Did You See What I Saw?



Music venues are a blessing and a curse – they give you the chance to see dream-teams of bands and performers you’d never be able to see anywhere else, but they can also be cattle-runs where you see virtually nothing from expensive terrible seats. From a strictly viewing point of view, the worst experiences I’ve had in my life have all been at the same place – the 02 in North Greenwich, London. The venue holds 23,000 audience members per show. It’s in the middle of what feels like a downmarket shopping mall full of reeking burger bars, shops selling souvenir tat and massive toilet queues.

But the real problem is inside; if you have the best seats in the house it’s probably great – I don’t know because I’ve never been able to get through on websites or phone lines fast enough to secure one of these hallowed spots. But if you’re sitting anywhere else, what you see is a distant blur of sparkles. The last time I went to the 02 to see a band, I could have been at home staring into my cutlery drawer for all of the revelations this visual treat had in store.

Watching Monty Python presented the same problem. The distant matchstick people onstage were barely visible to the naked eye, and fully half of the show existed on screens that we couldn’t see. Compare the shots below of what the press witnessed and what I actually saw, and your response may be like mine – ‘I’ll wait for the DVD’. I’ve seen worse, though.

At the London Palladium I sat in the front row and only saw the tops of the performers’ ears.

Why? Because they had added six rows where the orchestra would normally have been, and the seats passed beneath the height of the stage. You can always tell these seats because they have double letters (AA, BB and so on) – never, ever take them!

The best auditorium I’ve ever been to was in Monte Carlo, at the Sporting Club, a sparkling glass-domed building that’s intimate and spectacular, and folds open to reveal the sea all around it. They have Vegas-weight performers like Diana Ross and Tom Jones there for about £90 including a three course meal and wine, and the tables are all close to the stage.

The weirdest experience I ever had was at a dinner theatre in America, where we ate terrible food while watching a filleted version of a Broadway show with all the dialogue removed, leaving cleaned-up versions of songs.

Many years ago London several similar intimate supper clubs including the Talk Of The Town and the best and most famous, Country Cousins off the King’s Road, which had legendary superstar performers in an intimate venue, with excellent dinners. It could be done then, so why not now?


3 comments on “Did You See What I Saw?”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    I was going to suggest opera glasses but I think something more powerful, a specialist version of army night vision binoculars that will cut the glare, perhaps.

  2. Keith says:

    Those pesky little smartphones have recently caused Bob Dylan and his band to play in near complete darkness and Jack White (or one of his band) to come out before the concert to ask people not to use them and to just enjoy the show. This is my main quirk for not visiting theaters and concerts as frequently as I used to. Try sitting behind a row of them and concentrating on what is going on on the stage. Horrible.

  3. Wayne says:

    Big venues just don’t work. My best experience was seeing ken dodd at the Theatre in Bridlingtons’ Spa complex. A small space but every seat gives a great experience.

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