REAL GONE GOES OUT: The Bluetones – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 19/5/2018

During the first half of 2018, it has felt as if Real Gone has been a semi-permanent resident at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. We’ve seen fantastic gigs by The Wonder Stuff and Carter USM’s Jim Bob; an enjoyable and nostalgic performance from Skid Row; a solid offering from Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and a woeful car-crash from 80s melodic rock legends Night Ranger. Tonight, it’s the turn of The Bluetones – a fantastic band with strong ties to the days of Britpop.

First, though, we’re at The Defector’s Weld for a pre-gig drink with other fans. The pub’s wooden floor and fishy aroma gives the place a more traditional feel than the more popular nearby Brewdog (a venue with overpriced beer, an inconvenient lack of tables and an offensively smelly barman). It’s the perfect place for a gathering and a wonderful hour is spent. A new friendship is formed and other acquaintances made; so good to put faces to familiar Twitter handles.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: The Wonder Stuff – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 31/3/2018

It’s sometime after 10.20pm and the downstairs of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire is completely rammed. There’s barely any room to move. It didn’t seem this busy when Carter USM‘s Jim Bob played his brilliant sold out show here just a week earlier, but that’s probably due to more people being in the balcony.  The majority of people may be downstairs for this second London double headliner between The Wonder Stuff and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin tonight, but that has the effect of adding plenty of atmosphere.  Whatever the crowd logistics, it’s impressive the Stourbridge lads can still pull such a huge crowd on their second night in such a large venue.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: Skid Row – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 11/3/2018

t’s been an uneven experience at Shepherd’s Bush Empire tonight. Both Toseland and Bad Touch have offered enjoyable support slots, even if hampered a little by bad sound. Toseland, in particular, have shown they really know how to fill a half hour effectively, with frontman James Toseland coming across very jovially. He’s so likeable that it doesn’t matter or not whether you’re familiar with the material, you’ll have a good time regardless. The evening’s first credited headliner, Night Ranger, were largely awful: not so much classic Night Ranger of old as the Jack Blades Show with support from Kelly Keagy. Their set was ruined further by the worst sound we’ve encountered at a large venue for a number of years…if not ever.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: Night Ranger – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 11/3/2018

This evening at Shepherds Bush Empire has been billed as a double headline show between Night Ranger and Skid Row. However, it isn’t long after Night Ranger take the stage, it becomes clear that the event is nothing of the sort. Night Ranger’s set design is limited to a few extra Marshall amplifiers which are placed in the middle of the stage, rather than at the back. Kelly Keagy’s drumkit looks awkward, placed on stage left (audience right) and facing towards the middle rather than facing the audience. The band, in turn, are only given about three quarters of the stage to work with. Somewhere behind the amps, Skid Row’s drum kit sits in wait. So much for “double headliner”: Night Ranger have been given a support band’s set up – and that’s before we get to the massive issues with the sound.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: Saint Etienne – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 9/12/2017

It’s approximately 9pm on a very cold December night. It’s freezing outside and also decidedly chilly inside the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The audience are shuffling around with a casual indifference. We’ve all just been bored to tears by the night’s support act, The Clientele, who appear to have played the same bland dreampop/indie tune ten or eleven times. Judging by the lack of atmosphere on stage and the rambling tunes punctuated by the occasional monosyllabic “thanks…”, the performers seemed just as as bored by their own music. [In retrospect, while they were devastatingly dull, it was easy to see why they were chosen. They weren’t the worst support act ever – that honour will forever be owned by Patrik Fitzgerald – they were just very boring.]

Saint Etienne are about to take the stage, though, so surely things are about to get much better. The minutes pass and a selection of kitschy tunes – almost certainly curated by Saint Et’s own pop historian Bob Stanley – fills time. As it happens, this is all more entertaining than The Clientele. and worthy of an easily accessible Spotify playlist. Saint Etienne founders, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, along with various other musicians, eventually saunter on stage at a rather casual 9:25, followed by vocalist Sarah Cracknell.

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