50 artists you must see before you die

Kate Bush

The Bexleyheath CBE’s one and only tour – The Tour Of Life – ended at Hammersmith Odeon on 14 May 1979. Since then Kate Bush has barely shown her face in public, with her last live appearance coming in 2002, with Dave Gilmour at the Royal Festival Hall. The lavish Tour Of Life shows had been too much but, come on Kate, we’d accept something a bit more stripped down.

Tom Waits

Gravel-toned freak-blues crooner Tom Waits hasn’t put in a real shift since 2008’s Glitter And Doom Tour, so his public’s getting itchy. But he’s never quiet for long and a follow-up to 2011’s ‘Bad As Me’ album can be expected in the next 12 months. If an accompanying tour can match up to 1988’s ‘Big Time’ live album then it’s worth the wait.

David Bowie

David Bowie‘s always been big on retirements, from the laying to rest of Ziggy Stardust in 1973 to his more recent retraction from the limelight. He’s not performed since a New York charity gig in 2006 but his surprise return – and some hints from wife Iman and band members – suggests we may yet get a chance to see the Dame again.


Little Richard

As NME writer Leonie Cooper says of Little Richard, “Without this curly-quiffed icon there would be no Elvis. No David Bowie. No Tina Turner. No Rolling Stones. No Prince.” She saw the 80-year-old perform at a rockabilly festival in Las Vegas, so if you can do a bit of sleuthing, you might find him too.

The Rolling Stones

All you need is an unimaginable amount of cash and you can see The Rolling Stones whenever you like, no worries. This summer they’ll be reprising their legendary Hyde Park gig – the first of which saw Mick Jagger releasing butterflies in memory of the recently deceased Brian Jones – and of course tearing it up at Glastonbury.




You’re hard-pressed avoiding a Blur show these days now they’re fully back in the flow after their reunion. What felt like a tearful one-off at Glastonbury in 2009 just turned out to be the first of a few landmark gigs – and they’re doing it all again at Coachella right now.


Rage Against The Machine

Rage Against The Machine still exist – just about – but right now only to promote the ‘XX’ deluxe reissue of their debut. Recently Tom Morello has said that RATM may never play live again, but the band’s refusal to definitively call it a day prompts hope. Their 2010 shows at Finsbury Park and Download were colossal.

Fiona Apple

Somewhat un-prolific US singer-songwriter Fiona Apple was doing the touring rounds last year in support of fourth album in 16 years ‘The Idler Wheel…’ until her pet dog fell ill, so it may be a while before she’s on the road again. She’s a captivating performer though, so beg, steal or borrow when the opportunity comes up.

The Strokes

You might not manage the holy grail of seeing The Strokes at their natural alma mater CBGB’s but, despite persistent rumours of internecine stress, the New Yorkers are still together and still likely to come to a scuffed-up venue near you. Not right now though. They’re a bit sulky about something.

Talking Heads

We could just make do with the extraordinary Stop Making Sense document of their run of gigs at Hollywood’s Pantages Theater in 1983, but nothing would quite match up to a full Talking Heads reunion. There’s a small issue in Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison not really liking David Byrne (and vice versa) but time heals, right?


Nine Inch Nails

Uncompromising, industrial, dressed in black – just three of the epithets you can hurl at Trent Reznor. His Nine Inch Nails project took a breather for a few years, but Reznor’s geared things up a bit and promises a new album and tour dates including this year’s Reading and Leeds Festival.


Brian Molko and Placebo pals deliver an assured, if oddly sleazy, show – that’s their overriding shtick after all and we’d feel too clean with anything else – and they’ve got their noses to the grindstone now after a quiet couple of years. New album vaguely imminent, tour to follow?

Massive Attack

Bristol’s hip-hop noir wizards Massive Attack have been quiet on the gig front recently, but made their name in the late 80s/early 90s with their hammering soundsystems and heavyweight take on British soul music. They’re back on stage in July at the Manchester International Festival playing a series of dates in conjunction with filmmaker Adam Curtis.

The Specials

Is it still The Specials without Jerry Dammers? He was always the creative impetus but on stage it’s about Terry Hall and Lynval Golding (but not Neville Staple this time around), and their ska force is undiminished. You can catch the latest incarnation of The Specials in some familiar haunts this May.

Laura Marling

Typically, Laura Marling is an accomplished performer beyond her endlessly mentioned tender years – oops, there we go again – and, with fourth album ‘Once I Was An Eagle’ coming out on 27 May, you can expect to catch her some time this summer either on her own tour or on the festival circuit where she’s always a big draw.

