The tickets are booked. You’re on your way to that show you’ve been waiting months to see.
You can’t wait for 9pm to roll around. So, where’s the gig at, then? Let’s not forget that a venue can make or break a night out with your favourite band. Sometimes, the bar is too noisy. Occasionally, your view is restricted. Every now and then, the sound system plays up. And then there are the moments where everything just…works.
Perfect setting, perfect act – you can’t have one without the other. Indeed, for a small city, we’re blessed to have some of the greatest live venues in Europe right at our doorstep. So, do you enjoy a good concert? We thought as much. Do yourself a favour, then, and keep an eye out for some cracking live shows over the coming months in the following Dublin hotspots…
3Arena (North Wall Quay, Dublin 1)
An obvious choice, for sure, but the venue formerly known as The O2 (we’ll get used to that new name, eventually) really is a sight to behold, that big-old shed along the Docklands having opened its doors to some of the biggest superstars on the planet these last seven years. Remember how things used to look and, indeed, sound in the old Point Theatre? Yikes. A sublime renovation changed everything in 2008, and one of the most surprising things about this state-of-the-art, big blue amphitheatre is how different it looks every time we take our seats.
You can pack more than 14,000 punters within those walls, and as for the acoustics, well, there’s a reason so many of the world’s greatest artists (Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran, Elton John, etc.) continue to stop by. And that’s a hell of a stage up there, too. The drink prices aren’t fun (€6.50 for a pint) but look, with a range of bars and food stalls on every floor, at least there are never any queues. Oh, and the best gig we’ve ever seen there? Paul McCartney’s 2009 Christmas show will take some beating, I’ll tell you that much. A glorious venue.
Don’t miss: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, March 4 (www.3arena.ie).
Vicar Street (Thomas Street, Dublin 8)
We really do love it here. Is it a club; is it a theatre? Who knows, but it doesn’t matter where you’re sitting – you’ll always have a great view of the action. If there’s one thing the aforementioned 3Arena isn’t good for, it’s live comedy. For obvious reasons. In the intimate surroundings of Vicar Street, however, you’ll find that a funny night out with, say, Dara O Briain or Tommy Tiernan (both of whom have been known to set up shop at Vicar Street for weeks), always ends with a smile. What a tremendous spot it is, too, for live music. You can squeeze more than 1,000 folks inside so, you know, it’s not that small. But man, remember when Paul Simon played there a few years back? Majestic doesn’t cut it. Yep, Vicar Street has proved a popular choice of venue for internationally-renowned heritage acts. Great location, great place – for both comedians and music makers.
Don’t miss: Tweedy, January 28 (www.vicarstreet.ie).
Whelan’s (Wexford Street, Dublin 2)
In 2014, Whelan’s celebrated its 25th anniversary. In fact, according to the stats, more than 30,000 acts have performed for more than 2 million music fans ever since the popular, late-night Wexford Street haunt opened its doors in 1989. That’s some achievement. Whatever about the bar (one of our favourite pubs in the city, if we’re honest), it’s through those slim doors at the Camden Row entrance where the magic really happens.
Granted, it is exceptionally small inside (only 450 punters per gig), and we always hate it whenever the solo, acoustic guitar-slingers on stage take a seat (stand up, we can’t see you!). But its raucous, rustic charm never fails to impress and the venue has played host to some of the most famous, critically-adored names in music over the course of its 25-year existence, from Jeff Buckley and Nick Cave to Arctic Monkeys and Damien Rice. Indeed, if that famous stone man statue at the end of the bar could talk, he’d have some stories to tell. Plus, there’s a second, smaller stage upstairs. Fabulous atmosphere and always a rockin’ spot, any night of the week.
Don’t miss: Ben Folds & Band, February 21 (www.whelanslive.com).
Olympia Theatre (Dame Street, Dublin 2)
It’s been around forever, and you know what that means. Oh yes, the Olympia has its fair share of loyal acts, from the always reliable Manic Street Preachers to the superlative Robert Plant, both of whom rarely play anywhere else when stopping by the city for a sing-song. Sure, it has its problems. If you’ve booked a ticket for the Upper Circle, then all I can say is ‘good luck’ (the views are quite restricted up there). As for those fully-seated gigs, dear God, won’t somebody think of the tall people? It’s a tight squeeze, and hardly the ideal venue for theatre, but boy, does it knock our socks off whenever a truly great rock act takes to the stage. Suede, R.E.M., even Tori Amos – we’ve had some memorable (loud) nights in this venue. On a good night, the Olympia can cater for up to 1,200 punters. The key is to get in early, find a good spot and stay there. No matter what. Plus, Maureen’s Bar. That’s a bonus point right there. Though it may involve some moving about…
Don’t miss: Interpol, February 10/11/12 (www.olympia.ie).
Iveagh Gardens (Clonmel Street, Dublin 2)
Okay, so we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves here, but this has to be our favourite place in the city to catch an outdoor gig in the summertime. A gorgeous setting, the magnificent Iveagh Gardens has played host to a number of extraordinary gigs these last few years, from the annual Vodafone Comedy Festival to The National’s unforgettable weekend stop-off last July. So, yes, we only ever get to see shows here when the weather is nice. And we’re already counting down the days to July when Damien Rice swings by for what should be a spectacular day out in one of the best parks in the city. With more gigs to be announced in the coming months, methinks we’re in for another unforgettable summer…
Don’t miss: The Frames, July 4 (www.aikenpromotions.com).