With their debut album Ways To Forget garnering critical acclaim, a new video starring Alun Armstrong, and a packed touring schedule, the boys in Clock Opera are the kind of hard-working pop stars who have a pretty keen sense of what makes a good gig venue. We talked to lead singer and songwriter Guy Connelly about his favourite places to rip it up in London.
Scala, 275–277 Pentonville Road, London N1 (020 7833 2022, www.scala-london.co.uk)
We held our album launch here, and love the place like no other. It was once a cinema, and played a part in film history when it was sued by Warner Bros for screening A Clockwork Orange while the film was banned. It went bankrupt as a result, but the loss to cinema was music’s gain. It’s a high and open space, but still manages to be as intimate as you can get for a venue of its size – the Dirty Projectors gig I saw here was one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Union Chapel, Compton Avenue, London N1 (020 7226 3750, www.unionchapel.org.uk)
This deconsecrated church isn’t going to work for a band that relies on loud drums. But if you can use the incredible natural reverb of the room, the venue will make its own contributions, frequently making for unique and special shows. I once saw the brilliant Peter Broderick here, who ended his show by walking around the pews, singing without restraint and in harmony with himself, accompanied by vocal loops he had recorded before leaving the stage.
Wilton’s Music Hall
Wilton’s Music Hall, Graces Alley, London E1 (020 7702 2789, wiltons.org.uk)
Built in the 1850s, Wilton’s is London’s oldest surviving music hall. It’s a beautiful and fragile building and is undergoing extensive and much needed repairs until the end of the year (substantial funding is still needed to complete the work). It’s a pleasure to be in the room, regardless of who’s playing, although I’m told that, unusually, the venue runs a booking policy based on who they like, rather than who will sell the most tickets – a welcome antidote to the usual cynicism.
Battersea Arts Centre
BAC, Lavender Hill, London SW11 (020 7223 2223, www.bac.org.uk)
More commonly used as a theatre. The labyrinthine design always makes me feel as though I’ve stumbled upon a secret performance. Most gigs I’ve seen here have been part of a larger theatrical event taking over the whole building, where cupboards and basements are turned into tiny hidden stages and the whole thing has the feel of an arcane cabaret.
Queen Elizabeth Hall
QEH, Southbank Centre, London SE1 (020 7960 4200, www.southbankcentre.co.uk)
My band, Clock Opera, played our second show at this Brutalist landmark on the South Bank, playing a soundtrack as dancers from Rambert Dance Company performed in front of us. More commonly used for classical concerts, it has excellent acoustics, and the seating arrangements seem to make people pay close attention.
Clock Opera’s Ways To Forget is available to download here
Photo credit: Andrew Firth (Union Chapel); James Perry (Wilton’s Music Hall); Mike Twigg (Wilton’s Music Hall);