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During five decades working with many of the world’s biggest selling touring artists, from the Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson, veteran agent Neil Warnock MBE has had artists play at the Royal Albert Hall on many occasions. A huge admirer of the venue, Warnock was the perfect choice to chair its 150th Anniversary Committee. He tells Access about the birthday celebrations and how the Covid crisis has impacted the venue and the many artists he works with.

Few live music industry executives have worked with so many iconic performing artists as Neil Warnock, and as global head of touring, music, at United Talent Agency, he continues to oversee an extensive roster of UK agents and artists.

At age 17, Warnock started booking acts including The Doors, Jethro Tull and Donovan into colleges and universities. Over the years since, he has managed a string of agencies including South Bank Artists, NEMS Enterprises, The Bron Agency and the Agency Group, representing a remarkable array of top talent including Johnny Cash, the Rolling Stones, Dolly Parton, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Simon & Garfunkel, Deep Purple and Mariah Carey.

Warnock first visited the Royal Albert Hall on 5 July 1969. Having watched the Rolling Stones play Hyde Park in front of an estimated 500,000 fans and release white doves in tribute to the passing of the band’s co-founder Brian Jones, Warnock walked across the park to another gig his company was involved in – Chuck Berry and The Who at the Royal Albert Hall.

As a working-class young man from an Essex estate, Warnock had always thought of the venue as somewhat exclusive and intimidating. He recalls clearly how welcome the team made him feel on his first visit there. His love affair with the stately old building began that day and over the years since he has had countless artists play there.

“Some acts are used to playing 150 shows a year and that’s where they get their motivation from, being performers is their buzz and that’s what they’re missing so badly.”

He says that among the many highlights was a joint appearance by the Rolling Stones and The Beatles at the venue, a show by Johnny Cash and his wife June, and a performance by David Gilmour: “When David played here, he brought in the whole of his stadium show production and adapted it for the venue. He played at such a high level with such brilliant sound and lights – it was an outstanding occasion.”

Warnock says he has never worked with an artist who hasn’t enjoyed playing the 5,272-capacity venue, and he is looking forward to seeing the 150th Anniversary show programme come to life.

Commencing on 29 March 2021, and due to run for two years, the anniversary activity will include performances by artists such as Patti Smith, David Arnold and Jon Hopkins, while KT Tunstall will lead a new mentorship programme for young female artists and Nile Rodgers will compose a pop anthem for the anniversary.

Read the feature in full in the January edition of Access All Areas here.

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