Southport - 28/07/06

This was the last of our three weekend trips to Britain. It had finally come. We have been away from home every weekend for almost a month. The suitcases remained packed mainly, only washing clothes in between trips and throwing them all in again. We felt we knew half the airport staff by name now. We leave from different airports, as we live 4 hours apart. So Bunny Kerstin texted me saying she was half an hour delayed due to bad weather in Stansted. I feared the worst, but next text was saying she is boarding, all going well. I checked in and went to my gate. They let us in, I read my book, minding my own business, when suddenly two police men walked in saying they have to escort us out of the gate again as our flight has a delay. No further announcement was made. So we sat on the narrow path in front of the gate and waited…an hour passed. Bunny K had landed in London. Finally the ground control couldn't bear watching us poor souls on the floor and they let us go back up into the terminal to wait for boarding. Another hour passed and suddenly, with no announcement whatsoever, the little screen changed from delayed to CANCELLED. Gulp. After another half hour we finally found out how to retrieve our baggage. But it was way too late to find a replacement flight! This was almost midnight. And the airline in question which I'd better not mention or they'll sue, said tough luck. We have another flight tomorrow, but that's fully booked. Next opportunity is SUNDAY! EEEK! I got a bit heated with them, explaining that I need to be in England tomorrow morning at the latest. Fat chance. So it was a case of booking an early morning flight at another airline from another Berlin airport (other end of the city) at 6:15 am, check in 4:15 am…paying three times as much as the original flight cost…and having about 1.5 hours of sleep. But at least there were still seats available and I'd be in time for the journey up to Southport. Poor Bunny K was in London all alone that night. And I made it to Stansted , landing at 7 am. Off we were….TIRED.

We decided to drive up to our hotel to get rid of the luggage first. This was in Preston. Maybe 30 minutes way from Southport. So we arrived there to find the car park almost impossible to park a car in. It was a former warehouse and the ceiling was supported by so many pillars that manoeuvring the car was almost impossible. But Bunny K managed. We dragged our tired bones up to reception, waited for ages until someone finally appeared, begging for our room to learn that check-in is strictly at 3 pm. Sorry folks. GURRR So that was that. Suitcases back into the car, out of the impossible car park and back on the road.

Mercifully the venue had put signs everywhere to indicate which way to get to the Michael Ball concert (how he must have laughed following these! Michael Ball, this way please LOL). The sun was shining brightly and Southport is a delightful place next to the sea. We saw the queue and joined it only to learn we have missed him only by minutes, driving (himself again!) past the waiting crowd. Typical, and all this for a hotel that wouldn't let us check in anyways. Ah well, there you go. We took our seats in the shades and considered ourselves lucky not to be roasting in the sun…until the wind took up and it really did get rather chilly! It was no joy sitting there after so little sleep and so many hours spent on airports and in cars BUT we met friends again we hadn't seen in ages and had SUCH a fun time. It was definitely worth it. We could hear a bit of the sound check…actually we could hear that he rehearsed the whole concert! And at full voice, too. Only the wind kept blowing the sound away from us sadly. The venue was rather strict at opening the gates at 6 pm sharp. But as always, someone stands up too early, everyone panics, next thing is we all stand there for 45 minutes for no reason at all, waiting for the doors to open. When they finally did, the distance was too far to run (for us) anyways, so we opted for quick walking instead. We ended up dead centre in what would have been row F or G or such. So we were quite chuffed with that. Then more waiting. The drag about summer concerts (if the weather behaves) is this endless waiting around. Hours and hours. Especially when you feel you are too tired to sit, let alone stand! But at least it was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed the sunshine and anticipation.

Finally Michael got on stage in his usual light suit with the blue shirt and in SUCH a great mood. The crowd was on their feet and the place rocked! And you know what he's like: the better the audience the better the concert. We were in for a treat! The song list hasn't changed much which we knew from the sound check but that wasn't a bad thing seeing it worked so well in the other concerts….and it gave the whole thing a tour feeling, which we loved.

The complete songlist can be found here.

He said he apologises for the weather as thunderstorms and rain were forecast. Laughter everywhere as we were sitting in blazing evening sun. Naturally he got the obligatory standing ovation for This is the Moment and we were all curious whether he'd change in Music or stay on stage and play drums again, as he did in the other concerts. What do you think? Given the choice to do a rushed change or staying on stage, playing drums and dancing around. What would Michael chose? Spot on, he opted for the latter. Actually he enjoyed his little intermezzo at the drums so much that he almost didn't make it back to the microphone in time for his singing!

When we got to Any Dream Will Do he made us all sing along and eventually gave us 10 our of 10 points for it! LOL After a very touching rendition of Empty Chairs he sighed and said “That was 21 years ago…which makes me 36…” Cheeky grin from him and lots of laughter from a well-informed audience. Not quite…but he definitely looked it, we felt. He started making a speech about legendary performers who then sadly decide to stop performing and will not do it again until hell freezes over. “And hell froze over…twice!” He had been at the farewell tour of the Eagles and was about to sing Desperado for us. A lot of joking around between him and the adoring audience ensued about we felt he was quite as legendary as them and he went on saying we should stop it…only to change his mind at once and urging us to continue! After all he thought declaring this was the last time one would perform on stage was such a great idea…he should do that to, so he announced this was to be his very last live performance ever … until hell freezes over! LOL What followed was some serious singing though and I always had a huge soft sport for this song and enjoyed every second of it. He got well deserved standing ovations for Life on Mars and Show Must Go On and was overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response he received. Especially since he told us the people in Liverpool warned him to play Southport. The people there were so posh, they would never clap or cheer…and there they were, on their feet, screaming and dancing…we rocked the grass!

Finally a very emotional Michael Ball took his last bow after You Raise Me Up and we were left in the dark to find the car and our friends. We quickly met Rose-Marie and Pam at what we all figured out was the Artiste Exit. As it got more and more crowded and we decided that way we wouldn't see one curl, Pam had the wonderful idea of walking a bit further down the road, underneath a street lamp. So at least we could wave him goodbye. For if he drove off again himself, we'd be on the wrong side of the car but what the heck. Not long afterwards the security guys informed each other (and us in the process) that Michael's car was to be the next one out and they had to clear the road for him (there was a minor traffic jam at a little roundabout just off the car park). And there he was, thankfully on the passenger's seat! So we waved and when he was driving past us he blew us four a big kiss which led to some very undignified noises from us that we are sure will have made him laugh half the way down to Wales.

This has been such a terrific night. I am sure we will remember it as the best summer concert so far. Weather perfect, singer perfect, crowd perfect, blown kiss perfect. What more can a girl want? Exactly.

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