UNISON Concert For A Living Wage - Manchester Arena - 28.4.01

Everyone's here for the concert really, but lets just hope a few people will go home with a political bone in their bodies. Its a simple request that every person regardless of age should be paid a fiver for an hours work. After all while you may be spending £50 on an designer sweater there will be some poor bugger working for less than a pint and a packet of crisps an hour. While this may be worlds apart from the May Day Protests a few days from now they are basically fighting for the same cause and that cause is treat you fellow men with a little respect.

So here we are in a mega-dome of global capitalism. McDonalds restaurants are two a penny round the venue. Pepsi and Coca Cola compete for the gaping mouths of teenagers and its £2.60 for some watered down warm beer. Totally inappropriate but then again the only option for a concert of this size.

After the Dum Dums get political for all the wrong reasons and end up playing just two songs semi-acoustic its left for the mad Americans Wheatus to warm up the 16,000 punters in the arena. And to be honest despite only two recognizable songs they don't do too bad. "Teenage Dirtbag" and the cover of Erasure's "A Little Respect" couldn't help to warm the hardest of hearts but elsewhere is all too much style over substance. A couple of teenage girls are invited to join them before being left rabbits-in-headlights style to a bemused crowd. Maybe its just me though. The crowd seem to enjoy it but they enjoy it in the way that they vacantly laugh at Friends or Ally Macbeal. Me - I'm happy to disagree on this one.

Next up Idlewild genuinely surprise me. Punk rock shapes are thrown more in a state of discontent rather than in the aping of guitar heroes long gone. Its strange though seeing a band that is predominantly left of field play such an enormo-dome. Strangely it works and if it achieved one thing tonight it was watching the more conservative members of the audience walk away with the expression that all too knowingly says "Its a bit loud isn't it love"

Never before has such a reaction been caused by a singer standing up. In line with Bob Dylan ditching the acoustic I don't think, but if anything Mr Hair bloke from Toploader causes a similar reaction to Westlife during the infamous stool-standing incidents. In all seriousness though over the past year or so the 'Loader have really improved from just being an average indie band to a pop explosion. Admittedly due to the fact that "Dancing In The Moonlight" is a blinding cover version (Yeah you heard it -COVER VERSION - for anyone who is under the age of 25). So lets wait for the next album lads and see what you do then.

Catatonia headline as they rightfully should yet it may just be the last time they play a venue this size. Comeback single "Stone By Stone" is appalling and continues down the same sorry road that "Equally Cursed and Blessed" did. More an exercise in arrangement and production than any real songwriting behind it. Cery's naturally on fine form takes time to dedicate a song to "all the real women" after the surgically slimmed Geri Halliwell played the same venue the previous night. And on "Mountain" they sum up the night perfectly with the line "Go ask the government you voted in".

Great Night. Great Gig. But either way support the campaign as it may just be you offered £3.70 an hour next time.

Alex McCann