‘We’ve had some of the best artists in the world play there. Live at the Marquee has been great for me and it’s been great for Cork’
PROMOTER Peter Aiken has admitted he doesn’t quite know what it is about Live at the Marquee in Cork that makes it such a special annual event for so many people.
“I don’t really know,” he replied when asked about it during his recent visit to Leeside to announce that Rod Stewart has been added to this summer’s line-up at the Docklands venue.
“I remember Bob Dylan’s manager saying to me ‘whatever it is with this place, don’t move it because this place works’. He also represents Paul Simon, who kicked of his 2011 European tour here. He said that should Paul Simon do another European tour he would finish it off at the Marquee, joking that it was all downhill after his gig here,” said Mr Aiken.
“I think it’s a looser venue than an arena, perhaps because its just put together within a week or two it just seems more relaxed somehow. It’s more vocal and the marquee sort of accentuates the sound of the crowd, which helps a lot,” he added.
However, the sight of a marquee did not fill one particular artist, the late Tom Petty with any particular sense of delight when he first set eyes on it.
“On the day he and his band arrived it was lashing rain and they were like ‘what are we doing here, is this what our careers have come to? I then told Tom’s right hand man who had played here before and when I said Bob Dylan he just said, ‘that’s it, that’s all I need to hear’ and got on with it,” said Mr Aiken.
He recalled watching the crowd “going crazy” when Tom Petty walked out on the stage and the singer turning to his drummer and mouthing ‘what the f**k’.
“That was it. His manager said that Tom Petty wanted to speak to me after the gig and when he introduced me Tom walked and said ‘you know, you throw one hell of a party’ and kept on walking,” said Mr Aiken.
Former Pink Floyd member Roger Waters was similarly impressed with the venue when he played there in 2006.
“Sometime later I went to see him at the Hollywood Bowl. When I met him after the show he said to me ‘you’re the guy with the tent, that was amazing,’” said Mr Aiken.
Asked if he had any particular favourites among the hundreds of gigs at the Marquee over the past 17-years, Mr Aiken said it was difficult to pick any single one.
“I didn’t know much about Biffy Clyro before they came in 2014. I thought they were amazing,” said Mr Aiken.
He said some of the great nights have been when there has been a great reaction from the crowd and an artist will come off the stage and say, ‘that was unbelievable’.
“I remember Rod Stewart in 2009 saying ‘its nights like this that were the reason I got into this business in the first place’. Then you have someone like Elton John who has played the venue four times, he loved it.”
“I’m thinking to myself this is Elton John and he’s in the Marquee. I mean, this is a guy who recently did three nights at the Dodger Stadium in LA in front of 55,000 people each night. This guy was in our catering tent looking for sugar,” grinned Mr Aiken.
“There are loads of favourites, you love Christy (Moore) and the great success he has had. The first time the Prodigy played the Marquee the were incredible. Then there was the night we had The Coronas and the little-known band supporting them was Picture This. Then, a year later, they sold out two nights at the Marquee,” he added.
Looking back to the first Live at the first Live at the Marquee in 2005, Mr Aiken said he never thought it would still be going strong 17-years later.
“No, it was only meant to be for one-year, sort of bailing out the Cork City of Culture programme in 2005. We had agreed to a couple of acts, Brian Wilson and Diana Ross. Then I said there was this other great act I wanted to bring, Dwight Yoakam,” said Mr Aiken.
“I had set it all up and was then told no, the City of Culture committee did not want that. I said I would do it myself then as I had already made a commitment to the artist. The idea was to do one year, get in and get out. But, it just grew and grew from there,” he added.
The rest, as the saying goes is history.
Mr Aiken said a key element to the events ongoing success was that Cork is far more accessible than it was back in 2005.
“For example, you can get from Dublin to Cork in around 2 hours 40 minutes. So, that’s not a big deal anymore. People will travel from anywhere,. If its your favourite artist you will travel, no matter where the gig is,” said Mr Aiken.
“I remember the night the Specials played the Marquee in 2012, it seemed like half of Coventry and Birmingham was there. When Slayer played in 2016 it was like half of Belfast was there,” he added.
Looking forward, Mr Aiken said that until the owners of the former Ford depot site, which has hosted the event since 2005, have put forward a clear plan for it “we will just keep going.”
“I’d say it could hopefully go on for another couple of years,” he said, before confirming that some acts have already been booked for next year.
“Live at the Marquee has been great for me and it’s been great for Cork. It’s been a great story for Aiken Promotions. We’ve had a great run at it every year with no major upsets. We’ve had some of the best artists in the world play there, made some great friendships both on and off the stage and brought 1.2 million people to the city, that’s a lot of people,” said Mr Aiken.
He said that if the site was not available in the future they would maybe look at locating the event elsewhere in Cork.
“We will have to wait and see. Until there is a clear plan of action (for the site), we will just keep going.”