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The O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome)
Member Name: malibu_jenny
The O2 (formerly the Millennium Dome)
Date: 13/06/10, updated on 13/06/10 (172 review reads)
Advantages: Modern, Clean And A Great Night Out
Disadvantages: Difficult To Leave For All The Wrong Reasons
The O2 sat tantalisingly within sight across the river as the sun started to set, the former Millennium Dome spiking up into the Summer evening. We stood, looking at the reflection in the water and wondering what it was like inside. I never got round to visiting the original Dome, by all accounts it was something along the lines of an expensive educational museum funded by the tax payer.
Being one tube stop away at Canary Wharf was a little frustrating as the cheapest return ticket was £5.10 per person for just that single stop and unless you can walk on water, there's no easy way to get to the Greenwich Peninsula. That said, the ridiculous ticket prices are London Underground's problem, not the O2's and regular Jubilee line trains and the Docklands Light Railway serve the area. There's car parking, but at £15 this far outstrips a travelcard and the Thames Clipper (see my review on these if you like) can get you there in a civilised fashion for around £6 from Canary Wharf or £12 for the 'O2 Express' boats from Waterloo.
We took the tube and from the station, it's only a very short stroll along pedestrianised block paving to the main doors and an outside bar. This was doing quite a bit of trade, but we were looking for food before our night out, so we carried on through to check out the selection. Immediately inside is the cheesily named Entertainment Avenue, a covered street with a pavement café feel and an impressive range of chain restaurants.
We passed the American Bar & Grill, where I had to drag The Boyfriend away from the distractions of big screen football and turned down a Garfunkels, Slug and Lettuce, Zizzi, Nando's, Las Iguanas, Pizza Express, Frankie and Benny's and so on. There were posher and less beer and takeaway orientated restaurants such as Thai Silk and The Loft - no idea what they were serving behind the tinted windows, but it looked expensive. Hurried and hungry, we looked for somewhere that was quiet. Tucked away by escalators leading to the Vue Cinema, I was delighted to spot a Sausage & Mash café. This has to be one of my favourite chains; British food with reasonable portion sizes and prices. We sat in there for a relaxing butty and chips, then fearful of missing the start, paid our bill and made a move.
There's no smoking in the O2 and no readmission, so we paused briefly for The Boyfriend to dash outside before we were at the point of no return. On re-entry, we had to go through metal detectors and bag searches, eventually having our event tickets scanned.
You can identify the entrance you need from the letter on your ticket, then the floor level (we headed up escalators) and finally the door to take for your seats. We'd purposely waited a little late, not wanting to queue or be squashed and thankfully this had paid off. The Arena seats 20,000 people and when you enter in dim light with the dizzying drop from the top levels, it's really something. Struck by a terrible fear of plummeting over the edge, I was relieved to find our seats were on the aisle end.
The tiers are extremely narrow and in order for someone sat in the middle to get up for the toilet mid performance, the entire row has to stand. However, the view from the seats up here is amazing and despite the occasional beer spillage from the rows above, these are a far better arrangement than the flat seats in the centre of the arena. These created organised standing, as you'd have no choice but to stand to see over those in front of you.
Toilets for the arena were plentiful, clean and located near the doors. The same goes for numerous small bars and backpack beer sellers who milled around to ensure a good supply. The stewards seemed friendly enough and patient in stopping any dancing in walkways or on stairs.
Our tickets were one of my birthday presents and we were there to see the Bon Jovi Cirle Tour, which was an amazing performance in itself - I've waited sixteen years to see them live and it was worth it to see them here. The light show, the moving screens and the view were all brilliant and it was a really enjoyable evening. JBJ yelled his way through an exhausting set, turning round to address even the seats behind the stage from time to time and making us speculate as to how many drugs a man of his age needs to get through a night. Despite the size of the arena, it was pretty atmospheric.
The only problems with the O2 emerged when we tried to leave. The first was that the crowd wasn't well managed and the surge for the exit got out of hand. Things could have been improved at this point if staff had made some effort to control the crowd a bit or opened fire exits to relieve the pressure. As it was, the only way out was through the single main entrance. This had handy LED screens above, informing us that there were delays on the tube and influencing our decision to avoid another massive crush at the station by getting the Thames Clipper.
The second hassle was getting off the Greenwich Peninsula. We were lucky that our destination was served on the normal commuter route, that we were among the first out and that it was a warm dry night. In total we took an hour and a half to get back to Canary Wharf and our hotel, from which we could see the O2.
Overall the O2 is not a particularly accessible or well located arena, compared to, for example, the Astoria or Wembley and I must admit I felt a slight pang for the murky, smoky music venues of the 1990's with their sawdust floors and cans of Hooch. Part of me fears that one day this will be the only kind of place where you can watch live music and that the fun of pushing and shoving to get to the front or dancing on the spot with strangers and beer will be forgotten. But this is beautifully modern inside, has everything you could want for a top night out and makes good use of the former Dome. Add to this that it's slap bang in the middle of the regenerated and sanitised Docklands with their impressive high rise towers and fashionable restaurants and you're unlikely to be mugged by the odd hedge fund manager.
For a full list of bars and restaurants, venue information and maps, go to http://www.theo2.co.uk/index.php
Summary: The clean shiny future of music.
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