Depeche Mode

Depeche Mode

Basildon synth-poppers turned electro-rock freaks Depeche Mode are right back on song with new album ‘Delta Machine’ and out on the road again. Live, they’re unmissable, capable of subjecting entire arenas to their whim – and you can find out how at London’s O2 Arena at the end of May.


Like the Stones – but, well, not much like the Stones – Radiohead are one of those bands you have to see at some point. Balancing the epic and the intimate, they can have the vast fields of Glastonbury and the echoing halls of Earls Court eating out of their hand. And they even play ‘Creep’ sometimes.

The White Stripes

One of the trickier Bucket List propositions, what with The White Stripes not being a going concern anymore – but Jack and Meg don’t hate each other, do they? Their thrilling, brutal live act will always be a massive draw if they ever fancied teaming up again. Plenty of time for that though.

The Cure

It’s a religious experience, seeing The Cure. If your god’s wracked with angst and smeared with poorly positioned lipstick, that is. Captain Bobcat and the gang have been at this business for decades and combine the crushing doom and airy novelty with implausible aplomb. They’re currently pulling off 3-hour-plus shows in South America so get on that plane.

My Bloody Valentine

If you want to tick My Bloody Valentine off your bucket list, get yourself to T In The Park this summer where they’ve just been added to the bill. Otherwise they’re generally pretty active now for a band that went so far off the radar their bleep wasn’t heard for more than a decade. No problems with hearing them now – earplugs are provided at all gigs if it gets too much.

The Who

Some old boys are just never gonna stop – and while Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend still have fire in their impossibly trim bellies, why should they? As with the Stones, seeing The Who live is one of the few genuine rock’n’roll experiences still going and, as the care homes beckon, they’ve still got it. Luckily for you, they’re off on a comprehensive UK tour in June.


Eminem‘s position on the bucket list is shaky or secure depending on his present retirement situation. Right now he’s in the game, so if you need to get him under your belt you could do worse than get yourself to Reading and Leeds to catch the intense, witty rhymesman in still-vital action.

Fleetwood Mac

Exactly who wouldn’t want to see Fleetwood Mac? We’ll never witness them in powder-hoovering, multi-million-shifting heyday when it was a shock if they stumbled onto the stage without splitting up, but they’ve still got the chops and the charisma to play the teetering pile of hits and – yes – they’ll be doing so across the country this September.


She might be all about multimedia ‘experiences’ these days but Björk‘s still an essential and beguiling live draw, combining dance, literally blinding costumes and, naturally, those octave-defying vocals. She’s out and about in various spots across the globe this summer so keep ’em peeled.

Queens Of The Stone Age

Queens Of The Stone Age

Whoever turns up onstage with Queens Of The Stone Age, whether it’s Dave Grohl, Mark Lanegan, Nick Oliveri or just Josh Homme on his own, naked and playing the bongos, you’re guaranteed to see a head-meltingly heavy and direct rock’n’roll show.


German electronic pioneers Kraftwerk‘s recent shows at the Tate Modern crashed the ticket website in seconds. The shows themselves proved why: as 3D graphics and immersive soundscapes made up for the lack of physical activity onstage.


There’s a reason AC/DC are one of the highest grossing bands of all time, and it’s not because people like watching a grown man dress up as a small school boy. AC/DC, for rocking all these years, we salute you.

The Roots

They’re not just the house band on Jimmy Fallon, you know? The Roots have a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s hottest live hip-hop bands, and not just because ?uestlove’s hair has to be seen to be believed.

Nick Cave

Since learning his trade and earning his first waves of notoriety as the scarecrow-haired frontman of The Birthday Party, Nick Cave has continued to startle and terrify audiences in equal measure with the Bad Seeds and Grinderman.

Lou Reed

Lou Reed

Famously cheerful and fun-loving former Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed has a predictably patchy live record. When he’s not in the mood he can be irascible, and he’s not exactly going to take requests at the best of times, but when he’s on form and backed by some of the best session musicians in the world then a walk on the wild side is guaranteed.

Arcade Fire

As comfortable playing tiny secret shows under an assumed name as headlining festivals, Arcade Fire‘s huge lineup and fearless attitude makes for unforgettable live shows.

Dr Dre

Thanks to hologram Tupac, his set at Coachella last year was all anyone could talk about for months afterwards. The truth is, though, that Dr Dre‘s lyrical prowess and truckload of Grade A tunes from NWA onwards make his live shows true rap masterclasses.

