Of course the most important thing when you go to a gig is the quality of the performers, however it is the venue which dictates how well the performance can cone across and what sort of atmosphere the crowd will produce. I have been to many venues (most if which have been in London), and not all of them are great, however here are my top 10 London venues which truly add that extra dimension to your favourite artists performance!
Just as a side note, whenever I go to a gig in one of these (and other) London venues, I use a ticket distributor called Star Green and have always done. I prefer them over outlets such as Ticket Web and Ticket Master as it is much easier to take a look around their artists a-z to see exactly who is coming to London (it doesn’t cover other cities). They also sell tickets for sporting and theatre events… I have never had a problem with them delivering!
1 – Brixton Academy
Address: 211 Stockwell Rd, London SW9 9SL
Nearest Tube Station: Brixton (Victoria Line)
This is my favourite of all the London venues, because quite frankly it has it all! I have been to sold out shows here and have never struggled to see or hear… Admittedly when it’s sold out it can be a struggle to get to the toilets but that’s the only negative. Every band I have seen here has sounded amazing and looked spectacular (as you are never too far from the stage, and the sloped floor makes viewing even from the back unobstructed)… And to top it off there are plenty of bars (even inside the main arena) so you never have to wait too long or be away from the action to get a drink.
Who have I seen here? Korn, Hacktivist, Queen Adreena, Nine Inch Nails & Marilyn Manson
2 – Camden Underworld
Address: 174 Camden High St, London NW1 0NE
Nearest Tube Station: Camden Town (Northern Line)
This is one of London’s best known alternative venues getting its name from being directly underneath the Worlds End Pub. It is very small and you might even say grotty, however this adds to its charm, and the right bands work perfectly in here. If it wasn’t for the fact that it is quite so small and as such the calibre of bands which play here, it would probably be my favourite venue… It is incredibly intimate and you are right on top of the stage and its performers. The bar is up a small flight of steps from the dance floor which means that you are never too far from the action.
Who have I seen here? Squid, Katscan, Mechanical Cabaret, Putra Chic, The Cruxshadows & S.P.O.C.K
3 – O2 Arena
Address: Peninsula Square, London SE10 0DX
Nearest Tube Station: North Greenwich (Jubilee Line)
One of the newest venues which is set up as such (having started life as what was going to be a temporary exhibition space), this place holds some serious numbers in terms of capacity. It is a bit of a pain to get in to, and you have to make your way past packed bar and restaurant fronts before finally getting to the entrance. In terms of the inside it doesn’t have quite the same wow factor as the Wembley Arena but it is certainly impressive in the auditorium. The sound quality is absolutely stunning and even though it is huge in size you get a pretty good view from just about anywhere. I have heard however that many of the balcony seats are not great for people with a fear of heights… It does look very steep, and I will no doubt find out in February as I have balcony seats for the Nitro Circus tour.
Who have I seen here? Marilyn Manson & Rob Zombie
4 – The London Astoria – Now Closed
Address: 165 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H
Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road (Northern Line & Central Line)
The very first gig I went to was here, some 16 or so years ago. It was a pretty intimate venue with pretty good sound quality, however depending on where you stood (with options including the balcony as well as the main dance floor) there were various obstructions which may have gotten in your way. It was a great venue for many of their club nights (their most famous no doubt being G.A.Y) but gigs require a certain amount of interaction which comes from the visual appeal of a live concert, and this is the only thing which some times let this down slightly… Sadly this venue is now shut and has been since 2009 to make way for a crossrail project which is to make the Tottenham Court Road tube station ticket hall 6 times bigger, however for me it was a special venue as all of my first gigs were here and it is important for me to remind people of such a great venue which we have lost!
Who have I seen here? One Minute Silence, Skindred & Skinny Puppy
5 – Islington Academy
Address: N1 Centre, 16 Parkfield St, Islington N1 0PS
Nearest tube station: Angel (Northern Line)
In terms of numbers this place doesn’t look hugely impressive, but once you are inside it looks deceptively big. There are plenty of great places to see without any disruption to your field of vision as it is a pretty open room. It also looks really nice and clean, which you don’t always get from venues of a similar size, but may account for the huge variety of different acts which perform here. The sound quality is pretty good as its such an open room, and the main auditorium is also home to their bar, which is always a bonus.
