Warner Music had taken over the smaller of the two Odeon cinemas in Leicester Square for the evening, and there was an air of expectant anticipation amongst the eclectic mix of fans inside the building. A section of seating was reserved for Warner employees, which is fair enough, but it appeared that there were more wristbands issued for the open seating than there were seats available. As a consequence, Odeon staff were telling people without a seat that they would have to leave, despite having wristbands. Everything seemed to be resolved eventually, but it strikes me as not the way to treat fans who ultimately shell out their hard earned wonga- especially in the middle of a recession.
The arrival of Edith Bowman onto the stage to act as MC for the evening proceedings was greeted with polite applause, so she wasted little time in bringing to the stage the reason for everyone’s attendance. With Simon wielding an electro-acoustic, James’ bass hooked up to a small amp and Ben sitting on/playing what appeared to be an old tea chest, we were treated to around 20 minutes of an intimate, stripped back set which was well received by the assembled multitude. Edith then returned and conducted a Q&A session with the band which, amongst the predictable questions (can you sign my T-shirt/i-pod, can I have a hug/photo) generated a few interesting queries. “What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen in the crowd whilst playing?” (a couple having sex, apparently) and my fave of the evening, “What do you think of Matt Cardle covering your song?” Simon’s response was fairly diplomatic - whilst he couldn’t pretend to be pleased about it, everyone does cover versions when they start out and what was he supposed to do, stop writing music? The Q&A session finished with the band responding to another question by playing an extra track, ‘Hope For An Angel’.
After a ten minute break to stock up on beer/visit the loo/find food, the lights dimmed, the screen curtains drew back and the volume cranked up several notches for the main attraction (only to be stopped after a few minutes due to a ‘technical hitch’). Proceedings eventually re-started, and the fact that the band are self-confessed Nirvana fans became apparent - not so much in musical style, more in band composition (3 piece plus touring guitarist) and the ability to transfer from full on aural sonic onslaught to heart wrenching melodic sparseness in the mere time it takes for the audience to show their undying appreciation between songs. It’s easy to see how this band can appear as support for Foo Fighters, play Glastonbury and Sonisphere and not appear out of place at any of them. The audience at Wembley, as at the screening, was as diverse and eclectic as you are likely to find anywhere.
Let’s be clear about this - ‘The Last Waltz’ this ain’t (but then what is?) Sure, there may have been a little ‘cleaning up’ on the sound in post production. But as a record of a band at the peak of their powers, and an enticement for me to go borrow their entire back catalogue from my brother, it’ll take some beating. Rest assured that I won’t be using their support slot at Milton Keynes on Sunday to queue for the loos - ‘MON THE BIFFY!!