Oslo, the new(ish) restaurant, bar and music venue is one of the latest new destinations after the avalanche of closures of grimy, characterful music venues in north, west and central London over the past few years. (Actually, make that countrywide, with Liverpool currently undergoing selfsame problems). So it’s been heartening to see a new wave of well-thought out, spruced up venues opening up, predictably over east London way, where the prices are … for now anyway, lower.
Oslo is easy to find, it’s actually an old railway station and is tacked on to Hackney Central station itself – in fact it’s a wonder you can’t feel the vibrations of trains rattling along while you’re in the venue. It’s a huge, palatial barn of a place but as soon as you set foot inside you feel the warm and welcoming atmosphere. The decor is modern Scandinavian, or so the marketing speak goes … in fact it’s a pleasing mix of industrial rustic chic, rather ‘if All Saints did a restaurant’ – and it certainly gives the impression that the owners have spent a small fortune decking it out. There’s a vey relaxed, casual vibe, with plenty of tables and a mix of seating, all set in a cozy glow of warm, dimmed and flattering lighting. The staff are completely unflustered and friendly, and there’s no “you can’t sit here if you’re not eating” attitude, even when the place predictably gets super busy later on. An extensive menu offers a mix of predictable gastro items (sliders, pulled pork) but there’s enough of the more unusual, Scandinavian offerings to personalise it. Sadly we had no time to partake of the menu, so a return to Oslo is very shortly on the cards. All I can attest to currently is that the three-times cooked chips, and drinks were fine, and not overpriced.
An extra dose of Scandinavian flavour hit the place on Monday with The Asteroids Galaxy Tour on sell-out show, here to promote their new album Bring Us Together. The Danish pop duo, who extend to a full band for live shows, have hit international attention since they launched in 2007 – the previous albums are Fruit and Frequency. Two of Fruit’s songs happened to catch the eye of TV and advertising people – ‘Around the Bend’ was featured in iPod commercials, and ‘The Golden Age’ found itself on Mad Men and commercials worldwide (see Heineken advert below). Lending Asteroids Galaxy Tour that Mad Men 60s vibe is the quirky voice of Meeta Lindberg – it’s got a retro cutesy vocal thing going on, not breathy and gentle, but something more akin to Kate and Cindy of the B52s.
The intimate little venue at Olso is up on the first floor, with a nicely mixed age (and friendly) crowd, and it proved to be the perfect environment for the show (a word about the superior sound system which certainly is all-enveloping, very loud but clear and well balanced). The band opened with new album’s title track Bring Us Together, a sexy, grinding number with a bluesy undertone. Meeta prowling the stage in glittery rust coloured tracksuit top and glittery jacket. Next was Navigator, a delicious paen to Saturday Night Fever disco. Third track in is the crowd pleaser, Round the Bend, which did exactly what it was supposed to do, get the audience dancing. It’s always a relief when you hear the opening notes of your favourite number, and later on came Push The Envelope which was perhaps one of the best sounding songs of the evening, taking things down a notch with it’s slow, sexy rhythm and purring lyrics. Then it was time to take things back up to dancing level.
Its difficult to pay attention to the other members of the band, all attention is on Meeta who moves sinuously over the stage, prowling and pouting and mostly definitely reminding one of Blondie, especially with her newer shorter hair cut. The AGT make no excuses or pretend otherwise: this is pure feel-good pop with a retro feel, those sixties Sputnik space-age sounds popping up, along with disco, blues and hints of psychedelia. Sometimes, on a cold November Monday, there’s nothing better than a good night of dancing and meeting some like-minded souls.