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The SSE Arena, Wembley frontage
|Former names||Empire Pool (1934–78)
Wembley Arena (1978–2014)
|Location||Wembley, London, England|
It was built for the 1934 British Empire Games at Wembley, by Arthur Elvin, and originally housed a swimming pool, as reflected by its former name, Empire Pool. The pool itself was last used for the 1948 Summer Olympics. The building is used for music, comedy and family entertainment and for sport.
The venue was renovated, along with Wembley Stadium, as part of the early-21st-century regeneration of the Wembley Park area. The arena refurbishment cost £35m and the new arena opened to the public on 2 April 2006, with a concert by the English electronic-music band Depeche Mode.
With 12,500 seats, it is London's second-largest indoor arena after The O2.
In March 1959, the All Star Record Show featured Petula Clarke, Shirley Bassey, Lonnie Donnegan, Dickie Valentine, Vera Lynn, the Kaye Sisters and Alma Cogan, with assistance from Bernard Bresslaw and the ever popular Peter Sellers. The Starlight Dance, of 17th October that year, had a similar line-up, with support from the other performers from film and television such as Bob Monkhouse, Roy Castle and Bernard Bresslaw again. When the venue was known as the Empire Pool, it hosted the annual New Musical Express Poll Winners' concert during the mid-1960s. Audiences of 10,000 viewed acts like The Beatles (who performed there three times), T. Rex (whose Ringo Starr-directed documentary film Born to Boogie is centered on a 1972 concert at the Empire Pool); David Bowie, Cliff Richard & The Shadows, The Monkees, The Hollies, Dusty Springfield, Joe Brown & the Bruvvers, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, (who played there on their 1977 "In the Flesh" tour). The Grateful Dead, Status Quo, The Who, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, were among many others. The individual performances were then finished by a famous personality joining the respective performer on stage and presenting them with their award. The Beatles were presented with one of their awards by actor Roger Moore and Cliff Richard was joined on stage by Roy Orbison, to present him with his own award. These ceremonies were filmed and recorded and later broadcast on television.
The Grateful Dead have released recordings of complete shows from 7–8 April 1972 as part of Europe '72: The Complete Recordings. The Grateful Dead also performed at Wembley Arena on 31 October 1990 as part of their fall 1990 European concert tour. Bruce Hornsby accompanied the band for this concert.
In June 1978, The Electric Light Orchestra sold out eight straight concerts (a record at the time) during their Out of the Blue Tour. The first of these shows was recorded, televised and later released as a CD/DVD. The English progressive rock band Yes were one of the first of the Arena era, having played first at the old Empire Pool, putting on a show on 27 October 1978.
ABBA played six sold-out concerts, from 5 to 10 November 1979. The shows were filmed by Swedish television for a documentary which was released in 2004 on DVD as ABBA in Concert. In September 2014 Universal Music released Live at Wembley Arena, featuring most of the 10 November concert on CD, vinyl LP and digital format. After the tour, the members of the band talked about the warmth of the Wembley audience. "It was like coming home after a couple of nights," said guitarist Bjorn Ulvaeus. A finale from these concerts, "The Way Old Friends Do", is the closing track on ABBA's seventh studio album, Super Trouper. Vocalist Agnetha Faltskog said it was the vibe from the audience that made the track work so much better as a live performance than as a studio track.
Status Quo were in concert at the Arena on 11 May 1979 and later on as the venue entered the new decade of the 1980s.
Cliff Richard has sold the most shows out at the venue. He has headlined 63 shows at the venue with his first headliner being in 1984 and his latest being 2009. Richard holds the record for the most headline shows by one artist (Though ice skaters Torvill & Dean hold the overall show record), having played his 61st concert in October 2009. Tina Turner is the female artist with the most shows, with 25 and with 5 at Wembley Stadium (three in 1996 and two in 2000).
Iron Maiden played first in 1988 (Seventh Tour of a Seventh Tour x2), 1990 (No Prayer On The Road x2) and 1993 (A Real Live Tour x1). The 1990 shows were recorded for a triple live album but was never released. A few tracks from 17 December 1990 were released as b-sides on singles from the next album - Fear Of The Dark (1992).
The pop band McFly have performed at the arena six times over their career, selling more than 70,000 tickets there in all. They have released two concert DVDs and have streamed one concert from Wembley over the internet.
