It was a looooong wait until we finally were on our way to England again! One year and three weeks after we last saw the man himself on stage.
We never have been without a concert or a trip to England for such a long time before since having started active fandom, i.e. travelling to see him perform. The longest had been nine months. So you can imagine we were too excited for sleep for days…nights rather. So much had changed!
After all we were not only coming to see Michael on stage but we were to visit our dear friends Angela and Darren, who are brave enough to invite us to stay at their beautiful house again and again. And their lives had changed completely since we last saw them at Michael's UK tour in 2005. Baby Jayme was born in October and so was already nine months old when we saw him for the first time at the day of the concert. And he was already standing! Can you imagine that? You return to your good friend's home and suddenly there is a completely new person living there? It was quite an experience! Last we saw Jayme he was minus five months old and still only a tiny bump and now he was walking and talking (well, he tried!) and lived in what was previously our guestroom. He is the cutest thing that ever walked this earth, we assure you. And such a flirt! Always beaming and has such a clever twinkle in those big eyes…he will keep his patient parents oh so busy, we are sure!
Anyways, so there we were. In England at last. And together! That was standing at ultimate risk even before our new adventure on Sacred Ground had even begun. Kerstin's train was 45 minutes delayed and so she barely made her flight! Checking literally in the last minute. We kept texting back and forth all day and feared the worst. But luckily all turned out well in the end and the JBN Bunnies were finally re-united. We got the car and set off to our first concert in a year full of excitement and great expectations.
Bath has been one of our favourite places on England for a long while now. Angela took us there a few years back and we have visited it several times since to admire its sheer beauty. You can see it from a distance, a city seeming to grow right out of the mountains. A very impressive sight. And they have the best cookie shop!
Angela took us there in her convertible car and you can definitely say we travelled in style. There's nothing to beat such a ride at a glorious sunny day. Sorry to gush, but it's the first review in a long time. I promise I will get to Michael eventually. Okay, okay I will get to Michael now.
We were in time to see him rehearse. The stage was built on a rugby field and the city is a bit higher than that. Sp there were various places you where you could see down onto the pitch and see a tiny man in a pink t-shirt wandering around quite happily with a microphone in hand. We could see Elaine Paige was there too but we didn't hear much of the rehearsals as the speakers were still tuned down. It was enough to figure out there would be mainly stuff from the musicals. That was to be expected. We stayed a while, said hello to a few fellow fans but then decided to have a little tour around Bath, do some shopping, grab some food and enjoy the time together. Just when we reached the city centre and had a little nappie-induced stop at a toy shop, they turned the speakers volume up and there he was, Michael's voice sounding over the entire place like coming from a gigantic stereo high above our heads. And it wasn't just any song, it was Gethsemane. People turned their heads and listened and he sang those big emotional notes in studio perfection even though it was still only a rehearsal. Wow. So we walked through the merciless sun (it was so hot, you wouldn't believe it…and we hoped to escape the heat wave in Germany...no such luck!) and were spoilt to get a preview of the concert while we took our little shopping spree. It was magical.
We arrived at the grounds well in time for the concert and chatted to our role-model Pam and a few others whom we hadn't seen in ages. It felt so good to be back. While taking a tour about the grounds we saw Cathy taking her seat near the stand of the follow spot right at the back of all the chairs and she looked stunning as usual.
We were sitting in row C and behind the typical shell-like form of the stage we had a stunning view of the elevated streets of Bath. The sky was deep blue no cloud to be seen, it was postcard perfection. The suspense was hard to bear as we sat and waited to the musicians to appear. Finally, they did. With them Callum, Annie, Dean and Shena. It felt like being home again. But we knew this wasn't a Michael Ball concert in the classical sense. He would share the stage with Elaine Paige. It is amazing that these two people were friends for such a long time and had never done a joint concert like this. It was about time, too. Their voiced matched beautifully and they had so much fun. The structure of the concert was clearly thoroughly thought through so that both fan crowds would get their equal share of their stars. For the complete songlist click here.
