“It has been widely reported that without a huge arena, Bristol will never attract the world’s most popular acts,” says the Bristol Post. “But the lack of an arena doesn’t seem to have deterred Take That” who, our flaccid local organ informs us, are playing a show at Ashton Gate on 28 May 2019. This is what passes for journalism in our fair city as the print industry limps to its end game. It’s embarrassing and, as a headline, it’s utterly misleading.
It is surely a matter of fact that, with a handful of exceptions over the years, that Bristol has not been able to attract “the world’s most popular acts”. It can only do so in late spring, summer and early autumn. For most of the year, Bristol is barely able to attract League One level acts.
Yes, we have had elderly AOR rockers like Bryan Adams, Meatloaf, Elton John and Bon Jovi, as well as elderly crooners like Neil Diamond performing large outdoor shows. And there have been large outdoor shows on the Clifton Downs featuring Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller and Massive Attack. However, the reality is that “the world’s most popular acts” are not able to play Bristol for most of the year. I am not sure why the Post seeks to suggest otherwise.
Take That are undoubtedly hugely popular in Britain. Whether they are among “the world’s most popular acts” is more open to debate. Their popularity is among a certain demographic, from my experience a more mature, largely female following. They have made some cracking pop songs over the years. Who would not want to hear Gary and the boys roll back the years for a couple of hours and play all the old songs? However, it is a flight of fancy to imply, as the Post does, that maybe we can manage perfectly fine without an arena just because Take That are coming to play a football ground.
I happen to think that Take That are easily Britain’s best middle aged bloke boy band and I hope they make millions towards their pension pots next spring and summer. For Bristol it’s a good thing but it mustn’t detract from the real issue: we don’t have an arena for the top bands and acts. It didn’t deter Take That but it does mean that hardly any major acts ever come to Bristol. Nothing has changed.