The Cure have played 11 times at the arena between 1985 and 2008, the most notable performances being over 3 nights in July 1989 during the Prayer Tour, and an appearance on 19 January 1991, as part of a festival called 'The Great British Music Weekend'. The 1989 dates were recorded on soundboard, and several songs from those nights being released on a live album, entitled Entreat, while the 1991 night was filmed on video. 4 songs, 'Pictures of You', 'Fascination Street', 'Lullaby' and 'A Forest', featured on the video 'Play Out', with a further 4, 'Just Like Heaven', 'In between Days', 'Boys Don't Cry' and 'Disintegration', being broadcast on TV.
David Essex, Real Thing 2 December 1978
Earth, Wind and Fire 3-4 March 1979
Bad Company 9-10 March 1979
Joan Armatrading 12-13 March 1979
Kishore Kumar 31 March 1979.
John Denver 1-4 April 1979.
Mike Oldfield 28-29 April 1979.
The Commodores 25-6 August 1979.
Boney M 4 September 1979.
Patti Smith Band 5 September 1979.
Supertramp 30 October - 2 November 1979.
Moody Blues 3-4 November 1979.
Abba5-10 November 1979.
Year of the child(event) 22 November 1979.
Wings 7-10 December 1979.
Rainbow played two dates from 29 Feb to 1st March 1980. Queen played on 8-10 December 1980 and also on 4th-8th September 1984 for their "Queen Works " tour. The Who came to the Arena for their concert on 11 March 1981. U2 first played Wembley Arena in for two consecutive nights in November 1984 on the UK leg of their Unforgettable Fire Tour. The songs "Bad" and "A Sort of Homecoming" from these shows were recorded and appeared on the Wide Awake in America EP. They returned to the arena in 1987 as part of the UK leg of The Joshua Tree Tour.
Bruce Springsteen played 6 shows at Wembley Arena on The River Tour in May and June 1981. These shows were postponed from March 1981 due to Springsteen's exhaustion from the USA leg of the tour when he was playing concerts of three and a half hours duration or longer.
Genesis played there on 17 December 1981.
Dire Straits played a 13-night residency at the Arena as part of their successful Brothers in Arms tour, with an additional performance next door at Wembley Stadium for an afternoon slot at Live Aid, in July 1985.
Ultravox played on 5-6 November 1986.
Marillion were the headline act on 4 November 1987, with a date on their "Clutching at Straws" tour. It was the last album tour with former lead singer Fish (aka Derek William Dick) before he was replaced by new lead singer Steve Hogarth.
Rush, the Canadian progressive rock band played on 29 April 1988.
Paul McCartney played tour dates between 13-25 January 1990 at the Arena.
George Michael performed four consecutive shows during his Cover to Cover Tour on 19–20 and 22–23 March 1991. During the final show, on the 23rd, Elton John made a surprise guest appearance and together they sang, as a duet, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me". This was recorded and released later that year, becoming a massive hit, with even greater success than the song's original release in 1974.
Diana Ross previewed her "Here and Now Tour" in November 1990 with two sold-out dates. She returned in June 1991 for 4 more sold-out nights of her "Here and Now World Tour". Diana had previously filmed her HBO "World Stage Tour" in 1989 and platinum live album, Greatest Hits Live from Wembley. Diana is the second most popular female solo artist, behind Tina Turner, for the most sold-out dates. Diana began appearing at Wembley in 1982 for her world tour.
Dire Straits gave a concert on 19 May 1991.
Canadian Band Rush made another appearance on 17 April 1992.
Bruce Springsteen played 5 shows at Wembley Arena on his 1992-93 world tour.
In April 1994, Barbra Streisand began her Barbra: The Concert Tour, with four performances at the arena. They marked her first performances in the UK after 28 years and were the only shows outside of the U.S. The opening song on the first night, "As If We Never Said Goodbye", was recorded and transmitted on BBC TV's Top of the Pops.
Steely Dan played the venue on 10 September 1996.
Hezekiah Walker & The Love Fellowship Crusade Choir recorded their "Live in London" album at the Wembley Auditorium in 1996. The album was released in 1997.
Aerosmith were at Wembley Arena presenting their "Nine Lives" tour on 4 June 1997.
Radiohead played a date at Wembley Arenaon 16 November 1997.
AC/DC played the Arena on 4-5 December 2000.
