Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Brian Fallon Live at St Pancras Old Church

I think everyone experiences a handful of surreal moments in their life. The kind that force you to take a step back, shake your head in awe and say "Things like this just don't happen". These are the kind of moments we imagine are for the lucky, the privileged, the special - not for every day humans like ourselves. For some, it’ll be your partner proposing in New York City, as the snow begins to fall along with the New Year’s Ball. For others, it’ll be winning a couple of hundred Pounds on a lottery ticket you bought on a whim as you stomped home after a bad day at work. These things just don’t happen.

I myself have experienced just a handful of these moments: meeting the touring guitarist for The Killers in a Starbucks, after years of joking about how much he loves coffee; having Dave Grohl introduce himself to me as “Hi, I’m Dave”; touching hands with Bruce Springsteen as he sang ‘Spirit in the Night’ into my face. And I added another to my list this past Monday night.

In general, I’ve usually been quite successful in obtaining tickets to concerts I’d wanted to go to. Enough perseverance usually wins out in pre-sales and general sales, and failing that, there’s always a fellow fan selling a ticket or two closer to the date. For desperate times, there’s StubHub, where I tend to wait for prices to reach face value or below before parting with my cash. You can understand, then, why I was relatively confident I’d be able to get a ticket to Brian Fallon’s special show at the St Pancras Old Church. I’m not going to repeat how much I love Brian / The Gaslight Anthem - if you’ve read my blog or ever met me, you know. But then I failed in the first sale. And in the second. And in the two competitions I entered. And try as I might, there was not one single ticket going. But I was not deterred.

On the evening of the show, I happily waltzed off to the venue - a mere seven minute walk from my office - certain that someone would turn up with a spare, or even - against my better judgement - willing to pay a tout an inflated price. This was going to be a once-in-a-lifetime show, my favourite singer at his finest, and I could not miss out.

At the church, things weren’t looking promising, but shivering in my cool-but-not-warm, military Coldplay-circa-2008 jacket, I decided to wait it out. I had nothing to lose. What struck me immediately was how genuinely friendly the fans - whom I had never even met before - were, all honestly concerned about whether or not I would get in, and all wanting to help in any way they could. It took 3.5 hours, but I entered the show as Brian played the first note on his harmonica. Take me to church. I’ve already thanked the incredible people responsible for my entry, but I’ll thank them again - you know who you are.

And from there on out it’s an hour of worship. Growling raw emotion, the guitar and the harmonica. You rang on a Wednesday night / I was buried in the churchyard. And the hushed reverence of 150 people, too awe-inspired to do anything but watch. ‘Red Lights’ follows, and what was a massive singalong on Friday at KOKO, is now a stripped-down lament.

Never one to miss an opportunity for a spot of banter, Brian greets his audience. “I like places like this. I grew up with hymns, I like the old ones… not the new ones - they sound like Coldplay.” He grins and I roll my eyes. Then he launches into an explanation of where he got the inspiration for the next song. “I saw this interview, and this guy said ‘people say love is all you need, but I need money. Sure, it doesn’t solve all problems, but it solves the ones I have!’ ” I knew what the song would be, and sure enough, Among Other Foolish things sounds just as good acoustically as it does in all its usual glory.

Out of nowhere, a Gaslight Anthem song makes an appearance. It’s ‘The Navesink Banks’, I spent time ‘neath the trestles / with the punks and the dime store saints and I can almost hear the collective intake of breath of the members of the fan forum of the same name.

A few songs later we hit ‘Honey Magnolia’, one of my favourites from the new album, and surely this is the only way this song should be performed. It is absolute perfection, and topped off with a cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’.

I’ve never been to such a quiet gig in my life - many people whispering along to the songs, or mouthing the words, but no one daring to do any more. It’s either a mark of the respect of the fans, or perhaps the beauty of the performance has caused everyone to lose their voices. Never know. Brian is completely in his element, and unable to thank us enough for being there. As if we’re the ones who should be thanked.

‘Ladykiller’ is darkly fantastic, and ‘A Wonderful Life’ gets what is probably the biggest crowd reaction of the night. “Some people say some songs are inside guitars… I never believed that and then I got this guitar and I took it back to where we were recording the Handwritten album, and I just started playing this…” It’s the opening chords of ‘National Anthem’. I never will forget you, my American love. And I will never forget this night.

It’s a bit overwhelming the whole thing. There’s an air of something incredibly special having happened tonight. The emotion seems to be in the very air, and although the mood is euphoric, I'm bordering on melancholy. Perhaps that it’s the effect of the church. Perhaps that’s just what happens when you know you’ve just seen one of the best gigs you will ever see in your life. I wish I could go back in time and tell 2011 me, who had just discovered this album called ‘The ’59 Sound’, that one day she’ll live in England and some ridiculous things will happen, and she’ll see that guy in a church down the street from her work. But she’s never even been to England. And she’d never believe me. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Brian Fallon Live at KOKO, London

The Gaslight Anthem is my drug. My painkiller so to speak. I entered into a whirlwind romance with their music way back in 2011, after a casual peruse of the year’s festival lineups led to my discovery of a little album called The ’59 Sound. For months - which became years - I didn’t stop. I wondered how I had co-existed in a world with this band for so long, without ever knowing it. They filled a void within me that I had not known existed - their lyrics spoke to my soul. I often say that although The Killers are my lifestyle, The Gaslight Anthem are my favourite band.

Fast forward to Cape Town on a fine February evening in 2012. Picture me sitting on my bed, live streaming BBC Radio One for the Reading Festival announcement, to decide whether or not I should attend a festival in a country I’d never been to before. If Gaslight play I’ll go. I need to see them. Imagine the DJ announcing …. “Paramore, The Foo Fighters… The Gaslight Anthem”. Now imagine me screaming loud enough to wake up all the neighbours. I bought tickets immediately. I was going to see Gaslight.

Three years and four Gaslight Anthem shows later, I found myself living in London, where I was lucky enough to attend a show in Brighton, and a final one - before the hiatus - at Shepherd’s Bush in London. And then it was over for an indefinite period of time, and my heart felt like I imagine it would at the end of a four year relationship. I almost cried, but then I realised I’m a heartless princess of darkness.

Then came the whispers of a Brian Fallon solo album, and my ears pricked up. If I couldn’t have The Gaslight Anthem together, at least I could have something to sustain me. Unfortunately, when Brian’s UK tour was announced, I was happily sunning myself in South Africa, completely unaware that my favourite had just released tickets to a show 6 minutes away from my work. And so I missed out on ticket sales.

