It doesn’t seem like it, but it’s three months since I got my ticket for this show, which took place at the Metro Radio Arena Newcastle on Sunday 27 November 2005. It was my first visit to the Arena, and by far the biggest concert I’ve been to so far.
As I’d booked early, I had a seat near the front, to the right of the stage. This wasn’t as ideal as it might have been, as a speaker stack meant I couldn’t see the drumkit while the support acts were on. No such problem once the stage was cleared for the main event, though, so I was quite happy. This meant that, unlike the crazy people in the standing area, I didn’t need to arrive hideously early to secure my place, and a Good Thing too, as the show was due to run from around 7:30 to 11:00.
The Arena is basically a big shed, used for ice hockey and conferences as well as concerts. The seats are of the hard kind rather than the more pleasantly padded ones you find in smaller venues. But the sound system is pretty damn good, and the overall management of the place seems to be done well. The concert wasn’t a sell-out, which meant that people turning up on the night could get in and the inevitable touts weren’t doing any business that I saw. Not only that, but there was an empty seat to my left, so I wasn’t even slightly squashed. The crowd was a wide mix of ages – lots of family groups, which was good to see. Not only that, but in contrast to many concerts, everything ran to time. Amazing.
Now on with the bands.
These boys had the fun job of warming up the crowd. They played most of the Capture/Release album that I reviewed a while ago, and did it well. The sound mix didn’t do frontman Alan Donohue any favours – his carefully crafted words were often hard to make out, but apart from that, it was a good performance. I’d only seen brief clips of them before, so I hadn’t realised that Alan was of the “I can twitch like Ian Curtis” school of vocalists before. Seriously. If you’ve ever seen videos of Joy Division playing, you’ll recall Ian Curtis’s increasingly wild hand movements. Alan was doing that. Big time. Highlight for me was Work, Work, Work…, even better live than on CD. They played for their allotted thirty minutes, were well received, and left the stage for the crew to set up for the next act.
Now I really like this band. I gave their album The Back Room a positive review a while back, so I was expecting something good. But dammit, they were better than good. For a start, the sound mix was abso-bloody-lutely perfect for them. Tom Smith’s voice was as clear as the proverbial bell, and the guitars sounded, well, perfect. Good use of the stage, with the band playing the audience at least as well as their instruments. Songs like Bullets, All Sparks and Blood have never sounded better. After their set, my first thought was that Franz would have to work hard to beat it. On the strength of this just over half an hour, I’d say that Editors have graduated to the stage where they don’t really need to be anybody’s support band. And they are doing a headline tour soon see their site for details. I plan to catch them at the Newcastle Academy in March. Audience response was excellent (big cheer when their banner was hoisted on the backdrop). Editors left the stage and the crew got to work.
All good fun, this. Guys clambering up into the lighting rig to operate spotlights, support bands kit whipped off at high speed, covers come off Paul Thomson’s gleaming drumkit, instruments and mics tested. But oddly, the black backdrop that seemed to be hiding a big screen remained in place. Hmmmm. After all the testing and one-twoing was done, the houselights went out, the audience erupted, and pretty much dead on time, Franz Ferdinand took the stage.
Regular readers will know that Franz are one of my favourite bands. I’ve mentioned their debut album and this year’s follow-up, and mumbled about them more than once. I recently watched a live show on TV, so I was expecting a performance. And that is what I got. Now I didn’t take notes, so you’ll have to excuse a little vagueness about the order of the tracks, and which bits went with what, so this is more of a general impression. As the support bands’ speakers had been removed, I had a completely unobscured view of the stage, and being close to the stacks, the sound was perfect too.
After a couple of numbers, including recent single Do you want to?, the black backdrop was, err, dropped to reveal a big video screen and some banners – nice things which rotated at various points to show the artwork from You could have it so much better, portraits of the band, and plain red sheets.
All the favourites were played by a band on excellent form. And the crowd got to do a lot of singing along, which I always like . From the stomp of Take me out through the sleaze of Michael to the lush romanticism of Walk away (one of my favourites from the new album, and their new single), everything was done to make the fans happy. Alex moved around the stage in various alarming ways – at one point standing on the bass drum for a while before elegantly stepping back to the stage, not to mention standing on the speaker stacks next to the stage (that was nice and close to me ). The speakers were only a couple of feet higher than the stage, so we’re not talking Bono-style stack climbing, insurance company scaring madness, but it was cool.
As the set progressed, the guys got even more into it. Now I’ve known bands to have two drummers with full kits. That can be fun. But I have never before seen three guys all beating the hell out of the same drumkit before. And that was what happened last night. Very cool. And loud.
After the traditional short break, they came back for the inevitable encore, which ended with a storming, completely over the top blast of This Fire, which was a perfect end to a pretty damn perfect show. Oh yes, and they did manage to outdo Editor’s performance. Franz Ferdinand were on stage for about an hour and a quarter, which with about an hour of the support bands, filled the evening nicely. And all done in time for me to get the Metro and a bus home.
Overall, I had a great night. I’d definitely go to see Franz again, and Editors, too. I might even give the Rakes another shot.
My next show is Rufus Wainwright at the Sage – watch out for a review late next week.
 More observant readers may spot that the site address refers to the venue’s previous name and sponsor
 It takes me a while to get round to things. Anyway, it’s only been there about ten years, what’s the problem?
 But hey, who wants to look at drummers? 
 However, read on for reasons to want to see the drumkit
 The security guys were very good at rescuing people who passed out in the standing area…
 I thought it might have been, but hey…
 And occasional googlers
 If you want serious, you’re on the wrong site