Manchester’s fingerprints are all over the UK’s modern music scene as the single most influential city in the last 40 years. Few people thought Liverpool would ever be surpassed after bringing us The Beatles and a revolution in popular music in the Swinging Sixties, but a few miles down the road, Manchester was quietly waiting to unleash a precession of genre-defining bands that spanned over 30 years.
Starting with The Buzzcocks and The Fall, we soon had Joy Division who morphed into New Order after the tragic death of lead singer Ian Curtis in 1980, there then followed The Smiths and James before the triple whammy of The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and finally Oasis. Even now, local boys Blossoms are one of the hottest bands around. Never before has one city shaped so much of a nation’s listening habits and its youth culture movements and instigated such a rush of copycat bands, fashions and styles.
Naturally Manchester formed itself a thriving live music scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and that lives on today as the North West city continues to lead the way in presenting the best live music experiences.
Manchester live music venues
Much of the Factory-inspired excitement occurred around the famous Hacienda club, which doubled as a legendary nightclub and live music venue, but bit the dust amid financial struggles in 1997. The International and the Boardwalk were also well known venues of the time and they competed with the Manchester Ritz, a Grade ll listed building which has quite literally seen it all. From Frank Sinatra and The Beatles, through The Smiths and REM to US hip hop pioneers Public Enemy, the Ritz has been the scene of every musical style going and it still lives on today as one of two O2 venues in the city. The other is the O2 Apollo, a 3500 capacity traditional venue on the outskirts of the city centre, with a huge upstairs balcony.
There is an undeniable feeling that history is being made whenever you watch a gig in Manchester, not just because of all the legendary bands that have been unearthed in the city, but because many of the venues are steeped in history themselves.
While the Albert Hall doesn’t quite carry the glamour of its London namesake, it is still a stunning building, renovated from a disused chapel in 2013. Meanwhile, the Deaf Institute is an intimate venue that somehow caters for big and small acts and against all odds, it works. The Manchester Academy is a collection of four venues within the city’s university complex, while other newer venues include the breath-taking Bridgewater Hall; an elegant concert hall opened in 1996 and Band on the Wall; an atmospheric club in the trendy Northern Quarter, perhaps more suited to Jazz and New World music.
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Upcoming gigs in Manchester
As Manchester continues to break boundaries and cement itself as the most exciting live music city in the UK, naturally bands continue to flock there. The city’s 21,000 capacity Arena right next to Victoria Station is host to Radiohead in July and Royal Blood in November. The O2 Apollo welcomes Paramore in June and The National in September, while Bridgewater Hall has an eclectic mix of Kraftwerk, Travis and Squeeze all before October is out. Elsewhere, the Albert Hall hosts Everything Everything, Avalanches and Beth Ditto, while the Academy has The Shins booked for August.
The annual Sounds of the City Festival takes place in the open-air concrete amphitheatre Castlefield Bowl right in the heart of Manchester, beginning in June and continuing into July. Previously hosting the likes of Pixies, Noel Gallagher and New Order, this year sees an equally star-studded line-up with Richard Ashcroft, Arcade Fire, James and hometown boys Blossoms gracing the stage for the masses.
It is clear that Manchester continues to be at the forefront of music culture and there is no let-up in the excitement, energy and raw enthusiasm for live music in the UK’s premier music city.