I’m late with this one, too. I took my first trip to the Leeds Arena on 17 December 2013 to see Status Quo on their annual tour (as I’ve explained before, my best mate who lives in Leeds is a huge fan).
The Arena (full current title: The First Direct Arena) is quite impressive and it already seems to be developing a reputation among artists who are asking to play there. It is unique in the UK by virtue of its shape – it’s like a huge fan, and the hype says that no seat is any more than 60m away from the stage. Bruce Springsteen played there first in July 2013, though the official first act was Elton John in September 2013. Pearl Jam are schedule to play there in July 2014, so the venue isn’t short on big names wanting to go there.
Francis Rossi certainly commented on it during this show (he’s apparently commented on his dislike of Sheffield’s Arena before according to my mate), saying that it was a good venue. We were seated to the right of the stage at floor level, which wasn’t bad – but it’s worth pointing out that the stage is very wide, and half of block D (where we were) is somewhat off to one side (mental note to self: in future aim to get tickets in block C, high seat numbers in block B, or low seat numbers in block D. Don’t touch blocks A and E with a bargepole).
The support act was 10cc. Now, I never liked 10cc back in the 70s – I didn’t specifically hate them, but they just weren’t my cup of tea. And they still aren’t. But that mustn’t detract from their innate musicianship, and certainly, large sections of the audience were obviously huge fans (though the typical Quo gig-goer these days would probably have behaved the same way if it had been Miley Cyrus or Lady GaGa up there).
Status Quo were as impressive as ever. They played many of their classics such as Caroline, Roll Over Lay Down, Whatever You Want, and Rockin’ All Over The World. I can’t remember them playing anything off Quid Pro Quo, their 2011 album, which was a shame because I like Two Way Traffic. However, they played a few songs from Bula Quo, their 2013 album.
I picked my mate up from his house outside Leeds and we parked in a municipal car park with a ticket machine that required an IQ greater than 140 to operate (something that was obviously lacking in the people who were using it in front of me). Like most cities with music venues, Leeds’ car parks are run by people with previous criminal records for fraud, and it cost £8.50 (if memory serves) for less than 4 hours of parking.
Getting out was easy, though. The car park was far enough away from the venue for the typical Quo fan not to consider it a viable option, and I drove straight out and (after one roundabout with an exit that wasn’t there, but which Google Maps said was) almost immediately on to the M1 back to Nottingham.
On the way back, I discovered something that has been playing on my mind of late anyway. I was starving, and I knew that I’d be lucky if anything decent was available at the various services. The first one I tried appeared to be shut (I don’t think it was – it just had a manky automatic door sensor, but I didn’t know that at the time). The next one, I was delighted to find, had a Subway outlet and it was still open. Unfortunately, it also had a customer already waiting (a bad sign) – and it quickly became clear that the combined IQs of the customer, the woman with him (who would undoubtedly have wanted a sub after his had been finished), the single employee working, and the security/manager guy she was rabbiting to instead of getting on with making the bloody sub wouldn’t have been sufficient to operate that ticket machine in the car park back in Leeds. So I stormed out, now firmly convinced that Subway attracts mental cases as customers, as I had begun to suspect from my experience back home.
I finally found services with a McDonalds, and apart from the fact that service McD outlets never have anything ready and you have to wait, I was in a strangely tolerant mood and my hunger was dealt with within about 10 minutes (which was probably a quarter of the time I’d have been waiting at Subway).