Like so many northern cities, Manchester was a place Heather had never been before. A small gig by a little band seemed a good enough reason to correct that, so in we took a train north.
So far as I can tell the first thing to do when arriving in Manchester is to wander down Piccadilly and find a drink, which is what we did—I rather impressed myself by managing to recall the way to The Bank. That more or less killed enough time to get us to check in at the hotel. There was quite the queue for reception which set the tone for the hotel as a whole, the impressive staircase being the best bit (the badly leaking shower flooding the bathroom to the extent of a damp bedroom carpet being the worst). The queue didn’t delay us too badly though so there was still time to go exploring Manchester for the rest of the afternoon.
We went exploring, looping round the busy Piccadilly and on to the town hall, an impressive gothic building. An extension holds a modern library which links through to the much nicer interior of the town hall. From there we wandered some more, heading generally towards the river. We took in the Museum of Science and Industry, just about having time to walk around the air and space hall, housed in an old market building across the road from the main site, and the little shop at the entrance. It was a bit of a shame that by then the museum was about to close.
We left science and industry behind and continued down to the river, finding along the way the almost cathedral like spaces by the canals where the rail lines cross high above. There’s a pub there, with a nice view of the canal from the outside area in the sun, so we stayed a bit. From there we finally found the river, walking along from the more neglected parts into the modern (or converted to modern) apartments and bars, criss-crossing bridges just for the fun of it.
By the then the day was wearing on, so it was back to the hotel to prepare for dinner. Having past it earlier Chinatown was calling our name. The restaurant we chose (China City) was quite nice, and on a couple of tables over we just about recognised somebody just about famous.
The next Manchester morning found coffee and a walk down to see the cathedral. It’s not the largest, or most impressive. There was a choir practice going on inside, and a pretty stained glass window (more abstract than normal; almost soothing in its form). The engineer in me liked the “Faith on Tap” scultpure, an interlinked sequence of pipes and a tap. In the basement of the cathedral visitor centre (just across from the cathedral itself) is the Hanging Bridge, a strange sight of the buried remains of a medieval bridge remembered more now in the names of the streets above.
We wandered more of Manchester, taking in some of the impressive architecture around the university, and making our way up to the Alan Turing Memorial (Turing being a bit of a hero of mine). We couldn’t hang around too long though, because we had an appointment with The Stone Roses
Getting to the concert was certainly better organised than last time I saw them, a special return ticket being sold on Manchester’s excellent tram service to take us to the Etihad Stadium. Manchester City’s ground is certainly impressive, if in the slightly boring way of modern stadia. We hung round the “fan zone” a bit before wandering round and in, emerging into the stadium at the far end of the stage to the sounds of Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbot of Beautiful South fame.
That was a nice introduction to the gig, and while we listened and found the bar we decided that our position up in the stadium looking over the crowds was probably better than getting lost in the pitch based hoards. Unfortunately the main support act weren’t as welcome, Public Enemy making a lot of pointless noise (and declaring themselves biggest band in the world while supporting). The only good point was when their DJ briefly played some of Nirvana’s Teen Spirit only to ruin it after a few bars.
From the moment Ian Brown and the boys walked on stage, and the opening lines of I Wanna Be Adored that didn’t matter though, for adore them we did. They didn’t just blast through their seminal debut album either. Early on came Sally Cinnamon and Mersey Paradise, and later Where Angels Play, as well as tracks from Second Coming and somewhere in there All For One (shame it wasn’t the superior Beautiful Thing which played as backdrop after the gig). Like all the best gigs it blurs into one slightly, especially as it’s difficult to find a weak song by the Roses. At the end there were fireworks and we happily queued and queued for the tram back.
Sunday didn’t see much time for anything other than to say goodbye to the constant (but not annoying) background poopoops of the trams, and finally get a drink in my favourite Manchester pub, for we were off to Blackpool.