A confession: I’ve spent years avoiding stadium shows. For a long time, the ideal place for me to see a gig was in a sticky-floored toilet venue, so close to the band that you could smell the bass player’s whiskey breath and the singer’s flagrant disregard for deodorant. Then, accidentally, I fell madly in love with Bruce Springsteen.
I soon discovered that Bruce Springsteen is a popular guy and that I was not the only person in love with him. Being a nice, generous person, when Bruce comes to town he wants to play for everyone who wants to see him, meaning arenas are generally his bag, but he occasionally drops in on a stadium too. My first stadium experience, then, was at Emirates, Arsenal’s vast football field in the middle of north London, all because of Bruce.
I remember it being daylight for far too long. I remember sturdy Bruce looking like a little dot on a stage that was too far away. I remember having to queue for the toilets for almost longer than was physically possible. Almost. And I remember thinking I really, really didn’t like stadium gigs.
But recently everything changed. I went to see Guns N’Roses at London Stadium – the former site of the 2012 Olympics – and finally saw the light. Sure, it’s impossible to get over that weird bit when it’s 7.45pm in the middle of summer and the sun’s still blazing and a major-league rock band come on to the sparks of pyro, but damn it if a gigantic ground full of 80,000 people roaring in joy doesn’t help you quickly get over how odd that is.
I found happiness in the strange cardboard containers they gave me to carry my pints with, in the extreme vastness of the whole thing and in the fact that everyone was committed to having a good time – you would be too if you’d spent that much money on tickets. I’m pretty sure I walked a mile around the venue just to find a friend on the other side, but when I did, our joint rendition of ‘November Rain’ was even sweeter.
The stadium show has a different – but just as valid – appeal to the dingy pub backroom show. For starters, you’re bound to see someone decent, or at the very least, someone who’s sold an awful lot of records. The same cannot be said for rocking up to the Camden Monarch on a Tuesday. The stadium show boasts a different kind of intimacy – one shared with more people than you’ll ever meet in your lifetime, but one in which you definitely all fancy Slash. And if that’s not a good enough reason for an epic night out, then I don’t know what is.