100 Club 100 Oxford St, London W1D 1LL. Telephone 020 7636 0933
One of the most famous rock music venues in the world. Artists like The Rolling Stones, Joe Strummer, Paul Weller and Squarepusher have performed “secret” gigs here, when they were already well-established. 100 Club regularly showcases the best of UK underground talent. In December 2010, Sir Paul McCartney played as part of the ongoing campaign to keep the venue open. He said “Please Mr 100 Club, try and keep it open because it’s a really cool place” but please, dear reader, don’t let this put you off.
Barbican Concert Hall Barbican Centre, Silk St, City of London, EC2Y 8DS. Telephone 0871 971 5932
As home of The London Symphony Orchestra, with BBC Symphony Orchestra as Associate, you would expect the 2000-seat the Barbican Concert Hall to stage excellent classical events. However, the venue also attracts very many top-flight contemporary performers from all over the world. In 2010, dancing in the aisles to Malatu Astatke marked the highlight of my gig-going year. In the first half of 2011, iconic basisst Charlie Haden, Youssou N’Dour, Yasmin Levy and Marianne Faithfull are just a few of those who will perform here.
Jazz Cafe 5 Parkway, Camden Town, London NW1 7PG. Telephone 020 7485 6834
Jazz Cafe intersperses live performances – Jazz, Soul, Funk, World, Dance and Hip Hop – with club nights. The restaurant upstairs serves nothing very special but if you enjoy your music seated, book a table. Otherwise, stay down and step out on the dance floor to enjoy the music of artists like Michelle Ndegeocello, Mica Paris, Ibrahim Maalouf and Zap Mama at close quarters.
The Roundhouse Chalk Farm Rd, Camden, London NW1 8EH. Telephone 0844 482 8008
Built in the 19th century to contain a railway turntable, The Roundhouse is home to all manner of creative enterprise. At the end of 2010, The Roundhouse even launched its own record label. As well as regular nights showcasing emerging talent, this place has hosted names including The Noisettes, Ojos de Brujo, Janelle Monáe and Grace Jones ( yes!). The venue is fully wheelchair-accessible.
Royal Opera House Bow St, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9DD. Telephone 020 7304 4000
Sometimes simply called ‘Covent Garden’, it’s worth visiting even if you don’t have tickets for any performance. Original historical material is displayed in the foyer and the Amphitheatre Gallery, open to the general public, free to visit. The auditorium is gorgeous and within the space of any one season, four or five full scale works will be performed here. In Spring 2011, these are Aïda, Macbeth (Guiseppe Verdi), Fidelio (Ludwig von Beethoven), The Tsar’s Bride (Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov and Werther (Jules Massenet).
Union Chapel Compton Ave, Islington, London N1 2XD 020 7359 4019
Sunday Service is at 11am but this Congregationalist Chapel has huge success in engaging with the wider community. As well as the annual Daylight Music festival (with many free events), names as diverse as Kimya Dawson, Angelique Kidjo, Nathacha Atlas and Tom Jones (yes!) have played intimate gigs here. Union Chapel pews are as hard as any but that quickly ceases to matter. The rich, resonant acoustics of the Gothic interior make awe-inspiring sounds in these special surroundings.