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.