After Bine's marathon (and wonderful) review, I am pleased her tour finished before mine began. Otherwise there wouldn't be anything left to write about!
My tour started in York, one of my favourite cities and very familiar to me living only 30 miles away, although The Barbican is what I would call a "cold" centre - very big and a bit like a warehouse with very highly tiered seats almost up to the ceiling. It's used for sports events as well so the seats are removable. However, because it's tiered, everyone has a good view of the stage. We had excellent seats five rows up and just to the side. Every single seat for both York concerts had been sold and there was a small queue of people waiting for returns at the box office.
I needn't have worried about the cold atmosphere there usually - Michael had a rapturous welcome right from the start from the York audience.
The security guards were very keen on stopping people take photographs, much more so than I've ever seen before. I kept seeing them approach people they spotted taking photos and talking to them. One girl on the front row must have been taking a photo and was approached by one of the security people. Michael looked at her and said "Did you just get told off for taking a photo?" in a very have you been naughty voice. She nodded and looked suitably chastened. Michael took pity and gave everyone a chance to take photographs by turning his back to the audience and then turning around. Hundreds of flash bulbs went off, much to the amusement of the band!
During the interval I met up with Maureen and Gill of the Fan Club and they introduced me to Gilly Robinson and Sue Gellett. Gilly and I hugged each other like old friends although we had never met except via the Fan Club Forum. We all feel as if we know one another by now! Another Forum regular, Pat Collier, came and introduced herself to me just before the second half.
This is my review of the York concert originally posted to the Fan Club Forum
Well I thought the day would never come but of course it did. It seemed to stretch forever until the time we had agreed to set off, which was 6pm. It's less than 30 miles to York from where I live but I wanted to get there early to meet up with friends. Of course, we were late setting off after all that because I had to have the obligatory outfit changing session of the "Does my bum look big in this" variety. Having been reassured by hubby that my bum looks just as big in everything (??), we set off at about quarter past six.
I saw lots of familiar faces but no-one I was supposed to meet up with so we took our seats early. I had a little note of where everyone was sitting but by that time I could hardly think straight. I just wanted to sit there and wait for the show to start. It was during this time that I realised I had forgotten to set the video for Coronation Street. Now this may not seem too big a deal but, believe me, it's an almost unheard of event in our house.
(Before I continue I'll say hello to Maureen and Gill who I chatted with during the interval, and to Gilly, Edith, Sue and Pat who I also met up with for the first time. Also to my "old" friends Elaine, Karen, Jean, Janine and not forgetting Esther and her two stunningly beautiful daughters, Mandy and Nadine. It was great to see everyone but I feel slightly embarrassed now as I was so hyper during the interval they must have thought I was high on amphetamines! No chemical help whatsoever girls - just high on Michael!)
Back to the show and after all the waiting, the show appeared to start really suddenly. The band came on to applause from a packed house, then the backing singers whom we all know so well now. (Especially my husband, who seems to take a very close interest in Anne and Shena's legs.) Then, to the sounds of thunder and lightning on came Michael to "Let the Rivers Run" to an equally thunderous welcome.
And there we start the journey with Michael.
People often say to me "Why do you pay all that money to see him over and over again when you can just listen to the CD's at home?"
I have an idea what they mean. I've been to shows in the past when I felt as if I could have done just that. Sorry if I tread on a few toes here but these are my own personal experiences. Roy Orbison - great voice, personality of a wardrobe. Absolutely NO rapport with the audience at all, and never made any attempt at any. Matt Monro - lovely voice, nice warm personality, stood on the spot for the whole show. Johnny Mathis - nice voice, spoke not one word to the audience, didn't smile once. These were the shows I felt I could have stayed at home and listened to the CD's.
NOT so with our Michael! When you go to see Michael Ball you see someone with a truly wonderful voice, a warm and ebullient personality, someone who relates with his audience and reacts to their mood. Someone who smiles and banters and laughs at his own jokes. Someone who feels the music and moves to it and uses the whole area of the stage. Someone who gives of his best at every show and at the end is exhausted.
In other words, an ENTERTAINER. You can't get that from CD's. That's why every tour, people go in their droves to see Michael perform, many of them time and time again.
