The Best NPR Tiny Desk Concerts

The best ever Tiny Desks concerts, all in one place. Scroll down and check out who we here at Skiddle, In no particular order, think makes the cut!

Skiddle Staff

Last updated: 26th Jun 2024

In the realm of intimate music experiences, NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts stand as a beacon of raw, unfiltered live artistry. Since its inception in 2008, the unique series has seen the modest corner of the NPR office transformed into a hallowed ground for musicians of every genre to showcase their new and most loved tracks in a way no one has ever seen them before. 

There are a few rules; All equipment has to fit behind the desk, no PA systems, no elaborate effects rigs, and no fancy electronics. However such policies result in a collection of musical moments that capture the true spirit of the art form and make us all jealous that Tiny Desk concert tickets don't exist (you have to be one of the lucky sods who work at NPR to see it live).

Our love for this series knows no bounds, so, in no particular order, we at Skiddle wanted to let you in on our 30 best NPR Tiny Desk Concerts, find out what we included below!



Mac Miller

In our opinion, the best to ever do it; pure groove, heartfelt candour, effortless swagger; and the first time he performed tracks from Swimming live. Sadly, this was also one of the last recorded live shows we saw of Mac before his tragic passing just a month later, at just 26…

The world misses Mac Miller and his music more and more every year, and this performance is etched into the annals of music history, and will forever be a time capsule of one of the generation's greatest musical talents, rest easy Mac. The best tiny desk without competition.



Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals

A euphonic medley of genre and groove that never fails to put a smile on your face and get at least one (but usually more) part of your body moving. Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals reworked three cuts from Malibu for this Tiny Desk, along with an audience deep-cut request of ‘Suede’ that shocked even them.

Whilst this is soulful hip-hop at its core, this Tiny Desk is so much more, and if you’re ever in need of a reminder of why Paak is one of the biggest stars in modern music, you’ll only need the above 15 minutes to feel silly for even asking.



Jorja Smith

Probably the best voice the UK has produced since Adele; Jorja Smith's aura lit up the Tiny Desk stage like few others had done before, or have done since. With her band, mesmeric in their mixture of minimalist RnB and Garage, Jorja's silky cadence was allowed to take centre stage, and the three-track set is all the better for it.

Running through tracks "On My Mind", "Teenage Fantasy", and "Blue Lights" off her debut album Lost & Found, Jorja Smith's Tiny Desk is amongst the most viewed for a reason, check out why above!



The Cranberries

Following their lengthy hiatus, Ireland The Cranberries came to the NPR offices, and “an absolute honkload of people showed up to watch.” What better way to mark the beginning of a new chapter than with a performance like this though?

Playing both nostalgic classics - "Linger," "Salvation," and "Zombie" - and some new tracks from their new album at the time, Roses - "Tomorrow" and "Raining in My Heart" - Dolores O'Riordan and Co’s Tiny Desk has gone down in folklore, and it's worth every second you spend with it. 



Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

Chances to see Madlib performing in the flesh are few and far between, and once his album with Freddie Gibbs, Bandana, was released, we finally got the chance on the smallest of stages (or desks shall we say). 

However, in the most on-brand way, Madlib insisted he wouldn't play unless El Michels Affair, a vintage funk and soul band based out of New York, did alongside them. But once their delicate piano and jazzy grooves started, Freddie jumped on the beat, and Madlib whipped out a combo of a small thunder tube and vintage electric bongos; it was clear to see he made the right call (we should probably stop doubting his genius).




A global journey through the ebb and flow of funk and soul that is effortlessly danceable and just an all round wicked vibe, Khurangbin's visit to the Tiny Desk is unarguably brilliant, and from the first riff of the sumptuous groovy ‘Maria También’, it’s near impossible to turn off before near 12-minute feats for the ears.

It’s just done with so much effortless style, and the metronome-like drumming of Donald "DJ" Johnson will have every drummer filled with jealousy. If you’re after a Tiny Desk that will lift spirits and instil faith in globally-inspired music, this is the one for you.




Whilst we’re sure many of you will have been relentlessly spinning his new and long-awaited record Lahai, back in 2017, following the release of his Mercury Prize winning debut ‘Process’ Sampha made his way into the NPR Tiny Desk studio, for one of the most stripped back and intimate shows the programme has ever seen.

