Concerts are about artists. No matter how impersonal the venue if the artist is good the night will be good. Sometimes the venue itself is so beautiful, historical or other way unique it adds something extra to the experience. I prefer small and medium size venues. It’s possible to see and hear even small, subtle details and the interaction between the artist and the audience is easy and effortless.
Big events can still be must-see. There’s generous space for show elements and big crowds can create truly special moments everyone is talking about years to come and being able to witness that is always valuable. Every concert is a subjective experience. It has a huge meaning that the practical side works out well and the staff working at the venue treats everyone in a polite and respectful way. Below some of my favorite venues.
I start with tiny ones. The best thing with small venues is that the audience is automatically in the same small, cozy bubble with the artist. There’s natural intimacy and warm, spontaneous interaction. It’s always an advantage if the staff works directly for the venue (like often the case with small venues) and for that reason cares the impression they give to people.
I’ve seen a couple of small gigs at Den Atelier in Luxembourg and remember how the guy at the door brought people in the queue warming lamps to make the waiting more comfortable. And it’s been years since I saw a lovely tiny gig at Comedy Club in Paris but have to mention that nice tall security man who noticed he blocked my view (and that I couldn’t see anything) and changed his position making my view perfect. The tiny club itself with beautiful wall papers, chandeliers and velvet curtains was one of the prettiest I’ve visited.
Last year at Verboten in Brooklyn the doors were about to open and the man letting people in pointed our group to his colleague and asked to make sure we are let in first because we came first. Such rare customer service! Every regular gig goer knows how it feels to be at the venue in good time and still end up having a bad spot just because the staff opened doors randomly or let their friends in first. It sucks. It reminds you are small (in every sense) and your time worthless. These little gestures matter.
I love church venues! Churches are built to have good acoustics and there’s a cool contrast hearing pop/rock in a church. Union Chapel in London (extra special at Christmas time) and Passionskirche in Berlin are both popular for music events and offer a great concert environment. Last year I saw a lovely small acoustic gig (by a local artist) in Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki. It was my first time there and the experience was wonderful, the church is built directly in solid rock and known for its excellent acoustics.
Theatre type venues are my favorites for many reasons. The music I love matches with the style. It’s easy to see from every direction and seats are often numbered so there’s no stress going in and it’s easy to go for drinks or have dinner before the event. I like the vibe, it’s traditional and more civilized than the usual sports arena/festival atmosphere. I have many dear memories from different theatre venues.
Round Cirque d’hiver in Paris has been a venue for real circuses. Magical Teatro Sociale in Como is a fancy opera house founded 1813, the same year Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner were born. Orpheum Theater in Boston is one the oldest in the US, Great American Music Hall in San Francisco famous not only for jazz and rock but also for burlesque. Adelphi in London is specially known as a musical venue. I haven’t seen the London Palladium yet but bought tickets for June and looking forward to seeing the official starting point for Beatlemania!
Sometimes the venue is simply breath-taking, no explanation is needed. Last summer I was lucky to see a concert in my dream location in Sicily. The view from Teatro Antico in Taormina must be the most beautiful in the world. The pic above is from Harpa, Reykjavik. This modern music centre in Iceland has several music halls, shops, cafes and other services. Just watching out of the window was worth traveling.