Los Angeles has no shortage of concert venue options, from historic theaters to stadiums. When big-name bands come to town, they're just as likely to play in an open-air amphitheater surrounded by trees (hello, Hollywood Bowl) as they are in a stadium or converted movie palace. Luckily for Angelenos, some of the best large venues in town are also some of the city's most beautiful buildings, which means great live music in great spaces. In a city as diverse as Los Angeles, you just can't go wrong.
The best big-name venues
This gorgeous outdoor amphitheater has been hosting concerts since the LA Philharmonic first played here in 1922. Nestled in an aesthetically blessed fold of the Hollywood Hills, the 18,000-seat venue can bring out the romantic in the terminally cynical. It's the summer home of the LA Phil, but it's hosted everyone from the Beatles to Big Bird. Today, summers at the Bowl are a mix of classical concerts and the biggest names from all genres, from rock and pop to country and musical theater.
Part of the corporate regeneration of Downtown, this slick, 7,100-capacity hall opened in late 2007. The sound system is fantastic and the seating is plush; offerings range from old-school rock (the Eagles, Neil Young, Rush) and R&B (Kanye West, Mary J Blige) to comedy and kids' shows. The drinks are pricey and parking can be tough if there's a game or show at the Staples Center next door: it's quicker to park farther away and walk, or to take public transport. And sorry smokers: you can't even light up outside.
Built on top of the Arroyo Seco dry riverbed, this 90,000-seat stadium has been used for NFL tournaments, auditions of American Idol, the Guns N' Roses/Metallica tour, and a yearly fireworks show every fourth of July. It is also, of course, home to the UCLA Bruins football team and the annual New Year's Day NCAA Tournament of Roses game, which is preceded by the spectacular Tournament of Roses parade through Pasadena. On the second Sunday of each month, the bowl is home to the Rose Bowl Flea Market, the world's largest flea market.
Best known as home turf for the Lakers (as well as the Clippers and the Kings), Downtown's sports shrine also hosts big musical acts such as Kanye West and U2. Though it's plush and modern, the sound quality in the 20,000-capacity arena varies, surprisingly. At the concession stand, don't miss the nachos camachos, an LA favorite.
This pleasant, open-air, 6,000-seat theater stages big summer shows by acts both national and local artists. It's a bit like seeing a concert in the woods and rivals the Hollywood Bowl in terms of LA's most magical outdoor music venue. The only downside: The "stacked" parking means getting out of the parking lot often takes longer than the show, and VIP "Quick Parking" is a pricey $50.
Catch big-time acts like Bob Dylan and LA natives Mötley Crüe at this 16,000-seat open-air venue, which is officially the largest in Orange County. It might be a pain to drive down to Irvine, but the amphitheatre sometimes offers free parking, the staff is friendly and the lawn seats still provide a pretty spectacular view.
It's been a while since this 17,500-seat space was the city's go-to arena, and its fading halls were beginning to belie its rich history: "Showtime" Lakers, Gretzky-era Kings, '84 Olympics, Led Zeppelin, Queen and a ridiculously long set from Guns N' Roses. The Staples Center hogs the spotlight these days, but, as it turns nearly a half-century old, the Inglewood venue is poised to regain some of its former glory. Now, after a $100 million renovation—thanks to New York's Madison Square Garden Company—the Forum is becoming fabulous once again. The reenergized arena has been showing off its facelift with shows from the Eagles, Justin Timberlake, Imagine Dragons, Paul Simon and Sting, and Kings of Leon with Eastside darlings Local Natives.
Built in 1926, this huge, 6,300-capacity Moorish structure is most famous for its role as the host of several of Hollywood's major annual awards shows, including the annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards in January. Big-name bands such as Interpol have also graced the Shrine stage.