Exactly 100 days of waiting were over on 27th July 2002. 100 days since I last saw Michael live at the press night of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Weeks that did not seem to want to end, but finally they did and Julia, Sylvia and me were back in good old London. Well not really! Because today we were not back to see him do the "Ol' Bamboo" but rather back in concert action.
We were getting our car, loading it with tons of luggage (it's only a week, why do we appear to be moving to England?). Julia stayed up the night doing some great tapes for our trip. AS we had the car for a week, we decided to travel around a lot with it and therefore of course we needed some good music! So Julia was up until 3 am for that. And now I slumped into the drivers seat to search for important things like the reverse gear and where the light is (once you've blocked the London traffic because you could not get the reverse gear running, this will be the first thing you do!!!). Then our conversation went like this:
Kerstin: Wow, Julia look. Our car has a CD Player.
Julia: Hey, that's great. Only stupid we have no CDs, but well never mind, we have some great tapes...
In the meantime I get used to the manual on the wrong side and suddenly have a very, very bad idea.
Kerstin: Oh hang on. If we have a CD player, we won't... @+*#@*##++ ..
Julia: Oh, no!!!!!!
First stocktaking: We have 6 great tapes, 0 tape player, 1 CD player, 0 CDs. Great, isn't it? Thoughts of buying just one CD somewhere, ,just to have some/any music come to our minds, but then England is not the CD paradise, when it comes to prices and we decide we will just have to cope the trip back to London in the middle of the night without any music. Grrrrr.
Anyway, we have us and well as we are in London of course the weather was not great. Despite the forecasted sunshine we were welcomed by clouds. But we knew it beforehand. It was us getting to England, there is no way the weather should be nice! Cardiff 2000, Chelmsford 2001, that is what our weather is usually like!
Several traffic jams and tons of close-to-death-experiences, when we missed the right road to Blickling Hall were the most remarkable aspects. Got on the wrong road and ended up on a street that became more and more narrow. I was really disturbed, when I did not see just one road sign for miles and miles. Every now and then a car would approach in the middle of the street. You English people don't seem to be worried too much about narrow streets and approaching traffic, are you? Around 3.40 pm we finally ended up at Blickling Hall. Finally J . For some strange reason the queue at this point was rather short. I still don't understand why with this great weather (some miles behind Stansted it cleared up and now we were honoured with bright sunshine). In Chelmsford the queue had been so much longer already ages ago! Anyway we were searching for Nikki and her Mum, who kindly offered we should join them in the queue, as we could not get to Blickling any earlier. We soon found them, had a great chat and listened to Michael rehearsing. Just when we sat down to have something to eat a lady came our way and asked us in, what she might think a polite way to move to the back of the queue. Obviously Nikkis mum had been trying to explain to her over and over again, that we were their friends and so on, but she did not care. Now: I have no problem moving to the back of the queue. I would do, if this is how it usually goes. But what I had seen so far and what I had heard from many, many friends and other people, it's mostly like this. Friends do get together and plan beforehand that one or two will get to the Open Air concert venue early and start queuing early. The others will join them over the day every now and then. NO problems, no hassle. That's what I had seen in Chelmsford as well. We were among the first ten people in the queue! But when the gates were close to being opened there were tons of people in front of us! I don't mind, as that is what it always goes like! We nevertheless agreed not to do the running, after all we really needed to see the loos, which were fabulously situated only inside the concert grounds (whoever had this brilliant idea!).
Then I even got the reward I wanted for the longest time. While we were chatting to some friends suddenly Gareth, Michael's PA came over with Freddie, whom he took for a walk and for the first time I could lay my eyes and that beautiful dog. He is just such a cutie and seems to love the attention to bits, who can blame him? But the same time he seems to be so big for a Tibetan Terrier already. Well he certainly is far bigger than my little Lizzy.
However Julia and me later on went back to the car to get something more to drink and when we were back with the others, this "nice lady" had called for the security. I mean yes, that's of course what you should do! After all we were three people! Right. I am sure, three people more on these grounds would have meant they would not have had the chance to get decent seats! Especially three people who over and over claimed not to run! If it made her feel better, whoever that lady was, bless her. You didn't spoil our day! We moved back to the end of the queue that became within two hours 3 times the length compared to when we arrived. And when the gates opened we had the best laugh ever! We were among people who were not bitching around, but just had a fun time and enjoyed themselves. So much more relaxing, than all I had seen at the head of any queue of Open Air concerts. And then we finally got onto the ground. No pushing, no bitching, no running.. We just walked down the huge area and ended up with a better view than I had during 95 % of my seated concerts. That with (queuing-wise) arriving around 5.20 pm. We had so much space around us, that we could lay down on the ground. compared to Chelmsford, where we were at the very front, and I did not even dare to move an inch!
