Jul 222019

Review and photos by Craig Chisholm.

It’s the end of an era at the AECC as tonight’s gig marks the conclusion of the venue’s live music history before attention turns to the new P&J Live as the new home of large scale arena rock in Aberdeen.
Throughout the venue’s history, it has seen some genuine rock and pop legends tread the boards in the main arena.

From its debut as a live venue in 1990 – when Scottish pop stars Wet Wet Wet provided the first live entertainment – household names, legends of rock, country stars, hip hop titans, heavy metal heroes and genuine music royalty have tread the boards.

Acts as diverse and eclectic as Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Lady Gaga, Kylie, Rhianna, Kings of Leon, Motorhead, Take That, Oasis, Foo Fighters, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Radiohead and much, much more have had memorable nights in the Bridge of Don venue.

Were you there? You should have been!

Alas, all good things must come to an end and tonight sees the final party at the venue hosted, as it began, by another Scottish act but this time in the shape of an undoubted legend – the indefatigable and evergreen Rod Stewart.

However, for tonight only, the gig is not inside the venue itself but outdoors in the adjacent car park in order to accommodate a crowd more than twice as large as could be accommodated indoors.

The concert itself has already been postponed due to the vagrancies and unpredictability of the North East weather – Wet Wet Wet would surely have been appropriate band on the original date scheduled for last month – but tonight there are no such issues with the weather remaining relatively dry and pleasant, albeit with the odd shower.

So finally, a few weeks late, the show must go on.

At the age of 74 you’d think Rod would be happy to retire to his country pad and tinkle with his legendary train set, but it seems as those days are still a long way off as he gives a sprightly and energetic performance that would shame performers half his age, if not less.

Running through a back catalogue that stretches back over six decades the sprightly rocker pulled out all the stops as he performed crowd pleaser after crowd pleaser from his formidable and extensive back catalogue and from latest album ‘Blood Red Roses’.

Setting the tone with the opening cover of Sam Cooke’s ‘Having a Party’ and his stage entrance to spectacular pyrotechnics the stage is set for a spirited romp through Rod’s eclectic back catalogue with cover versions, re-interpretations and classics such as ‘Baby Jane’, ‘Maggie May’, ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?’, ‘Some Guys Have All the Luck’ and the Tom Waits penned ‘Downtown Train’.

The party mood is paused on occasion for poignant slow burners and ballads including the melancholic ‘Every Beat of My Heart’ whilst his feted reworking of Crazy Horse’s ‘I Don’t Want to Talk About It’, a song which he has long since made his own, is performed as part of a stripped back section of the show.

Costumes are changed; footballs are booted into the crowd and a good time is had by all before the night is ended with the poignant classic ‘Sailing’ and Rod leaves the ecstatic crowd in raptures with another sterling professional, performance lasting over 2 hours.

So, after nearly 30 years of gigs, the AECC ends it’s tenure as Aberdeen’s biggest music venue on a high – finishing with one of the biggest names in showbiz in front of one of the biggest crowds it has ever had.

Rod, however, will be back – he’s already announced a date at the P&J Live on Saturday December 7th for what is bound to be another sell out performance.

Aug 122018

Craig Chisholm reviews Iron Maiden at AECC. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

One of the biggest names in the history of heavy metal returned to Aberdeen for the second time in just 18 months to perform an exclusive Scottish date in front of a sold-out audience.
With the larger Hydro venue in Glasgow being used as part of the 2018 European Athletics Championships, the Exhibition Centre provided the bands only date north of the border in what must count as an intimate show for a band more used to headlining stadiums and festivals.

For metal fans in the North East, Glasgow’s loss was Aberdeen’s gain as the AECC hosted the most extravagant, theatrical, over-the-top, and, arguably, one of the greatest performances ever seen in the arena.

However, before they were treated to Maiden’s powerhouse set they also had one of the leading lights in modern Metal to contend with. Killswitch Engage have been around since the turn of the century and provided an energetic, pulverising set that’s rarely delivered by headliners, let alone a support band.

The Metalcore band from Massachusetts stormed through a dozen songs in their all-too-brief set. From opener ‘Strength of Mind’ to the closing cover of Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ the band were relentless in their energy.

Pausing briefly only to praise the “beautiful city” of Aberdeen – and to speak of his hatred towards our wasps! – the bands set was a masterclass in arena heavy metal that would have blown many a headliner off their own stage.

However, Iron Maiden are not of that many. With four decades of touring and recording behind them they are consummate professionals and masters of the stage – despite all of the band now nearing what most normal people would consider retirement age.

Fortunately, Maiden are anything but normal and retirement seems a long way off as the six band members show energy and stamina on stage that would leave people half their age gasping for breath and begging for a rest.

