Seeing we had never been at the NEC before, we decided to get there early and have a look around. We arrived about 2 pm and were sure he would not be in for anoterh couple of hours. You cannot believe how many car parks there are. We got lost on one or two of them, but finally found a place to park our car. We met a few other fans. Being early we chatted away happily, talked about the recording, the tour in general, when suddenly there comes the tour bus... just like that. So we forgot all about dignity and started running after it. You see it is a huge area and it is a long way, so we had little hope. Reason kicked in and we got back to walking mode. Arriving at the stage door we met a handful of other fans, who told us we have not missed much. He just got off the bus, waved at them and went inside. After a while Andrew came out to distribute some of the signed things, chatted a bit and he told us how please Michael was with yesterday's concert.
It was not even three at that point, so we had five hours to kill on a Birmingham car park. The venue is far away from the city centre and a small group of us stood there and could not decide what to do next. Almost half an hour passed when no decision was made (Women!). Within this time we kept moving slightly up and down the street, to and from the venue, to and from the station (as one possibility was to get into town by train). When we were finally standing around the corner, on the sidewalk, imagine our surprise to see non other than Michael and Andrew walking up to us, waving. Michael greeting us with the words "I thought I'd come out a bit and say hello!" They were only about ten of us there and he was very relaxed, posed for photos and talked about yesterday's show. We also found out he's planning to release the DVD around Christmas time and that he considers to make an extra out of the duet with Sian.
Someone asked him about the line up at Faenol Festival (sorry, we don't remember the names, bad us, but it were four people he said). Michael confirmed that it was the only thing he was going to do in the summer. So we went "No you're not! There's Repton!" "When?" Someone said he was doing Kismet matinee and evening performance the day before the concert at Repton School. You should have seen his face, when he went "What? Where is my manager!?!" Hysterical, poor boy.
After some time he was back in again and we still had about four hours until the concert. To cut a long story short we slept a bit in the car and changed there.
Although there was a bag search going on, you could tell they were not doing a good job at it. We were waiting for Pat in the foyer and could witness how most people got through without having their bags checked. And even those who were checked, were not thoroughly searched. As a result of that whereas there were no flashes at Hammersmith (even without search) they were plenty of those throughout the whole concert. Security seemd to be rather undecided, as one guy kept stopping people and others did not. There were generally a lot of security. Throughout the concert there was a constant "changing of the guards" going on.
Anyway, we saw Tara for the first time. She has an okay voice, maybe not the most riveting of set lists. We coped.
We had our only front row seats of this tour. A massive thank you goes to Sue Kilner and her family here. What amazing seats! The stage was rather high and we had a good view of him and of the sound disk, which should prove to be the place of interest throughout this concert! When Michael made his big entrance, greeted by a beyond enthusiastic audience there was no sound, except for the musicians, who kept holding this one single note for an eternity. The place collapsed in laughter and Dean ran up the stairs (Michael ran halfway down) giving Michael his microphone to save the day. This eventually worked, Michael walked down, singing, two microphones in hand and finally handing one back to Dean. Dean went to Hazel and they shared a microphone. Crisis solved - we thought. But no. We could hear Michael, but no backing vocals whatsoever.
So after the song Michael said: "I cannot hear the backing singers, can you?" "Noooo!" "We have gremlins tonight." They tried everything, we could tell. Backstage, which we could partly see, they were running around, checking wires. You should have seen the feverish activity. Up to three people pressing all kinds of buttons, shaking heads hopelessly.
While they were still on trying to solve the problem, the show went on nevertheless. Michael told us he quit smoking nine weeks ago and that his first note he sang and held for an eternity was worth the admission price alone. Crying shame no one could hear him. The audience participation in "Do you mind" was fantastic, but afterwards Michael turned to the sound desk informing them, that his ear monitors do not work. He took them out and showed them to us, explaining they are no hearing aids. "Believe me, they are no help at all." While talking he suddenly said "Oh, that was very loud now." And the sound people looked SOO desperate, but it seemed they at least solved his ear monitor problem after this.
Although the audience was wonderful at the whole there was still one person who kept shouting silly comments at the most unappropriate moments. She was very annoying and even annoyed him after a while. At one point the whole audience told her to shut up, which she then mercifully did (well for a short while at least).
During "The living Years" the backing vocals are most important, because it's a call and response song and they have whole lines to themselves. Well, what can we say? Still no sound. Eventually they ran up at the side to sing into the musician's microphones, but to no avail. Michael had to cope without them and he was a real pro. No one, who does not know the song very well will have noticed it. . Luckily, however, just when it got to the line "Sing it loud" the sound came back and the four were re-united again soundwise.
Introducing "Home" Michael called it a classic song written for all artists on the road.
He had a hot drink on stage. His voice seemed a bit edgy at moments, which gave us a bit of a scare. Oh, and he wore a dark pin-striped suit and glitzy cufflinks, with a matching dark tie, non-glitzy.
He had a standing ovation after "This is the moment", as usual.
Talking about Evita and not being asked being Che he said "I can do 24.... stone."
After "All I ask of you" Michael finally got bothered enough by the shouter to address her directly. "You keep shouting out love. Stop shouting out, especially at the soft bits. There is always one of them." he added.
Talking about the ENO, he said they have a proper orchestra, turns to the band and says "They are dreadful, but if they were better I'd have to pay them!" LOL
He got half a standing ovation for the Kismet songs.
After Hammersmith we had sealed a pact with Pam and Rose-Marie that there HAD to be a standing ovation after "Show must go on" and no matter how silly we looked, us four were to stand up and give him one (they were in front row centre block and we in front row, side block). We were determined and quite scared! The moment came and the song was as stunning as it always has been. And there we were, standing up determindly, AND WE DID IT!!!!!!! Eventually they all got up and gave him the more than deserved and rahter long standing ovation.
He said he was nervous about including "Crazy" but it turned out to be his favourite song.
The Savoy story got slightly longer (we bet once we reach Cardiff it will be about half an hour long, LOL) and not only did he call Cathy "Her Indoors", but " She-who-must-be-obeyed" and we just loved the Harry Potter feel about it.
Now, after the concert finally finished (with another fabulous party-time and encores, that left Michael stunned - You could see him mouthing "fabulous", "bravo", "wow", "wonderful" and was close to tears). We have hardly ever experienced such a rousing reception. It was amazing. And we do believe him, when he says he loves returning to Birmingham.
Now we have a problem: While we don't like the NEC as a venue, the atmosphere was fantastic. So we are unsure, whether to return or not! However, we are endlessly grateful to having had this opportunity and a front row, too.
Thanks again to Sue Kilner. Without her we would have been shopping in Birmingham and not at this marvelous concert! What an experience!