With the whole set just being him and his piano, well… the piano and his deeply original and awe-inspiring vocal delivery. Sampha’s Tiny Desk tells you everything you need to know about why he is one of the most admired artists of his generation, and why everyone from Drake to Kendrick to Stormzy has worked with him. Just see it for yourself, and watch the set above.




Belgian dance-pop superstar Stromae has such a textured and layered sound, that you may think it near-impossible for him to achieve the “no preset sounds” requirement that those behind Tiny Desk bestowed on him before this set. However, anyone who has seen it already knows full well that it was silly to ever doubt him. 

Backed by three members of the Bulgarian women's choir Yasna Voices and banks of mixers and synthesisers, it’s probably the most tech-heavy tink desk there ever has been. Plus, if you don’t speak French, then we think it is almost a requirement to have subs on for this performance, as Stromae's lyrics are as powerful as they come; and doing so takes this from a 10/10 to a 12/10. Do yourself a favour and click play on the video above.   



Post Malone

NPR's Tiny Desk has hosted a constellation of stars. Still, Post Malone's performance shines like a supernova, radiating sheer joy and wholesome energy, making it one of the best. Whether joking about his nerves, lamenting his voice, or sitting in awe of his band, Post brought a relatability not oft seen from the stars, and (obviously) also brought four stellar tunes with him.

From set-opener "Sunflower" to the epic "I Fall Apart", 2019's "Circles" and close off his new album at the time "Enough Is Enough," Post showcased why he is one of the world's biggest stars, but also why he is one of the most loved as a person. No time will be wasted watching the one.  



King Krule

The enchanting indifference oozing out of Archy Marshall during this Tiny Desk is truly something, especially when the music is as good as it is here. King Krule is near genreless, a veritable tapestry of sounds pulling from punk, jazz, indie, hip-hop, and everything in between, he forges his own musical paths, paths which few artists could manage to traverse.

This Tiny Desk came after the release of his second record, The Ooz, and the tracks from the record he played were reworked as jazzy lullabies that make you want to do anything but wake up from the dream. 



Fred Again…

Translating purely electronic music into a Tiny Desk set is no mean feat, especially for someone like Fred Again, but, as we’ve quickly learnt about the producer, his musical virtuosity and drive to create music overflowing with human emotion will always prevail; and this Tiny Desk is a complete triumph, one that proves Fred to truly be one of the modern greats.

From relearning the marimba, to his masterful use of the vibraphone, to singing at the piano and looping sounds and beats — all at the same time; Fred’s Tiny Desk is an intimate, raw, and mesmerising performance, and one that is etched into the annals of NPR folklore.




This one is a bit of an outsider, one you probably will not have heard of, especially given how it only sits at just over 100k views, but for us, Caroline are a band everyone should experience. A near-indescribable Octet from London, whose minimalism approach to their musical smorgasbord of folk, post-rock, midwestern emo, and classical is a mesmeric listen, and even better to watch.

In our opinion, this is one of the most underrated Tiny Desks, from one of the world's most underrated bands. Just find yourself 25 minutes, get the headphones on, and watch their original genius unfold. 



Sting and Shaggy

Not a pairing that would immediately come to mind when thinking about a supergroup duo, but wow did Sting and Shaggy deliver and have a hell of a good time while doing it in the Tiny Desk studio? Running through a three-track set that included songs from both their back catalogues, as well as a track from the 44/876 album they brought out together.

From Shaggy reaching over to to embrace Sting mid-set, referring to him affectionately as “Stingy”; to adding reggae-style vocals to ‘Englishman in New York’; to seeing Sting play that same 1957 Fender Precision bass he’s been playing for decades; it’s probably the most fun ever had on Tiny Desk, and an essential watch. 



Tom Misch

Tom Misch and the NPR Tiny Desk, for anyone who listens to the London maestro, is a veritable match made in heaven. Misch is an artist who thrives in a live setting, with his groove-laden brand of Hip-Hop and R&B beats continually indulging in the funkier side genre, with an understanding of rhythm that is dizzyingly good. 

With the three tracks he and his band run through in the set coming straight off his breakthrough record ‘Geography’ this is as good of an introduction any newcomer will have to Tom, and an excellent reminder of where he came from for long-term fans. No matter which of these two you fall into, get the video played and see what we mean!