As soon as a second London date - the St Pancras intimate show - was announced, I plotted my strategy for tickets. I had to make a plan to get to Brian in London somehow. But despite my best efforts, both round of tickets sold out, and neither of my attempts at winning tickets were successful. I gave up hope, and resigned myself to the fact that come April, I would be breaking into a church in Camden.

But a few weeks before the show I did manage to find a spare ticket for KOKO (thanks, Jess Baker, I am eternally grateful!) and on the day I took a rare lunchbreak and strolled down to the venue. A quick scope around the stage door revealed that the tour bus was already there, and assorted crew members were hanging round outside. Now imagine me pretending to be on the phone whilst I walked up and down, feigning ignorance as to who these human beings even were.

And so, back at work I attempted to concentrate for four more hours before I could leave for the actual gig. Let’s just say that by 4.30pm I had given up on doing anything productive, and was doodling Frank Turner lyrics in the back of my notebook. When 5pm finally arrived, I hightailed it down to KOKO, picked up my ticket, and then inhaled what I assumed would have been a very delicious chicken flatbread from Pret - though I wasn’t in any state to taste it. I joined the queue, where I was entertained by a plethora of excited fans. “I mean… he has more guitarists now than in The Gaslight Anthem! Let’s see, there’s Jared, and Ian, and Alex… and cousin Frank…”

Inside - and 5 rows from the front - I met some lovely fans, who made me feel like I was part of something. One of the things I love most about music is how it brings people together, and there is no better example than when a fan community gets together at a gig.

Two opening acts later Brian grinned his way on to stage and then began to growl into his microphone: Swinging in the backyard / pull up in your fast car whistling my name. Huh? Open up a beer / and you say get over here and play / I’m in his favourite sun dress OH! He was covering Lana Del Rey’s ‘Video Games’ with such dark emotion that it sounded like a different song. It was brave, perhaps, to open with a cover, but when has Brian ever done anything the ‘normal’ way?

‘Red Lights’ was the first original song up, and boy did it go down a storm. I am aware that it was originally released by Brian’s Molly and the Zombies project, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that for most of the audience - myself included - it had been heard for the first time on Painkillers. And for an album that only came out a month ago, everyone was already very familiar with the words.

Next up was ‘Rosemary’ and I sang my heart out. It must be my third favourite on the album, and although it does hint at underlying sadness, it somehow fills me with hope. My name is Rosemary, and you’d be lucky if get to hold me.

And so we continued with a mix of Painkillers songs and The Horrible Crowes covers “we’ve been waiting a long time to play these songs”. After a hauntingly beautiful rendition of ‘Honey Magnolia’, Brian stopped for one of his typical speeches. “Have you never been to a show before, where I talk a lot? So it’s usually an hour and a half show, and I make dumb jokes and play some songs… and if you need a history lesson, well New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey, New Jersey”. He was on top form. One of my favourite things about Gaslight shows was Brian making fun of everyone from Obama to Bono to Jesus, so his sense of humour always goes down a treat.

‘Smoke’ was a definite highlight, and translates amazingly well live. It is astounding to see how seamlessly Brian and the Crowes transition from the slow and sad ‘Steve McQueen’ to something to upbeat. Although ‘Nobody Wins’ is my favourite song off the new album, I found the bass to be a bit overwhelming live, so I was slightly disappointed, but before I could dwell on it, I found myself being thrust full-force into a four-song Horrible Crowes marathon, losing myself in Brian’s screams.

All too quickly it was over, and I attempted to make a dash for the stage door, but getting out of KOKO turned out to be quite a process. Nonetheless, I made it eventually, along with a small handful of dedicated fans hoping to meet the man himself. In my typical style, I’d convinced myself that it ‘wouldn't be that cold’ and had opted for my leather-jacket-edgy-cool look. Turns out I was just cool. And by cool I mean cold. I was freezing.

I began to lose hope when about 70 other people turned up, all with the same objective. It was 10.30pm, I was shivering from a lethal but familiar combination of cold and adrenaline, and I thought there was no way in hell I’d meet Brian. I also somehow managed to make friends with the two guys next to me, and at least talking distracted me slightly from my rapidly plummeting core body temperature. At last - at last - Brian came out, considered the long queue of eager fans for a second and then said “Okay, I’ll start at that side, and work my way around” much to the horror of his manager, who was also considering said queue of eager fans, but with horror. “Move it along, guys, let’s be quick.” Brian paused his conversation with the first group of fans. “You can go, it’s okay, I do this every night. Hey - are any of you going to stab me? It’s fine.” Perhaps he had been warned about the British penchant for stabbing.

And then it was happening. A crew member took my phone to snap a photo, and I heard words coming out of my mouth, although I could not tell you how I managed to form them. “Hi! You’re my favourite songwriter ever. And could you sign my photo? I don’t know if it’s weird, it’s you… my mom took this photo at a Gaslight show in… in Dublin a few years ago and we thought it was a really cool photo so…” “It is a cool photo.” He said, signing away. And then it was over, and I was shaking so much I could barely hold my phone steady enough to broadcast said photo. And this must - surely - count as one of the best nights of my life. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Filling My Head With Dreams of Coldplay

A week after the NME Awards, I had recovered from my flu - or so I thought. I'd spent the weekend in Birmingham, and returned to London pretty certain I wouldn't make it into the War Child show at the O2. I hadn't won tickets in the ballot, and due to the Epic iPhone Fail of 2016 (which, I am happy to report has now been reversed, and my Hackney pictures restored!) I had missed general ticket sales. Oh, how unfair my life is - I could have walked home afterwards!

Just for fun, I called up War Child on the Monday morning, to ask about VIP tickets. "Oh, yeah, 500 Pounds each? So unfortunate they're all sold out... yes definitely put my name down on the list in case you get any more." I hung up the phone, wincing. I may be insane, but not quite insane enough to spend 75% of a month's rent on a Coldplay ticket, when I'd already seen them twice in the past two months. Maybe if I hadn't gone to the NME Awards. Imagine my surprise when War Child emailed me back two hours later saying they'd just had some come available, at 250 each. I debatated it for about ten seconds, before my common sense kicked it, and I emailed back to say that unfortunately I'd not realised that the show was taking place after the BRIT Awards, and that it was a bit late for me. I could feel the dishonesty radiating from my body.

