Summer 2017's hottest pop: with Guns N’ Roses, Nas, Haim, KLF, Eminem and PJ Harvey

Haim ride a sun-kissed wave, MIA raves into Meltdown, Axl Rose does the unthinkable, PJ Harvey pulls on her feathers, Jarvis Cocker reimagines Hollywood – and the KLF write a book

• Summer arts preview 2017: Classical | TV | Comedy | Film | Theatre

Guns N’ Roses

The reformed Slash/Axl Rose/Duff McKagan lineup – once mired in such acrimony that the thought of them sharing a stage was the stuff of hell-freezes-over impossibility – fetch up in London. The reunion tour arrives trailing rave reviews and ecstatic testimony from Guns N’ Roses diehards, a subsection of rock fandom who have put up with a great deal over the past 15 years. One US writer even reported that the unthinkable had happened and that the notoriously tardy Rose had actually come on stage early.
• 16-17 June, London Stadium.

Awful Records Club Night

MIA’s curation of this year’s Meltdown festival has proved controversial in some quarters, less for her decision to host a speech from Julian Assange – the WikiLeaks founder will appear via live link – than for the apparently wilful obscurity of many of her choices. There’s surely something splendidly incongruous about the venerable Royal Festival Hall hosting a three-hour rave curated by alternative Atlanta hip-hop label Awful. Label founder Father and KeithCharles headline, Night Slugs’ Bok Bok is among the UK contributors.
• 16 June, Royal Festival Hall, London. Box office: 020-3879 9555.

Meltdown moments … MIA. Photograph: Andrew Woffinden/The Observer

Jeff Lynne’s ELO

One of the most warmly received musical returns of recent years was thanks to Jeff Lynne’s decision to start recording under the Electric Light Orchestra name for the first time in 13 years, and – perhaps more importantly – to resuscitate the name for live shows for the first time since 1986. That the only other member onstage from the band’s multi-platinum heyday is keyboardist Richard Tandy scarcely matters – the sheer quantity of beloved hits they turn out on stage seems to compensate.
• 24 June, Wembley Stadium, London. Box office: 0800 783 1440.


A year on from his first UK appearance and fresh from a guest spot on the recent Gorillaz album Humanz, the current reigning champion of Jamaican dancehall returns for a brief tour. His “singjay” style straddles dancehall and pop, while his influence on R&B was underlined when he collaborated with Drake on the sessions for the latter’s 2016 album Views.
• 30 June, O2 Institute, Birmingham. Box office: 0121-437 4150. Then touring.

Haim: Something to Tell You

Este, Alana and Danielle Haim
Fearless … Este, Alana and Danielle Haim. Photograph: PR Company Handout

The Californian trio’s debut album, Days Are Gone, was a critical and commercial success: a fusion of smart pop songwriting, lush vocal harmonies and sun-kissed soft-rock ambience. The follow-up has taken four years to appear: a risky move in an ever-changeable pop climate. The Haim siblings claim its contents – produced by the Adele, Madonna and Beyoncé collaborator Ariel Rechtshaid – will be “modern, fearless and exciting”. Whether it turns them into stars on the same level as their pal Taylor Swift remains to be seen.
7 July, Polydor Records.


It’s five years since Nas last released an album – Life Is Good was his attempt at a hip-hop equivalent of Marvin Gaye’s divorce album Here, My Dear, replete with the rapper posing on the cover with his former wife’s wedding dress – but his reputation, founded on his 1994 debut album Illmatic, remains impregnable. He arrives in the UK for a brief tour, his first since a series of collaborative dates with Bob Marley’s son Jr Gong.
• 10 July, Mountford Hall, Liverpool Guild of Students, Liverpool. Then touring.


Listen to Warpaint: New Song

Somerset House remains one of the most atmospheric outdoor venues in the UK. Assuming the weather’s fine, its courtyard should be the perfect setting for Los Angeles quartet Warpaint to purvey their equally distinctive brand of gently psychedelic alt-rock.
• 10 July, Somerset House, London. Box office: 0844 847 2461.

Farr festival

A keenly curated three-day festival held in the middle of some Hertfordshire woods, with the emphasis very clearly on dance music: big names including Todd Terje, Booka Shade and Floating Points line up alongside veterans including General Levy and Terry Farley. There’s also hip-hop yoga, guided meditation, and – if that seems too spiritual – the prospect of something called Hot Tub Wonderlandia.
• 13-15 July, Bygrave Woods, Hertfordshire.

Lana Del Rey: Lust for Life

And so Lana Del Rey’s fifth studio album hoves into view, apparently offering a musical departure from its predecessor, 2015’s Honeymoon, “while maintaining the same aesthetic”, and featuring collaborations with the Weeknd, Stevie Nicks and Sean Lennon and bearing the influence of 60s girl groups such as the Shangri-Las. Her recent track, the mind-blowingly titled Coachella – Woodstock in My Mind, in which she considers the state of the world while watching the “children” in the audience at the California festival, may indicate a new, socially conscious direction.
• 21 July, Polydor/Interscope.

