Visit London Blog » Music Enjoy the very best of London Mon, 23 Feb 2015 16:10:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 I’m With the Band: Top 10 London Attractions for Musicians Tue, 04 Mar 2014 09:00:36 +0000

London has long been a magnet for the world’s most famous singers and bands – and it’s produced a fair few itself, from Queen to Amy Winehouse. So the city is full of great attractions where musicians and lovers of music can learn about their idols, buy classic records and even record a tune. Here are 10 of the best:

Abbey Road
The iconic Beatles album cover picturing the famous four walking over a zebra crossing on London’s Abbey Road has inspired endless copies and parodies. The nearby Abbey Road Studios are not open to the public (unless you’ve booked a recording session), but they do have a live web cam online so why tell your friends back home to look out for you doing the famous walk?

Jersey Boys
Even if you’re not familiar with the name Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, you’ll know their songs: Bye Bye Baby (Baby Goodbye), Big Girls Don’t Cry, Beggin’, December 1963 (better known as Oh What A Night)… the list goes on. So Jersey Boys, the Olivier Award-winning musical about the band, is a must for all music fans – even if you think you’re not into musicals! Other great musicals to check out include Thriller – Live (Michael Jackson) and We Will Rock You (Queen).

British Music Experience
Roll back the years at the British Music Experience (located inside The O2) and explore amazing outfits, instruments, videos, photos and other memorabilia from the past and present of British popular music. Look out for John Lennon’s glasses, Ziggy Stardust’s 1970s number outfit and ‘Ginger Spice’ Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress. Plus you can show your best moves in the Dance The Decades booth, record a track in the Gibson Interactive Studio and transport yourself to some of the biggest concerts of the past 60 years in The Finale.

Open Mic Night at The Spice of Life
Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Jamie Cullum have all performed at The Spice of Life in Soho. And you can too if you pop along to its Open Mic Night, held every Monday. Make use of the in-house piano and PA, or bring along your own instrument. The music kicks off at 7pm, but performers should sign up at 6.30pm to be sure of getting a spot.

Denmark Street
Denmark Street, near Leicester Square, is known as London’s Tin Pan Alley. Both sides of the small street are lined with music shops, including Wunjo Guitars (selling new, used and vintage guitars), Vintage & Rare Guitars and Stick around into the evening to enjoy live music at the intimate 12 Bar Club or Alleycat Bar Club, located below Regent Sounds Studio – where the Rolling Stones recorded their first album.

Rock and Roll London Walk
If you love to be regaled by tales of rockstar exploits, book a spot on the fascinating, two-hour-long Rock and Roll London Walk. You’ll visit the famous Marquee Club, pop into the pub where Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton once jammed, discover the location of the Sex Pistols’ world debut, and much more. No need to book, just turn up at Tottenham Court Road station (Exit 3) any Friday at 2pm.

Honest Jon’s Records
Arguably the most legendary of London’s independent record stores, Honest Jon’s is the retail arm of the acclaimed record label of the same name. Specialising in reggae, jazz and soul, Honest Jon’s has enjoyed a colourful, rollercoaster existence since its birth in 1974 and is still considered to be one of London’s best record shops by those in the know.

Wembley Arena
Every musician dreams of shouting “Hello Wembley!” to a sea of screaming fans – and many have done it, including Madonna, David Bowie and Prince. Check out Visit London’s music section for listings of gigs taking place every night across London at venues including Wembley Arena.

Music Gallery at Horniman Museum
See, hear and play instruments from around the world at Horniman Museum – from a 3,500-year-old pair of Egyptian bone clappers to a retro synth. Make time to visit ongoing exhibition The Art of Harmony, exploring Western classical music traditions, as well as the Hands-On Base, where you can give the instruments a go. Other London music museums to check out are The Royal Academy of Music Museum and The Royal College of Music’s Museum of Instruments.

Hard Rock Cafe
Today there are Hard Rock Cafes all around the world, but the London branch is where it all began in 1971. The walls of the restaurant – and the vault below – are lined with memorabilia, including the first piece donated to the cafe: Eric Clapton’s Lead II Fender. You may even spot the odd rock star popping in for a burger, according to the cafe – or witness one of the occasional jamming sessions. And if you don’t, you’ll still get a great meal out of it.

