Ten great music venues

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The Independent Culture

Madison Square Garden New York, US

4 Pennsylvania Plaza, New York; www.thegarden.com; 001 212 465 6741

Madison Square Garden's claims to being the world's most famous arena is no idle boast. This is the venue that hosted John Lennon's last ever public performance (right), back in 1974. The ex-Beatle had struck an agreement with Elton John that if their duet, "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" made it to No 1, then he would appear onstage with Elton. So, on Thanksgiving Day the pair appeared together at the Garden to play three songs. The venue initially opened in 1879 on Madison Avenue (hence the name) for bicycle racing. It's been through three incarnations since then, with the most recent one built on top of Penn Station in 1968.

Upcoming gigs: Marc Anthony, 14 February; Mötley Crüe, 16 March; Fleetwood Mac, 19 March.

Mercury Live Cape Town, South Africa

43 De Villiers Street, Cape Town; 00 27 21 465 2106; www.mercuryl.co.za

If you want to find decent local rock and alternative bands in Cape Town, Mercury Live, next to a nondescript brick building in the district of Zonnebloem, is one of the coolest live music venues in the city. Check out electronica act Lark, the Van Coke Kartel, who sing in Afrikaans, white South African rapper Max Normal, and Coda, who combine African music with strings and DJ. All play regularly.

Upcoming gigs: Hog Hoggidy Hog, a well-known ska punk band from Cape Town, 5 March.

Bar Brahma São Paulo, Brazil

Avenida São João 677, Sao Paulo; 00 55 11 3333 0855; www.barbrahmasp.com

For samba and Música Popular Brasileira, there are few better places than São Paulo's Bar Brahma. Overlooking the intersection of Ipiranga and São João avenues, this venue and restaurant (serving popular Brazilian fare) first opened in 1949. Historically a meeting place for artists, politicians and intellectuals, it's also said to be where singer-songwriter Caetano Veloso wrote one of his best-loved songs, "Sampa".

Upcoming gigs: A range of Música Popular Brasileira.

New Africa Shrine Lagos, Nigeria

1 Nerdc Road Agidingbi Ikeja, Lagos; www.newafricashrine.blogspot.com

The original Shrine, musical base of the late Nigerian singer, multi-instrumentalist and activist Fela Kuti, was burned down by government soldiers, and The New Africa Shrine was built by Fela's son Femi in 2000 to replace it. Fusing Yoruba rhythms, West African Highlife and American jazz and funk, Fela created a unique sound known as Afrobeat and played concerts that lasted four hours or more. Today, the New Africa Shrine hosts gigs by other Afrobeat musicians and weekly concerts by Femi.

Upcoming gigs: Weekly Femi Kuti gigs and a range of Afrobeat groups.

AsiaWorld-Arena Hong Kong, China

AsiaWorld-Expo, Hong Kong International Airport, Lantau, Hong Kong; 00 852 3606 8828 ; www.asiaworld-expo.com

Today, Cantopop, an economic musical miracle in 1980s and 1990s Hong Kong, is all but dead. Last year, at least, it was replaced by "Mandopop", with a long list of musicians from Taiwan descending on the city, such as diva A-Mei, F.I.R. (an acronym of its members, Faye, Ian, and Real) and heartthrobs Fahrenheit. They all played at the impressive new AsiaWorld-Arena, now the largest indoor seated arena in Hong Kong. Coldplay, Oasis, John Legend and Kylie Minogue have also graced its stage.

Upcoming gigs: Rod Stewart ,7 March; Duffy, 20 March; Oasis, 7 April.

Blue Frog Mumbai, India

D/2 Mathuradas Mills Compound, N.M. Joshi Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai; 00 91 22 4033 2300 ; bluefrog.co.in

Mumbai's Blue Frog bills itself as "a revolutionary integrated music project" consisting of a live music venue, state-of-the-art recording studio and an independent record label and management service. Built inside the huge walls of an old warehouse in Mumbai's mill district, the club plays host to hip-hop artists, rock bands and film screenings – there's even a regular Sunday brunch. Gigs have included Sweden's Jonas Desai and British-born Hollywood-based DJ Samantha Ronson (left).

Upcoming gigs: Acclaimed drummer, Ranjit Barot, 24 February

Ikra Moscow, Russia

Kazakova, Dom 8A, Moscow; 00 7 495 778 5651; http://ikraclub.ru/!english

Coldcut, Sean Lennon, Electric Six and Andrew Weatherall have all played at Moscow's Ikra club – all in its first year of operation. This purpose-built venue says it aims to have Moscow club listings comparable to that of any European capital. And it's not doing a bad job of it. It has won praise for its sound system, and the atmosphere is even better when there's a big crowd – which is often. Gigs usually take place from Thursday to Sunday, but it's also worth heading down on a Wednesday for the DJ who plays good old-fashioned rock'n'roll.

Upcoming gigs: Finland's Troll Scientists, 22 February

Le Bataclan Paris, France

50 Boulevard Voltaire, Paris; 0033 1 4314 0030; www.le-bataclan.com

Le Bataclan theatre opened in the mid-19th century as a café and vaudeville theatre. In the 1930s, it played host to the then unknown singer Edith Piaf. Visitors remark on the venue's vintage charm and intimacy, but don't let its historical setting fool you: today, you're more likely to see heavy rock and metal bands, and the technology employed within these walls is cutting edge, ensuring unrivalled sound quality.

Upcoming gigs: American heavy metal band Soulfly, 12 February

The Vanguard Newtown, Australia

42 King Street, Newtown, Sydney; 0061 02 9557 7992; www.thevanguard.com.au

The Vanguard may be a small venue in a relatively small suburb west of Sydney, but it sure packs a big punch. Inspired by the New Orleans jazz and blues scene, The Vanguard's founders wanted to create a venue that would encourage an eclectic ensemble of artists and performers. And over the past few years, they've hosted everyone from Jens Lekman, Hawksley Workman and James Morrison to a Beatles cover band... and Russell Crowe. What's more, this venue was voted one of the top 20 bars in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine.

Upcoming gigs: 1950s-influenced Texan rock'n'rollers The Backsliders, 14 March; Scottish singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine, 7 April

The Powerstation Auckland, New Zealand

33 Mt Eden Road, Eden Terrace, Auckland; info@powerstation.net.nz; www.powerstation.net.nz

The Powerstation has, by its owner's admission, had its ups and downs over the years. But it would be a crime if a venue that has hosted gigs by bands such as the Ramones, Public Enemy, Debbie Harry and the Beastie Boys went out of business. Luckily, The Powerstation is enjoying a renaissance. Now, bands such as Spiritualized and Arctic Monkeys (who both played last month) can add their names to the list of performances which include a now infamous show by The Cramps in 1986 – later released as a live album, Rockin'n'Reelin' in Auckland New Zealand – and Radiohead, who played their New Zealand debut there in 1994.

Upcoming gigs: Stray Cats, 3 March; Rise Against, 31 March



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