With no new album to promote, the tour is thematically linked to their ‘Legacy of the Beast’ video game which gives them a good excuse to trawl through their back catalogue and pull out some deep cuts, old favourites and tireless classics.

Opening with ‘Aces High’ from 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ LP, the stage is, quite literally, set for a show of epic proportions as a near full size Spitfire is dangled above the band as they power tirelessly through the opener.

Singer Bruce Dickinson comes tearing onto the stage as the track opens and jumps, leg wide open, in the air for a number that’s quite epic, even by their standards.

After the song has finished, and the spitfire has retreated into the stage and out of sight, a quick one-two of old classics ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and ‘2 Minutes to Midnight’ follows before Dickinson addresses the crowd for what he says will be the only time during the bands marathon set.

Referring to the spitfire, he praises the “brave men, a third [his] age” that were fighting Nazis and fascism.

It’s a thought provoking and humbling monologue that holds resonance in the current climate of fear and uncertainty and the rise of the so-called alt-right.

He then introduces the next song and how much of an honour is to play it in Scotland before the band play their Scottish themed track ‘The Clansman’.

From then till the main set closer -the eponymously titled ‘Iron Maiden’ – the music is left to do the talking.

However, the band’s theatricality is given full reign during most of these tracks – the bands mascot, the giant zombie-like figure Eddie, comes onstage to engage in a swordfight with Dickinson during ‘The Trooper’.

Dickinson lugs a lit-up cross around the stage whilst performing ‘Sign of The Cross’.

A giant demonic head appears at the rear of the stage during erstwhile classic ‘The Number of the Beast’ and Dickinson fires flame throwers at a giant winged angelic figure during ‘The Flight of Icarus’.

At any other concert such theatrics would be in danger of falling into Pantomime.

But Maiden perform it with a knowing wink and a nod to their fans who are lapping up every move on stage by the legendary six piece.

The band wrap up the near two hour long show with a triple song encore of 1987’s ‘The Evil That Men Do’ and a couple of early 80s classics ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ and ‘Run to The Hills’.

Despite the length of the set and the energy sapping heat, there’s no doubt that the band and their fans – many of whom have travelled from all over Europe to watch them – could have happily went for another couple of hours of, what surely, must be one of the greatest stage shows in Maiden’s history.

Mar 022018

Morrissey at Aberdeen BGHE Arena, 16 February 2018. Review and pictures by Craig Chisholm.

It may be hard to believe but the Aberdeen Exhibition Centre has actually a place in rock n’ roll folklore for both Morrissey and David Bowie fans.

It was here, over 20 years ago that the ex-Smiths frontman was due to support the late Thin White Duke on tour but, mysteriously, walked out mere minutes before he was due on stage leaving his band, Bowie and his fans in the lurch.

As to the whys and whats of this action we might never know but here, over two decades later, amends are finally made to fans as he eventually makes the AECC stage in triumphant, if not also intriguing, fashion.

There’s no chance of support bands doing a runner on this occasion as there isn’t one. Instead the 3000 strong crowd are treated to a half hour video of Morrisey’s favourite bands and old film footage.

In between the Morrissey favourites such as the New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, Ramones and 60s girl groups is footage of Russian, faux-lesbian, Eurovision winners Tatu performing The Smiths classic ‘How Soon Is Now?’ on Top of The Tops. This is the sort of intriguing but contrary thing that his fans have come to expect of Morrissey over the years.

At the end of the video, at exactly 9pm, Morrissey and band walk onto the stage. Opening with a cover version of Elvis Presley’s ‘You’ll be Gone’ they then proceed to power through a 22 song set that lasts nearly 2 hours.

The stage is lit by lights in the shape of shields as the backdrop displays footage of recurring Morrisey themes – 60s B&W groups, old film stars, an erotic pulp fiction novel, a bullfighter during, obviously, ‘The Bullfighter Dies’, and footage of police brutality during ‘Who Will Protect Us From The Police?’ .

He delights his long time fans by playing a couple of tracks by his former band The Smiths – ‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’ is played early on, as is ‘How Soon Is Now?’.

But that’s all – five songs into the set and he has already abandoned any attempt at crowd pleasing and living off nostalgia.

Instead, latest album ‘Low In High School’ makes up the bulk of the show with no less than nine of its twelve tracks given an airing. Three of these tracks – ‘Israel’, ‘I Bury The Living’ and ‘The Girl From Tel Aviv’ are being performed for their first time ever to a live audience.

In another contrary Morrissey move he plays a cover version of The Pretenders’ ‘Back In The Chain Gang’.

