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. 

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