O2 Guildhall Southampton, West Marlands Road, Southampton SO14 7LP

The Guildhall’s classic frontage

My recent visits to Southampton Guildhall, my first since back pre-Lockdown, have calmed my negativity about the sound at this venue and I will get back into going there a bit more. After numerous echoey sound problems I had tried to dodge the place if possible. 

With a capacity of 1749 standing (with a small rear seated balcony of about 230) it’s a good size to get decent bands. It’s not too far to travel to for me. For so many known bands’ tours, Southampton O2 is on the circuit, like Bristol, when Bournemouth, my local one, is not.

The Guildhall venue does unfortunately have the shape, high ceiling and often the acoustics of a large Victorian swimming pool – stone wall echo as a special feature. On my last two visits pre-‘plague’, I got as far to the front as possible as that seemed to improve the sound – a Band of Skulls gig here introduced me to that idea. Absorb the sound before it hits a wall.

The high ceilings and stone walls

However, recently (Future Islands in November 2022) I found the sound was fine up in the balcony, with an added high level central speaker, suspended from the ceiling near the back, so projecting to the balcony.

The view from up there is a little distant but unobstructed and sometimes these days a seat is appreciated. There is no bar up there but there are toilets.

View from the rear balcony

Downstairs the two main bars are off to each side and are separate rooms which I like – chattering minimised. Usual O2 limitations but pleased to see some decent bottles in the fridges: Tribute and Witchwood. When I saw Motörhead here in 2011, pre-fancy earplug days, I hid in the bar for songs I didn’t know to save my ears for the best, peering out stagewards. Possibly my loudest gig experience ever. Overkill was a chest and brain pounding monster.

There is another small bar at the back of the main hall, behind a room divider and opposite that bar is the large merch stand.

The building has a very grand classic exterior, although built in the 1930s as part of the large collection of civic buildings – grade II listed and refurbished in 1989.

It’s a short walk uphill from the main train station or if driving my preferred car park is across the park from the venue: Grosvenor Square multi-storey or the flat one next to that if not full. I noticed a one-way system has made it harder to find than last time I was here.

My pre-gig pub recommendation is the Belgium and Blues bar. Astonishing beer menu on tap and in bottles. Plenty of other choices along the Above Bar Street that one is on. One place I haven’t tried which I noticed had appeared on my November ’22 visit is Preez – the little bar on the square, just opposite the front of the Guildhall.

Recent visit (My Blog link)

Future Islands (November 2022)

Published by ivaninblack

Still wild about live music - bands - gigs - festivals - after 42 years at it. All photos have been snapped by me or I will point out otherwise - I'll even own up to any blurry mobile phone ones. If gigaholic is a phrase then in recent years I think I've become one.

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