Friday, 21 June 2013

My London O2 Arena Experience

You should know by now that I love a good rant. I'll rant about anything to anyone, and today is no exception, as today I've got a rant of epic proportions. I went to the London O2 Arena on Monday to see the Pet Shop Boys, and I felt it was only necessary to impart my experience at the venue, as I wished I had known about these things before I got there.

Now as we'd spent the entire day in London before the gig, I was pleasantly surprised by how things in London worked, the tube and so on, but upon arriving at North Greenwich station, the experience took a tumble. I'd been in a few tube toilets, but this was by far the worst. I've been to Download festival, and those port-a-potties were spotless in comparison to North Greenwich toilets. I'm OCD about hygiene, I nearly hyperventilated.

Despite my fears of not being able to navigate London, the O2 was easily accessible from the tube station, you walk straight out and you're directed towards the dome straight away. Me and my mum turned up super early because we'd spent the day around London anyway, so we headed to Nando's for the first time, and the staff there were lovely, helpful and appreciative of the little time we had to get a good spot in the queue for the gig.

If you have standing tickets, be prepared to walk a mile to entrance F. It's not as accessible as you think. Yes, they think it's a good idea to punish you even more for choosing to stand for the next 4 hours.

We arrived at the queue with a good two hours before doors, so we made ourselves as comfortable as possible on the tarmac and waited. Half an hour before the doors were due to open, the staff ushered us into what I can only describe as cattle pens, telling us to bunch up as close as possible so they could fit enough people in. We'd got there early, so we weren't far down the queue. Half an hour later, 6.30 as stated on the tickets, the doors were still not open. Technical difficulties, we were told, obviously that's not the venue nor the artist's fault half the time, but it's the fact we were crammed into tiny spaces with barely enough room to breathe let alone stretch your arms or bend your back when you've been sat in an uncomfortable position for hours before anyway. I have very weak joints, so I was in excruciating pain sandwiched in between people with absolutely no room to sort out my cracking spine. Me and mum frequently contemplated turning around and going home, because our joints couldn't take it, we're not fit enough for that. Even if you don't suffer from claustrophobia, it's easy to develop it when you can feel the breath of the person behind you on your neck. It's not even that cramped when you get into the gig. I overheard people in the queue saying they'd even forgotten what they were waiting for, it had been such a long and traumatic experience.
A whole hour and 10 minutes in that environment and the doors were finally opened. The bag search was quick and painless, a lovely guy simply asked me to open my bag, barely touched it himself and let me through. The worst I was carrying was my compact mirror, so thankfully they weren't as thorough as I expected.

We ended up right at the barrier on the right hand side, where behind me they sectioned off an emergency exit path, which thankfully gave me enough room to origami my back into its original shape.

Now here's my biggest rant - if a venue is going to enforce a photography ban, enforce it properly. I have no qualms with a no photography rule, after all, bands get distracted by the flash and some rightly believe it's stupid to watch a gig through your smartphone screen instead of your own eyes. But please, O2, instead of getting a feeble staff member to shout 'no photography of the bands guys' to the first 20 people that turned up at the barrier, why not wait until everyone's arrived at the venue and use the plentiful speakers to let your warning be heard? With my mum shouting in my ear 'take a photo of this', 'take a photo of that', I caved and decided to try and take a photo. In the process of which, I was sharply ticked off by a member of staff in front of the stage. Being a decent person, I learned my lesson and I didn't take a photo again. However, when I saw the entire rest of the venue, both standing and seating, taking photos, I was a little more than cheesed off. I made a point of watching the staff to see if they were telling anyone else off, but they didn't. A girl two across from me at the barrier was recording the entire show using flash and she wasn't even approached. I'd call 'prejudice' if anyone was listening - why single me out? Was it just because I didn't look like the average 80s pop gig attendee? I'd have understood completely if I was causing a disruption to the gig, but I was at the far right of the barrier, with nobody behind me whatsoever, and I even have a shite 3GS with no flash to cause any distractions - so why me? Do I look easy to tell off? I'm afraid it hurts me when I'm the only one being targeted for doing something every single other person is doing. I don't like injustice at the best of times, but to embarrass me in front of the people around me while the girl nearby is still recording?
I've paid £80 for us to get here, you think I'm leaving without a crappy iPhone quality photo?
Credit where credit's due, however, the staff were on the ball with handing out water and ear defenders, plus a member of staff came and asked if I was alright as I was in tears from the pain halfway through the set, but perhaps I wouldn't have been in such a state if it weren't for the crowd herding before.

So all in all, it wasn't the greatest experience, and it wasn't the greatest venue. I'm much happier in a smaller, more intimate venue, but I'm aware venues like this are what make a band feel great about how far they've come. 
Of course, I understand some of you will work at the O2 and will completely disagree with what I'm saying. I'm aware I sound like another one of those frustrating customers those of us in retail wish didn't exist, but that's just a matter of opinion, and this is my opinion. I just wouldn't willingly go to the O2 again, it's not worth the grief.
For a band, if you've reached the O2, you've made it. For a fan, if you've reached the O2, you've set yourself up for a bumpy ride.

I'll review the Pet Shop Boys performance in another post this weekend, but I thought I'd share my venue experience separately.

Have you been to the O2 Arena? What did you think?

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1 comment:

  1. I work there and I'm sorry you had that experience :( the photography thing should be you can't take any professional equipment in and then it's down to the individual stewards as to whether they stop people filming or pictures but definitely wasn't fair for just you to be stopped xx


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