The Flaming Lips perform at The Roundhouse (Shutterstock: see credit below)
List 09 February

London's best gig venues

The variety of London's music scene is a reflection of the city's diversity and creativity: here's where to find its most iconic hangouts, and recreate the industry's most memorable moments

London has some of the most legendary music venues in the world. Whether you’re a head-banger, alternative rocker, mod, punk, indie, or anything in between, the city has a historical spot to cover all tastes...

1. Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road

This theatre was built over the former Horse Shoe Brewery, the site of the 1814 London Beer Flood. The Dominion opened in 1929 and became well known for hosting musical shows; it wasn’t until 6 February 1957 that the hall saw its first proper rock and roll concert. Bill Haley and the Comets opened their British tour here, to the delight of thousands of screaming fans.

Dominion Theatre, London (Shutterstock)
Dominion Theatre, London (Shutterstock)

2. The Electric Ballroom, Camden High Street

This is the spot where 'Sid Sod Off' – the last ever UK performance from Sid Vicious. Sid and his girlfriend Nancy wanted to move to New York and used the profits from this gig to do so.

In 1979, Joy Division performed twice – around the same time that U2 and Adam and the Ants were playing. In 2007, former Beatle Paul McCartney played a surprise gig for an exclusive audience.

3. Dublin Castle, 94 Parkway Camden

The famous late Camden resident Amy Winehouse was a regular at this lively pub. It’s an institution of the indie music scene and launched the music career of Madness.

4. The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road

This Grade II listed building has become one of the most famous music venues in London. The former railway shed saw The Doors play their only UK gig here in 1968, and by the early 1970s DJ Jeff Dexter was a regular Sunday night feature. His shows helped launch the likes of David Bowie, Black Sabbath, Elton John and The Rolling Stones to fame.

In the '70s, the Round House held gigs by The Ramones, Patti Smith and The Strangers, Blondie, Elvis Costello, The Police, and many more. Today, after years lying derelict, the Roundhouse has risen from the ashes to become one of the capital’s best venues again.

The Flaming Lips perform at The Roundhouse (Shutterstock)
The Flaming Lips perform at The Roundhouse (Shutterstock)

5. 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street

The 100 Club’s roots are jazz, and you’ll still find them playing it – but since the 1960s they’ve been throwing rock music into the mix too. In fact, the name of the club came from its larger-than-life rock nights where The Kinks and The Animals played. In the late '70s they brought punk music into the venue with shows by The Sex Pistols and Siouxsie; in the 1980s, the Rolling Stones took breaks from their huge stadium concerts for intimate shows here.

6. Eventim Apollo, Queen Caroline Street

If you wanted to see some of the best gigs in London’s rock and roll heyday, you went to this Grade II listed building in Hammersmith. Originally called the Hammersmith Apollo, it was renamed Hammersmith Odeon in 1962. It is known as the Eventim Apollo now through sponsorship.

The Beatles played their second Christmas show here in 1964 – it ran for three weeks and sold out its 100,000 tickets. The show involved music, comedy sketches, and special guests. Live albums Alchemy by Dire Straits and No Sleep til Hammersmith by Motorhead were also recorded here.

7. Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gore

This historic venue dates back to the 1800s and was named after Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. From the 1960s it has been used regularly for pop and rock concerts, which is when Cream performed their last show and Bob Dylan upset some of his folk purist fans by playing an electric guitar – the horror!

The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys are just a few of the legendary names to have played here.

Royal Albert Hall, London (Shutterstock)
Royal Albert Hall, London (Shutterstock)

8. Ronnie Scott’s, Frith Street

Primarily a jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s club in Soho is also a hotspot for rock music. The Who blasted an audience of journalists when the band launched their album Tommy here in 1969. Jimi Hendrix gave his last live performance here in September 1970.

9. Up on a Roof, 3 Savile Row

Savile Row may be known for upscale bespoke tailors, but this Mayfair street housed the Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd group of companies. On 30 January 1969, the roof of Apple headquarters held the group’s final performance and one of the all-time greatest moments in popular culture.

The Beatles got up onto their roof and had a set list of five songs. Their neighbours weren't pleased with the surprise performance and called the police – but when the police arrived, they stayed to watch the show. The performance was stopped after 42 minutes but the footage lives on. The building is now a branch of Abercrombie Kids.


Main image: The Flaming Lips perform at The Roundhouse (Shutterstock)