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Edinburgh Live
Edinburgh Live
David McLean

Seven Edinburgh Playhouse gigs that made it the best music venue in the city

It's one of the capital's best-loved venues having played host to some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry down the decades.

But while the Edinburgh Playhouse was built as a cinema and is now mainly used as a theatre, the Greenside auditorium is also a top gig venue.

In fact, taking a cursory glance at the legendary acts who have strutted their stuff at the 3,000-capacity space, we'd go as far as saying it's quite possibly the greatest indoor music venue in the city.

READ MORE: Gigs and Clubs - Latest gig and club news from Edinburgh Live

In no particular order, let's take a closer look at just some of the world-class bands and solo acts who have appeared in concert at the Playhouse over the years.

Bruce Springsteen, 1981

Just over forty years ago, rock icon Bruce Springsteen came to the capital for two legendary nights at the Playhouse on May 16 and 17, 1981. They were the Boss's first ever gigs in Scotland.

Fresh from the release of his best-selling double album The River the previous year, and with tickets priced at £5.50, the two Edinburgh performances quickly sold out.

Posting in the Lost Edinburgh Facebook Group, David McGeachie wrote: “I was 16, we queued all night for tickets down the side of the building.

“The police told them to open up at 3am. I saw both nights and met Bruce, my head was full of dreams.

“Bruce came out and headed for his car, he stopped and shook my hand then got in. Incredibly seven years later I was working at his label in London and promoting his records.”

Elton John, 1985

During his Ice on Fire Tour, Elton entertained crowds at the Edinburgh Playhouse for two nights in late November 1985 in support of his 19th studio album.

With tickets for just £8.50, the singer wowed the audience with Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man and Candle in the Wind. The tour, which continued deep into 1986, was a struggle for Elton - who had developed potentially cancerous nodules on his vocal cords.

He was ordered by his doctor not to speak while off-stage, and there was serious doubt as to whether he could continue.

AC/DC, 1986

The Aussie rock gods visited the Playhouse on January 22 and 23 1986, for a gig that was reportedly one of the most raucous crowd experiences Edinburgh gig-goers ever witnessed.

Their Fly on the Wall tour spent two months travelling Europe, and we enjoyed two nights of it here in Edinburgh. Many residents told us the gig was their first, and left them with ringing ears for the following week.

Erasure, 1992

Back in July 1992, Erasure showed up at the Playhouse for a record-breaking eight night residency where they showed 'a little respect' to the oeuvre of Abba, by including three of the Swedish pop legends' hits in their set.

The English synth duo's covers of Voulez-Vous, Take A Chance On Me and SoS slotted in nicely alongside Erasure's traditional big numbers.

By the end of their Edinburgh residency, more than 24,000 fans saw Andy Bell and Vince Clark for the concerts.

Queen, 1976

September '76 started with a bang as Queen performed a two-night stint at the Playhouse. The concert came hot on the heels of the release of their now iconic A Night at the Opera album and was the first opportunity for Edinburgh to witness Freddie Mercury belt out the band's signature hit Bohemian Rhapsody.

The Rolling Stones, 1982

Few Edinburgh gigs have been as hotly-anticipated as the Stones at the Playhouse in May '82.

This was the third show of the Stones' 1982 European Tour and their last of three that year in Scotland - a point not missed by the band. With the World Cup in Spain just weeks away, Mick Jagger took a leaf out of AC/DC's book (which is seldom a bad thing), and turned up on stage in a Scotland football team jersey.

A packed Playhouse watched in awe as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Charlie Watts, Bill Wyman and Ian Stewart played through the legendary outfit's biggest hits.

The Clash, 1977

The Clash performed at the Playhouse on numerous occasions, but it's the '77 show that really stands out - particularly for the kickass line-up and the effect it had on Edinburgh's youth forevermore.

On May 7, 1977, the London punk icons were joined on stage by a who's who of fellow upstarts: The Jam, The Buzzcocks, The Slits, The Prefects, and Subway Sect.

Surprisingly the Playhouse was short of being full for the gig, but nonetheless, the young audience just about brought the roof down that night.

Former Edinburgh councillor Gordon Munro Tweeted about the fabled concert in 2019.

He said: "I was there . Transformative. And if everybody that said they were there was the Playhouse would’ve been full. Couldn’t even half full the stalls but the gig that launched a thousand bands."

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