Paradiso, the most beautiful concert venue turns 50

Paradiso by night (

Paradiso by night


Today, March 30th, 2018, concert venue Paradiso, located in Amsterdam, turns 50 years old. The most beautiful concert venue in The Netherlands. According to many, even in the world. I believe it in an instant.

Vrije Gemeente

Two preachers (and approximately 350 followers) turned away from the Hervormde Gemeente (reformed church), because they objected to the suffocating world view on life. The preachers were open minded towards other religions and ways of life, like Buddhism and Confucianism.

After a while the Vrije Gemeente (Free Congregation), as they were now called, was able to acquire a piece of land along the Singelgracht in Amsterdam. The construction site was next to the Huis van Bewaring (prison) and the Kantongerecht (sub-district court, now in use as a political center called De Balie). Across the street from where the Vrije Gemeente building would be built, the later Barlaeus Gymnasium (grammar school) would be erected.

Building design

Click on the designs to see a bigger and complete image.

A competition was launched for the design of the Vrije Gemeente building. Because none of the designs met the demands, no selection was made. But, after more deliberation, the design named “Begin” (beginning), by architect G.B. Salm, was chosen.

Vrije Gemeente society building 1880-1883 (

Vrije Gemeente society building 1880-1883

Paradiso 1900-1905 (

Paradiso 1900-1905

On May 24th, 1879, construction commenced, which ended one year later on May 2nd, 1880.

The layout of the building was highly functional. After the entrance, the central hall provides entrance to the society space in the main hall and, by using the staircases to the left and right, the galleries (balconies) could be accessed. Separate entries in the side walls provided direct access to the main hall (which are now being used for the loading and unloading of the artists’ equipment). The layout of the building remains intact to this day.

In 1965 the Vrije Gemeente moved to another area within Amsterdam. The old building was temporarily used as a storage facility.

The new times didn’t go by unnoticed. In the building manifestations, “happenings”, were starting to get organized.

Cosmisch Ontspanningscentrum Paradiso

Paradiso (and Amsterdam) September 1978 (

Paradiso (and Amsterdam) September 1978

On March 30th, 1968, the building was officially named ‘Cosmisch Ontspanningscentrum Paradiso’ (Cosmic Relaxation Center Paradiso). In the beginning of its existence happenings were organized with an emphasis on (live) music. The hippie culture worked quite well for a while, but later on during the 1970’s, it became ever more grim in Paradiso. As in the rest of the city, hard drugs entered the scene in Paradiso.

Upon the accession of a new managing director in 1977, the tide was turned and Paradiso was turned into the venue as it is known and famed for today.


In the early 1970’s, catering operator Bouwes unfolded his plans for the Leidseplein. The prison which was located on the Kleine Gartmanplantsoen was to be closed down, because of the opening of the Bijlmerbajes in the new Zuidoost district of Amsterdam. Bouwes’ plans involved a hotel, parkings, shops and catering.

Paradiso Action committee Bouw-es-wat-anders Single 1977 (

Paradiso Action committee Bouw-es-wat-anders Single 1977

De Balie and Paradiso had to demolished. All at once, Paradiso’s future seemed uncertain. In the city council Bouwes had found and ally in alderman Lammers. The plans inspired the founding of action committee “Bouw-es wat anders” (“Build something else, for a change”“). The committee was made up of artists, politicians and several architects.

In 1977 a single was released, called Leidseplein. The B-side was Hoor Es Effe Bouwes (Now listen here, Bouwes) as a protest song against the ‘modernization plans’ of Bouwes.

Cultureel erfgoed (

Cultureel erfgoed

The small, but significant, basis of the developer’s support in the city council had left in 1975 (when alderman Lammers stepped down). In the end, the action committee won. The city council voted for a new zoning plan, complying to the wishes of the people of Amsterdam. The imminent demolition of Paradiso was avoided.

A request was made to place the building on the list of national monuments (thus ensuring demolition could never take place). On September 16th, 1980, Paradiso was officially entered into the Rijksmonumentenregister (national monuments registry), number 6400.

