We really hate to bore you with all our travel stories or boring stuff that happened before we started off our part of the tour. However, some things have to be done. Since Julia is no longer a student, but working it's not been as easy to plan trips to England, as you have to think of so many things like school holidays, remaining days off work and everything (luckily all this has never been a problem on Kerstin's side). However, we have been very lucky, the tour ended up being around Easter, which meant Julia was able to take some days off work.. Of course this meant we had to miss the whole first half of the tour. You cannot imagine how hard it was to sit there, eager to know everything that had happened, waiting for those reviews to pop up. Alas, that hardly ever happened unfortunately. Added to the late entry into the tour, Julia was to have dental surgery just ten days before we left for England. It was a rough adventure for her to find out whether all those swellings would vanish in time and whether she was able to eat anything solid.
Quick step forward to Thursday, 28/03/2007, aka the day before we travel. You know the usual frenzy going on: is everything packed, do I have enough outfits, do I have enough warm clothes, what will the weather be like anyway, why don't we have a summer tour, will that bl**dy suitcase ever close, will it explode en route, will we meet the weight restrictions, how shall we carry all this, where will we meet each other in Heathrow (first time usually Stansted), does all the equipment work......
And it didn't! Only hours before take off another check of Kerstin's camera showed.... NO PICTURE!!!! NOTHING AT ALL!!!! BLACK SCREEN!!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! OH NO, OH MY GOD!!! So there was me crying my eyes out, trying to find a way to get another camera quickly. LOL as if.. Only good thing was, Julia just got a really good new one, but we are not really used to it yet, when it comes to Michael-photos.
Luckily, we finally remembered that our role-model Pam still may have her old camera, which happens to be the same model as bunny Kerstin's. So we asked her whether she still got it and whether she agreed to lend it to us for the duration of the tour. Being a real sweetheart she agreed happily, phew, crisis solved (we thought).
From then everything went more or less smoothly. And we can now come to the really interesting Michael stage door bits.
So here we are, at the Hammersmith Apollo, early, waiting in the windy sunshine, meeting friends, when all of a sudden no one really expected a silver car drove up the street and we heard a familiar "Hello!" We may have said it before,, but the Hammersmith stage door works as follows: The fans for a more or less orderly queue along the pavement leading to the entrance of the car park next to the venue. Michael does not get out of the car, but pulls his window down and passes the crowd bit by bit, stopping every few meters (yards) to sign things and take pictures and have a chat. There are usually barriers up close to the entrance, so no one follows his car inside.
And just when the car stood there, Michael perfectly in view and Kerstin got her borrowed camera out to get some real star shots, it did not work! It did, but the pictures were distorted. That's progress for a black screen, but not exactly ideal to say the least. So there are no Hammerstmith arrival pictures from us :-(, as naturally Julias camera was just in the car. We managed a bit of videoing though, but this camera played up a bit as well, but we hope the clips turn out well. Apart from that it was a lovely stage door, because, when we stood just outside the car and Michael asked, if we liked his new shirt, which we did, he actually turned his head to us, smiled and said "We missed you on the first half!" We almost fainted.
As you all know, Hammermith was bound to be recorded for a DVD release later in the year. So there was this camera crew always running around to film fans. They were tough professionals (the camera crew that was). When we stood outside the venue just before the show started and waited for our friend Angela, the camera crew was standing in front of the building, chatting away, there arrived Annie, on foot, looking gorgeous as ever and you could see all of the men turning their heads, one after another, then agreeing with a prompt nod and following her like starstruck puppies inside. We had such a laugh.
But anyways..... Michael's support act Tara started a bit early and so we missed our chance to get in in time which we planned. We always see the support acts, even now, as Tara got quite mixed reviews. But hey, we have another ten shows left, we will manage eventually.
When finally inside the auditorium after the interval you could see a huge camera crane on the left, and two camera men chasing around on stage. Finaly the moment was here, the musicians came on stage, the One Voice intro started. We were officially on tour now. YAY :-D.
Apart from the usual stage design with a staircase in the middle of the stage there was this huge see-through curtain.The curtain opens as soon as Michael appears on top of the stage, a huge spotlight lighting him from behind and no spotlight from the front! WOW! So it looks like his silhouette is coming down the stairs singing "One Night Only". Only, when he's down at the front of the stage the light goes up and you see him properly. An amazing effect.
What was remarkable about Hammersmith was that they have installed five spotllights right underneath the circle, so the stalls were very bright throughout the whole concert. This was probably for the recording, but it gave him a stunning view of all of us, standing there, clapping away happily. Giving him the arrousing reception he deserved.
We actually liked One Night Only as a concert opener. We can clap away happily and the lyrics are appropriate of course. We do agree however, with what some fans told us before: Having Since You've been gone as the second song, it means you have to sit through a very Rock'n'Roll number, that feels a bit wrong, but we surely cope. The song list remained the same, so you can look at is via this link.
