Hammersmith Apollo

Science of Speech, Hammersmith Apollo, London

When this show was announced in February, it looked like New York hip-hop was making a stand against today's questionable customisation of the genre or someone had worked out a way to neatly cash in on the legendary reputations of two groups and an MC who've each carved a credible niche in music history. Rakim, for instance, has been every rapper's favourite rapper for the last 25 years, responsible for inspiring lyricists to move beyond pre-school wordplay in favour of more complex rhyme schemes and metaphors. Tonight, he's a respectful warm-up performer, cooly reeling off classics like "Paid in Full" and "Don't Sweat the Technique" with just the help of a DJ. It feels a little rushed and if he'd had 20 more minutes, he might have converted some of the youngsters in the crowd who couldn't help but look on at the 43-year-old obliviously.

Doug Stanhope, Hammersmith Apollo, London

Just hours after Doug Stanhope left the stage of the Hammersmith Apollo, completing what could be considered a breakthrough gig, the man he tonight described as his only ever "hero", Charlie Sheen, was to play the first date of his ludicrously titled tour, My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Death Is Not an Option, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Sheen's evening would turn out to be a disaster, Stanhope's had ended a triumph.

Micky Flanagan: The Out Out Tour, Hammersmith Apollo, London

There's good reason for the extra spring in the step of Micky Flanagan's signature Cockney walk this evening. After nearly 15 years in comedy, and jobs before that which have included fish-packer and dishwasher, the Bethnal Green-bred 46-year-old was strutting out on to the stage of a venue that seats over 3,500 people and is synonymous with career ascendancy.

Mumford & Sons, HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London

On the airwaves, Mumford & Sons are no longer a band – they're a phenomenon. Just try and listen to a commercial radio station without hearing one or more of their songs in an hour, and you'll have your work cut out.

Grinderman, Hammersmith Apollo, London

There was some debate over Nick Cave's shadow at this outing of the much-discussed "supergroup" comprising Cave and long-time collaborators Warren Ellis, Martyn Casey and Jim Sclavunos. The spotlight banged into Cave's mangled frame and cast a huge silhouette across one wall of the venue. It seems interesting that, because of the sometimes limited views of the stage, this shadow is all some audience members saw of the singer. It wasn't so much an image, as a negative impression of the real performer.

Not another nutcracker

There's more to Christmas than pantos and that ballet. Alice Jones picks some great alternatives

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The Zutons, Hammersmith Apollo, London

It is no mean feat for a band to carry off a performance in which their best-known song has been covered in prolific fashion by the insouciant Amy Winehouse. But nonetheless, and without a touch of humility, The Zuton's flex their considerable indie muscle and deliver material from their three successful albums in a fashion worthy of the term inimitable.

Three Godless Christmas shows

Forget Nativity plays, a different kind of Christmas show is coming to town. And with a talk by Richard Dawkins and stand-up by Ricky Gervais, it's a gift for the non-believer, says Julian Hall