Special gig No 1: A ghostly stage for Viola Beach (RIP)

This was a very emotional evening.

Blossoms + The Vryll Society + Viola Beach,  Manchester Albert Hall 27th Feb 2016.

The young Warrington band Viola Beach were supposed to be supporting Blossoms on this tour until the band and their manager sadly lost their lives when their car mysteriously plunged from a bridge in Sweden just 2 weeks before this show. Blossoms continued the tour with the families blessings and, in honour of Viola Beach the band’s support slot went ahead without them. This is without doubt the most moving and quite frankly, eerie experience I have ever witnessed at a gig…

Viola Beach’s instruments and microphone stands were set up on the stage as if they were going to perform. Then a recording of one of their earlier shows was played in full over the PA system. The band were even given a full light show and the empty stage got the crowd’s full attention throughout the ‘performance’. There was loud applause and cheering between the songs. There was even some dancing. But most of all there was tears, lots of tears…  and I still get a bit of a shiver whenever I watch these short videos I shot on the night.  

The empty stage for Viola Beach’s set – Albert Hall Manchester, 27th Feb 2016
The crowd’s reaction at the end of Viola Beach’s set – Albert Hall, Manchester 27th Feb 2016

Stockport heroes Blossoms were still an up and coming band themselves at this time (their debut album was yet to be released) but they’d already built a large local following and they put on one hell of a show for their emotionally charged ‘home’ crowd that evening. This was a huge gig for them…

Blossoms – Blown Rose – live at the Albert Hall, Manchester – 27th Feb 2016
Blossoms – Charlemagne – live at the Albert Hall, Manchester – 27th Feb 2016
(not my footage but it captures the incredible atmosphere in the venue that evening)

This was also the night I discovered Liverpool’s The Vryll Society, the other support band who went on to become one of my favourite live acts. I saw them half a dozen times, including Glastonbury 2016, before they split up a couple of years ago. All of the above, in what has since become one of my favourite Manchester venues, made for a very special night and one I will never forget. 

FOOTNOTE: Warrington is my local town and I’m familiar with the pubs and bars where Viola Beach rehearsed and played. The news of their accident hit the locals pretty hard and is still talked about 5 years on. Even though the band were relative unknowns at the time of their deaths Viola Beach would soon become known around the world.  A few short months after this gig Glastonbury headliners Coldplay would pay an emotional tribute to the band during their historic set on the Pyramid Stage, performing one of their songs while images of the band were displayed on the big screens. There were tears that night too, on a much larger scale, but Viola Beach had got the Glasto headline slot they deserved and would have dreamed of when they formed a band. I hope they were watching from their stage on the great gig in the sky… 

Coldplay’s moving tribute to Viola Beach, Glastonbury 2016


More on the Viola Beach story…

BBC breaking news – Viola Beach 2016

BBC News article here

Manchester Evening News article here

Wikiwand article here

My old gig tickets

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