It’s a mystery why certain venues become more synonymous with great gigs than others. Much of the time it depends on what one may be looking to get for the price of their ticket; great acoustics, fun lighting, an exciting atmosphere – but one thing for certain is some venues contribute more to a making a live performance special than others.
Here, five top UK venues are put under the microscope in an attempts to explain why this phenomenon might happen, so the next time you buy your concert tickets, you might consider improving on the experience by attending it at one of these top locations.
Top of most people’s list, certainly if you ask the acts that have ever played it, is the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow.
Recently voted the second best small venue in Europe (it has a capacity of 1900); it is located at the bottom end of the Gallowgate, resplendent with a large rainbow façade. It has seen almost every band in recent history gracing its famous stage, from the Arctic Monkeys to All About Eve, and The Who to Robbie Williams. All of them have come away from gigs at ‘The Barras’ raving about the atmosphere it generates.
But what is it that makes this wooden-floored, sweaty 60’s throwback so appealing?
The answer is simplicity; the stage is the perfect height and distance from the crowd (in your face all the time), and the sound is condensed within the four walls creating a totally awesome live music experience that sweeps everyone into a frenzy.
Glasgow audiences are amongst the toughest to please but the most rewarding when you do, and when this happens in The Barrowland the result is electric.
At number two there is no doubt the Brixton Academy is as good a venue for a gig as you will get anywhere in the world. A favourite for Ian Dury and more recently, Madonna, this jewel in London’s crown creates an explosive and urban atmosphere, so that people continue to snap tickets up for gigs there faster than Linford Christie does 100m.
The venue, run by Carling, has spread into other cities too, with replicas of the interior being constructed to capitalise on the successful layout the building affords. It’s a simple philosophy; create a classic look but with modern facilities, and slope the crowd as far as they can go towards the stage.
In third place is a pub backroom that tops all small venues, purely because of its history and openness to introduce new acts to the music scene: The Dublin Castle.
Found in Camden Town’s Parkway, this pub is perhaps most famous for being the home of Madness, but it has also been the heart of a Camden musical enterprise that has seen the likes of Oasis and Blur stake a claim.
The Dublin Castle stage is small, but its impact on the British music scene proves it has punched over its weight for many years. Catch a gig there if you can some night – a single ticket will get you at least three bands for under a tenner, and the beer is half bad either.
From the smallest to the largest now, and the title of best arena venue in the UK goes to the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. Highly adaptable and with superb facilities, this arena is a must-play venue to the hottest live music acts on the go, as well as sporting occasions and stand-up comedy acts.
It always guarantees an energetic and enthusiastic crowd of up to 10,000 people, with superb views and sound quality, whether standing, seated, in the expensive boxes, or the rear balcony. It’s as good a venue on this scale for performing acts as it is for the paying public.
Last but not least on the list of top five best UK concert venues goes to a much forgotten centre of musical and artistic excellence – another Camden classic – The Roundhouse.
Built in 1846, this legendary and recently refurbished Grade II listed building is as steeped in British music history as you can get. Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley have all graced its famous stage, and it’s a pleasure to see it revitalize its fortunes as a going concern. Since a period of degeneration and regeneration, it now plays host to some of the best top and wide-ranging acts the music and theatre scenes have to offer.