So after the first two songs he gets to talk about the Anthony Newley concert. His intro being: "Let me tell you how I'm feeling. I'm two minutes from home, I had two days off, meeting family and friends, who are all here tonight and having the best time I ever had on a tour....." While he's talking the musicians start playing the intro to I'm feeling good, all running smoothly until suddenly there was a loud noise and Michael jumped, laughing, turning around, saying to the musicians "We better do that again, shall we? It's all these cameras!" So they started again, this time everything went smoothly, we were treated to a stunning rendition of "I'm feeling good".
Then he talks about the Newley tribute concert being recorded at the Hackney Empire. "Do you know Hackney? ROUGH! I thought Wimbledon was bad, but this...." We all laughed. He goes on saying that for the next song he needs our help. Would we please click our fingers in the rhythm and he starts singing "Do you mind" It developed into a sort of call and response song, where the audience usually answers the questions in the lyrics. Do you mind and we shouted no! From where we were sitting (row F) the audience response was not as animated as it could have been.
Afterwards he said he had just released his 14th album. The record company let him record whatever he wanted. So he chose songs that inspired him and had a special meaning. He talks about the relationship between parents and children and how we know, how our parents got it wrong and our children know we got it wrong and how important it is to get to a point where you can actually be friends. So he's sure the lyrics of the following song will strike a cord with many people and launches into "The Living Years". A beautiful song.
He continues talking about the next song and how he heard it when he was in New York for 8 months last year and missed his family and friends and he came across this song by Michael Boublé. At the mention of his name some fans start howling with delight. He giggles and says: "No, no Ball, I'm Michael Ball, easy mistake!" We know he was introducing Home at this point, but instead of singing he went on talking about another song he had recorded quite a while ago and that when they sat together, thinking what they could do for the tour, they remembered this Burt Baccharach song (A House is not a Home) from second album "Yeah, I was 22 back then..... Why do you keep laughing?" Well, because we all know that he was actually 31, when recording the second album. "I'm singing these two songs especially for my lovely!" and winks in the direction where Cathy sat.
"Are there any fans of musical theatre in the audience?" A loud yes cheered from all around us. He launches into "This is the moment" and received a long standing ovation for it. He goes on about Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber and asks if we know they are auditioning for Joseph on TV and if we want him to audition for it too? YES from the audience. "Can you imagine me in a loin cloth?" "YES!!!!!!!!!" "In your dreams!"
He introduces Evita, giving us a summary of the plot and saying that next to Eva Peron the hero is a 24, 25-year-old revolutionary based on Che Guevara. "And they did not even call! I can do this!" Laughter from the audience. "Well okay, but I can sing this song!" He launches into a beautiful rendition of "High flying adored" and very cleverly makes it into a solo, when it's originally a duet.
"I'm very lucky. In my career I worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim. People always ask me to compare these two. They were born on the same day, but could not be more different. I can't make my mind up, which of them I prefer. So the decision is up to you." and sings the "All I ask of you - Loving you" medley.
He continues saying that after this tour he has one or two weeks off and then he starts rehearsals for Kismet, a new production of the ENO. The letters said in his poshest possible voice. "I will be someone to know. They have a huge choir and a proper orchestra." He says turning to his band with a dismissive look. "They try." He went on to talk about Howard Keel, who had been in the original Kismet movie and is one of his heros. He listed a lot of musicals Howard Keel had done. "For those who don't know him. Remeber Dallas? Married Miss Ellie after Jock died." He came to see him in Aspects of Love and asked to see the cast after the show in the dressing room and he told them all he proud he was to have been in the audience that night and that he can now pass on the mantle of Musical Theatre as it will be in good hands in the next generation. The whole cast was very touched. So he agreed to do Kismet and is now going to sing two songs neither of which he is going to sing in the show! He got a standing ovation there.
"Right, we have a slight change of programme now." He goes on talking about Children in Need and that he was asked, if there was something he could contribute for auction on the charity's behalf. "I had the idea of giving myself" "Woooohoooooooo!" "The idea was that someone can do a duet with me tonight. And I thought we'd make some quit, but in the end we raised 25,000 pounds!!!! for Children in Need." He thought that was a good idea, but admitted, today, when he drove up to the venue he was a little worried, seeing he had no idea whether the person who'd won could actually sing. But he assured us there was no need to worry, the girl is wonderful. She is only 16 years old and always wanted to be Eponine in Les Mis. He told us he had not sung this song since the Tenth Anniversary Concert of Les Mis and how beautiful it was. He introduced Miss Sian Crisp to sing "A little Fall of Rain" with him. They sat down together on stage and acted the song. It was ever so touching and her voice was phenomenal. Afterwards she got a flower bouquet from Michael and a standing ovation from all of us.
As she left the stage Michael continued to sing "Empty chairs" and we have seen him sing this song countless times and it's always good, but this time he seemed to give even more and feel every line with all his heart, because he was still so much in character. Still sitting on his stool he continued singing "Tell me it's not true" from Blook Brothers which is together with "High flying adored" our favourite in the musical section.
So that's it for the musical bit as we hear the very familiar introduction of "Show must go on". This song is stunning, absolutely breathtaking. We could have howled with frustration, when the audience did not give him a standing ovation, as he so much deserved it.
