14 May 2024

Rock band Elbow headline opening show at troubled Co-op Live arena

14 May 2024

Live music has finally got under way at the troubled Co-op Live arena as British band Elbow opened the new venue in Manchester.

The biggest indoor arena in the UK had postponed its opening show for the third time after part of its ventilation and air conditioning system fell to the ground from the ceiling during a soundcheck in early May.

On Tuesday, the £365 million venue officially opened its doors to “apprehensive” fans, before rock band Elbow, who hail from Manchester, took to the stage after support act The Waeve performed.

Elbow were celebrating the release of their 10th studio album, Audio Vertigo, with their first tour since 2018, as they made history as headliners of the opening night at the arena.

Frontman Guy Garvey told the audience those who had been working on the building had been “so excited today, so nervous and so excited”, in a video shared on X.

“There was already electricity in the air before you lot got in here and now it’s fully amped up. I hope you can feel it,” he said.

Before concluding their set, Garvey told the crowd: “You’ve house-warmed this beautiful new venue, shall we sing one last song together?” in a video on X.

Issues at the arena began after a test event in April led to the rescheduling of comedian Peter Kay’s stand-up dates.

Kay, who was meant to be the “first artist in the world to perform at Manchester Co-op Live”, according to promotional posters, had his shows postponed twice as the venue was not ready to open.

The problems also led to the venue rescheduling a Black Keys gig.

The venue then planned for US rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie to open the arena on May 1, but it was called off just over an hour before his performance and after doors had opened to fans – due to the ventilation system becoming detached.

Before Tuesday evening’s gig, Steve Jones, 58, from Rhyl in North Wales, told the PA news agency he was a “bit apprehensive” about everything going to plan.

“Hopefully everything goes OK,” he said. “It’s been a long time in the coming, seeing all the other ones that have been cancelled, because we live 60-odd miles away and then you’re thinking ‘hope everything goes OK’.”

Nigel Thomas, 56 and from Chester, had come with family members, with one relative travelling from Hong Kong to see the band.

He said recent cancellations at the arena had left him feeling “scared” and “worried”.

“We (were) worried if it would go to another venue, possibly just be postponed, and we wouldn’t all be able to meet and make it happen, so tonight feels a little bit weird, still a bit apprehensive that it hasn’t actually started yet, so we’ve still got a few hours to go.”

Neville Lawson, 58, from Durham, spoke to PA alongside Jo Elliott, 53, from Middlesbrough.

Mr Lawson, who was wearing an Elbow T-shirt from a concert he attended 21 years ago, said: “We’ve had the tickets for a while, we didn’t think it was going to come off actually.

“To think a Manchester band, which Elbow are, the first band to open the arena, it’s amazing isn’t it. To think of all these other (acts) – Peter Kay, Take That – and all of them, we’ve got a Manchester band opening up, it’s brilliant.

“(We have been) worried it was going to cancel, (and) it’s not going to happen. Or are we going to get moved to the other arena in Manchester which is just a big aircraft hangar really.”

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of the arena’s operator Oak View Group, said fittings in the arena had been “triple checked” after the May incident, which could have been “catastrophic” if it had happened just 15 minutes later.

He told BBC News he was confident it was “the safest building in the world”, adding there had been “no way” operators could have known the ventilation was not installed correctly.

“They didn’t put the bolts in. It wasn’t visible to the eye,” he said. “And it fell out.

“So we [have since] got that double checked and triple checked. We’ve looked at thousands of bolts up in that ceiling now. We’ve looked at the life safety lines. And we were going to take our time to make sure we did this right.

“There was no way we were opening the doors until we checked every screw and every bolt and every one of those 95 shafts.”

The ventilation issue meant scheduled performances by US pop star Olivia Rodrigo and British band Keane were postponed, while a series of shows by Take That were moved to the AO Arena in Manchester.

Last week, East Sussex rock band Keane announced their postponed gig has been rescheduled for October 19, while new dates are yet to be announced for Rodrigo.

The venue also added a headline performance from US rapper Travis Scott, who will be bringing his Circus Maximus Tour on July 13.

The Co-op Live arena is a joint venture between Oak View Group, co-founded by Leiweke and US music mogul Irving Azoff, and City Football Group, owned by billionaire United Arab Emirates royal and deputy prime minister Sheikh Mansour.

Harry Styles is among the other investors.

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