Up In The Sky

So much of what led up to the Co-op Live’s opening was shrouded in negativity, uncertainty and cancelled events.

The arena was billed as one of the standout venues across the country boasting a seating capacity of 23,500 with the ability to host concerts as well as major sporting events and everything else in between.

The advanced sound systems, immersive AV experience and ultra-high definition screens, excited the city – a new arena that was set to challenge the existing AO arena, or as many of us Mancs know it as the MEN Arena.

I must say, I had already formed negative opinions about the arena based on the press and the mis-handling of the comms throughout the process. The lack of communication to the public made me shudder, I sympathised with them as well as feeling as sense of relief that it wasn’t part of one of our events.

Having said this, as soon as I knew Liam Gallagher was headlining, I jumped at the chance of going. A Manchester icon playing one of the most significant albums of the 90’s had to be triumphant? I had full belief in the artist, but if the venue was as tardy as we were led to believe then nothing was going to help the Oasis frontman.

Travelling from Manchester City Centre was easy. The tram system is free of charge when there is a live gig, two stops from Piccadilly, it took no time at all. Equally the parking was abundant and well signposted.

Arriving at the venue in good time was a win, fewer queues and plenty of human signage to guide you to the appropriate entrance. The ticket checking and security process was questionable.

Going through a snake system to firstly arrive at the security screening zone. This was comprised of 4-6 lanes scanning each individual – not many for the amount of people who were entering through this route. We arrived early so it wasn’t a problem, but I suspect during peak times it would become crammed and uncomfortable.

Security Screening Zone

The longest moment was the bag check. I waited behind one guest, getting her bag checked, who was receiving confusing information from the employee, I stood and waited for 3-4 minutes, before turning to another security guard who was doing nothing.

Next was the ticket check. Again, few turnstiles but a good scanning system, much like scanning your boarding card at the airport.

Ticket scanning

As soon as the admin was done, we were greeted by a clean, modern venue that became exciting to explore.

The mirrored detail on the ceiling emphasised the slick black architecture throughout with punches from neon battens. There was plenty of signage and branding opportunities throughout, as well as a main screen above the bar to excite everyone about what was to come. I found myself getting giddy over the miniature Co-op shop enabling guests to buy refreshments and substantial snacks – offering hot food to take into the arena. There’s something homely about the Co-op, that makes buying from them feel less of a transaction than at normal venues.

Across all levels there were plenty of bars, but the biggest downfall were the staff. Inexperienced bar staff taking too long to serve and having limited understanding of the bar offering. I asked for a prosecco and the response was ‘we don’t haven’t prosecco, but we do have Malbec.’ Not exactly like for like. To compound the slow service the cost of drinks was outrageous. A single Gin and Tonic costing £9.80.

The arena itself was impressive. Architecturally they made it feel small, even though the capacity is huge. We had standing tickets and in every spot you felt close to the stage – you weren’t missing out if you were 4 rows back or 40.

The acoustics were tremendous, the dulcet tones of Liam Gallagher filled the room and transported everyone back to 1994. The stage set was designed as the Definitely Maybe album cover or for the big fans - Bonehead's Living Room in Burnage. They even managed to capture The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as pictured on the album cover. Magic.

The venue felt safe, accessible, the flow was good even the toilets were well situated and there were lots! I had to queue once and it took no more than 30 seconds. Not the usual experience in the female toilets.

Oasis: Whatever

I’m won over and excited to go back. I’m even more thrilled that this iconic arena is in Manchester.

Absolutely mad for it.


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