Liam Rudden: Playhouse is king of concert venues

The Playhouse theatre in Edinburgh. Pic: Phil Wilkinson
The Playhouse theatre in Edinburgh. Pic: Phil Wilkinson
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LAST week was busy. Four shows, in four venues, over four days. Thankfully, this week has been less hectic, just two, actually, the same performance twice, but in different venues.

Experiencing the idiosyncrasies of so many halls in such a tight period of time just serves to highlight venues strengths and weaknesses.

First up, The King’s or Old Lady of Leven Street as she is wont to be called and arguably the Capital’s most traditional theatre experience.

The welcome is friendly, architecture stunning, just don’t look up, the monstrosity that now sits high above the stalls is hardly sympathetic to its surroundings.

Next was The Hydro in Glasgow. Watching theatre in a 12,000 seater is a strange experience - any sense of intimacy is fleeting.

What viewing must be like from ‘the Gods’ is questionable, you’d need binoculars to make out the action relayed onto the big screens let alone the stage.

Venue three was the Royal Lyceum. Intimate, the Lyceum is a theatrical oasis of calm, albeit with a claustrophobic bar and a distinct clientèle. If you can handle the pretension you’ll love it.

The Festival Theatre on the other hand is a barn of a place, but once past the soulless glass exterior, a sparkling gem of the Capital’s past awaits. The restored auditorium of the old Empire is arguably the Capital’s finest.

This week, Pet Shop Boys brought me to both Glasgow’s Clyde Auditorium and our own Playhouse.

Seeing the same production back to back was intriguing.

A brilliant night through ‘The West’ left me wondering how Edinburgh would better the occasion. After all, Glasgow audiences know how to party. Surprisingly, the revels started earlier at the Greenside Place venue, the atmosphere electric from the moment the pair appeared.

It reminded me what a brilliant and often over-looked concert hall we have in The Playhouse... memories of Toyah there in the 80s came flooding back - incidentally, she returns a week on Sunday with the 80’s Invasion Tour.

I also saw Meatloaf there in 1982. During Bat Out Of Hell, he had a nose bleed hitting a top note.

Leaving the stage, his ‘voice’ continued as his backing singer stepped forward, it was only Ted Neely of Jesus Christ Superstar fame.

Around that time I also saw Mike Oldfield. The venue descended into darkness as Tubular Bells began, only the orange glow of Oldfield’s cigarette floating across the stage giving away his presence on stage.

There’s just something magical about the Playhouse - once you get past the football terracing type security.

It may hold 3000, yet wherever you are you’re never far from the action.

I mentioned this to Mark Mackie of Regular Music, the promoters who brought Pet Shop Boys to Scotland.

He agreed, declaring, “The Playhouse is my favourite venue... in the world.”

He’s not wrong.