Our capital has certainly been one of the most culturally significant cities in the world in the last 100 years. Without question it has laid its mark on popular culture in a number of ways, and arguably most important of is all the British and international music scene. Over the years everyone from Frank Sinatra to R.E.M, from Jose Chameleone to AR Rahman, London has hosted shows by them all. Of course you cannot host performances by generation defining musicians by not having a collection of fantastic venues for them to dazzle audiences and thankfully London has plenty of those. Here are 5 of the capitals most historic and iconic venues kindly put together for us by the guys over at Band Hire UK (www.bandhire.uk).
The London Palladium
One of London’s longest standing and historically significant venues is of course the London Palladium. Completed in 1910, it has stood for more than 100 years, although was almost destroyed in the Blitz of WW2 when it was hit by German parachute mine, fortunately the mine never exploded.
The 2,286 seated venue has held host to an endless list of legendary names including Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Frankie Lane, Rufus Wainwright, Sir Elton John, Adele and over 40 Royal Variety Performances. The venue has even made its way into the world of cinema with Alfred Hitchcock’s 11939 classic thriller The 39 Steps shooting a gripping scene in the venue.
Nearest tube station: Oxford Circus Tube Station
First opened in 1942, the 100 club was originally named Feldman Swing Club because of the house band who were a family of musicians named the Feldman’s. During the years after the war it became synonymous with Swing and Bebop featuring acts like Ronnie Scott, Jonny Dankworth and Frank Holder.
As music moved on, the 100 Club became linked with rhythm & blues and later Punk. In 1976 it played host to the first International Punk Festival at which the likes of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, The Jam, The Stranglers and The Dammed all performed. The venue was nearly closed in 2010 but was saved by a campaign lead by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and sporting giants Nike and Converse. It now hosts regular music gigs in its 350 capacity main room, as well as stand-up comedy.
Nearest tube station: Tottenham Court Road Tube Station
Easily one of the most visually distinguishable venues both internally and externally Is the Roundhouse. Built in 1846, it was originally a turntable engine shed for the London and Birmingham Railway due to its northerly position. For the best part of a century the Roundhouse was used by a number of businesses as storage, most notably gin distiller’s W & A Gilbey Ltd.
In 1964 the building was transferred to Centre 42, with plans to develop the premises into a cultural centre, changing it into the venue we know today. During the 60s the venue became a significant venue for music events hosted by underground organisers Middle Earth and Implosion. From here it hosted everyone in rock and roll from Pink Floyd, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones and many more.
In the Mid 80’s the venue was closed after being sold to Camden Borough Council, but was reopened more than 10 years later after being purchased for £6m. Consequent renovations mean it is as popular as it has ever been and hosts hundreds of events every year.
Nearest tube station: Chalk Farm Tube Station
Most venues change their names as the years go by, but none more so than KOKO which has been previously known as six different names. From 1900 it ran as a theatre until 1913 when it became a cinema. Post WW2 it became a BBC studio until it became a music venue in the 1970s.
The venue, then named The Music Machine, became synonymous with the new wave music scene regularly hosting gigs by The Clash, he Boomtown Rats and was the last venue ACDC’s Ben Scot was seen drinking before dying from alcohol poisoning in 1980. The venue also holds the title of being the location for Madonna’s first ever UK performance.
Since its heady 1980s days the venue has been through serious restoration projects to make it the KOKO venue we know today. Since 2004 the 1,400 capacity KOKO has hosted gigs by everyone from Amy Winehouse to Oasis, from Lilly Allen to The Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Nearest tube station: Mornington Crescent Tube Station
Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Opening in 1903, the 2,000 capacity Shepard’s Bush Empire was initially a well respected theatre, hosting performances from the likes of Charlie Chaplin. By the mid 1950’s the venues output had severely declined and it faced closer. It was then bought out by the BBC and used as a television studio-theatre and was the location for shows including The Old Grey Whistle test and The Generation game.
The BBC vacated the premises in 1991 and the Empire sat dormant until 1993 when it was bought by entrepreneur Andrew Mahler who spent over £1m renovating it into a gig venue. Since the mid 1990s the Shepherd’s Bush Empire has hosted everyone from Pearl Jam to Mumford and Sons, Sheryl Crow to Elbow.
Nearest tube station: Shepherds Bush Market
These are just five of the most iconic venues around the city, as to list them all would almost be endless. There are also plenty of venues which have sadly shut down in recent years which might have made this list, venues such as the London Astoria.