Best of Vancouver: Live Venues

From storied Art-Deco ballrooms to campus theatres, here’s where to take in a show—and get your groove on—in the city.

May 29, 2019

By Fiona Morrow / Photo: Brandon Artis

Commodore Ballroom

Without question the best live music venue in the city, the Commodore Ballroomis the perfect size for a gig: big enough for a great atmosphere, yet small enough to feel you’re right in the mix (and add to that its celebrated sprung dance floor, restored Art Deco interior and no fewer than four fully stocked bars to keep the line-up time to a minimum). The stage has played host to true greats over the years, including Cab Calloway, David Bowie and Tom Waits. More recent years have seen Florence and the Machine, the Kills and even Lady Gaga. It also hosts the occasional wrestling night, if that’s your lane. 868 Granville St., commodoreballroom.com

Orpheum

The home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Orpheum is an opulent gem of a space, with its frescoed dome and grand arches and columns. Originally a vaudeville house and then a movie theatre, the venue has been restored several times and now boasts exceptional acoustics. Though classical music is its mainstay, it hosts a variety of other acts in its fully seated venue—Erasure, Arctic Monkeys and Beck have all played here. 601 Smithe St., vancouvercivictheatres.com

Vogue Theatre

This is another Art Deco cinema turned concert venue—smack in the heart of the entertainment district. It’s a little shabbier than the Orpheum and a tad less atmospheric than the Commodore, but the Vogue remains a good choice to catch a band (Neko Case, Dan Mangan), comedy show (regular stand-up shows and comedy tours) or other live happenings. An all-ages venue. 918 Granville St., voguetheatre.com

Rickshaw Theatre

Built in 1971 as part of the movie empire of Hong Kong moguls the Shaw brothers, this smaller, unpretentious venue knows how to rock out and have a good time. The programming is a broad mix that has included Spiritualized, Calexico, the Cave Singers and Killing Joke, alongside a healthy roster of local talent. Well-priced drinks fuel a good atmosphere. 254 East Hastings St., rickshawtheatre.com

Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Purpose built in 1959, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre (known locally as “the QE”) is a large venue with excellent sightlines from almost every seat in the house. It hosts the Vancouver Opera, Ballet BC and visiting theatrical shows from Broadway and elsewhere, plus rock and pop artists—David Byrne, Lauren Hill, Janelle Monae—worth catching away from the stadium scene. 630 Hamilton St., vancouvercivictheatres.com

(Photo: Tim Matheson)

Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

It may be a bit of a hike to get there—it’s located on the UBC campus—but the Chan Centreis well worth the effort, particularly for its excellent Chan Centre Presents series featuring luminaries from the international jazz, folk and world music scenes (Hugh Masekela, Herbie Hancock, Sigur Ros). Tip top acoustics combined with an intimate circular design makes it a true pleasure for live music fans. 6265 Crescent Rd., chancentre.com

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