Went out-of-country on Saturday, for the first time in about a year—day-trip to Copenhagen, on the occasion of TOOL playing the Royal Arena over there, and me having bought tickets way back in October last year or thenabouts.
I swore off arena shows after a disastrous and deeply disagreeable trip to see Deftones play what was then still called the Docklands Arena (now the O2, because branding eats everything in the end) in, I think, 2002? The trip was doomed at the outset, for reasons unrelated to the venue which I shall not discuss here, but the experience of the gig itself was memorably terrible, tantamount to having paid a three-figure sum to stand around in an echoing aircraft hangar with however many thousand other massive-trouser’d angst-nurturers, while at the far end a TV screen, so far distant it looked smaller than your phone screen would seem to you now if held at arms length, showed footage of what might possibly have been the band whose name graced the posters, but could equally have been anyone, given the tinny racket you could hear over the audience noise bore little resemblance to music, let alone their music specifically.
Yeah, didn’t enjoy it much.
But I’ve always wanted to see TOOL, and they’re never gonna play venues smaller than arenas, and this was the first time that I’ve lived in easy and affordable public-transport reach of a stadium at which a band I like that much were playing… so I figured fuck it, why not.
And y’know, it wasn’t bad at all?
I mean, I’ll always be a small-venue music fan, perhaps because I worked (and occasionally played) in such places for years: for me, a gig means being in a room where you and around four or five hundred other people can see the band with your own eyes from pretty much any point of vantage, hear at least some of the sound from the stage itself as well as through the PA…you know, the sort of place where you can smell the sweat of the performers (sometimes literally). And this was not that, not at all.
But it was a magnificent spectacle, sonically and visually. And the Royal Arena—perhaps because [insert cliches about Scandinavian design and architecture], but perhaps also or alternatively because [Roskilde]—is well laid-out, spacious, clean, modern, not at all a disagreeable or oppressive building to be in. It also helps hugely that the sense of being policed at every moment of the event, so familiar from even the smallest of UK venues in recent years, was almost completely absent: security searches on the way in were friendly to the point of being almost perfunctory, which helped get the queues through fast, and once you were through the turnstiles, that was pretty much it: you just wander off to your assigned section, see yourself to your seat, etc etc. Security did periodically ask people not to stand in the little entranceways to the seating tiers (and yeah, I was that guy, because after a day on foot in Copenhagen, it was actually better for my still bad-tempered foot for me to stand rather than to sit—counterintuitive, I know), but otherwise it was perhaps the most hands-off treatment I’ve had as the punter at a rock gig since, well, I don’t even know when. Possibly ever.
So, yeah—a good day out. Wouldn’t say I’m now a convert on arena shows, mind you: the prices are eyewatering, it’s not really “a gig” as I think of the term, and I wonder how much of the agreeableness is specific to that venue (and perhaps even to that particular date). But I would say that I’d be more likely to consider arena shows than I was before.
I would also say that TOOL are a fucking great band, but if you like them you already know that, and if you don’t, experience dictates that there’s no point in trying to convince you.
No photos from the show, because I didn’t want to be That That Guy—and I was quite pleased to note that hardly anyone in the crowd had their phones out at all. Instead, you have a picture from my wanderings in Christiania earlier in the day: a place which deserves to be written about in greater detail, while also a place that has been written about—brilliantly, badly, and every way in between—by (too) many writers before me, academic or otherwise. So I’ll save it for some other time, some other visit.