Best big live-music venues

You want big and loud? You got it.

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Madison Square Garden

  • Rated as: 4/5
  • Critics choice

Some of music’s biggest acts—Jay-Z, Neil Young, Britney Spears—come out to play at the world’s most famous basketball arena. Whether you’ll actually be able to get a look at them depends on your seat number or the quality of your binoculars. The arena is far too vast for a rich concert experience, ugly and a little bit musty, but it remains part of the fabric of New York and begrudgingly beloved. There’s also a smaller theater within the complex.

  1. 4 Pennsylvania Plaza (Seventh Ave) between 31st and 33rd Sts
Book online

Izod Center

  • Price band: 4/4

New Jersey’s answer to Madison Square Garden has hosted Beyoncé, the Jonas Brothers, and, of course, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band. Sometimes, shows that sell out at the Garden may be available here, just a bus ride away.

  1. Meadowlands Sports Complex, 50 State Rte 120
Book online

Nassau Coliseum

  • Price band: 4/4

Long Island’s arena hosts mainstream acts such as Lil Wayne and Metallica, punctuated by teen shows (Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers) and, best of all, over-the-top Bollywood showcases.

  1. 1255 Hempstead Tpke at Meadowbrook Pkwy
Book online

Nikon at Jones Beach Theater

  • Price band: 4/4

This Long Island theater is where classic-rock buffs from the burbs meet their NYC counterparts. The booking alternates between iconic nostalgia acts like Foreigner and contemporary pop-rock sensations such as Paramore. Whoever's playing, expect a populist, ballpark-style concert experience.

  1. Jones Beach
More info

Hammerstein Ballroom (at the Manhattan Center)

  • Price band: 4/4

Queues can wind across the block, drink prices are high, and those seated in the balcony should bring binoculars if they want a clear view of the band. Still, this cavernous space regularly draws big performers in the limbo between club and arena shows, and it’s ideal for theatrical blowouts; Kylie Minogue, the Pet Shop Boys and Grace Jones have all wowed here.

  1. 311 W 34th St between Eighth and Ninth Aves
Book online

Roseland Ballroom

  • Price band: 2/4

Although Portishead recorded a great live album at this 1930s-era ballroom, the sound system can leave something to be desired. But the room gets a bit of a bad rap, as large halls go: It’s spacious (thanks to the addition of a balcony) and a great place to catch assorted medium-to-big acts like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Ghostface and Arctic Monkeys.

  1. 239 W 52nd St between Broadway and Eighth Ave
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Terminal 5

Opened by Bowery Presents, this three-floor, 3,000-capacity place is the largest midtown venue to set up shop in more than a decade. Bookings include bands that only a short time ago were playing in the smaller Bowery confines (Odd Future), plus bigger stars (Florence and the Machine, Evanescence) and scruffy veterans with their loyal fan bases (Robert Earl Keen, the Pogues). It’s great for dancey acts (Chromeo, Girl Talk), but be warned: Sightlines from the T5 balconies are among the worst in the city.

  1. 610 W 56th St at Eleventh Ave
More info

United Palace Theatre

  • Price band: 2/4

This renovated movie house, which was once a vaudeville theater, dates from the 1930s. And it really does feel as if you’ve entered a palace here, with its shimmering chandeliers, ornate detailed ceiling and gold-drenched corridors. The venue’s solid booking has ranged, over the past few years, from popular young acts such as Adele, Vampire Weekend and Bon Iver, to stalwarts of the music world like Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers Band. At the top end of Manhattan, far beyond the traditional nightlife or tourist zone, the theater is nevertheless easily accessible by subway.

  1. 4140 Broadway at 175th St
More info

Radio City Music Hall

  • Price band: 3/4

Few rooms scream "New York City!" more than this gilded hall, which has recently drawn Leonard Cohen, Drake and TV on the Radio as headliners. The greatest challenge for any performer is not to be upstaged by the awe-inspiring Art Deco surroundings. On the other hand, those same surroundings lend historic heft to even the flimsiest showing. Bookings are all over the map; expect everything from seasonal staples like the Rockettes to an evening with Charlie Sheen. 

  1. 1260 Sixth Ave at 50th St
More info

The Town Hall

  • Price band: 2/4

Acoustics at the 1921 "people’s auditorium" are superb, and there’s no doubting the gravitas of the Town Hall’s surroundings—the building was designed by illustrious architects McKim, Mead & White as a meeting house for a suffragist organization. George Benson, Grizzly Bear and Lindsey Buckingham have performed here in recent times, and smart indie songwriters such as the Magnetic Fields have set up shop for a number of nights.

  1. 123 W 43rd St between Sixth Ave and Broadway
More info

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