Entertainment
A HIP-HOP HAZING: Nelly Furtado and the Swollen Members gave the newly expanded MacEwan Hall a true send-off Feb. 2 and 3.
Aaron Whitfield/The Gauntlet

A LONG TIME COMING

Six years later, Nelly Furtado is MacEwan Hall’s first big-name act

Publication YearIssue Date 

"Do you love Nelly Furtado?"

The 23-year old Victoria native fished for approval Sat., Feb. 2-and over 2,000 people in attendance happily gave it to her. In the first show ever in the newly expanded MacEwan Hall , Furtado and Vancouver-based opening act Swollen Members wowed their fans with quite a performance.

An hour before Saturday's show, the excitement could be felt throughout the entire building. Lineups formed, legions of antsy 14-year-old mini-Furtados milled about and Students' Union representatives directed traffic as the masses kept mistakenly parading towards the old ballroom on the third floor. Finally, the rumble of bass beckoned them downwards and the Swollen Members kicked the evening off with a high-energy, albeit brief, set of bumping hip-hop.

"I actually got a few angry phone calls from parents who weren't expecting swear words from the opening act," chuckles SU Vice-President Events Chris Kerr. "They weren't expecting an act called Swollen Members, either."

The younger-than-usual crowd got what they came for. The lights dimmed, the cheers multiplied and Furtado burst onto the stage. A high-energy, high-octane and refreshingly diverse performance followed complete with an early '90s hip-hop interlude, featuring tracks by Bel Biv Devoe and LL Cool J.

"That was a glimpse into the bedroom of Nelly Furtado at 12 years old," the budding pop star chirped over the crowd's cheers.

All the hits were infused with a much funkier, up-tempo, bass-driven sound. The deviation from studio facsimilies suited Furtado and went over well with the fans, keeping the energy level high all night long.

Even though the show was less than three hours from opening act to encore, all went away happy-the new MacEwan Hall was a big hit.

"I used a lot of cell phone minutes," laughs Kerr, who was charged with the unforgiving task of making everything run smoothly. "I went through at least one battery
each night."

Maintaining and organizing shows in a facility with an 1,800 person capacity is far different than in the old ballroom or the Den,
as is the process of booking them. That responsibility falls to Students' Union Program Director Greg Curtis.

"[Furtado] was one of many acts that we put bids on for the grand opening," Curtis explains with satisfaction. "She was by far
the most enthusiastic, so we went with her-and we're glad we did."

That enthusiasm was evident in both weekend shows and had a big part in their success-a success that has Kerr licking his chops at the possibilities the venue offers.

"Oh, I've got ideas," he smiles wryly. "A few students have approached me with an idea-an idea I had thought of as well-of an urban festival, so we're working on that. We're looking at having a full blown festival complete with skate demos, MC battles and graffiti competitions. There's a lot of opportunities there."

Early reviews of the $15-million facility are glowing, from the organizers, the patrons and performers alike.

"This is a sweet venue," grins Prevail, half of Swollen Members, looking around the cavernous space following Saturday's show. "We're looking at doing a solo tour in the next little while and I'd love to play here again."

If word gets out, University of Calgary students might start getting spoiled with big name acts a lot more often.

"[Furtado] was one of many acts that we put bids on for the grand opening," says Curtis. "She was by far the most enthusiastic, so we went with her-and we're glad we did."

That enthusiasm was evident in both of the weekend shows and had a big part in their success-a success that has Kerr licking his chops at the future possibilities the venue offers.

"Oh, I've got ideas," Kerr says, smiling wryly. "A few students have approached me with an idea-an idea I had thought of as well-of an urban festival, so we're working on that. We're looking at having a full blown festival complete with skate demos, MC battles and graffiti competitions. There's a lot of opportunities there."

Fortunately, early reviews of the $15-million facility are glowing, from organizers, concert patrons and performers alike.

"This is a sweet venue," grins Prevail, half of Swollen Members, looking around the cavernous space following Saturday's show. "We're looking at doing a solo tour in the next little while and I'd love to play here again."

If word gets out, University of Calgary students might start getting spoiled with big name acts a lot more often.

Section: 

Issue: