Live Music

The power of live music to make folks feel good is on full display at a host of London night clubs. If listening to bands and vocalists show off their skills is how you like to spend an evening, you'll find that London does things right. Multiple options let you tap into the venues that 10Best readers favor, like Cargo, or you can get a taste of the city's offerings by visiting places like Roundhouse, which is known for its Piano music. While many venues on the local music scene are clustered in the Soho area, know that terrific places to hear live music can be found throughout London.


Camden Town

Known as one of the north side's best nightspots, Jazz Café books both established performers and promising up-and-comers each week. Young professionals and more "experienced" aficionados make up the crowd, although seating can be a little snug when a big name is fronting – but what more can you ask? Food is served in the balcony overlooking the stage. Take note, however, that dining reservations are essential. TUBE: Camden Town

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One of the hippest joints along Brick Lane, 93 Feet is a laid-back club space and watering hole where fashionable 20- and 30-somethings gather post-work to mingle, cocktails in tow. The eclectic decor differs from room to room: shades of pink bathe the loungey Terrace Bar, the Ground Floor Bar is marked by deep red walls and stained wood accents, the industrialized Music Hall features exposed ductwork, state-of-the-art sound, and a groovy shade of purple, and even a large courtyard for al fresco pursuits. The place isn't just "all show," either, thanks to a mix of talent, from professional DJs to live punk and alt-rock acts. TUBE: Aldgate East

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If you're in Soho, it's late, AND you have an uncontrollable urge to hear great live jazz, blues or soul, chances are this groovy cocktail lounge is right up your alley. Popular with 20-somethings who appreciate the sweet sounds of improvisational music, Jazz After Dark has developed a more upbeat - and more youthful - attitude that distinguishes it from its more reserved (and dimly lit) elders. If you want to be sure of a table, reservations are suggested. TUBE: Tottenham Court Road

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Cargo is most definitely a new Millennium club. It was founded in 2000 and has been going from strength to strength since then. It has bars, restaurants, roof terraces and a big club area. Built into existing railway arches it caters for everyone and hosts both live music and DJ nights. Finally, the performance area boasts one of the loudest sound systems in town and has been declared a top live-music venue by several local rags. Always packed, Cargo brings in a varied lineup of bands each week, from unsigned jam bands to established local rockers. TUBE: Old Street/Liverpool Street

Local Expert tip: Cargo has a bit of everything, if you want to eat, drink, and be merry. And a great outside terrace for the summer During big football tournaments they put up big screens so you can watch the games and party at the same time.

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This busy bar serves a healthy repertoire of traditional Scottish fare and nightly doses of live jazz. Dressed in the garb of a country pub – hardwood floors, oak paneling, tartan-inspired reds and greens, oil paintings – Boisdale pulls in folks from all walks of life. You can meet some real characters here – it is, after all, the politicos' hideaway of choice. When it's nice out, enjoy evening food and drink in the Courtyard Garden, which has a retractable roof. Each night, guests are treated to the cool, impromptu music of the Boisdale Blue Rhythm Band. TUBE: Victoria

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Now in the rock'n'roll phase of its long and colorful life (it opened in 1929 and has been a cinema and a burlesque hall), this is probably the city's most prestigious rock venue. Wow them at the Academy, and a band has arrived on a national level. In fact, it's said that all groups of note play here at least twice – once on their way up and once on their way down – so try to catch them on their first visit. This is the only venue in London where it's possible to drive a car from the street directly onto the stage (we'd recommend OK'ing this with the management before you try). TUBE: Brixton

Local Expert tip: Brixton is full of great places to go out. The Academy is just for starters with the bigger name bands and DJs, then there are some great old time dance halls, pubs, clubs and special one off nighters. You'll never be bored in Brixton.

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Sure, Oxford Street's 100 Club has a few gray hairs. But, after hosting performances by Muddy Waters, the Stones, the Sex Pistols, Metallica, The Clash, and Oasis – all in their prime – what club wouldn't start to show a little mileage? Make no mistake, though: the joint still rocks with the best of them! Regarded as one of Soho's leading live music venue since the 1940s (when it opened as a jazz joint), today the 100 Club's is among the loudest sound systems in the UK. Needless to say, the place continues to draw the big names in popular and cutting-edge music and is a must for any music fan. TUBE: Tottenham Court Road

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The Shepherd's Bush Empire has been a live music venue for over 100 years. Originally designed as a music hall and theatre, the plush red velvet and gold gilt bring a strange theatricality to all shows here. The capacity is 2000, but performers love this place for its intimate feeling, where they can get up close and personal with their fans. It's a favoured stop on many touring circuits and its eclectic mix of performers and performances brings in a varied and fun crowd.

Local Expert tip: Under 14s must be accompanied by an adult for all live music events. Club nights are for strictly over 18s only.

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Camden Town

Despite having been extensively renovated since the days in the 1960s when it was London's swinging centre of psychedelia, the Roundhouse positively reverberates with history. it's still one of the capital's key venues and no band worth its salt hits London without playing here. The building's 21st-century incarnation has complemented its rock facilities with an impressive multimedia performing arts centre for young people called The Roundhouse Studios. TUBE: Chalk Farm

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The Wigmore Hall was built in 1901 by the German piano manufacturer Bechstein who had their showroom next door. The hall was designed in a renaissance style; grand enough to impress and small enough to hold intimate recitals. It has become since then, one of the most important live music venues in London. The hall holds more than 400 concerts a year, and once a week, one of its concerts is broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. It now has its own in house composer, and holds an international song competition amongst its many themed evenings.

Local Expert tip: In recent years, the hall has done a lot to appeal to a broader audience. Check website for upcoming events, but it's worth knowing they hold all sorts of live music from chamber, through classical to modern compositions, and even have days for 2-3 year olds called 'Chamber Tots'.

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