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Free events in London in January Tue, 31 Dec 2013 11:30:53 +0000 London’s New Year's Day Parade 2014

If your pockets are considerably lighter after Christmas, you don’t have to stay indoors this January to avoid spending money.

All the events we’ve picked out below are free, so pack your flask and sandwiches and enjoy a day out – without your wallet.

London’s New Year’s Day Parade 2014 (1 Jan)

London has held a New Year’s Day Parade on the first day of every year since 1987. Get 2014 off to a great start by joining thousands of spectators along the parade route to watch some 8,500 performers from around the world. Participants this year include All The Queen’s Horses, Merrydowners Morris and London’s Pearly Kings and Queens.

Farewell To Christmas at Geffrye Museum

Farewell To Christmas at Geffrye Museum (5 Jan)

Wrap up warm and join the Geffrye Museum as it marks the end of Christmas with the old tradition of burning holly and ivy. Taking place in the garden, Farewell to Christmas also features carol singing, mulled wine, Twelfth Night cake and stories about Epiphany. If you arrive early, pop inside to check out the (also free) Christmas Past exhibition, exploring 400 years of seasonal traditions in English homes.

London Ice Sculpting Festival

London Ice Sculpting Festival at Canary Wharf (10-12 Jan)

See a block of ice transformed into a work of art at the London Ice Sculpting Festival. Teams of talented sculptors will gather at the event in Canary Wharf and compete to win the top title in each of the main categories: Single Block (theme: River Life), Freestyle and Big Block (theme: Fabulous Fashion). Give it a go yourself at one of the Masterclass sessions.

Peacebeats at Rich Mix (29 Jan)

One for the young people out there, Peacebeats is a special one-day festival to promote peace and positivity. Taking place at East London arts centre Rich Mix, the event features spoken word, music, performance and film.

Royal College of Music

Free Music in January

London is a vibrant hub for musicians, so it’s no wonder there are concerts every night of the week all over the capital. Here are just a few of the free gigs taking place in London this January:

Free Exhibitions in January

L1162 Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890)  Sunflowers, 1889-01 Arles Oil on canvas 95 x 73 cm Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation) s31V/1962  F458  © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)There are many ongoing exhibitions still available to catch in January, but what’s new? Here are a few free exhibitions opening this month:

Don’t forget to check out our listings of Free London Attractions too.

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The Sound of Change Concert at Twickenham Stadium Tue, 04 Jun 2013 10:47:02 +0000 Florence and the Machine Confetti rains down on crowd during concert Beyonce headlines Sound of Change via Twitter @LauraHarper1 @OliviaWestlake @AlexWestlake04

Beyonce ended the European leg of her Mrs Carter tour on Saturday by headlining The Sound of Change. The concert, which saw a stellar line-up of A-list celebrities descend on London, launched the Gucci-founded global campaign Chime for Change.

I was lucky enough to join an audience of 50,000 people to watch the four hour show, which was also broadcast live from Twickenham Stadium to an audience of 1 billion across 150 countries.

Short sets came from a predominantly female line up including surprise act Jessie J, who opened the concert. She was followed by Iggy Azalea, Rita Ora, Laura Pausini, Florence and the Machine, John Legend, Haim and Ellie Goulding, who all performed a selection of their top hits. Jennifer Lopez was joined on stage by Mary J Blige for the Beatles classic Come Together. Timbaland was also joined on stage by another surprise act, Duran Duran’s Simon Le Bon.

Each act was interspersed with moving and inspirational short films, introduced by a line-up of presenters as impressive as the musical one, including James Franco, Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Jada Pinkett Smith and Madonna. The hard hitting films presented the audience with statistics and highlighted issues and real life experiences.

What better and more fitting way to end an extraordinary event than with Chime for Change co-founder Beyonce. She opened with Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come, followed by Etta James’ At Last. Her empowering songs included Run the World (Girls), Destiny’s Child hit Survivor and If I were a Boy. She also performed a haunting rendition of the late Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You which lead into Halo. A highlight for me and considering the response, the whole audience, was when she was joined on stage by rapper husband Jay Z during Crazy in Love.

Co-founders Salma Hayek, Gucci’s creative director Frida Giannini and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, were joined by the biggest stars in the world right now to support an amazing cause. Chime for Change campaigns for education, health and justice “for every girl, every woman, everywhere” and the Sound of Change is its first event. The sell-out concert is expected to fund at least 120 projects in more than 70 countries from ticket sales alone. In a world first, ticket buyers could choose which project to fund and 100% of their money would go straight to the non-profit organisations.