Undeterred by my lack of funds, the freezing weather and the fact that the show started at 11pm, I hit up Gumtree in the hopes of finding someone with an face-value ticket. I don't support buying from touts, but I do believe it is okay for a geniune fan to purchase a face-value ticket from another human being. My prayers were answered in the form of a woman called Susan-who-was-actually-her-son-whose-friend-couldn't-make-it.

Strolling around near the O2 at 7pm, I kept an eye out for celebrities attending the BRIT Awards that evening, though I only managed to spot Carl Barat from the Libertine (who did not return my greeting as he walked from the car park) and a massive Hummer-limo contraption that could only have belonged to Rih Rih or the Bieb. And so 8pm saw me standing outside the Slug and Lettuce, still shivering in my lace dress and heels because I will never learn to dress appropriately for the English winter.

It was a surreal moment, when the screens inside the restaurant flipped to the live television coverage of the BRITs, and Coldplay blasted onto the stage with Hymn For The Weekend. How weird to think that this was all happening a few meters from where I was standing - just on the other side of that wall!

After a few hours in the queue, we were let into the tiny venue that is the Indigo club, where I had never been, despite literally being able to see the O2 from my bedroom window. I wish I could say that I was getting used to seeing Coldplay in such small venues, but it's not something one can ever really get used to. Despite the rumour of the Bieb being the opening act, it transpired that the opening act was really a duo of DJs, playing a very interesting mix of what may have been BoB Marley and rave. When they did play a Bieber song, 20 minutes before showtime, it was evident that most of the audience must have heard the same rumour I had. But no, definitely no Biebs were present.

By now one thing that was becoming familar was the tension in the air as soon as the audience glimpses the brightly coloured stage decorations that mark the A Head Full of Dreams era. And so, after a short introduction to War Child and their cause (which you can donate to by visiting their website) the band in question erupted onto stage with none other than the title track from the new album. Ah, Chris. (And the rest, of course, I mean it's not like I'm in love with him or anything). So full of smiles and grins and happiness. I saw him described somewhere as "a happy little jelly bean" and that's exactly how he's coming across tonight. I'm ecstatic at the appearance of 'Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall', and I'm screaming along to 'waaaaaaaaaaterfall' at the top of my lungs, having entirely forgotten to pretend to be cool for the sake of my concert buddies, who I met three hours ago. 'Charlie Brown' is a highlight once again, it is an utterly euphoric song to experience live, and never fails to astound me. Coldplay is an experience rather than a band.

I'm holding my breath for 'Hymn For The Weekend' but as they've already played it at the BRITs ceremony, I'm not sure if we'll get it. But, oh boy do we get it! Chris flails around the stage in his typical endearing manner, and although I can tell he's not taking himself seriously at all, his vocals are flawless. The award for Best British Band is so well deserved that it's almost laughable. Can any other band even begin to touch this? 'Fix You' is always the emotional highlight, but this time I went to pieces during 'Viva La Vida' because the true weight of the situation hit me - this album had gotten me through a very rough year - 2008 - and there had never even been one bone in my body that had believed that I would come out of it okay, and that I would be seeing this phenomenal band so close to my home, on a casual Wednesday night. I was pretty glad that The Scientist did not make an appearance - despite being my favourite Coldplay song; my makeup wasn't waterproof.

After 'A Sky Full of Stars' (cue stooping to stuff my handbag with more confetti - I'm aiming to have enough to paper my walls by the end of the year), the band left and came back for an encore in the form of perhaps the most unexpected song (I'd have called Magic, Everglow or Up & Up here). "This is a song we wrote in 2005 - we gave it to Justin Beiber, well he was only 3 but he knew he wouldn't like Coldplay very much" Chris quipped affably. "But really, we wrote this song for Johnny Cash - it's called Til Kingdom Come". I gasped audibly and fumbled for my camera to record it. Ever since I'd first heard that the song was written for Johnny, I've always imagined him singing it, but of course Coldplay do it flawlessly.

And so that was that - it was 12.30am on Thursday, I had to be at work on the other side of London in less than 8 hours, it was below zero degrees, but I was skipping home. The next day I would realise that my voice had been decimated, and I'd be unable to speak properly for at least three days. I'd live on coffee to get me through work for 9 hours, but I'd wax lyrical about this show for about 90 years. I could easily not have gone - saved myself 80 quid and gotten an early night, but that's not the way I choose to live.

iPhone 4 camera quality killed my vibe :(

Thursday, February 18, 2016

NME Awards 2016 - Coldplay Live

On Tuesday morning, I woke up with a slightly sore throat. It’s February in England, and I’d slept with my heating on. Obviously I’d dried out the air a bit too much. Nothing a cup of tea wouldn’t fix. But by the time lunchbreak rolled around, I was unable to speak or swallow, and I panicked. No, not because I may have to call in sick to work, or because I was at all upset at the thought of a day or two in bed - but because tomorrow was the NME Awards. I’d bought a ticket as soon as Coldplay had announced they were performing and nothing - not hell nor high water nor ill health - would keep me from Chris Martin. 

And so - heavily dosed up on four different medications but still attempting the leather-jacket-edgy-cool look - I headed to Brixton O2 Academy for the second time within four days. I was, however, starving and in need of the loo, the solution to both of which I located in a Costa down the road from the station, and so by the time I reached the Academy, I was stuffing a chicken sandwich down my throat whilst attempting to retain aforementioned leather-jacket-edgy-cool look. Add the influence of the bucketing rain and it’s quite clear that I failed miserably. 

After 40 minutes in the rain - by which time at least I’d ascertained that my jacket was waterproof - we were led inside, and shepherded upstairs, only to be told that pit standing ticket holders were to wait around to be collected by a stewart. That’s it. No other info. And so we waited. And waited. And waited. 47 minutes later, we were given wristbands, and escorted down the stairs, into the venue proper, and down to a very small spot in front of the gents’ loo. A very small spot which had no view at all of the performance side of the stage. Hmm. I had paid 40 to see my favourite band, not to stare at the presenter’s shoes for 2 and a half hours. At this point, many irate thoughts crossed my mind: NME Awards, more like the ‘Where The Hell Are We?’ Awards. Pit Standing tickets, more like ‘WTF Am I Going?’  tickets. If there had been wifi, I’d have rage-Tweeted until I’;d gotten both a refund and a private audience with Chris Martin. Upon another confused audience member asking where the ‘pit’ was, the stewart replied “this is it” and walked away. Spotting another pit on the opposite side of the room - right in front of the stage set up - I hightailed it across the venue, hoping for a better spot. 