Sorry, Open Air concerts can be a lot of fun, if you are with the right people. But the open Airs I had seen so far bring out the worst in many people. This certainly has not been my last, but I'd be more eager to get to seated concerts. And no way, will I ever get there again at around 8 am! As there is really no need. Getting much later, you will still have such great seats, you won't miss any facial expression.
Enough said. We used the rest of the time for what it's usually thought. Meeting friends, relaxing, enjoying the fabulous weather and just working on ones tan! We met so many people again or for the first time and really had the best of all possible times. Sylvia in the meantime remembered what the letters PRO stand for that were written in front of the musicians: the Pasadena Roof Orchestra who were still rehearsing when Michael was already finished and we could get onto the grounds.
8 pm approached and we thought Michael should come onto the stage soon, but he did not. Instead we were rewarded at first with the already mentioned Pasadena Roof Orchestra. Maybe it was not the luckiest of ideas not to mention they would be playing before Michael gets on stage. Everyone was there eagerly awaiting Michael. So the PRO with the very good singers Charlie Baker and Louise Cookman were undeservedly put into a very bad position. Yes it was not my taste of music as well! And yes after hours in the boiling car and everything going on before I could not wait to see Michael finally, but: Sorry, I don't think I felt ever more ashamed being a Michael Ball fan, then when Mr. Baker announced "This is our last song" and quite a number of people here and there started cheering! "We were not that bad!" he did say. No, you were not and I am sure, if the promoters would have done a better job and announced earlier the famous Pasadena Roof Orchestra was playing before the main act you would have been in a much better position! I better don't wonder how bad they must have felt, when they finished around 8.40 pm.
20 minutes were left until Michael got on stage after the famous opening with "Jellicle Ball" . For some strange reason everyone behind us must have thought now is the moment to rush to the stage. Even before Michael started singing "Let the rivers run" . But I didn't care too much. We had Michael back on stage and I could see him again doing a proper concert, something I had to miss far too long! And boy did he look fabulous in his white suit, white shoes (no socks) and the light blue shirt. Hair as long as most love it, though I prefer them to be a bit shorter. But what can I say? He looked fabulous and seemed to be so happy to be back belting out his favourite songs. We already heard so many of our all time favourites during the rehearsals and at least the sound got a bit better, thought it was still away from being perfect. They did not quite seem to have get the shift from Brian Adams who was there the day before! Michael was this time backed by Dean Collinson who took the place of Mick for this concert. So it was nice to have him as one of the backing singers for the first time live, besides the usual suspects Annie and Shena!
Until Michael finished Brian Kennedys song "Get on with your short life" , which included some really nice hip movements, everyone still seemed to have been standing. Being Michael he soon asked everyone to take their seats again, as there would be some time for dancing later on in the show. Everyone sat down again, only that some people seemed to have thought their seats were far more to the front than they had been. But that's life and that's how these concerts go, so I didn't get myself into moaning and instead concentrated on Michael and "Can you feel the love tonight" ! Yes in the meantime I could.
"Walking in Memphis" brought back some very special memories to my first Michael concert in the mother country England and my first ever visit to London which lasted from touch down to take off around 14 hours. Madness? Yes, but I love it. My brother and me seem to be in a fight at the moment. Who is the more mad person? Me, flying every time I can to England to see Michael, or him, who has s season's ticket for his fave football team and even followed them (Borussia Dortmund) to Milan last year (whole night on the bus and just two or three hours in Milan, the match and back to Germany) and wherever he was going as well. We both think we are the winners. And well I guess we both are!
If only one bit was worth the trip it was after "Lift your wings" , when he looked to his watch and spoke about what he has been doing usually at this time over the last couple of weeks. And before anyone could reply we were awarded with a short demonstration of how high he could throw his legs while doing the Bamboo. He spoke about the show and told us we really should see it, as it was so much of fun and just a great show. He started speaking about "Hushabye Mountain" which he is singing to his theatre kids Jeremy and Jemima. Without interruption this song blended over into "Not while I'm around" . Obviously Michael wanted to put us to sleep instantly. Okay, hands on hearts, who could fall asleep if this man would sing such lullabies to you? Okay, I guess the lucky children in his family!
He then brought us back to his Passion days, much to the cheering of the crowd. HE spoke about his favourite song within the show. One of the most beautiful and meaningful love songs he had ever heard. And he regretted not to having been the person who was allowed to sing it. Instead he had to listen to it each night. But today he could sing "Loving you".
Having a look at the song-list again now. You could maybe even say, we were in the "This time. it's personal" section. Not meaning the CD, but rather what the songs he sang mean to him now. "Lift your Wings" was at the Christmas tourette his dedication to Yogi. "Hushabye Mountain" and "Not while I'm around" are songs, to his own words, he uses to sing to the children in his family. And now with "Loving you" we had a song that could be so matching for Cathy just followed by "Just When" . The song he wrote specially for her and which he dedicated to her by saying: "This is a song I wrote for a very special person who is out there somewhere this evening. So Cath, if you´re listening, it´s for you!". Finally we had "If tomorrow never comes" . His and Cathy's song while he was in New York doing Aspects of Love.
