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This summer, Sunderland’s Stadium of Light will host three major concerts, establishing itself as one of the major outdoor music venues in the UK.
I’ll be there to see Bruce Springsteen and diary permitting, might even be tempted to see Coldplay and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers too.
The SOL has staged similar events for a few years now but not being a fan of Take That or Pink, it wasn’t until last year I attended a gig there when the Kings of Leon hit Wearside.
The concert proved to be one of the best I attended in 2011 even though my mate and I paid the price for standing too near the front by being hit by plastic bottles full of p+ss on occasions.
But the facilities were excellent, the sound quality good and the organisation both in and outside the ground superb.
Thirty years ago, it was Newcastle’s St James’s Park – that’s ST JAMES’S PARK, Mr Ashley – which was the primary outdoor venue in the region and I was there for its first-ever concert.
The Rolling Stones’ tour to promote the excellent Tattoo You album was said to be the biggest ever staged. That, however, was not the reason myself and a couple of mates went along.
We all liked the Stones without being massively obsessive about them and being poor students, we were set to give the St James’s Park gig a miss.
That’s until Snooky made a valid point. “Come on lads, we have to go. Let’s face it, the Stones are all getting on a bit. This might be out last chance to see them live.”
A perceptive chap was Snooky!
Anyway, we managed to scrape together a few pennies to buy tickets before sinking a few pints at the George And Dragon pub adjacent to Eldon Square, which was doing roaring business from 11am onwards.
And then it was off to the ground to see the opening act, George Thoragood and The Destroyers, who came on stage mid-afternoon, played a fine set to energise a crowd, whose growing sense of excitement was palpable.
The chief support act did little to diminish the rousing atmosphere. The J Geils Band were pretty big that summer, notably for their hit single Centrefold, which featured some delectable Playboy models in their video.
Sadly, the girls were conspicuous by their absence on stage but the music did not disappoint as JG and the boys proved the perfect aperifif for the main dish.
The Rolling Stones kicked off with Under My Thumb and for the next two hours, Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watt had the 40,000 crowd – incidentally St James’s Park’s biggest for several years – in the palm of their hands.
The raunchy Start Me Up, from their new album was a particular favourite as were the classics such as Satisfaction, Tumbling Dice and Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
But my most vivid memory of that night was just how cool Keith Richard was in his interaction with Jagger and Wood.
Of all the great musicians I’ve seen over the years, Keef may not be the most technically gifted but he remains the ultimate axeman, in terms of what a rock guitarist should look like.
Newcastle’s football ground continued to attract top bands and in the next two years, I saw headliners Queen and Bruce Springsteen.
Gateshead Stadium got in on the act too with The Police being supported by a fast-rising group called U2 just months after the Stones hit Toon.
And Sunderland’s old ground Roker Park, which had previously staged shows by the American evangelist Billy Graham, also joined the party with David Bowie their star attraction.
That gig, however, got off to an embarrassing start for the Mackems in the crowd when Bowie walked on stage to greet the crowd with the words: “Good evening Newcastle!”
There will be no such faux-pas from Springsteen, Coldplay or the Chillis this time around at the Stadium of Light.
Sunderland is now renowned as a top outdoor venue for music and whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Toon fan, a Smoggie or a Mackem, we should all rejoice that for the first time since the 80s, the North East can once again host stadium shows.