Building/folding boards

I don’t know exactly when these were made available, but building/folding boards were developed, which were available for (free) download through the Paradiso website: They can be found here:

Click on the building/folding boards for a bigger and complete image.


Paradiso Building the stage in the great hall (

Paradiso Building the stage in the great hall

Nearly all the earth’s greats have performed in Paradiso, among which A Tribe Called Quest, Adele, Anthony & the Johnsons, B-52’s, Beck, Björk, The Black Crowes, Black Flag, Blondie, David Bowie, Herman Brood & His Wild Romance, James Brown, Captain Beefheart, Cat Power, Nick Cave, Cheb Khaleb, The Clash, George Clinton, The Counting Crows, Cuby & the Blizzards, Culture, The Cure, D’Angelo, Dead Kennedy’s, De Dijk, Doe Maar, Eminem, Faithless, Fatal Flowers, Bryan Ferry, Golden Earring, Guns N’ Roses, Herbie Hancock, Grace Jones, Joy Division, Kaiser Chiefs, Korn, Kraftwerk, Lenny Kravitz, Fela Kuti, Lady Gaga, LCD Soundsystem, Curtis Mayfield, Metallica, Charles Mingus, Van Morrison, Motörhead, Muse, Nirvana, Oasis, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Pink Floyd, The Pixies, The Police, Iggy Pop, Prince, Public Enemy, R.E.M., Radiohead, Ramones, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Rolling Stones, The Roots, The Sex Pistols, Nina Simone, Simple Minds, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Smashing Pumpkins, Patti Smith, Snoop Dogg, Sonic Youth, The Specials, Steel Pulse, Talking Heads, Tool, U2, UB40, Underworld, Urban Dance Squad, Vampire Weekend, The Velvet Underground, The White Stripes, Amy Winehouse, Bettie Wright and Zangeres Zonder Naam.

In the year 2011

Paradiso, an Amsterdam Stage Affair (

Paradiso, an Amsterdam Stage Affair

Paradiso is thé concert venue of The Netherlands, and maybe even beyond. To commemorate that, a documentary was made about the venue and its history, titled Paradiso, an Amsterdam Stage Affair. Jeroen Berkvens made a 90 minute long declaration of love to the most beautiful pop stage of The Netherlands. Memories of visitors are combined with interviews and live fragments of artists like Paul Weller, Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, Johnny Rotten, Tom Barman, Martha Wainwright, Faithless, Patrick Watson, Daniel Johnston, The Sonics, Public Enemy and others. They tell what it means to them to play here. The staircase from the dressing room to the stage is not high, but with every step the emotions rise, balancing between fear and euphoria. Followed by the ultimate release: the show. The documentary comes highly recommended.

In the year 2013

Paradiso Lego & Paradiso 1968-2013 (

Paradiso Lego & Paradiso 1968-2013

In 2013 Paradiso was 45 years old. For the occasion, the book Paradiso 1968 – 2013 was published. All shows that were played at the Paradiso, are cataloged in the book. At least, as far as can be established. The first half of the 1970’s is somewhat sketchy, as a lot of papers are missing, but from midway through the 1970’s and onwards the overview is complete. A nice thing to have, so I bought it.

And, in the same year, a true Paradiso Lego set was designed by Dirk Plug. The set was available as a limited edition (only 50 sets were manufactured) and has been out of print for quite some time. Remarkable, because the set was sold for € 65,-!

Paradiso Grote Zaal (

Paradiso Grote Zaal

My Paradiso

I am not quite sure, but I suspect my first Paradiso concert was in 1986. In August of that year I had moved to Amsterdam. I went to college, but not too regularly. Other things were deemed more important (music). I know for a fact I have witnessed bands like The Fatal Flowers, Claw Boys Claw, Dread Zeppelin, The Paladins, Raymond van het Groenewoud, Herman Brood, etc., in Paradiso, but I don’t own a ticket or have ‘proof’ in old calendars.

