Saturday 13 April 2024

Eric Cantona at The Garage

Last night I attended the most surreal gig I have ever been to. Never, in my wildest dreams could I have imagined Eric Cantona playing The Garage in Glasgow! 

King Eric, the man who strode into Old Trafford with his shoulders stretched, chest puffed out and collar pulled up, born to play in the Theatre of Dreams. King Eric, who was instrumental in United winning the 1992/93 title, their first in 26-years! United only lost twice following his arrival in November 92, with Cantona scoring 9 goals.

I was expecting the majority of this blog to be about football, but then Eric has always had a knack for drawing people in, surpassing expectations and putting on a show.

Cantona may have previously been flanked by the likes of Giggs, Kanchelskis and Beckham while he pulled the strings, but last night he had two exceptionally talented musicians either side of him - a pianist and cello player who looped his bass with strings - super cool.

Eric, resplendent in suit, white shirt, super cool glasses and hat, was centre stage, pouring his heart and soul into his songs and performace. 

After getting through the 'what the heck is going on here?' questions to each other during the first couple of songs, my friends and I thoroughly enjoyed the show. The musicians were absolutely outstanding and Eric ... was Eric. As my friend Phil said earlier today as we reflected on the show - it was the essence of Eric.

Cantona has to be really into something to do it. This is the guy who walked away from professional football at the age of 30 because he had lost his passion for the game.

He was really into it last night, swigging from a tartan hip flask, arms raised, fingers pointing, theatrical movements and singing of love, war, freedom, kissing and flowers. A new song declared FREE PALESTINE to loud cheers, while Eric also other in Spanish and French.

A jaunty number I Want To See You saw Eric repeat the refrain and point at people in the crowd. The piano became quite house-y and I found myself standing up and punching the air, encouraging my friend to join me. No-one did! But Eric noticed me, smiled, pointed at me and sang I Want To See You.  

Later on everyone was standing and clapping along. Cantona was beaming, radiating positive energy. I can't recall him ever looking so happy, even when lifting trophies. That all seemed matter of fact. and Eric had a constant air of coolness about him. This ... was personal. Cantona was laying himself bare.

Last night was weird and wonderful. I can't say that I'll be listening to Eric's songs in the house, but they did hit the mark live. His two-piece band were wonderful, creating some truly beautiful music, while Eric sang about love, life, death and the universe.

Read on for some football stuff!

So where was I? Oh yes, Cantona arrived at United in November 92. The story goes that Fergie was sitting with Martin Edwards when Howard Wilkinson called to enquire about buying Dennis Irwin. Irwin wasn't for sale, but Fergie nudged Edwards and said 'ask him about Cantona'. 

Cantona signed for £1 million and helped United to their first title in 26-years! 

The following season, United won the double, with Eric conducting electrifying football and bagging 25 goals. 1994/95 is a season that holds Cantona's biggest regret in football. What was it? On 25th January, away to Crystal Palace, Eric was sent off and was abused by supporter Matthew Simmons en route to the dressing room. Cantona launched into the crowd with a Kung Fu kick, following it up with a swift punch.

His regret? He didn't hit him hard enough.

To say that the country went crazy would be an understatement. Yet one person remained super cool, calm and collected. Even if he was fuming in private.

In a press conference, Cantona strolled into a packed room, sat down, began to speak, took a sip of water, finished his sentence and then left the room. His words.

When the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.

One of my favourite Alex Ferguson stories is of him lying in his bed with his wife Cathy. Eric had told Fergie he was quitting and had flown to Paris. Sir Alex, for once, seemed to have accepted this was the end. A pep talk from Cathy saw Fergie contact Eric and arrange to meet him. Cantona booked a restaurant out and arranged for a motor cycle taxi to collect his boss from the airport and zip him through the Paris streets. 

Oh to know what was said over dinner and wine. For me, this is a film in the making. Eric ... if you somehow read this. You're the man to make it!

Eric returned (with a brilliant apology advert) after a long ban and led a new team with Neville, Beckham and Scholes to the double, with Cantona scoring a majestic volley in the 1996 FA Cup Final against Liverpool. 

In typical Cantona fashion, he did the unpredictable, announcing his retirement at the end of the 1996/97 season after winning another title, his 4th in 5-seasons at United. He was only 30.

Since then, Eric has, as always, danced to the beat of his own drum; playing beach football, being a Nike ambassador, campaigned  and acted -check out Ken Loach's soulful Looking For Eric and the superb Inhuman Resources. Cantona has also starred in Liam Gallagher's Once promotional film, even a hard blue nose appreciates the King. 

And now ... Eric has released an EP and a live album and is touring! And based on last night, he is continuing to write songs. 

Cantona is a passionate artist with a creative soul and energy. May his flame continue to burn. 

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