Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Brandon Flowers in London: The Meeting

I once read a Stephen King book in which people were described as being tied to some kind of metaphysical string, and when the string was cut, they died. I’ve re-interpreted this theory slightly, and come to my own conclusion that we’re all tethered to the earth by a string - and sometimes, something happens that loosens your string, and sends you flying into nothingness, into the great beyond. You feel unhinged from the rest of the world, everything seems to spin, and just for a few moments you’re not sure what’s real and what isn’t. I think this feeling could come from a great shock, or simply from a lack of ability to comprehend just what’s going on around you. Sometimes things are just too much for our tiny human brains to fully absorb. That happened to me last Thursday. About ten minutes before BF was due on stage, the string holding me to the earth was severed, and I felt myself drifting away from the 5000 other people in the room. This was not happening: there was no way my hero was really going to appear on this stage in front of my face in a few minutes, and perform some of the songs that had defined periods of my life since 2010. No way. I could barely register that the guy behind me was speaking Afrikaans, I could barely stand up straight or breathe. I was - unfathomably - nervous. As though I was the one about to take to that stage. I gripped Emma’s shoulder and squealed that I wasn’t ready. She wasn’t ready either. We would never be ready for this.

But I want to dial this back a bit. Back to Monday, when HMV decided to announce a CD signing by none other than a certain Mr Flowers. First 300 people to buy the CD in store get in. I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly apologise to the brand new assistant Tom, who had started work about an hour previously. “I’m sorry”, I told him, trying to retain the last vestiges of my professionalism, “I have an emergency, I need to go to HMV, I’ll be back in an hour.” And so I sprinted to the tube, and whiled the thing to hurry up as it carried me toward Oxford Street. I dashed out of Bond Street station breathlessly, threw myself into HMV and stared around like a mad woman. Where is it??? The precious CD was located, and I speed walked to the counter. Keepin’ it cool. “Can I still get the wristband for the signing?” The cashier frowned at me. “I dunno. Some guy came in earlier talking about a wristband too. Go upstairs and ask them.” The answer was yes, I could (definitely) still get a wrsitband, and I pegged it back to work safe in the knowledge that come Friday, I’d be meeting Brandon Flowers. Meeting. Brandon. Flowers. I sent out a slew of Whatsapp messages decorated with crying emojis. I was meeting Brandon Flowers. Hey, I had to take full advantage of this tour - the first one and probably last time I’d be in the thick of things to experience a defining moment for my favourite artist.

I’d be lying if I said the next three days flew - in fact they dragged, time seeming to slow down as we got closer and closer to show number 1 on Thursday, and the signing on Friday. By Wednesday night, I was mildly hysterical, and in danger of the excitement spilling over and manifesting in either a screaming match or a tearful breakdown at any given moment. It was that kind of crazy, ridiculous excitement that I had felt the day I was going to see Coldplay live after dreaming about it for years. Thursday crawled by even slower, with frantic glances at the clock every few minutes. Every moment until 4pm was pure torture, and at exactly 4, I raced home to drop off my laptop and then grabbed the first circle line train in the right direction - unfortunately no matter how many times I am advised to avoid Edgware Road station, I always end up spending an inordinate amount of time there waiting for a connecting train. On this particular night it was 20 minutes, and by the end I was almost ready to rage tweet Transport For London, thought I knew nothing good could come of that. And so by the time I’d caught yet another train from Victoria, it was after 5.30pm, and I was  tapping my foot impatiently to the beat of my iPod, clutching my lighting bolt necklace and mouthing the words to Magdalena like some sort of desperate prayer. And then all at once I’d arrived, I was greeting Emma at the station and we’d covered the 400m or so the the venue. It was happening. We scoped out the line for familiar faces before taking our own spot at the back of the line, where we were accosted by an excited Alice (“Remember your cat wellies?” Yes, I remember them all too well), a quick hello from Sinead, Sam, waved greetings and "OMG I totally know them from Twitter" and then gates are open.