Arcade Fire: Everything Now

Arcade Fire’s fifth album was trailed by the appearance of a Twitter account designed to look like a Russian spambot and the release of the title track, improbably co-produced by Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk and Pulp bassist Steve Mackey and featuring a distinct disco influence. The general consensus seemed to be that it sounded not unlike Abba’s Dancing Queen or Saturday Night Fever-era Bee Gees. Whether the song is an indication of a new direction, or a one-off aberration remains to be seen.
• 28 July, Columbia Records. PJ Harvey

PJ Harvey’s most recent album, 2016’s The Hope Six Demolition Project, was raucous and controversial: it offered short, sharp, political songs inspired by visits to Afghanistan, Kosovo and the grimmer parts of Washington DC. Subsequent live shows proved as uncompromising as ever – stark lighting, a setlist big on the new album but light on hits from her back catalogue, and Harvey playing saxophone while wearing an extraordinary feathered headpiece. These two Edinburgh international festival shows should prove intriguing.
• 7-8 August, Playhouse, Edinburgh. Box office: 0131-473 2000.

Sunfall festival

the Black Madonna.
Sunfall roster … the Black Madonna. Photograph: Aldo Paredes

A “festival of two halves”, Sunfall features cutting-edge dance music in Brockwell Park, south London, during the day – DJs include the Black Madonna, Ben UFO and Jackmaster, as well as rapper Madlib and jazz-funk veteran Roy Ayers live – followed by a selection of club nights in the evening. Depending on which ticket you buy, you can choose from disco, drum’n’bass or post-dubstep experimentalism as your nocturnal soundtrack.
• 12 August, Brockwell Park, London, and various venues.

Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales

Cocker and pianist Chilly Gonzales’ attempt to bring their recent concept album Room 29 to life on stage sounds fascinating. Based on the imagined history of a room at the fabled Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles, where guests including Marilyn Monroe and Howard Hughes once slept, it involves “dance, theatrics, clips from classic Hollywood movies and plenty more” along with music.
• 22-24 August, King’s theatre, Edinburgh. Box office: 0131-473 2000.

2023: A Trilogy by the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu

Perhaps the most unexpected title among 2017’s crop of music-related books is the mysterious 2023, a “utopian costume drama, set in the near future, written in the recent past” by Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty, better known as the KLF. The mythic status of their late 80s/early 90s assault on the pop charts means the first work the pair have collaborated on for 23 years is eagerly awaited, but frankly, God knows what it’s going to be like.
• 23 August, Faber and Faber.

Deap Vally

Deap Vally … scuzzy blues-rock for a Fluffer pit party
Deap Vally … scuzzy blues-rock for a Fluffer pit party Photograph: Eleonora Collini

The Fluffer Pit Parties are an intriguing-sounding attempt to inject excitement into the business of going to gigs: they take place in secret warehouse locations around east London, where the bands play in the round in the middle of the crowd. The videos of past events look suitably raucous, an environment that should suit scuzzy LA blues-rock duo Deap Vally perfectly.
• 23 August, Hackney (secret location), London.

Eminem/Run the Jewels/Danny Brown

The headlining show of Glasgow’s Summer Sessions event offers a strong hip-hop bill. Eminem will presumably be debuting some material from his long-awaited forthcoming album – which, rumour has it, features guest appearances by everyone from Adele to Chance the Rapper. He’ll be supported by perennially acclaimed duo Run the Jewels, and his fellow Detroit native Danny Brown, the latter riding high on the rave reviews accorded to his impressively expansive 2016 album Atrocity Exhibition.
• 24 August, Bellahouston Park, Glasgow.

The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding

The follow-up to War on Drugs’ 2014 breakthrough Lost in the Dream – acclaimed for its sprawling, psychedelic take on Bruce Springsteen-esque rock anthemics – has apparently involved “endless hours” of recording on the part of frontman Adam Granduciel and bandmates. The first track to be released from it, the six-minute long Holding On, suggested a refinement of Lost in the Dream’s sonic blueprint rather than a radical departure.
25 August, Atlantic Records.

Lockdown festival

Grime lineup for Lockdown … Wiley.
Grime lineup for Lockdown … Wiley. Photograph: Joseph Okpako/WireImage

Anyone requiring further evidence of grime’s leading position in UK pop culture might consider the lineup of this three-day festival, which British rappers almost entirely dominate. Wiley, Giggs, Dizzee Rascal, Lady Leshurr and Big Narstie are among those performing. There’s also a set from Kurupt FM, the pirate station at the centre of award-winning comedy series People Just Do Nothing.
• 1-3 September, Powderham Castle, near Exeter.

The National: Sleep Well Beast

The last album by the National, Trouble Will Find Me, snared a Grammy nomination. The first single taken from its follow-up, the snappily titled The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness, seemed as moody and literate as ever, but also bore out frontman Matt Berninger’s suggestion that their seventh album would feature a more electronic influence. They play Glastonbury on 24 June and nine UK dates later in September.
• 8 September, 4AD.

John Legend

Darkness and Light, the 2016 album after which John Legend’s tour is named, was a bold step for an artist best known for the wedding dance soundtracking ballad All of Me. It’s got political lyrics, a guest appearance from Chance the Rapper, and music more experimental than anything else in the singer’s back catalogue. But whether he’s belting out the ballads, covering early 70s soul in the company of the Roots, or essaying some of Darkness and Light’s weirder moments, he remains a compelling live performer.
• 8 September, SSE Hydro, Glasgow. Then touring.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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