The Corrs performed at the Arena on 20–22 December 2000, the show on the 21st was broadcast live on Sky1 as a Christmas special, the show was watched by 500,000+ people and was the most watched TV program of the week on Sky1.
Bruce Springsteen played a comeback concert on 27 October 2002.
Peter Gabriel performed Live in the Round on 22 May 2003.
Christina Aguilera performed during her Stripped World Tour on 2-3 and 5 November 2003. The shows were filmed and later released as a DVD, entitled Stripped Live in the U.K.. She also performed in the arena in 2006 for her Back to Basics World Tour.
David Bowie's Reality Tour took in Wembley Arena again on 25 November 2003.
Feeder stopped by at the venue during their December 2003 Comfort in Sound Arena Tour, which was a follow-up to their 23-date tour of the same album where they played theater-sized venues. The show was recorded with microphones facing the stage and crowd with plans to release the show as a live album, but never has been released. The start of the show was also filmed, but the footage has to date not been used.
Beyoncé Knowles performed on two consecutive nights, during her Dangerously in Love Tour on 10–11 November 2003. Her show on the 10th was filmed and later released as a DVD, entitled Beyoncé: Live at Wembley.
Bob The Builder did a live performance here, it was later released on DVD as "Bob The Builder: The Live Show".
Westlife performed two shows on 18 May and 19 May 2006. The shows were filmed and released on a DVD.
The 2011 UK X Factor final was shot at Wembley Arena over two days; girl band Little Mix won the competition on 11 December 2011. The X Factor returned to film their final at the Wembley Arena for the tenth series on 14 and 15 December 2013.
The Saturdays made their arena debut here on 16 December 2011, on their All Fired Up Live Tour, in front of a capacity of 11,478. They performed at the arena for the second time on 19 September 2014, as part of their Greatest Hits Tour.
Frank Turner performed on 27 April 2012 to a sell-out audience. A DVD was released later in the year.
Muse used the arena to rehearse their The 2nd Law World Tour in 2012. The band had previously performed at the venue on 27 November 2003 on their Absolution Tour, with some songs from their show put on the resulting DVD. Muse also performed 3 shows at the venue in November 2006.
The surviving members of Bad Company (Paul Rodgers, Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke) with Howard Leese and Lynn Sorensen, played to a sold out crowd in April 2010, with a DVD and CD recorded for the occasion.
American rock band Evanescence announced a return to the UK for a 4-date arena tour, which finished in Wembley Arena on 9 November 2012. The tour was in support of their self-titled third studio album.
You Me At Six performed on 8 December 2012 and sold out the venue. The show was filmed with a live DVD released in 2013.
Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds – The New Generation came to Wembley Arena on 6 December as part of the new production's arena tour of the UK in late 2012. The original version of The War of the Worlds was also on stage at Wembley in 2006 and was recorded for the DVD release of the show.
Nepathya became the first Nepalese band to perform at Wembley Arena on 3 August 2013. The concert was a grand success.
Avenged Sevenfold headlined the arena for the first time on 1 December 2013 as part of their Hail to the King Tour tour. They had support from Five Finger Death Punch and from the Swedish band Avatar.
Bullet For My Valentine have headlined the arena twice, on 12 December 2010 and 5 December 2013. Bring Me The Horizon and Atreyu were the opening acts for the 2010 show, while Asking Alexandria and Young Guns were the opening acts for the 2013 show.
On 4 August 2014, Canadian band Sins of the Fallen Son announced the first arena headline show of their career, to be held on 20 March 2015 and will be filmed for an upcoming DVD.
On 20 March 2015, American pop-punk band All Time Low headlined their first show in the arena. The show was filmed for the band's second DVD, it was a one-off show titled A Night in London With All Time Low.
Fall Out Boy are set to return to the arena on their American Beauty/American Psycho UK Tour between 11–12 October 2015. Standing tickets were sold out in 3 minutes for 11 October. Fall Out Boy announced an additional date due to "phenomenal demand".
Nightwish played their last show of Endless Forms Most Beautiful European Tour at the Arena on 19 December as their only UK show of 2015. They were also making history as the first ever band from Finland to Headline a show at the Famous Venue. At the Show band announced they were recording the whole show for a future Live DVD. Support came from Swedish Metal Band Arch Enemy and Finnish Metal band Amorphis
Indoor sporting events such as boxing, five a side football and ice hockey have long been popular at the venue, notably the World Championship bout between then champion Alan Minter and challenger Marvin Hagler, which the latter won.
