Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Show great; venue services a dud

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Bruce Springsteen's interaction with the crowd made it seem a far more intimate show than a crowd of 40,000-plus would suggest and his energy was extraordinary. Photo / HOS
Bruce Springsteen's interaction with the crowd made it seem a far more intimate show than a crowd of 40,000-plus would suggest and his energy was extraordinary. Photo / HOS

The respected rock magazine, Rolling Stone, hailed Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band as the best live act in the world. Not bad for old geezers who have been performing for a couple of decades. And by crikey, Rolling Stone was right. Until last weekend, I had never seen Springsteen live and after rave reports from friends and family who had, I was primed for a good night.

I was a little disappointed that the concert was at Mt Smart, not Western Springs, where he'd played last time, but hey. Minor inconvenience and surely we've learned a lot from the Rugby World Cup about moving large numbers of people around the city.

Things looked promising initially - Auckland Transport offered free buses and trains to ticket-holders and the ride to Mt Smart went without a hitch.

It was a gorgeous night and we met plenty of out-of-towners, who had spent considerable money making a weekend of it in Auckland.

The couples I met from Christchurch and Dunedin couldn't get over how friendly everyone was.

It was a short walk from the train station to Mt Smart and there were plenty of helpful security staff to help those who weren't sure which gate they should head to.

Jimmy Barnes was just finishing as we took our seats and the Irishman headed to the bar to get a beer and a wine for me. Half an hour later he was back. Two warm beers and no wine. Apparently, the choice of beverages was crap beer, cat's piss sauvignon and an average pinot.

I decided a little later I'd brave the food caravans, given we'd left home at 4.30pm and it would be at least midnight before we got home.

The first two offered chicken and chips or fish and chips - but they were out of chicken and out of fish. So it was just chups. Sauce was 50c extra.

Eventually I found a caravan that hadn't sold out of chicken and fish and it was jolly tasty. But, when you have a fair idea of how many people you need to cater for at a sell-out show, what possible excuse can you have for running out?

In this day and age, with the quality of produce and restaurants around the country, people are looking for something more than fish and chips when they go out. I know it's catering on a huge level. I wasn't expecting haute cuisine but there are plenty of other quick and easy-to-cook dishes that don't need to be deep fried.

The availability and choice of food was appalling. Since a lot of people were at the venue for at least six hours, they were going to be hungry.

It's not as if there's anywhere to go after you come out of Mt Smart, either. You have to head back to the city before you can find cafes or bars, but that's another story.

I hope Regional Facilities can put a rocket up the franchise owners they've inherited or Mt Smart as a concert venue is doomed.

On the plus side, Bruce was superb. On Saturday, he played Born in the USA from start to finish. He and Tom Morello on Ghost of Tom Joad induced goosebumps.

His respect for his bandmates and the audience was obvious. His interaction with the crowd made it seem a far more intimate show than a crowd of 40,000-plus would suggest and his energy was extraordinary.

The tickets were expensive, but for what Bruce and the band gave, they were worth three times the amount. I am in awe of the man.

Yet his professionalism and that of the band just highlighted how woefully amateur Auckland is at big events.

We left just before the final encore. Call me a cynic but I just didn't trust Auckland Transport's ability to get 40,000 people home. And I was right.

We caught one of the first trains but people told me they were still waiting nearly two hours later to catch a train and many of them missed out on one altogether and had to wait for buses.

I love going to Mt Smart to see the Warriors but it's awful - just awful - as a concert venue.

The caterers are appalling. On the Sunday night, they ran out of booze - before the show even started. You don't need to be off your chops to enjoy a show, but it's reasonable to expect a couple of beers during a 3-hour concert.

Seeing Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live was one of those all-time great experiences for me. Nothing could spoil it.

But I would rather travel to Australia to see a live show than travel to Mt Smart Stadium again.

And I'd recommend New Zealanders south of the Bombays do the same until Auckland City gets its act together.

- Herald on Sunday

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