Music Venue In Tune With City
BBC News 27th March 2003


As music lovers in Glasgow will testify the city has been crying out for a new venue for some time. 
And the Glasgow Academy, which opened for the first time on Wednesday evening, offers something different. 

Situated in Eglinton Street in the Gorbals area of the city, the venue replaces the New Bedford cinema, which opened in 1921 but had lain derelict for the past decade. 

And it seemed somewhat apt that the first headline act at the academy was one of the country's most famous bands - Deacon Blue. While the band, which took its name from a Steely Dan song of the same name, may not be everyone's musical cup of tea, there is no doubting its Scottish credentials and chart success in the late 1980s. 

Skipping the queue 

Queuing outside the 3m building under the gaze of commuters on the many buses that passed, it was easy to feel part of something new. There was barely a face under the age of 25, hardly surprising since tickets had gone on sale with the attraction of Deacon Blue playing its 1987 debut album Raintown. The album was so called as a tribute to Glasgow, the city where the band lived and the music propelled it to stardom. 

Organisers at the door apologised for the length and duration of the VIP queue, though not before television presenter Carol Smillie managed to skip everyone in it! One comedian in the queue suggested she must have promised a free make-over for the new venue. 

But safely inside the academy and a beer later, the frustration disappeared. Fans said they were excited by the prospect of seeing the band again and listening to songs they grew up with. Through excitable gulps of cider one fan said: "I had my first snog to Deacon Blue at the third year school disco." 

Away from the bar and towards the stage it was easy to see the new academy had left the art deco architecture intact. 

Glasgow 'looking good' 

The giant pillars and crystal ball in the centre of the ceiling gives it a Bugsy Malone feeling, though there was no sign of splurge guns in the crowd. The venue was designed by the project team responsible for the Brixton Academy and three others similar academies in England. Glasgow Academy is available for live gigs, dance events, club nights and smaller events to showcase new talent. 

When support band The Pearlfishers finished their set the 2,500 capacity crowd hushed and awaited the main event. Peering over the balcony to the seats and standing area below showed the arena was packed. 

Fantastic sound 

"You're looking good Glasgow," lead singer Ricky Ross said. A large screen above the band projected a record on a turntable as Ross belted out the title song Raintown. Throughout the set the screen alternated between black and white images of Glasgow and videos of the band's hits, taking fans down memory lane. 

The sound is great and visually the stage does its part to keep the audience attentive. Other popular venues like the SECC and Barrowlands may now face some serious competition. 

The academy is more intense than the SECC and avoids the beer shower which usually greets the crowd at The Barras. Lorraine McIntosh, second vocalist, still jumps about the stage like a cat on a hot tin roof and only pauses to pick up the tambourine. 

The song Loaded was "a tribute" Ross said, to politicians Tommy Sheridan and George Galloway. 
Ross said when the former spoke he felt as though he was speaking for him. 

Political comment 

The singer then concentrated his ire on Tony Blair and George Bush for granting military action in Iraq.  It was emotive and politically loaded.  War was not the best policy, the pair on stage sang. Instead they believed "I have found an answer" and the audience was left in no doubt what they meant. 

The mood brightened with Chocolate Girl and Dignity nearly brought the house down. Even those who do not count Deacon Blue among their favourite bands would surely admit Dignity is a catchy song. 

Fergus Sings the Blues was sang with gusto and the band put on a stellar performance. 
From there Deacon Blue toyed with the crowd and McIntosh executed a mock collapse on stage. Ross ran over and fanned her with a white towel. The audience could have done with the same. 
If there is one stumbling block to a great night at the academy it would be the sweltering heat. 
Either be prepared to shed a few pounds during an evening at the venue or don the t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops because it is roasting. 

'South of the river' 

Real Gone Kid quickened the pulse and the band came back on for an encore and fired through another three songs. Deacon Blue received a standing ovation and so heralded a new music venue for Glasgow. Ross said it was fitting the academy was located "south of the river, in God's part of the country". It was passionate, pulsating stuff and the crowd, sweaty but happy, lapped it up.