The most legendary "secret" gigs

3 August 2023, 12:00

Secret giggers: Foo Fighters, Sex Pistols and The Killers
Secret giggers: Foo Fighters, Sex Pistols and The Killers. Picture: Kyle Gustafson/For The Washington Post/Brian Cooke/Redferns/Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty

Gigs are back! And is there anything more exciting than a surprise gig?

Some of the biggest acts in the world have played secret sets and, if you're very lucky, you might just catch one. Wish you were at any of these?

  1. Metallica at the 100 Club, 1987

    On 22 August 1987, Metallica were booked to play the huge Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington, which would see Bon Jovi headline. Two days earlier, the band warmed up with an epic show at the incredibly tiny 100 Club in London's Oxford Street. It was a difficult time for the band - they'd only recently lost their bassist Cliff Burton in an accident and James Hetfield had broken his wrist a couple of months earlier, but they blasted out a 16-song set that included plenty of covers of British metal classics.

    And Metallica did it again - in 2003, Download Festival was being headlined by Iron Maiden and Audioslave, but Metallica swooped in and stole the show by playing on Sunday afternoon.

    Metallica - Live at 100 Club, London, England (1987) [Secret Gig] [Full show]

  2. Foo Fighters Take The UK Unawares

    In the run up to the release of Sonic Highways in 2014, Foo Fighters sent the UK into meltdown by posting a series of cryptic messages online, claiming they would perform some secret shows at tiny venues. They ended up playing a string of guerrilla gigs around the UK, including a show at Brighton's Concorde 2 and the American Embassy in the presence of Prince Harry!

    Foo Fighters/The Holy Shits 'White Limo' in Brighton, U.K. September 10, 2014.

  3. The Killers at The Garage, 2013

    After performing at Wembey Stadium on 22 June 2013, the Las Vegas lads took a fast car to Islington to play a brisk 40 minute set of rarities and fan favourites at the tiny venue, The Garage. Tracks included a cover of I Think We're Alone Now and the Hot Fuss favourite Glamororus Indie Rock 'N' Roll.

    The Killers - Indie Rock & Roll @ The Garage London [22/06/2013]

  4. Sex Pistols On The Thames

    In June 1977 The Sex Pistols celebrated the Queen's Silver Jubilee in true style - by grabbing a load of fans and jumping on a boat. The band sailed down the Thames and, as they reached the Houses Of Parliament, performed Anarchy In The UK. The police, inevitably, intervened.

    The Sex Pistols - God Save The Queen - on the river Thames

  5. R.E.M. As "Bingo Hand Job" At The Borderline

    Posing under the slightly lewd pseudonym of Bingo Hand Job, R.E.M. played the tiny London club The Borderline just as as they were becoming household names. The show was largely acoustic and the setlist included Pop Song 89 and You Are The Everything. Plus, Billy Bragg turned up. Nice.

    REM (Bingo Hand Job) - You Are The Everything acoustic @ The Borderline - 1991

  6. The Stone Roses Warm Up In Warrington

    When The Stone Roses announced their return in 2012, it's safe to say that the excitement was palpable; their huge shows at Heaton Park were highly anticipated, but it was their surprise warm up at Parr Hall in Ian Brown's home town of Warrington, however, that was truly special. Even Liam Gallagher was impressed, simply Tweeting: "Speechless".

    The Stone Roses - I Wanna Be Adored - Live at Parr Hall

  7. The Beatles On The Roof

    Arguably the most famous surprise gig of all time, when The Beatles played atop the offices of their Apple company in London. They hadn't performed together in public for three years and they were originally planning on playing at The Roundhouse but, after they couldn't get things together, it ended up happening on the roof. The rest is rock n' roll history.

    The Beatles - Don't Let Me Down

  8. The Libertines and the Albion Rooms

    The Libertines are famous for their guerrilla gigs. The early noughties saw the band playing pop up shows all over London, most famously in their own flat. The "tenner on the door" shows were always raucous affairs.

    Seven Ages of Rock - The Libertines' "Guerrilla Gigs"

  9. Jamie T's Comeback At Reading Festival

    The Wimbledon songsmith had been out of the limelight for five years before making his triumphant return at Reading Festival 2014. He played the site's smallest stage and completely packed it out, treating fans to tracks from across his back catalogue.

    'Zombie' - Live at Reading Festival

  10. Paul McCartney Busks In Covent Garden

    To promote his latest album New, Paul McCartney did his version of busking - performing out of a lorry to 2,000 passers by. He did it in Times Square; he did it in Covent Garden. There were a few cross faces, however, after Macca didn't play any Beatles tracks and instead sang the song New twice. "PLAY THE FROG SONG," shouted nobody.

    Paul McCartney - Covent Garden gig and HMV Signing