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Best London Music Venues

Where To See Live Music in London


London has a huge array of live music venues from back rooms in pubs to arena venues. All major music acts stop in London when on tour and many bands start their careers here, so the choice is vast!

1. Roundhouse

Roundhouse Camden
© Roundhouse

This former steam engine repair shed, and north London landmark, reopened in 2006 after extensive renovations. It was a music venue throughout the 60s and 70s and played host to the likes of Jimi Hendrix and The Doors (their only UK gig). Since reopening the Roundhouse has seen performances from Paul McCartney, The Chemical Brothers, The Beastie Boys, The Who, Morrissey and James Brown.

The performance space is fully adaptable and accessible and can accommodate 3,000 standing or 1,800 seated.

2. O2 Academy Brixton

Formerly known as The Brixton Academy, this award-winning south London venue was built in 1929 as a variety theater. The Art Deco interior has been preserved and the entrance hall and staircases add to the grandeur. Brixton Academy played host to a plethora of big name acts including Sex Pistols, Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, Coldplay, REM and even Madonna. The atmosphere is superb and it's a great venue.

3. The O2

The O2 London
© The O2
The O2 is a great venue. There's the O2 Arena which can hold up to 20,000, and the indigO2, a smaller 2,350 capacity live music venue. The O2 Arena attracts the really big name music stars like The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.

North Greenwich tube station brings you straight to The O2, and there are an abundance of cafes, restaurants and bars too.

4. The Forum

Mean Fiddler sold The Forum in Kentish Town in 2007 and it's had further renovations to increase the capacity to 2350. It's another old building that's been converted so it has great decor and still feels intimate. Standing only downstairs or allocated seats upstairs. Past acts include Van Morrison, Radiohead, The Prodigy and James Brown.

5. Royal Albert Hall

Royal Albert Hall London
© Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Albert Hall is probably most famous for hosting the annual summer Proms concerts. It was opened by Queen Victoria in 1871 and is a fabulous building. As well as classical concerts, the Royal Albert Hall hosts rock, pop, ballet, opera, and more. Led Zeppelin played there in 1970, ABBA in 1977, and the Cirque du Soleil return regularly.

You can also do daytime tours of the building which can include the chance to see rehearsals as it is a working venue.

6. O2 Empire Shepherd's Bush

Formerly known as the Shepherd's Bush Empire, this venue is another old converted theater. The BBC actually used it as a television theater for nearly 40 years before it became a live music venue in 1994. A 2,000 capacity keeps the shows intimate and bands seem to enjoy playing here and has hosted shows by Kylie Minogue, Iron Maiden, Smashing Pumpkins and Amy Winehouse.

7. 100 Club

The 100 Club has been promoting live music on the same premises for over 60 years. It has been home to many different bands of many different styles including The Sex Pistols, Oasis, and The White Stripes. Many names have performed here before making it big such as The Rolling Stones and Paul Weller.

Even though capacity is only 350, The 100 Club never oversells tickets and there are two bars, one either side of the stage, making this a great small venue.

8. 02 Academy Islington

Another of the Academy Music Group venues, formerly know as Islington Academy, this is actually two venues. The main venue has a capacity of 800, and the Bar Academy holds 250. The O2 Academy Islington opened in 2002 and can be found just off Upper Street in the N1 Centre - a shopping and entertainment complex.

9. Scala

Scala King's Cross London
© Scala
Scala is in King's Cross and has four main floors for up to 1,145 guests. There are three bars, 2 dance floors and a stage for live performances. There are regular weekend club nights but Scala is a live music venue on week nights. Past acts have included Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Moby, and The Scissors Sisters.

The venue opened in 1920 as a cinema and in the early 1990s the Scala Film Club showed A Clockwork Orange without permission and were sued by Warner Bros. They venue was close to bankruptcy and closed in 1993 but the club reopened in 1999.

Did you know the iconic photo on the album sleeve of Raw Power by Iggy & The Stooges was taken during a concert at the Scala? What a claim to fame!

10. Wembley Arena

Wembley Arena London
© Live Nation
At first I was reluctant to include Wembley Arena as it's such a large venue (capacity 12,500) but I hear after its £35 million refurbishment in 2006 its really improved and even has comfy seats.

Wembley Arena has also hosted numerous sporting events, including the 1948 Olympics.

Wembley Arena celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2009.
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