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In 2001 when I first sat down to watch The Office, if someone had told me that 15 years later I’d be sat in the Hammersmith Apollo watching David Brent in concert, I wouldn’t have believed them. Yet last night, that’s exactly what I found myself doing.
It’s been hard to avoid David Brent this summer as he returned in the biggest way possible, with the release of his very own movie Life On The Road as well as an album and songbook. And if that wasn’t enough, for the past two evenings David Brent has been delighting audiences at the Eventim Apollo (previously Hammersmith Apollo) with his band Foregone Conclusion.
If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know that David Brent would be incapable of selling out the front row at the Apollo, let alone the entire venue twice (that’s 7,000 tickets). But that’s what happened when the tickets went on sale, selling out in just twelve minutes. A real testament to Ricky Gervais for creating the character of David Brent who people are still interested in after 15 years.
Putting the point of selling out to one side, this was very much a David Brent gig. Ricky Gervais stayed in character throughout, introducing the topic of each song, be it social, racial, political or about the disabled. Occasionally he would go off stage, only to return with a t-shirt gun, firing t-shirts at those in the upper circle and the crowd would laugh the most when Ricky would break into the Brent laugh.
Of course this wasn’t just David Brent and a guitar on stage, in fact he didn’t even have a guitar, let alone play it. The playing of instruments was left to his band, Foregone Conclusion, made up of Steve Clarke, Stuart Baxter Wilkinson, Michael Clarke and former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows.
This gig was very much all about David Brent as his band remained in the shadows throughout and didn’t even get a thank you at the end! The closest Brent got to an acknowledgement of the band was when he’d shout “guitar solo” during a guitar solo.
This of course is in keeping with the David Brent character. Why would he thank his band? I suspect if this was a Ricky Gervais concert, he would have thanked the band and interacted with the audience a lot more and admitted how much of a bizarre experience this all was, for everyone involved!
As Ricky has always said during the promotion for Life On The Road, the album isn’t made up of joke songs. They’re the best songs that David Brent could write, addressing issues he genuinely believes need addressing. Which is how we’ve ended up with songs about Native Americans, black people, orphans, disabled people, gypsies and err... Slough.
David went through his entire Life On The Road album except for one song, Electricity, which meant the show ran for only an hour. Of course he only had one album’s worth of material to work with so this was never going to be a two-hour show, as much as I would have liked it to be. On reflection, perhaps it’s better that the audience were left wanting more rather than feeling like Brent had outstayed his welcome.
There were a few surprises along the way. Doc Brown also made an appearance, joining Brent on stage as Dom Johnson for Equality Street, Lonely Cowboy and Ain’t No Trouble and when I reviewed the film last month, one of the things I commented on and praised was the lack of characters from The Office which appeared.
In fact, there were none. So you can imagine mine and the audience’s surprise when at the start of the show, the lights went down and instead of David Brent walking onto the stage, out came Keith from The Office aka Ewen MacIntosh!
The audience was full of die-hard David Brent fans wearing t-shirts with David’s face and famous catchphrases on, as well as a host of familiar faces including the cast of Life On The Road; Jo Hartley, Tom Bennett and Mandeep Dhillon.
There was such an incredible atmosphere inside the Apollo with everyone embracing the madness that was a David Brent concert. Once the gig was over, the Apollo erupted into a standing ovation followed by an impromptu rendition of the song David danced to in THAT scene from The Office. It really was a wonderful atmosphere to soak up and be a part of.
It’s a shame that there were only two dates as I’d recommend every David Brent fan to attend. Perhaps of the back of the success of these two gigs, Ricky Gervais will take Brent out on tour around the UK. We all know he’d have no problem selling tickets and in his latest blog on his website, Ricky admits "The 7000 tickets for the two gigs at Hammersmith sold out in 12 minutes, so I guess I should do a few more soon. Stay tuned."
But of course Ricky has recently got the wheels in motion for a return to stand-up as himself so might want to rest Brent. When tickets went on sale last week for one of his work-in-progress shows, there were 160,000 ticket requests for a venue which could only seat 400.
It’s numbers like these which prove that Ricky Gervais isn’t a one trick pony. There’s interest in him beyond David Brent, so perhaps this is the last we’ve seen of Brent for a while, but hopefully not forever.