James Bay and Lifehouse both stopped off in Glasgow last week during the UK leg of their tours. Two acts/two venues – how will they match up for accessibility?
James Bay at O2 Academy Glasgow
I knew it was going to be a good night when I rolled up at the O2 Academy Glasgow for the first of two sold-out shows for James Bay. We were greeted by two helpful men from the venue security as I made my way out the car. I’m guessing the fact I’m in a wheelchair made it difficult not to notice. He took my ticket and went to check that my companion was on the guest list while we waited with the other doorman. Two seconds later and with a big smile on his face they let us in.
We’ve seen James Bay perform live in Glasgow before, but it was just as exciting if not more so, as we knew what we were in for this time. We could hear Samm Henshaw, the support act from outside and he sounded amazing. We were keen to get in and hear more of his set. He explained that he is coming back to Glasgow in November to play at Stereo, which unfortunately doesn’t have wheelchair access down to the basement venue. So that’s a big no go for me. Sort it out Stereo!
Access at O2 Academy Glasgow
There is a steep concrete ramp as soon as you enter through the accessible side door of the O2 Academy, but it’s definitely manageable. I don’t recommend driving down at top speed unless you’re into wheelchair stunts as a sport or don’t mind some whiplash while enjoying the live music.
Once safely down the ramp and back on even ground, I was shown where the disabled toilet was and where the security staff would be standing if I had any problems at all during the night. He then escorted us through the crowd of waiting fans “craving” James Bay to our reserved space on the wheelchair viewing platform. The viewing platform provides a great view of the stage with no restrictions other than the odd swaying or head-bopping from a tall person.
I was right! It was going to be a good night and it definitely was!
It’s clear to see that James Bay is on the brink of huge things with a crowd heavily populated with screaming girls waiting to hear his radio smash hits like ‘Hold back the river’. His stage presence, lighting show and beefed up band all make for an impressive show.
What I love about Academy Music Group venues, not just the O2 Academy Glasgow is their accessible ticketing system. They introduced a new system this year that allows accessible tickets to be booked a lot easier than before. I now have an Access Card as proof of my disability, which means all I have to do now is book a standard ticket online and then email the venue with my details/access card number and arrange a free companion ticket. Easy peasy!
No more endless calling in the search of finding the correct person that deals with accessible ticket bookings. There’s a lot to be said for having the chance to easily book tickets like non-disabled people.
Lifehouse at O2 ABC Glasgow
This is the case for the O2 ABC Glasgow as well. We had tickets to see Lifehouse at this venue and although I’ve been to this venue before, it was years ago and I was a little unsure of the accessibility and where exactly I’d be sitting during the show.
As we approached the entrance of the O2 ABC one of security men from the James Bay gig a few nights before recognised us, which made us smile. We got escorted into the building after having our ticket and names checked just as they do at O2 Academy. We were taken to the lift and met by another member of the security at the other end. Amongst boxes of music gear and equipment, we realised we were actually backstage. Maybe we’ll see the band passing as we make our way in…we could only hope!
Access at O2 ABC Glasgow
My heart almost stopped as my eyes caught a glimpse of the ramp I’d be driving down. It was huge and much steeper than the one at the O2 Academy. Driving down backwards seemed to be the safest option and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Turns out it was actually the band’s ramp that they tour with and use for their gear. There are some perks to being disabled 😉
The venue was already full as security escorted us through with his torch lighting up the way. I don’t think I’ll ever feel completely comfortable in situations like this. It tends to feel like all eyes are on you or people are jumping out the way like you are some kind of alien. Or maybe it’s because I don’t like attention. Who knows!
We reached the access viewing platform and were pleasantly surprised that we had a good view of the stage. Again security pointed out where the disabled toilet was and made sure everything was fine before he left us. He explained that he would be back for us at the end of the show.
Lifehouse was amazing with their beautiful set of new and old songs. My personal favourites were when the singer’s true talent shone through during an acoustic breakdown of ‘You & Me’ and ‘I Miss You’ with the giant disco ball twinkling around the room. Lifehouse didn’t disappoint one bit.
Mastering the Obstacle Course
As the show came to an end and the crowds made their way out, we remained on the viewing platform until the security came to get us along with another two wheelchair users and their companions.
It was like taking part in an obstacle course as I tried to drive my wheelchair around the thousands of empty plastic drinking cups lying on the floor, hoping they won’t get stuck underneath or jammed in my wheels. It was worth it in the end as another member of the security gave me one of the bands plectrums.
We couldn’t have asked for better service at either the O2 Academy or the O2 ABC Glasgow. There was nothing to fault. The staff are extremely helpful, friendly and professional. It shows they all must receive some kind of disability awareness training to provide such great customer service. Even their websites provide great access information, which can be rare for a lot of venues. I really wish more venues would do exactly what Academy Music Group venues are doing.
You can find more of my gig reviews here.
Main photo via picjumbo.com.