Venue in Focus: Paradiso, Amsterdam

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Paradiso is one of the leading music venues in Amsterdam’s tourist centre, with a colourful history that gives it a firm foothold in the city’s alternative music scene.

The building itself is a former church, dated to the nineteenth century, which up until 1965 was used as a regular meeting place for the Vrije Gemeente (‘Free Congregation’), a liberal Dutch religious group. Paradiso was later squatted in 1967 by a group of hippies who wanted to convert the church into a live entertainment and leisure club, but this activity was quelled by local police in that same year.

Despite these events Paradiso, along with the nearby Melkweg, soon became all but synonymous with the hippie counterculture and rock and roll movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, playing host to a number of well-known artists of that era including The Rolling Stones, Johnny Thunder, and Willie Nelson.

From the mid-1970s Paradiso became increasingly associated with British punk rock and new wave music, although it continued to program a wide range of artists from all genres. The venue garnered particular international attention from several UK and American artists, most notably Billy Idol, David Bowie, and the Sex Pistols. Indeed, Glen Matlock played his last show with the Sex Pistols at Paradiso shortly before leaving the band in late February, 1977.

In the late 1980s the venue became popular within the electronic dance scene, hosting a string of raves and themed dance parties, and by the 1990s it was hosting international, national and local musical talents. In more recent years Paradiso has continued to be a success, staying true to its roots in the rock and roll community whilst maintaining a good roster of diverse acts, programming a wide range of artists including Adele, Muse, Foo Fighters, Deftones, Pearl Jam, Tenacious D and many others. If a popular band or artist has a tour date in Amsterdam, it’s very likely that they are playing Paradiso.

The main concert hall has retained the building’s original aesthetic, making for a memorable atmosphere at any show. The stage is situated at the far end of the room, overlooked by three illuminated church windows, and where rows of pews once sat there is an expansive standing area able to accommodate over 1,500 people. This is overlooked on both sides by two balconies which collectively seat 250 and give a superb view of the stage and it’s backdrop. The venue borders the Leidseplein district, one of the most vibrant tourist and nightlife locations in the city, making it easy to locate.

In sum, Paradiso is well worth a visit if you find yourself in Amsterdam. With an impressive history, a beautifully arresting interior and a consistently exciting line-up of artists, it is one of the city’s premier music venues.

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MA English student at the University of Southampton and alternative music correspondent for The Edge.

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