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- Posted on Aug 21st 2009 12:32PM by Stephen Dowling
Come to see: The Astoria had the reputation of being one of the venues to tick off for a band on the rise – to sell out the Astoria meant something, a venue that suddenly took your audience out of the mere hundreds and into the thousands. The venue opened in 1927 as a cinema before being converted into a concert hall.
The Astoria's roll call included Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Coldplay, Radiohead,Manic Street Preachers, Oasis, Blur, Travis, David Bowie, Muse, Kings of Leon, the Libertines, Alice Cooper, the White Stripes, Feeder, Eminem and Queens of the Stone Age.
The atmosphere: Dark and scuzzy. Downstairs was standing only, upstairs, there were terraces with railings just about big enough to rest a drink on, and tables down the front more often than not reserved for the guests of record companies and their like. A landing above the entrance on the right hand side of the venue was the regulars' favourite haunt, offering plenty of elbow space even in a sold-out gig.The décor was tacky – the constant threat of demolition put paid to any plans for major overhaul and redevelopment, so the cracked mirrored panels were never replaced. It was all part of the Astoria's charm, as was the Keith Moon Bar, the upstairs watering hole that also served as the aftershow bar, bedecked with somewhat less-than-accurate portraits of the great and the good of the rock world. The Jimi Hendrix caricature was particularly disturbing.
Claim to fame: Apart from the G-A-Y club night, which was world famous and saw performances by everyone from Madonna to Kylie Minogue and Girls Aloud, the Astoria was celebrated in a clutch of live recordings. In 1994 Radiohead released 'Live at the Astoria' on VHS, while the Eels 'Live and in Person! London 2006' was also recorded at the venue.
You should also know: Only five unsigned bands were ever able to sell out the Astoria -- the Darkness, Enter Shikari, The Blackout, You Me At Six and Arctic Monkeys.
The Manic Street Preachers gig here in December 1994 was their last with Richey Edwards before the lyricist/guitarist disappeared.
U2 and the Rolling Stones both played club gigs here well after becoming stadium acts; U2 in 2001 and the Stones in 2003.
Booking now: Sadly not. The Astoria's prime position on London's boulevard of booksellers meant it was slap bang in the way of the planned route of Crossrail, a train line to take passengers from the west to the Olympic site in the east of the city in time for the 2012 games. Despite an online petition signed by 35,000, the its fate could not be prevented. The Astoria closed in January this year, and at time of writing is covered in scaffolding, awaiting its fate.