In the meantime the huge ground where the concert took place, was quite a sight. The sun was slowly leaving us and the midges and other insects were having a feast. Obviously they are great fans of the picnic concerts. How often might an average midge or fly get the chance to leave the same old boring pond for a few hours and just join in lots of bloodfilled people and tons of nice things they brought with them for picnic. I don't know how many of these "Flying Objects" as a certain singer called them, were coming on each human being, but the air was filled with them and some really tough midges, flies and what's there enjoyed the disco feeling and became space midges flying in and out of the spotlights. What a sight! LOL at least for us. I was one of the happy who did not suffer. Though Michael did. But he should have learned by now, shouldn't he? Being dressed completely in white (don't think the light blue shirt put many off ;-)) on a hot summer night, in front of the lake with all the spots focused on him. Hey, and who can blame them? If I were a midge Michael Ball would be on top of my "I wanna be eaten by.."-list. As he said each and every single flying object around seemed to have focused on him. Well no, there were still some really bad mannered and tasteless midges who attacked the average concert-goer, but yes I guess most were surrounding Michael. Three of them he'd eaten so far and so he did not need any more dinner!
This section was ended by "Boy from Nowhere" , which showed just too perfectly how much Michael seems to have missed just to show off his fabulous voice again, as Chitty is not the musical for money notes.
Finally one of the bits I was waiting for, for the whole of the afternoon was coming up. "Phantom of the Opera" ! Who expected again Claire Moore had to be disappointed. This time Michael's duet partner was Shona Lindsey of Phantom of the Opera fame. I have to say I quite liked her voice and she did quite well with Michael. I don't think I will ever get enough of his hot Phantom. I still wish and hope that someday he might do it, he would just be perfect for the role in my humble opinion.
This time there was no real interval. While Shona was singing "Think of me" from Phantom Michael changed his clothes and came back in the slightly shiny black suit he had worn already several times and of which I will never get enough, accompanied by a white shirt. This is the moment" was the beginning of his second part of the show. Fabulous song and no miracle it's an all-time favourite of many people. Always like to listen to "So Strong" and "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables". But as I knew from the rehearsals it could not be very long until my real favourites of this concert and former shows should come up. And yes finally he introduced us to his Donmar show, of which I am still so proud to have seen it, several times. The best he had ever done!!!! "Padam, Padam" and "Life on Mars" . I should not say I could still kiss his feet for including them, but well who cares. Yes Michael thank you for the choice and see me virtually crawling in the dust, kissing your feet J . I don't think there is anything out there, that's better than the finale note of "Life on Mars" . At least not for me. Very well deserved Julia thanked him later on for that note (and received one of the dirtiest laughs I had ever heard!), but more on that in my second part: "Memoires of a Chitty fan"!
When the first sounds of Millennium were played, we know we were heading towards the end of the show. All that was left now was the finale starting with "One Step out of Time" . The Rock'n'roll medley, "Wonder of you" , "Help yourself" and finally not to forget "Love changes everything " really marked the end of a fabulous concert, that will certainly be among specially memorized. But so far I had with each concert been lucky enough to have special memories! Michael left the stage finally for the last time and within moments we could not really regret he had gone. I love fireworks and we got a fabulous one. Just getting some bits further back you had a fabulous view on it! What a way to end a perfect day. We slowly got our stuff together and looked around. It was pitch dark in the meantime and the spots were almost the only light sources there were. Nevertheless, we did not want to go. After all, all that was on our schedule for this night was getting back to London and hopefully being let in our hotel earlier than they usually do. So we decided to take the off chance and search for the way Michael had to take to leave. We soon found some other people waiting at a side exit and if we were wrong there at least we were not the only ones. NO lights there whatsoever, but we were mad enough to wait, until a security guy came up and told us, Michael left straight away after the concert. He directly jumped into the car and drove off. Scuse me? I just thought, when one of the other ladies said: "No that's not Michael Ball." I can only second that. Why don't I think he will jump straight into his car, being sweaty and so on. Especially as I always suspected he won't take a hotel nearby, but drive back to London the same night? This lady really made the guy double check, and she was right. He came back some time later and said, yes he is still there and about to leave soon. So we waited some more and were shortly awarded. He leaned out of the car, we all stood on the wrong side and for quite a long time no one dared coming over to him. LOL what a sight we must have been. We said our quick good-byes and just seconds later he was on his way back home to London.
So there we were, alone on the huge concert ground, we needed to find our Fab Fiesta, who was in the meantime completely alone on an empty ground. It was a fab day, a fab night and nothing could ever have disturbed this. And I really love the new realization, that we don't have to be too early to get great seats J . Reality had us back and we were heading towards our next destination, still fearing how we should ever find back through these streets, but: London here we come!