For those who live outside London, One Big No was a big charity gig put on as a protest against the then forthcoming war in Iraq.

As it was an anti war benefit concert, the crowd is far from the usual rock ‘n’ roll crowd.

I’m here mainly to see Ian McCulloch, even though I was told the weekend before by Peasey, his manager, that he will only be doing 4 songs. Doors open at just after 6.30 p.m. and, after a bag search, unusual for the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, we enter the arena where spread across the stage there is a big black backdrop with white lettering stating the words ‘One Big No’. Added to this are the mock blooded bullet stains of war victims.

The show is opened by an extended and very political speech by comedian Mark Thomas, who informs the audience how to commit anarchy. If the layman or laywoman, however, committed these acts, I am sure we couldn’t afford bail.

After Mr Thomas finishes his speech, we are joined on stage by a member of One Giant Leap, who then introduces his friends’ band, who are Faithless, who perform an acoustic number before leaving the stage. The next song is a video link and a song by Chris Connell. One Giant Leap are then joined on stage by Faithless’s singer Maxi Jazz, and they deliver another number.

Yoko Ono’s next, and she gives a video link speech along the lines of ‘Give Peace a Chance’, and then follows this with a second speech.

Even Dando follows next, and appears solo and acoustic-handed. He starts his 5 song set with 2 songs from his first solo album, ‘Baby, I’m Bored’. He kicks off with a Neil Young influenced number, and follows this with an American Civil War sounding track before launching into his old band the Lemonheads’ Being Around’ and ‘It’a Shame about Ray’. He ends his set with a song possibly called ‘It’s Okay’ and finishes by loudly shouting “Fuck, George Bush ! “

Ronan Keating follows on. That’s surely a mistake as he gets lots of boos, but he bravely covers ‘In the Ghetto’ and also sings one of his own songs. Most of tonight’s acts perform at least one track which is related to war in one form or another.

Benjamin Zephaniah then delivers a political speech and also recites some poetry, but by then myself and another Echo and the Bunnymen friend and fan have gone to to the bar where we drink drinks, while avoiding Paul Weller and Steve Craddock’s 5 song set, which ends with cracking versions of “Wildwood’ and the Jam’s “That’s Entertainment’. Despite being dropped recently, Weller’s still a good performer. I have just never been a fan though.

Next on comes Chris Martin from Coldplay, who is currently the biggest name on the bill. The first thing he tells us that “the greatest man ever is gonna come on in 2 songs time”.

He then says : “I’m gonna play some Coldplay songs. This song is about a balding rock star.” He then delivers a solo piano version of ‘In My Place’.

After this he announces “It’s nice to be home. You know we went to Atlanta because we have just become massive. Elton John had us around for lunch, the greatest lunch that you ever had, and he came on onstage with us afterwards and played a song. He was the frontman to making the piano look cool. We have tried to continue that thing. It’s hard not to write a ballad, so here’s another ballad. This is the song that made us one hit wonders, ‘Yellow” “.

After ending ‘Yellow’, Chris continues “This is the last one before someone better comes on. Not better, but older. Thanks for being nice. This is called ‘Life is for Living’”.

Before leaving the stage, Chris Martin introduces his new friend and buddy, Ian McCulloch. who is joined on the stage for his first song just by his fellow Bunnyman and former Cast bassist, Peter Wilkinson, who has his own solo album, ‘Huxley Pig Part 1’, recorded under the moniker of Aviator, just out on Viper Records.

The good thing about Mac, since he first started playing solo gigs again, is that he is more focused and he has to be because he is back to playing guitar again. He is a fine guitarist,. His first song is 84’s ‘Killing Moon’ and what a killler version it is too.

‘Mac’ is then joined on stage again by Chris Martin, and they then deliver a duet version of Mac’s new single ‘Sidling’, the first from his new solo album ‘Siderling’, which is due out soon on Cooking Vinyl. The Bunnymen’s “Nothing Lasts Forver’ follows and they end their joint 4 song set which Mac introduces in his thick scouse accent by saying “you can dance to this one.” It is Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, which goes down a storm.

Next there follows a link from Yusef Islam, formerly Cat Stevens, who has re-recorded an earlier 70’s anti war song of his in South Africa.

I originally only came for Ian McCulloch, but I’m more than pleased when next on appears a completely solo Beth Orton. She normally only plays solo for encores, so it’s a joy to see her deliver ‘Stolen Car’ and another Beth Orton classic whose name currently escapes me, before she tells the crowd “ I think if you can get the whole intelligence of this room together, being as dumb as we are, then we can come up with a better solution than war.” Beth then delivers a new song possibly called ‘Pieces of Sky’ and then a song from the ‘War Child’ album called ‘Moon Child’.

Following Beth is the evening’s last artist, Travis’s Fran Healy, who appears solo and introduces himself as ‘The Hairy Man’, which is quite correct. He introduces his first song by saying “I wrote this song. This is called ‘The Beautiful Occupation’, and is very much a song about taking over someone else’s country.”

After delivering this first song, he adds. “There’s not much anyone of us can say about the shit that’s going on. It seems to be completely crazy. The whole fuckking thing is crazy. Agreed ? I watched ‘Newnight’ the other night. Shut up, if you’re talking. Shut the fuck up. You’re at an anti war gig. It’s like why are we here. Listen, we are here because we are saying no. One Big No, and shut the fuck up...”

He then goes on to say about the “Newsnight’ TV episode that he saw the commander-in-chief of one of the USarmies say that “we are going to blow up here, here and here” while standing in front of a map of Baghdad.

“Just think how terrified you must be if you’re in Baghdad just now” he continues. “And if you change that Baghdad to London or Glasgow how scared you would feel. Unbelievable, and it’s completely unjustified with that in mind. It seems like Big George is going to have his way, I think. Religion is a fucking nightmare as well. Don’t get me started on that, but I will say this. You can pray without being religious. Tonight, when you get home, pray for these poor people. With that in mind, this is a song about hope. This is called ‘Turn’. You will have to help me as I haven’t sung this song in ages.”

He delivers “Turn’ and then it;’s the end bar a speech. I walk my friend to her car, and then return to the venue, taking about ten mnutes at the most, and then return to find out that most of the musicians that have played have already left, which I think is cool because tonight’s show is not one to have an after show party. It was a show to say what a fucking mess we humans have got into again.

The photographs that accopnay this article originally appeared on the website

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