As I hurried through the crowd, I almost literally ran slap-bang into a figure sporting an impressive beard. I grinned and said “Hi!” rather enthusiastically, before continuing on my way, not stopping for a second to ask myself why I had just greeted Michael Eavis - founder of Glastonbury Festival - as though he were an old friend. I had other things on my mind. Luckily, I managed to find the real pit standing area and made it to the front easily. Now, there’s a reason I say ‘front’ rather than ‘barrier’. There was no barrier. Nope, the only thing separating me from Chris Martin would be my own self-control. 

Cue dimming of the lights and the ceremony officially starting. I glanced behind me, hoping to perhaps spot some minor music celebs, but my heart nearly stopped at the sight of a very familiar face: none other than Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs. I am not at all ashamed to say that I spent the majority of the first performance - Foals - watching Ricky and attempting to make eye contact. Which I did not manage. 

After performances by Foals (has Yannis always been that short?), The Maccabees (wonder if Ricky is enjoying this, I wonder if I can take a photo without him noticing), Rat Boy (is that Jay from The Inbetweeners?) and Bring Me The Horizon (who I have lost all my respect for after they trashed Coldplay’s table during said performance) and artists such as Wolf Alice and Charlie XCX collecting major awards, it was time for the Godlike Genius Award, presented by none other than - na na na, na na na na na, na na na… -  Kylie Minogue. 

Lo and behold, out walk Coldplay from the audience. I’m shocked, having assumed they had been backstage the entire time. Not having been able to see the back rows of tables from my spot, I’d missed that fact that Chris and co had been in the audience the whole time. In the speech, Chris’s self-deprecation is always close to the surface. “We started getting nominated for things like Worst Band, Worst Album…” But he offered a sincere thank you to everyone who listens to and supports the band, and a heartfelt thanks to NME for the Godlike Genius Award. All too soon the four members trouped across the stage to where their instruments awaited. I wasn’t mentally prepared. Somehow I survived through Viva La Vida - with drummer Will Champion inches from me, beating one of his massive drums. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that I was living through this. Next up was Charlie Brown, and our Xylo Bands lit up the room, as even the bands left their seats and clustered forward to watch the Geniuses perform. Clocks was up next, but the sound quality left something to be desired, with Chris’s vocals being drowned out in places. Well, either that or he forgot some of his own lyrics, which is also possible. 

“I think the show’s finished, but we’ll keep playing… you don’t have to stay, but you can if you want!” Chris went on to quip about how the Super Bowl had just been a warm up show for the NME Awards. “Let’s do Yellow…” and the stage lit up in yellow and I was transported back to my first Coldplay show in Johannesburg back in 2011. There, I’d had to plead with a security guard to pick up one piece of confetti and hand it to me after the show - this time, I could have taken a bath in the amount of the stuff that fell on me. ‘Adventure of a Lifetime’ came with the beautiful multi-colours of this Coldplay era, and I was finally able to replace some of the photographs I lost in the Great iPhone Fail of 2016 (details of which I won’t go into, let’s just say… church, Hackney, album launch show…). I knew ‘Fix You’ had to feature, and as soon as the first notes began I knew it was the end. Is there a more emotional song in the world? Perhaps only ‘A Dustland Fairytale’. 

I was left more excited than ever for the full tour in June - this and the Hackney show have been just enough to whet my appetite very nicely. And although I would have loved to have stayed and tried to meet the band afterwards, it was cold, it was rainy, and I know when not to push the limits of my own health. But what a night it had been. 

Not to mention Yoko Ono’s presence; or the way I screamed when a clip from The Killers’ ‘Shot At The Night’ played when they were nominated for Best International Band; or the Bowie Tribute, or Taylor Swift’s video acceptance speech; or the new friend I made in the front row (our selfies were the best). It was truly an honour to have been able to attend an event like the NME Awards. It was something I had only ever dreamed of doing, and now something I hope to do again next year. 

The first time I saw Coldplay, in 2011, I was so disheartened by the mean, offhand comments thrown around by people around me when I mentioned my excitement. “Worst band ever”, “How can you go see them?”, “So uncool.” And this time was no different - “Oh, are they still going?” was the most popular remark today. But I’m no longer in the pursuit of coolness or acceptance. I’m no longer going to apologise for or try to justify my music taste. I’m not going to play down my excitement for a show, or how much of an impact a band has made on my life, just so I can fit in with the cool crowd. It’s no one’s business but my own. 

Photos on my Instagram.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Farewell, The Desired Effect

At 6.30pm on a chilly evening in November, I’m tripping down the main street in Shepherd’s Bush, beckoned along by the golden light emanating from a set of arches which form the letter ‘M’. Yes, the pull of McDonald’s is strong. I’ve transversed three Tube lines in the past hour, and certainly need my strength for tonight’s event. So five minutes and £1.98 later, I’m racing as fast as my little legs can carry me towards the O2 Empire, to see my very favourite human being - none other than Brandon Flowers - perform the final show of The Desired Effect tour. 

I make my way to the end of the line, greeting Victim friends here and there, and end up making friends with a Victim called Sarah from Derby, and a lady from Surrey accompanied by her daughter and niece. She’s been playing the album in her bakery all day. Here I am reminded of why it is perfectly okay to go to concerts ‘alone’, because you’re certain to make friends. When it comes to The Killers and Brandon, I know that I can arrive alone and without a shadow of a doubt meet up with people I know or recognise somewhere along the line, and failing that, new queue friends are the absolute best.

With extra security checks, we only make it into the venue after 7.30pm, and between a dash for seventh row (not up to my usual standard, I know, I’m losing touch in my old age) I’m trying frantically to purchase tickets for Coldplay’s tiny upcoming show in Hackney. But both me and my two back ups fail, and although disappointed, I know that Coldplay will eventually embark on a full tour, and speaking of tours, this specific one is about to come to an end…

“What’re they called?” “Clean Cut Kid… I’m his dad!” goes the conversation in front of me as the lead singer’s proud father battles his way out of the crowd after the opening act’s set. Brandon’s typical oldies playlist kicks in, and before we know it, the lights have dimmed for the main act. Cue screaming. I’ve said before that in the few minutes preceding Brandon Flowers appearing on stage, the string that tethers me to the earth is severed. The same is true tonight. I’m not ready for this, it is not happening. My levels of nervous excitement are at fever pitch, and the adrenaline racing through my body is enough to make me feel like I am the one about to take to the stage. 

