ufoSelf Made Man is back doing what he does best – delivering his weekly musings on the world of classic rock and heavy metal.

And after spending 30 years at heart of the North East scene there’s very little our resident blogger hasn’t seen or heard

Don’t forget to read his exclusive column right here every week. 


Well, am I paying a high price for writing a blog a few months ago, expressing my joy at Neil Young’s tour schedule including Newcastle rather than the normal stopping-off point of Manchester?

Since I wrote that, Manchester Arena has been added to the itinerary – and quite right too because as far as I’m concerned, the more corners of the UK and Ireland which get to see live music, the better.

But that’s not the point of my latest rant. Sadly, Neil Young is proving the exception rather than the rule when it comes to promoters selecting venues for tours in this country.

He may be a standard-bearer for so many musicians but unfortunately, the same can’t be said for his scheduling.

In recent months, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac and Rush have all announced tours which don”t include Newcastle Arena.

And now Joe Bonamassa too has decided to give us a miss for the first time ever.

Now of course, the artists themselves can’t be blamed for boycotting the region but it is becoming a worry.

A few years ago, in my capacity as a sports journalist I wrote an article saying the days when the North East could be considered the hotbed of soccer had gone forever.

I received plenty of stick for this conclusion with fans of Newcastle and Sunderland quite correctly pointing out that the two clubs were among the best supported in Europe.

Indeed they are. Newcastle are THE best supported club in Europe who have not won a major trophy for more than 30 years while Sunderland are THE best supported club in Europe, who have not played European football for more than 30 years.

But the fact is our lower division clubs are not well supported while non-league football in the region attracts paltry crowds. For years, Gateshead have been the poorest supported club in the Conference and Northern League teams which four or five decades ago regularly attracted four-figure crowds, struggle to hit 300 today.

Anyway, my point is this. Are we becoming just as apathetic in our support of live music?

Fifteen years ago so the story goes, Brian Johnson was so embarrassed that AC/DC could not sell out his hometown Arena, he barely raised a protest when Newcastle was subsequently left off the scheduling.

This year, The Darkness could not even fill the City Hall on their comeback tour, having sold out the Arena a few years ago.

Mark Knopfler, the North East’s very own Mark Knopfler, has not sold out the Arena for his May concert. The fact adverts for the gig are regularly appearing in local newspapers suggests ticket sales are not going as well as anticipated.

The same is probably true of Bon Jovi who are appearing at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light a month later.

I’ve heard of a few Geordies who refuse to attend any gig at the SOL on principle which is, quite possibly, one of the stupidest things I’ve come across in a long time.

Everyone in the North East should be grateful that Sunderland AFC have such a proactive marketing department that they can attract artists of the quality of Bruce Springsteen, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Kings Of Leon and now Bon Jovi and have now established the stadium as one of the country’s major venues for outdoor concerts.

We all have friends, who love their music as much as we do but who, for whatever reason, don’t go to gigs anymore.

Ticket prices is obviously a key factor but the North East needs to be selling out its venues once again, otherwise this trend will become permanent.

I’m already having to cough up on petrol and accomodation to see Roger Waters, Fleetwood Mac and Rush, money I’d far rather spend on tickets for other gigs I can no longer afford to go to.

It’s time for the region’s music lovers to send out a clear message to promoters that we’re sick of being ignored.

Ian Murtagh