Blondie, Jay-Z, The Strokes… New York has been home to an unrivalled pedigree of musical talent in its history, from stars of yesteryear to today’s chart toppers and the exciting new names for the future. If you’re a music fan visiting New York be sure to check out these venues – and have your holiday money card handy for any impromptu ticket purchases.
The Apollo Theater on West 125th Street, Harlem, is one of the most famous venues in the world. When the building first opened in 1914 as Hurtig and Seamon’s New Theater there was a strict ‘whites only’ rule, therefore it is somewhat poetic that the same structure has gone on to be renowned as a major launch pad for African American performers in particular.
The Apollo’s stage has been graced by swing era performers such as Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, the soulful sounds of Ray Charles, Otis Reading and Aretha Franklin and the comedy of Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor. The list of names whose careers are said to have started at the venue is astonishing and includes – but is by no means limited to – Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Dionne Warwick, The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Ben E. King, Mariah Carey, The Isley Brothers, Lauryn Hill and Ne-Yo.
Sadly closed in 2014 but still worth a glance from the outside is the historic Roseland Ballroom in the heart of Manhattan’s theatre district. It’s drab and grey exterior belies a colourful history that took place within during its 95 year history. It was here that Blondie performed a memorable homecoming gig in 2013, while other notable performances over the years have included those by Phil Collins, Madonna and Lady Gaga, whose concert marked the Roseland’s closing date.
The historic small venues are historic must sees, but don’t be put off by the bigger arenas – they too have stories to tell.
Take the iconic Madison Square Garden. It was here in 2003 that Jay-Z held his concert that would be the focus of his film Fade to Black. He was joined that November night by a stellar support line-up that included Missy Elliott, Mary J Blige, Ghostface Killah, Pharrell Williams, R. Kelly and of course Beyoncé, and all proceeds from the event went to charity.
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