In this series our contributors go back into their vault of writings to breathe life into live reviews and interviews from a time gone by. In this vault, Martin Donaldson looks back on his first gig in Barrowland – 7th December 1994.
On the 7th December 1994, I made my first visit to the famous Glasgow Barrowlands. Having grown up with older siblings who had shared stories of U2, Simple Minds & The Pogues at the famous venue, I was finally getting the chance to savour the experience for myself.
Earlier in the year, I had missed out on the once in a lifetime opportunity to see Nirvana rock my hometown due to Kurt Cobain’s suicide. I kept the ticket & it’s safely tucked away in book somewhere in the attic I made a trip to the 1st T In the Park at Strathclyde Park to see Rage Against the Machine take the stage with Cypress Hill in what was a great way to sign off my last year at high school. Now, I was on my way to Barrowland Ballroom.
Walking along the Gallowgate on a cold December night, there is nothing quite like the sight of the neon lights guiding you to your destination. Throngs of fans, walking the route each with their own expectations of what might be in store.
At first glance on entering the doors, the venue was nothing exciting, some dated décor, couches & posters of upcoming gigs. Climbing the stairs & turning into the main hall I couldn’t help think how small the place was. I walked in & took my place in the very centre of the hall & stood with my friend waiting on the gig to start.
The Oasis fans streamed through the doors & before you knew it, the hall was packed & ready for a show. The lights dimmed, the crowd roared & the band hit straight into Rock & Roll Star. No sooner had the band started, I realised I was no longer in the middle, but somewhere near the front, with my body being pulled in the surge towards the stage. If this was the start, I couldn’t wait for whatever was coming next.
Oasis kept the crowd going into the 2nd & 3rd songs when all of a sudden Liam crackled & promptly walked off stage followed by the rest of the band. The huge crowd were getting anxious & restless, giving Liam abuse for his disappearing act. After a few minutes, Noel walked back on stage himself armed only with his guitar, he dusted himself down & launched into several tracks giving us an insight into what many thought was the driving force in the band.
An evening with Noel Gallagher then made way for a short session with the rest of Oasis (minus Liam Gallagher) to close the gig. As a final gesture – the band confirmed they would make it up to the fans by playing a gig for free at the same venue later that month.
Leaving the gig, I couldn’t help think that as great as Oasis were, Noel showed that he could lead the way & deliver a top performance, but disappointed not to see the full band perform.
Around 3 weeks later, in between Christmas & New Year, Oasis true to their word arrived back at the Barrowland to play their set. This time, I didn’t make the mistake of going too near the front & stayed near the back, my friend & I got to the gig early & watched the crowds come in.
During the short 3 week break between gigs, Oasis had managed to become the biggest band on the scene & with the release of the Whatever single they had welcomed more fans onboard.
On the 27th December the atmosphere at the Barrowland was electric before our heroes took the stage.
Standing at the back of the hall I watched & listened to a band that had conquered all in front of them since the spring of 1994. Liam led the line with his trademark swagger & the rest of the band followed him. “Look at you now, you’re all in my hands” never seemed so appropriate.
The rock ‘n’ roll stars had arrived & were in no mood to look back. Now I could see what had made the Barrowlands one of the leading venues in the land. The mutual energy between the band & the fans, the closeness of the stage & the acoustics lifted everyone to new levels.
Moving seamlessly from one crashing anthem to the next from their Definitely Maybe album, they even slowed the tempo down giving lovers the chance to get close during “Slide Away”. The show came & went in a flash & left nobody in the 2000+ crowd disappointed.
1994 was a musical roller-coaster for me, but in the last few weeks of 1994, not only did I get to experience the legendary Barrowland Ballroom, but I watched the transition of the new band on the block become the UK’s new Rock ‘n’ Roll stars & free to do whatever they want.
Same venue – different year…