The crowd are noticeably more subdued during some of the deeper cuts from ‘Low In High School’ but this gives everyone a chance to listen to Morrissey and to appreciate his voice – it has matured into a warm and luxurious sound, somewhat underrated in the pantheon of great rock vocalists.

Also, it’s a chance to listen to his band – tight and musically together throughout the set. Clad in white t-shirts that with ‘No one likes us, we don’t care’ emblazoned on them, it’s the sort of message that Morrissey revels in and pretty much defines his entire ethos.

More than an hour and a half after starting, the main set ends with the band walking off stage in a haze of smoke to rapturous applause.

They return for a triumphant encore of Morrissey solo classics ‘Everyday is like Sunday’ and ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’.

Overall, it’s an intriguing set that should have left the real fans happy. The lack of Smiths classics and early Morrissey singles may not have pleased the more casual fans but, ultimately, it’s never been his style to play to the crowd and take the easy option.

Jul 212017

Blink 182 plus support at AECC. Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

US pop-punk veterans Blink 182 returned to Aberdeen with a slick arena show filled with confetti canons, pyrotechnics and flamethrowers which pleased their fans old and young alike.

First band up on the three-band bill, however, were New Jersey band The Front Bottoms. 

Despite the Viz-like nature of their name, which has you suspecting they are less than serious proposition, the band play an introspective, but goofy, indie rock that is appreciated by the early arrivals in the arena.

Frontman Brian Sella formed the band nearly 10 years ago.

He stands stage front, strumming an acoustic guitar.

He engages with the crowd and endears himself with comments of wishing he could have lived his life in Scotland and a tale of getting hit by a golf earlier ball that day.

Flanked by his bandmates there is also the somewhat unusual spectacle of a couch on stage on which a couple of guys are sitting.

Their contribution to the set seems to involve nothing more than tapping away on their mobile phones and taking swigs from bottles of beer – nice job if you can get it, it must be said!

There are no couches or mobile phones on stage for the next act however as Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls take to the stage.

Bahrain born Turner had a seemingly un-punk upbringing – the son of an investment banker who went to Eton and studied alongside Prince William; his grandfather – a “Sir” no less – was the former chairman of high street store BHS.
But despite this privileged upbringing it’s hard to deny that Turner has paid his dues, moving from small toilet venues to arenas over the years whilst playing a socially conscious and politically charged brand of folk-punk that has gained him a loyal band of followers.

He commands the audience well tonight.

The sight of him getting the crowd to sit down and jump up in unison was quite exciting and he also brings one lucky young fan out of the audience, hands her a harmonica and has her play a mouth organ solo during one track.

He ends his set by crowd surfing in the audience which has security scrambling to get hold of him as the crowd go wild. It would be fair to say he would have won over a few new fans this night.

Finally, at 9pm sharp, Blink 182 take the stage. Starting the set behind a curtain with a picture of their logo imposed over a Union Flag, whilst the haunting electronica of the Stranger Things theme tune plays, it drops to rapturous applause and pyrotechnic explosions as the band blast into opener Feeling This.

The backdrop at this point is the rather unsubtle word FUCK in huge flames at the rear of the stage.

But, let’s be honest, Blink 182 are not in a band that deal in subtly much.

There are fleeting moments of introspection though – the cello-drenched and catchy I Miss You is a touching tale of lost love and the title track of last year’s California album is a nostalgic missive to their home state.

It’s the unsubtly of the show that provides the arena rock experience though and there is plenty of spectacle and show that has the crowd in raptures – a huge screen flashes behind the band, flame throwers spit high into air from behind the drum riser, confetti canons fire and drown the crowd in ticker tape whilst pyrotechnic explosions bellow smoke into the venue and test the fire alarms to their limits.

And this day-glo stramash of sound and vision isn’t just on the odd occasion – it’s in almost every song the band perform.

There is another exception to this sensory overload though as they perform one track in the dark, lit only by hundreds of mobile phones in the crowd.

Highlight of the set for the crowd is first track of the encore their big hit and probably best known song All the Small Things. Released over 17 years ago, it is older than a good proportion of the crowd here tonight, all of whom go wild to the raucous, three-minute classic of the US pop punk genre.

And then, after a couple of more tracks, it’s over – 22 songs in a compact, and slightly short, 75-minute set. All that’s left is for drummer Travis Barker’s teenage son to play out as the crowd head out into the early evening.

As was said, Blink 182 are not a band that deal in subtlety but if high adrenaline, slightly juvenile, slick, over the top arena shows are your thing then this would have made you very happy indeed.

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May 242017

Review and Photographs by Dod Morrison.

Iron Maiden were formed in 1975 by bassist and songwriter Steve Harris.

