The stage door in Oxford consists mainly of a very narrow alleyway. Naturally, after yesterday's early-arrival-trauma we were there at three pm . After having said our hellos we took our position on the small piece of pavement opposite the actual stage door. We would have arrived there even earlier, had not we encountered some mysterious login problems at the wi-fi hotspot of choice, i. e. sitting at a famous coffee shop not getting any access to the internet. We have to say this tour seems jinxed with regard to our technical equipment…..
Anyways, after about an hour of waiting, both sides of the walk had filled up nicely. Stage door opens and out comes a grey-haired determined looking man, who quite bravely encouraged the group opposite of us to clear the area directly adjacent to the stage door. This took him about half an hour as people kept flooding back to their original positions as soon as he turned his back. But this at least provided a diversion while we waited and was a good indicator that Michael's bus was expected to arrive soon. When it eventually did five-ish we were faced with a problem we had forgotten about earlier. He is travelling in an Austrian bus, meaning the door is actually on the wrong side (not for us, but for the British fans). So we were in plain view of the driver, but had to move in front of the bus to see him. Considering we had stood there for two hours it was a rather short moment of joy, because the driver stopped right in front of the stage door so Michael had literally only one step to make before being inside the building. He stood in the open bus door, said hello and mentioned the sound problems from the night before, waved, smiled and then said he'd better get in and do some work and off he was. It lasted a whole 50 seconds, but there you go.
This time there were no bag searches and the theatre had a nostalgic charme about it, which we liked. The only drawback and if you will a security risk was the balustrade between the stalls and the orchestra pit, which was very low and the orchestra pit itself rather wide. With nearly no space in front of the front row and rather narrow aisles it's difficult to party-time there, but that has never stopped us before. Another worry were the grim looking security guys, one had tattoos at his chin! They were huge and broad and seemed rather uncomfortable at a Michael Ball concert. It turned out eventually that they were merely impressive props as they did not interfere with the audience once or so we could see.
Our seats were on the second row on the “wrong” end. Nevertheless we had a brilliant view. The only setback was, that we were sat directly in front of the speakers, so it promised to be a very physical experience, than we had expected.
The whole evening Michael was very chatty and you know what he's like: The more reaction he gets the more hyper he becomes. This night was a prime example!
When recounting that One Voice is his 14 th album he made his usual line about having released one album a year since he was 20. Laughter from the audience. “What? I would not lie to you!” Starting to talk about Home and that being another track on the album his voice went ever so quiet announcing “The CD is still available in the shops!” He turns around saying “Who said that?!?”
“This is the moment” was once more rewarded with a very long and cheery standing ovation. Michael was truly flattered by this. He enjoyed it for quite a while, but finally turned away to have a quick sip of water, saying “Stop it, you embarrass me!”
When it came to the Joseph bit and his question about could we imagine him in a loin cloth and our enthusiastic “YES”-yell he replied “NOT IN YOUR LIFETIME!”
Talking about Che becomes more and more like his speech about Walther Hartright. Namely him being young, virile, except now, he added dark hair, a beard and tight fitting clothes. “They did not even call me! I'm not bitter….”
Talking about beards here came the worrying bit: He announced that he would try to grow a beard for Kismet while he's fully aware that it will look pathetic with wisps of hair here and there, but he will try nevertheless.
When it got to the ENO and their posh choir and wonderful orchestra he again turned to the poor band saying “They try, bless.” We were going “Awwwww!” and he giggled and said “This should be fun now, they will be playing all the wrong notes!”
He went on about the huge scale of the Kismet production. It is set in the Baghdad of Arabian Nights, which worries him a bit. He mentioned a typical, cheery song hailing a glorious night in Baghdad and had a fit of the giggles even thinking about it. At this point we knew he could not possibly find his way back to where he was originally leading to (i. e. Howard Keel and how impressive he was). The audience almost rolled on the floor with laughter and Michael admitted to the thought of this very scene having “completely thrown” him. He finally remembered still laughing and apologised. No need to Michael, we had the best time.
And he finally announced he will sing two songs from Kismet “I am not getting to sing neither of them … and my beard will look dodgy!”. After “This is my beloved” he was rewarded with a standing ovation.
Fast forward to the Savoy story. We knew this would be good, seeing the mood he was in. Boy did we laugh. The big problem with this whole bit is, you really, really cannot describe how funny this is in print. You would need to see him act it and hear all these different voices. We do apologise, as we know how cruel these comments can be, when you don't have a chance to see it for yourselves. About Amy Winehouse he said “She is amazing – barking – but amazing.”
“You and your showbiz chums have been singing pop songs on the top of your voices and the patrons of the Savoy hotel are not used to this kind of ruckus. Will you leave the premises at once!” Well we know of course that they did not, but had another drink until he finally got home, where “She-who-must-be-obeyed” stood arms folded, saying “What time is this then?” (seeing he said he'd be back around 4pm and it was around midnight now) He did what all fellows do, when they return home being a little tipsy and slurred: “I love you so much honey. Can I have some chips?” To which her reply was: “Bed!”
The next morning he awoke feeling like death, making tea with as much noise as she could do. Still she asked, who'd been there and what was going on. Michael recounted everyone, including Amy Winehouse to which she replied: “I like her. She has a song that really suits you!” “Really?” “Yes it goes like this….”
As we were positioned opposite the backing singers we had a good view on them and actually on everything that was going around even behind them in the wings. When we got to “I don't feel like dancing” we could see all the stage hands joining Michael in his dance routine. Watching him while he's at it is such a joy. He keeps saying this song is only for him, because he enjoys it so much. And you know it's true when you look at him. The look of a small boy locked in a candy shop, while he is dancing around stage.
At one point it is required by the backing singers (and Michael) to dance a full circle, which Dean apparently forgot as he remained standing facing Michael, who had to fight a fit of giggles, when he saw that.
What we have not mentioned before, but really should have done is the amazing light show. Countless spot lights are working non-stop setting the mood for each song using all different kinds of effects. It's spectacular to watch!
It was a perfect concert. At the end the whole venue was at their feet and he was sincerely touched by the warm reception. We know it's essentially about us buying tickets so that he should entertain us, but in all honesty what you really want is him leaving the place feeling good, knowing that we all appreciate his amazing talent. We think we succeeded tonight.