Thursday, 22 May 2014

Barry Manilow at the Glasgow Hydro and the Tazmanian Devil

If you are just looking for a simple review of the concert you are probably better reading a proper critics review. This is my combined review and personal 'diary' of the event and my attempts at Mother wrangling while using a crutch, not on her I might add!

Barry Manilow is my Mother's lifetime love and would have been my father if she could have gotten her mitts on him, or so she told us! Way back when the tickets came out I had high hopes of being fit and able with my gammy knee just a distant memory. Sadly not the case and I was absolutely dreading this outing from both our mobility perspectives and the first time using this venue. My Mother is now 80yrs old, has survived a couple of life-threatening illnesses and is still living with the devastating physical and cognitive sequelae of them. I love her unreservedly but the use of the popular euphemism 'challenging' struggles to describe her behaviour at times. She also has physical problems with walking distances and worse is that she decides sometimes that she just can't/won't either. Our seats were mid-priced so not on the flat. It would have been ideal to get stalls seats but the only ones left were so far back as a pair of shorties we'd have struggled to see anything.

By now you are wondering what the hell was I thinking!!!! In my defence all I can say is that I thought it was a good idea at the time of booking! Barry Manilow is the only man I've ever seen my Mum swoon about, she is 80yo and he is 70yo so this is probably their last live meeting in Glasgow, I feel eternally guilty as I have not been able to visit my usual 3-4 times a week and we've had to exist on lots of phone calls because of my knee problems, her cognition is so poor that normal things don't stick in her mind but this might, she doesn't need anything so this was a part of her birthday present and I thought it would be lovely to be able to give her this experience.

Between her valiant carers and myself we got her spruced up and into a nice going out outfit and into the taxi. The Hydro venue has good front door access for taxis etc and has a new multi-storey car park nearby if you can walk that distance however, there are three major venues, Hydro, Armadillo and SECC (Big Red Shed) next door to each other and the roads decend into chaos and become overwhelmed. Luckily our access doors etc were all nearby and my Mum was in good spirits and distracted by everything so was managing the walks. This is the first time she has ever had to walk under her own steam outdoors with me as normally she insists on taking my arm and putting all her weight on me. It was funny as she kept trying to take my arm with the crutch, to help me she declared, but how she thought we'd manage as a five legged entity heaven only knows.

The venue has escalators and lifts so we were doing well until we came to the final stair access to our seats. The seat pitch is very steep which is great for the view however getting there is a nightmare as the polished concrete steps have NO handrails. My heart was in my mouth and it was a nightmare getting her up there. Barry Manilow's fans were not young and there were a lot of scared and unsteady people on the ascent and descents. Luckily the lady next to us had sussed out that if we went up to the next level on the way out there were stairs with handrails which made things a longer walk my significantly safer as the area seating is genuinely treacherous.
Access aside the venue was well laid out and everyone was given a glow stick so when the lights went down it looked like the place was filled with fireflies waving along to the songs. Mum took umbrage at her's and rolled it in her jacket. It made me laugh seeing all these pensioners giving it 90's rave culture with the glow sticks and being totally oblivious to the connotations! You could take drinks and food to your seats but I wondered how I'd manage to carry stuff and if my Mum needed the toilet it would have been a nightmare getting her there and back. Thankfully she refused offers of food or drink as the cold drinks and fast food didn't appeal.
The support act was a smooth jazz saxophonist Dave Koz who was very good if a little loud and he had a good audience rapport going. I love a bit of sax but too much definitely gives me a headache :-) Jazz and Blues are the two types of music I really cant take to somehow but he was ok. There was another long break before the main man appeared and when he did WOW the audience just erupted and the glow sticks went wild. He sang a good mix from his various albums and many of them old favourites. I have to admit to loving Copacabana, Bermuda Triangle, Mandy and New England probably because they were the undesired soundtrack to my youth.

Now I will have to kill you if you repeat this but I've seen Barry Manilow three times now as I have always been the fall guy to accompany Mum. He is a good showman but he's not my cup of tea. However, what I was really struck with last night was what a bloody great performer he is and what a humble and self effacing man. He had a very stiff and uncomfortable looking gait and quite a few of my pics have him leaning to the side like Gourock (the West of Scotland equivalent of Pisa) but I'm not in a position to criticise anyone's gait or limp. He really connected with the audience and you could see he was struggling with some of the songs which, in his youth he wouldn't have, but he really pushed it for his fans. Initially I wondered if he was possibly lip synching but he definitely wasn't and was giving it his all and I felt what a trooper. To be fair he could have come on stage and passed wind and his die-hard fans would have clapped uproariously but this was an expert in his craft in his 70's still genuinely reaching out and connecting with his fans and well done to him.
When he sang 'Looks Like We Made It' someone who may have resembled me (!) became a bit teary holding her Mum's hand and remembering all the times her Mum used to sing this during the hard times and how that same woman has survived. To be there together was a special moment in time and that very blurry picture of our hands is one I'll treasure.

Shortly afterwards the little fan I was accompanying became less engaged and started getting agitated. I noticed she was looking anywhere but at the stage, raking her nails through her hair and rearranging her clothing. She's recently been refusing to wear her bra so I bought her a soft crop top which she somehow managed to wear in the style of a vest and kept tucking it in her knickers which is a testament to the stretch of lycra if nothing else. It was funny when I asked her if she was alright and she asked me if I'd had enough and was I ready to go home as if she was only there to keep me company! She did manage with a bit of prompting and support to stay vaguely on track and was quite settled for the rest of the concert. It wasn't an excessively loud concert but it may have become so for her especially with her poor concentration as she may have forgotten who was singing.