In his younger days, Michael used to giggle a lot and be very boyish. Nowadays he seems to have reached a stage in his life where he wants to share emotional experiences with his audience and is not afraid to leave his emotions bare in the words of songs he has written. Either way, hearts always warm towards this very special man.
Michael is a born showman - but one with years of experience behind him. Before Michael started his solo career, he trod the boards in musicals for years and it shows. Apart from his enormous natural talent, he is a vastly experienced professional performer. Add to the pot a handsome face and the world's most gorgeous head of hair and you do tend to come up with a winning combination!
I know I will find much more to enjoy during the coming concerts, but highlights for me so far are "Why Haven't I Heard From You", "Never Coming Back" (GREAT song Michael!) and "Walking in Memphis". I loved "If Tomorrow Never Comes", "You're Still The One", and (hubby's favourite of the evening) "I Don't Want a Lover". Also "Losing My Mind", "I Dreamed a Dream" and "Love on the Rocks" (perennial favourites). Great fun moments include "Why Do Fools Fall in Love" and "Livin' La Vida Loca". I should mention that Michael's band and backing singers are first class.
Actually, with Michael you get about four or five different concerts. I have a press cutting that states that Michael is the best singer of the musicals in the world today. I'm not arguing with that. Then we have the tenor singer of the big anthemic ballads. Then the master interpreter of the gentle love song.
Now we even have another Michael, the singer of "new country" songs. I think the essence of Michael's success as a performer is that, in the words of one song he sang last night, (which I believe was "You Bring Out the Best in Me"), he doesn't try to be something he isn't. He isn't an American country singer. He told us that he was listening to the radio and heard "Walking in Memphis" and could imagine himself doing just that. It's a difficult song for an Englishman to sing but the reason it works is because he sings it as an Englishman who imagines himself walking in Memphis. He comes up with a wonderfully atmospheric version that has you almost seeing the gates of Graceland and smelling the Mississippi River.
It's the same when he sings rock 'n roll. Michael never pretends he is Elvis or Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis or any of the great American rock 'n rollers. He sings it because he loves it. Rock 'n roll is EXCITING. Michael thinks it is and so do we but he's the one amongst us who can sing it and together we all have a wonderful time. I remember listening to rock 'n roll in the late 1950's when I was a little girl and my spirits soared. They did again last night and I stood up and danced and I must have looked a sight with a bum that looks big in everything, but who cared? All around me people of all ages and sizes were doing the same thing, their faces lit up with enjoyment.
After one concert a couple of years ago a friend of mine turned to me and said "I feel as if I've been to the world's best party". I can't think of a better description.
Of course, Michael isn't the only great entertainer in the world, but like all great entertainers past and present (and of course that goes for the rest of us) they don't last forever.
Something Jean from New Zealand said on the Forum has always struck a chord with me. (By the way - have a great trip Jean!) She said Michael was Great Britain's best kept secret. Well, I don't mind helping to let the cat out of the bag - this very small country is harbouring one of the world's very best entertainers. Don't miss the party.
The next concert was at Sheffield, one I had been looking forward to as my three Scottish friends Elaine, Karen and Janine were coming down to stay with Hugh and I at my friends Anne and Barrie's house, who live just outside Sheffield. I knew it was going to be fun! Hugh and I went to Anne and Barrie's on the Sunday morning before the concert. Anne and I went to school together from the age of 11 and we always have a lot of catching up to do! We met the three girls at the train station on the Monday afternoon of the concert and had a good time talking Michael. Anne is not a fan as such but is fascinated by the aura that surrounds Michael and the devotion of his fans.
Elaine, Karen and Janine's favourite concert of the tour so far had been Edinburgh and then Aberdeen, with Glasgow close behind. Mmm, must be something in that Scottish air! (And I happen to know that Michael loves haggis!)
The atmosphere at Sheffield is always good and this was no exception. It's a really nice, comfortable venue too - it seats around 2,500 people so feels quite cosy after York. The seven of us were all in a line on the third row. In front of us were a group of teenagers who screamed and swayed through the entire show. Fortunately, they kept quiet during the songs and therefore were allowed to live!