They’ve released 38 albums including 16 studio albums, 11 live albums, 4 EPs, and 7 compilations – probably making them the world’s most famous heavy metal band.

The band were returning to Aberdeen after a five year gap as part of their ‘The Book Of Souls’ tour.

Released in 2015, this was the band’s sixteenth studio album as well as their first double studio album and at 92 minutes, their longest to date. It also contained the band’s longest track, ‘Empire of the Clouds’ at a staggering 18 minutes.

The album was actually recorded in 2014 but the launch was delayed to allow Bruce to recover from the removal of a cancerous tumour on his tongue.

The album was a commercial success reaching number 1 in 24 countries. They started the tour in February 2016 and it will go through until July 2017.

When Iron Maiden come to town it’s not just to play a gig, it’s an EVENT!

They are known for  their extravagant stage shows which usually feature a huge Eddie The Head (the band mascot). Eddie is a perennial part of Maiden, appearing on all the covers of their albums, and he appears in the live shows in various guises.

Unfortunately, a pending dispute about ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’ song credits means that the fan’s favourite song (and my own favourite) had been removed from the current The Book Of Souls tour set list.

The Book Of Souls tour came to Aberdeen where the faithful filled the AECC and prepared to worship. The stage was made to look like an Inca style lost city. A half rectangle shaped wall surrounded and contained the stage with several braziers along its length and moving backdrops, flanked by pyramids on either side.

After a rousing version of ‘Doctor, Doctor’ by UFO was played to get the crowd going, the set commenced with Bruce Dickinson standing on the wall above and behind the drum kit.

Bruce inhaled the vapours from a cauldron on a pedestal as the first chapter of Book of Souls plays.

He then launched into a magnificent, energetic rendition of ‘If Eternity Should Fail’.

Flames erupted from the braziers along the city walls as Bruce dashed across them from side to side. Beneath him Nicko McBrain was drumming up a storm on his impressive and very shiny drum kit.

In front of him guitarists Janick Gers, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith covered the stage, adopting the usual foot on monitor poses.

Janick used the furthest forward set of speakers as a seat, and also enjoyed giving it the odd kick just to show it who’s boss.

Of course, amid all of this, the iconic figure of Steve Harris strode across the stage brandishing his bass.

As the set progressed the huge backdrops behind the band changed to reflect each new song.

Bruce also changed costumes to suit the songs.

At one point he sported a gorilla mask and brandished bananas at the other band members! For ‘Power Slave’ he wore a leather mask, which must have been incredibly sweaty on the warm May night, but it didn’t slow him down at all.

He charged across the city walls above and behind the rest of the band.

As all of this unfolded before our eyes, our ears were treated to a very well chosen set list which covered the entire career of this magnificent band. They played oldies such as ‘Wrathchild’ and ‘Iron Maiden’.

During a magnificent version of ‘The Trooper’ Dickinson was clad in a red ‘Trooper’ jacket and he charged along the walls brandishing a huge Union flag.

At one point he amusingly draped it over Janick Gers as he played his guitar below. It was hard to discern how much ‘playing’ Janick actually did as he spent a lot of time throwing his guitar around on its strap, dancing with it.

We were treated to ‘Fear Of The Dark’ and then on to current masterpieces from the ‘Book of Souls’ album, including a blistering rendition of ‘Speed Of Light’ during which the crowd sang impressively along with the chorus.

It was a well chosen, well thought out set list.

You didn’t want to look away even for a second in case you missed something spectacular, such as the huge sporadic flames that erupted from the braziers along the city walls, or the massive inflatable Eddie figure that floated up from behind the set.

During ‘Book Of Souls’  a giant Eddie figure appeared on stage and ‘attacked’ the band.

Janick ran through its legs, then when Eddie tried to chop him with his axe he responded by hitting Eddie between the legs with his guitar.

Eddie then moved on to attack Dickinson who fought back and pulled out Eddie’s heart. Bruce squeezed the blood from it before throwing it into the crowd – most entertaining!!

At the end of the song Bruce said “this isn’t something you see every night, the stage on fire” – and it was! There was a flame about 2 feet high burning up on the top of the set! The band carried on regardless whilst the fire was put out.

The main set finished with ‘Iron Maiden’ before an encore of ‘Number Of The Beast’ (which involved the appearance of a huge inflatable Satan figure), ‘Wasted Years’ and ‘Blood Brothers’.

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Aug 262016

With thanks to Eoin Smith, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR.