Ellie was a guest of Freud.

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Malaysia Night in London 2012 Mon, 08 Oct 2012 09:15:49 +0000 dragon Ladies on a bench Dignitaries opening the night by cutting the ribbon Musicians with traditional Malaysian instruments Preparing delicious Malaysian food Dancers on stage Traditional curries and noodle dishes Yummy! A couple in ceremonial dress

Last Friday, London was treated to a tantalising glimpse of the exotic at the third annual Malaysia Night in Trafalgar Square. The event, which attracted thousands of people despite the rain, demonstrated the huge variety of Malaysia’s culture and provided a spectacular start to London’s 2012 Malaysia Week.

The event was officially opened by a group of Malaysian luminaries, including Dr Wong Lai Sum, Dr Syed Kamal and renowned shoe designer Jimmy Choo. Speaking at the event, member of the London Assembly James Cleverly pointed out that ‘Malaysia has a huge affinity with London’, explaining that the city’s diversity is an important factor in the close links between the two locations.

After the dignitaries cut the huge ribbon on stage, London was treated to spectacular entertainment that included colourfully-attired dancers, a spellbinding fashion show and haunting melodies from musicians using traditional Malaysian instruments. Around the square, stalls representing London’s best Malaysian restaurants sizzled with freshly cooked delights that ranged from traditional curries to sumptuously plump Malaysian pancakes.

Fortunately for those now hooked on Malaysia’s many delights, the South Bank is hosting Malaysia Week from now until 10 October. Here you’ll  find cultural exhibitions, traditional board games and, of course, the country’s delicious cuisine. As those who attended Malaysia Night will attest, the wealth of what’s on offer will even make you forget it’s raining!

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London Pleasure Gardens Take Shape Wed, 13 Jun 2012 08:55:53 +0000

When Victorian Londoners craved some cultural stimulation and a little mischief, they could head to the city’s opulent pleasure gardens to find it. Those long-faded entertainment destinations are about to be resurrected, with the launch of London Pleasure Gardens on 30 June.

Pontoon Dock, a derelict site in east London is currently being transformed into a pop-up cultural centre that can hold 35,000 people, with venues for music, dance, arts and theatre as well as a floating cocktail lounge, a hotel and restaurant, a nature reserve and sculpture gardens.

The Creative Team

The idea for London Pleasure Gardens won the Meanwhile London competition to find uses for London’s wasted spaces before they are permanently redeveloped. The creative team behind the initiative have worked on projects like Glastonbury’s futuristic Shangri-La, the field where a night-time dystopia of clubs, costumes and theatrics unfold after the festival’s music stages close.

One of the directors is Garfield Hackett, the man behind east London’s counter culture art movement, Mutate Britain. He says London Pleasure Gardens will bring “the kind of urban leisure environment not seen in the city since the great pleasure gardens of the Georgian and Victorian periods.”

“We’re going to have beautiful structures, amazing art, places to chill out and all kinds of cultural adventures for those who want them. Our backgrounds in the guerrilla entertainment world mean we’ll be bringing lots of names and faces you really couldn’t see elsewhere.”

Coming Up at London Pleasure Gardens

The pleasure gardens have already signed up major events like Bloc 2012 and BT River of Music. For the Olympics it will put on a programme of entertainment ranging from big screen sports to cabaret, circus and comedy, in what Hackett affectionately calls “an environment of beautiful madness.”

Building work is well underway to create the site before the opening night on 30 June. “Over the next couple of weeks anyone passing by is going to see some cool structures going up and confront a stream of workers, artists, designers, architects, food and drinks co-ordinators and more heading in and out,” says Hackett.

“We’re right on schedule at the moment, though the pop-up nature of the site means it still isn’t looking finished. At the minute, it looks like a butterfly half out of the chrysalis, or, less poetically, like somewhere that is going to be pretty unbelievable in a couple of weeks time.”

London Pleasure Gardens opens with the Paradise Gardens Festival, 30 June to 1 July. Entry is free.

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El Salvador in London: Musician Henry Bran Thu, 22 Dec 2011 12:00:43 +0000 Singer-songwriter Henry Bran was born in El Salvador but has lived in London since the 1980s. Here he is performing at London’s Bolivar Hall  in 2010.

