It’s no secret that London has produced some legendary artists who have influenced today’s music scene. But did you know that London has some of the best live venues for seeing and hearing both music legends and rising stars? The city boasts some breathtaking historical concert venues that have been renovated from their former glory days as cinemas, churches and even warehouses, to some of the world’s most beautiful stages.
Gather round as we talk about London’s top live music venues, the historic musical acts that have rocked these stages in the past, and the up-and-coming acts you can look forward to seeing in the future.
1. Union Chapel
Most Popular Genres: Acoustic, jazz, and country
Upcoming Concerts: David Duchovny, The Roy Hargrove Quintet and Feast of Fiddles
This London music venue is a gothic chapel that was built in 1877. It certainly was constructed with acoustics in mind, although maybe not for the choruses of modern music. Originally intended for hymns and sermons, the Union Chapel is now home to a stage that has hosted a wide variety of musical genres. Musical greats such as Elton John and Patti Smith have filled this venue with their music, and Beck (pictured above) had his first performance here in 2003. Not only does this 139-year-old venue rock on with live music throughout the week, but the space also still functions as a church and houses some of London’s homeless population. How’s that for serving a dual (and higher) purpose?
Most Popular Genres: House, disco, techno and hip-hop
Upcoming Concerts: Runs a regular Saturday night residency series with top DJs (including Jackmaster, The 2 Bears and Eats Everything)
One of the newer music venues in London, XOYO is a favorite place for club hoppers and music lovers alike. Even though it’s only been around for five years, this venue gained popularity quickly by booking acts based on the quality of music versus genre. Rising singers and songwriters even get a chance to shine at this club on the weekdays. XOYO was voted one of the world’s Top 100 Clubs by DJ Magazine two years in a row. If you appreciate house and techno music, check out this Islington hot spot on the weekends.
3. The Forum
Most Popular Genres: Indie rock and metal
Upcoming Concerts: PVRIS, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and James
This 1934 art deco building became a music venue in the 1980s. Seating 2,300 people, this space has seen it all in terms of musical genres. The Forum boasts a versatile layout with standing room downstairs and benched seating booths in the balcony. Performers as diverse as Amy Winehouse, Justin Timberlake, Kiss, Rihanna, The Killers and Rancid have all rocked the stage. And you have likely seen the space itself since it has starred as a backdrop in several movies and commercials.
Most Popular Genres: Indie rock, punk and dance
Upcoming Concerts: The Neighborhood, Lush and Boyce Avenue
Located in Chalk Farm, London, this music venue was originally constructed to house a railway turntable. The building was then transformed into a warehouse and eventually fell into disuse around World War II. But music fans are forever grateful that the building found its true calling as a place to host music stars in the 1960s. Roundhouse itself became the stuff of legends, accommodating music artists such as Jimi Hendrix, The Doors and Jefferson Airplane. Since its refurbishment in the early 2000s, the stage has been reopened for music acts like Foo Fighters, Coldplay and Paul Weller.
5. Brixton Academy
Most Popular Genres: Metal, indie, alt-rock and pop
Upcoming Concerts: Pixies, Hospitality and Kygo
There’s a reason why Brixton Academy has been voted Music Venue of the Year 12 times at the annual NME Awards. Originally built in the 1920s as a cinema, this venue is now one of the best places to catch a rock show in London. The beautiful art deco interior remains intact, complete with columns, proscenium arch and balconies. The raked standing area, left over from its movie days, provides good visibility for everyone in the audience and can fit 5,000 eager music fans. It makes sense that some of the biggest names in music have graced its stage, including Diana Ross, Iggy Pop and David Bowie. And Brixton Academy really made music history when The Smiths played their last ever gig together there in 1986.
For an even richer experience, make sure to listen to some of the albums that were recorded live at Brixton Academy while you’re visiting the venue. We recommend Motörhead’s “Live at Brixton ‘87” which was recorded at Brixton Academy to celebrate the return of the British metal band’s original drummer Phil Taylor after a three year absence.
If you’re ever in London, make it a point to drop by some of these iconic music venues. You’ll get to soak in some musical history and maybe even become a part of some yourself! And while you’re touring these places, we suggest listening to some of the legends who have performed at each venue. Leave little to the imagination with a NW-ZX2 High-Resolution Audio Walkman® that can transport you back in time as you wander these memorable places.