But I’m not; he is. Brandon. BFlow. King B. Whatever you want to call him. “Come out with me, come out and see” he croons in his opening song, illuminated by a single light, as though he is some supreme, unearthly being, which he very much might be. But the mood doesn’t remain calm for long, as he bursts into ‘Dreams Come True’, punching the air emphatically when the chorus is reached. Here I am, in the middle of London, spending my life bracing for the crashland, and forgetting that this whole experience is really a dreamland. Perhaps the next step is to take a chance underneath the streetlight.

Next is ‘Can’t Deny My Love’ followed by the incomparable ‘Crossfire’ (cue voice note to Lauren), but this time it’s ‘Magdalena’ that gets me. Always a firm favourite since its release in the Flamingo days, tonight I’m clutching my lightning bolt necklace and shouting the words as somehow I manage to experience every emotion of my 24 years of life, compressed into four minutes. Tell them that I made the journey, and tell them that my heart is true. ‘Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts’ is next, my absolute favourite Brandon solo song, and next we get a slowed down version of Jenny Was A Friend of Mine, followed by Lonely Town (cue voice notes to Andrew). ‘Diggin’ Up The Heart’ is also a firm favourite with me, and it seems like I’m not the only one, based on the way the crowd jumps. 

Brandon Flowers is a man of many talents, but perhaps joke-telling is not one of them. “I’m going to choose a cover now, I’ll give you three options…” He says seriously, “the first one is ‘Booty’ by Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea, next is ‘Bootylicious’ by Destiny’s Child and last is called ‘Da Butt’ by EU… do you know that song?” But then he smirks and launches into ‘Read My Mind’ instead (cue voice note to mama), much to the disappointment of those who were genuinely excited to see him shake his booty to ‘Bootylicious’. 

And so we continue until the double-feature of ‘Human’ and ‘Mr Brightside’ sends the audience completely over the edge. The French flag is projected in lights on the stage while we wait for an encore, which begins with the sombre ‘Between Me and You’, only to be injected with a second round of energy during ‘Still Want You’. ‘Only The Young’ was the perfect way to end the show - melancholy enough to make me feel all the chills in the world, but hopeful enough to not send me home drowning in my own tears. 

Though the same could not be said for the weather - after a quick scope of the stage door, I decide not to risk pneumonia for the chance of a second selfie with Brandon, and instead turn my umbrella upside down and use it as a boat to ride in down the street to the Tube station. Well, not really, but the rain was pretty heavy. 

And so it ended, not softly and gently, but with one final bang. I remember the way the tour started - the first play of ‘Can’t Deny My Love’; the race to HMV to buy the album and secure a spot at the meet and greet; the almost tearful excitement of the first night; the calmness of my first meeting with Brandon; the dash around the country to see four shows of the original tour; the TV appearances; the moments shared with friends; and the way each and every one of the songs on that album is attached to at least one special memory. And I know one day this will hurt - one day I will look back on this tour and bargain with the Fates about how I’d trade all my tomorrows just to relive one moment of this tour. One day I’ll be a wreck of emotions because no matter what I do, I can never be back in Brixton or Manchester or Birmingham or Shepherd’s Bush or even in that back room of HMV on Oxford Street, and I can never re-create those moments. One day, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to conjure up the feelings I felt during this tour. I am so, so privileged to have been able to be a part of this - to have seen the shows, to have experienced it with the fans, and to have lived in this wonderful city with afforded me with the opportunity. 

The next time I see Brandon Flowers it will be with The Killers - and whether I’ll be darting across town after work, or booking two weeks leave to fly across the world remains to be seen, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, thank you, Brandon. And thank you, London. Redemption keep my covers clean tonight, maybe we can start again. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

I'm So Lonesome I Could .... (not go to a concert)

When one makes the decision to pack up one’s entire life and move to the other side of the world, completely alone, one inevitably gets called both brave, and downright insane. About nine months ago, I did just this. With no place to stay, a job I knew nothing about secured four days before leaving, and no friendship ‘group’ in London, I packed two bags and boarded a plane. Yes, it was insane. People wondered how I could do this without a boyfriend in tow, or a kindly aunt to stay with on the other side. Quite simply - I’m an only child, I’m a strong, independent woman, and I’m used to making my own way in the world. I don’t need to plan my life around other people, because I’ve found that in doing so, far too many opportunities are missed. If I waited around for someone to accompany me on all of my travels, I would never go on any. 

And so, here in London, time passed, and I did many things: I went to concerts, I went to bars, I went on trains. Sometimes I went with friends, sometimes I went with the intention of meeting up with friends - and sometimes I went completely alone. And all of these options were perfectly fine. It was fine to travel to Birmingham alone to see Amii; it was fine to go on a weekend away in Brighton with Catherine; it was fine to roadtrip to Liverpool with my mom; it was fine to get a 6am train to Manchester to visit Megan. Even better were the concert escapes - King Charles with Amii; Kodaline with Sinead; Taylor Swift with my mom. But do you know what was also perfectly fine? Getting the early train to Cambridge and wandering around all day by myself. Making the trek to Milton Keynes to sing my lungs out to Arlandria at a Foo Fighters gig, alone. I never felt strange. If I wanted to do something, why couldn’t I do it alone? Why should I wait for someone else to do it with me? My friends don’t expect me to go to the gym with them, so why would I expect them to go to the Foo Fighters with me? Does anyone look at you strangely when you’re at the gym alone? No. So why would I get stared at if I was at a Fall Out Boy show solo? 

And so out of the 19 concerts I have attended this year, 5 have been completely alone. When I purchased tickets for a recent show, I was quite surprised when a note on the website told me that tickets may only be available in sets of two or more. What if I wanted to go alone? Luckily, I was able to purchase a single ticket for this specific show, and I put this detail out of my mind. 

