There are a ton of great venues across the capital for catching a gig or a show. That said, the West End and Wembley are the duos that perhaps attract the most attention, and understandably so. However, the Shepherd’s Bush is an underrated gem and deserves some recognition and we’re all here for it.
A 2,000 seater venue, it was first built as a music hall before becoming a BBC Television Theatre in 1953 – the BBC intervened to save the venue from closure, doing so by adapting the building into a TV studio-theatre. This conversion has seen the production of some of the nation’s much-loved TV shows including The Old Grey Whistle Test, That’s Life, Wogan, Crackerjack and Hancock’s Half Hour to name a few. In addition to this, it has also operated as a music venue since 1994, and its status as a Grade II listed building means it’s a pretty spectacular music venue at that.
Life as a music venue
Often, the Shepherd’s Bush Empire acts as a venue for so-called surprise warm-up gigs – the Rolling Stones performed there before their 1999 tour. And other big names to have taken to the stage there include David Bowie, Prince, Oasis, Bob Dylan, Adele, Take That, Bon Jovi, Amy Winehouse, Elton John, The Who, Muse and Pearl Jam. Biffy Clyro also recently played at the venue, and coming up you have Mika, Conor Maynard and John Newman.
Big stars playing secret shows, up and coming teen pop acts, folkies, indie bands, metal-heads – there really is something for everyone at this glorious Empire. A lot of US acts perform in Shepherd’s Bush, and this may be because of its proximity to Heathrow, as well as the great range of hotels close by. The Dorsett Hotel, Shepherds Bush is just one of the brilliant hotels close to the venue.
Inside the Empire
Owing to such a wide range of acts, pricing for admission into the venue is variable. However, it’s generally around the £15-20 mark. For the more memorable performances, you’re going to want to be near to the front as it really can be something rather stunning; you will share the same air space as whoever is performing. The main bar is on the ground floor and shares the general offerings at typical London gig prices. There are also bars at the side of the venue, with one on the first floor and one up in the concourse. As inspiring as the architecture of the Empire may be, the drinks are more functional than inspiring.
Close by to the Empire, there is a range of options if you’re after a bite to eat. For something quick and easy, there are your typical fast food joints such as KFC, McDonalds and Nando’s – as well as some good old fashioned pub grub. If you want to branch out for something different, Afandina serves beautiful Lebanese cuisine, and there are cafes with delightful afternoon tea on offer. Westfield shopping centre is also close to the venue, perfect for any last-minute outfit change!