After the applause had faded away we were treated to what we consider as one of the highlights of the whole show. The intro is dark and has a heart-beat feel to it. It takes us a while to realise Michael is going to sing Crazy as the song is very cleverly arranged and has a completely different feel to it compared to the original version. It's fast and sexy and Michael's hollow laugh in the middle is to die for. There is some similarity with his own song "Never coming back" which we adore on equal case. Afterwards he told us, he loves the song and is so glad he put it into the show. We agreed to that.
THE (in)FAMOUS SAVOY STORY:
We try our best to repeat what he said, but naturally the most fun is HOW he said things, which is the best of the whole thing. We hope it will stay like it was on the DVD, but parts of us fear it might be cut.
He told us he went to the South Bank awards, a really posh do at the even more posh Savoy hotel. Artists from every field in the entertainment industry were there and he found himself sitting on a table with the "The Royal Family" (spelling is surely wrong, It's a comedy TV series in England, we think, so anyone correct us, if we are wrong!). He had told "Her indoors" that seeing the show starts at 11:30 am he will be home at 3:30 - 4pm at the latest. "Have you ever done that? Big mistake (telling your wife, you will be home at a certain time!)." They had free bottles of wine and at four o'clock had only just finished dinner. After that they moved to another room to continue the party. Everyone was there: Andrew Lloyd Webber, Jason Donovan, Jamie Cullum, Amy Winehouse "I was the only one they have never heard of! At 7:30 pm the waiters were elegantly trying to push us out." Michael then, already considerably drunk had the idea to move the party to the American Bar, the poshest bar in the Savoy Hotel, where have to wear a tie to get in. He wore a tie, but around his head. They had one of those bar pianists playing "Tea for Two" and alike. So Michael, Amy Winehouse and the others gather around the piano, playing,singing, having a great time until the manager comes up to him. "We are at the Savoy hotel, in The American bar and the manager is french: May I have a private word with you, Monsieur?" At this point Michael is putting on this amazing french accent, imitating this( very camp) manager, who has apparently made Michael out as the leader of the gang and asked in a very formally, using very difficult words, to leave the premises talking very rapidly in barely understandable way with his accent. So Michael just stares and says "What?" At which point this man explodes and tells him and "his cohorts" in no uncertain terms to stop the noise and leave the bar at once. He just slammed the piano lid shut and locked it. So they were all standing there looking at each other, saying "We are in trouble here." wondering, "What shall we do now? MORE DRINKS!"
When Michael had a look at his watch. 11:30 pm and he knew he was in big trouble. So he grabbed a cab and on his way home kept repeating this mantra, so he would not forget it in his stupor. "Pay the driver, open the door, put off the clothes, go to bed! Pay the driver, open the door, put off the clothes, go to bed! Pay the driver, open the door, put off the clothes, go to bed! Pay the driver, open the door, put off the clothes, go to bed!" Naturally seeing he was really really really drunk, he got it wrong. "Paid the driver, put off the clothes, opened the door" and there she was standing (Michael imitating arms crossed) looking at her watch. "So what time is it?" And he did what all fellows do who get home a little tipsy, opening his arms, slurring the words "Honey, I really love you!" and she just goes "Bed!" pointing upwards. When he awoke, head throbbing, feeling like death, she was banging away in the kitchen, making very much noise, asking him if he wanted a tea and did he have a good party last night? He rubs his head in pain and nods. "So who was there then?" He tells her, including Amy Winehouse. "Yes I know her, got her album "Back to Black" it's quite good. You know there's a song on it for you." "Really?" "Oh yeah and it goes like this...." "Rehab"
We have to say the song is fantastic and he dances across the stage. It's a joy to watch. It was almost officially Party Time now. And when the very familiar chords of "Don't stop me now" a few members of audience start to dash to the stage. Michael tells them to get back and they do! He grins at the rest of us "Oh, the power!" smug smile. But there is a moment in the song, when we are allowed to dash forward and the party begins.
The whole auditorium is on their feet. We were treated to "dancing in the Dark", but then comes a new song, which is less then purely self-indulgent. The song is only for him. He goes "I don't feel like dancing". the Band and Backing singers have to join him in this routine and it's just the best fun ever! When he leaves the stage the place erupts, you feel the circle will come down on us any second. So naturally he returns singing "One Voice" for us, a capella at first. It's a remarkable contrast to the loud partying before, but it's ever so beautiful. He leaves the stage again, only to return to "Love changes everything" his final encore.
Before he leaves he tells us, "I hope you have enjoyed it as much as we have." And we sure have. What a remarkable kick off for our tour. If the atmosphere on the DVD will be only half as good as it was live this will be a must have! Oh right and he was wearing a black suit and a glitzy tie (a new one, far more glitzy even) and looked fantastic.
We did wait to see him leave, although we knew it would be a late night, and it was! But it would not feel complete if we would not wait and wait and wait...... The wind was ice cold and we were ever so happy, when he left at a quarter to one. Off to Birmingham....