Last night we went to see Massive Attack play the Brighton Dome. A favourite band in the favourite venue (last time I saw them was at the Brighton Centre: stunning show, lacklustre venue). These guys don’t venture out much on tour, and don’t release too many records, so they have plenty of time to think about the state of the world. And boy, are they angry about it. The gig was total immersion: electronic images searing the eyes and brain, high intensity lights strafing the Dome. Ears were sometimes caressed, sometimes pounded, with spooky electronica, wig-out guitars and breathy vocals - all underpinned by the characteristic big beats of tracks from the back catalogue and new album Heligoland.
So my point is? Well, it’s about 3 miles from home to the Dome. Normally we’d walk into town, but last night was just too dark and too cold. So we jumped on a bus. After the gig, another bus got us from Dome to home in around 15 minutes. I know, we’re lucky: we live in a compact city which offers an amazing variety of arts and entertainment, and the best bands normally put Brighton on their touring schedule. Given the size of its population, Brighton does punch above its weight. But the majority of sizeable British cities offer plenty of cultural attractions, with central venues that are within the reach of millions: no car needed. Although the Dome normally sells out for the right acts (like Massive Attack) I sense that people are now going further afield for their music: gigs seem to be following retailers, and heading out of town. Lots of bands now seem mostly to play festivals, often out in the country. Although there are many reasons for this, I reckon one is that many punters find it easier to drive out of town for their gigs than go to city centre venues.
And once a venue closes, it’s probably gone for ever. Brighton’s Hippodrome, which staged the Beatles and the Stones in the 1960s, changed into a bingo hall. Then it got mothballed, with a promised re-opening as a music venue. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t: credit-crunched at the moment, it seems as if all bets are off. Trouble is, once closed, such venues often get re-purposed, ending up as flats or shops - another urban venue falls by the wayside. “Be local buy local” seems to be about doing the shopping closer to home, and quite right too. But we urbanites need to support our venues, to make sure that we can still hear live music in the cities. Let’s keep it live and keep it local.