The way out of the venue was less hazardous than I'd feared but when we got to ground level my Mother suddenly went absolutely Bertie and started getting exceptionally belligerent and verbally abusive to me, declaring she wasn't walking anywhere and that was her final word! Reasoning with her only enraged her even more.

When she eventually took on board that we couldn't stay in the venue and I couldn't, or wouldn't magic her where she wanted to go she stormed off at speed and I struggled to catch up with her! Once outside, we had the same pantomime of 'where are be going, I can't walk, I'm not moving, you'll need to do something'. Same deal until I got her to the little bus shelters for her to sit and stew. There was a Black Cab taxi rank adjacent but the queue was snaked way around the venue so I waited till the traffic cleared a bit and called a local firm.  Meanwhile my Mother was enraged anew as the Taxi Marshall's were chatting with folk in the queue and she took this as an affront that they were all laughing just to get at her, they were talking conspiratorially about her and to see if she could get a rise out of me she tried to tell me they were out to get me too and I should wade in and 'sort them'! Her language and volume were problematic and I had to tell her off on a number of occasions as in these situations she escalates for effect. Visualise an unreasonable and beligerent drunk spoiling for a fight at a taxi queue and that's a good match for my sober but furious Mum with delusions of grandeur and self-centredness.

Things weren't helped by a woman getting someone in a wheelchair into a taxi who decided to back right into my Mum and then complain because my mother put her hand out to protect herself. In this case my Mum was in the right and I had to politely but sternly challenge the woman's inappropriateness. By nature I am a quiet person and as much as I was mortified with having to manage my Mum's outbursts I certainly wasn't going to tolerate bad manners from anyone else and definitely not where these could have lead to an avoidable injury.

The remainder of the half hour wait for our taxi was difficult as I couldn't engage Mum in distracting or pleasant conversation as she sat Lady MacBeth style mangling the plastic bag containing the very expensive t-shirt I'd bought her and muttering vile untruths about everyone and occasionally and loudly making paranoid accusations at those nearby. I realised all I could do was try to ignore and contain her increasingly unreasonable outbursts but I can recall eventually hissing exasperatedly "You are only everyone's first priority in your own head so you'll just have to wait".

Half and hour later our private hire taxi arrived once he could get through the traffic, I apologised to the Taxi Marshall's for her behaviour at the adjacent Black Cab rank and after an absolute battle to get her seat belt on I got her back to her care home and the loving embrace of carers who were not plotting to lob her into the Clyde like I was by this stage. She stormed into the home and when the night carer offered her tea and something to eat she immediately popped on her pleasant chatty face. When I left I tried to kiss her goodbye but clearly I became public enemy No.1 again as I was now abandoning her. You just can't win, and as I said to the carer on the way out 'Clearly no good deed should ever go unpunished' and mine certainly hadn't!

I initially started writing this as just a review of the concert and venue but as I began writing, or more accurately rambling, I wanted to record how my night had really gone. I am not a fan of big crowd concerts at the best of times and I think it will be quite some time before I get over this one. It was done as a kindness, was poignant and special to have been there and hellish by turns but sadly these highs and lows are the reality of loving and being with someone who has a cognition destroying condition. I am always conscious that I am blessed that she is still here with me but that doesn't make her, or more accurately her condition, easy to live with. I wish with all my heart it was different but it isn't and maybe this reflects badly on me as a person. I feel I should say something profound about the role of carer or the person with the disability but the reality is all you can do is try to do your best and try to hang on as the emotional rollercoaster goes faster and faster.

If you've lasted this long, well done and you deserve a cuppa, or a lie down-I know I definitely did when I got home afterwards as my first trip to the Hydro is definitely not one I'll forget!


  1. Good Lord what a night! Oh dealing with our elderly parents is indeed no picnic. Bless your heart 9and your knee) for doing what you did for your Mom. All you can do is try your best and not take anything personally, which is hard to do as a daughter. You are so lovely to have gone out of your way to have your Mom enjoy Barry, he is a great performer that is for sure.
    Hugs and get some rest.

  2. Well, lets start with the good! I am glad that Barry put on a good show for you, the older singers seem to make a much better show of their concerts it seems to me, so at least that was good and no doubt you enjoyed waving your glow stick!

    I am sorry about the difficulties that you had. While I was reading I was nodding in familiarity at a lot of what you were saying so although it is absolutely no consolation or help to you I realise, please know that your writing was of great help to me to know that these things don't just happen to me. No silver lining, but you have made me feel less alone and I hope that knowing that will make you feel that you are not alone either.

    I understand your feeling of no good deed goes unpunished, but you could think instead of getting your rewards in heaven!

    Go and have a rest and enjoy whatever you do to relax and chill out - you definitely deserve it!! xx

  3. You described a situation that a lot of carers suffer. I have experienced similar abusiveness from a parent whose version of reality is the one inside her head and there's no reasoning to be done. I can relate to the "putting on a polite chatty face" to others and then behind closed doors, with family, they feel relaxed enough to let it all out and the poor relatives cop the lot. It is a very thankless and demoralising situation to be in. I feel for you very much and think you are very brave for making the effort to go on such a big outing. Rest assured, you are not alone in your experience. Can you turn a difficulty into a positive by bringing to the venue's attention the risks and difficulties faced by an ageing audience and lack of handrails etc. even if no major changes are made, if you educate just one more person about it, then that person can go on to educate others. Perhaps appealing to the sense of legal liability for personal injury etc might wake them up. Really, some of these steep venues are so inappropriate for people with mobility issues.

  4. Wow, that is tough. I think you are a wonderful, loving, generous and thoughtful person to plan this trip and then go along with it, especially with all the trouble you've had with your knee lately. I am sure that your mum did enjoy it and you did an admirable job of staying calm and coping with the situation. You deserve a medal! x


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