Visit Aberdeen, the new destination organisation that will market the city to both leisure and business visitors, has appointed a chief executive officer. Steve Harris will take up the job on 14 August, after moving from his current position as Head of UK Media Relations at Shell. Pictured Steve Harris (Photo Ross Johnston/Newsline Scotland)

Tourism body VisitAberdeenshire will cross the North Sea later this month in order to strengthen the north east’s connections with Scandinavia.
Representatives from the organisation will attend Offshore Northern Seas (ONS), a key energy industry event in Stavanger, Norway, from 29 August to 1 September.

Norway is Scotland’s seventh largest international market in terms of visits, spending around 430,000 nights in the country and contributing £68 million to the economy.

In addition to meeting with key Norwegian travel industry operators and media, VisitAberdeenshire has sponsored the Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Pavilion which forms part of the conference’s evening festival entertainment in Vagen Harbour.

Open nightly from 5pm to 1am, the festival’s official after-party programme also includes concerts and fireworks displays, and allows delegates the chance to meet in an informal environment after attending the event’s conference, exhibition and technical sessions through the day.

Steve Harris, chief executive of VisitAberdeenshire, says,

“Norway has traditionally been a key market for both leisure and business visitors to the north east of Scotland, and VisitAberdeenshire is keen to strengthen these links.

“Despite the depressed nature of the oil and gas industry, it is still a key driver of business tourism in the north east of Scotland. Aberdeen and the surrounding area is still recognised as a global centre of excellence for the energy industry, and so it makes sense for international events related to the field to be held in the region. Throughout ONS we will be liaising with decision makers in the industry to attract new events to the north east of Scotland.”

Regular flights from Oslo, Stavanger and Bergen allow travellers to touch down in the north east after just over an hour’s flight time. This close proximity allows for great collaboration in both business and leisure tourism.

Steve continues,

“Attending events like ONS allows us to meet with key business and leisure contacts to increase awareness of everything Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire have to offer. Aberdeen is consistently one of the most popular destinations for Norwegian visitors, and in fact is the fourth most popular destination for Norwegian travellers in the whole of the UK.”

“New developments like the relocation of the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre will undoubtedly be a big talking point for those interested in bringing large conferences and events to the north east of Scotland. Many business visitors will also be interested in extending their stay in order to enjoy the area’s renowned golf offering.

“And the region also has a lot to offer leisure visitors. Lower shopping prices are incredibly attractive, as are the area’s amazing castles and whisky distilleries.

“With the area’s hotels more competitively priced than ever before, we firmly believe that there has never been a better time for Norwegian travellers to visit Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and we look forward to spreading that message in Stavanger later this month.”

VisitAberdeenshire was launched in April 2016, and is supported by Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils, Scottish Enterprise and Opportunity North East. For more information, please visit www.visitabdn.com

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Jan 072016

YWE-24With thanks to Jack Milner.

Happy couples are being urged to take the plunge before it’s too late if they hope to secure a ticket to the North-east’s leading wedding exhibition. Your Wedding Exhibition (YWE), now in its 20th year, will once again return to the AECC on Saturday and Sunday January 16 and 17 with tickets on sale now and selling fast.

Some of the highlights of the event will be a catwalk fashion show, showcasing the latest bridal wear, as well as Highlandwear, mother-of-the-bride outfits, hair and make-up and a display of wedding vehicles – ranging from luxury cars to classic camper vans.

During its time at the AECC, YWE has welcomed around 30,000 visitors and more than 1,700 exhibitors and this year’s event will be the biggest yet in terms of floor space with a list of vendors covering 6,500sq m of the GE Oil & Gas Arena.

Simon M Morgan, director at Your Wedding Exhibition, said:

“Each year we welcome thousands of visitors looking for ideas and inspiration for their big day and we are extremely proud to be able to be a part of making the most important day of their lives that extra bit magical.

“With 222 vendors exhibiting we are sure there will be something for everyone at the event – as well as some added surprises thrown in as well.”

Tickets for Your Wedding Exhibition are available from www.ticketmaster.co.uk priced £12.50 for individuals and £45 for a group of four (under 16s go free). Tickets will also be available on the door at the event. Free parking for visitors will also be available at the AECC.

For further information please visit www.yourweddingexhibition.com

Pictures courtesy of YWE.

Sep 132013

Well, that’s Offshore Europe over and done with for another two years, and yet again it was a relative success, writes Fin Hall.

Taxis. Credit: Fred Wilkinson

The word relative is important here.

Thousands upon thousands of visitors, mainly males in light blue shirts, descended on the city and its surroundings, spending their company’s money on taxis, buses, restaurants, bars and ridiculously overpriced hotels.

There were keen ones taking photos throughout the city to show to their spouses and some might have bought a souvenir or two, if they were able to find the time between meetings, cocktail parties and free dinners.

