Aside from football, music acts are arguably one of the UK’s best exports. Plenty of our homegrown rock bands and pop stars are known by fans the world over, and many go on to conduct sell-out world tours. Still it’s the venues back here in the UK, and more importantly those in the nation’s capital, that helped launch these stars and attending live concerts something of a rite of passage for London’s teens. Chances are you are no longer a teen but live music is some of London’s iconic venues has to be experienced—if only once. Marie Teather chooses five of the best known.
The 02 Arena
The first purpose built music venue in London since the Royal Albert Hall in 1871, The O2 Arena is the Europe’s largest entertainment complex.
Under what was already an iconic roof in Greenwich lies a state of the art live music club (indigO2), 11 screen multiplex cinema, exhibition centre (The O2 bubble), an entire street of bars, restaurants, and leisure attractions (Entertainment Avenue) and most important for live music, The O2 arena.
Playing host to the most sought after names in rock, pop, and classical music, such as stadium fillers such as Beyonce, Britney Spears, The Black Eyed Peas and Pink have all performed here. The O2 Arena was also where Michael Jackson was scheduled to perform his This Is It concerts before his death in 2009.
The O2 Peninsula Square, London, SE10 0DX
Sheperd’s Bush Empire
The O2 Empire has been a live entertainment venue for over 100 years and is a favorite within the industry, often chosen by artists for its extraordinary level of intimacy and historic importance on the touring circuit. Architecturally the venue is stunning, still retaining its original design with the grandeur of its early years.
With a capacity of 2,000, performers can get up close and personal with their most dedicated fans. Hosting some of the UK and the world’s best-known performers, acts throughout the years have included Iron Maiden, Kylie Minogue, Elton John, Lily Allen, Katy Perry, and The Rolling Stones.
Shepherd’s Bush Green, London, W12 8TT
020 8354 3300
One of London’s legendary culture music venues has seen the UK’s coolest rock bands perform throughout the decades. Starting with Pink Floyd in 1966, icons from Jim Hendrix to The Doors, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse and even Jay-Z have all rocked the 5,000-strong crowd.
The Grade II listed building is still home to a bold and exciting program of live music, theatre, dance, circus, installations, and ne
w media. But more than just a music venue, The Roundhouse is an important fixture among the north London artistic community. The Chalk Farm location gives it a refreshing detachment from the rest of Camden, and their calendar is filled with excellent events.
110a Chalk Farm Road, Camden, NW1 8EH
020 7424 9991
The Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall was built to fulfill the vision of Prince Albert of a central hall that would be used to promote understanding and appreciation of the arts and sciences.
Standing at the heart of the South Kensington estate surrounded by museums and places of learning, The Hall is a Grade I Listed building and has been in continuous use since it was opened in March 1871.
The list of famous performers and world figures that have appeared at the Royal Albert Hall since it opened in 1871 is unrivalled. Wagner, Verdi, and Elgar conducted the first UK performance of their own works on its concert platform, Rachmaninov played his own compositions and nearly every major classical solo artist and leading orchestra has performed at the Hall.
And it’s not all classical stars that take the stage; mainstream acts include Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Oscar Peterson, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Sting, and Elton John. More recently even Jay Z, the Kaiser Chiefs and the Killers have performed.
Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2AP
0845 401 5045
Gallery and cafe by day, live music venue and bar in the evening—each night hosting the best eclectic music in North London.
Proud Camden is located in the 200-year-old Grade II Listed Horse Hospital in the Stables Market, Camden. Adorned by images of rock royalty throughout, the venue was painstakingly restored in 2006 to retain many of the original features, including the stables that once housed the horses that were injured pulling canal barges.
Known for its commitment to programming the very best of the UK’s live music—all from Peter Doherty to Dizzee Rascal, The Kooks, and Stereophonics have played intimate sets here. The bar has also developed a cult following and become a celebrity hangout, with regulars Amy Winehouse, Sadie Frost, Carl Barat, and The Arctic Monkeys known to drop by for a drink.
The Stables Market, London, NW1 8AH
020 7482 3867