A Peaceful Noise at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
A year after the massacre at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, Nick Alexander’s family brought together a unique mix of rock artists to make A Peaceful Noise, on home-turf at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in memory of the Essex-born merchandiser and all those who passed alongside him.
The commemorative event offered a night of mixed emotions and quality music, including a brief appearance from Nick’s sister, Zoe Alexander, video tributes from famous faces such as Rob Da Bank and Dermot O’Leary, dragging the audience back down to earth as to the reason they were there.
It was an unconventionally early kick off with Fran Healy, meaning not everyone caught his mix of solo and Travis classics, finishing up on a rendition of Turn. Ex-Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes’s distinctive, edgy voice and soulful sound set an earnest tone, climaxing with an astounding acoustic version of Mansize Rooster, reportedly one of Nick’s favourite songs. A surprise appearance from beer festival cult favourites Chaz and Dave put a lighthearted spin and a smile on the affair with their self-created “rockney” (what you get when you mix rock and cockney) backed up with boogie-woogie piano on notorious numbers such as Rabbit.
Frank Turner gave a whole-hearted, passionate performance, with some moving words to articulately honour his friend. The folk singer-songwriter, who brings with him some of the raucous intensity of a past punk life in band Million Dead and the irresistible-lyrical appeal of pop, gave an emotive solo performance on his acoustic guitar, aptly singing, “It’s a long road out to recovery from here”, on Recovery and “I don’t want to spend the whole of my life indoors” on The Next Storm – his voice at its most powerful when brought down a notch from a sometimes over-excited strain. His was a sincere and explosive energy: “If Nick were here, he would think this was f**king cool!”
Second surprise was Jesse Hughes of Eagles of Death Metal, the band who had been performing at the Bataclan the night of the fatal attacks – the set seeming all the more poignant to recall this fact. The crowd rolled on a deep bass he got playing in the background and some epic riffs he pulled out on his guitar as he blasted through solo performances of Cherry Cola, a cover of The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, ending on an affectionately dedicated a cappella song he said was from “Nick’s favourite episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch”.
Maximo Park did full justice to their headline spot, evoking nostalgia and remembrance yet defiant positivity, the lyrics of their 00s indie anthem Apply Some Pressure taking on new meaning in this context: “What happens when you lose everything…you start over again.” Paul Smith reminded the Shepherd’s Bush Empire what is means to be a frontman, his Geordie vocals and infectious energy lighting up the entire interior in a communal rendition of Our Velocity. Finishing up on none other that Neil Young’s Rockin in the Free World with the rest of the line-up on the stage, the sense of euphoria was complete. Images and names of the 90 who lost their lives were screened on the backdrop, a stark reminder of the driving reason for the gig.
The ultimate repost to a climate of fear, division and negativity, this was not an average gig but a jubilant celebration of Nick’s (and those who died alongside him at their final live gig) love of music and the resilience of the human spirit. More than words alone could say, A Peaceful Noise had it right when they splashed across their fliers “Music speaks volumes”.
For further information about A Peaceful Noise visit here.
Watch the video for Gaz Coombes here: