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Five years of The SSE Hydro: The huge events that have brought millions to the Glasgow arena

Glasgow's SSE Hydro arena (Ross Crae / DC Thomson)
Glasgow's SSE Hydro arena (Ross Crae / DC Thomson)

KYLIE MINOGUE’S show at The SSE Hydro on Sunday marks an extra special occasion for the Glasgow venue.

When the Australian star takes to the stage, it’ll be five years to the day since Rod Stewart performed at the Clydeside arena’s opening show.

We’re marking the occasion across the weekend across our website and the paper with a look back on what The Hydro has brought to Glasgow and its future as it looks ahead to the next five years and beyond.

We’ve also been backstage for a glimpse at what the stars see when they’re preparing to come out and entertain thousands.

Today, we look back on the arena’s five years and the variety of events that have entertained over five million people since opening.


The Hydro’s opening night with Rod Stewart (Marc Turner / PFM

The most common events held at The Hydro are gigs, bringing stars of the music world to Clydeside.

Rod Stewart was the first act to headline the venue back in September 2013.

He performed a run of four sell-out shows to a sea of tartan, officially launching the £125 million building.

There had been speculation over whether or not it would be finished on time, but the veteran rocker joked on stage: “We made it!”

And it seems he was impressed with the new surroundings, later telling the audience “It’s a wonderful night – the building hasn’t fallen down yet. I was lying awake all last night thinking about it!”

The venue became a hub for huge acts from across the globe to play in front of the famed Glasgow audience, from Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber to Iron Maiden and Fleetwood Mac.

Scots bands CHVRCHES and Mogwai have also wowed their home crowds in the arena.

The Hydro proved an upgrade on the neighbouring SEC Hall 4, allowing bigger, better and brighter productions to come to the city.

Geoff Ellis, CEO of DF Concerts & Events, reckons the arena has been “an amazing asset to live music in Scotland over the past 5 years.”

He added: “It gives promoters the chance to bring world-class acts to Scotland on a year-round basis and gives music fans a much better gig going experience at arena level.”



The cast of Still Game outside the Hydro (Barrie Marshall / Sunday Post)

While music is the most common genre of event, comedy has been the real record breaker.

The first live show version of Still Game proved such a hit for fans that organisers had to keep adding new dates.

A phenomenal run of 21 shows in 2014 delighted over 210,000 fans, and made £6 million in ticket sales.

February 2017 saw another successful run, meaning that Ford Kiernan, Greg Hemphill and co have performed in the venue for a total of 36 nights.

Kiernan compared the “mind-blowing” experience to being in The Beatles, saying: “Being on the receiving end of a standing ovation from 10,000 is something you can’t ever expect.

“I can see why pop stars go nuts at the end of a big tour.

“I don’t know how you replenish that adrenaline. I don’t think Red Bull’s going to cover it!”

Fellow Scots comic Kevin Bridges is another who might as well move in – performing for 15 nights in 2015 and returning next month for 19 performances.

Lee Evans, Chris Rock, Michael McIntyre and a number of other comedians have all performed arena shows at The Hydro.


Awards bashes

Typical Glasgow weather for attendees at the MOBOS in Glasgow, including Ms. Dynamite (Andrew Cawley / DC Thomson)


The MOBO Awards came to Glasgow in 2013 and 2016, establishing The Hydro as a venue for big awards bashes.

Stars of the music world also had to look out their tartan and head to Glasgow for the 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards.

The likes of Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, U2 and David Hasselhoff – complete with kilt and Braveheart face paint – were in attendance, and Emeli Sande and Biffy Clyro’s Simon Neil represented their homeland on stage.

The BBC Sports Personality of the Year final also came to the venue in 2014, the same year it had hosted events as part of the Commonwealth Games.



Scotland Decides – The Big, Big Debate (Tina Norris/BBC Scotland/PA Wire)

A week before Scotland went to the polls in the independence referendum, Scotland Decides: The Big Big Debate saw the BBC’s James Cook chair a debate between Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie arguing for Yes and Ruth Davidson and George Galloway on the No side.

The audience was largely made up of 16- and 17-year-old first time voters.

The Hydro has also been the venue for recent SNP conferences, with thousands of members attending.



Sir Chris Hoy meets volunteers for the Glasgow 2018 European Championships (Colin Templeton/PA Wire)

A key venue in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2018 European Championships, The Hydro has seen a variety of different sporting events within its walls.

Netball and gymnastics came to the Clyde waterfront for the 2014 games, with Scots Daniel Purvis and Daniel Keatings picking up gold medals on the parallel bars and pommel horse respectively.

Artistic gymnastics was on offer during the 2018 Championships, with Team GB finding some modest medal success.

Andy Murray sports a ‘See You Jimmy Hat’ at Andy Murray Live (SNS Group / Ross Parker)

Andy Murray and Roger Federer delighted tennis fans in November 2017 with a charity exhibition match at The SSE Hydro.

The event doubled its 2016 efforts for UNICEF and local charity Sunny-sid3up and raised over £700,000 in 2017.


Josh Taylor celebrates after defeating Viktor Postol at The Hydro in August (SNS Group)

The Hydro has hosted several big boxing bouts involving Scots stars, including Ricky Burns and Josh Taylor.

UFC came to Scotland for the first time in July 2015 at The Hydro, with Scot Joanne Calderwood featuring in the match named fight of the night by the mixed martial arts promotion.

In the world of wrestling, WWE brought its Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live TV tapings to Scotland for the first time at the arena in November 2016.

And Glasgow-based Insane Championship Wrestling has also held shows at the venue, having worked their way up from shows at community halls in Maryhill to the huge arena.

“It’s a different level entirely once you run The SSE Hydro,” says the promotion’s founder Mark Dallas.

“Everything from the arena to the backstage area screams ‘big time!” and you really have to step your game up when you perform there.

“It’s such a massive part of Glasgow culture now and the biggest acts in the world have played there so for ICW to be returning for a third time in December is a great feeling and a true honour.”

We’ll have more coverage on The Hydro’s fifth anniversary across the weekend on and in this weekend’s paper.