.... or as it was officially called:: Oakley Hall Music Festival (Oakley Hall being the venue which is situated close to Basingstoke).
This concert was devided into four different price categories. The cheapest included queuing and sitting on the gras. Other categories meant reserved seating, the more expensive the better the view. Leading up to the two most expensive categories: VIP and VVIP! Yes, that's right, we learned that day: There are VIPS and V V I Ps. We were the cheap VIPs. That included on-site parking, dinner in a tent (or marquee), reserved seating during the concert, a programme and a quick "Thank you" from the man himself afterwards. We were sat at something about 20 tables with golden chairs. It felt a bit like a smaller fan club event. We sat with a nice group of fans and had the most enjoyable pre-concert chats, mostly Michael. They played his "Music" in the "tent" which was quite appropriate and set the mood.
It's probably not very lady-like, but it has to be said: The loos were fab! When it was concert time we took our seats at the beautiful grounds of Oakley Hall and were treated to some Julian Lloyd Webber playing various things on his cello for about half an hour.
Then came the interval and finally after 30 more minutes of waiting, there he was, the man himself, wearing the same white suit and light blue shirt we knew from Bath. When we saw his sparkling eyes, we knew we were in for a treat. We have waited well over a year to see him back on stage, doing a proper concert all by himself. And what can we say? The experience exceeded our great expectations by far.
He hitted off with "I was born to love you" and we felt transported back to the tour of 2003. The crowd was on their feet, the party had begun.
The minor setback was that there was no real follow spot. Meaning it was a little tricky on the photo front. But seeing this was the first concert ever to have been held at Oakley Hall, we are sure they will learn from past experiences. You can tell we were in a forgiving mood that day ;-).
As you can see the song-list here, we will just tell you about the bits and pieces he said in between and not list them all over again in here. He started talking about the perfect summer we have had so far. He remarked that it was a shame that they put the fountain out, as he wanted to dive into it. It was so hot. We cannot even begin to imagine how it must be performing under the light of about forty spots on stage.. he's a brave man. He informed everyone that where he lived they banned the hose pipes and asked if anyone here was affected by it. He mumbled something like: no one is up at 3 am in the morning now watering the garden.
All in all he sang three songs from the new album and the audience loved each and everyone of them. Namely they were: "Hero", "Home" and "Since you've been gone". Talking of the song "Home" he praised Michael Bublé who is very talented and unfortunately better known as Michael Bubble. He said the song explained like it felt to be away from home. He begged us not to get us wrong, he loved his job, but sometimes you can be very lonely in your hotel room. A massive awwww erupted in the crowd. He had to laugh, went into his melodramatic voice "I'm filling up!" turns to the backies and says "You have to do it alone now, I can't do it anymore!". We laughed so much it was hard to get back into the mood for this song.
He got his standing ovation for "This is the moment". Then he greeted Julian Lloyd Webber back on stage, remarking that he knew his brother quite well and that Julian just released a beautiful new album! Specially the last track. he tried his best and then realised he laughed and replied that Julian couldn't have done without Michael, he saved the album. But Michael likes being unpredictable, so they did not start with "Unexpected Song", but with "Music" instead. Julian plays Lucias violin part and sounded very well. Naturally we expected Michael to leave the stage at one point and return in his dark suit, but he did not. He stayed on stage, danced along, played air guitar and finally sneaked up to the percussions. With the expression of a child at Christmas morning, he presented us two enormous drum sticks and so no other than Michael Ball himself joined his band and became a part-time drummer, very passionate! But of course he eventually started singing again, but boy did he enjoy himself up there. We had such a laugh.
Then he introduced "Unexpected Song" saying it would be the only night it would be performed by those two. Michael made a point of it being composed by a young hopeful, who was in some way related to Julian.... Andrew so and so and whom they decided to give a leg into the music business. Finally he said: Of course it was Andrew Lloyd Webber.
He started to sing just one single note and one single word: "I" and then he stopped and watched one woman who apparently unfortunately had not been warned that sneaking off or returning from the loo right under Michael's nose is not a good idea. He will comment it, mid-song or not. So with an evil glint in his eyes he remarked "It's sitting next to the fountain, is not it?" When he got no reply, he laughed "Great keeping the atmosphere love!" (Thumbs up) and advised the man next to the woman "Introduce her to Tena Lady, they are great!" and laughed. He had the audience in stitches. " But then we all pulled ourselves together and got through the song without any further interruptions.
We did not know what has hit us, when people all of a sudden started to run to the front midsong to the very moving, always outstanding "Show must go on". The mad dash to the stage set in. We have no idea what inspired it. He did not motion and it was completely uncalled for. It's not a party song, but sad and cynical. Michael Ball audiences are full of surprises and you could tell he was not chuffed. It ruined the moment really. Party time was to start after that song and running there in "Don't stop me now" would get you there just as quickly. But there you go. I suppose we could be lucky it did not start in "Life on Mars" already.
As an encore he did the much anticipated "American Trilogy". He introduced it saying they did it once before, tried it and he went terribly wrong. they had to re-start again and they had only one rehearsal since. But all went well. He could finish the song in one go. Naturally there was the compulsory "Love changes everything". The final encore was "You raise me up". And after a very moved Michael had left the stage we were spoiled to a really beautiful display of fireworks.
And then it was time to get back to the tent and await Mr. Ball. All was well until people decided not to remain seated at their respective tables, so that everyone could see and hear him properly, but to form a massive crowd, before the little podium where he was supposed to be standing later on. That was quite a drawback considering, we all paid a massive amount of money to see him, but only quite a few had that privilege in the end, blocking the view for all the others. It's very sad that these things keep happening. When he finally arrived he wore a blue shirt, apparently, and was in a great mood, commenting on the great concert and audience, thanked us all and said he was back for Southport and Cardiff. He joked about knowing that the tiny fence the venue installed in front of those people sitting on the grass in the back would never keep them from dashing to the front. That was basically it.
When we saw him leave, he actually got into the driver's seat himself. Cathy, who looked stunning by the way, was with him, and Freddie by the way. He drove them out into the dark, starlit night. It was a very unusual sight seeing him drive himself. This man is full of surprises.
What a fantastic night it was. Well worth the wait. The only problem is: Now the withdrawel is worse than it ever was before, we definately need a tour now.
And we should not forget to thank our lovely Rose-Marie to accompany us on the car trip and made us laugh so much. Pam, our role-model and all the ladies at Table 2, you were the best! And Maureen for the lovely chat, it was good seeing you again :-) and of course Pat and Stella and Linda, we missed you badly, get well soon love, we need your "Bloody Hell!". See you all at Southport or Cardiff next week.