Sunday, 28 February 2010

Last-Year Travels: A trip to Manchester to visit the King, part 1

At 10.30 on Friday morning I met Mr A.S. at Euston station ready to be taken on a magical mystery tour. I knew we were going to see a gig and one of our friend's had, by mistake, mentioned that it was some band beginning with 'k'. Despite some heavy google activity, little did I expect that it was the King himself - Elvis Presley. They'd got his original band playing alongside some of his original concert footage at the MEN arena in Manchester. Needless to say I was pretty excited when I found out.

We had the afternoon to kill before the gig so we headed over to see the redevelopment of Salford Quays. First stop the Lowry. The actual centre itself was quite disappointing: an 80s leisure centre mixture of colours. However, the film and display of Lowry's work were fascinating. I knew of his 'matchstick men and matchstick dogs' but there was so much more than this, from seascapes of a cruel North Sea to portraits of the mysterious Ann. A firm favourite with us both was 'Man Lying on a Wall' (Mr A.S. even bought the fridge magnet).


The display tells how Lowry came across this well-to-do looking man lying on the wall, having his cig. I think the pleasure in the painting comes from the enjoyment: the man enjoying his moment of quiet and Lowry's enjoyment in this sight. The joys of the simple things in life...

Trying to take the message of the painting to heart, we made sure we thoroughly enjoyed an Eccles cake in the awesome building of the Imperial War Museum North. Sadly our Glenn Miller selection on the jukebox failed to play and our happy munching was sound-tracked by the vocal talents of Vera Lynn.

A bit later, a bit drier and with our gladder rags on, we headed over to the MEN arena. All the local bars and restaurants were playing Elvis so excitement levels were running high. Our fellow audience members were awesome with many in jumpsuits and wigs for the occasion. I perhaps wished I'd known where I was headed so I could have donned an appropriately vintage outfit.

At first the concert was the epitome of kitsch. There was a massive Elvis projected onto the crowd as his original band, many years older, played on. He greeted the audience, he danced. We sat there a little dumbstruck. But after a while the charm (or the drink?) kicked in and people were up, dancing and singing along. And then it all became quite emotional. For 'In the Ghetto' they flashed up pictures of ma and pa Presley, alongside Elv's own baby photos. After I finished marvelling about how people so ordinary looking could produce someone so beautiful, I found a little tear forming in my eye. That was quickly swept away and we moved into the all-singing, all-dancing, all-stomping finale. And then it was all over. Naturally it finished with an announcement that 'Elvis has left the building'.

We staggered out of the building into all the finery of Manchester on a Friday night, scurried back to the Northern Quarter where we sampled lots of gin before enjoy sweet dreams of encounter with the King.

Part two of our exciting trip to follow shortly: a perfect Saturday selection of Stockport, shops and sausages...

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