Sydney is a great city for a gig. The chain of command begins with the Opera House, obviously, but there are also the temples devoted to spectacle—the Allianz Stadium, Allphones Arena, Qantas Credit Union Arena—followed by the State Theatre and the fabled Enmore Theatre out in funky Newtown. (The main floor actually bounces there –try it!) Australia is also a good testing ground for new bands from around the world, and its national music scene is rich with talent, too. As such, the charts are often ahead of the curve here. (I remember sharing Gotye’s Somebody That I Used to Know in a Facebook post 15 months before it won a Grammy.)
The country’s bounteous rotation of outdoor festivals regularly brings marquee names and fledgling acts through, and they tend to perform “sidshows” at mid-sized venues in Sydney. Another thing: new (and old) acts who nurture their relationship with a country this remote often earn a big dividend in the form of serious loyalty. In 2009, P!nk broke a record by playing 58 shows in Oz on her Funhouse tour; on the same tour in the U.S., she played 11 dates.
This historic Art Deco landmark in Sydney’s inner west welcomes a huge array of acts—from name-brand rock stars (Interpol, Courtney Love) to nostalgia acts (TLC, Cyndi Lauper) and a healthy crop of stand-up comedians. Hang out in the bar beforehand and get lost gazing at the posters from past gigs papering the walls.
A groovy little jazz club on Surry Hills’ Cleveland Street, 505 is a small dark place perfect for unwinding over a stiff drink and a cool collection of jazz acts both local and international. Added bonus: show prices are kept at a reasonable price, so you can drop in on a whim and be guaranteed a healthy return on investment.
The Metro’s big calling card is you can stand pretty much anywhere and be guaranteed a good view of everything happening onstage. All the cool kids play here, so you stand a chance of seeing an acclaimed up-and-coming musical act at that perfect moment just prior to hitting it big—and earning attendant bragging rights.
Sydney Opera House
The big get here is a show in the iconic Concert Hall, which hits the sweet spot between cathedral space and lecture hall. But there’s a good assortment of smaller stages (the Joan Sutherland Theatre, The Studio, The Drama Theatre, and The Playhouse) where club parties, plays, dance performances, and kids’ events take place on a regular basis, too. You won’t have a hard time finding something worth seeing here.
City Recital Hall
Sydney’s version of Carnegie Hall has a reverent, almost religious air that complements the importance of the acts it draws—internationally renowned orchestras, choral troupes, world-class vocalists, and the odd lecture. (Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno was a big hit here in early 2014.) The balcony seats are just as coveted as the ones on the floor.