Laura Gibson

No list of the best Tiny Desks would be complete without bringing it back to the very first one, American singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Laura Gibson. Born from annoyance at Laura's set of SXSW, where the crowd chatter was louder than her, NPR Music's Stephen Thompson joked that next time she was in D.C. she should come and play at his desk. 

Hundreds of performances at the said desk later, we can be nothing but thankful for this event, one that turned a corner both in the career of Laura Gibson and in the music world; watch this slice of history above! 



Tyler, The Creator

With the NPR office dripping in a pink neon glow, which shifted through to orange and blue with each track; a vibe achieved thanks to this being the first night time Tiny Desk; you just knew from the get-go that Tyler's Tiny Desk is going to be one of the most unique.

Coming after the release of his fourth album, Flower Boy, the performance saw Tyler as a mature visionary of the genre, with the rapper even throwing his tambourine in celebration of what they accomplished behind the desk. A classic for a reason and a necessary addition to any such list. 



The Roots Feat. Bilal

Black Thought, Questlove and the crew bundled behind the Tiny Desk for a showcase of true masters at work, and with the oral honey of Bilal warmly resonating alongside them, this performance was truly one for the ages.

Performing just one track for the whole 12 minutes, the incomparable ‘It Ain’t Fair’ from Detroit, a film about the race riots in 1967. The track protests a resolute defiance against the societal structure that has marginalised those "presumed inferior," to borrow from Bilal's verses. The Root's ft Bilal is one of the most powerful - especially with a seven-piece horn section behind - and one of the best NPR has ever had behind the desk. 



The Smile

We’ve never been able to witness what Radiohead would be like behind the Tiny Desk, so when Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood’s esoteric side project, The Smile, graced the NPR offices around the release of their sonic puzzle of a debut album, A Light for Attracting Attention, it’s fair to say the buzz was electric.

Joined alongside by bandmate and Sons of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner, as well as session saxophonist Robert Stillman, this was one of the most musically impressive and enchanting Tiny Desks there has ever been (to pretty much no one's surprise). The last track ‘Skirting on the Surface’ is transcendent, just listen and be transported. 



Mucca Pazza

Perhaps the most people ever squeeze behind the Tiny Desk, the Chicago 23-piece band Mucca Pazza ended up stacked atop cabinets, step-stools and, of course, desks. It looked like an absolute blast in the room, and despite all the huge names that have graced the NPR office, we reckon this one might have just been the best time.

Having just celebrated their 10th anniversary before the appearance, Mucca Pazza's joyfully cacophonous symphony is a joy to watch, especially in tighter confines than they're used to. Watch the wonderful chaos unfold above. 



Little Simz (Home)

The modern queen of the rap game Little Simz has never made it behind the NPR desk but in the lockdown ‘From Home’ series of the series, Simbi most definitely had not run out of ammo. 

Performed around the release of her Mercury-nominated record Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, the set featured four tracks entirely from the record - ‘Introvert’, ‘I Love You, I Hate You’, ‘Point and Kill’, (featuring Obongjayar), and ‘Woman’ - she ate up the scenery. Plus, not enough can be said about the funk-fused band alongside her. A must-watch for any hip-hop fan, as if Little Simz isn't on your radar, what are you even doing?




When approaching a Tiny Desk, many artists prefer to offer a stripped-back, reworked version of their tunes, however IDLES, in completely unsurprising fashion, came in kicking and screaming in a way only they can do; causing punk chaos in only a way they could do.

The set ends with guitarist Mark Bowen, clad in nothing but a pair of American flag spandex pants, standing atop the bar in a frantic dance. The loudest Tiny Desk of them all, and a perfect 13-minute microcosm of everything that IDLES are about. 



Tash Sultana

Having received a guitar from her grandfather at the age of three, and having supposedly played it every day since, Tash Sultana’s Tiny Desk saw her fluidity of instrumentation shine blindingly through the screen, and for her to be just 21 at the time was as big a precursor to her current success as ever. 

Taking three tracks from her breakthrough EP Notion - ‘Jungle’, ‘Notion’, and ‘Blackbird’ - Tash bounces between guitar, drum machine, and two separate microphones, whilst also hopping barefoot from effect pedal to effect pedal as she constructs the layers of her tracks. It's exhilarating, exhausting, and excellent. 




After boasting his mastery of the beat on the bass guitar for Mac Miller’s Tiny Desk, it only seemed right that LA’s Thundercat returned to the NPR studios for his own set. Promoting his most recent (and strongest) release then, Drunk, Thundercat showcased his refusal to be pigeonholed, and his eclectic band their effortless energy as an entourage. 