After all, they were on business trips, and not (ahem…) an all expenses-paid party trip.

Personally, as a taxi driver, I thoroughly enjoy the experience, apart from the traffic jams of course, and not just for the extra business to my trade, although that does help.

I enjoy meeting people who tend to be here for the first time and are interested in hearing about the history of the city, and are fascinated by the grey granite buildings which look so much better in the really good weather that we had during the this year’s show. Some have even made up their minds to return for a holiday break with their wives.

There seem to be mixed feelings about the actual exhibition itself. Some say they don’t really enjoy attending, but do so because their boss tells them to, whilst others don’t mind at all. Some really enjoy it and get a lot out of it.

The general consensus is that there is very little, if any, business done inside the marquees and buildings, where the focus is mainly on a great deal of networking, exchanges of business cards and putting faces to names. There’s a lot of and catching up with old friends and making new ones.

I have been told that most solid deals and promises are done over dinner or, believe it or not, in the taxi queue.

But everyone agrees that the city makes them feel welcome and whole experience is really well run.

As yet, nobody has explained why the gates were locked

But….ah yes, there is always a ‘but’.

To return to the term ‘relative’ in relation to the Exhibition’s success, there were a couple of black marks against this year’s proceedings.

First was the well-publicised locking up of one of the overspill car parks, not only because cars were still awaiting to exit, but, for some inexplicable reason, concrete blocks were dumped on the ground inside the gate. This occurred after a car went on fire in the area, causing two hour delays, resulting in an extensive line of traffic.

This chaos was heightened by the fact that the Dons had scheduled a match against Viking FK of Stavanger with a 1900 kick off time.

As yet, nobody has explained why the gates were locked when cars were still inside. I know that the sign said that the car park was scheduled to close at 1900, but surely anybody with half a brain would have been aware of the situation? Also, what was the idea of putting the concrete blocks in place? I am aware that normally this empty lot is kept blocked off to restrict entry to it by travellers, but surely with 24 hour security in place, the need for laying blocks was totally unnecessary?

Not to worry though, the police finally managed to get somebody to nip over and relieve the blockade. After much persuasion, he grudgingly did the business. At 2300.

As for the P&J, I believe it was, pointing out that amongst the cars trapped inside there were even ‘Mercedes and Land Rovers‘.

How puerile and sycophantic was that? Should we be impressed or feel even more sorry for those vehicle owners than for the guys involved in the lock-in who had Mondeos or Skodas?

An edition of Aberdeen Voice seemingly cannot be published without the council coming in for criticism. This time, it is to do with their efforts in trying to lay on some free events for the visiting masses.

First of all was the three-day closure of Belmont Street for the country fair, which ran from mid afternoon until nine at night. On passing several times, it looked less than mobbed, although it was hard to differentiate between folk actually at the market and people coming and going from the street’s pubs and cafes.

The second laid-on event turned out to be an even bigger waste of your council tax

Why they insist on blocking off thoroughfares for this and the pseudo-continental market, when they have a ready-made market stance at Castlegate, and the larger Union Terrace Gardens, still mystifies most folk

The second laid-on event turned out to be an even bigger waste of your council tax, and that was the non-advertised free music shows held in the quadrangle of the Marischal College.

These concerts, which some of you may still not be aware of, consisted of an international evening, a Scottish evening and a jazz night.

Another faux pas here by our city fathers. Never mind that they seemed not to let anyone know about this, they decided to start the shows at 1800 and run until 2100.

This is really anything but an ideal starting time. It’s even worse than the free match at Pittodrie, since the exhibition didn’t end until 1800, and the taxi rank generally cleared of the remaining stragglers around 1945.

After a busy day, and before dining, the exhibitors and the visitors probably needed at least a half hour rest. So maybe if someone in the corridors of power, had really thought this through, then 2000 would have probably been a more sensible start time.

I picked up a man on Wednesday night who had been performing at the Scottish event, and he said that there were only around thirty people at the show. He also said that the line-up was ‘crap’, although he did use a stronger term to describe his fellow performers.

On passing the Thursday event in my car, it appeared that the jazz evening had a slightly larger audience than previous nights and there were even some people dancing. But overall I don’t think the term ‘success’ can be used to describe what should have been an entertaining affair.

Finally turning to my own profession, whilst most taxi drivers come out to provide a good service, and, yes, to make some extra cash, others decided that, and I quote, ‘I couldn’t be bothered’. Again, a stronger word was used.

It is unfair that some deride the industry which has helped stabilise the city through some lean years

What? You couldn’t be bothered providing a service? Couldn’t be bothered making some extra cash? Oh I see, it’s the idea that the regular Joe Public is being neglected whilst all attention is aimed at the high rollers. Well, in fact, the taxi companies make a point of servicing both their regulars and the visitors, being aware that once the Exhibition is over, life goes on.

