London is a host to many activities and concerts and that is why it has some premier concert venues. Whether it be in public gardens, stadiums, arenas or intimate concert halls there is a vast array to choose from.
In July 2013 we had a chance to sample a couple of them. The first premier concert venue we were to visit in London was The O2 in Greenwich.
The Millennium Dome
Originally built more than a decade ago The O2 was formerly known as The Millennium Dome. This was built for a celebration of the UK entering the 21st Century and was the focus of media attention on the night of 31st December 1999.
The Millennium Dome was also to play host as an exhibition centre for a year as the inside was to be split into 12 time zones representing different aspects of time.
Located in Greenwich the Millennium Dome is very notable and striking in its appearance. There are 12 yellow support towers striking out from the roof. These represent each of the hours of time and make the dome symbolise a clock from overhead. Based in Greenwich, famous for Greenwich Mean Time makes this very symbolic.
Often labelled as a white elephant the media and public could not see any longer term plan for The Millennium Dome. The project had begun in the 90’s as a much smaller scale project to celebrate Britain entering the third millennium. However a change of government in the 1990s saw the scale and scope of the project expand and at great cost.
After a year of temporary exhibitions a new owner and purpose had to be found for this very expensive New Year’s Eve party venue. The exhibitions had not attracted the numbers that were desired and the cost of maintaining this structure was a burden on the public purse.
By 2002 The Millennium Dome was estimated to have cost £789 million. And once closed post exhibition it was estimated to cost around £1 million per month just to maintain.
In 2005 the Millennium Dome was re-branded as The O2 under an estimated £6 million a year sponsorship deal. The site was also taken on by new owners, Anschutz Entertainment Group, to become a leading entertainment venue accessible for London. With the main dome itself converted into a prime concert and entertainment hall, there are also cinemas and restaurants in the surrounds.
More recently there has been the addition of a cable car ride known as the Emirates Air Line which runs from Greenwich to the Royal Docks.
In June 2012 the “Up at The O2” experience was also launched whereby you can climb up the roof of the former Millennium Dome and see the amazing view over London.
Our visit though was primarily to see a music concert. We were there to see day 3 of a 10 night show by the Canadian singer Michael Bublé, or as we affectionately call him “The Bubble”.
We’d seen Bublé a few years before so know his show was very good and looked forward to it. It was also a birthday treat for my bride, who is a BIG fan of Michael Bublé.
Getting to The O2 involves a number of transport options. Naturally you could drive but who would seriously want to drive in London?
There were numerous bus routes running by yet we chose the popular option, the tube. There is only one line on the London Underground which services The O2 and that is the Jubilee Line.
To visit The O2 you have to get off at the North Greenwich stop. As you come out of the tube station the site formerly known as The Millennium Dome is right in front of you, you can’t miss it.
We were based near London Bridge Underground Station which is also on the Jubilee Line so the journey of 4 stops was easy for us.
On leaving the venue I dreaded the mass exit. To be fair it was no where near as bad as I feared. As the concert was approaching its finale I could see lots of people leaving before the encore. Trying to beat the rush for the tube is what I suspected.
We didn’t rush to leave and it was probably a fair decision. On exiting there were numerous stewards ushering all London Underground users to form a rather large queue on the right hand side. It took us maybe 10-15 minutes to get inside the station but it was a steady progression.
Once we got onto the platform at the tube station a train arrived almost straight away. Whilst busy inside it was not the mass scrum to board that I feared.
It would seem that a lot of extra trains are put on to accommodate the large numbers of people at shows shown at The O2.
Various restaurants were located outside and inside the venue. From fancy burger joints, restaurants, coffee bars. There was plenty of choice. There is even a cinema and the experience of walking up to the roof of the Dome.
After going through a ticket check we entered the foyer area. This was substantial in size and had numerous booths selling overpriced merchandise. Well I always call it overpriced merchandise because you always find it at pop concerts.
There even appeared to be a pub/restaurant immediately in front of us which is handy to get something to eat if you have enough time.
The size of the foyer was a blessing as it seemed that many people decided to enter around the same time. Long queues were forming to go through a security check as we entered via Gate B.
Within around 5 minutes we were through and had to go up some fancy escalators to get to our seats which were high up in The O2 arena.
Seating in The O2 Arena (formerly known as The Millennium Dome) was pretty much like at many a rock concert. Not overly designed for comfort but adequate for the job.
To be honest they were just like cinema seats. Fold up seats plus a drinks holder set in place for each. Numerous people took advantage of the drinks holder. To be honest I was here at The O2 to see a concert not watch a film. Whilst the drinks holder is useful I found it to be an annoyance. On occasion I wanted to use the arm rest to lay my arms on. The only thing was is that the drinks holders in seats at The O2 kept getting in the way. It was uncomfortable for me to rest my arms.
Legroom between seats at The O2 is adequate. I’ve been in football stadiums with far less leg room than this. Whilst not overly generous, the leg room was sufficient for someone of average size, such as myself to sit without my knees rubbing up against the seat in front. As always though we had to stand up to let someone go past.
There is only one way to say this, the former Millennium Dome is huge. It is massive, gigantic, a very large arena. It has a diameter of 365 metres and the highest point inside is 50 m high. In fact you could fit 12 football pitches inside.
The arena is so large that in November 2013 it is due to be the venue for the ATP (Tennis) World Tour finals.
For us, this is little consolation for our visit to The O2. We were sat three rows from the back on the highest tier, on the completely opposite side of the stage.
At the former Millennium Dome Michael Bublé looked just like a pin prick on stage. Thankfully like many venues now there were large screens broadcasting the show, we could now at least see his facial expressions.
Then towards the end of the show, whilst performing a rendition of Daft Punk, the Bubble walked through the crowd and performed a few songs at a stage near the back of the hall, close to us. Whilst still a fair distance away we could at least make him out more easily.
Whether it be at The O2, Wembley, or a small intimate village hall, good acoustics make a good music show. Let’s face it whether you love or hate Michael Bublé’s music you can’t deny the fact that he has a most amazing voice. So much so, right at the end of the performance he switched off his microphone. As we’ve seen him do before he sang without any electrical assistance. He may have been hundreds of metres away in a hall packed with 20,000 people. Even still, sat up in the Gods at the opposite end of The Millennium Dome we could still hear him. Now some of that is truly testimony to his amazing voice. The rest to the acoustics.
The show in fact had a warm up act. It was the amazing group called Naturally 7. I’ve known about this group for a few years now. They are probably the most incredible human beat box group going. If you’ve not heard of them just look up them singing “In the air tonight” on the Paris Subway on You Tube.
As a beat box group they use no instruments, just their voice boxes to impersonate instruments. Like Michael’s, their performance carried beautifully through The O2 arena. There was a real atmosphere as the great sound resounded around the place.
All in all the show was a good show. We’d seen Naturally 7 and Michael Bublé perform a few years earlier at Sheffield Arena.
This time the show at The O2 appeared to be on a grander scale. There were some slightly more visual effects but the general basis of the show was maintained. Obviously there were some new songs too.
As always, Michael Bublé has a great rapport with his audience and this was the same.
For me, I enjoyed seeing the show at Sheffield Arena more than I did at the former Millennium Dome. This time I was too far away, too removed. Okay our tickets were around £60 each and they were the cheap seats.
It was a great concert in the end. However, the next time I go I would most definitely want seats closer to the front at one of London’s Premier Concert Venues, The O2.