‘Amazing’ gig in the corner as Manchester’s Co-op Live arena finally opens

British rock band Elbow said their first gig at Manchester’s rowdy Co-op Live arena was “amazing”.

Live music finally kicked off at the beleaguered venue on Tuesday night as the group took to the stage in the UK’s largest indoor arena.

The opening was delayed three times after part of the building’s ventilation and air conditioning system fell to the ground from the ceiling during a sound check in early May.

But the doors opened on Tuesday as fans flocked to see the Manchester band.

Sharing photos from the concert on Instagram, the group wrote: “Thank you Manchester @thecooplive you were amazing.”

Amanda Wells, 34, a freelance legal transcription professional, traveled from Texas to see Elbow’s support band The Waeve perform.

She told the PA news agency: “Everyone was super nice and welcoming and really excited to see the first band to play at the venue.

“I think everyone in the audience and the band had a lot of fun. I was up front and the sound was great. My friend and I listened to a bit of Elbow from the back and it wasn’t nearly as good as the front.

“I had heard about some problems and I knew that some concerts had been cancelled, and I was a bit nervous about this one being cancelled. But I was coming regardless!

“I was with friends going in and I felt safe, there was a huge crowd but I felt the staff and security did a great job managing the entry and I felt safe and comfortable. Manchester has loads of really friendly people!”

She said The Waeve “has not addressed the issues” that have surrounded the venue in recent weeks.

“(They mentioned) it was a privilege to be the first band to play at the new venue!

She said she watched The Waeve on their current tour and that this was her fourth concert.

Samantha, 51, from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, booked tickets to see Elbow to celebrate her birthday on Tuesday.

She told the PA: “The reception was excellent, the staff friendly and warm and the venue really suited them.”

She said she felt safe at the venue, adding: “Right in front and (behind), there was a lot of security.”

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Elbow performs at BBC Studioworks (Matt Crossick/PA)

Elbow were celebrating the release of their tenth studio album, Audio Vertigo, with their first tour of 2018, as they made history as the opening night headliners at the arena.

Frontman Guy Garvey told the crowd that those working on the building were “so excited today, so nervous and so excited,” in a video shared on X, formerly Twitter.

“There was already electricity in the air before you guys got here, and now it’s all amplified. I hope you can feel that,” he said.

Before ending his set, Garvey told the crowd, “You’ve warmed up this beautiful new place, shall we play one last song together?” in a video on X.

Trouble at the arena began after a test event in April led to comedian Peter Kay’s stand-up dates being rescheduled.

Kay, who was due to be “the first artist in the world to play Manchester Co-op Live”, according to promotional posters, had his shows postponed twice because the venue was not ready to open.

The problems also led to the rescheduling of a Black Keys concert venue.

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Concertgoers arrive at Co-op Live in Manchester for the Elbow concert (Peter Byrne/PA)

The venue then planned for American rapper A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie to open the arena on May 1, but it was canceled just over an hour before the show and after the doors opened to fans – as the ventilation system detached.

Ahead of Tuesday night’s gig, Steve Jones, 58, from Rhyl in North Wales, told the PA news agency he was “a bit worried” about what was to be planned.

“I hope everything goes well,” he said. “It’s been a long time, to see all the others that have been cancelled, because we live 60 miles away and then you think, ‘I hope it all works out.’

Nigel Thomas, 56, from Chester, had come with family members, with a relative traveling from Hong Kong to see the band.

He said recent arena cancellations had left him feeling “scared” and “worried”.

“We (were) worried if it was going to go somewhere else, maybe it would just be postponed, and we wouldn’t be able to all get together and make it happen, so tonight feels a little weird, still a little worried that it was Actually, it hasn’t started yet, so we still have a few hours to go.”

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Comedian Peter Kay (Peter Byrne/PA)

Neville Lawson, 58, from Durham, spoke to the PA alongside Jo Elliott, 53, from Middlesbrough.

Mr Lawson, who was wearing an Elbow T-shirt from a gig he attended 21 years ago, said: “We’ve had the tickets for a while, we didn’t think it would actually go out.

“To think a band from Manchester, who are Elbow, the first band to open the arena, that’s amazing, isn’t it? If you think about all the other (acts) – Peter Kay, Take That – and everything, we’ve got a band from Manchester opening, it’s brilliant.

“(We were) worried it was going to cancel and (and) not happen. Or we’ll be moved to the other arena in Manchester, which is just a big airplane hangar.”

Tim Leiweke, chief executive of arena operator Oak View Group, said the arena’s fixtures and fittings were “triple checked” after the incident in May, which could have been “catastrophic” if it had happened just 15 minutes later .

He told BBC News he was confident it was the “safest building in the world”, adding there was “no way” the operators could have known the ventilation was not installed correctly.

“They didn’t put the screws. It was not visible to the eye,” he said. “And he fell.

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Concertgoers arriving at the Co-op Live arena (Peter Byrne/PA)

“So I’ve (since) double-checked and triple-checked. We looked at thousands of screws up in that ceiling now. We looked at lifelines. And we were going to take our time to make sure we did it right.

“There was no way we were going to open the doors until we checked every screw and every bolt and every one of those 95 shafts.”

The ventilation problem meant that scheduled performances by US pop star Olivia Rodrigo and British band Keane were postponed, while a number of shows by Take That were moved to Manchester’s AO Arena.

Last week, East Sussex rock band Keane announced that the postponed gig had been rescheduled for October 19, while new dates have yet to be announced for Rodrigo.

The venue has also added a headline performance by American rapper Travis Scott, who will bring his Circus Maximus tour on July 13.

Arena Co-op Live is a joint venture between Oak View Group, co-founded by Leiweke and American music mogul Irving Azoff, and City Football Group, owned by billionaire royal and UAE Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour.

Harry Styles is among the other investors.