Not being a Spice Girls fan is no barrier to appreciating the The O2 Arena, which gets top marks in the first of a mini series of venue reviews
More by accident than by design in the two weeks either side of Christmas I found myself at four new or recently revamped sporting or theatrical venues. Even if it is a show I don’t particularly want to see I am always curious to see how well the construction industry has performed.
I am prepared to see almost anything at the Albert Hall because it is such a beautifully well laid out building and almost impossible to get lost in, whereas wild horses wouldn’t drag me to Earl’s Court, and despite its ease of access ExCel is utterly without charm.
It does not need a genius to establish that I am not the principal demographic for anything to do with the Spice Girls. One of my daughter’s friends dropped out, and although her boyfriend wouldn’t be seen dead at a Posh n’ Gerry fest, I was very curious to see how The O2 Arena turned out.
I’d seen it as a tent, and I’d been to the dispiriting Millennium show when it was the Dome, but I hadn’t seen it since New Labour had given up trying to turn it into Las Vegas. I thought it was Brilliant. Well organised.
There were masses of food outlets interspersed with toilet facilities. I managed to buy five lots of drinks and eats with barely a jostle, and the designers have thoughtfully put a series of zinc covered peninsula units at elbow height all the way round the radius of the auditorium opposite the bars.
I don’t suppose one can have a more vocal test run than 20,000 young women aged 25 screaming at the top of their voices
Each of these has a pair of built-in mustard and ketchup dispensers at one end, with an enormous rubbish bin underneath it. It may not be Egon Ronay but it works seriously well.
The auditorium manages to be very atmospheric, with comfortable seats even if it’s quite a climb. It can’t be easy making an effective acoustic ceiling inside a Teflon tent, I don’t suppose one can have a more vocal test run than 20,000 young women aged 25 screaming at the top of their voices, but it all seemed to work.
Back in the tube within half-an-hour of the end of the show, it was altogether a very impressive achievement. And Mel B and the girls? A good advertisement for having a personal trainer if nothing else.
Gus’s venue verdict: Spice Girls 3. O2 8.
Look out for Gus Alexander's verdicts on the Barbican, Emirates Stadium and the Roundhouse theatre on building.co.uk this month