Live music in London and New York by Adam – our greatest gig-goer

By: Virgin Atlantic

December 12, 2016

Terminal 5 in New York

Terminal 5 in New York

Adam outside the Brixton Academy

Adam outside the Brixton Academy

By day Adam Laver works in our Customer Service Centre. In the evenings he can often be found hanging out at one of London’s many and varied music venues. In this blog post he talks about his love of live music on both sides of the Atlantic, shares his New York playlist and reveals his fave five London music venues.

Tuesday 4th April 1995 was the first time I went to a live concert of any note. I was 16yrs old and the band was Black Grape. I was hooked. 21 years later and over 250 gigs under my belt and I’m still hooked.

Live music, for me, is such an addictive experience. You know that what you are about to see will never happen again, a complete one off. Sure, the band may be doing a tour playing the same songs in the same order night after night, but in that moment, there and then, anything can happen.

Don’t get me wrong, not all gigs are great. I’ve been to my share of disappointments. In-band fighting, walk offs, sound malfunctions, arguments between act and audience, turning up over 2hrs late – but all this just adds to the excitement.

My most memorable gig? Watch The Throne – Jay Z & Kanye West @ The O2. Two heavyweights together on the same stage, playing a vast number of each back catalogue as well as the joint album. Unbelievably good.

Favourite venue outside of the UK? Terminal 5 in New York City. Located in the Hell’s Kitchen district, this is an excellent venue, set in an old nightclub. Now the go-to venue for live music in NYC.

Terminal 5 in New York

Terminal 5 in New York. Photo Mike Cicchetti Flickr commons

Holiday playlist? I have a playlist on my iPod dedicated to songs about and inspired by New York City, which I like to listen to whilst walking the streets of NYC. Songs include:

  • Across 110th Street – Bobby Womack
  • Autumn in New York – Frank Sinatra
  • New York City Cops – The Strokes
  • Good Fortune – PJ Harvey
  • No Sleep Til Brooklyn – Beastie Boys

It’s not just down to the artist to make an evening special. The venue plays a massive part in whether what you are about to see will live long in the memory or be instantly forgettable. London loves live music. Our capital city is home to many wonderful music venues, from state of the art stadiums like Wembley, huge arenas such as The O2 and Earls Court, outdoor parks Hyde, Victoria & Finsbury, historic theatres including Brixton Academy and Hammersmith Apollo, small clubs like The Garage and Village Underground, even churches (the marvellous Union Chapel) and an old railway turntable building (The Roundhouse). Our very own Sir Richard Branson has a long history in music, setting up Virgin Records, Virgin Megastores, V2 Music and not forgetting his passion of live music with the creation of the V Festival.

These are my fave five live music venues in London, in no particular order. If you fancy checking out a gig in our capital, you won’t go wrong with one of these.

Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall

Set in an idyllic part of west London with a backdrop of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, this historic venue has played host to the great and good of the music world. The stunning building was purpose-built for the arts and has witnessed some of the most memorable shows in London music history. Feeling at home whatever the genre, the Royal Albert Hall has seen impressive orchestras, classic rock bands, pop princesses, indie favourites, electronic dance acts and old school crooners grace the stage in recent years. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, with cheaper standing tickets available right up top on the balcony. A full house is virtually guaranteed, as well as amazing acoustics.

Brixton Academy
The largest and most iconic of the theatre venues, Brixton Academy offers the chance to see some of the biggest acts in an intimate setting. Originally built as a cinema, bands have been playing Brixton Academy since the 1970s and it was even purchased for just £1 in the early 1980s when the owners went into debt. It now holds just under 5,000 punters and is the go-to venue for bands who want to be that bit closer to their fans, rather than perform in massive arenas. You’ll regularly see bands play residencies here rather than 1 or 2 nights at The O2 or Wembley Arena. What’s great about the venue is the sloping floor from the back of the room down to the stage, giving you a great view wherever you stand – unless you happen to stand behind a very tall person! Not just for rock bands, expect to see giants from the dance and hip-hop worlds also play at Brixton’s premier venue.

The 100 Club

The 100 Club

The 100 Club

Named after its address, 100 Oxford Street, the 100 Club is the intimate venue in London. The ’70s saw the who’s who of punk – the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Buzzcocks, the Jam, et al – all perform here in their prime. Unchanged in its appearance since those glory days, you get a real feel of what has come before whilst enjoying what you’re there to see. Nowadays the venue still attracts acts from across genres, and is a real must for fans of a bit of live music history.

Jazz Café
A relatively new venue, the Jazz Café opened its doors in 1990 in London’s eclectic Camden Town. Home to big names in jazz, funk, hip hop and RnB, you’ll easily catch some acts you can get your groove on to. Alternatively, just enjoy the music whilst dining at one of the tables on the balcony. With a capacity of less than 500, as a music lover you will not get a better seat for a meal in the whole of the capital.

The Borderline

The Borderline in Soho

The Borderline in Soho

You’ll find the Borderline in the heart of Soho, if you look hard enough. Tucked away at the end of a short and narrow dead end road, you wouldn’t know it was there unless you were looking. Inside you’ll find a cave of a venue. The low ceiling and dark lighting make for the perfect atmosphere and acoustics for very intimate gigs. You’ll often find big stars play here unannounced or under pseudonyms as well as the next up and comers before they hit the big time. Showcasing the best blues, rock and alternative bands, the Borderline is a must for anyone wishing to experience the best of London’s live music scene.

With Gaz Coombes

The best bit? You sometimes get to hang out with your heroes. Adam with Gaz Coombes




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