs in a remarkable set.

 

Eighties

 

Queen

Live Aid Charity Concert
Wembley Stadium
13th July 1985

For the 72,000 people in the stadium and the 2 billion watching worldwide, Queen’s performance at Live Aid was jaw-droopingly good. For just over 20 minutes, Freddie Mercury gave it his all and proved himself as the ultimate showman. Recent Polls have suggested that this was the greatest live performance of all time.


 

The Beastie Boys

Brixton Academy
24th May 1987

Bringing hip hop to the UK was never going to be easy, especially when you were as notorious and riotous as the Beastie Boys. With their debut, Licensed To Ill, having already sold in excess of four million copies at the time, the hype surrounding the young New Yorkers sold out Brixton show was immense. Amazingly, they delivered and collective jaws dropped.

 

Michael Jackson

Wembley Stadium
July 16th 1988

The ‘Bad’ tour saw the King of the Pop at the peak of his powers – singing, dancing, showmanship – MJ was a next-level performer. His epic three-hour show at Wembley Stadium was nothing short of incredible.


 

Nineties

 

Nirvana

The Astoria
October 24th 1990

Nirvana’s show at the Astoria Theatre confirmed one thing  – this band were going to be huge. Playing future classics from Nevermind like In Bloom as well as ripping through much of their debut Bleach, it was clear that the audience were witnessing something truly special. Kurt Cobain was a raw, angry and sensational talent and that October night was him at his best.

nirvana in concert London

By P.B. Rage from USA (More Kurt — too rad) [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The Prodigy

Ministry Of Sound
May 29th 1996

Progressing from the outdoor rave scene of the early 90s to the interior of London’s Ministry of Sound club in 1996, the Prodigy were in a mood to rip things up. With their number one Firestarter single already making huge waves and Fat of the Land in the pipeline, they had the energy, dynamism and most importantly the tunes to make the crowds go wild. This was hairs on the back of the neck territory.

 

Eminem

Astoria
November 3rd 1999

In 1999, Eminem was the bad boy of rap. Some of the verses on his Slim Shady LP (released earlier that year) had caused controversy. Taking to the Astoria stage in bright white tracksuit, it was clear that he didn’t care and that his immense talent was indisputable.

Eminem live in London

By Mika-photography [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

20 Bedford Way

Are you a promoter? A music fan? Want to make history? Well, 20 Bedford Way is a unique performance space and London gig venue available to hire for concerts. Our Logan Hall is a 930 seater venue that is perfect for unique gigs. We have hosted everything from international acts to Acoustic, from Bollywood to avant garde, call us now on 020 7612 6143 to find out about our amazing rates for venue gig hire. If you are a promoter or want to find out more about live music promotion read our guide on How To Put On A Gig.

 

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