Sensory Symphony – Colston Hall, Bristol

Sunday 10th June, 2018

Less a gig, more an event. A chance to say farewell for the time being to Colston Hall. Although we do not know what it will be named when it comes back, of course. Today was the last day, the last chance, to see the hall before the 2 year project to transform it begins.  I was emotional going in. Colston Hall, in particular The Lantern have been such an integral part of my life over the past 18 months. I honestly do not know what I will do without regular trips there. Like many Bristolians, and after almost a decade here I hope I am allowed to call myself that, have many wonderful memories of Colston Hall.

I have only every known it with the shiny new extension, opened not that long after I moved here. It made the space open, welcoming and full of light. I think the first gig I saw was The Manic Street Preachers, who are always worth seeing live. They told stories about escaping out of windows and sneaking on to trains to get to gigs at Colston Hall as teenagers!

The first time I went to The Lantern (which remains one of my favourite venues in Bristol for somehow managing to combine intimacy and spaciousness) was to see Saul Williams. Or Peggy Seeger. I can’t remember which came first, but they demonstrate the range and diversity of acts you can see  at Colston Hall. Many of #40gigs took place in The Lantern. Wonderful gigs. Memorable gigs. I have cried, I have danced, I have shared and I have been alone. Always I have enjoyed myself. The plans for the Lantern are ambitious, bold and beautiful. Windows will be reopened, seats installed and capacity increased. The designs look incredible. I can’t wait!

The plans for the main hall also include increasing capacity and building new balconies, which are needed as the acoustics suffer in the current design. It will be glossy and modern and reflect Bristol’s place as a cultural leader for music.

I was nervous about today’s event, an audio visual, immersive experience. Would it be overwhelming? We all know what an emotional creature I am with music. We were ushered in and onto the stage. Now there is a treat right there! To know my feet have trodden Colston Hall’s boards. Standing on the stage gave a real flavour of what it would have been like to be a performer here, a new perspective for me as a fan. I looked out at the hall in front of me and remembered some of the amazing gigs I have seen here. Michael Kiwanuka on his 30th birthday, Nils Frahm (be still my heart), Mogwai giving it everything plus the kitchen sink, Penguin Cafe bringing so much joy and love,  The Bootleg Beatles and the singalong Hey Jude making me smile, Ezra Furman showing the world how to be unafraid & unashamed, 6 Music Festival which was one of the greatest weekends of my life and the first time I saw John Grant who was simply incredible. All on this stage, the one I was now stood on. I was already emotional and we hadn’t even begun!

We were treated to a whistle-stop, greatest hits tour of Colston Hall’s recent history. The great, the good, the infamous, the influential, anyone of musical consequence has played Colston Hall it would seem. The audio visuals were spectacular, I got goose bumps and shivers and wanted to dance all over the stage. They did a great job, it can’t have been an easy brief. Sensibly they went chronologically, although we did seem to skip the last couple of decades as we got tribute to the ‘Bristol sound’ of trip hop in the early 90’s then steamed ahead to the end. Did nothing of note happen in the late 90’s or all of the 00’s I wonder?! Icons of British music history flashed before us, The Beatles, The Stones, Bowie, Elton John, Queen, Led Zep, Hendrix, all have played Colston Hall. All were included today. If these walls could talk! Well they sang today, with glorious memories of the Hall’s past. It was a fitting way to bow out. I lingered on the stage as long as I dared, not wanting to leave. It isn’t goodbye, it’s a partial farewell. For a much-needed refurbishment and makeover. I know when it comes back it will have been worth the wait, and we will all make memories afresh among the Hall’s walls.

It was difficult to leave. Colston Hall and The Lantern were such a part of #40 gigs that it isn’t hyperbole to say this place helped to change my life.

Good luck to the transformation team, you have a big job ahead of you. One I know Bristol deserves and will respect. Once you are back, in 2020, I’ll be there on opening night, ready to embrace the new with as much passion and vigour with which I have the old.


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