Chelsea Football Club’s ground at Stamford Bridge is not somewhere I go very often. In fact my last visit must have been as a seven year-old kid, at least forty-er-something-er years ago. My dad lost me in the crowd at a Chelsea game, and my name had to be tannoyed round the ground for him to collect me: “Will the father of….”
Things at Stamford Bridge have – unsurprisingly – changed a lot in the intervening decades. There’s a profusion of luxury apartments, swanky hotels with car parks, restaurants by Marco Pierre White, that kind of thing. But the reason for this visit was because, under the Shed (home supporters’) end of the East Stand, there is a brand new music venue, Under the Bridge.
As the brochure explains, it has been designed by the developer of the House of Blues venues in the US, and “built with the highest attention to detail.” In fact, it has everything. Despite a standing capacity of 600, it feels like an intimate space. The booths at the back, and the bar feel very close to the stage. It was handed back complete by the builders to the club in December, The management – one of whom comes straight from the O2 Indigo – have held a couple of private functions just to test it out. They seem to have enjoyed doing it. Some people do have very nice jobs.
Those details: “Let me take you to the loos,” my guide insisted. They were worth the detour. The Gents has a life-size John Lennon mosaic in whtes, blacks and greys. The Ladies, I’m told has Annie Lennox. LennoN for boys. LennoX for girls. Better remember that, I thought.
All around on the walls are photographs from the history of British rock, and the sentence “every picture tells a story” is taken literally. Here’s a shot of Jesus and Mary Chain from photographer Tony Mottram.
Photograph archivist/supplier Jill Furmanovsky of Rock Archive has taken the trouble to delve into the circumstances in which each photo was taken, and to supply a different short explanatory paragraph for each one. Those details again.
There’s a standing area right in front of the stage. The lights over the stage have complete flexibility and were whirling around in all directions. There are screens so that the view of the stage can be supplemented by images of it. The vast array of electronic and recording equipment looked and sounded spectacular.
The good news is that it will get used first for BluesFest London at the end of June. So, before minor royals and Kazakh princesses claim it as theirs in perpetuity, before it becomes the place of fashion shows and Formula One car launches..here’s your chance to get down and hear some blues – at the home of a different kind of Blues.
Here are the Blues Fest London dates at Under The Bridge-
Monday 27th June Incognito
Tuesday 28th June Blind Boys of Alabama
Thursday 30th June Booker T.
Friday 1st July Dr John
Saturday 2nd July Trombone Shorty
Sunday 3rd July Max Weinberg Experience
Bookings at BluesFestLondon.com / Photo courtesy of Under the Bridge
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