Inside, I was happy to choose a spot near the sound desk. With three more shows after this one, easing into things was surely best. One noisy support act later, we were itching for the main man to take to the stage. By the time the lights dimmed, I’d still not managed to re-attached the string that grounds me it’s really happening, he’s really here. And then the music started up, and I lost myself in it. Punch the clock, baby on the nightstand I sang like no one was watching, and surely they were not. Decked out in a golden jacket, Brandon was a vision. A consummate showman, a born and bred musician. It’s gonna be alright, you’re a performer. Somehow the entire crowd knew the words to Can’t Deny My Love, but it was Crossfire that sent me over the edge. This was the song I’d had a poster of in my lounge for the past three years. This was the song I’d brainwashed all my friends into liking in 2010. This was what I’d first heard on World Cup kick-off day, this was the song I’d tweeted East Coast Radio about daily, and screamed when they’d finally played it. This song was my first indication that Brandon would never let me down musically. Magdalena came with a chat, and the first surprise was Hard Enough. You let me into your life on a whim…Isn’t that true of everyone? The acoustic version of Jenny Was A Friend of mine was haunting, and by the end of Lonely Town, we’d all started doing the graviton dance. I Can Change is not a favourite of mine, but live it worked out well, and Brandon followed it up with another Killers cover - this time Read My Mind. And who doesn’t love Read My Mind?

By this time Emma had left, and I wound my way a bit closer to the stage, only to have to suffer through Swallow It. Thank goodness the setlist recovered with Only The Young, and then a remix of Mr Brightside. Now tell me, Brandon, how does it feel going to bed every night knowing that you’re the guy behind one of the most iconic songs of our generation? Good, yeah? Although I was already realising it, I didn’t want to admit to myself that Brandon could pull off a solo show as well as he could pull off a Killers show. I love The Killers, and it would break my heart if they split, but I take some comfort in knowing this deep in my heart.

Exit Brandon. Cue screaming. Cue more screaming.

If anyone was waiting for a surprise, this was it. Out pops Brandon for the encore, and then out pops Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders to join him. I’d never seen such joy on a man’s face (until the Bernard Sumner incident of May 24th, but we’ll get to that). Brandon and Chrissie performed ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’, complete with the most adorable dance moves possible, then she joined him in a beautiful duet of ‘Between Me and You’.

“I’ve shared a lot of myself with you over the past 12 years.” Brandon says after Chrissie leaves. “And… I’m probably going to embarrass her, but you’ve got to thank her for sharing me… come on our here.” A collective 5000 people held their breath as Brandon’s wife Tana and two oldest sons made their way onto the stage. She waved shyly to massive applause. “This one’s for you” … Brandon launched into Still Want You to shouts of ‘Awwww’ from the Victims. It was the first time we’d ever seen her in real life.

The Way It’s Always Been is one of my personal highlights of the album, but ended the show on a slightly melancholy note. Hey, maybe that’s what he was going for.

For me, there was no time to be melancholy - I fought my way through the crowd and pegged it to the stage door, where I was joined by Alice and Daisy for the long wait. By 11pm it was freezing, the adrenaline comedown had me shaking terribly, and I was considering leaving to make it back to the tube before it shut. Every time the stage door opened it was Brandon…. but it wasn’t. The small crowed began to disperse, leaving about 20 of us die hards to harass the security guard (“Orville, like the guy who invented the airplane”), who eventually told us yes, he was coming out, but he wouldn’t have much time. When band photographer Torey popped his head out the door, I knew it was time. The string connecting me to the earth was tied firmly, and I was calm. Brandon was grinning widely as he stepped out the door and straight towards the throng of selfie-seekers. “Hey Torey, how’re you doing?” I asked (calmly). Torey was good, how was I? “Good, thanks.” “Hi Brandon, can we have a really quick photo? Your music changed my life, thank you for being you.” I was dimly aware of the small crowd around me letting out a collective “aww” at my words. I snapped the photo, stepped back and then all of a sudden the world stopped turning, and all I could do was repeat “I’m done, I’m done with life, I’m done.” We watched Torey hop into the front seat of a cab, and Brandon in the back, as we ran up the road squealing “We met Brandon!” much to our surprise, Torey waved to us from the car, and snapped a few pictures before they sped off. It had happened. I had met Brandon Flowers. Life as I knew it had changed.


  1. I just read this again, and just died again. Then you saw him again last night and I honestly can't even anymore -- our almighty King B!! Meanwhile I'm here in Lonely Town, all by myself. So, hello from the other side...of the internet. Remember when you met BRANDON FLOWERS and --

    1. yeh m8 but Zane Lowe said your name so you win

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  3. Lovely story, I hope one day I can meet Brandon too