The day after the first intense musical experience of the weekend, The Pearlfishers at The Tolbooth in Stirling, we went to Glasgow for the second.
I’d not been to the SSE Hydro on the bank of the Clyde before, having managed an epic fail in getting tickets for the Still Game shows. I was apprehensive as I don’t have good memories of enormodomes and swore off the SECC in 2004 – to my credit, I have never been back and don’t feel I’ve missed anything, as generally the value of any performance there was outweighed by the ugliness of the experience.
However, this was the only chance to see Gaga without a lot of travelling and it was a new venue; move on…
Got to Glasgow, had a couple of pints in The State Bar in Holland Street (which still sells Golden Wonder crisps and has magnificent decor and prices) then headed to The Griffin for food and more beer. Reassuringly, latte is still £11.95 on their menu (“for God’s sake, get a grip…”) and they advertise “apparently friendly” bar staff. Great pub, which was the scene for some of the interiors in the film Sunshine on Leith, which I guess may be due to it being a favourite of Peter Mullan.
Then we went off to see what the SSE Hydro would present us with…and were presented with this!
It’s a big spaceship on the Clyde, with coloured lighting revolving inside bathing the people approaching like in Close Encounters! Right next to the grisly SECC and the rather more pleasant Clyde Auditorium (aka the Armadillo!) I was torn between feelings of wonder that such a beautifully designed building could exist here and annoyance that such a venue is only one among the catalogue of venues that Edinburgh doesn’t have. (We’ve got trams though…) I spent a few minutes walking around it then went inside, expecting it all to be illusory and the interior to be made of cardboard, orange peel and spit.
My cynicism was unrewarded, because the interior was pretty spiffy as well; loads of bars, toilets, staff, merchandise outlets, nice and spacious…when we eventually reached the auditorium, we would be equally impressed with the space and the seating. Thought through well and well thought-through.
We’d made sure we got to the venue nice and early so we could check out the atmosphere and the audience; the vibe reminded me of Prince’s Lovesexy tour at Wembley in 1988, in that the air of expectation and event was charged. There were loads of Gaga lookalikes (there’s a lot of scope given her protean image) and not too many Lady SAGAs.
We met a couple of great girls from Maryhill, Laura and her pal whose name I didn’t catch…they were really keen to help us get into the standing area and said they knew a way to do this at the interval. Laura asked me where I was from and when I told her Edinburgh, immediately offered me her cup and told me to try her drink.
“That’s Buckie, isn’t it?” I asked.
Although I loved the fact that Laura thought an Edina flaneur maximus would be ignorant of Buckie, I declined…I was given a bottle of the stuff once and never has an alcoholic beverage lasted so long in my home.
So, after the preview, into the main show…again, wildly impressed with the interior of The Hydro. For a 12,000 seater, it doesn’t feel big at all. There is plenty of room in the seats (please note, Edinburgh Playhouse bean-counters,) no-one is sitting on top of you, no-one’s in your way and you’re in no-one’s way, even expecting that the audience will be on its feet for most of the main event. Nobody’s even that far from the stage, so clearly this wasn’t going to be an evening watching the big screens either side of the performing ants.
Breedlove was the opening act and you had to feel sorry for the wee laddie. An unadorned rapper in front of a curtained stage (behind which curtain you know would be an Oz/Wonderland playground,) he rapped and humped the air gamely to waves of indifference. Next up was Lady Starlight, whose importance in the ascendancy of Gaga is undisputed, but, again, given the air of expectancy for the main turn, it was hard for her to make a huge impression given that she is a DJ (needle-dropper, button-pusher, knob-twiddler) and anyone standing behind a couple of decks is going to have to be very special to have any sort of presence. Twenty minutes of drum samples ensued, with her jigging about a bit.
There was no interval before Gaga, so not even the temptation to meet the Maryhill gang and get into the standing area illegitimately.
And she was fabulous. The set seemed to fly by in about five minutes, with all the costume changes, bonkers set-design, lasers, dancing and musicality of legend. There was an island stage with a crystal encrusted keyboard in the middle of the standing area, reached by catwalks from either side of the main stage – each catwalk had a mini-platform about half way down, so Gaga was “among us” for a lot of the show. She played most of Artpop and all the hits, everyone was happy, especially the young guy who was hauled out of the crowd and sat next to Gaga as she sang a ballad version of “Born This Way” for him.
So; a good day for me and proof that art and pop can successfully commingle with commerce.