The Egg

The Egg

After a long overnight drive from Boston the bus reverses directly off of a highway into a loading bay under the Empire State Plaza in Albany NY. There is breakfast at the venue so after Gary has docked the bus and connected the shore power Kris and I venture out in search of catering.

There is no obvious way out of the loading bay other that back out on to the roadway which is too dangerous an option to contemplate even at this hour on a holiday weekend in Albany. After investigating a few fire doors that would close and behind us potentially entombing us in a concrete bunker, I am about to opt for the freight elevator when I notice some curved red elevator doors in the corner. I push the call button and nothing seems to happen and Kris and I are about to turn our attention to the daunting prospect of operating the freight elevator (in flagrant disregard for multiple notices that only staff should do so) when the red doors slide open and a waistcoated lift operator perched on a stool in an padded elliptical elevator greets us with a chirpy “Hi! Del Amitri. I’m Colin and I’ll be your lift operator till five today. Catering and dressing rooms are on three and the stage is on two. Where do you want to go?” Doing our best to appear non-plussed we get in the lift. As we head up to three Colin tells us that he looked after Wishbone Ash the previous week. Ticket sales were disappointing, he tells us. I wonder who the hell is likely to come to see us in this place.

The Egg is an windowless, building constructed entirely from reinforced concrete. Egg shaped, obviously, it sits perched in the middle of the New York State Capitol buildings. And this being Easter weekend, the entire complex appears to be completely deserted apart from us and our lift operator. There is no obvious way out of the building except back on to the freeway through the loading bay. You get kinda used to waking up in weird places on buses on tour; Blackpool Leisure Beach, Disneyland; in car parks in Kentucky and fields in Besançon but this is probably the weirdest yet.

After breakfast and some negotiation with the very helpful staff a door to the outside world is unlocked for us. Outside turns out to be no less surreal than inside: the Empire State Plaza is a mish-mash of scaleless reinforced concrete buildings placed around two gigantic (empty) pools that were, presumably, meant to reflect the monstrous edifices that surround them. The place is a bleak, cold and dehumanising. If there is such a thing as fascist art this is an archetype.

At show time everyone in the audience has to be ferried up to the The Swyer (sic) Theater in the same elliptical lift (which has had the padding removed) now operated by the evening operator who is a good deal less garrulous than Colin. The Swyer is like a plush university lecture room with an improbably high tech spec. There is no bar to be seen but in spite of its lack of vibe the room sounds great and the show does not disappoint. After everyone has been ferried back down in the lift after the show I wander back out to the plaza to see what the place looks like after dark. A full moon has risen behind The Egg. I am on the set of a bad, eighties science fiction movie. New York City and another planet beckons.