Arts and Culture

Co-op Live finally opens with Elbow gig, overcoming controversies and mishaps

Three years after construction started and 21 days after its initial opening day was scrapped, the long-awaited opening of the Co-op Live occurred this Tuesday, with Bury band Elbow being the lead act.

The country’s biggest arena finally opened its doors at 6:40 pm on Tuesday as thousands of Elbow fans from across the country set foot inside the arena, ending a month full of controversies and postponements.

Initially, the arena was due to open on April 23 with comedian Peter Kay but following problems at a test show featuring Rick Astley before that, the arena decided to postpone Kay’s performance by one week and inaugurate the arena with American band The Black Keys on April 27.

However, problems could not be solved in time forcing that act also to be postponed and Gary Roden, the arena’s general manager, to quit.

Following another rescheduling of Peter Kay’s performance, the date for the grand opening seemed to be May 1st, featuring a gig by American rapper A Boogie wit da Hoodie.

The doors opened that day but had to be swiftly shut minutes later as part of the arena’s air conditioning system had crashed down from the ceiling, sparking outrage among the concert-goers already lined up outside the arena and becoming a national headline.

Co-op Live’s external screens promoting the arena’s inaugural show

Due to all those incidents, there were understandable concerns about potentially something going wrong on Tuesday as Co-op Live would attempt to commence its operations for a fourth time, with Bury band Elbow.

Helen, 48, was happily taking pictures with her husband James outside the newly-built £450 million arena but still had doubts whether they would be seeing the inside.

“It’s a bit weird coming here because of what happened the other day but also really exciting,” she said.

“We love Elbow and we are very excited to see them in this brand-new arena but at the same time with all the things we’ve heard there is this small fear in the back of our heads that everything is going to get cancelled again.” 

The historic first concert-goers to enter the Co-op Live

Her husband James, was a bit more optimistic adding: “We don’t think it’s going to actually happen, but hey you never know.

“It is breathtaking looking at the arena though, it is truly an amazing building and a great landmark for our city and we can’t wait to see the inside.”

Following the fiasco of the first couple of opening attempts, the arena naturally received a lot of criticism and bad press, which also resulted in prominent artists like Take That moving their gigs to the rival AO Arena or American pop star Olivia Rodrigo cancelling her upcoming concerts altogether.

The arena is owned by the Abu-Dhabi-based group that also owns Manchester City, American company Oak View Group and Harry Styles had been initially reported to cost around £360 million but, the latest estimates are putting the final sum to be around £450 million.

The inauguration of the arena marked the ascension of the arena straight to the top of the list with the biggest arenas in Europe as its 23,500-capacity edged out Antwerp’s SportPaleis 23,000.

As expected though, Co-op Live’s opening means that Manchester now has two large-scale arenas less than two miles apart from each other. Before the opening of Co-op Live, the only European city playing host to two large arenas was Birmingham, with its two arenas being able to host around 15,000 people each.

However, Manchester now boasts two 20,000+ arenas, thus raising the question of whether a second arena of that scale was needed.

One thing is certain, that issue was not in the mind of Elbow fans as they queued outside the arena waiting to be the first concert-goers inside.

One hour before the doors opened for the first time, Elbow hardcore fans had already formed a queue. By the time the doors opened, the queue stretched all the way to Etihad Stadium.

Even though I feel bad for everyone whose show got cancelled the other day, I can’t help but feel very happy that this gig is the one opening the arena,” Stephanie, 42 said right before joining the queue, minutes before the doors opened.

I am from Bolton and have seen them many times in the past and it is only fitting for a Manchester act to be the first ones to have a show here.”

At the end of the day, the doors opened, people had a great night with Elbow and Co-op Live started its journey as its bosses sure hope its legacy will be much more than a messy first couple of weeks while it awaits global stars and large-scale events to make their way to its state-of-the-art facility. 

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