Claire Black: ‘Have you seen a brilliant gig in a huge venue?’

Lack of airbags contributed to the camper van's demise. Picture: Classic Camper Holidays

Lack of airbags contributed to the camper van's demise. Picture: Classic Camper Holidays

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YOU’D have to be a right miserable so-and-so to not be impressed by the Hydro. Have you seen it? Massive, flying saucer-shaped venue built down beside the Clyde, soon to bear witness to the genius that is Rod (the god) Stewart. It’s Scotland’s newest music venue.

Designed by Foster + Partners, it cost £125 million and it is by all accounts amazing. Modelled on Greek and Roman amphitheatres, it’s been designed so that no matter in which one of its 13,000 seats you choose to park your derrière you’ll be able to see the stage. I realise that sounds like a pretty basic requirement of a venue at which you pay to “see” acts, but it really doesn’t always happen.

So it’s not that I want to pour cold water on the Hydro (sorry). It’s just that I would say this: huge venues suck.

Seriously, have you ever seen a brilliant gig in one? I haven’t. I’m not saying I haven’t been to good gigs in one – Liza Minnelli in the Clyde Auditorium was pretty astonishing; Madonna at Murrayfield wasn’t for everyone, but trust me, in the golden circle with a place baggsied five hours before she actually started, it was great. I’ve just not been to an utterly brilliant one. Actually, I’m going to make an exception for Grace Jones, again at the Clyde Auditorium, but only because she’s a woman in her 60s who can hula-hoop through the extended version of Slave To The Rhythm. Exceptional.

Apart from Gracie though, the other gigs I’ve been to in huge arenas have lacked a bit of, well, atmosphere. They’ve not been like that Martha Wainwright one in a tiny back room of a pub on Ashton Lane, when she broke the strings on her guitar, then her back-up guitar, then the guitar of the guy sharing the bill with her.

Or Joan As Policewoman, when the crowd was so shy we all loitered at the back, adoring from afar, leaving poor old Joan sitting on her lonesome in a puddle of murky light.

Marlena Shaw on the Renfrew Ferry, casting aside her walking stick after limping on to the stage; Candi Staton leading the Arches through Young Hearts, Run Free. Even the Barrowlands retains a sense of intimacy – the smell of Paul Weller’s herbal cigarette; Jill Scott transforming a rowdy crowd of Scots into a Philly soul-belting backing group. Sort of.

Maybe the Hydro will buck the trend of the carpeted, seated, corporate temples that are contemporary venues. I hope it does. But either way, I hope if anyone from Edinburgh City Council is ­reading this they’re genuinely appalled and ashamed when they realise every venue I’ve mentioned is at the other end of the M8.

TIME was that the only thing you had to worry about when wearing animal print clothing was looking a bit Bet Lynch. Now, the concern is causing psychological distress to the very creatures it’s modelled on. Chessington World of Adventure – it’s a zoo, I’m not sure why that’s not in its title – has introduced a “zero-tolerance” policy on animal print clothing for visitors. Zebra, giraffe, ­leopard, cheetah, tiger, hyena and African wild dog have all been banned since seeing visitors dressed in the aforementioned “confuses” the animals.

The question that’s been missed here is: who chooses to wear animal print to the zoo? And why? Is it a tribute? Or an attempt at camouflage? Or just a stunning lack of imagination? Answers on a postcard please.

I AM one of those sad city-dwellers who constantly dream of hitting the open road (rather than the pot-holed, traffic-filled variety), so it is with a heavy heart that I relate that later this year, after 63 years, the very last classic VW camper van will roll off the production line. That pesky old health and safety has done for the design classic and so the end is nigh.

Don’t imagine that I’m just a hopeless romantic – I have actually holidayed in one of these. I know that 50mph is as much as you can hope for. And I know that after the delicious bacon rolls in the morning, bedding down to the smell of the frying pan 12 hours later is less palatable. And I know that when it’s relentlessly hammering with rain in Arisaig, even being in a 1960s orange camper van, the van of your childhood dreams, doesn’t make it fun. But that they’ll no longer be made? That makes me sad. «

Twitter: @Scottiesays

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