The SSE Hydro Arena set to bring big name acts to Glasgow
- Dave Pollock
- 18 September 2013
Fleetwood Mac, Bruno Mars, Rod Stewart and Jesus Christ Superstar among the venue's first shows
Will Glasgow’s newest, and biggest, indoor venue, have the X factor? David Pollock explores The Hydro before its opening this month
Any venue that opens with a first week of shows that includes four nights by Rod Stewart alongside dates with Fleetwood Mac, rumoured Superbowl half-time act Bruno Mars and the stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar might not set hipster hearts aflame, but it should also give the impression we’re talking about An Event occurring here. Make no mistake, whether the X Factor tour get your juices flowing, in raw economic terms the opening of Glasgow’s Hydro (or to give it its full title, the SSE Hydro Arena) is surely the biggest thing to happen to live music in the UK this year.
If you’ve driven across the Kingston Bridge in the last few months, you’ll know the one we mean: it’s the futuristic upturned bowl dwarfing its nearby Clyde Auditorium and SECC sister venues, the one which looks like it was modelled on one of Daft Punk’s helmets. At full capacity it holds 13,000 per performance (that’s 3000 more than the strikingly obsolete-looking SECC), and the ambitious stated intention is for it to become one of the top five entertainment arenas in the world.
‘It depends how you evaluate the top five,’ ponders the Hydro’s director of concerts, events and ticketing John Langford. ‘Generally it’s from an annual poll done by the industry magazine Pollstar which measures the top hundred based on footfall over the year. In fact, I’m confident we can get into the top three based on projections for the next five years, which means we’d need to get about a million people a year through the venue. I’m confident we can do that. We’re already seeing a tremendous demand.’ Let’s put that in perspective: only New York’s Madison Square Garden and London’s O2 will be bigger.
Based on a Roman amphitheatre-style design by architects Foster + Partners, the Hydro differs from the SECC in that it’s a purpose-built concert arena rather than a multi-use exhibition and conference centre. This means, says Langford, that ‘pretty much every seat in the house is a really good one, both for the view and the audio,’ particularly with the Arenamation screen which wraps around the interior wall.
The knock-on effect is that Glasgow can now attract more and bigger artists throughout the year, rather than just to Hampden on select summer dates, thanks to a combination of the really high-end production facilities, the increased concert capacity and frankly, the fact that the heightened experience everyone will be receiving means that promoters can charge more for tickets. Upcoming shows include Disney On Ice, Andrea Bocelli, Celtic Connections, the MOBO Awards, Black Sabbath and two nights from Calvin Harris, ‘which sold out within hours.’
Glasgow is the perfect spot, says Langford, because not only is it a city with a huge appetite for live music, but the catchment radius for the concerts the Hydro will stage stretches all the way down to Manchester and Liverpool. ‘Over March, April and May we only have something like fourteen days where we aren’t booked,’ he says. ‘So the challenge for us is what we do over the summer months, and that’s where we work with the Commonwealth Games, with Events Scotland and trying to attract really big headliners from festivals down south that we now have the capacity for. We’re announcing two really, really big pop shows shortly that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, huge productions that only the modern arena can handle.’