All masters of their instruments, with the tunes funky and complex, this Tiny Desk has to be heard, and due to its nature, it is uncontrollably danceable too. 



The Comet Is Coming

British force-of-nature Jazz trio, The Comet Is Coming, are an instrumental band that never airs on the side of caution. A bombastic barrage of jazz and reverb fused groove, Shabaka Hutchings (Sax), Danalogue  (Synthesizer), and Betamax (Drums), are a group that take you out of your comfort zone, and into sonic territories you never knew you needed to explore.

This 19-minute set of instrumental jazz is as transformative as it is anomalous, with all the songs taken from the band's second album, Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery. A must listen if you enjoy the above as much as we do. 




A modern Reggae and Dancehall icon, whose cleansing rhythms encapsulate all of what reggae is and can be, Chronnix truly carries the torch of roots revival for the younger generations, and this showcase of three tracks from his sophomore record, Chronology, was long-awaited in the NPR studio and delivers ten-fold.

With his band, Zincfence Redemption, Chrnonnix and his mellifluous vocals conjure up the taste of tropical cocktails, sand between your toes, tan lines, and better tomorrows. Get this one on the next time the sun comes out, or just use it to remind yourself what the sun feels like.  




Capping off the NPRs month-long celebration of Black Music, R&B goliath Usher brought a 25-minute set packed with a serious selection of hits from his 25-year career to the Tiny Desk. When a legend like this gets behind the desk, it’s always an absolute stormer of a session.

From hits like ‘You Make Me Wanna…’ and ‘Superstar’ to others like ‘U Don't Have to Call’, ‘Nice & Slow’, ‘Confessions Part II’ and finally ‘My Way’; Usher and his band were loose and playful with his classics, but they still fused each with envious amounts of groove and soul. A set that truly solidifies his crown as the king of R&B.



Lianne La Havas

Soulful, raw, powerful, and vulnerable; the amorphous adjectives you could use to describe Lianne La Havas and her music truly are endless. Back in 2015, around the release of her new second album, Blood, Lianne’s trip to the NPR studio quickly became the stuff of legend, still sitting right up there with the most viewed. 

Weaving her vocal tapestries over the powerful harmonies of instrumentation behind her, seeing La Havas live is a necessity. But if you can’t manage that, then this Tiny Desk is your next best thing.



Taylor Swift

It’d be hard to avoid including the biggest artist on the planet in a list like this, as to see such a mercurial talent as Taylor Swift in a setting like the Tiny Desk will never not be special. By all accounts, the room was packed with over 300 NPR staff, with Taylor addressing her reason for doing such a show: "I just decided to take this as an opportunity to show you guys how the songs sounded when I first wrote them.”

Whether it be the acoustic opener of "The Man" from Lover, the piano-led title track of the same record, or "Death by a Thousand Cuts"; she showcased the very best of her latest record at the time. Finishing with the acclaimed "All Too Well" from Red, this is one for the swifties, and will never not be among the best tiny desk concerts.




Oozing soul with smooth storytelling and a vocal delivery than only a decadeslong MC could display; Scarface’s Tiny Desk may be one of the most underrated and authentic when it comes to the Hip-Hop artists that have stepped into the NPR offices.

Oh, and he only went and brought the legendary Mike Dean with him. The 30-minute set sees the two share sentimental stories behind many of the tracks they have made together, gaining rare glimpses of Scarface the conductor. The setlists included classics like "On My Block," "Mary Jane" and the suspense-ridden "I Seen a Man Die." A must-watch. 



Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile

A unique and wholesome Tiny Desk that was less a display of musical perfection, and more a bask in the collaborative fun music can offer, Philadelphia's Kurt Vile and Melbourne's Courtney Barnett came to stay casual, inject some humour, and poke some fun at each other, and it’s a breath of fresh air behind the NPR Tiny Desk.

It just feels like sinking a few beers with friends who happen to be pretty good on a guitar. An energy that shone through when Kurt picked out a song he wrote when he was roughly fourteen called "Blue Cheese." So much fun to be had with this one!



Find our lists of more of the best live performances below:

Best Boiler Rooms - HERE

Best DJ Sets - HERE

Best Live Performances - HERE



Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.