Kanye West

Is he the messiah or just a very naughty boy? Kanye West‘s live shows are predictably unpredictable, but while you won’t know exactly what’s in store there are two things that you can bank on: it’s going to be entertaining, and at some point he’s going to wear a leather skirt.

Foo Fighters

Dave Grohl is now known more for rocking stadiums than drumming in Nirvana, and with good reason. For the full Foo Fighters experience, best to see him onstage at Reading Festival: as they proved headlining last year, that place is their spiritual home.

The xx

The xx‘s brand of brooding atmospherics and monochrome stagewear doesn’t exactly make for a classic rock-show, but something about their haunting performances and stunning light shows makes them favourites around the world.

The Time

The Time

Originally put together by Prince as an outlet for his pop-funk material while his own releases grew more experimental, The Time soon stepped out of the Purple One’s tiny shadow to become respected as world class performers in their own right. They now tour under the name ‘The Original 7ven’.


Will any of us live to see a Smiths reunion? It seems unlikely, yet nothing is ever entirely predictable in the world of Morrissey and Marr. Every year that passes seems to add another ‘0’ to the end of their potential pay cheque, but until then both have included Smiths songs in their solo live sets.



These days they might enjoy nothing more then throwing barbs at each other across the Twittersphere, but surely it’s only a matter of time before the Gallaghers’ sibling bond overcomes their wibbling rivalry and Oasis return to straddle the planet?


Dre on his own is one (awesome) thing, but a reformed NWA would be quite another. Founding member Eazy-E died in 1995, but with Tupac’s hologram proving such a hit maybe that isn’t the barrier it might once have been?


People still share war stories about Libertines gigs, their eyes misting over at memories of Carl and Pete’s angelic vocal interplay and brotherly sharing of the mic – and the sheer ramshackle state of their performances. Right now they’re not together but, barring a meteoric rise of the reactivated Babyshambles, they will be again.

The Beatles

Um, sure, we’d all like to see The Beatles back in action but they’ve not toured since 1966, have split up and, you know, two of them are no longer with us. Back in the day it was hard to tell if they were any good, what with all the screaming, but accounts of their early gigs suggest a fiery, rocking proposition. Sniff.


Jamiroquai? Really? Well, there’s no doubt Jay Kay’s a consummate performer but he does have the tendency to embark on half-hour jazz-scat routines. Still, there’s always the bar. Stick around though and you’ll be treated to the acid jazz awesomeness of ‘When You Gonna Learn?’ and ‘Virtual Insanity”. Shoo-be-doo-wop.

Daft Punk

Right this very second this is the one we all want, but there are no concrete plans for a Daft Punk show for the foreseeable. Mind you, they’re springing a surprise a day, so you may get a chance to see the disco robots this year – with Nile Rodgers and Pharrell in tow? We’re praying to the sci-fi gods.


Naturally, JLS occupy a hallowed spot on any right-thinking music lover’s bucket list. The routines! The hats! The machine-tooled pop R&B that was simply too amazing to win ‘The X Factor’! But, as with The Beatles, all that beauty’s in danger of being overwhelmed by screaming kids.



Time was, this was just a distant dream, as likely as a new My Bloody Valentine album. But, coincidence upon coincidence, not only have MBV returned but B*Witched are back in the fray too, thanks to ITV’s ‘The Big Reunion’. Yep, thanks.

Palma Violets

Palma Violets

Those miniature parties/gigs could well be behind Palma Violets now that they’re out Best New Band and progenitors of last year’s finest single ‘Best Of Friends’. But we’re sure they’re not too big-potatoes to put on a thrilling show, and countless festivals this summer will rock to their breakneck verve.

John Mayer

Dreamy modern bluesman John Mayer is back after an extended break and soon embarking on a stamina-challenging tour of his native US. It’s accomplished musicianship that makes Mayer such a huge draw, plus the promise of some head-turning collaborations.


Ke$ha may never turn out to be the pop star her eye-watering image suggests, but one thing’s certain if you turn up at one of her shows – you’ll be spitting glitter for weeks. That, and you might see her scrapping with her band and dancing with drag queens. It’s a night out.

Jamie T

So where the blazes is Jamie T? It’s been three-and-a-half years since the Wimbledon punk/hip-hop/you-name-it troubadour released second album ‘Kings & Queens’ and he’s been uncharacteristically silent. A guest appearance on a Tim Timebomb track at the start of the year hints he might be stirring – perhaps we’ll see his livewire act again soon.