Those who know me are aware that I prefer a gig in a wardrobe rather than a cavernous hall full of halfwits. The coupling of Slipknot and Korn has however dragged this longhair out of arena retirement, so I thought I’d write up my experience. If you don’t want to listen to whingaholic Affs, look away now…
First off, let’s remember it’s cost me £45+ for a ticket (where ‘secure delivery’ was the only delivery option, adding at least another 10% to my night before I’ve even left the house).
Despite the customary touts (who both the council and police refuse to do anything about) to be fair to the newly named ‘Manchester Arena’, entry is quick. Having a 5.30pm door time has seen the vast majority of people spread out their arrival time and bag searches seem efficient.
Once in though, I queue for the standing area, on the stairs, for ten minutes of King 810‘s set, unavoidably blocking lower tier ticket holder’s views in the process. How hard can it honestly be to take a ticket and strap on a wristband? Very tricky it seems.
Once in the standing area it’s not too busy, the toilets are quick and relatively free of floor-based waste. But then there’s the bar situation. There’s one on the side of the toilets which naturally takes a hammering. Then there’s another which doesn’t offer the full range of overpriced beverages but is quieter on the other side of the floor. Choosing the latter, it’s again a quick(ish) option.
As soon as the arena fills up though, trouble starts. During Korn‘s set the smell of snouts and weed is ridiculous, a problem which the Arena staff appear chronically short staffed to deal with. At Academy 1, people are largely singled out with a torch flash and escorted away. Not tonight.
After Korn‘s set there’s a natural dash for the can. I leave it ten minutes, but even when I make my way over, Arena staff stand pointlessly impassive, doing nothing to stop the barging, sink-based urination or general anti-social behaviour. Again I wonder why I pay a premium for this experience.
During Slipknot‘s set all seems relatively civilised until one guy from the lower tier decides to hop the barrier to the floor. Ten out of ten for ingenuity, but when I’ve paid my way to be where I am, I expect others to do the same. No surprise that a half-hearted grab from a ‘Crowd Management Representative’ sees the jumper escape to the pit and a supervisor looking incredulously at Yellow Coat Derek who looks like the only thing he can stop is a dripping tap.
Of course this shows others it can be done, so it’s little surprise when a second jumper appears. Again, security do nothing, relying instead on a fellow gig goer behind me to smash him into the barrier and for me to attempt to wrestle the intruder to the floor. This isn’t a quick altercation but again the lack of any form of security is notable by its absence.
It doesn’t really get much better on the way out with people being misdirected by Arena staff to pick up souvenir tickets, collect bags, or even get to the exit. Couple this with a massive herd of snide merch hawkers immediately outside the venue (again, something both police and city council seem to turn a blind eye to) making it increasingly difficult to avoid getting a ‘Slipcot’ or ‘Koln’ poster thrust towards you, the night is rounded off in yet another unpleasant fashion.
To top it all off, I wait for my tram home for ten minutes on a platform with no information signs working, and alongside a gaggle of Metrolink staff who only indicate they want to see everyone’s tickets once the tram arrives. Efficiency knows no bounds.
I won’t be going to the Manchester Arena, or any arena for that matter for gigs in the future. I should really be reviewing the show, which in summary was absolutely chuffing excellent. Instead I’m here watching some inconsiderate clown on the tram chuck sweet wrappers everywhere.
I appreciate that some of these issues aren’t solely happening at arena shows and I’m not some killjoy trying to stop people having a good time, I’m just speaking as someone who wants everyone to enjoy a show not just a selfish few. Unfortunately, a chronically understaffed and poorly facilitated Manchester Arena has done nothing to help that tonight.
If I want a night of touts, ambivalence, rudeness, vulgarity, hawkers and incompetence I can go to the Printworks. Suddenly I’ve been reminded why I don’t do that either.
Tonight Manchester, you’ve been disgusting.