Indoor performances bring a dramatically different tone to a show than their outdoor counterparts. Theaters and arenas alike fully enclose the crowd and allow them to forget about the outside world altogether for a brief moment in time. A great deal of this is owed to the architecture that the audience is immersed in, as well as the fact that lights, effects and the ambiance can be manipulated without having to overpower the Sun, Moon, or any other outside distractions. While there are many stages around the country that are seemingly identical, the most impressive feature inspiring architecture that can even make a lackluster show an extraordinary event. Some locales do this far more effectively than others, and the best are able to consistently navigate your experience to a great one. We’ve already given you our list of America’s best designed outdoor venues, but here are a few indoor sites that give nature a run for its money.
Located just a few miles north of the city, The Capitol Theatre is one of New York’s most beloved stages. Everything about The Capitol gives those in attendance the feeling that they are stepping into history. Built in 1926, the structure was originally used as a movie theater which will come as no surprise when you see the retro marquee and ticket booth. From the stroll down Westchester Ave. to walking in the doors one can’t help but feel like they are visiting a different, simpler era. Featuring a gorgeous balcony and wide open dance floor, the 1,800 capacity lets everyone know that they’re witnessing something special every night.
The Capitol has hosted a variety of acts throughout the years, but in its heyday it was certainly one of the premier small theatres on the east coast. It has featured massive rock acts such as Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, and David Bowie. The Capitol was outlined by Thomas W. Lamb, the man recognized as one of the leading architects during the early 20th century boom of theater construction. The design of the building could be right out of The Great Gatsby with its beautiful stage and ceiling that evoke feelings of the Roaring Twenties. Concerts at ‘The Cap’ often feature incredibly detailed projections on the walls that blend the classic feel of the venue seamlessly with modern technology.
Fun Fact: The Grateful Dead played The Capitol 13 times in a one year span.
A designated National Historic Landmark, the Ryman Auditorium is a highlight of Nashville’s music scene. Originally constructed in 1892, the auditorium brings together stunning architecture with impressive acoustics in a city with a well-documented musical output. While the Auditorium has hosted a variety of legendary artists, it is perhaps best known for hosting the weekly country-music concert Grand Ole Opry. The program touts itself as “The Show that Made Country Music Famous”, and it is the longest running radio broadcast in US history.
The Ryman features beautiful stainless glass windows that immediately give the concert-goer the feeling as though they are in a house of worship. This should come as no surprise considering how deeply entwined music is with Nashville’s culture. Designed by architect Hugh Cathart Thompson, the auditorium features Late Victorian Gothic Revival style and includes a stunning round pattern that makes even a sold out show feel intimate for the audience. The combination of the Ryman’s history with its evocative architecture made it a shoe-in for our list.
Fun Fact: Hank Williams once performed 6 encores during one show at The Ryman.
What list would be complete without the world’s most famous arena? We don’t have the time or resources to give you a full list of legends that have performed at The Garden, but it includes The Jackson 5, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Kanye West and the list goes on and on. The venue has gone through an incredible amount of changes throughout its storied history, including many fluctuations in capacity. What has remained is the consensus that it is still America’s premier arena. If you’re at the top of the industry, you will certainly play here during your visit to the States.
Besides being located in the most populated metropolis in America, the venue features remarkable acoustics which is a tremendous feat for an arena that hosts such a wide variety of events. The spectacular sound quality is owed in large part to The Garden’s unique ceiling, which is one of the very few of its kind that is concave rather than convex. The iconic ceiling features sound absorptive acoustic insulation, which is in large part what separates this historic site from other arenas of its size. Most stadiums simply cannot host basketball, hockey, and concerts within one week and have them all at peak performance. The Garden does all of this, has been doing it, and will most likely continue to do it long into the future.
Fun Fact: At time of writing Billy Joel has performed at The Garden 65 times.
The Walt Disney Concert Hall is perhaps one of the most recognizable buildings in the country. Designed by architectural legend Frank Gehry, the hall features magnificent stainless steel panels much like those of Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, giving the building an incredible look. Besides being home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic during the Winter, the Hall has also featured a variety of acts and events including Herbie Hancock, Yo-Yo Ma, and Christian McBride.
The Hall certainly has a jaw-dropping exterior, but the inside is no slouch either. The seating area features beautiful wooden ledges that are tastefully lit to create a truly exceptional environment. The curved wood ceiling is reminiscent of the sails of a boat, making the Hall a wonderful blend of architectural influence and inspiration. The auditorium harnesses natural light through a wide window in the back of the room, creating a setting that is seemingly unparalleled.
Fun Fact: The reflective qualities of the steel made some adjacent sidewalks as hot as 140 degrees. The panels were later sanded down to eliminate glare.
The most impressive structural design is just as functional as it is captivating. These venues are not only paramount spaces visually, but they all feature top-tier acoustics that simply couldn’t be achieved without great architectural planning, execution and ingenuity.