The O2 Academy Brixton is to live music what the church is to religion.
Perched proudly on Stockwell Road, The O2 Academy Brixton is an iconic music venue. Its lit-up dome entrance spells out each famous act gracing its stage that night and if that doesn’t catch your eye, the hordes of people converging on the venue from Brixton tube station will. Inside, the venue shows its 1920s theatre roots with grand, carpeted staircases that lead up to an upper circle as well as the cloakroom. Back downstairs, a darkened bar sits to one side of the venue and merchandise can also be found on sale, but all is leading up to the main room through a set of double doors, which holds 4000 standing spectators.
This concert hall is whopping but despite the scale of the Academy, all are guaranteed a view of the stage since the venue is built on a slope. Your focus is easily drawn to the stage, which still keeps period theatre features from the days the Academy was the Astoria. When acts take to the stage, lighting and visual effects are as hi-tech as can be and you can expect confetti cannons and flashing VJ displays or lo-fi, low-light performances, which varies from act to act.
Live music acts come far and wide to play at O2 Academy Brixton and many of the biggest names cite this as their favourite venue to play. It’s hosted some of the best names in the business at the height of their fame and continues to provide sell-out gigs to the masses every night of the week. As such, there’s something of an electricity in the air at the Academy, especially in that period where the band is fashionably late to the stage and the tension builds, in age-old gig tradition. Once they arrive on stage, you’ll be able to see your favourite act from a distance or up close and can choose to get involved in a rowdy mosh pit or stand casually out of the throes of rock passion at the very back of the venue, where the band sound just as good. The whole experience is moved along swiftly and politely from the most efficient security staff in the business who are rarely rude on the job.
The crème de la crème of live music acts – be that pop, dance, hip hop, indie or rock – have taken to the stage of The Academy, and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Indeed, 2014 holds performances from Jurassic 5, Haim, Phoenix, Manic Street Preachers and Azealia Banks in store for gig goers, showing the power to draw in contemporary names on the circuit. Rock ‘n’ roll gods have all had a part to play in the Academy’s history, with the likes of the White Stripes, The Smiths, The Prodigy and The Sex Pistols just a few of the acts on the historic bill. But it’s not just live guitar bands and singers that take their place in the spotlight, with club nights always on the roster such as Hospital Records’ regular Hospitality DnB nights. Stand-up comedy also features on the bill, but acts still have to have a rock god-like status – Russell Brand is case in point, who will be bringing his Messiah Complex tour to Brixton in the New Year.
Drinks at the Academy are secondary to the music, which is what you’d expect really. You’ll also probably be expecting the price tag, since this gig spot isn’t the place for a cheap tipple or two. Pints at £4.50 seem to be most popular, served in plastic cups with Carlsberg on draught for lager drinkers. There’s also a few bottled beers – again, in plastic – and a small selection of spirits and mixers to help keep you up for it as the night draws on. Think rock ‘n’ roll minimalism as opposed to a lavish drinks list.
The Last Word
The O2 Academy Brixton is revered with good reason. It holds an historic place in the capital’s live music culture and continues to attract up-and-coming UK musicians as well as international acts of note, many of who still regard the Academy as their musical mecca.