PLEASE NOTE: For a complete songlist click here.
We were in Row 11 at the side of the auditorium, which came in handy because the way the seats are arranged that meant we didn't have anyone directly behind us - just as well when we got up to party!!
OK, so the lights go out, the overture starts and someone hits a bum note - or Callum did a weird arrangement ! - but it is eventually recognisable as One Voice. There's a gauze across the front of the stage which a stage hand manually pulls back as the tempo changes and Michael appears backlit and starts to sing One Night Only (from Dreamgirls the musical).
He's in a grey/blue suit - probably with stripes, blue shirt and a blue tie (veering to lilac), black shoes. Hair quite short and he's definitely put a little weight on. We stand up as do the gang at the front who're fan club but no-one else does. He then goes into Since You've been Gone - Linda reckons he'll move this because it doesn't really fit, but that might just have been the rather staid Belfast audience, come Newcastle we'll probably just party through it as well! Then Feeling Good from the Anthony Newley programme. He then chats about A Newley and the Friday Night is Music Night show and how he'd like to do a whole show of them again but is only going to do one more, then goes into Do You Mind? He did get the standard response ('no!') but it was a little muted, except by one person to the back and somewhere over the other side who was particularly noisy.
Then he talks about being homesick in the US and how when he and Callum were "noodling" during rehearsals he realised a song he'd recorded way back was sort of connected so he'll sing it too. Mentioned first one is by Michael Buble and 2nd by Burt Bacharach. (Linda and I worked out what it was and felt very clever!!) So he sang Home and A house is not a home. Think this is probably when he mentioned he'd released his 11th album last October and he doesn't expect us to have them all but we must have this one and how it's a lot of his favourite songs.
Then he starts on the problems of the relationship between parents and children and does The Living Years (while I think: I really wish you wouldn't do this one!!). The noisy person at the back is still going on so he says 'This is the serious bit'.
So we get to the 'Do you like musical theatre songs?, if you do, this part's for you' and he launches into 'This is the moment', which I have to say he does very well (even tho it's another I wish he'd drop but I know I'm a minority of 2 here so it ain't gonna happen!) Then he talks about Evita and how it's a great role for an actor playing the 26 year old Che - and he they didn't ask him, so he'll get revenge by singing it here - and does High Flying Adored. (Brain dead here, has he done it before?) Great song anyway. Some chat about ALW and Stephen Sondheim and who's best, which he refuses to answer and says he'll do 2 love songs from each from shows he's been in. I'm thinking, this is good, 2 songs from Passion, but he actually does All I Ask of You and Loving You - so he meant 2 songs, one from each! For me there is NO question as to the better of those songs, Loving You has it for me hands down.
'I'm doing something really posh after this tour' he begins - or words to that effect - and talks about Howard Keel and Kismet and so begins one of the highlights of the evening - 'Stranger in paradise' and 'And this is my beloved' - neither of which he'll get to sing in the show. He makes some slighting reference to his band by saying it's ENO so he'll have a proper orchestra. The songs are very powerful and, as the music is by Borodin, quite operatic/classical in nature, plenty of scope for those tonsils! These are in fact the only 2 songs I know (as far as I know) from Kismet.
The Les Mis music starts and he sits on the stool to do Empty Chairs (we do rather like him sitting on stools!)
Then the music gets dramatic and we get Show must go on - this hasn't got any worse since last tour!! ;) tho a suit isn't really the best outfit for it.
He complains someone's smoking backstage, he can smell it, tells us he stopped 5 weeks ago and he's gagging for it (actually I don't think he did say that but I bet by the end of the tour it'll be 'it' not 'a cigarette') and goes into the Gnarls Barkley song 'Crazy' . Not a bad song but not sure why he decided it was worth singing. This was the first of a few recentish Radio 2 playlist songs (ie I hear them a couple of times a day but couldn't tell you who sang them or anything about them, just that I recognise them)
He follows with the Amy Winehouse at the Savoy story, expanded to include the 'clothes all over the garden' story he first used on Jonathan Ross about the Radio2 Christmas party, and reckons "her indoors" told him Amy Winehouse has a song which is relevant: so goes into the only song of hers I know 'Rehab' (as in "I won't go to rehab, no no no")
Then it's party time - maybe 50 people rush the front (people who were already down there mostly), he tells them he didn't ask them to come down yet, asks the rest of the audience if he should send them back, then goes into Don't Stop Me Now. We get up and start jumping around like mad women, hoping the people behind really don't have a problem seeing over us, and at some point he beckons us forward. There are 4 older people between us and the aisle so we can't really. Not sure if he was concerned we were in the way of the people behind or he just wanted us to join the party!! Then we get Dancing in the Dark. He stops and announces that in the next song the music is for the people down the front and the lyric is for the rest of the audience and goes into Scissor Sisters 'I don't feel like dancing'. (Dean doing the falsetto part very nicely!) (this is the 3rd of the Radio2 playlist songs, the Amy W being the second)
By this time he's taken off his tie - and thrown it back to the band because he reckons it's expensive! - and is very sweaty ;) under his jacket.
He comes back and does One Voice, I cry, he does it really well and I wish I had a torch (since candles are a no-no!) a la Barry concerts. No choir, just him and the BVs (Annie, Dean and a new girl).
The final song is the community singing version of Love Changes and that's it for the evening.
What else - oh yes, Geoff isn't with him, don't know the pianist's name but he's good on trills and clever bits and Michael tells him he doesn't get paid more for doing them. Lewis is fab as ever and gets a special cheer from us at the end!
We saw Pam (not ours, the other one!) in town earlier and then Maureen came up to say Hello at the end, then Gill briefly, saw Jen and Fran from a distance but not to speak to, noticed a few other familiar faces too.
There was no-one at the Stage Door at about 4pm when we found ourselves in that part of town, and no-one there by the time we left the theatre after the show. Don't know if that was because he was at the adjoining hotel so wasn't going in or coming out or if he'd gone.
Quite fancy the pink tote bag from the merchandise, like I need another bag!! (it does come in black for the rosophobic amongst us!)
Flights were great and early both times, airport bus which is scheduled to take 45 mins did it in under 30 both ways... we visited 2 fabulous bars in Belfast (thanks Jacqui) - most amazing decor - and had a very nice dinner last night and breakfast this morning too. And hardly bought anything apart from food!! (and drink! - Guinness and a classic dry martini) partly because I was working on hand luggage only and sticking to the specified bag size so didn't have room for anything else.
Thanks to Jacqui for being our local expert - and for wine and nibbles - and to Linda for arranging tickets and hotel and to both for being great company.