Praising 20 years of the Pavilions
IT SEEMS like only yesterday, but incredibly it's 20 years this week since Plymouth Pavilions first opened its doors, unveiling a range to delight music fans.
It's strange to think of it now, but prior to that the only real chance we had of seeing major national touring acts was at Cornwall Coliseum in Carlyon Bay where throughout the '80s I, along with hundreds of Plymouth fans, made the regular trek to see the likes of The Police, The Jam, Madness, The Who, Tina Turner, Paul McCartney and Chuck Berry among many others.
So it was a great thrill when the Pavilions arrived in 1991 and proceeded to attract that calibre of live music to our city. The venue has had its ups and downs, but in the right hands has brought us the cream of the crop, often attracting acts to play this relatively tiny 4,000 capacity venue as part of a UK arena tour.
So, looking back, what have been the most memorable highs? Every one of us would have a different selection, based on personal preference. But in compiling my own top ten, I find myself including the top three selected in a recent survey by The Herald, which put Pink at No1, Green Day at No 2 and Oasis at No 3.
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Green Day would top my list. Back in 2005 they were at the top of their game having just released American Idiot which captured the frustrations of the Bush regime, echoing the feeling of disillusionment and alienation.
The songs worked on different levels, simply as a collection of great sing along, dance tunes, or as politically poignant observations of what it was like to live in America at that time.
Their live show was hugely uplifting, superbly slick and professional yet provocative and rebel rousing, and it united the Plymouth crowd in an incredible collective euphoria, which I have not witnessed before or since.
Pink, too, was brilliant in a very different way. I'm not a particular fan, or didn't think I was until I saw her live, but she pulled out all the stops in what was a truly remarkable piece of entertainment.
The arrival of Oasis in 2002 was obviously a massive coup for the venue, and their show – though marred for me by their refusal to play Wonderwall because the volume of the crowd's singing was drowning them out – was one of the most memorable simply because of the chance to sing along with the perpetrators of those ridiculously addictive anthems.
But actually I preferred Noel's support of Paul Weller, some years earlier, when he arrived unannounced and played an acoustic show with 4,000 of us on backing vocals.
Others, in my top ten, in no particular order, would include '90s shows from Jamiroquai, in which the irrepressible Jay Kay managed to set the entire venue jumping, and Radiohead who played here around the time of OK Computer and had yours truly reduced to a blubbing wreck, so incredibly beautiful and emotive was their set.
The Muse show was a real milestone – having watched the Teignmouth trio evolve from playing tiny local venues only months earlier, it was very rewarding to see them take their next major step before world domination beckoned.
Then there was Coldplay – even back then, in 2002, you could tell they had the hallmarks of a world class act – plus the shy retiring Jack Johnson, who had been a cult hero in the South West for years before eventually topping the UK charts. More recently Elbow delivered a sublime show of sheer class following the release of their Mercury-winning album Seldom Seen Kid and last but by no means least, Kings Of Leon were the first band in recent years to remind me of the return of good old fashioned rock'n'roll – the closest contemporary thing to the Rolling Stones in attitude, sex appeal – and, of course, very fine song-writing.
There's no denying that Plymouth Pavilions is not perfect as a venue, as its critics are quick to point out, but it has served us well, thanks to those who run it, and hopefully will continue to do so until something bigger and better replaces it.