As you can see the concert was divided into threes: Three duets, three songs by Elaine Paige all alone, three songs of Michael all alone, then Elaine had one song, Michael had one song followed by a duet, three songs from Sunset Boulevard, three songs from Evita, then it was Michael's turn again with three songs, Elaine again and then came a duet, their individual trademark song (namely Love Changes Everything and Memory) and one last and final duet. This worked extremely well though I have to say after a year of waiting we would have coped with less Elaine and more Michael but it was a good decision to be so strict about their on stage time so no one felt cheated. And those two got on so extremely well together, you could tell they have known each other and admired each other's work for ages. We have to say, it DID feel as if Elaine was Michael's guest at times. He was very gentlemanly about the whole thing but with MB fans firmly ruling the first blocks it was his crowd and his stage. But seeing his crowd is mainly a musical crowd and appreciates good voices I am sure Elaine felt very welcome. She was greeted with cheers and heartfelt applause whenever she appeared but Michael…well, when he stepped onto the stage mayhem broke loose. That made it difficult for him to keep his composure when he strode out to start Empty Chairs for example and had his mind set firmly on the sadness of the scene, face all serious…and then this massive cheer erupted when people saw him…he struggled long and hard but lost and had to smile.
When Michael left the stage to leave Elaine do her section he excused himself saying he'd got to get some sun cream on. Elaine looked after him and said “Missing you already!”, and meant to start her introduction to her first solo song when from backstage there came his reply “I'm not far!” So his microphone was still on after he left. Giggles everywhere. It really was a very funny evening, you could picture that hanging out with those two in the pub would leave you in pain from laughing so much. He remarked that they sang once together but telly doesn't count but if they were still talking to each other after that night, they might do it again! After This is the Moment Michael asked us whether there had ever been a more beautiful evening? “I couldn't think of a better way to spend it!” The audience broke into very dirty laughter. “You might…? The night is young!” Such a tease.
It was great to get a bit more of Annie's voice during Elaine's rendition of I know Him So Well. And Michael's Anthem alone was well worth the ticket price.
We had a long-ish sort of interval. The sun set and the surroundings grew more and more magical.
The second half began with the Sunset Boulevard overture and we were treated to a series of songs from the show, fully acted…even a very passionate and long kiss after The Perfect Year. This was only tainted by the camera man who shot the show for the big screen for those sitting far away. Sadly he was working on a raised platform and hence blocked our view of the stage again and again.
All went well throughout the Evita section but when Elaine did Don't Cry For Me Argentina her fans dashed to the front in the aisles to take photos. I understand that they wanted to be near her and sat far away and so on but the venue had laid out plastic tiles between the blocks so walking on the uneven grass was easier…it was…but it also meant that these people even when they tried sneaking up to the front, made considerable noise with every step they took. Eventually they didn't go back to their seats either but remained standing in the aisle.
Michael's big moment of course came with Gethsemane. After he struggled a bit during High Flying Adored (he overdid the angry EVA PERSON yelling in Oh What a Circus), which is a bit on the high site and not too easy to sing, we were a bit weary, after having been worried about his voice for the past six months or so. But he was back in full form. Money notes, passion, emotion and all. It was a long time since we had heard that one live and it completely blew us away. And we were not the only ones. He got a well-deserved standing ovation.
When we neared the end of the show and he and Elaine prepared to sing We've Got Tonight someone yelled “I LOVE YOU MICHAEL!” He just giggled and said I love you too. Elaine turned to Michael and remarked “ I think this was a bloke, you know.” Without hesitation Michael replied that you have to take whatever you can get! The audience was reeling with laughter and Elaine struggled to gain her composure again for the romantic duet.
Then they took it in turns to watch the other perform their trademark song and ended a great evening with a wonderful rendition of The Prayer.
The standard crowd waited for Michael at the gates to the trailers behind the stage. He came out quite sudden for he was let to the hospitality rooms of the rugby club. He chatted a bit and signed a few things and said he would be back. We think he meant Bath in general. The crowd took it as an invitation to wait for his return from the posh party naturally. So we happily joined the waiting group. He got out again after some 10 minutes or such. Four security guys led the way. The crowd had thinned considerably and it was no problem at all but they were all nervous, keeping ordering him to go on and not stop. But you know Michael. He did stop and continue taking photos with fans and signing stuff etc. He was in a great mood and looked oh so handsome in his dark suit. Angela even got to tell him about having had Jamey in the meantime and he chatted a bit, beaming at her.
Needless to say all three of us were in a fab mood all the way back home to Ange's. What a fantastic night out we had. And little did we know that he was about to top all that not even a week later at Oakly Hall. It's good to have him back at last!