And so November arrived, and with it, Imagine Dragons at the O2. I hit StubHub for a resale, only to find out that almost all tickets (save for extremely expensive ones, at three times the average price) were only available in sets of two or four. Why should I be penalised for not having a plus one? Naturally, I took to Twitter for a little rant, and was advised by a follower to simply purchase two tickets and offer one to a friend in exchange for drinks. And I’m 100% sure this follower was trying to be friendly and helpful, but unfortunately, things aren’t always that easy. I do not have a friend to take with me. I have absolutely no choice but to go alone, and the fact that I am prohibited from buying a single ticket makes it impossible to do so. Why is it that I have to miss out on events I wish to attend, due to the fact that I am ‘single’? And by ‘single’, I do not mean that I don’t have a boyfriend. I mean that I am one person, doing my own thing in the world, and I will always be so. I am certain I am not the only person in the world who is dong life alone. 

And what does such a restriction say to young human beings, who are constantly being told to ‘you do’, and ‘live your best life’? Websites are full of inspirational crap like how being in a relationship shouldn’t define you, you can be just as happy single, be content with who you are as a person, blah. blah, blah. Sure, I’d be really content if I could just attend this concert! In 2015, why are social norms like this still being thrust at us from every angle? How is not being able to buy a single ticket for an event any better than banning certain people from an event, on any other basis? This tells me that by ‘not having friends’ or ‘not having a boyfriend’, I don’t deserve the perks that are in place for people who follow norms perfectly. Is it not bad enough that when living in a studio flat, I was charged extra tax for ‘being single’, as it was ‘assumed by the council’ that studio or one bedroom accommodation would be shared by a couple? Is it not bad enough that the cost of everyday living assumes that all human beings are cohabitating with a romantic partner by their early twenties? And yes, most people are doing so, but aren't we past the stage of having to conform to what 'most' people are doing? If that’s what you’re doing, that’s absolutely fantastic for you - so you continue to do you, and I’ll continue to not do me. I’ll begin to believe that maybe I am strange and wrong and failing at life, all because I’m being told I can’t go to a concert alone. Fine then, you just stop going to gym alone. Don’t dare go for a jog by yourself. You know what, you should probably get all 17 of your housemates to go with you on the Northern Line tomorrow morning, because how could you do anything alone? 

And before you tell me that I am blowing all things out of proportion, and I’m talking about resale tickets here, and obviously the couple is trying to sell because they both can’t go… why do ticket resale websites allow sellers to specify how many tickets they want to sell, but don’t allow buyers to choose the number to buy? I’ll tell you why: because no one wants to sell one ticket in a pair and risk not being able to sell the other, because ‘no one goes to concerts alone’. But that’s rubbish. That’s the norms of society making you believe that no one should go to concerts alone. 

What’s next, then? Train tickets only available in sets of two? Having to prove spousal accompaniment before I can get on an aeroplane? Why should people not be able to do the things they want to do, by themselves? Because I do have friends, I have a number of wonderful, amazing friends, and some of them will travel halfway across the country to go to concerts with me, and others will book spontaneous weekends away with me, or make food with me at 2am, or say just the words I need to hear, when I need to hear them. And I'm confident enough in those friendships - and in myself - to not have to spend every single moment of my life in company. Because, you know what, not everyone conforms to the norms of society. Not everyone is going to stick themselves in little boxes on the hillside, produce 2.4 children, adopt a labrador and spend their Saturdays adding a new coat of paint to their white picket fences. I mean no offence. I know that one day I too will be painting a white picket fence, even if I'm doing it alone, and switching the kids for kittens. I’m not saying I want to spend my entire life isolated, I’m simply saying that I want to go sing along to ‘Radioactive’ tomorrow night, and I want to do it alone. Simple. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Soundtrack To My Life: 10 Songs That Changed Me

I often wonder what would be on the soundtrack for the movie of my life. For someone who feels as deeply about music as I do, it is a real consideration. For every era, ever event, every moment of my life can be defined by a song, a lyric, a band. Sometimes a song reminds you of a town, a trip or a person. You associate that annoying top 40 hit with the roadtrip you took with your besties back in 2010. You skip a certain band because an ex loved them. You hear a song from your childhood, and suddenly the world around you recedes, and it's 1998 again. And then sometimes you look back and you realise that those songs changed your life. They influenced you into doing - or not doing - things. They shaped and formed you, like clay in the hands of, not the musicians, but of your own interpretations. I've been moulded and shaped and formed by so many songs, and these are the most important. 
(In no particular order, then)

The Shins - Bait and Switch: It's no secret that I'm obsessed with this band. Although not my favourite Shins song nowadays (that honour goes to Turn On Me), this was their first that I paid real attention to. And it's my soundtrack of freedom and happiness. No matter how melancholy this band is, they're like my comfort blanket. I can turn on this song and suddenly it's 2012, I can smell my Starbucks latte and the hire car's air freshener. There's nothing in the world but laughter, and sunshine and somewhere over the next hill, or around the next corner is Stonehenge, Glastonbury, and a world of possibilities. 

Taylor Swift - You Belong With Me: Ever since 2009, I've been slowly morphing myself into Taylor Swift, and this was the song that started it all. I was never a huge fan of Love Story, but this song took me in from the moment I heard it. It started with headbands and glitter, and evolved into high-waisted skirts, crop-tops and red lipstick. I wanted to become this girl, but I suppose there are worse role models. And after all, Taylor Swift told me it's okay to be a cat lady. 

Boyzone - No Matter What: I was seven years old, and sitting on the floor of my living room. A music video was on the screen: five men in white, singing the most beautiful melody my tiny ears had ever encountered. They had to be angels. This was the first song I was ever conscious of knowing. My love of music bloomed and blossomed and continued to grow throughout of my life, and this was the very beginning. 

Savage Garden - Santa Monica: This is my favourite Savage Garden song, and as they were the first band I ever saw live, I had to include it here. Although my nine-year-old self was far too young to understand exactly what the song was about, I did my best. And the name Norman Mailer always stuck with me. This song is by no means just about plastic people in California. It's all about that lazy winter spent in a tiny patch of sun in front of my first computer; it's trying on shoes with my first best friend; it's an ice cold day in downtown Vancouver, and how we all ran to the window as the first flakes of snow began to fall. 

Coldplay - The Scientist: The year was 2008, I was a first year Bachelor or Science student, and suffering from what felt a hell of a lot like depression. I'd never taken very much note of Coldplay, but one day I got ahold of this song and played it on repeat so many times that friends started to ask what was going on. At least then they paid attention. But Coldplay changed my life in so many ways and brought my such joy. From an almost tearful realisation that they were playing live in South Africa, to a dash across the country to see them, to near hyperventilation at their appearance, long walks to their studio on the other side of the world, debates on their new material and long discussions of Chris Martin's love life, I wouldn't be who I am without Coldplay.

