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from The Guardian on the O2

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(ugh, just realized I have a damn typo in the post title, sorry all)

Thought this was interesting:

How the 02 became the unlikely success story of 2007

John Aizlewood

Wednesday December 19, 2007

The Guardian

As buildings and ideas go, the Millennium Dome was not so much the whitest of £850m white elephants, but the first suggestion that not everything New Labour touched necessarily turned to gold, especially an idea first broached by Michael Heseltine.

In December 2001, the dome was sold (where "sold" means "effectively given away") to the lowest bidder, Meridian Delta, an offshoot of US billionaire Philip Anschutz's Anschutz Investment Company. It promised to turn it into what Stephen Byers, the government's local government overlord, told MPs would be "a 20,000-seat arena surrounded by an urban entertainment complex". Such hubris. How we laughed.

Six years later, the dome is the O2 and despite opening as recently as June 24, when Bon Jovi reminded us that "your love is like bad medicine" is a lyric that makes no sense whatsoever, it has sold more tickets than any other venue on Earth this year. It has hosted acts from Barbra Streisand to Prince, Spice Girls to Led Zeppelin, whose guitarist Jimmy Page saw almost every band at the O2 to get a feel for its acoustics. And, if I'm reading the runes correctly, Michael Jackson will be joining us there in 2008. It is as if Wembley Arena hadn't spent £35m on a refit.

So, what happened? Two simple things: artists like playing there and punters like going there. Once they're paid, bands care only about how they sound and, by arena standards, those acoustics, so forensically examined by Page, are a delight. Even Justin Timberlake, an R&B act playing in the round (a soundman's sternest test), sounded crisp; Led Zeppelin sounded like they were next to me.

For the paying customers, the experience is mostly pleasurable. The food inside may be nouveau sized, nouveau priced but hardly nouveau quality, yet myriad outlets in the mall outside mean you don't have to eat there.

It's a small thing, but when security say "good evening" when you arrive and bid you a cheery "goodnight" when you leave, it brings a warm glow rarely associated with attending a pop concert. And, when you reach your seat, it has a drinks holder and is, oh wonder of wonders, cushioned.

There is one major caveat: it's only accessible by mule. Cars are unwelcome and the only tube station, North Greenwich, houses just one line, the notoriously intermittent Jubilee, meaning those who do not flee during the final encore may have to bivouac. Still, nothing's perfect.

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They could do with heating the place in winter too. Bloody freezing walking around the 'plaza' or whatever it's called.

I imagine it's lovely wander around the bars and restaurants in the summer, but in winter it's grim.

Oh, and there weren't enough bogs. Fine for a shopping mall, but a concert venue needs to sort itself out.

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