Gig Diary: We Visit Some of Nottingham’s Most Loved Music Venues

Words: Kira O'Boyle
Illustrations: Rebecca Evans
Sunday 04 February 2024
reading time: min, words

In Nottingham, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to live music venues. From the Motorpoint Arena with its capacity of 10,000 to smaller rooms like The Bodega and The Chameleon, we really do have it all. Our Kira O’Boyle set off on a journey, attending as many gigs as possible over a two-week period to decide once and for all which one is her ultimate favourite. Here are her gig diaries


Tuesday: Madness at Motorpoint Arena

My quest continued today to the biggest venue in Nottingham: Motorpoint Arena. I have always felt arenas are too big, too expensive, and too little atmosphere. But this may be a slight exception. Being able to see the band without being right at the front was a triumph I never expected to achieve. The stage in the arena is huge, which paved the way for some extraordinary visuals from the band that cannot be achieved in smaller venues.

Madness filled the stage with luxurious velvet curtains and multiple screens showcasing artwork and imagery to coincide with the themes of the band’s new album A Theatre of Absurd presents C’est La Vie, while their more popular songs lifted everyone to their feet. I had a great time, but I did find myself missing the magic of smaller, intimate shows.

The Chamelon

Friday: Neville Staple at Metronome

The next venue to tick off my list was Metronome. Tonight saw the Original Rude Boy, Neville Staple from The Specials and later the Fun Boy Three promise the crowd, “we are going to have a party tonight”, and that’s exactly what we got. It was great to see such a mixture of ages, from teenagers to the very groups born from the two-tone movement of the seventies.

There was nothing crazy going on with the staging or the effects; the focus was just on the crowd and the band. The audience were transformed from mere strangers to a group of people non-stop dancing as if at a family party; Staple’s music had created nothing but love and respect between the audience, with the intimacy of Metronome placing no barrier between the music and the people. We weren’t watching Mr. Staple, we were celebrating his music with him.

Royal Concert Hall

Sunday: The Charlatans at Rock City

With a complete genre and venue shift for my Sunday evening this week, it was time for Madchester indie greats: The Charlatans at Rock City. Arriving slightly late, the sold-out venue was already packed from the floor to the balcony, but I found myself in the perfect spot close to the stage. There was already an undeniable energy building from the crowd that eagerly awaited the band. 

A huge nineteen song setlist flew us through a catalogue of The Charlatans newest and oldest tracks, with Tim Burgess keeping the spark alive with his indisputable stage presence. Rock City has the unmatched charisma of a legendary music venue, enhanced by the knowledge of the history of the bands who have taken to the stage. A venue with an energy like no other, I think Rock City will always be my favourite gig venue.

Rescue Rooms

Thursday: SOFY at The Bodega

Today I started my venture to find my favourite Nottingham’s music venue, kickstarting at The Bodega, where I was extremely excited to see rising indie pop artist SOFY. I must say, that is the most fun I have had at a gig in a very long time. With a capacity of 220 people, The Bodega made for the perfect intimate setting for SOFY, who filled the venue successfully.

The intimacy of the venue felt like we were all in SOFY’s bubble. Her connection and attention to the audience is why small venues such as The Bodega are so crucial. She told us that it was her favourite show she had ever played, reflecting that you do not need huge arenas or audiences to feel accomplished.


Thursday: The Silver Lines at The Chameleon

On the complete other end of the spectrum, today’s location was the smallest one of my ventures so far. Tucked away on Angel Row, it would be hard to know The Chameleon was even there, but tonight really did show me the important role that independent and smaller venues play within music.

Housing a lineup of local and up and coming bands - Wired Euphoria, Tom Hewitt, Plastic Circus and The Silver Lines - The Chameleon is as intimate as you can get. It was like watching mates jam out in their bedrooms! With the recent uncertainty surrounding the venue (read more on page 23), tonight highlighted how essential supporting hidden gems like The Chameleon is. Supporting smaller venues is as important as ever.


Saturday: Sophie Ellis-Bextor at the Royal Concert Hall

Tonight has been my first ever experience of the Royal Concert Hall, the most aesthetically pleasing venue yet. Knowing it was seating only, yet again, I was fearful that the night may lack energy and atmosphere, but Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Christmas Kitchen Disco was far from lifeless. Since it was taking place in December, there was a perfect blend of Christmas covers and Ellis Bextor’s best disco hits. 

The Royal Concert Hall had some of the best acoustics and sound systems of all the venues thus far. Ellis-Bextor’s vocals were elevated and travelled perfectly through the hall, and the chorus of the audience singing along to her biggest tracks such as Murder on The Dancefloor echoed like a choir of angels - it was enough to give you chills. This was truly the perfect venue for such music royalty. 

Rock City

Tuesday: Spector at Rescue Rooms

The final destination on my very own venue tour was Rescue Rooms, housing indie band Spector. Frontman Fred MacPherson was more than grateful to be playing a smaller venue, drawing attention to the fact they aren’t able to sell out Rescue Rooms quite yet, but being able to share their music to anyone is their greatest achievement.

Spector projected us into a wave of synth-rock energy from the very beginning, setting the crowd up for the high-powered set to follow. They didn’t fall short with providing a passionate and spirited show, with the band showing that sometimes the venue or size of a crowd doesn’t matter, but being able to enjoy music with anyone, is the biggest success.

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