Bastille - Things We Lost in the Fire (Fire Fire): I'll cut to the chase, this song earned me a friendship. "Of course I'm going to see Bastille, I don't miss concerts", I smirked. But then it turned into "You like Coldplay?" "Wait, you're a fan of Lost?" "Taylor Swift, what?!" And what could a friend really be to me? It's the person who will sing with me on a roadtrip, use my favourite singer's name as an expletive, or just sit in a car with me, listening to a song from  my childhood, the rain pouring down onto the windshield, both knowing that Boyzone is better than the party we're on our way to.

The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound: I don't know how I lived years without knowing about this band. I don't know how my soul survived without this masterpiece of an album. This song helped me discover Springsteen, who would become a constant in my life. And discovering the Gaslight Anthem gave me a new favourite band, and with it a whole new world of excitement. A whole new realm of singalongs in the car with my digsmate, a whole world of laughter and in-jokes and that special part of friendship that can only be expressed through music. 

Westlife - My Love: This song didn't so much change my life as define it. I can see it now: it's 2001, the skies are blue despite it being midwinter. It's the closest my life has ever been to perfect, so far and the closest - I fear - it will ever be. This song is the smell of sunscreen, the roar of the ocean and the assurance that with three people in the world who care about you, you don't need anything else. And now, 14 years later, this song is the assurance that although everything changes, it'll all come full circle in the end.

Brandon Flowers - Crossfire: Back in 2010, I was trying very hard to keep my strange fangirl obsessions under wraps. I tried these challenges where I'd not mention music for a week, to see how normal people lived. And I just couldn't do it. It was time for my friends to accept my for who I was, and if they couldn't, then perhaps they weren't even friends at all. Enter Flamingo. Enter Flamingo into my car's CD player, from whence it was never removed. 

The Killers - A Dustland Fairytale: Of all the songs that have impacted my life, this is the one that completely turned it on a dime. After one listen, I had to know everything about this band, I had to see them, I had to be a part of everything to do with them. It took a love for music and travel that was bubbling just below the surface of my calm life, and released it in a great explosion. It took my mild interest in media and the internet and made it into a full-blown obsession. A new career path, and new city, and new inspiration to meet people - everything changed within those four minutes. And I never looked back. 

Brandon in Brum: The Desired Ending

In some kind of obsessive fangirl haze, I'd bought a ticket to see Brandon Flowers in Birmingham, without first considering how the hell I was going to get halfway across the country and then back without missing any work. Nor had I checked trains. Oh, and the person who had my ticket was - unbeknownst to me - driving from Wales that very afternoon. Somehow, I pulled off a £16 return journey to Birmingham, which would allow my to stride into the office the next morning exactly on time, if slightly worse for the wear. 

So around 3pm, I stuck my laptop into my drawer, picked up the handbag containing my pyjamas for my sleepover at Amii's house (lol, sleep), and legged it to Euston as fast as the Tube would allow (read: soul-crushingly slowly). Halfway to Coventry I started to get nervous. I had never cut it this fine for a concert in my entire life. If the train broke down now, would I be able to walk to Birmingham by 9pm? C'mon, train!

By 5pm, I was jogging to the venue, only to find Amii was taking a loo break with her queue mates, so I intercepted James and his mama in the balcony queue. I do apologise if I scared you with my over-bubbling enthusiasm and the screaming hug Amii and I shared when she arrived back. 

It is so, so wonderful to meet human beings who understand you. To have friends that you can be entirely yourself around, knowing that they like you for the strange, weird and quirky human being you are. Amii, you are one of those friends. And don't get me started on the hugs from Justine and Emma too, I'll just get emosh. 

And so my ticket arrived from Wales, and a little before doors, a mass of curly hair appeared out of the venue door, and with it, backing singer Danielle Withers. It took a few minutes, but I was brave enough to ask her for a selfie, and we bonded over a short chat about which shows I'd been to. Manchester had been my favourite so far, due entirely to the appearance of Jilted Lovers.

I made my way back to my spot in the queue, and before we knew it, doors were open. Amii and I managed our traditional Mark's-side-second-row spot, although I lost it after attempting to make a run for water 3 minutes before showtime. Stupid me. While waxing lyrical about the London and Manchester setlists, two ladies next to me butted with with a very un-British friendliness. "So, do you just like, follow Brandon Flowers around?!" They were intrigued. "Yep, that's why I'm in this country." They laughed, but I grimaced. "I wish I was joking."

Some would say seeing four shows in one week, with largely the same setlist, would be boring, but tonight couldn't have been less so. Hyper aware that this was the last time I'd see King B for a while, I soaked up every glorious moment. I held my breathe for the appearance of 'Diggin' Up The Heart', but I had nothing to fear. My favourite from the new album was firmly on the setlist, having only been left off of the first London night. I feel like this was the first time I was honestly able to appreciate 'Lonely Town', and lost myself entirely for Brightside.

After the show, I located Amii, who had been a couple of people away from me, and together we screamed and hugged Emma, most likely traumatising her plus one for the night, who came in the form of her dad. And although we didn't get to meet our guy after the show, we did glimpse him, signing the odd autograph, then waving and grinning before boarding the tourbus.

After following James and his mum to their hotel, Amii and I fell into a cab back to Solihull, where we thought watching Harry Potter until 3am would be a fab idea. 3 hours later, I was bundling myself back into a cab to the station, and trying not to spill my Starbucks latte as I climbed aboard my train back to London. Screaming children prevented me from catching up on any sleep on the train back, and although I strode confidently into the office, right on time, 3pm saw me dismissing my new intern and stumbling back to my flat for an excellent nap. My Desired Effect Tour was over, and I was so satisfied that I'd barely even checked the prices of the Eurostar to Paris for the next show. Nope, I was done. And I was happy. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Pilgrimage to Salford: Brandon Flowers Live in Manchester

My technoloy malfunctioned at Euston. One minute I was about to type in my reference number to collect my train ticket at the self-service machine, the next, said machine was rejecting my card and the email containing the precious reference had magically disappeated from my phone. Cue 3 minutes of panic before email was located and I managed to race to my train exactly seven minutes before departure. Hey, for me that's cutting it fine. I'd love to say that the two hour train ride provided optimal time for the perfect snooze, but nope. The countryside flashed by in a haze of exhaustion and The Shins on my iPod, but I never did drift off. Thank goodness for high-speed Virgin trains, because before I knew it, we'd arrived in Manchester, and I was being collected by the lovely Megan (in her lovely car). Isn't it strange and fantastic to come such a long way - literally and figuratively - with someone? All the way from Beit House's third floor in 2008, to Manchester, 2015.

