Freddie Matthews writes from London: Anything for a bit of media attention. Former Busted and Fightstar front man Charlie Simpson is to attempt the world’s coldest ever gig this November. He’s a good lad and I know him reasonably well but he needs to concentrate on his music rather than on ridiculous ideas like this.
Charlie will perform a one-off solo set to the residents of the tiny Siberian town of Oymyakon. No, I haven’t heard of it either. It holds the record for the lowest and coldest temperature ever recorded in a populated area on earth, at minus 72 Celsius. I imagine he’s had some frosty receptions during his time in the music business, especially from teenage girls when he left the British boy-band Busted but this is taking it fifty stages further.
The Russian town boasts a population of just 472. There’s no running water or electricity and is so remote that it takes up to four days to reach from the United Kingdom, including a two-day drive from the nearest city, Yakutsk. Its sub-arctic climate is so cold that mobile phones won’t work, boiling water turns to snow in midair and fish caught from local rivers freeze instantly. Surely that’s got to save them on refrigeration costs?
In a recent press conference Charlie Simpson said, ‘The Jägermeister, Best served cold, Ice Cold Gig is by far one of the biggest challenges of my career. But I’m really excited to get out there and see a part of our planet that very few people will ever get to visit. It’s not really an option to play my guitar wearing gloves, so I just hope my fingers don’t freeze.’
Charlie Simpson and his team of fellow nutters depart for Oymyakon on November 20th and will perform The Jägermeister Ice Cold Gig on November 24th. However, if mobile phones don’t work, at these lowest of low temperatures, how on earth will they manage to film let alone record the performance?
This bizarre story to get a wacky world record and its added publicity got me thinking about the pop history of concerts and their equally strange locations. It goes without saying that the most famous and influential to spring to mind was by the Beatles, on the afternoon of 30 January 1969. The Fab Four surprised the central London office lunchers with an impromptu concert on the roof of their Savile Row Apple Records headquarters. Not only was the location historic, but also the actual event. A live Beatles gig was incredible, as the band hadn’t played live together in over three years and quite amazingly it was also to be their last ever live gig together. Naturally, the police who objected to the noise, abruptly cut the performance short. But the band had managed to thrill Londoners on adjacent rooftops and the streets below with a run-through of songs they had been rehearsing. Their five-song set included Don’t Let Me Down, I’ve Got a Feeling and Get Back – all considered classics in subsequent years.
Some 22 years later, on the 27 March 1987, when the mighty Irish band U2 were the biggest rock ‘n roll band in the world, they emulated this style of performance and won a Best Video Grammy in the process, with the multi-million selling single, Where The Streets Have No Name.
You may remember the video began with an aerial shot of a block in Los Angeles with part of their song Bullet the Blue Sky playing from a radio broadcast. Clips of broadcasts are heard with disc jockeys stating that U2 is planning on performing at 3:30 pm at 7th and Main Streets, and expecting crowds of about 30,000 people. Police showed up at the set and informed the band’s crew of the security issue that the film shoot was causing, due to the large number of people who were expected to come to see the band perform. Two minutes into the video, U2 are seen on the top of a liquor store and performing Where the Streets Have No Name to a large crowd of people standing in the streets surrounding the building. Towards the end of the song, the police told the crew that the shoot was about to be shut down. Bono informed the crowd that they were getting shut down and the police came onto the roof of the building while the crowd was heard booing the police.
The band’s performance on that rooftop, on that day, in a public place was a reference to the Beatles’ final concert, as depicted in the film Let It Be. (I’m actually quite surprised that Oasis never ripped off the rooftop idea, mostly because they successfully ripped off every other Beatles idea during their career.)
Naturally, however, many other bands and artists over the years since U2’s performance have tried to get in on the rooftop action and they include:
Avril Lavigne / Ke$ha / The Red Hot Chili Peppers / Eminem / Blur / Bush and most recently guitar god Brian May who played God Save The Queen on top of Buckingham Palace for the Diamond Jubilee 2012. Think about it, getting on top of Liz’s Palace is 100 years locked in the Tower at best, so this was no mean feat. It was a fully blown guitar solo as he did for the 2002 Golden Jubilee celebrations but they weren’t quite as well publicised. Will someone please just tell Brian that he looks ridiculous with that silver Afro?