What is considered today to be one of the best music venues in Europe – if not the world – nearly became a parking lot in the early 70s. It certainly was a long and bumpy road, but after decades of uncertainty, Brussels’ cult live venue L’Ancienne Belgique stands tall and triumphant, having done a fine job at placing our capital on the musical map and establishing it as a necessary stop on any touring itinerary.

Photography by Merel ‘t Hart

Located in a 10.000 sqm complex that is said to go back to the 11th century, L’Ancienne Belgique – or AB as it is also known – was a popular concert hall in the early 20th century. Often threatened with closure due to noise complaints from the neighbourhood, it underwent several renovations and even filed for bankruptcy in 1971. Saved by funding from the Flemish government in the late 70s, the main hall was completely soundproofed and reconditioned in 1982, resulting in the AB as we currently know it. Entirely tinted in a deep cardinal red – commonly used in most theatres as it absorbs the stage lights – the venue retains a unique warmth and intimacy, even when at full capacity (2.000). Upgrading the entire equipment with state of the art technology and a perfect acoustic system, it has become the venue of choice to capture the CD and DVD live performances of artists such as Iggy Pop, Oasis, Kings of Leon, Goldfrapp, Queens of the Stone Age, The Hives and Yeasayer to name a few. Mike Patton has been quoted saying “AB is the best venue in Europe. No, in the world!” and Lou Reed was in awe when he discovered the main hall before performing at last year’s Domino Festival. Praises coming from such demanding musicians who have toured throughout the world are no mean feat, and the 300.000 concertgoers who flocked in last year can’t be wrong either. The 233.450 tickets sold in 2010 have earned the AB the third spot in Pollstar’s annual list of Top 100 Worldwide Club Venues, making it the only European venue in the top 50.

Iggy Pop – Lust For Life (1999)

Massive Attack – Karma Coma (1998)

LCD Soundsystem – Yeah (2010)

Ghinzu – Blow (2008)