It is unfair that some deride the industry which has helped stabilise the city through some lean years, when other cities have suffered high unemployment. The oil business is far from perfect and some feel that it should have been doing more for the city and the populace, but maybe history is to blame for that.

When the big companies first came here and wanted to build, the then council should have said, ‘OK, but first you must do THIS for the town’.

Is that too naive? I don’t think so. When Stewart Milne wanted to develop at Portlethen, Aberdeenshire Council insisted that his company build a new underpass and road system, which he did.

Contrary to this, many years ago, when a company moved into the big house on Howes Road and turned it into an office block, warehouse and yard, they applied to the council to build a road linking their new premises to Lang Stracht to save juggernauts trundling through the housing estate where children would be playing. Unsurprisingly, the council declined their offer.

I realise that this seems to be ending on a negative note, and that really was not my intention. I really wanted this to be a relatively positive piece. Hey, there’s that word again,

So what lessons should be learned from this week?

First of all, obviously, when organising something, make sure that it is well-advertised and that citizens and visitors are aware of it.

Secondly, organise events to start and finish at reasonable times and have them somewhere people passing by will come across them, like the top deck of St Nicholas Centre, or even Union Terrace Gardens.

And finally, make sure there are security or police at every car park exit until all the vehicles have departed.

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Jul 052013

BrewDog’s annual general meeting on Saturday 22 June in the AECC came on the heels of a new share offering, impressive financials, and yet more awards; Aberdeen Voice contributor and card-carrying BrewDog shareholder Suzanne Kelly and Voice photographer Julie Thompson were on the spot.

A very sombre AGM was held in north Aberdeen fairly recently. The men at the helm of the business in question visibly squirmed as they addressed a small number of unmoved shareholders about their 2012 failures and shattered plans. In a speech peppered with jargon, the board spoke of ‘customer-facing businesses’ and so on, knowing they had turned in yet another poor year’s performance.

Following the gloomy AGM, the press called the business ‘down in the dumps.’  The controversial management continues to ignore calls for its resignation, despite a catalogue of failures, and investors have little to look forward to in the foreseeable future.

Thankfully, I’m not an Aberdeen Football Club shareholder.

No, I attended my second BrewDog AGM at the AECC, which was more like a party with a few hours devoted to business matters, and very successful business matters at that.  What a swell party (well, AGM) it was:

There is nothing like a BrewDog AGM, yet six years ago, you would have found BrewDog’s founders James Watt and Martin Dickie flogging small quantities of their beer at the Aberdeen Farmer’s market on Belmont Street.  Times have changed.

Hundreds of fellow shareholders from across the world (Belgium, France, Germany, Singapore) converged on the AECC to celebrate all things BrewDog.  Representing all ages, sexes shapes and sizes, BrewDog shareholders and their guests settled down to the serious business of drinking beer, talking beer, thinking beer and of course tasting beer.

The attendees also enjoyed great bands, great food, a wide range of discounted merchandise and beer, and they found time to address a little bit of financial business, too.

BrewDog’s AGM mirrors the company in many ways.  Both are growing bigger and better every year.  Both put a high premium on engaging with the public, and do so with a huge degree of success which professional PR moguls only wish they could bottle and sell.

In terms of bottling and selling, BrewDog is now Britain’s fastest-growing food and drink brand.  Not bad.  The company are serious about beer and the business of beer, and here are some facts and figures which show how that seriousness is made manifest:-

BrewDog has achieved an average annual growth of 167 per cent over the past five years and the company is valued at over three times the value it was given during the last Equity for Punks scheme in 2011.

The company made 42,000 shares available to anyone to buy at £95 each, ignoring traditional methods of funding to support its continued rapid growth. The brewery plans to use the funds raised to further expand its new brewery, its burgeoning bar division and a new series of bottle shops across the UK.

  • BrewDog now hires 187 staff and is on track to turnover £20m in 2013.
  • BrewDog’s biggest success in the past year has been the growth of its bar division, opening 12 bars since 2010 – largely funded by Equity for Punks investment – including its first international location in Stockholm, Sweden.

There is much to look forward to; the team have been taping a programme in America.  They’ve won yet more awards for business performance; they plan more expansion and a visitors’ shop.

Seeing as how they sold £1 million worth of shares of the new offering in 24 hours, another bumper year is

Can world domination be far off?

Looking at how this company started, how it deals with its staff, investors and the beer-drinking public, I wouldn’t be surprised.  This is the space to watch.

