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Amsterdam adores live music and touring bands love stopping off in Amsterdam, so it's always easy to find great music throughout the city.
Amsterdam is one of Europe's live music capitals, attracting almost every major artist when they head out on tour – as well as being an essential stop for bands and performers climbing their way up in the music ladder. A great part of the city's success is the ease of access to fantastic venues of all sizes. Two of the biggest names in the Amsterdam scene are Paradiso and Melkweg – two iconic pop halls with a lot of history.
Paradiso is a former church that was squatted in the 1960s and grew into a renowned performed space where all the greats have played. While evolving and embracing modern sound and light technology, Paradiso holds onto its religious background by way of the large stained-glass panels that loom behind the performers, as well as two levels of balconies that transform any concert into a reverential affair. One of the most interesting facets of shows here is that you can always find the spot that's perfect for you in the Main Room (capacity 1,500). Upstairs is a smaller room where newer or lesser-known bands typically play, and in the basement there's an additional café and performance space.
Melkweg takes its name from the Milky Way galaxy – but the name also reflects the building's history as a former dairy. Like Paradiso, Melkweg is split into various performance spaces: The Max is the main concert hall (capacity 1,500); the Old Hall is a more intimate room (capacity 700); there's a cinema (capacity 90); a theatre hall; a multimedia room; a tea room; restaurant; and a gallery for exhibitions. The Melkweg also shares an ultra-modern performance space with the neighbouring Stadsschouwburg, known as the Rabozaal. Where Melkweg perhaps differs to Paradiso is that both The Max and Old Hall are darker, boxy spaces designed to showcase the live performance.
When the biggest pop, rock and dance names stop in Amsterdam they require the biggest arenas. Fortunately, the city is home to three major locations – all situated in Amsterdam Zuidoost. AFAS Live opened in 2001 and is the smallest of the three (the capacity is 5,500). Whether you're standing at the very front or seated in the sloped, open seating at the back, it's easy to maintain focus on the artists on stage. The Ziggo Dome is a considerable step up, with a capacity jumping to 17,000 or so. Opened in 2012, unsurprisingly this is the kind of place where Lady Gaga, Madonna, Metallica and Pearl Jam drop by. Two large balconies swoop around the boxy arena, with the stalls either all-standing or all-seated (depending on the event). And then there's the Amsterdam ArenA, home to local football club Ajax. This iconic stadium typically plays host to 5 to 10 major concerts and dance music festivals a year, boasting a whopping capacity of 40,000-50,000.
Of course, it isn't all about pop heavyweights. One of the musical thrills in Amsterdam is that you can find a wide array of pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop, electronic and singer-songwriters performing on any given day. Check out venues like Bitterzoet, People's Place, Tolhuistuin, De Brakke Grond and OCCII to find a bit of everything, while churches like the Vondelkerk, Waalse Kerk and De Duif are beautiful spots for more delicate acoustic music.
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