Impressive lights, unparalleled acoustics, and unapologetic excitement of the crowd—this is what makes live concerts hypnotic and spellbinding. Concerts gather large crowds who come together to celebrate music. Live performances provide a more exciting experience than listening to music on a personal device. Belting out the chorus of a song along with a multitude of people can be an exhilarating experience—some may say it borders on spiritual. And as artists and performers harness the energy of the crowd, this sanctifies the concert ground. We’ve scoured the world in search of top concert venues worthy of your bucket list. Here are 13 of our favorites and why they are worthy:
1. Madison Square Garden (Capacity: 20,789)
Madison Square Garden (MSG) is a landmark indoor arena located in Manhattan. The Garden that we know today is the fourth iteration that opened its doors on February 11, 1968. The original MSG opened in 1879 near Madison Square Park and had a capacity of 10,000. Considered New York’s most high-profile venue, The Garden has been the preferred venue of prominent celebrities. Elvis Presley played four sold-out concerts in 1972; Madonna has been at the arena 31 times; Elton John holds a record of 64 shows at the venue.
2. Red Rocks Amphitheatre (Capacity: 9,525)
Located outside Denver in Morrison, Colorado, Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a unique outdoor concert venue built within surrounding rock formations that provide natural acoustics. Red Rocks attracts performers and musicians from all over the world including legends like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Nat King Cole, and U2. The first concert held at Red Rocks was in 1906 produced by John Walker featuring a 25-piece brass band. Walker eventually sold the venue to the Denver City government in 1927 for $54,133. Construction began in 1936 and was officially open to the public in 1941.
3. Paradiso (Capacity: 1,500 – main hall; 250 – upper floor stage)
Paradiso in Amsterdam—with its multi-tiered balconies and tall church windows—is a true temple of live music. The main hall holds 1,500 people while its secondary smaller venues can hold up to 250. This concert hall was originally a church and a meeting hall of a Dutch religious group until 1965. Paradiso has hosted a number of notable acts including The Police, Prince, The Killers, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, The Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Amy Winehouse, Nirvana, Joe Jackson, Lady Gaga and Coldplay.
4. Sydney Opera House (Capacity: 5,738)
The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts center in Australia. It is famous for its modern expressionist structure designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon. The venue has a combined total capacity of 5,738. Its largest venue, the Concert Hall, seats 2,679 and holds the Sydney Opera House Grand Organ. UNESCO declared Sydney Opera House as a World Heritage Site in 2007. Notable personalities such as Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II have addressed huge crowds in this venue.
5. Santa Barbara Bowl (Capacity: 4,562)
The Santa Barbara Bowl in California is an outdoor amphitheater open for concerts from April through October. Built in 1936, the amphitheater was part of the federal Works Project Administration. It was built to host events for Santa Barbara’s annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta. Originally, the amphitheater had a revolving wooden stage. But this was replaced by a concrete slab when it was washed out during the El Niño rains in 1939. The venue has hosted concerts for sold out
6. Radio City Music Hall (Capacity: 6,015)
Radio City Music Hall is a 12-acre entertainment venue located in the heart of New York City. The music hall opened its doors on December 27, 1932, and has been recorded as one of the world’s largest indoor theaters. The auditorium measures 160 feet from back to the stage and the ceiling reaches a height of 84 feet. A proscenium arch measuring 60 feet tall and 100 feet wide frames the stage. Radio City Music Hall has hosted over 700 movies including King Kong, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Lion King, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s been known to host major award shows and programs such as the Grammy’s, Tony’s, MTV Music Awards and the NFL Draft.
7. Hollywood Bowl (Capacity: 17,500)
Set against the Hollywood Hills and the iconic Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Bowl in California is an outdoor amphitheater owned by the County of Los Angeles. The amphitheater opened on July 11, 1922, and is home of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. It has also hosted notable performances including Kylie Minogue, Elton John, Carrie Underwood, The Doors, Rod Stewart and Van Halen.
8. Shoreline Amphitheatre (Capacity: 22,500)
Shoreline Amphitheatre is a mega-venue in Mountain View, California. Built in 1985 to 1986 as part of the Shoreline Project, the amphitheater’s design was inspired by The Grateful Dead’s “steal your face” logo. It was built on top of a landfill which caused several small fires in its opening year. This prompted the city government to create improved methane testing and ensure the safety of the location as an outdoor venue. To date, the Shoreline Amphitheatre has hosted various music festivals including Area Festival, Download Festival, Family Values Tour, H.O.R.D.E. Festival, Harmony By the Bay Festival, Identity Festival, Lilith Fair, Lollapalooza, Mayhem Festival, Ozzfest, Projekt Revolution, Uproar Festival and Vans Warped Tour.
