Concert-hall managers vigilant after Manchester terror attack

Band that formed in England to play in Glens Falls on Sunday
Lead singer Matt Healy of the English indie-rock band The 1975.
Lead singer Matt Healy of the English indie-rock band The 1975.

Security will be center stage Sunday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

About 3,000 young music fans will be in the arena for The 1975, a British indie and pop rock band. Memories of Monday night’s terrorist attack in Manchester, England, will not be far away.

RELATED: 8-year-old girl among 22 Manchester bombing victims

Twenty-two people were killed and dozens injured following a concert by American pop singer Ariana Grande — who is especially popular with teen girls — at the Manchester Arena. Managers of local concert venues say they must remain vigilant to keep their patrons safe.

Members of The 1975 — originally from Manchester — may speak out on Sunday.

The band is on tour in the United States. Monday’s news spread quickly in America and reached The 1975 in Detroit, where the guys played a show at The Fillmore Detroit.

Frontman Matty Healy gave an emotional and expletive-filled speech halfway through the show.

“I’m bored of nationalism and I’m bored of racism. It’s over,” Healy said in remarks recorded on video and posted online. “Nationalism, religion, all these regressive things, they’re over. We can’t carry on in the way that we’re carrying on.

“We’re from Manchester and where we used to hang out, the actual place that we used to hang out, someone put a bomb in there tonight and then killed a bunch of kids that were going to a [expletive deleted] show in Manchester.”

Healy also said: “I don’t know what it’s in the name of, so I apologize if it’s not in the name of religion, if it’s not in the name of nationalism, but these are things that keep happening and I’m [expletive deleted] pissed off about it. And I’m sorry.”

Jeffrey Mead, the Civic Center’s general manager, said The 1975 is not expected to fill the 4,774-seat house.

“The arena floor will be full,” Mead said, adding that fans of the band are generally between the ages of 18 and 30.

“We have security, and everybody goes through a pat-down to get into the building,” Mead said. “We’re not going to allow bags into the arena this Sunday, which we do for Thunder (Adirondack Thunder, East Coast Hockey League) hockey games. Most of the time for concerts, we don’t let bags in regardless.

“We’ll certainly be a little more diligent based on what happened Monday night,” Mead added.

Mead and other local arena and concert hall managers said security is a constant concern.

“We’ll certainly be more on edge Sunday night for sure, based on what just happened,” Mead said. “I’m not sure if scary is the word, but certainly it’s an eye-opener. It can happen in Glens Falls. It can happen anywhere.”

Mead said the only people inside the building Sunday morning and afternoon will be security and show personnel. He said members of a 40-person security team will also be outside the venue; the Manchester suicide bomber detonated his explosives outside the Manchester Arena, authorities say.

While concert early birds are allowed to camp out in front of the Civic Center to secure prime viewing positions once the doors open, “We’ll be monitoring the front a little bit more than we normally do,” Mead said. “The Glens Falls Police Department is always here on show days, so we’ll have their presence.”

Other managers of performing arts spaces spoke about security and safety issues.

“While we are confident in our current security procedures,” said Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, in a media statement, “in light of this event we will be reviewing our policies with all of our partners, to assure that our measures are strong, effective and in alignment with recommendations from the law enforcement community.”

Peter Lesser, executive director of the Empire State Plaza Performing Arts Center — The Egg — in Albany, said any attack such as the Manchester incident will scare people.

“It reminds you this kind of thing can happen anywhere to anyone,” Lesser said. “I don’t know if you can call it a wake-up call because we’re always awake. But it redoubles your interest in making sure everybody’s safe.

“We all have to be vigilant,” Lesser added. “We also have to keep doing what we do.”

Changes are being considered at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall.

“Not in reaction to this, but about a year-and-a-half ago, we started looking at our operating procedures,” Executive Director Jon Elbaum said. “We’ve consulted with the Troy Police Department in terms of potentially changing how we handle certain security and crowd control evacuation procedures. It’s something we look at all the time because the safety of the people who come to our shows is paramount to us. It’s a public trust issue.”

For some shows, bags coming into the music hall are checked.

“We’ve talked about doing metal detectors and that sort of thing, but have not gone there yet,” Elbaum said. “It’s just something we’re going to continue to review. We also look to our peers in the industry to see what everybody else is doing and try to figure what the best mix of security versus convenience is. There are always trade-offs.”

Like other managers, Elbaum believes a terrorist attack can happen anyplace.

“No matter how strong your security is, you can’t absolutely ensure it’s not going to happen,” Elbaum said. “That’s the challenge we all face in this business.”

Brian Nussbaum, an assistant professor in the University at Albany’s Department of Public Administration and Policy, said the goal of terrorism is to inspire over-reaction.

“That can come in the form of fear where people don’t want to take part in daily activities like going to concerts,” said Nussbaum, who specializes in cybersecurity and terrorism and is a former intelligence analyst for the state Office of Counter Terrorism.

“The over-reaction can also come in the form of governments over-responding,” he added. “One of the things terrorist organizations often try to do is inspire governments to do something that is counter-productive to overly repress certain groups, thus making them identify even more with the goal of the terrorist organization.”

While terrorists push for over-reaction from individuals and government, Nussbaum said, reasonable security measures that are not over-reactions can be utilized.

“Checking bags at large venues is a completely reasonable response to something like this,” he said.

Nussbaum also said jihadist groups in Europe are hoping to create separation between European Muslims and society.

“I don’t think there’s any indication that’s going to happen in Manchester,” Nussbaum said. “In fact, we’ve already seen news reports about Muslim doctors and Muslim cab drivers taking part in the response. I don’t think they actually will achieve any of their goals with this. … It draws attention to them, so in that regard it was not an unmitigated failure.”

Nussbaum believes there’s a better chance people in the United States will be killed by bees rather than killed by terrorists. But everyone can respond to Manchester

“I think being vigilant,” he said. “It’s a little cliche from the subway, but the ‘See something, say something’ approach does, in fact, make some sense. We should accept that there will be some increased security measures on our particularly large gathering places, places that either have a high vulnerability or a high consequence.

“At at the end of the day we should take the security threat seriously,” Nussbaum added, “but not allow it to sort of overwhelm our rational thought about assessing risk.”

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.

Categories: -News-, Entertainment, Schenectady County

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