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5 Live: The UK’s Most Iconic Live Music Venues

Today, you might be performing at your local pub or bar. One day, with a bit of luck, you could be playing at iconic live music venues where legends have been made. From those which have hosted the world’s biggest acts, to those which have helped create future superstars, Insure4Music have chosen the UK’s 5 most iconic live music venues.

Sadly, some have not withstood the rigours of time, but their enduring legacy in the history of live music remains to this day. We could have included hundreds, but we’ve narrowed it down to our favourites.

Discover more: Find A Small Music Venue Near You! [Interactive Map]

1.       Wembley Stadium (1923), London

Known affectionately to fans as ‘The Old Wembley’ as it was demolished in 2000, this stadium was the scene of some of the most memorable moments in live music history. The list of performances at this venue form a ‘who’s who’ of music, from Live Aid, to Queen’s legendary concert in 1986 and Michael Jackson’s Bad World Tour.

In fact, Jackson performed at ‘The Old Wembley’ more times than any other artist, with 15 shows and 1.1 million tickets sold – that would certainly cover your petrol costs! Other notable acts to play the venue include The Who, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, U2 and Bruce Springsteen, to name but a few.

This wasn’t a bad performance, was it? Freddie Mercury and Queen wow the audience at Wembley in 1986.

2.       Hammersmith Apollo, London

A hotbed of popular culture, the Hammersmith Apollo has operated as a live music venue since its opening in 1932. In fact, the present building still has its original Compton pipe organ, recently restored to playing condition.

Were it a person, the Hammersmith Apollo would never be short of anecdotes. When it was still known as the Hammersmith Odeon, it was where Buddy Holly played his final ever shows in the United Kingdom; where The Beatles performed 38 times in 21 nights; where David Bowie played his final gig as Ziggy Stardust. The list goes on and on.

Relive David Bowie’s famous 1973 show at the venue

3.       The London Astoria, London

Although sadly no longer in existence, the London Astoria helped kick-start the careers of some of Britain’s best-known bands. Arctic Monkeys played a sold-out show there in 2005 before they’d even released a single, while Radiohead recorded a live concert there in 1994 despite still being relatively unknown.

As with any iconic live music venue, its many stories will go down in folklore. Richey Edwards of Manic Street Preachers played his final live gig there before his sudden disappearance, Nirvana played there at the height of their fame in 1991 and groups such as Oasis, Blur and The White Stripes have all graced its auditorium with their presence.

This time lapse video shows the gradual demolition of the London Astoria. Warning – tissues needed. 

4.       The Hacienda, Manchester

The Hacienda’s lifespan was short-lived but hugely impactful. It opened in 1982 and closed in 1997, but in that time it made massive waves in the world of music. Credited as one of the birthplaces of the infamous ‘Madchester’ music scene, The Hacienda was largely behind the acid house-fueled Second Summer of Love from 1988-89.

What’s more, it had already established itself as a staple live music venue long before then. New Order, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and James are just some of the groups who regularly mesmerised crowds in the early 1980’s and beyond. They are in somewhat surprising company – Madonna played her first ever UK gig there in January 1984, and was paid just £50 for the privilege!

If you’ve got half an hour to spare, why not watch this epic clip of The Stone Roses’ live performance at The Hacienda in 1985?

5.       The Cavern Club, Liverpool

Last, but certainly not least, is the original Cavern Club, where The Beatles made their name. Although it has since been redeveloped, it was once central to Liverpool’s rock and roll scene. A far more intimate setting than the other live music venues on this list, The Cavern Club has a ‘basement-like’ feel and was often described by those who frequented it as hot and humid. However, this didn’t stop excited gig-goers flocking to see The Beatles’ 292 live shows there between 1961 to 1963, just before the explosion of Beatlemania.

The Fab Four weren’t the only internationally renowned musical acts to play there, either – The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Elton John, Black Sabbath, Queen and The Who have all appeared at the club. What’s more, if you thought its live music legacy was rooted in the past after the re-development, think again – around 40 live bands still perform there every week.

Enjoy this video of The Beatles performing live at the Cavern Club in 1962 (not that we’re jealous in the slightest)

This blog is part of a series of articles focusing on the most iconic live music venues in various continents across the world. Check back soon to find out which other venues made our lists across the USA, South America and Asia/Australasia.

While you might not be playing such iconic venues yet, any bands who play live should have Public Liability Insurance, especially as most venues now demand it. Public Liability covers you in case you injure someone else while playing, or cause damage to the venue. Make sure you’re ready for stardom with Insure4Music today.

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