Michael was on top form, full of high spirits and the crowd loved him. He talked about The Movies album being his best seller yet and thanked everyone who had bought it for their support. Those who hadn't he said he would "see you afterwards!" The girl in front of me called out (fairly quietly) "No, I didn't buy it!" Michael immediately turned to her (the man must have ears like a bat) and said "I know YOU did!" Later on in the tour everyone was cottoning on to this and when Michael talked about The Movies they were all yelling out that they hadn't bought it just so that he could see them afterwards!
The sound at Sheffield was great and Michael was on top form vocally. Anne turned to me after the first half and said "Oh my God!" I said to her "he sings like an angel doesn't he?" She said "he sings like a DEVIL! It comes from his boots!" Like every other venue I was at Michael got a standing ovation after the first half.
The second half was wonderful. During the standing up to dance session the teenagers in front of us unfortunately stayed where they were as we had such a good view from there and linked arms and danced right in front of us. We decided to move to more of the recently emptied seats further along so that we could see Michael better without madly swaying bodies obscuring the view. I spotted one VERY old lady down the front. (At least eighty and probably more.) She was down with the youngsters having a go at the dancing and even giving thumping the air to One Step Out of Time her best shot. It was heart warming to see her.
Again, it was a sell out concert and everyone was up on their feet and dancing at the end. He got a huge ovation.
We all went to bed VERY late after discussing the concert, Michael and all the songs at length. Anne got us all going by saying that Michael was a fabulous singer and very good looking but looked a bit like a hod carrier! (I think she means he's burly.) Yes, Anne, but no hod carrier has hands as soft as that!
The following day we travelled to Gatwick to meet our friends Julie and Steve from Colorado. Julie has been a Michael fan for some time and Nottingham was to be her first Michael concert. It was a free day before the Nottingham concert so we showed Julie and Steve the town of Lavenham, Suffolk (where my husband's family live) which has lots of medieval buildings and we passed through some proper English countryside (as opposed to motorway land), which they seemed to enjoy. We went to a tea shop in Lavenham which had been built in the 1400's (I actually don't think the stairs had been replaced since then either). We went up these rickety wooden stairs and the window overlooked all the old crooked buildings that had been standing since medieval times. Julie and Steve loved that bit and insisted on having tea! Being a not very good Englishwoman I had coffee!
We got to Nottingham and spent the night at a hotel there. The rooms were tiny and I thought perhaps Julie and Steve might be annoyed, especially as Steve turned out to be about a foot taller than the wardrobe in their room! But, no, they were very happy with everything and very easy going company.
We did Sherwood Forest and the Robin Hood Centre during the morning and then all relaxed for the afternoon while Julie and Steve watched a compilation Michael video in their room that I had brought along for them. Because Michael had been on top form at Sheffield and I knew the Liverpool concert had gone ahead I dismissed the idea of checking the Info. Line to see if everything was OK. I felt sure he would be appearing.
When we met downstairs to leave for the concert Julie was SO excited and so was I - front row seats! We passed the venue and I expected to see the usual teeming mass of people gathering but it was strangely quiet. I sort of knew then but couldn't believe it. We got to the car park and saw the notice that the concert had been cancelled. I was devastated for Julie and so was Steve, but she was very brave about it. We went to the venue to see if the concert had been rescheduled and it had - for the 26 th October, the day Julie and Steve were flying out. It turned out to be impossible for them to stay on and extremely difficult for us too, as by then we would be on the south coast. In the end we all gave up our tickets and got refunds. Some lucky people on the Nottingham waiting list got front row seats! The man on the door was quite friendly and people generally were very accepting about the situation. (Unlike Manchester last year, when people were crying outside.) As we were about to leave another coach party pulled up and the doorman groaned and said "I think I'll go inside and lock the doors!" I certainly didn't envy him his job that night.
We all went for a pizza and Julie consoled herself with a big choccie dessert - we were all fairly miserable at that point but then we went back to the hotel and Julie, Steve and I watched another Michael video, this time one with lots of interviews on it. Julie had never seen Michael being interviewed on TV before and she was really taken with Michael's delightful personality. Both she and Steve seemed to really appreciate Michael's humour and the evening ended with Julie laughing and smiling, which I never thought would happen earlier that evening.