9. Gorge Amphitheatre (Capacity: 27,500)
The Wall Street Journal has considered the Gorge Amphitheatre in Washington as one of the most scenic concert locations in the world. This venue has been awarded nine times as the Best Outdoor Music Venue by Pollstar Magazine. The original owner of the land, Dr. Vince Bryan, planned to use the Gorge for growing grapes for wine before it was opened as a concert ground in 1985. The Gorge is known for its majestic view of the Columbia River and the Cascade Range. Additionally, the Gorge offers concertgoers camping options, from the standard camping experience to more stylish and comfortable glamping facilities. This concert ground has been graced by performances from the Rolling Stone, Dave Mathews Band, and Pearl Jam. It has also been a venue for various music festivals including Area Festival, Identity Festival, Lollapalooza, Rock the Bells Festival, Sasquatch! Music Festival, and Vans Warped Tour.
10. L’Olympia Bruno Coquatrix (Capacity: 1,996)
In Paris, L’Olympia Bruco Coquatrix, or commonly known as Olympia, stands as a beacon for music and performing arts. Founders Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler opened The Olympia in 1889 as a venue for a variety of entertainment acts. The venue was originally named Montagnes Russes but was renamed The Olympia in 1893. Standing the test of time, this music hall survived World War II and two bankruptcies. In 1961, the Olympia was in the brink of death. Edith Piaf (La Vie En Rose) helped revive the venue by performing in the Olympia for three months. Currently, The Olympia has been a favorite venue by some of the biggest names including The Beatles, Sting, Madonna, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, and Lisa Minelli.
11. Slane Castile (Capacity: 80,000)
The Slane Castle in Ireland is a stunning historical castle in County Meath in Ireland. It is nestled in a 1,500-acre estate owned by one of Ireland’s famed aristocrats, Henry Conyngham, Earl of Mount Charles. High profile events are held around the grounds of the castle. The sloping lawns of the estate serves as a natural amphitheater. A host of notable acts have graced the Slane Concerts since 1981 including The Rolling Stones, U2, Guns N’ Roses, Queen, David Bowie, Celtic Woman, Neil Young, Robbie Williams, Bob Dylan, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bruce Springsteen, Bryan Adams, Madonna, Foo Fighters, R.E.M. and Oasis.
12. Nippon Budokan (Capacity: 14,471)
Nippon Budokan—or simply Budokan—is an indoor arena in Chiyoda, Tokyo. With a seating capacity of 14,471, the arena was originally built to host the judo competition in 1964 Summer Olympics. Architect Mamoru Yamada designed the building based on the Yumedono building (literally meaning the “Hall of Dreams”) of Hôryû-ji, a Buddhist temple located in the ancient capital of Nara, near Kyoto. Currently, Budokan serves as the primary venue for Japanese Martial Arts but has also hosted large musical events. In 1966, the Beatles were the first rock group to perform at Budokan in 1966 and has been since followed by other performers. The list includes The Carpenters, Led Zeppelin, Cheap Trick, Eric Clapton, Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, and Backstreet Boys.
13. Austin City Limits (ACL) at the Moody Theater
Austin City Limits (ACL) is the longest-running music series in American Television history. It used to be housed in famed KLRU-TV’s Studio 6A on the University of Texas campus. That studio earned Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honors in 2009. The new ACL Live venue at the Moody Theater opened in 2011 to acclaimed reviews. It boasts a much larger but intimate 2,750 capacity and hosts over 100 concerts a year. It still serves as the permanent home for the television series and sits at the heart of the live music scene in Austin, Texas. It is certainly a premier live destination—if you are lucky enough to get a ticket. If not, attend the much larger Austin City Limits music festival that is held over consecutive weekends at the beginning of October each year.
Roy Ayers captured it well in his famous quote, “The true beauty of music is that it connects people.” This doesn’t get more accurate than when people flock to concerts and performances to revel in the experience together. Adding in a picturesque backdrop certainly makes it more magical. If you haven’t been to any of these top concert venues, you may want to place a few on your bucket list.