A sense of connection with strangers, mass hysteria or a near religious encounter – watching live music can be a powerful experience. We round up a season of shows at The Grand Theatre that might make for more than just a good night out.
There’s an undeniable power in a shared live music experience. Coming together in a space to immerse yourself in the rhythms and melodies of a live band creates a sense of community and connection that’s difficult to emulate in any other environment.
Adding a beautiful setting and a healthy dose of nostalgia into the mix, throughout the autumn the Grand Theatre is hosting seven live music shows. Audiences will have all the highs of a live gig experience from the comfort of their theatre seats – although dancing in the aisles is of course encouraged. From classic rock ’n’ roll to heavy rock and R&B to modern pop, there’s no shortage of variety either.
The power of live music goes way beyond it being a good night out. When we experience it we receive a boost of oxytocin – the love hormone – as well as dopamine – the pleasure hormone. Research shows that music can even reduce anxiety, blood pressure and pain, improve sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.
At the birth of rock ’n’ roll in the otherwise subdued 1950s, not all audience members were ready for this heady mix of emotions. At his early concerts, Elvis fans – many of them teenage girls – became gripped with mass hysteria, screaming, sobbing and even fainting at the excitement of seeing the star on stage. Luckily for Mario Kombou audiences in 2023 are slightly more accustomed to this kind of excitement. There will hopefully be no need for police or paramedics when he brings The Story of The King to Blackpool next month but the performer, who has played Elvis in the West End, promises to capture the magic of that era in his tribute show.
It’s hard to believe that The Manfreds, who are still touring today and bring their Maximum R’n’B show to the Grand next month, emerged less than a decade after the king. But music audiences of the 1960s had already become more liberated. The band’s first hit, under their earlier incarnation Manfred Mann, 5-4-3-2-1 was as rowdy and frenetic as their crowds. Founding member Manfred Mann recalled the energy of their early gigs – which included a residency at Blackpool Pier every Sunday night throughout 1964 and 1965.
“A feature of the evening is the Blackpool Pier Sprint Experience,” he said. “The stage door is at the end of the Pier over the ocean at the furthest point from the road. We close the show and to get home we first need to get past the length of the theatre and an extra 200 metres or so of pier to the road where the car is waiting. No helicopter is provided for the stars, no large security contingent is on hand to protect us.
“The crafty strategy is for us stars to leave the stage immediately we finish playing, dash in panic at high speed down the pier towards land and safety, hoping to be past the front of the theatre before the audience spots us.
“The plan, sophisticated as it is, only partly works and every week we are chased by screaming fans.”
Just a couple of years later, in 1967, Pink Floyd performed two gigs in the Empress Ballroom. Not only did the psych rock band put on a spectacular display of light and sound, but their music captured the mood of an entire generation. Seeing it expressed in this experimental way on stage was a powerful collective encounter and one gig goers at the time often described as a religious experience. It’s one that tribute bands have been working hard to recreate ever since, and with 25 years of experience doing so, Think Floyd, who play the Grand next month, have come pretty damn close.
The lead singer of the Bon Jovi experience, Tony Pearce, cuts a striking resemblance to the band’s lead singer – a frontman who has been bestowed with God-like status by adoring fans since the 1980s. Livin’ On A Prayer is perhaps the ultimate example of music as a shared experience – you’ll be lucky if you can hear the covers band over the chanting of the lyrics by a theatre full of passionate fans. Meanwhile, The Story of Guitar Heroes pays homage to no one star in particular, but instead runs through a set encompassing everything from Hank Marvin and Chuck Berry to Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Van Halen.
Singing in a group is perhaps even more powerful than group listening, and traditional Irish music sessions and festive choral singing are perfect examples of the collective sense of joy and belonging it can promote. Is there any single song that typifies both more than Fairytale of New York? When we hear the song for the first time in the year it marks the beginning of a festive period of good will for many of us. The West End show of the same name comes down the Grand Theatre’s chimney in November. Festive classics including the rousing Oh Holy Night are performed alongside traditional Irish folk songs like Dirty Old Town – giving us permission to get into the Christmas spirit early.
Taking the number one spot, however, is Joe McElderry, the singer who proved the power of music over a mass group of people when six million of them voted for him to win the X Factor. His live show, which mixes his original material with classic covers, marks the start of this season of live music at the Grand.
8th October, Joe McElderry: Celebrate The Music, book here
9th October, The Story of Guitar Heroes, book here
8th November, Maximum R ‘n’ B with The Manfreds, book here
9th November, The Elvis Years: The Story of The King, book here
10th November, Fairytale of New York, book here
11th November, Think Floyd, book here
14th November, The Bon Jovi Experience, book here
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