Paradiso Lead glass windows (

Paradiso Lead glass windows

But, why is Paradiso such a great location then? A number of reasons. The atmosphere is great, the building itself is beautiful. The balconies provide an intimate feeling, even though Paradiso can old up to 1500 visitors. The sound is, with some exceptions, always great. The view is also great. And, history comes in as well. I have seen many impressive shows in Paradiso, shows that occupied me for days on end.

The last few years I buy an annual subscription. I don’t have to acquire the monthly subscriptions anymore for every show. And, at the same time, I support Paradiso. Perfect!

Paradiso Noord (

Paradiso Noord

Nowadays Paradiso also organizes shows at other locations. The small hall in Paradiso itself, but also Paradiso Noord (the Tolhuistuin). Paradiso occasionally organizes shows in Bitterzoet, Duif and People’s Place. I have been to one show at Paradiso Noord and one at People’s Place. Both shows were good. The number of people attending these shows, varies round 500/550, so concerts are even more intimate. The small hall in Paradiso can hold approximately 250 people.


A special mention for Prince, of course. He performed 5 times at the Paradiso. I was present at four of them. I was not there when he made his European debut on May 29th, 1981. Tales are told about Paradiso being sold out and some 25,000 people attended the show that particular evening. The truth is that the balconies were closed. From what I gather some 600 people witnessed the show.

Prince - Paradiso 1995 First concert (

Prince – Paradiso 1995 First concert

In 1995 he toured The Netherlands with his The Ultimate Live Experience tour. At the show in Den Bosch it was announced that Prince would play an aftershow at the Paradiso. We had to go. After the show we drove off to Amsterdam, by taxi, and spent the night at the Leidschestraat in front of De Nieuwe Muziekhandel. It paid off: tickets in the pocket! Subsequently back to Den Bosch for the second concert and to check out from our unused hotel room.

After the second show immediately en route to Amsterdam to witness my first Prince aftershow. Quite the experience! And did he really say he would come back the next day? No, probably not…. He sure did. I bought tickets on the black market to aftershow number 2. Completely different from the night before, but once again ludicrously good.

On August 9th, 2013, Prince announced he was to play at the Paradiso just two days later. Two shows in one night. I had missed the announcement, and by the time the news hit me the ticket sale was already over. Luckily, a ticket for show 2 had been secured by Bram and Edward. Against better judgment, I kept on trying to secure tickets for show 1 though the website. Miraculously, one ticket fell through the cracks. I could go both times!!

And once again: I saw Prince in Paradiso. Can it get any better? The best artist in the best venue!

On April 25th, 2016, I was there too. Four days prior Prince had passed away. Entrance was free for the farewell concert in Paradiso. Although the level of the most performances were at an all time low, making the loss of Prince all the more poignant, it was nice to hear his music in Paradiso one more time.

Best concerts

But I didn’t witness just legendary Prince shows in Paradiso. All of the shows listed below were memorable. They all left an impact:

2015 Kraftwerk Paradiso (

2015 Kraftwerk Paradiso

  • The Ramones, 06/08/1988
  • Wendy & Lisa, 04/29/1989
  • Lenny Kravitz, 12/13/1989
  • Public Enemy, 08/30/1992
  • Prince, 03/26/1995 & 03/27/1995
  • Iggy Pop, 12/04/1999
  • LCD Soundsystem, 05/04/2010
  • The Specials, 09/14/2011
  • D’Angelo, 01/31/2012
  • Smashing Pumpkins, 07/26/2013
  • Prince & 3rd Eye Girl, 08/11/2013
  • Waterboys, 12/06/2014
  • Kraftwerk, 01/16/2015
  • D’Angelo, 03/02/2015
  • Underworld, 03/24/2015 & 03/31/2016
  • LCD Soundsystem, 09/12/2017

All concerts

For those who just can’t get enough, hereby the complete list of Paradiso concerts I was at. Please be advised that the URL’s point to ratings and descriptions of the shows, which are available in Dutch only.

In closing

This concludes my tribute to the most beautiful concert venue of The Netherlands. What are your best experiences at Paradiso? Let me know!

Paradiso logo (


Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!