Londongigger’s All time Top 10 Support Acts

Posted: February 7, 2012 in Top lists, Uncategorized
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London Gigger’s All- Time Top 10 Support Acts

One of the posts I follow –  Quantization gave me an idea from the Bands to Perform in my own personal hell article. I thought why not do a short piece devoted to those unsung heroes – the support acts that do the difficult job of warming up the crowd. The trouble is that over the years, there are very few that made grade or went on to do big things. The vast majority were forgettable and some were downwright awful. Unfortunately, the terrible ones were more memorable than the average ones. That’s unfortunate because many of the performers were not bad musicians it’s just that they looked lost on the big stages of say Brixton Academy, Hammersmith Apollo or Shepherds Bush Empire. Probably, entertaining in a smaller venue or even in a pub they would be many acts would be perfectly servicable.

I know these acts have to be given their chance or how else do they develop and grow but why oh why do promoters think that putting some poor local guy or gal with an acoustic guitar before a big headline gig is going to stimulate a chatting crowd, bored crowd or even no crowd. It almost feels that they have to do sometime to fill that void between 7 and 9pm. So sadly, a good 90% of supports just don’t do it for me and if you see them doing multiple supports over a prolonged period, there’s normally a reason for it.

However, their remains that 10% where your snuggling into your seat or if you’re standing propping up the bar, where you turn round or sit up and go wow, that’s amazing. This posts picks out the best of the best that I’ve seen.

One thing, it does not include support acts at festivals because technically any act under the headliner could be classified as a support act and some of those are biggies.

Here goes:

1. The Killers, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, supporting Gary Numan, March 5th 2004

Without any shadow of doubt this was the best support act ever by a country mile. It was early – just before 8pm when the band came on. In a venue that holds just 2000, there were probably not more than 200 in. The ones that were there were bunched up in the final third of the auditorium, attentive enough, applauding politely but not expecting too much. By the end of 30 minutes, this mood had totally changed. The excitement going round the floor was palpable. Everyone was asking who this band was. They did not know it but they and I had just witnessed a full-on rock performance of 3/4 of what was to become the album Hot Fuss. The whole band but in particular Brandon Flowers totally rocked the place in front of that small crowd. Truly awesome to behold. Nine months later Hot Fuss was No.1 in the UK and The Killers were well on their way to becoming a global phenomenon. I feel privileged to have been in that small crowd that day.

2. Scouting for Girls, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, supporting Just Jack, 16th October 2007

This is another gig where the support Act was as good as the main act. Lots of excited teenage girls in the audience but that did not take anything from this very English energised quirky piano based group whose songs including She So Lovely and James Bond had the empire a-moving and a-rocking. Never before had I seen that happen for a support group.

3.John Foxx, Shepherd’s Bush Empire supporting The Human League, 18th December 2003

What can I say except – awesome. Foxx is a cult legend in the history of  electronic and synth music. As a founder member of Ultravox , he is revered by some more than Midge Ure. All I can is that it was a delight to see him performing some of well known material. It still sends shivers down my spine when I think of the drama soaring orchestral synth of Underpass that filled up the space at the Empire. Should not have been a support act at all.

4.Ellie Goulding, Shepherd’s Bush Empire supporting Little Boots, Friday 11th December 2009

A great introduction  to this, at the time, budding young pop star. A calm and assured performance. 2009 was notable for a revival of electro led by new female acts such La Roux , Little Boots and Ladyhawke. You could that influence in her work together with some catchy ballads from the Lights album.

5.Terra Naomi, supporting Martha Wainwright, Shepherd’s Bush Empire August 17th 2007

With a sound pitching somewhere between  Alanis Morrissette and Tori Amos, this talented songwriter from New York via Los Angeles was a pleasant surprise and in fact I’m re-seeing her again this week as a main act after a 5 year gap. A review will follow.

6. Annie, supporting  St.Etienne, Shepherd Bush Empire, October 16th 2009

In the 3rd floor Balcony of Shepherd’s Bush, with very view people having arrived, I rocked out with masses of empty seats either side of me to the catchy electro-pop  and soaring vocals of  Norwegian songstress Annie Lilia Berge Strand. She had a great song entitled “I know you girlfriend hates me.”  God , I love Scandinavian electro. It’s some of the best on the planet.

7. The Upper Room supporting Texas, Hammersmith Apollo, May 16th 2006

This band is unfortunately now defunct . They only lasted about 2 years but at their peak in 2006 supported Texas at Hammersmith Apollo. They were an upbeat sort of a band with songs about largely about personal relationships and were heavy on the upper scale range rhythm guitar but I really got into their engaging style at this gig. Again they were another band with a quintessentially English style, typical of the 2000’s.

8. The Delays supporting Manic Street Preachers, Hammersmith Apollo, April 18th 2005

This band has to hold the record for me for the loudest support act, even outstripping the Manics in volume. I did not need to have my ears syringed after listening to this group and their ample use of synth and guitars. They created a dreamy but booming indie pop  sound enhanced by the high pitch falsetto of the lead singer. In spite of the volume it was a creative performance and enjoyable performance .  This  group are now successful in their own right with 4 studio albums to their name.

9.Jack Martello supporting Christina Perri, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, January 18th 2012.

I know earlier I stuck the boot into the one man and his guitar support acts but this was one guy who bucked the trend. This bright young twenty something overcame crowd reticence with his engaging personality and upbeat rhythm acoustic guitar and taps. He even got the crowd going participating with handclaps and a sing-along. This is unheard of from a support act. His lyrics and vocals complemented the style of the whole evening with themes of personal relationships and personal dreams. I will not flatter myself but I hope that someone from a record company reads this and signs up this talented young man.

10. The XX supporting Florence and the Machine, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, September 28th 2009

Supporting the uber trendy Florence and the Machine, the XX were touted as the next big thing and this show was highly anticipated as much as Florence Welch herself. With their cool brand of electro-indie pop they did not disappoint.

So that’s the list. Raise your glass to all those thousands of support acts who keep the public entertained while they wait for the main event. Some succeed, many more fail but at least they have the balls to get up on that stage and try in the first place. Let’s hear it for the support acts.

I’d be interested from anyone out there to know what your favourite support acts were over the years.


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