10 legendary Leeds music venues of the past
Duchess of York, Leeds

The Leeds music scene is possibly one of the most underrated in the world. Sure, we may not have the big name superstars of say, Manchester or Liverpool, but by ‘eck we have our moments.

From The Who to Nirvana, they’ve all played Leeds somewhere or another. Take a stroll through just 10 of the ‘gone but not forgotten’ legendary Leeds music venues.

The Duchess of York

Oh yes, we’ve gone straight for the mothership. Shoppers visiting that blasted Hugo Boss monstrosity might be shocked to realise that before the turn of the millennium, the site was host to one of the most legendary music venues in the UK, with a long history of tales including a ’94 Oasis gig played to around 20 people and the night that Kurt Cobain spent sleeping on a dirty old sofa upstairs. Spare a thought for those of us who were just too young to have experienced it.

Who played there: Nirvana, Radiohead, Coldplay, Pulp, Manic Street Preachers, Blur, Green Day

Roundhay Park

Robbie Williams at Roundhay Park, Leeds, 2006
Credit: Skipjack2006 / Flickr / CC

From a petite but legendary stepping stone venue to a superstar’s outdoor playground, Roundhay Park was where the big names came to play Leeds before the Arena was thrown up in 2013. Able to host around 100,000 people, it was a tour de force throughout the 80s, hosting its last big gigs in 2006 in the form of three Robbie Williams shows. The venue was a constant source of controversy with local residents, who will be pleased now that it is host to a much more serene activity – cricket.

Who played there:  The Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Simple Minds, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, U2, Genesis

University Refectory

Live at Leeds Plaque, Leeds University
Credit: Wikimedia / CC

The most iconic gig in Leeds’ rich history came in 1970 when The Who visited Leeds University Union to record what would become one of the most iconic albums of all-time, Live at Leeds. The venue is not extinct as such, though aside from regular club nights, it has not seen major live music action for a little while, now being used as the university’s main food hall.

Who played there: The Who, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, The Strokes, James Brown, Muse, The Arctic Monkeys

The Cockpit

I know, I know, the wounds are still open. The Cockpit closed it doors for the final time in September 2014 after supplying Leeds music fans with a constant stream of indie brilliance for over 20 years. It was the natural successor to The Duchess, and was a firm favourite of the city’s student population, who found the combination of midweek drinking and next-big-thing music too much to resist. Rumour has it the Kaiser Chiefs were formed here.

Who played there: Amy Winehouse, The Kaiser Chiefs, Feeder, Shed 7, Mumford and Sons, The White Stripes, The Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend

Queens Hall

The original ‘spit n sawdust’ music venue in Leeds, the Queens Hall was anything but fit for royalty, showing the signs of it’s former life as a derelict tramshed right up until it stopped hosting gigs in the early 80s. Demolished in 1989 and used for a number of ventures since, it played host to a number of music’s top tablers, including Kiss, The Jam and The Rolling Stones. Sure, the acoustics were crap, but nobody cared.

Who played there: Joy Division, AC/DC, Kiss, The Jam, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Motörhead, Thin Lizzy, The Clash, The Who, The Police, PiL

Elland Road

Otherwise known as the home of Leeds United, Leeds’ football Mecca is from time to time used as a mega-concert venue. Queen were the first to sample its delights way back in 1982, playing to over 40,000 fans. Other megastars have appeared there across the years, with a fair share of stars included in the list of support acts, including The Pretenders, The La’s and The Fall. Rod Stewart was the last to play there in 2011.

Who played there: Queen, U2, Happy Mondays, Kaiser Chiefs, Rod Stewart

The Warehouse

Now recognisable as a student night haunt, Leeds’ Warehouse has an eclectic live music history even some of Leeds’ most ardent music bores may not know about. Performances by Sasha and Mike Pickering opened up the possibilities for the house music haven it has now become, but years before, indie royalty such as Oasis, Blur and the Stone Roses were welcomed aboard alongside boyband flops LFO and hip-hop legends Sugar Hill Gang.

Who played there: Oasis, Blur, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Suger Hill Gang, LFO, Sasha, Mike Pickering

The Music Factory

Appropriately named, The Music Factory was home to one of Leeds’ most famed musical birth childs, house music night Back 2 Basics. Originally called The Chocolate Factory, it saw resident host Dave Beer turn the national house music scene on it’s head whilst nurturing the collective talents of acts such as Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk and Groove Armada.

Who played there: Fatboy Slim, Danny Tenaglia, Pete Tong, Basement Jaxx, Chemical Brothers, Frankie Knuckles

Leeds Polytechnic

Leeds Polytechnic, Leeds Met, Leeds Carnegie, Leeds Beckett – who’s keeping up? Whatever it’s called, it’s right up there with its Leeds University rival as a legendary music venue thanks to the arrival of the infamous Anarchy Tour of 1976, which brought The Clash, The Sex Pistols and The Damned to the Poly. It’s also hosted more modern acts in recent times, and continues to throw out the odd nugget of gold occasionally.

Who played there: The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Kaiser Chiefs, Foo Fighters, Blur, The Stone Roses, The Darkness, Coldplay

Leeds Odeon Cinema

Primark Headrow, Leeds
Credit: Wikimedia / CC

Hurtling back almost a liftime ago, the original Leeds Odeon Cinema was a bustling music venue in the 1960s that once played host to the biggest band of all-time. Oh yes, The Beatles played there in 1963 with Roy Orbison. It was based on The Headrow on the site of the old Primark, before its recent move to the Trinity Centre.

Who played there: The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Cat Stevens, Lead Belly

Featured image courtesy of Sam Saunders / Flickr / CC