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Rihanna Joins Diva Dream Team at Madame Tussauds Mon, 03 Oct 2011 15:00:08 +0000

Madame Tussauds have a new wax figure this October: R&B star, Rihanna.

The singer’s likeness takes centre stage in the attraction’s interactive Music Zone alongside female performers including:        

  • Kylie Minogue
  • Britney Spears
  • Lady Gaga
  • Amy Winehouse

The sexy singer is captured in the sleek style she wore for her X Factor duet with last year’s winner Matt Cardle; a fitted black dress, slit to the hip, with bright cherry-red hair.

“We are thrilled to welcome Rihanna to Madame Tussauds London,” said Liz Edwards, PR Manager at the attraction. “Her inclusion couldn’t be more timely as her Loud tour arrives in the capital this week. We are sure she will hit the right note with our guests as demand for her figure has been huge since her appearance on The X Factor 2010. Rihanna is one of the biggest music stars of the moment and is a perfect addition to the diva dream team of female artists we have here at the attraction.”

Read more about Madame Tussauds and book tickets here; and there’s more information about Rihanna’s Loud tour here

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Free Music Concert from The Monument: This Weekend Wed, 28 Sep 2011 14:30:38 +0000 The MonumentFor the first time ever this weekend, The Monument in the City of London will host a concert.

The free concert is being put on by Live Music Sculpture on Saturday and Sunday, 1 and 2 October.

If you’re around this weekend, look out for five musicians, including a soprano, positioned inside the four large alcoves and at the bottom of the stairs in The Monument.

The creator of the event, Samuel Bordoli, is a multi-award winning composer and musician. He’s composing a 15-minute piece, called Monument which will be played at regular intervals throughout the two days.

Samuel said, “I had been looking to do something different with acoustics for quite some time and on visiting the Monument last year I realised it was the perfect place to develop my ideas.

“Working with the building’s acoustical properties, we will be able to create sounds and musical effects which would be impossible to achieve anywhere else. This will be a truly historical event, and Live Music Sculpture will be the first people ever to have composed music for, and perform, in this magnificent structure. This [is] the first piece of music composed for a vertical space/column, an act which, as far as we are aware, is unprecedented.”

Visit to find out more about The Monument

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Win Tickets to See Elton John Live Thu, 07 Jul 2011 09:14:14 +0000 Enter our competition to win tickets to see megastar Elton John live at Magic Summer Live.

You and a friend can enjoy a perfect summer afternoon at Hatfield House, experiencing live music in beautiful surroundings.

As well as Elton John, the line-up includes Rumer, The Pierces, The Lighthouse Family and The Overtones. There’ll also be a West End Stage where you can see excerpts from you favourite West End Shows including Billy Elliot, Wicked and Jersey Boys.

We’ve got fifteen pairs of tickets to Magic Summer Live to give away. Enter now (and hurry, competition closes 10 July 2011).

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Two Boys at The ENO Tue, 28 Jun 2011 12:47:44 +0000

The English National Opera (ENO) are currently staging Two Boys, a new opera from talented young musician and composer Nico Muhley with librettist Craig Lucas.

The story is loosely inspired by actual events.  We watch Inspector Anne Strawson as she struggles to find 13 year old Jake’s killer.

There is one obvious lead – a teenage boy caught on CCTV leaving the murder scene, and yet as the narrative unfurls it seems there is more to this crime than the obvious facts. To discover the truth, Detective Strawson must delve into a menacing cyberworld of internet sites and chatrooms.

Two Boys kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. The clever storytelling, with tiny clues revealed throughout, left me desperately trying to solve the murder mystery myself; it was completely engaging and captivating.

Muhley’s score is enchanting – spooky and beautiful, imaginative and aggressive, and I found it heartbreakingly moving. Vocally, I enjoyed the chorus moments best: massive, grand, multi-layered writing that conveys the overwhelming reach of the internet.

Bartlett Sher’s staging is beautifully realised through Michael Yeargan’s designs, a set that really adds to the production. The large chorus stand illuminated eerily at the back while other characters are elevated in darkly lit towers across the front of the stage – it is oddly magical and otherworldly.

Nico Muhley’s new creation is an operatic masterpiece that will stun audiences.

Two Boys at The ENO until 8 July 2011

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