Gigs in Central London
The capital has one of the most vibrant music scenes of anywhere in Europe and there are few places in the country that could even claim to match it for diversity. There are music venues and pubs which have live music all over the city, from the north to the south, but it is in Central London where you will find the greatest density of venues. Even the City of London, where there was traditionally very little by way of popular music, has got some live music venues to offer nowadays. Whatever sort of music you are into is catered for in the central part of the capital - be it soul, rock, reggae, pop or salsa. Most of the live music venues also double up as night clubs with a DJ playing once the live bands have finished, but some remain dedicated to live music only.
The West End
The West End of London is famous for its theatrical district, but there is a good choice of places to enjoy live music as well as a show. One of the oldest and best established of these is Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, which is set in a basement on Frith Street in Soho. The musicians who play here are generally of an extremely high quality and often come with an international reputation. Booking in advance is recommended.
Just off Tottenham Court Road, on Manette Street, is the Borderline which has a rich heritage of putting on shows from up-and-coming artists. Here, you'll find anything from indie rock to alternative hardcore. The stage is quite small and has an intimate atmosphere. The bar area is themed like a Mexican ranch and the music usually continues well after the bands have finished performing.
Across the road from the Borderline, on Denmark Street, you'll find London's compact district for musical equipment retailers. Tucked away down an alley is the 12 Bar Club. Here, you can enjoy live music every night of the week, as well as the occasional themed night. So if you are looking for a night with three heavy metal bands on a Tuesday, for instance, it is worth checking their listings.
Gaz's Rockin' Blues is a club night that has been running in London for longer than any other. It always features a live band who will either play soul, ska or sometimes punk. It runs every Thursday evening at the St. Moritx Club which is located on Wardour Street.
Further West, the Ain't Nothin But Blues bar does everything that you might expect from the name. It is just off from Carnaby Street on Kingly Street. Take the tube to Oxford Circus and make your way there for some often brilliant blues singers and musicians.
The Barbican Centre, in the City of London, has occasional live music performances, but these tend to be orchestral rather than modern. Having said that, popular artists from around the world are booked to perform on its large stage from time to time, so check their listings if you are a world music fan.
The Old Blue Last is located just to the north of the capital's financial district. Here you will see many new acts cutting their teeth in the capital for the first time. Many reports are in the music press about new bands and acts who have made their London debuts here.
The Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell is worth a mention, too, but just to the north of the City is Charlie Wright's International Bar which is a bit of a hidden gem. Here you get late night DJs on the weekend but bands take to the modest stage from about 9.30 pm, as well. You often find some exceptionally talented bands here.
Central London is of course also a notable business area, so if that's where you head during the day, take the opportunity to combine work and play.