I could lie to you and choose the far cooler Placebo as my first concert since it was my first parent free one in 2000, but I am nothing if not honest and the truth is, my actual first experience of live music was the 1995 Smash Hits Roadshow at the Manchester G-Mex.
For those of you unfamiliar with the complexities of ‘Smash Hits’ magazine’s associated concerts, I’ll offer a quick rundown: Every year, there would be a ‘roadshow’ that would showcase up-and-coming acts along with some more established c-list talent, the culmination of which would be the ‘Smash Hits Poll Winners Party’ – a sort of reader-voted Oscars for middling pop stars that, much like the roadshow, was held in an arena filled with throngs of teenage girls positively vibrating with excitement.
The roadshow I attended featured a number of acts, but I was attending for one act and one act only: Let Loose. “Who?” you may (reasonably) ask. Well, you might (with big emphasis on that word) remember their 1994 single ‘Crazy for You’ that charted at the fairly impressive number two spot in 1994. They went on to have some further success in and around the top 10 in the couple of years following it but ultimately, just kind of faded into obscurity (I learned of the split by assumption when the phone line you would ring for band news and information one day disappeared without warning). The band did plan a reunion tour in 2014, but for whatever reason, it was cancelled without explanation.
While I would love to tell you about their performance in great detail, all I can truly remember from that night was the jumper I was forced to wear. That’s right, instead of the on-trend oversized checked shirt I wanted to put on, my 10-year-old self was forced into wearing an ugly knitted jumper, over the top of a polo neck no less.
As an adult I have to admit that I can – begrudgingly – see where my mother was coming from: I used to get ear infections a lot and was just getting over one when the show rolled around, so she thought it was wise for me to cover up and well, it was November, but the overriding uncoolness I felt myself exuding from every pore (along with sweat because as any seasoned concert goer knows, they tend to be a greenhouse no matter the temperature outside) is all that I can really recall.
To say I remember nothing of Let Loose isn’t true, but the memory is as scant a flash as it is of fellow performers Boyzone and PJ & Duncan (aka. Ant and Dec). I do, however, remember in the walk up to the arena seeing the tour bus passing me and getting waved to by none other than Sean Maguire (at the time he had had a couple of singles out on the back of his fame from EastEnders in its 90s hay day, although he has since gone on to have a fairly respectable TV career in Hollywood) and Shampoo (the two blondes who sang that annoying ‘Trouble’ song you’ll now have in your head for the rest of the day after just reading the title), so that’s something.
The next and only other time I would visit the same venue (it was converted into an NHS Nightingale Hospital at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in April 2020) would be to see Morrissey perform in 2006. The years since have proved to me that I am incapable, as they say, of separating the art from the artist and thus cannot listen to his music now without thinking of his aberrant political opinions, but still, I do have fond memories of the concert (anyone who has attended or witnessed a Morrissey gig will know his fans might be politely described as passionate), but the best thing about it of all? There was absolutely no jumper to be seen.