Rod Stewart opens Hydro in Glasgow

HIS followers had been queuing since 9am to claim their spot in front of the vast stage - and were cheering from the moment the doors opened nine hours later.
Tonight's the night: Rod Stewart was the official opening act at the new Hydro stadium in Glasgow. Picture: Wattie CheungTonight's the night: Rod Stewart was the official opening act at the new Hydro stadium in Glasgow. Picture: Wattie Cheung
Tonight's the night: Rod Stewart was the official opening act at the new Hydro stadium in Glasgow. Picture: Wattie Cheung

Within minutes Glasgow’s new “Hydro” landmark had been turned into a sea of tartan by Rod Stewart’s army of fans.

And just after 8pm he was greeted with the kind of roar fitting for his beloved Hampden Park when the veteran rocker became the first headline act at the city’s new flagship concert arena.

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Many fans had booked tickets for all four sell-out shows Stewart is performing over the next week at the venue, officially known as the SSE Hydro thanks to Scottish Hydro’s long-term sponsorship deal with the venue.

The 68-year-old laughed off months of concerns over whether the £125 million complex would be ready for his run, telling the audience: “We made it.”

He had stormed on stage, sporting a sparkling silver jacket and immediately stormed through a strong of hits including This Old Heart of Mine, Tonight’s The Night and Twisting the Night Away.

After several songs Stewart was greeted with a deafening roar when he asked: “The most important question of all - how is it sounding?

“It’s a wonderful night - the building hasn’t fallen down yet. I was lying awake all last night thinking about it!”

Stewart, who was joined on stage during the show by his daughter Ruby, also quipped: “What an audience - have you had a drink tonight?”

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After a rendition of You’re In My Heart, which was accompanied by footage of his footballing heroes Celtic in action, a clearly emotional Stewart said: “I wish you could be up here on stage to hear what it sounds like - it is truly amazing.”

Stewart went through a string of costume changes and performed for around two hours, ending with one of his most famous hits, ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’, which was accompanied by the release of thousands of balloons above the heads of the audience, before a mass rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

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Before departing, Stewart - who is half-Scottish thanks to his Leith-born father, Bob - said simply: “Goodnight to my spiritual home.”

Before the gig got underway, one fan told The Scotsman she had flown to Scotland especially from Argentina for his Hydro shows.

Adriana Altamirano, a 46-year-old accountant, said: “I’ve been a fan since I was 12 years of age when I heard ‘Maggie May’ on the radio and thought: ‘oh my God, what a voice, who is that?’

“I’ve been going to see him since 1989 and must have seen him more than 20 times.

“I had to be here for these concerts as I knew they would be pretty special in such an amazing venue. “Glasgow is Rod’s city and it is a lot different seeing him here than in Argentina because of the reaction from the fans.”

Glaswegian Elizabeth Klaes, 61, took a week’s holiday from her job in a US air force base in Germany for the shows.

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She said: “I’ve been a fan since 1969, first saw Rod live in 1986 and couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him since.

“I wear a blue cowboy hat to every gig and queue up to get a spot at the front so I can try to shake his hand. I think I’m getting worse as I get older.

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“I can’t really explain what it is about him, but every concert is different.

“Glasgow has really needed a venue like the Hydro as the SECC was never really suited for concerts.

“I would go and see him there because it was in Glasgow but it wasn’t as good as other venues around the world, so it’s been great to have a real venue like this to come and see him in.”

Carer Hazel Hutton, 52, from Perth, said: “I’m driving up and down to Glasgow every night for his shows, I couldn’t miss them. “I’ve seen him around 30 times before this week, but I think he actually gets better every year. He’s just such a showman and is so charismatic.”

It is hoped the Hydro - to be run by the management of the neighbouring SECC - will play host to 140 events annually, generating an additional £130 million for the city’s economy.

The Hydro is already due to host the MOBOs next month, and is being deployed for netball and gymnastics events at next year’s Commonwealth Games.

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The 45-metre tall landmark - designed by renowned London practice Foster & Partners - is hoped to become one of the world’s leading five indoor arenas alongside Madison Square Gardens in New York.

Its backers claim the Hydro is “absolutely unique” anywhere in the world because of its scale, the fact it has been purpose-built for entertainment and its state-of-the-art facilities. Contractors had faced a race against time to complete the venue in recent months after its opening date had to put back several weeks - before Stewart’s run of opening gigs was announced - and then work was thrown into chaos by a dramatic fire on the vast construction site in June.

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Others acts due to appear over the next few months include Calvin Harris, The Proclaimers, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds and the Arctic Monkeys.

Building work on the 64-acre site of a former car park at the SECC began in February 2011, shortly before Scottish Hydro was unveiled as the official backer of the venue in a £15 million 10-year deal.