Julie showed me a beautiful book she had made about Colorado that she wanted to present to Michael, together with a bottle of Colorado wine. She had made a beautiful job of it - everything was perfect, it must have taken her hours and hours to do. She asked me if there was anything else she should do I could think of and I just suggested she should put her address in the letter to Michael at the front of the book. I do hope that she gets a response from Michael as she certainly deserves it.
The next day we said our farewells as Hugh and I headed off to Manchester and Julie and Steve headed for London.
Manchester was as wild as ever, but this time a little more controlled by six bouncers stationed at the front of the stage. As at last year's concert some women began gathering in the aisles and sitting in them! However, this year they were very firmly stopped from doing that and sent back to their seats. Manchester is the venue where the audience is almost as entertaining as Michael! The dash to the front was absolutely chaotic and the bouncers were left completely helpless by the stampeding fans. Six bouncers trying to hold back hordes of female flesh desperate to get to Michael were no competition! It was great fun watching all the items of underwear being thrown to Michael. The men around me were laughing at all the lacy bras and knickers flying through the air!
A couple of friends told me they had met Michael at the stage door in Manchester and he had arrived looking all bundled up and very sorry for himself. One said to him "You look as if you should be in bed" and Michael turned to her and said (as plaintively as only a man with a cold can be) "I know!" His voice was very hoarse and he told them that his doctor said he shouldn't have gone on with the Liverpool and Manchester concerts. However, because they were the two he had cancelled last year, he didn't dare cancel them again.
Hearing all this made me quite anxious before the show started. I fully expected that Michael wouldn't be able to sing seeing as he had hardly been able to talk at the stage door. I don't know what he does or what his doctor does but he was in marvellous voice, absolutely wonderful. The sound quality at Manchester is not brilliant. I made the mistake last year of being at the side near the speakers - LOUD! This year I got centre seats where the sound was much better. He was on top form and none of us could quite believe our eyes and ears. I had rung the venue twice before setting off because I could hardly believe he would appear after cancelling Nottingham and having to do two Royal Albert Hall concerts immediately after. Now he was back singing like a demon again!
It was only towards the end when Michael said that he hadn't been feeling very well but that we had cheered him up. He also apologised for cancelling the Nottingham concert and said he was sorry that people had made unnecessary journeys, especially from a long way away.
Manchester audiences love Michael. As we were leaving the theatre and walking up the aisle I overheard one woman say to her friend "Ooooo, I fancy 'im summat rotten!"
This is my review originally posted to the Fan Club Forum:
NOTTINGHAM AND MANCHESTER
Well how two nights could be so different beggars belief. We left for the venue at Nottingham with Julie and Steve from Colorado totally oblivious to the fact that the concert had been cancelled. Michael had seemed so well and on top form at Sheffield that I didn't think it necessary to check. My fault for not doing so. When we left the hotel Julie was shaking with excitement and when we got to the car park to find a big notice saying that the concert had been cancelled I just wanted to will it to go away. I was DEVASTATED for Julie - she took it well and is now looking forward to the Albert Hall concert on Monday. Julie and Steve are a delightful couple. PLEEEEAAAASE let the concert go ahead. I cannot bear to think of them coming all this way and not getting to see Michael. It's funny how paying for two nights at a hotel with all the costs involved of travelling don't mean a thing when you get to see Michael but when you haven't seen him it is very painful parting with your hard earned cash!
Sadly Julie didn't get to Manchester but I got there (only half believing he would appear) and he was truly magnificent. He was obviously not well but you would never have believed it to hear his voice. The concert was great fun as they always are in Manchester - lace panties flying through the air, along with flowers and at least one bra! One girl in front of me had never seen him before and she kept saying out loud "He's brilliant! I can't believe him! I love him!" over and over again! I looked up at the circle and everyone was standing and dancing and waving their arms at Michael. Half the stalls were down the front and the noise was tremendous. He looked so pleased with his reception. I LOVED the moment the girls rushed the stage. I saw one bouncer with an officious look on his face put his hand up to ward off the fans. Last I saw of him was a startled face and his hand disappearing into the wave of marauding females! It was hysterical! I hope someone scraped him up later!
All the time I kept thinking about Julie and wishing she could have been there. Oh Julie - see you at the Albert Hall on Monday. PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSE!