Thursday, February 10, 2005

No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith

I love being in London. I love walking streets with hundreds of years of history. I love hearing voices speaking English without American accents. I love public transit that is convenient. I love how the English aren't uptight Americans. I loved being out of the country during that American jock holiday known as The Super Bowl (especially since The Niners suck these days). I loved being back in the city that, for reasons deeply rooted in Monty Python, is Umlaut's "spiritual" home.

Umlaut's trusty confidante Skychick enables him to see foreign lands and have adventures in them. Every once in awhile these adventures include the magic of Lock 'N Loll. So it was in London.

The Hammersmith Odeon is one of those legendary places that I've always heard about since I was a wee music geek.. Motorhead's 'No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith'... Iron Maiden's 'The Beast Over Hammersmith'.. Thin Lizzy's 'Life' live album... The Beatles' 1965 Christmas shows.. Bowie's final show as Ziggy Stardust in 1973... Black Sabbath's 1978 'Never Say Die' concert video.. The Concerts for Kampuchia... The picture of The Who in the photo book of the 'Quadrophenia' album.

Hammersmith: The site of Cliff Burton's final UK show with Metallica in 1986 (5 days later he was gone).. Not only these "historic" events, but I've heard dozens and dozens of concert bootlegs from the place over the years. Hammersmith was / is the heart of British Rock history.. Although it's now called Carling Apollo Hammersmith, and the interior remodeled, it's still the same venue where Judas Priest played on that great 1980 bootleg cassette I have.

I wasn't going to write about the gig itself at all since it was the 3rd show on Umlaut's 'Stalking Tour Manager Doug Around The Globe' 2004-05 Tour.. and that was getting a bit redundant in this space. Going into this I was honestly more excited about actually seeing the inside of Hammersmith after all these years. However, the Rock Godz work in mysterious ways.

I've always said that if I had a time machine, the one band I'd want to see is The Who and Keith Moon circa 1970 at the height of their power performing 'Tommy' (listen to the 'Live At Leeds' Deluxe CD and you'll know why.. The 2001 reissue and not the 1995 one..). Since time travel isn't exactly perfected yet, on this night I got the next best thing.

As we approached Hammersmith the queue wrapped around the building and down the street. Some bloke on a ladder was changing the letters on the marquee so it read "Green Day Present American Idiot".. Hmmm. Then Tour Manager Doug casually mentioned that the band would be playing "the opera" tonight. "Tommy can you hear me?" For the geeks who care: The band had only performed the 'American Idiot' album in its entirety 6 times previously.. and this would the first time outside of the U.S.. "Tommy can you hear me?"

I'm a jaded old fart but, straight up, this was one of the best gigs I've ever seen. YES, it was just as good as Van Halen - 1980, Motorhead w/ Mercyful Fate in 1985, Johnny Cash in 1994, Jesus Lizard - 1992, Sepultura in 1996 (Roots Tour!), Neil Young & Crazy Horse in a club - 1997, and Tom Waits in 1990. I shit you not.

It was pretty special entering Hammersmith via the backstage door instead of the main entrance. If you had told me in 1982 that I'd be doing that I would not have believed you. If only I had been wearing white Converse high tops, an Iron Maiden t-shirt, and a denim vest.

Tickets for this night were going for $120 each on Ebay UK. I'm still bemused that so many people refuse to believe me when I rant about how great Green Day is right now. The Indie vs. Major debate is for people with too much time on their hands. Plus, that's SO 1991, dude... Oh well, whatever, nevermind. A great album is a great album. A great band is a great band. A good song is a good song. What is "punk" and what isn't is pointless to worry about at this time in history. Life is too short to worry about such things when it comes to music. To remind y'all of what Satchmo once said: "There's only two types of music, good and bad."

I must say that it's been awhile since I last saw a band hold a crowd in the palm of their hand like Green Day did at Hammersmith on this night. It was epic. It made me fucking glad to be alive... and you can't argue with that no matter how jaded you might be.

A nice old school touch: A limited edition of 500 commemorative posters were made up just for this show and sold for only £2 ($4 U.S.) a pop. Music geeks dig that kinda shit. Look for 'em on Ebay.

Rock Stars gotta eat too:

Please don't use the above image and attempt to counterfeit a backstage pass. It won't work.. Besides, backstage is BORING. The strippers, the cocaine, the champagne, the midget jello wrestling... YAWN. Evidently Kelly Osbourne and her breasts were in the house, but they managed to avoid Skychick and I.

Brian Jonestown Massacre shirts seen on Oxford St. earlier that day = 1. On the way back to The Tube some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags.. Which, of course, means "cigarettes" in British slang. On the train outta Victoria Station I was as giddy as a little school girl and back at the hotel I ate a sandwich.

Cheers once again to old Umlaut friend Doug for the hospitality and +1 into his All Access Pass World. Keep it real out there, for The Kidz.

"Send my love a letterbomb and visit me in Hell..."