Megan and Gordon live a wonderful, happy and real life in Manchester's trendy Northern Quarter. It's something I aspire to when I'm older - a kitchen full of food, a spareroom full of stuff. Sometimes I think that moving around constantly since I was 17 has left me with few possessions. But for now, I was here to make memories. We took a drive to Tatton Park for a picnic in the sun - the first time I'd felt actual heat in the sun since I'd moved to England. Not just warmth, actual burning heat on my bare arms. It was fantastic. The evening was occupied by a shopping trip to Chester Oaks and on the way back, we were astouned to realise it was after 9pm, though the sun was still shining. I excused myself to bed around midnight, and managed a good eight hours. I'd need it for Sunday's gig. 

By 10.30am, messages from Jess about the length of the queue started to get me excited, and I dashed out of Megan's car outside the venue to hug people and squeal while she drove around the block. I promised to be back around 5pm. And so we hit the science musuem, completely underestimating the size of the place and only getting through about a third of it before we headed home for fantastic home-made burgers (on the braaaaaii). And then it was queue time. Being the genius that I am, I neglected to save a spot for myself in the queue before joining Jess, Ryan and Charlotte for a chat until just before gates. The excitement is palpable - Bernard Sumner of New Order is here. By the time I did get my own spot in queue, I was far too late for barrier, but did make it to a second row position. Not bad.

Shout out to the girl next to me who looked bored the whole way, even through Brightside. Shoutout to the guy on the other side of me who literally only came for Brightside. Anyway. Nothing could ruin this. Nothing could ruin the appearance of Jilted Lovers and Broken freaking Hearts. I believe I may have out-fangirled myself. As with the past two shows, Magdalena comes with an intro chat, though this time it's slightly changed up: "There are all sorts of pilgrimages, some people make musical pilgrimages... I come here, to Salford - I think I wanna be blessed by Morrissey!" Brandon says, trying to sound ironic, but betrayed by his nervous giggle. It's Okay, B, we all know your Morrissey stories. And then Bernard Sumner appears, and Brandon may well have forgotten that Moz even exists. The feeling of playing live with one's idol is surely one of the greatest experiences of one's life.

And so I fall out of the crowd, and make my way to the stage door to bid farewell to the Victims. As I walked into Megan's front door, Twitter told me that Brandon had done an acoustic encore on a balcony outside the venue just after I'd left. Oh well, you win some, you lose some. Just being there had been enough for me. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Brandon Flowers in London: The HMV Signing and Brixton Round 2

It took a long time before I fell asleep on Thursday night. The fact that I'd met my idol kept running through my mind, and I played it back like a film clip on repeat in my head. I eventually drifted off in a haze of vivid but unmemorable dreams, and woke with a start when my alarm went off. The four hours before I could leave for the signing were the closest to hell I've probably ever come. My inability to force down food, the caffiene I was injesting in attempt to keep me awake, and the slowly rising levels of adrenaline all combined for a terrible effect on the human body, but I pushed through. And so I made it to the signing, where I was shepherded into a back room of the HMV Oxford Street store with 300 or so other Victims, all clutching our copies of The Desired Effect, and bouncing on the balls of our feet to try to get a glimpse of the man of the moment - who hadn't even yet arrived. Hey, we were excited, okay? I was joined by Daisy, and for a while we discussed last night's meeting, the show and what we were hoping for from tonight's show. By now the album was playing on a loop for the second time, and standing in a room with 300 superfans, all signing along to Can't Deny My Love was another surreal moment. Brandon appeared to massive applause, and grinned his way through the sigining. "Nice to meet you again, Brandon. Thanks for being an inspiration, see you tonight." I said as he handed me back my signed CD. I don't know why I didn't go for the handshake, but I was happy nonetheless. Still shaking like made when I left - either due to lack of food or adrenaline - I abandoned my plans to go straight to Brixton, and headed home for a nap. After sleeping for exactly 20 minutes, I bounded out of bed with the idea that if I didn't leave for Brixton now, I'd fall back asleep and never make it before gates. However, upon arrival at 5pm, I scoped out the - small - queue, and instead headed off for a cocktail with Rachel. Unheard of. I was slacking in my old age. I made it back to the queue around 6.30pm, and made friends with two young girls in queue, who wanted to know all about last night's show. I don't even know their names, but I was in their Snapchat, so we're basically besties, right? I made second row on what would be Dave's side, and Daisy waded her way through the crowd to me. We had the perfect view. Perfect.

Tonight's support was Joywave, mercifully less noisy than last night's band, and with a good sense of humour. "We know we're standing between you and Brandon right now." 
Perhaps it was because I was closer to the stage, or perhaps my mind was allowing me to focus on finer details tonight, but Brandon was unstoppable. Air-punching and mounting speakers, Only The Young dance moves and all - it was perfection. 
I was ecstatic at tonight's opener of Untangled Love, in my opinion the most 'Killers-ish' song on the new album. Jenny Was A Friend of Mine came with Brandon's inquiry of whether or not we thought the narrator was guilty - an overwhelming yes from the crowd. "I don't want you guys on my jury" he said, giggling, and in that special Brandon way of almost singing his sentences.
A surprise came in the form of substituting Read My Mind for Human, and the crowd lost it. "... are we human, or are we dancer? LOOOOONDOOOOOON!" Goodbye sanity and hello so-long-to-devotion hand gesture. I screamed my face off at the appearance of 'Diggin Up The Heart', by far my favourite off the new album, and although the rest of the setlistwas similar to the previous night, it did nothing to diminish the impact of night two. Chrissie Hynde appeared again, ending her and Brandon's performance of 'Don't Get Me Wrong' with "Isn't he gorgeous?!" Yes, Chrissie, he's gorgeous.

And although the crazy part of me wanted to stay and meet him a third time, my aching 24-year-old body disagreed, and sent me straight back on the tube home, where I was barely able to converse with anyone around me. Great gig, yeah, zzzzzzzzzz. I collapsed for about 4.5 hours, until it was time to throw some clothes in a bag and hightail it to Euston for my train to Manchester: round three was about to begin.