From the late 1960s to the late 1970s, the Skol 6-Day cycle race was held here. An indoor velodrome of 166 metres was assembled from sections each September. This was Britain's first indoor velodrome. Top professional riders from the European 6-Day circuit came to London, including Eddy Merckx, Peter Post, Patrick Sercu and many others. British riders such as World pursuit champion Hugh Porter and British Champion Tony Gowland rode with distinction.
The Wembley Lions and Wembley Monarchs were two ice hockey teams that used the venue regularly during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, while the London Lions used the venue for a season in the 1970s. Wembley also hosted the British Hockey League play-off finals weekend at the end of each season up until the league's disbandment in 1996. The arena also played host to NHL teams the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers for a pair of challenge matches in 1993.
More recently netball, darts, basketball, mixed martial arts and cage fighting have made regular appearances on the calendar.
The Horse of the Year Show was held there from 1959–2002.
It hosted the final of the Whyte and Mackay Premier League Darts 2009. Whyte and Mackay Premier League Darts also hosted the playoff finals in 2010 at Wembley Arena. The 888.com 2011 Premier League Darts Finals also took place at Wembley.
The venue has hosted many professional wrestling events from Joint Promotions, WWE, WWE NXT, WCW, World Wrestling All-Stars and TNA Impact Wrestling including Impact TV tapings on 28 January 2012.
Square of Fame
With the reopening of Wembley Arena in 2006, a "Square of Fame" area has been created in front of the arena. Similar to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, notable Wembley Arena performers are invited to have bronze plaques imprinted with their names and handprints. The first star to have a plaque was Madonna, on 1 August 2006.[not in citation given]
On 9 November 2006, Cliff Richard added his handprints to the Square. Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi, of Status Quo, unveiled a plaque, with one of each of their handprints, on 16 December 2006. On 9 January 2007, Kylie Minogue included her handprints, on the final day of the London leg of her Showgirl Homecoming Tour.
Seven-time World Snooker Champion Stephen Hendry added his handprints on 21 January 2007. International country superstar Dolly Parton unveiled her plaque, on the final night of her UK tour, on 25 March 2007.
Canadian music star Bryan Adams unveiled his plaque on 10 May 2007, just before his 25th appearance at the venue. Just three days later, former Commodores frontman Lionel Richie was presented with his plaque on 13 May 2007, after another sold-out performance at the arena.
Members of the Irish boyband Westlife unveiled their plaque on 28 March 2008, after 27 sell-out shows in the space of 10 years. They have sold 250,000 tickets. All four members, Shane Filan, Nicky Byrne, Kian Egan and Mark Feehily, were presented with a cast of their hands, which can also be seen in the Square of Fame, putting them as the arena's biggest selling pop band.[not in citation given]
The SSE Arena, Wembley has been used in 2011 and 2012 for episodes of Strictly Come Dancing during the week of Children in Need. It is also used for the 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 final of The X Factor. The Wembley Arena was also the location of the first round of the ITV game show Red or Black? in 2011. Named the Red or Black? Arena on the programme, players must sit on a coloured seat that corresponds to one of the two colours. If they get it right, they'll move on to the next round.
On 22 September 2013, Wembley Arena hosted The Love School Event with a crowd of over 11,000 people when TV presenters Renato and Cris Cardoso shared their experience and delivered a hearty lesson of love for all. It was also the first time when a book (Bulletproof Marriage) was launched at the Wembley Arena.
The SSE Arena, Wembley is served by Wembley Park Station on the London Underground via Olympic Way, and Wembley Central via the White Horse Bridge. It also has a rail link provided by the Wembley Stadium railway station to London Marylebone and Birmingham Operated By Chiltern Railways The 92 bus route stops directly outside the arena.
The onsite parking facility is shared with Wembley Stadium, essentially being the open air surface parking surrounding the eastern flank of Wembley Stadium and the multistory car park. These are called Green Car Park and Red Car Park respectively. There is disabled parking available onsite, at the Green Car Park, at a reduced rate but on a first come first served basis.
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- Sclafani, T. (2013). The Grateful Dead FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the Greatest Jam Band in History. Backbeat Books. p. 282. ISBN 978-1-61713-582-8. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
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- 1948 Summer Olympic official report. pp. 43, 49.
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