You might think of Aberdeen as something of a forgotten city where live music is concerned, situated as it is as a bit of an outpost on the east coast of northern Scotland. But there is a thriving live music scene in the ‘Granite City’, it is still a regular stop-off for some of the UK’s biggest touring artists and there is a rich history of legendary gigs going back many years.
In terms of history, the Beach Ballroom is probably the venue that has the most stories to tell. As an art deco building, not surprisingly located on the seafront, the Ballroom is now 88 years old and something of a much-loved venue to the local populace. It’s famously bouncy dancefloor is still accommodating gig-goers today and it seems somehow appropriate that the Happy Mondays are due to visit in December this year, as there is very much a carefree party vibe about the 1000-capacity venue now.
Legendary live music in Aberdeen
This wasn’t quite the case in 1963 when The Beatles played a very early gig at the Beach Ballroom and weren’t even top of the bill. By all accounts they didn’t go down too well either, but the classic Syd Barret line-up of Pink Floyd certainly raised the roof four years later. A 1989 Primal Scream gig has also gone down in Ballroom folklore, but a long-lost venue, The Capitol, can also lay claim to some never-to-be-forgotten nights. David Bowie left fans open-mouthed as he presented his Ziggy Stardust alter ego in 1973, and the Rolling Stones were at the height of their powers when they stopped off in 1982, having also played there in 1964.
Today, the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) is probably the most prominent venue in the city, and as the third most populated city in Scotland, it is only right that Aberdeen should make the most of its 8500-capacity Arena.
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Live gigs in Aberdeen in 2017
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds played a famous gig at the AECC a few years ago, but much anticipated this year is the return of local girl Emeli Sande, who lived in the city from the age of four. Sande played a secret homecoming gig in the tiny ‘Tunnels’ venue in 2016, but this year she is bringing her full show back to town, while the AECC will also be hosting Busted, Craig David, Olly Murs, Little Mix, UB40 and Blink 182 before 2017 is out.
Mid-sized venues come in the form of the Music Hall, which is a 19th century traditional building, currently undergoing a £7 million refurbishment. Her Majesty’s Theatre is another impressive building in Aberdeen, and holding up to 1400 people it tends to host more comedy and classic artists, and currently has Mike and the Mechanics lined up in the coming months.
The Garage typically hosts student nights and its gigs tend to follow that pattern, with Shed Seven and Scouting For Girls coming in 2017, while The Lemon Tree is a performing arts venue that showcases local bands in a very intimate setting with a 550-capacity.
So Aberdeen might be off the beaten track to some people but it is very much on the UK’s live music map, and with plenty going on in terms of gigs and lots of venues looking to the future with major refurbishments, it looks like the Granite City will be rocking for a long time yet.