Hammersmith Apollo – Dec 19th, 2013
Two years ago Coldplay headlined a gig for charity Kids Company at The O2 and now they were back curating for a second time at the far more intimate Hammersmith (‘Eventim’) Apollo.
Whatever you call it, the venue is certainly more vibrant following a recent revamp and, despite one of the most varied line-ups seen on a bill all year, was the scene to kick off the festive season while raising some money for a very worthy cause.
So with a £5 can of beer distilled into a plastic glass from the shiny new bar (incidentally, of which there are now several – easily accessible and well staffed) it was onto the first band of the night, after a short introduction from compare Fearne Cotton.
Using the word ‘band’ to describe Rizzle Kicks is being generous, especially seeing as one member seemingly does all the work while the other hangs around, dances badly and occasionally contributes the odd vocal. The backing band do a good job though – and indeed prove to be better dancers than the main duo – although most of the music is actually provided by the resident ‘DJ’. This of course means a guy with a MacBook, playing samples from other people’s hits. At least it gives the post-teenagers in the audience time to guess the ripped-off tunes while the children are jumping and enjoying the constant call and response.
Next up is Dynamo who seems strangely lacking in stage presence for a magician who’s had several TV series. To be fair, he isn’t helped by a noisy crowd and unfortunately picking a lady from the crowd who seemingly has no concept of how a pack of cards works. Whereas his television series relies heavily on camerawork and stooges, alone on stage some of the tricks fall flat – including a strange ‘illusion’ of magically tying shoes laces that were visibly pre-tied under his jeans. More apt than the opening act, but doesn’t leave anyone particularly spell-bound.
Back in October, when Ricky Gervais played two shows at The Bloomsbury Theatre as David Brent & Forgone Conclusion they were the hottest tickets in town. Here, third up on an already mixed bill, it was never going to be easy blurring the lines between comedy and music. While the songs are moderately humorous you can’t help but long for the tiny soundbites in between, never quite sure how much it is a comedic performance or just Gervais fulfilling a personal ambition. With a sing-along of ‘Freelove Freeway’ he’s gone and with it probably the lifespan of an already fading joke.
It’s then left to Lily Allen to resurrect the night, not something you’d stake your house on. Returning to performing after ‘quitting’ to have a family, she seems genuinely humbled, quietly hovering onto stage in a leopard print coat. “I didn’t have time to get a band together” she explains, in fitting with the mismatched evening so far. It actually turns out to be blessing in disguise. First Chris Martin provides acoustic accompaniment for a wonderfully somber version of ‘The Fear’, followed by a lengthy standing ovation as Robbie Williams appears to perform their rendition of ‘Dream A Little Dream’.
The fur coat is soon replaced by a sequinned dress and backing dancers for a full-on version of new feminist rant ‘Hard Out Here’, and unlike Gervais the irony is clear. Keane’s Tim Rice-Oxley backs on piano for the inevitable rendition of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ as she sniggers “Don’t forget your John Lewis alarm clocks”, before leaving both herself and the crowd highly satisfied.
As Coldplay come on stage for the first time in 12 months, it’s hard to know what to expect from a band who have changed so much over the years. The venue seems to suit something more subtle than their recent day-glow output — how lovely it would be to hear a stripped back ‘Shiver’ or ‘See You Soon’ again. But as it is, they opt for a large portion of the ‘Mylo Xyloto’ tour, albeit in this smaller setting. Indeed it works incredible well with the digital wristbands lighting the Apollo in a sea of strobing pink, blue and green as the place rocks to the dancier hits like ‘Charlie Brown’, ‘Paradise’ and ‘Every Teardrop is Waterfall’.
The energy is only broken to allow a first live outing for ‘Atlas’ (a new song from ‘Hunger Games: Catching Fire’) and for Chris Martin to indulge himself as he later interrupts the set to play ‘The Scientist’ in order to hear the crowd sing back to him. Much like Lily Allen previously, it seems the break has done the band some good, seeming quite humbled to be back in front of an audience.
An encore of ‘White Christmas’ complete with a children’s choir and fake snow and their own festive tune ‘Christmas Lights’ rounds off a truly magical and diverse evening that has lit up a wonderful venue and hopefully a few kids’ lives this Christmas.