NIA Academy venue gets the cold shoulder
18th January 2009As you may recall, I recently attended Birmingham's NIA Academy to see Jake and Elwood's Christmas Party back in December, and a lot of fun it was too.
Whilst I have attended numerous events at the NIA over the years, I have never experienced it in its 'Academy' format which basically consists of one end being curtained off and used as a smaller auditorium. The idea is as brilliant as it is simple, increasing the flexibility of this huge resource and in doing so becoming one of Birmingham's leading medium sized performance venues.
Jake and Elwood did a sterling job, whipping up a partisan crowd into a festive throng but the venue offered them few favours.
Mr Fabulous' comment in the original Blues Brothers film "It's a f**king barn. We'll never fill it", is as true of of the NIA Academy as it was of the Palace Hotel Ballroom back in Illinois. The place is indeed, a barn. The back risers are a mile from the stage and the temporary seating on the main floor was numbing the bum within an hour of our arrival. Maybe this had something to do with the crowd's enthusiast to get up an dance.
For my money this urge to surge had far more to do with the temperature of the venue. With the thermometer sinking to canal freezing minus 3C outside, the cold seeped in from all sides slowly chilling the audience to the bone.
Were it not for the James Brown set, I would have to describe this as the most soulless venue I have visited.
If you get a chance to see your favourite artist somewhere else, go there instead. There is a flip side, however. The NIA balcony does offer a vantage point for a truly sublime canal view through Brindley Place towards Gas Street Basin.
So, even if the inside of the NIA Academy lacks appeal and intimacy, keep your camera handy to capture some spectacular sights on the way in and out.