Christchurch Issac Theatre Royal. Photo / Supplied
After months locked down, weeks stuck at home, and long days entertaining ourselves, I finally went out last week to attend my first concert in Christchurch in over two years – The Simon and Garfunkel at Central Park 40th anniversary show, held at the Isaac Theatre Royal.
The place was packed, the punters excited, with security cracking jokes as the concert-goers arrived early to catch up with friends and reminisce about the old days pre-Covid – what it was like when going out in central Christchurch was the norm.
Many people wore masks in the foyer – who knows, it could potentially have been a super spreader event.
Once inside the theatre, most of the masks were gone. Music lovers clapped and sang their hearts out.
The nine-piece band, which included a roaring sax, thumping bass and perfect guitars played by some of our own celebrated Kiwi songwriters – Luke Buda from The Phoenix Foundation, Age Prior from Fly My Pretties, and Anita Clark from Motte – entertained the crowd for over two hours.
It will come as no surprise that the band was happy to finally be back on stage and in front of an audience – so much so, in fact, that the performers even clapped and applauded for their bandmates along with the enthralled crowd at the end of almost every song.
The painful memories of lockdowns and the sense of suffering that comes without nightlife completely disappeared with the music – until one of the band members revealed between songs that they’d personally had cancelled 98 gigs in the past two years due to Covid.
Even so, the crowd couldn’t help but quickly return to a state of levity as they lapped up a rare night out with live music – everyone had a smile on their face, visible even on those who’d kept their masks up.
And the Isaac Theatre Royal – such a vital centrepiece in the heart of Christchurch for concerts and shows – roared back into life just as if Covid had never happened.
Even more poignant was the fact that Nigel Cox, who lead the restoration of the Isaac Theatre Royal, was not there to enjoy it.
Cox passed away in October last year whilst the country grappled with outbreaks and lockdowns.
I myself remember spending many-a-time in steel-capped boots, a hard-hat and a fluorescent vest after the Christchurch Earthquake, walking around inside the construction site that was, at that time, the Theatre Royal.
Nigel Cox was so passionate, so enthusiastic, and absolutely desperate to show off the progress of the iconic theatre’s rebuild, especially considering the rest of the city was simultaneously being pulled down.
And what an asset it is now, seen in all its glory – so thank goodness.
How ironic it was that a concert that rocked the world 40 years ago – Simon and Garfunkel in Central Park – was being replayed in Christchurch to build it up, the very place where a quake had previously rocked the city and torn it down?
Covid had stolen the nightlife, only for it to be reignited in spectacular fashion, thanks to great music and that beautiful theatre that I’d seen rebuilt from the ground up.
It was fantastic to be back in the theatre, and back to normality. I had a real sense that Christchurch was back on track.