|Former names||Astoria Variety Cinema (1929–39)|
Odeon Astoria (1939–72)
Sundown Centre (1972)
Fair Deal (1982)
Brixton Academy (1983–2004)
Carling Academy (2004–09)
|Address||211 Stockwell Road|
|Owner||Academy Music Group|
|Opened||19 August 1929|
(£14.5 million in 2019 pounds)
Brixton Academy (originally known as the Astoria Variety Cinema, previously known as Carling Academy Brixton, currently named O2 Academy Brixton as part of a sponsorship deal with the O2 brand) is a mid-sized concert venue located in South London, in the district Brixton. Opening in 1929 as a cinema, the venue was converted into a discotheque in 1972, then reborn as a concert hall in 1983. It is owned by the Academy Music Group, and has become one of London's leading music venues, hosting over 50 live albums, and winning the NME Best Venue 12 times since 1994. It has been home to several notable performances, including The Smiths' last gig (December 1986), Leftfield's June 1996 concert which set a decibel record for a live gig at 137db, and Madonna's gig in 2000, which was watched by an online audience of 9 million
The venue started as a cinema and theatre in 1929 on the site of a private garden in Stockwell Road. Designed by the architects Thomas Somerford and E. A. Stone, it was built at a cost of £250,000 as an "Astoria" theatre. The opening show was the Al Jolson film The Singing Fool, followed by a variety act, including Heddle Nash and Derek Oldham which was broadcast by the BBC. The theatre eventually closed its doors as a cinema on 29 July 1972. It was then converted into a discotheque in September 1972, known as the "Sundown Centre". The club was not a success and closed down some four months later. In May 1974 planning permission was sought to demolish the Grade II listed building and replace it with a motor showroom and petrol station. However, the redevelopment scheme was scrapped. The building was kept heated after it closed, and was used as an equipment store by the Rank Organisation.
In 1981, the venue was remodelled by Sean Treacy, who later ran the entire site services, was re-opened as a rock venue called "Fair Deal" with a concert by UB40 and an interior restoration. The Clash played the venue in 1982 on their Casbah Club tour (30 July) but the venue closed later that year due to debt. In 1983, Simon Parkes bought the venue for £1, and re-opened it as the Brixton Academy. The Academy's success steadily grew throughout the 1980s with numerous reggae productions and it was hired out to major rock and pop acts such as Eric Clapton, Dire Straits & The Police for rehearsal. The venue was also used for video shoots for Wham! (Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go) and Culture Club.
In 1995, Parkes sold the theatre to Break for the Border. Under its new ownership (McKenzie Group), reinvestment started immediately, with a complete £500,000 refurbishment of the Art Deco building frontage to its original grandeur, additional facilities both front of house and backstage and a capacity increase to just under 5,000. The venue is currently run by the Academy Music Group after a rebranding in August 2004 and hosts a range of live acts and club nights. With the sale, the venue's title was changed to Carling Academy Brixton. In 2008, naming rights were purchased for £25.5 million by the O2 brand, owned by the Spanish telecommunications company Telefónica.
Being one of the biggest non-arena music venues in London, the Academy has been used by many very successful acts. It has also been voted venue of the year 12 times since 1994 in the annual NME Awards. In addition the venue has won the Music Week Award for Venue of the Year several times including 2009.
The Smiths played their last gig here in December 1986 which was an Anti-Apartheid benefit scheduled for the Royal Albert Hall but rearranged to the Brixton Academy due to Johnny Marr being involved in a car accident.
The German electronic group, Kraftwerk, performed on two consecutive nights in 1991, on the 19th and 20 July.
The Ramones played their final European show at the venue on February 3, 1996 before touring for the last time in South and North America.
Madonna played a special concert at the venue in 2000, to promote the release of her album, Music. The concert was broadcast live online and was watched by a record-breaking audience of 9 million.
Rammstein, Iron Maiden, The Clash, Deborah Harry, The Prodigy, Arcade Fire, Nine Inch Nails, Bob Dylan, HARD-Fi, The 1975 and Sex Pistols have all played five consecutive nights at the venue. In 2002 Iron Maiden played three consecutive nights as a part of charity event "Clive Aid 2002". The band set the record for merchandise and ticket sales. The Mighty Boosh broke this record in 2008, with their second live show Boosh Live, playing seven consecutive nights. The xx equalled their record in March 2017, playing seven consecutive nights in support of third record I See You, becoming the first music act to reach that number.
Leftfield set the world's decibel record for a live concert in 1996 when they reached 137db. They were summarily banned from using the same sound system at the venue after the high bass levels started disintegrating the ceiling, resulting in showers of dust and plaster. They returned in 2000 using a different sound system.
The Brixton Academy served as a tour stop for YouTube J-pop/metal phenomenon BABYMETAL in 2014. During this performance, the group would debut their newest single "Road of Resistance".
Main article: Live at Brixton Academy (disambiguation)