That’s entertainment?

So Snow Patrol had a gig in the park at my home town in Bangor last weekend.  Firstly, let me admit that I probably do not fit the demographic for an event like this so these comments are just a gripe from an old git whose opinions are completely out of date and don’t matter anyway.  I have no problem with Snow Patrol; I even like some of their music and once upon a time bought some of their stuff on CD.  I even quite like some of the music of Grandad’s favourite singer ( who made an impromptu appearance at the concert.  This gripe is not specifically about Snow Patrol, it is way more general than that.

Tickets for these shows are expensive, especially when you get perhaps an hour or so of the band you actually came to see.  The rest are just filler and can be seen in much more intimate venues for much less cash.  Add to that that the crowds at these shows are vast, so that you will probably end up watching the show at a distance on some huge TV screen, and why bother?  Just stay home and watch your own TV instead.  Better yet, get some decent food rather than the extortionately overpriced fast food muck available from the monopolies on site and throw a barbecue for your mates.  This is bound to be more fun than queueing to buy some poisonously cheap but grossly expensive to buy larger, then queueing again to piss it all out again in Portaloos that quickly become knee deep in the abysmal effluent of thousands who either can’t or won’t aim.

I hate standing or sitting at these venues like some sort of tinned fish.  Battery hens get better conditions!  Take the SSE Arena in Belfast.  We have been a few times, but the seats are so closely packed that you sit for the entire time you are there with your elbows crushed in tightly to avoid impinging on your neighbour’s space.  Legroom is minimal too with no room to stretch out.  It is like the most basic of cheap flight seats, but without getting to the sunny destination.  I’m surprised that no one has yet died of Thrombosis at one of these events.  All this for the supposed advantage of ‘a live atmosphere’.  Sorry, but when after half an hour I’m getting cramp and the idiot in the next seat has spilt beer over my shoes, then that is an atmosphere that I am not willing to pay for.

The show itself may not necessarily be good either.  One of the people we went to see at the SSE was the Glasgow comedian Kevin Bridges.  On TV he is generally very funny, but unfortunately in Belfast after a few of his jokes fell flat, he appeared to take the hump with us all.  The show was something of a disappointment after that.  Would I pay to see him again?  Given the discomfort, the relatively old material and poor show and that in essence we were only watching him on TV anyway, there is no way that this entertainment provided anything approaching value for money, nor was it enjoyable.

In the early 90’s, Trish and I went to the Point in Dublin to see Eric Clapton.  We were fairly late in, by which time the only seats we could find were right at the back of the hall.  Clapton would only have been a distant dot on the stage had we been able to see anything at all through the crowd of heads in front of us.  Worse yet, the two remaining seats we had been able to find were empty for a reason; they were behind a bloody big concrete pillar!  Because of this we moved into the aisle and sat on the steps.  At least we had a view from there, but a bouncer quickly accosted us and told us sitting there was forbidden.  Fortunately he had a heart of gold, so when we showed the only seats we had behind the pillar, he sent us to the VIP area upstairs on the left instead.  Now we could see Clapton smiling as he picked each string, had gallons of space and loads of comfort.  A waste of time became one of the best concerts I have ever attended.  Imagine; a bouncer with a heart of gold!  Thanks mate.
Yet there are gigs at the Limelight and other small venues around the city and beyond that I personally find much more enjoyable.  John Mayall at the limelight stands out as one of these (and according to Google he is still touring!).  So too do many of the concerts I have attended at the Ulster Hall or some of the ones run by our local festival (, where artists like Paul Brady and Steve Earl have played in Bangor Abbey (about 400 seats).  I doubt I will ever attend a stadium-sized gig ever again.  They are just a rip off.


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