A review. A night at the Arena.

After seeing one or two concert reviews appear on Facebook I thought I’d revisit a concert I attended with my wife a few short years ago. This was written at the time. It isn’t new.

Looking through my documents folder this morning I discovered my review of an Eric Clapton concert I attended in Nottingham a few years ago. It bought back some happy memories and some very disturbing ones.
The Concert

Last night we went to see the legendary guitar hero, Eric Clapton, in Nottingham.
The show was staged at the Nottingham Arena, which also doubles up as an ice stadium. For those of you having visions of the great man skating around the stage in lycra pants and a frilly shirt whilst belting out Layla, let me put your minds at rest. He didn’t.

The ice is covered over for the concert and the fans who want to be closer to the stage, sit above it. As I was in row Z, high up at the back of the arena I can’t really say whether the people on the floor were in a such a frenzied state because of the fabulous music or because they were trying to keep their feet warm. Whichever it was they certainly cut a groove.

From where I sat, Eric looked like one of the smaller residents of Lilliput viewed through the wrong end of a telescope. He was, in fact, so small that when I got a speck of dust on my glasses he disappeared completely along with two thirds of the stage.

Eric may have been minuscule but the sound he put out more than made up for that, he isn’t classed as the world’s best for nothing.  If something that tiny can make the lens in my glasses vibrate so much that I feared they might shatter, he deserves the title.

There were two huge screens either side of the stage for those of us who didn’t have 50-1 zoom lens instead of eyes, but I am still tempted to make an appointment with a laser treatment company and get both my eyes done so that next time Eric comes to town I’ll be able to see him in full jelly baby sized glory.

Before the concert, Doreen and I spent a happy hour at the pub just around the corner from the stadium. The bar was packed and by the look of the cheery, but unsteady, clientele, many of them had been there for quite some time. The jukebox was set to Clapton mode; no other artist was allowed. One woman, in the bar for a soothing after-work drink, was clearly puzzled to hear Eric croon his way through Wonderful Tonight when she had actually selected Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger.

No matter how much money was shoved in the slot, and no matter what selections were made, the jukebox stubbornly pumped out Eric, song after song after song. There was studio Eric, 60s Eric, Eric as Derek, Eric, and lots of live Eric. So much Eric in fact that by the time we left the pub I felt we didn’t really need to go to the actual gig at all.

Once inside the concert hall I stood patiently in rip-off queue one, waiting to hand over my £20 for a £5 t-shirt which proudly boasted that I had been to the Eric is Derek USA tour 1970. I could have chosen the one that said, EC UK tour 2008, but that didn’t have the same kudos really.
While I was in rip-off queue one, fantasising about my soon to be acquired kudos, my wife was shuffling along in rip-off queue two, the cold drinks and cold, hot-snacks queue.
The line was enormous. One man grew a beard while reading his concert program, (acquired from rip off queue three,) and by the time Doreen got to the front the only refreshments left was a bottle of unbelievably expensive Derbyshire Pennine water and the even more ridiculously expensive, but obviously better class, Cumbrian Spring water. My wife being my wife, got the Cumbrian. She wouldn’t be seen dead with that Pennine muck.
So, clutching our purchases we entered the auditorium and braced ourselves to climb the arena equivalent of the North face of the Eiger. Luckily I grabbed hold of an experienced Sherpa, (or steward as they are known at the arena,) and off we set. Stopping only for oxygen we made it half way without further incident. The Sherpa didn’t laugh when I asked if I was allowed to plant the St George’s flag when we reached the summit. The man behind us did and caused some alarm as he choked on his nicely chilled, pre-packed, hot sausage roll. Luckily a first aider was on hand and a slap on the back soon had him breathing easily and he was able to join us again on the ascent.

I don’t know why it is but my wife attracts nutters. They flock to her like flies around a jam pot. Every time we go to the pub, a concert, or out for a meal, the local nutter is chatting her up before she’s had time to complain about the seat, the view, or the smell.

Last night was no exception. She had only just taken her seat when a guy from the row in front climbed over and plonked himself down next to her. Within seconds they were deep in conversation about a Gracie Fields concert he had attended in Munich 1945. ‘Now she COULD play the guitar…’

It wasn’t quite a sell-out, but it was near enough. Seldom can there have been so many grey, bald, (or grey and bald,) ex hippies gathered in one place. For some reason people revert back to their youth when they go to a rock concert. Men of post-pensionable age swap their cardi’s and slippers for leather jackets and tight, sky-blue jeans. Everywhere I looked there were sagging, partially-covered bellies hanging over ridiculously tight waistbands. Everyone seemed to wear a thick leather belt with a huge brass buckle. Thousands of bovines must have died in order to service this belt fest.

The women were as bad.

No matter where I rested my eyes, there were 50-60-year-old boobs on show. The more modest of them had one button too many undone on their blouses, but others had decided to go bra-less. I shook my head, pulled my leather trousers over my beer belly and whispered to Doreen to stick her valuables back into their safety pouches.

I never really did get the tie – dyed thing from the 60s. I always thought it looked washed out and faded but thinking about it whilst sitting in row Z, I realized it was probably the perfect look for many of us.

After the show we descended from our lofty peak and joined the sweaty multitude as our geriatric gathering made our back-aching, knee-cracking way out of the arena. Some of the guys were still singing along to Eric’s encore, I’ve got my Mojo working. Wishful thinking, I reckon.

Everyone had enjoyed it, that was evident. A few of the younger, meaner, less free spirited revellers made spiteful comments about their fellow Claptonistas., especially the bra-less or paunchier ones. All in all, though it was a happy crowd that trooped out of the arena and onto the streets.






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