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The venue disaster is almost forgotten as old favourites make the crowd go wild : Co-op Live opening show, Elbow review

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Published Time: 15.05.2024 - 01:40:17 Modified Time: 15.05.2024 - 01:40:17

Co-op Live’s opening has been a farce and a few wrinkles remain, but the night went by smoothly for local band Elbow Getty Images Phew

Co-op Live’s opening has been a farce and a few wrinkles remain, but the night went by smoothly for local band Elbow

: Getty Images

Phew. After three weeks of delays, cancellations and chaos, Manchester’s £365 million Co-op Live concert venue finally opened with a concert by local band Elbow. And it went, by and large, without a hitch. 

“Let’s open this venue properly, shall we?” Guy Garvey said from the stage. Europe’s biggest indoor arena – with design input from Harry Styles – was finally making the right kind of noises.

The place’s opening has been a farce. It was meant to open in April with a pair of shows by comedian Peter Kay. But they were postponed, as were concerts by Olivia Rodrigo and Keane, while Take That and rapper A Boogie Wit da Hoodie moved shows to the city’s rival AO Arena. 

Amidst this, the venue’s general manager resigned. The reasons? Issues with the electricals, falling air conditioning units, hubristically optimistic claims about readiness and some injudicious remarks about small venues. Not since Pharaoh Khufu commissioned the Great Pyramid of Giza has there been so much kerfuffle over a vast window-less structure. And there was no social media back in 2600BC.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached the vast black box next to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. A few wrinkles remain. The queuing system outside was non-existent, leading to self-regulating orderly queues. I’m not sure Liam Gallagher fans will be so terribly British next month. Inside, not all the security barriers were working, there was no phone coverage and the venue’s coal-black walls were notably dingy. But it was full of friendly staff and the wifi was free and speedy. Everyone was greeted with a free drink or snack. Nice touch.

: AP

That Elbow – by delay thus default – found themselves as Co-op Live’s opening act is apt. Their music represents a particular side of Manchester; not the swaggering Gallagher side (in Lippy Kids, Garvey sang that he’s “never perfected that simian stroll”) nor the riotous ravey Happy Mondays side, but rather the poetic, bruised optimism of the Rainy City.

Elbow’s songs were sonic approximations of what John Cooper Clarke calls Manchester’s “delicious shade of pearl grey”. As Garvey sang on Station Approach, “Coming home I feel like I designed these buildings I walk by.”

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