Tag Archives: Hammersmith Apollo

What is your “holy grail” of all British rock venues? Remembering The Astoria.

This month, Cambridge rockers, The Treatment ,  joined Status Quo on their reunion tour.  On Friday this week, 15th March 2013, they tweeted “Tonight we rock the Hammersmith Apollo.  Possibly the holy grail of all British rock venues.”

The Treatment

The Treatment

Ah! Hammersmith Apollo; still affectionately known as the Hammy O (due to previously being the Hammersmith Odeon).   This excited statement on Twitter not only made me think of all the amazing bands that I had seen  there myself, (and also made me wish I had got my butt into gear and got myself a ticket), but also brought to mind another of my favourite venues that is sadly no longer with us and sorely missed.   The Astoria on Charing Cross Road in London; a victim of Transport for London’s Crossrail project, nothing could be done to save its life.  This January 2013, saw the fourth anniversary of its closure when, on the 14th January 2009, The Demolition Ball was to be the last concert it staged.

LondonAstoria

Yes, it was a dive; yes you had to keep moving or risk your feet becoming attached to the floor; yes the bar was expensive; yes the security were heavy handed and bloody minded (crowd surfing was NOT tolerated!); yes, narrow staircases and 2000 fans were a bit of a squeeze and an alarming fire drill prospect!  But, what history and what a vibe!  Intimate enough to be up close to the band yet still command the pulling power to entice major acts like The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Deep Purple, Dio, Radiohead, McFly, The Libertines and The Darkness, the venue had become iconic in its own right since it’s days as the Crosse & Blackwell pickle factory warehouse.  Converted into a cinema in 1927, it then became a musical theatre in 1976 before the music and club scene made it an established part of the live music circuit from the 1980’s.

In mourning it’s passing I have often found myself recalling the hazy memories of all the great gigs that I experienced there on my journey from young teenager to irresponsible adult.   I think I learned how to “mosh” there and punched a bloke’s lights out without realising what I had done (I am only a seven and a half stone slip of a girl!)  I have drunk so much beer and danced so manically that I have dehydrated myself to a crisp in my endeavours to party hard at The Astoria.  We have formed pits and human pyriamids at The Astoria.  We have done things in the loos of The Astoria that maybe we really shouldn’t have!

All grown up, my last gig at The Astoria was on November 29th 2008, just two months before the ceiling was to literally come crashing down.  Aussie rockers Airbourne were playing with Stone Gods.  It was a highly charged, sweaty party night that closed with a rendition of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” when Airbourne were joined onstage by Dan Hawkins (Stone Gods/The Darkness).  That kind of summed up the fact that I didn’t want it to end.  It was probably one of the best gigs I had been to for a long time and I remembered feeling slightly strange when I left that night, knowing that I would never step inside that building again.

This link to the Airbourne UK Fansite displays some of the photos from that night with Dan Hawkins too.

http://www.airbourneukfansite.co.uk/?page_id=14&nggpage=2

So four years on from the demise of a truly iconic landmark, let me raise a glass to The Astoria, cider, or Carling, or whatever, and say Thankyou for the memories and the glory days! astoria-london goodbye

If you can bear to watch it here is the link to the time lapse vid of The Astoria’s demolition filmed by TfL’s webcams.

What was your last gig at The Astoria?  Let me know.

I can also remember some other venues that might fall into the “holy grail” mix.  There’s The Marquee and Klub Foot at The Clarendon Hotel Ballroom for a start.  But, for me, nothing beat The Astoria.

Maybe you’d like to let me know what your iconic British rock venue is and we can go down memory lane all over again?

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The Darkness, Hammersmith Apollo, 7th March 2013

darkness

It has been nineteen months since The Darkness staged their comeback and played a Download warm up gig at Shepherds Bush Empire which showcased hints of promising new material.  That was a humbling, stripped back to basics experience, which experimented with the unconditional love they hoped for from their starved loyal fan-base.  Perfecting the new album seemed to drag for a while, but with “Hot Cakes” finally on our plates, the sweet smell of triumph has put the “D” back in “Arkness”.

The Ginger Wildheart Band was up first and despite the heavy sounds and nifty guitar licks, the audience, bar a few, were not exactly getting warmed up. Repeatedly in the music news for campaigning to revolutionize the music business by financing a triple album project via Pledge Music, Ginger was the charismatic frontman with his slicked quiff and connected with his audience.  He and his friends commanded the stage well and their performance was mesmerising.  Perhaps this was why there was so little movement in the crowd.  Personally, I was struck by Ginger’s blonde vocalist by his side, a flipperty jibbet of a woman with a heaving bosom; dancing about as if she was twelve.  Maybe I wasn’t struck, just embarrassed for her.

Brothers in arms; risen again; hand in hand, The Darkness greeted their audience under a pink and purple halo before “Every Inch of You” exploded, confirming that this gig was going to be loud and ballsy.    Granting himself a one costume only allowance, Justin Hawkins was a confectioner’s dream, looking seductively like a giant humbug in lycra with a plunged neckline straight to the crotch.  Taught and tattooed, he was as ever, the cocky, eccentric rock star with effortless style and the voice of an angel.  With brother Dan (guitar) in his signature Thin Lizzy t-shirt; faithful pup Frankie Poullain  (bass) and Ed (drums), the performance was slick and tireless, only punctuated occasionally by Justin’s dry appreciation of his crowd.  “Thanks for the chanting.  It makes me feel like a million pounds!” he remarked after the band had ripped through “Black Shuck”, “Growing On Me”, “She’s Just A Girl Eddie” , “One Way Ticket” and “Nothin’s Gonna Stop Us”.

The party romped along with the defiant territorial intent of “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” and Justin’s gymnastic display for the evening which included jumping knee splits and a prolonged handstand, legs akimbo, in-front of Ed’s drum kit.

A decadent mix of old and current songs took the audience on The Darkness journey with the ultimate flashback to the most successful of their history, “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”.  This one confirmed that a show doesn’t have to sell out in order to lift the roof off a building!  An eventful encore followed with a lengthy “silent” drum solo from Ed and “Love on the Rocks with No Ice” heralding Justin’s familiar crowd walk, this time, high on his brother’s shoulders, before dismounting to surf the pit.  Tempted to hang on to him for just a little too long, the crowd proceeded to wave him further away from the stage despite his first request to “Take me back now please.”

The last months of international touring has defined the band’s new live stage show and despite the lack of props, costume changes and pure pantomime, it is no less entertaining than when they were first granted permission to land.  In fact, less is more.  The truth is, The Darkness have come back and are obviously here to stay.  Whether you liked them in the first place or not is no matter.  They are as much an English staple as meat and two veg.

Aspects of this review can also be found at http://www.stereoboard.com

http://www.stereoboard.com/content/view/177799/9