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- Posted on Jun 15th 2010 3:30AM by Julian Marszalek
Capacity: 2900 seated
Come to See: Pretty much everything that you can think of. The Royal Festival Hall -- part of the Southbank Centre -- hosts the most diverse range of entertainment of any UK venue. This means that you can see rock and pop, jazz, dance, classical and world music, as well as literature and the visual arts. This is hardly surprising given the venue's location at the heart of London's arts quarter alongside the Royal National Theatre, the National Film Theatre, Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe.
The venue is also the location of the annual Meltdown festival which is held every June. The festival is designed to show a broad sweep of musical talent and previous curators have included Morrissey, David Bowie, Nick Cave and Jarvis Cocker.
This year's curator is legendary guitarist Richard Thompson, and between June 11 to 21 the festival will see the European premiere of Thompson's Cabaret of Souls, where he'll be joined by bassist Danny Thompson, Harry Shearer, Judith Owen, Debra Dobkin, Pete Zorn and a 10-piece string ensemble conducted by Peter Askim.
Other gigs scheduled for the festival include Seasick Steve, Field Music, Paolo Nutini and a rare appearance by soul legend Bettye Lavette.
The Atmosphere: The atmosphere changes from gig to gig. This encompasses respectful silence and polite applause at classical concerts and more manic behaviour, best evidenced by the stage frantic invasions witnessed at Morrissey's Meltdown gig in 2004 and, most bizarrely for a seated venue, crowd surfing during Super Furry Animals' appearance the same year.
On other occasions, grown men have been known to openly weep with joy. Brian Wilson's world premiere of his long-lost 'Smile' album was greeted with the kind emotion not seen since the VE Day celebrations back in 1945.
Overlooking the River Thames, the venue's balcony offers visitors the best view of a Waterloo sunset, and it's an experience that everybody should try once on a balmy summer evening.
You Saw Them Here First: Though not primarily known for breaking new talent, the Royal Festival Hall has hosted a number of prestigious world premieres. Brian Wilson elected to premier his legendary 'Smile' album here -- a concert attended by Sir Paul McCartney, the Zombies' Chris White and other movers and shakers from the 1960s. Ultra-fan Morrissey persuaded the surviving members of proto-punks the New York Dolls to re-form for his Meltdown festival while, more recently, Lou Reed brought his new Metal Machine Trio to the venue to the perform an interpretation of his notorious 1975 album, 'Metal Machine Music.'
Claim to Fame: The 1951 Festival of Britain was created by Labour government minister Herbert Morrison to show Britain's recovery from the Second World War. It showcased the best in science, technology, arts and industrial design. After the Conservatives were elected later that year, the festival was dismantled and the Royal Festival Hall was the only building that survived.
You Should Also Know: The venue underwent a massive renovation programme between 2005 and 2007 to improve its acoustics, production access, seating and general appearance.
Booking Now: The Meltdown Festival is underway though tickets are available for certain performances. The London Philharmonic Orchestra will perform an evening of Indian music in July and punk poet John Cooper Clarke will recite verse at the venue too.