I’m not telling anyone to invest in anything; I’m just proud to be part of a local success story that’s employing people and reintroducing the world to chemical-free, innovative, tasty beer.  And why not?

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Sep 132012

By Andrew Watson.

Where do I start? I have to be frank and say that I’m not particularly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the City Garden Project and other megabucks initiatives that seem to have been put on ice by the Aberdeen City Council administration.

However, I have an opinion on most of these things, regardless of my sometimes shocking lack of insight.

You see, I voted in favour of the proposal to change irrevocably the landscape of Union Terrace Gardens, and, of course, the city centre itself, because I’m a contrarian by nature.

I was totally fed up with people seeming to bemoan the loss of the heart of Aberdeen, a reference to our great Victorian architectural heritage.  Did anyone ever use the Gardens before Ian Wood came along with his £50m? Alternatively, I suppose, would it not cost more than, say, £100m to bring the Gardens to street level? However, why were the proposals thrown out when a public vote, albeit a narrow one, wanted them to happen?

I could have sworn that it was only at that point that the Gardens, admittedly an island of green amidst a sea of cold, grey granite, had anyone taking notice of them. Now they’re holding placards. Better late than never.

Anyway, I digress.

Friday 7 September, was the day when I was meant to have a rather innocuous look at ACSEF’s AECC conference Securing Investment for Success.

Tom Smith, ACSEF chairman, said:

Our economy continues to punch well above its weight compared to other regional economies in the UK. Yet the public funding we receive is not commensurate with this economic contribution. We are in the process of confirming a strong line-up of public and private speakers and are looking forward to a robust debate and some strong recommendations and potential solutions coming out of this summit.”

Fair enough. A push towards The Big Society? Very nice.

A public consultation? After all, ACSEF is funded by Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire taxpayers.

Not a chance. Just senior managers from the business community, Council officials and local MPs and MSPs.

Despite this, I was told I shouldn’t have too much problem getting in. Well, you’d have thought so. But no, two invited delegates, who couldn’t make it, and from whom I tried to gain delegation, couldn’t help either. One had invited his brother instead. No problem.

“What about you, Iain Richardson?

“Yeah sure, will ping an email to Katrina Dunbar, Events Director with the Big Partnership”

‘Hi Katrina

Thanks, I’d like to pass my place on to Andrew Watson, please.

All the best


I have seen this very email, sent to Katrina by Iain Richardson, stating that he was more than willing to pass his invitation on to me.

Katrina responded:

‘Hi Andrew

The communication I had with Iain Richardson, from what I could recall, is that he was planning to send the invite on to other contacts but we are within our rights to restrict entry to those who are not representing business as I previously stated. I’m afraid that I am only stating the guidelines that I have been given in terms of entry to the Summit.’

Concluded with a rather curt ‘trust this settles the matter’. Our only hope, to be honest, is that our business people represent the thoughts and feelings of the general Aberdeen public as best they can, and I have no doubt they will.  However, it doesn’t present the full picture, does it?

Which brings another of Mr Contrary’s bugbears to the forefront

Why were the proposals for my beloved Aberdeen FC chucked out?  Pittodrie’s crumbling, or so I’ve been told. Cue angry responses, including from me. I can’t help but feel, rather flippantly, without our slice of Dubai rock in UTG, and without our modern stadium in Loirston, you know, getting with the times and all that, are we forever to be relegated to provincial town status?

Don’t get me wrong, part of me, a defiance rooted somewhere in Teuchterville, wants this always to be the case. I don’t claim to know all the answers, but I know this cannot go on forever, and it irks me somewhat that not more of a concerted effort is being made towards public consultation, rather than just a yap between businessmen and councillors.

Take the proposed pedestrianisation of Union Street, or even the Loirston proposals.

The hub of our one-street town grinds to a halt most days, never mind when the International Market takes place on Union Terrace. What will divert crowded traffic elsewhere? A bypass, perhaps? Is that going even to happen?  What about surgery for the Haudagain artery? A long-term chronic heart problem for our city, if we’ve ever had one!

Loirston needs serious work. Where is the infrastructure in the area to support the stadium proposals and the crowds, cars, and busloads of fans transferred from King Street to Cove? Would we be not better taking the stadium somewhere else, which already has easy access in, out and away from the city centre? With common sense, would infrastructure projects like these really have the combined cost of £900 million, mooted by ACSEF?

How about asking bus, truck, lorry and taxi drivers what they think should be done? Or hell, have a consultation of commuters, for all I care. Just get it done!

I’m afraid my generation is the one likely to have to pay for this convoluted ‘granite web’, and the £900 million building plan ACSEF has announced is one bitter pill for the heart.

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