Newcastle City Hall has been the city’s main music venue for over nine decades. Over its lifetime the City Hall has provided the public with a wide selection of music including classical, jazz, brass bands, rock, soul, folk, country as well as many variety shows. Since the mid-seventies it has also presented the sell-out Lindisfarne Christmas shows.
The City Hall opened in 1927 with a capacity of just over 2,000. The venue narrowly escaped shutting down in 2012 when it was ear marked for closure as part of Newcastle City Council’s savings plan. Thousands of music fans and concert-goers objected to the closure. A petition was started by the North East Music History Group, which over 10,000 people signed. The decision to close Newcastle City Hall was reversed in 2013. Management of the venue was given to the Theatre Royal Trust in 2016. The Academy Music Group who operates Newcastle’s O2 Academy took over the venue in May 2019. At the time of writing the venue is now known as O2 City Hall Newcastle.
Here’s a brief history of Newcastle City Hall for the period covered by Ready Steady Gone (1965 to 1972) in relation to popular and rock music of that era.
The period from the mid sixties onwards was great times for music fans to experience live bands. In particular to see and hear some of the top national and international acts that were busy making their name during that decade. In the mid sixties top bands had heavy touring schedules, sometimes playing seven days a week. It was possible to see many well known established or up-and-coming pop acts at clubs or dance halls. However, for those people who weren’t into dancing, were too young or perhaps felt out of place in some of the trendy bustling night clubs of the day, Newcastle City Hall was the ideal place to experience live music.
In the mid sixties the City Hall frequently hosted concerts featuring household names in the world of pop music. The usual setup was to have a main act, such a national or international chart-topping group or solo singer with four or five other acts as support. The support acts were usually groups or performers who, at some stage, had achieved top-twenty chart success. For instance in 1965, some of the main acts to appear at the City Hall were; the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Gene Pitney, The Animals and Cilla Black.
This format continued for several years with headliners such as the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, the Kinks, Roy Orbison, James Brown and the Walker Brothers.
In the autumn of 1968 changes were afoot as far as the music played in clubs, colleges, dance halls and other live venues was concerned. A new ‘intelligent’ type of music was on the horizon – music by fresh new bands or by established bands that had undergone a significant metamorphosis. This new music was dubbed “progressive” or “underground”. The first appearance at the City Hall of this type of music was on 1 November 1968 with a concert named the “Rag Top Gear Show” featuring, amongst others, Tyrannosaurus Rex, The Nice and Chicken Shack. Over the following months more and more progressive rock bands appeared at the City Hall including Pink Floyd, Ten Years After, Spooky Tooth and Jethro Tull.
The old format pop concert also continued but on a lesser scale than in earlier years. By 1970 there were less and less concerts featuring solo pop performers and this decline continued for several years with rock concerts taking over in popularity. Newcastle’s Odeon became a popular venue for the old style pop concerts. By 1972 rock concerts were the norm at the City Hall offering fans a wide range of acts.
Of course, the Mayfair Ballroom in Newcastle hosted evenings featuring many of the country’s top bands. However, for the reasons mentioned earlier the City Hall was still a firm favourite for experiencing live music. In reality the Mayfair’s prices were similar to those of the highest prices at the City Hall. However, the City Hall offered a good range of seat prices making it a much more affordable night out.
In 1971 up-and-coming local lads, Lindisfarne appeared at the City Hall for the first time. Five years later in 1976, long after the demise of the original line-up, Lindisfarne began their long run of sell-out annual Christmas Concerts, which continue to this day.
Here’s some gig listings for Newcastle City Hall from 1965 to 1972: –
Many thanks to John Jobling for supplying most of the ticket stubs featured in the Newcastle City Hall pages.