Where to see music
Put together by architects Cruickshank and Seaward and completed in 1928, the Grade-II listed O2 Ritz initially served as a dance hall in its early incarnation, before becoming one of Manchester’s most renowned music venues.
By the late 1950s and early 1960s pop and rock ‘n’ roll had found a welcome home at the Ritz, with Liverpool’s finest The Beatles and US crooner Frank Sinatra among those to stop by, along with a host of other big names.
The club also held a popular Dancing In The Dark night throughout the 1950s and 60s, hosted by a man named Phillip Moss who was the band master for 17 years and widely known as ‘The King of The Ritz’.
By the mid-1980s and early 1990s when the city was the focus of much world attention due to its thriving music scene, the Ritz welcomed the likes of The Smiths and Happy Mondays onto its stage, as well as many other up-and-coming artists and bands.
In 2011 it received a welcome £2 million refurbishment, though thankfully maintaining its legendary curved, bouncy dancefloor.
In recent times the Ritz has staged gigs from a slew of major bands on world or UK tours, including R.E.M, Arctic Monkeys, Adam And The Ants, The Weeknd and Johnny Marr. It also hosts frequent club nights popular with the city’s student population.
Location: Whitworth St West, Manchester, England M1 5NQ
The O2 Apollo Manchester started life out as a multi-purpose cinema and variety hall, and has had several incarnations and corporate owners during its close to 80-year existence.
Nonetheless, it has become one of the premier entertainment (and rock ‘n’ roll) venues in the city.
The Art Deco-styled, Grade II building on Stockport Road in the Ardwick Green area of Manchester was officially opened on 29th August 1938 and has attracted many a major artist from home and abroad over the years, including New York hipsters The Strokes and Irish noise gods My Bloody Valentine.
Indeed, the Apollo is a common stop off point for rock, pop and comedy acts traversing the UK. Local favourites The Courteeners played a five-night residency here in 2015, the first band ever to do so.
The Apollo features both a fully seated area and a part-standing section, with a capacity of 3,500 in total. Overall, it is decent venue with impressive acoustics that is well worth a visit should a major or indie rock band roll up to Manchester.
Location: Stockport Road, Ardwick Green, Manchester, England M12 6AP
Band On The Wall
The not-for-profit venue Band on the Wall is one of the best places in Manchester to catch up-and-coming indie bands before they progress to bigger stages.
Run by registered charity Inner City Music, its mission statement is to “present the best music from around the world and support our main stage events with a dynamic education programme which operates throughout the year – both in the venue and in the community and at local schools.”
The building Band on the Wall now inhabits previously served as a public house, in the shape of the George and Dragon. It was utilised as a music venue too from the 1930s onwards before eventually dropping its public house status and becoming a full-time entertainment venue. The historic building has taken in more than 200 years of Manchester’s cultural life.
Local favourites The Fall, Joy Division and Buzzcocks have all entertained the public at some point in the venue’s history.
The popular site is located right in the heart of the city’s bustling Northern Quarter – a 10-minute wander from Piccadilly Gardens bus station and 15 minutes or so from the railway stations serving Manchester.
Location: 25 Swan Street, The Northern Quarter, Manchester, England M4 5JZ
The home of the University of Manchester’s Students Union, the Manchester Academy venues on Oxford Road and within the University complex have hosted – and continue to host – many of the big-name artists and bands who visit the city.
From 1963 onwards, the four concert venues erected here have staged gigs from the likes of The Who, The Yardbirds, The Small Faces, The Cure, AC/DC, Blur, Oasis, Nirvana, Manic Street Preachers, The Libertines and Queens Of The Stone Age, to name but a few.
The main building is now often referred to as Academy 1, and can house up to 2,600 paying punters. The other three are considerably smaller and more intimate but can still cater for 600-900 people at a gig or club night.
Manchester Academy has won acclaim for both its quality as a live venue and its green credentials. It was labelled the UK’s “greenest venue” in 2010 after a good proportion of its £3.5 million refurbishment budget was spent minimising the environmental impact and increasing the sustainability of the site, as well as improving the facilities for disabled music fans.
Location: Manchester University Students Union, Oxford Road, Manchester, England M13 9PR
A Grade II listed Wesleyan chapel in the city centre that lay dormant and neglected for more than 40 years, the Albert Hall is now one of Manchester’s best live music venues.
The grand and ornate chapel has been restored and refurbished by Trof (the people behind Gorilla and The Deaf Institute), and re-opened in 2013 as a premier events venue, restaurant and bar.
The acoustics here are incredible, and the brilliant purpose-built music hall is widely regarded as one the most atmospheric in the country.
Indie bands and artists such as The Cribs, Johnny Marr, Franz Ferdinand and Sparks have rocked up in recent times, so the burgeoning Albert Hall venue is certainly one to keep an eye on.
Location: 27 Peter Street, Manchester, England M2 5QR