So what’s it like going to the first gig in 18 months?

22 Jul

Forget Covid, I’m old enough now that it’s been a couple of years since I went to a gig. But what a re-entry into live music, what a mix of emotions!

I live in a forest, work from home and the most packed place I usually experience is the local Waitrose, so it was with no small amount of anxiety that I went to the Academy in Bristol, capacity 1,600, to see Royal Blood.

Royal Blood at the O2 Academy, Bristol on 21 July 2021
Royal Blood at the O2 Academy, Bristol on 21 July 2021

The chart-topping rock band are on a mini tour, starting with a gig that could only be described as intimate by a band who happily pack out arenas. (My Other Half earned himself serious brownie points by scoring a couple of tickets within the three minutes it took to sell out.)

I wanted to go, badly, but also worried about our two holidays coming up – didn’t want a post-gig Covid ping to cancel them. Don’t worry, OH said, no one’s getting in without a Covid passport and a mask.

True, people wore a mask for entry but they were quickly dumped inside. So we sat in the bar area, socially distanced, enjoying the thump of the support act from the dance floor, saving our energy for the main event, me wondering if the air con was on and if it was circulating air to the outside or just spreading the germs more effectively.

Well that wasn’t going to work. Either leave or enjoy it, I told myself. So we slipped back into our clubbing habits. Hold off until the exodus to the bar in the interval and then rush in and nab any space with a view.

In the wait, every time a roadie emerged with a guitar or the lights flashed and dimmed everyone reliably cheered and I relaxed a little more. A step at the back between a couple of people my age gave a better view – zero social distancing (but what difference was that going to make, honestly, at this stage?). A chunk of the crowd had Arctic Monkey’s Brianstorm word and pitch perfect. I was airdropped a picture and pressed accept and a pizza flashed up. Uh, oh. This isn’t from Pete – is my phone infected? Panic. Turn it off! (Discovered later this a thing waiting young folk do. Phew. Panicking over a silly pizza pic!)

The band comes on to chants of Royal Blood, and people were going wild. The young woman up behind me wanted guitarist and singer Mike’s babies. Mike looked like he’s been working out. Drummer Ben had a fluffy beard. (Describing Mike as the guitarist and Ben as the drummer sounds as daft as Jack the guitarist and Meg the drummer)

The mic failed for the first half of the first song but it’s okay because the crowd knows the words and, anyway, that’s how you know it’s live.

People bounced, flung their arms around, went back and forth for drinks. Mike greets Bristol, grins and does the guitarist rift gurn. Ben launches into a rock drum solo and spins it right out into the bobbing and jerking heads below. I’m doing the dance I do when each movement bumps into the person next to you but it doesn’t matter. They treat us to a new track, and I know it’s a new track because the wants-to-be-Mike’s-baby-mama behind me didn’t sing along but everyone listened. A topless twenty-something bloke replaced the woman to my left. There’s more room for dancing! I take off my sweaty mask and whoop.

Mike asks us if are enjoying ourselves and what a night it is and how crazy has been the last 18 months? (I imagined them before they came on stage, a mix of ‘can I still do this?’ and ‘let me at ‘em!’) And don’t we need a night like this where we could be in the moment? Tonight is special. Mike thumps his fist on his chest (thump, thump, thump, thump; big cheers) looking at his audience, then head up, outspread arms, soaking it all in, as Ben, behind the drums, stick in hand, shakes his head with an indulgent grin.

Encore over, Mike leaves his guitar on stage to have the final say and I, with eyes shut, absorb the pulsating strip of stage lights and the throb of the last chord.

Louisa Davison

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