A DECADE ago, if you’d have told me the Liverpool venue I would be frequenting most would be a huge arena built by the Albert Dock, I’d have been sceptical at best.
At the time I was working at the Royal Court, which was then, along with the University’s Mountford Hall and the Empire, the largest space available for touring bands to play in Liverpool.
We’d frequently listen to frustrated promoters bemoaning the fact that Liverpool didn’t have a larger stadium or arena in which they could put their bands or artists.
At the same time I remember reps from another company, SJM, explaining that such a place simply wouldn’t work on Merseyside due to the geography of the place splitting the north west market.
Other people would mutter about Liverpool being a ‘walk-up city’, meaning that punters refused to buy tickets in advance.
Well here we are in 2013 and the Echo Arena is seemingly going from strength to strength, buoyed this week by the news that it will be continuing its sponsorship deal with our sister paper the Liverpool Echo for another three years.
In my younger years I’d have been pretty nonplussed by this development. Stadium and arena gigs and the acts that played them were the enemy. The kind of bands I liked often struggled to sell out the back room of a pub, let alone Earls Court or Wembley. My only experiences of these sort of concerts in my teenage years were one off trips to see The Cure and Guns n Roses.
But it was clear that theses were rarities as was the annual trip to Reading Festival where I was far more interested in getting wasted in my tent and watching the Senseless Things than experiencing the main stage enormity of a headlining The The or Siouxsie and the Banshees.
Things began to change with Britpop and more specifically Oasis.
I was forced into the loft the other day to put the Christmas decorations back in their place and found myself going through a cache of old ticket stubs and flyers. To my delight I found one for an Oasis gig at the Windsor Old Trout in May 1994 – a show I went to for the princely sum of £4. Just over two years later I was watching the same band at Knebworth along with 150,000 other punters and Indie music was never the same again.
Since those days going to arena shows has become more and more common and not just because of the fact I review lots of shows at the Echo Arena and am lucky to get paid for the privilege.
Call me a sell out Grandad but I enjoy going there.
Sticky floors, muddy sound, rude bouncers, and idiots throwing their pint over you begin to lose their appeal after years on the gigging frontline.
There’s none of that at the Echo arena where, ironically given it’s name, I’ve always found the sound pin sharp.
Security are courteous and greet you when you come in – I remember one incident when they protected me and my pregnant wife from a drunk woman convinced that I had stolen the phone I had just handed back to her after she dropped it under my seat.
There is even something strangely intimate about the place when the right artist is town. I’ve seen excellent gigs from the likes of Paul Weller, Echo and the Bunnymen and Leonard Cohen which have felt more like you’re seating in a provincial theatre.
And it’s not just music. I’ve enjoyed watching Phil Taylor throwing arrows, the Merseyside Tigers shooting hoops and Dan Purvis somersaulting.
Where else in Liverpool could that happen apart from our excellent Echo arena?