Concert venues can make or break a musical experience, with lighting, atmosphere and a number of other variables contributing to the overall essence of a performance. While we’ve all seen our share of shows in stuffy clubs and good-enough locales, the following six venues have set a high standard for others to follow. Whether surrounded by nature or entrenched in magnificent architecture, these venues represent the absolute ideal for a concert experience, each for their own unique reasons.
When it comes to gorgeous venues, nothing comes within screaming range of this 20,000-plus capacity amphitheatre overlooking the Columbia River. With stunning views of the river and the Columbia gorge canyon, the 45 degree angle on the lawn provides a breeze vantage-point escape from the general festival tomfoolery down below. There isn’t a seat in the house that doesn’t qualify as great viewing. With the Sasquatch Festival held each Memorial Day Weekend, as well as stops for the Warped Tour, Ozzfest, Lollapalooza, and beyond, it’s a sacred concert journey for bands like Pearl Jam, who released a seven-disc box set of their 2005-2006 Gorge shows.
Madison Square Garden
When you’re the king, you climb the biggest mountain and call it your own. That’s the essence of playing Madison Square Garden in the heart of New York City, where the biggest names of the world have passed on their victory lap through superstardom. When you’re rocking to a house packed with 18,200 maniacal fans, the experience can feel like a world unto itself. And when those rafters start bouncing and it feels like the entire house is coming down, you know you’re in the middle of an unforgettable moment.
Where else can you see your favorite band of all time while gnawing on some of the best brisket in the game? The Live Music Capitol Of the World does not mess around when it comes to music venues, and Stubb’s in Austin stands out with a fantastic outdoor-stage atmosphere where we’ve seen everyone from Beck to Blondie, Them Crooked Vultures to Buddy Guy tearing it up. The sound? Just about perfect. The BBQ? Tremendously good. It’s a staple of any music fan’s Austin visit, and for good reason.
Among the most treasured live-performance venues in the world, the Red Rocks Ampitheatre is a musical tourist bucket-list destination and a mark of true accomplishment for bands on the rise. Flanked by two monolithic natural structures, Creation Rock and Ship Rock, the enormous open-air amphitheatre has been crafted almost entirely by nature, without a great deal of change since its beginning in the early 1940s. The venue was properly christened in August of 1964 when The Beatles appeared for the only date on their U.S. tour that wasn’t sold out. Many artists have released recordings from Red Rocks performances, including U2, Dave Matthews Band, Neil Young and Incubus.
Radio City Music Hall
Iconic, classy, visually stunning, the grand Radio City Music Hall has attracted the biggest names in music while also playing host to the Grammy’s, Tony’s, MTV Video Music Awards and the NFL Draft. Since its opening two days after Christmas in 1932, the Rockefeller Center fixture in New York City (and big sister to Samuel Roxy Rothafel’s Beacon Theatre) has hosted over 300 million people for theater, films, and concerts through 80 years of operation. With nearly 6,000 seats across 2 acres, Radio City Music Hall is the world’s largest indoor theatre, sporting an auditorium 160 feet wide and 84 feet tall. The visual spectacle is remarkable, with over 25,000 lights adorning the music hall, which was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The vine-covered baseball mecca in Chicago’s North Side has hosted some legendary ballgames in its time, but since 2005 the venue has been an iconic home to a number of legendary concert performances. Longtime Cubs fan Jimmy Buffett broke the seal ten years ago when he took the stage in center field at the 41,000 capacity venue, and since then, acts Elton John and Billy Joel, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews Band, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and many more have made their mark. Eddie Vedder used to go see the Cubs play at Wrigley when he was a young boy, a hometown love clearly evident in Pearl Jam’s extra-energized live shows at the spot.