Who have I seen here? Katscan, Combichrist, Inertia & XP8
6 – Shepherds Bush Empire
Address: Shepherd’s Bush Green, London W12 8TT
Nearest tube stations: Shepherds Bush Market (Hammersmith and City Line & Circle Line) & Goldhawk Road (Hammersmith and City Line & Circle Line)
This was the first venue I attended where I was only able to get balcony tickets and we were literally in the corner of the top balcony, from where you can see very well, but it is quite high up so everyone on stage does look a little small, and you are looking down on the tops of their heads! The sound quality however is surprisingly good, even at the top of the venue and the balcony at least felt very sturdy!
Who have I seen here? Nickleback
7 – The Hammersmith Apollo
Address: 45 Queen Caroline St, London W6 9QH
Nearest tube station: Hammersmith (Hammersmith and City Line, Piccadilly Line, District Line & Circle Line)
Now officially known as the Eventim Apollo. The first thing I will say is that the visual possibilities from the huge balcony are absolutely brilliant, and you don’t feel like you are too high up, still getting a front on view of the performers, whilst the sound is absolutely brilliant. However the balcony (probably as it is so huge) doesn’t feel that sturdy and during a lively metal gig you can actually feel the balcony move, which for someone with a fear of heights is not ideal. Please note though that this is not the same Apollo as the one where part of the ceiling collapsed on the audience – this was the Apollo Theatre in the West End.
Who have I seen here? Enter Shikari
8 – Wembley Arena
Address: Arena Square, Engineers Way, London HA9 0AA
Nearest tube station: Wembley Park Underground (Metropolitan Line & Jubilee Line)
This is truly a gleaming behemoth of a venue. It is one of the largest indoor arena in the city and it screams high end entertainment. There are plenty of places for them to set up shop for merhcnadise and has more choice in terms of bars and food outlets than your average mall. However all of this doesn’t distract from it purpose as a place to be entertained, whether by musicians or comedians giving some of the best quality sound you will ever find. The access to drinks and even the toilets from the main arena however isn’t great and if you leave for either you will run the risk of missing out.
Who have I seen here? Skindred & Steel Panther
9 – Electrowerkz
Address: 7 Torrens St, London EC1V 1NQ
Nearest tube station: Angel (Northern Line)
Generally speaking this is a venue for enjoying a club night which is infamous amongst the alternative community – Slimelight. The Slimelight club regularly also hosts live performances, which often do not play until quite late in to the night (considering the club closes at around 7:00 am) and doesn’t even open until most live venues are already just about ready to kick every one out! There is a very strict dress code and you won’t get in wearing just trainers and jeans – but I have seen people get in wearing a bin bag, or just a leather thong, so definately strict in a non-conventional sense! I have to admit that the venue itself is a complete dive and the sound quality is about as good as you would expect from a club night in an industrial building (not really live music quality) – but you go to one of the more unusual out of the London venues for this very reason… It’s not a clean bright place where you go to see a hip hop artist or theatre show – its a dingy dark place where you see musicians playing dark music fitting for these surroundings! This really is a venue which creates and dictates the atmosphere and mood of the entire event.
Who have I seen here? Nitzer Ebb & Hocico
10 – Alexandra Palace
Address: Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY
Nearest tube station: Wood Green (Piccadilly Line)
My first arena show was at this very venue and I must say it is very impressive. It opens up as a huge auditorium with a single low level balcony for standing access, which means that most people are all at the same level, and to allow this, it obviously has to be an absolutely massive area. I would say that even though visually it works perfectly with few obstructions to your view (and basically having one giant room is also great for the bars and toilets), it does have an effect on the quality of the sound, which is not great.
Who have I seen here? Marilyn Manson & Peaches