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A short history of the AECC and the biggest stars who performed there over the years

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Aberdeen FC were Scottish champions, Back to the Future was the top-grossing film at the cinema, and the north-east’s very own Annie Lennox was top of the charts with There Must Be An Angel.

Built primarily as a permanent venue to house Offshore Europe, Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) opened in 1985.

The potential of the state-of-the-art venue, north Scotland’s largest conference centre, soon became apparent when it opened its doors to other international conferences as well as exhibitions, concerts, sporting events, charity balls and awards dinners.

Known as the Press & Journal Arena from 2002 to 2012, it then became the GE Oil and Gas Arena before being renamed the General Electric Exhibition Centre in 2017.

However, to people in the north-east, it was always the AECC, or simply “the exhibition centre.”

The building underwent significant refurbishment in 2003, when the external structure was completely rebuilt, giving it the distinctive ‘wave’ roof which dominates the skyline on the way in and out of the city at Bridge of Don.

The honour of performing the first music concert at the AECC went to Wet Wet Wet on March 4, 1990.

Other musical luminaries to have performed at the venue in the 29 years since include Cliff Richard, James Brown, Take That, David Bowie, Oasis, Blondie, Bob Dylan, Lionel Ritchie and Neil Young.

The top event in terms of frequency was Disney On Ice, with 46 shows, followed by X Factor with 33.

Glaswegian comic Kevin Bridges tops the list of comedians performing at the venue, with 16 shows, followed by John Bishop with eight and Michael McIntyre with seven.

The award for most frequent musical performers goes to Status Quo, who were rocking all over Aberdeen with 12 shows.

Deacon Blue had the longest career at the AECC with their first gig in 1990 and their last in 2018, a span of 28 years.

Wet Wet Wet went 26 years between their first and last concerts, Simply Red 25 years and Simple Minds 24 years.

Having joined the AECC in January 1997 straight from school as an office junior, the venue’s HR co-ordinator and longest-serving member of staff, Stacey Corbett, admitted to feeling emotional as the end of an era approaches.

She said: “It is a one-of-a-kind venue in the north-east of Scotland.

“I think a lot of the public see it as just a music and entertainment venue, but it is so much more than that.

“Offshore Europe was always my favourite event at the AECC. Nobody believes me when I say that as it is such a hectic week, but I love the buzz around the venue.”

She added: “I hope the new P&J Live is well received by the public, it is a fantastic venue and something the city should be proud of.”

Sandy Allan has been employed directly by AECC, as the electrical services manager, since 2007 but have worked as a sub-contractor since it opened in 1985.

Mr Allan said he has had many great moments working at the venue over the years and has made some great friends too.

“The one moment that I always tell people about was the first time  Bryan Adams played the AECC in 1991,£ he said.

“There was a great atmosphere at the concert which Bryan Adams reacted to and, in my opinion, put on one of the best concerts seen at the AECC.

“Having been lucky enough to have worked at pretty much every concert ever staged at the AECC this is the only time I have seen an artist do an unscheduled encore much to the enjoyment of the crowd, it was one of those ‘hairs standing on the back of your neck’ moments.”

He said the venue has been a permanent fixture on the north-east landscape for many years and “the people of the north east will always support something that is local to them”.

He added: “Staff , past and present, have always strived to deliver the best experience possible for clients and visitors alike. The fact that people continue to support it by attending events again and again makes me think we have been doing a pretty good job.”

The AECC has for almost three decades been a fundamental part not only of the cultural life of Aberdeen, but of life itself in the city.

Over to you, P&J Live.