Martin Rossiter 20.11.21 O2 Forum Kentish Town
Is this the end of all things Gene? This has been billed as a farewell show by frontman Rossiter – well the farewell show – and all this started a few years ago as a Shepherd Bush O2 Academy booking, before the non-productive coughing started. Now we head for Kentish Town to say goodbye.
Saturday night gigs round here in recent years have always been good trips. So many options. In my suburban London school days or later in my Reading years I never came up to Camden and beyond much. I can’t remember going to places like Dingwalls, The Roundhouse and the various incarnations of Kentish Town Forum until the last 10 years or so.
I’m on a bit of post-Lockdown roll (or is it inter-Lockdown, nooo!) at the moment. Whatever…. I’m making the most of it. Stopping in Camden with gig buddy Dave and after a Camden Pale Ale in All About Eve, we plot a course north, forking right at Camden Town tube station (rather than forking left up to The Roundhouse) up towards Kentish Town.
Next a stop at The Abbey, up on the right for one. Liverpool v Arsenal is in full swing on the TV – quite an atmosphere (no don’t say better than the Emirates ) – they started letting the goals in after we moved on. Then on a little futher to The Oxford – it’s good to sample these places eh and some novel ales in here, a nice draught porter and Siren craft ale cans in the fridge.
A little further and we’re near the venue. Just around the corner is the spacious Assembly Room. From here you can pop across the road when it’s time and leave the queues in the Forum to others for a while. A good boozer within spitting distance of any of these O2 venues is a winner (I must check out The Pineapple nearby next time I’m up here.)
O2 Forum Kentish Town
The venue was built in 1934 and has traded under many banners, including The HMV Forum; The London Forum and the Town and Country. The capacity is 2,300 with standing downstairs and seating upstairs. Beautiful ceiling.
Downstairs it’s a strange layout. There’s a lower part accessed through quite narrow steps to either side of the main floor. When full, getting in and out is a bit of a pain, and near impossible carrying pints. If on the upper tier you’re a fair way back and there is a wide central island where the mixing desk is and photographers can go to start off. It’s a bit in the way really unless you’re tall. Right up against that central island is OK. The right hand slope to the steps was our perch – right at the bar for when the early queues cleared. All in all I’d recommend getting down in the front bit if you don’t plan on going anywhere.
My previous visits here were in October 2010 and September 2017 to see The Psychedelic Furs and a year later in August 2018 to see a Steven Tyler solo gig (Aerosmith man). I can’t remember any others.
Previous Gene encounters
I’ve not seen Martin Rossiter solo before but I did get to see Gene several times – I found my old tickets. I think that was it: Warwick University, The London Astoria and lastly Reading University. They must have held some student appeal eh. I was at V97 in Leeds when they played but I can’t recall if I watched them – well it is half a lifetime away. There are are a few other festival possibilities but festivals decades back can be a bit of a blur.
They’re one of my favourite bands that emerged in the 90s, especially with those first two albums: Olympian and Drawn to the Deep End (Both got to no.8 in the UK album charts.)
After that last gig I didn’t notice them pop up again…until now. They split in 2004. Enthused by the prospect of this gig, during Lockdown I bought a greatest hits double vinyl album on one of the Record Store Days. A wonderful selection.
They did get a lot of Smiths comparison at the time, even critisism for that 🙄. Rossiter has his own unique and beautiful voice but yes I get the comparisons. I could never understand why they weren’t massive. With this gig coming up and mentioning it to people just occasionally a spark of joyous recollection results but mostly blank faces.
The faces here tonight are those of indie rock enthusiasts. This is no casual Saturday night out. We’ve bumped into people who’ve travelled here from Newcastle, Leeds, even Saudi Arabia. It’s not part of a tour just a warm up gig in Brighton, where Welshman Rossiter now lives, and this farewell gig in London. That’s it.
Martin Rossiter live tonight
There’s no support. 8.15pm kick off. This is a big Rossiter show – a 25 songs set list over a few hours that flow by easily. It’s mostly Gene material bar six of ’em.
It’s a well paced set, with some big songs interspersed throughout. Be My Light Be My Guide second one in got the arms up and twirling early.
Rossiter’s got a young band (he’s 51 now himself) with him and therein lies some controversy. The rest of Gene issued a statement a while back expressing their displeasure at Rossiter announcing the farewell gig and the end of Gene, apparently without forewarning, albeit they hadn’t played together for years.
One flat cap and bearded guy nearby wandered around muttering and suggesting to his mates it was ‘too cabaret’. I’m loving it and everyone else seemed happy. I can sense his frustration is born of passion for the old Gene as opposed to just another chattering fool, so a brief questioning moment. No. Lose yourself mate if you don’t like it. His mates shake their heads and roll their eyes in my direction. He must have ‘form’.
Rossiter takes to the keyboard for the odd song. I’ve not explored his solo stuff (there’s a 2012 album – lots of piano). I feel I should delve more after this top drawer finale. Surely he’s enjoying this too much to turn his back on live performances like this?
Haunted by You was just about the best of the set for me but perhaps the more obvious choice of Olympian marginally pipped it.
It’s back to the keyboards to finish, for a quiet end of I can’t Help Myself, this preceeded by London, Can You Wait. London has waited patiently. Now it’s over. Gene is over. Really?