Bristol ~ 16/04/2007
by Rose-Marie Gazagnaire

Having a Ball at Bristol

It was my first ever concert in Bristol. I wasn't supposed to go to the initial one. Then it was cancelled and rescheduled and? at first, I didn't think about going, as I was booked on a flight back home on that very day, curtesy of British Airways.

But hey ...what was I thinking, leaving the country when this concert had to be the last of the tour ??? Should I miss it ? Should I leave or should I go ???? Tough !!!

Well, as it happens, I got a fairly interesting text from Sheila and Pam then in Portsmouth, saying, "got 3 tix stalls row F, you may change your flight !"… so I thought to myself, what should I do ??? "let's-have-a-nother-drink !" I hear you think…but no, no no no…I had that drink AFTER… I changed my flight first of all !!!

And that's how I found myself in Bristol, that Monday 16 th April, and so grateful I could be there instead of ten thousand feet above, buckled up in my economic class seat with clammy hands and churning stomach !!!

The stage door experience is always lovely, an opportunity to catch up with old friends and get to make new ones, a mixture of anticipation at Michael's arrival and dreading the moment he disappears into the theatre's deepths…

The Colston Hall stage door happens to be right beside the theatre's main entrance, so two little crowds of fans were waiting by each side of the door, on the (rather narrow) pavement. Orderly and calm, as it seems to have been the trend during this tour, and which, I have a feeling, makes Michael feel more comfortable and keen on sticking around for quite some time with us.

As usually we saw the bus leave to pick him up and waited for it to be back with his –oh so precious !- content…4.20, here comes the bus, and from where I was (for those who were there, on the little ramp leading to the training acamedy next door, which allowed me a higher position and better view) I could see the driver gesturing to something behind his back, but couldn't fathom what it was about…the bus stopped…climbs down the tour manager, and…and…no Michael ? No Michael. Odd or what ? I turned to look on my left and suddenly saw him, casually walking down the street, along with Andrew. Wearing a nice black leather jacket, and orangy shirt, a scarf to protect this precious throat, (well done Michael !) and the now usual sunglasses. While approaching he kind of mimed a "sshhh", he wanted to surprise everybody…I didn't give him away but somebody obviously spotted him and it was the usual commotion towards him….though thinking of it, I'd rather say "emotion", instead of "commotion"…. Don't mind me, I feel in poetic mood today LOL …

Anyway, he started graciously posing for pictures and signing counteless stuff for people. Then he went explaining a funny story that happened to him just before . He was with Cathy passing by the Hippodrome, which is literally round the corner where the Colston is, and has Chitty touring at the moment. He there met somebody he knew in the company, from his time in Chitty (sorry I didn't quite catch who he said it was) Then started a surreal dialogue as this person had heard in the morning that Michael had collapsed and had been rushed to the hospital !!!! Well, and I bet I'm not the only one, he didn't look like somebody just out from the emergency ward to me, I'd say he looked rather fit and cheerful ! Of course all of this was said with much gusto and lots of miming the poor bloke's sorry face and tone "ooooh yes, we heard…" "heard WHAT ???"…well, you can imagine…he got everybody in stitches of course, starting with him ! I wish I had filmed all that but I only had a small card and anyway I was so caught in his story that I just didn't bother…

He then kept on making his way through the crowd, but took all his time doing so. It felt really nice just to be there, watching and enjoying the view on these lovely curls…after a while and more photos, he eventually got in and we all parted to get some drinks, places to eat, or simply get changed in the car park (as you do)

Let's get to the serious bit now, the concert. The last one, the very last one…and as much as you're eager to see it start, you can't help but think, boy, it's the last one, already, how come ? Darn !!! But you push back the panic and take your seat (thanks Pam and Sheila, they were great seats, well worth changing that flight !)

It was a superb night, let me tell you. Michael was in terrific voice, and mood. You could say he was enjoying every minute of it, and he absolutely gave his all that night. So much has been said about the show itself, I won't do it again, just talk about the atmosphere, that was brilliant, although in the begining the fans were hard to spot in the place. We even thought, oh my, this is not going to be the best audience for a last concert ? Well, was I (very) mistaken !!! The cheer was constant and the atmosphere, as I said, brilliant from beginning to end.

When it came to the Savoy Hotel story, well I could hardly breathe from laughing so much. People will say that it's always the same story, but they don't know Michael do they ? From what I saw in Belfast at the very start of the tour, to what had become of it in Bristol, well that was a galaxy apart !!! Not only the story got longer and longer, but we had various versions of the Savoy waiters' accent, a cab driver that grew from anonimous to knowing his bit into musical theatre and asking for "Love Changes Everything", and as for the French manager, what can I say ? Michael, the accent was just spot on, as was your Count Fosco italian flavour, well done ! From stuck-up, snobbish and patronizing in Belfast, this poor bloke has become an outrageously camp, snobbish and very furious wet blanket of a manager whose elocution, at times, reminded me of a certain Reginald Bunthorne…it was just hilarious…even more hilarious was the last part of the story when he goes back home more than tipsy, gets muddled in his mantra (this accompanied by a very loud "ssshhhhh", in case She-Who-Must-Be Obeyed is asleep) then eventually manages to splutter that he does love her very much and can I have some chips ?????? The whole story had me looking frantically for a tissue, and I wasn't the only one I bet…the whole of the band and backing singers were in stitches as well most of the time…well, Michael, should you want to branch out, stand up comedy has to be the next step !!!

After that, party time was there all too soon and once again we were all standing up again and dancing. This time, no security in view, I'm relieved to say…those in the know will understand !!! Another wonderful night came to an end but this time, there was no looking forward to another town, another venue, another friendly meeting, another great concert…but we made the most of it and, sure enough, Michael did !

There was now a big crowd waiting for him at the stage door and by the bus. After a little while he eventually got out and made his way through the crowd, taking pictures and thanking everybody. We managed to cross the street before the bus left and Pam and I got a last big wave from Michael before the bus disappeared around the corner.

Despite the now bitter wind and the late hour, we stayed a little bit longer to speak with friends and bid our farewells to some. There were hugs, and hugs, and more hugs…hard to leave when you know it'll be quite a while without seeing your friends again…but that's the wonder of it, isn't it ? With Michael, there is always something to look forward to, and you're about sure to do it all over again, and isn't it worth every second and every penny ???

Julia, Kerstin, you have put it all into words so nicely and truly, the "whys" we do all this, I couldn't say it any better…yes we do know why, we do love it, and this is all down to you, Mr Ball….hats off to you, and thank you very very very much…!!!!


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