>>  Bunny Diaries
Bristol - 29 April 2015
29/04/15 @ 08:11:02 am, Categories: General, 603 words   English (UK)

Bristol meant two things. Our second and unfortunately last front row of the tour and no photos. Over recent years the venue was quite strict on photo taking. We managed some on our first concert there, but were then stopped. Not much hope there.

You can imagine we were less than thrilled, when we stood in the shadow of the Colston Hall, in the wind channel of wind channels….. for more than an hour. Half frozen to death Mr. Ball walked up the street, stopped at the corner, talking to a group of fans, having photos and all, while we waited just being warmed by seeing him from the distance. Unfortunately, when he walked up, there was no one really wanting anything from him as we all had our fair share and so he greeted us all, asked if we were alright, gave us a smile and was in so quickly that we did not manage to hand him our presents.

We were joined by lovely Angela just a minute after Mr. Ball entered the building. After that the main highlight of the day followed. We met Adrian and had among us six big big hugs and a lovely chat. Gorgeous and so talented man and we hope he will be continue touring with Michael for a long time.

The Show

We took our seats in the front row, just next to Callum. So close and so nice and we had some hope when the ushers said “No Flash photography” when we entered. Usually that means photography without flash is alright and this time (as you can tell, if you saw the website) they knew that our camera is far from professional.

Unfortunately the backing singers, musicians and of course Michael entered the stage from the left hand side and not from ours as the stage is so small. In fact there is hardly any space for him to move around.

For “Wake me up” hardly any one got up. There were again just patches of people getting up and some of them were told off by people behind them .We’d really hope that Live Nation would make the effort to give at least a block allocation to the fan club. This is so annoying for the fans, who’ve always been standing for the first half and annoying for those people who don’t know and fear maybe that we will be standing for the rest of the night, spoiling the evening.

During his punk time talk he mentioned again his bondage trousers, which he still has, but they would not fit, not even with larger safety pins.

We told you about that bit about the open auditions for Phantom of the Opera. We said, he got laughs for it and that will mean he will repeat it and rest assured he did and it was even more hilarious.

When we were commenting on the audience at the beginning, we have to say, that our impression during that first song was so wrong. The audience was fabulous and once we reached party time and “The Wonder of you” we turned around and saw that almost the complete audience were on their feet , waving their arms. Seeing that was breathtaking. Now, if you wonder, why Michael strives so much, when the audience is appreciative, you’d only have to see that view yesterday and compare it to a quiet audience with most people sitting. It gave us an enormous buzz and they were not even cheering for us!

An amazing day made extra special by spending it with Angela. Thank you love.

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Sheffield – 27 April 2015
28/04/15 @ 08:29:33 am, Categories: General, 853 words   English (UK)

It wouldn’t be a tour without typing a blog entry whilst driving to the next venue. Well, Kerstin is driving and Julia typing, just in case you were worried there for a moment.

Now, Sheffield. Finding the venue proved to be a little bit tricky to put it mildly. Our sat nav has been on tour with us for a very long time which means it is ten years old. And traffic layouts do change. And never did we get to experience this phenomenon more than in Sheffield. We have never been tp the city (yay! A new tour venue for us!) and spent an awful lot of time panicking because of the many bus lanes and non-existent roundabouts. We had given up all hopes of finding either venue or hotel when all of a sudden there it was: the City Hall. And parked in front of it was one of the two tour busses. HEUREKA! AND there was a small car park right next to the stage door. Another first: our car could experience the joy of stage door-ing with us! We got out and it was glorious sunshine. A good sign surely. The very helpful local fans even pointed us into the direction of our hotel (thank you again!) but once you are at a stage door you don’t leave. It’s a olden rule. So we waited. And waited. And then waited some more. The weather changed from sunshine to small clouds to bigger clouds and then grey skies and cold wind. We got both our jackets out of the car and waited a little more. He arrived at 4:30. There were quite a few fans by that time and a gentleman had a huge stash of newspaper cuttings he asked Michael to sign. So there he stood and signed away. And one point he looked up and said: You can talk among yourselves now, Ladies.
It all was a bit rushed as he still needed to do the sound check obviously and then there are the meet and greets at around 5pm. But everyone got their photos and autographs, of course.

The Show

We sat in row five and had a great view. The stage is not too high and the crowd was very keen on Mr Ball. From the first notes you could hear that the day’s rest did his voice a lot of good. Sheffield loved him from the word go and it promised to be a very happy evening.
The “Michael in his teens as a punk” story is evolving. He let us know that his dad was livid when he (Michael) had his ear pierced with 15 (his dad was in the audience, too). We love the look on people’s faces when Michael says he hated punk music but would still do three Sex Pistols songs next! Just kidding, of course (we are sure it would be fun though!). When he did his Michael-Crawford-sings-Sex-Pistols impersonation he remembered an incident back in the early Phantom days. He said Callum will remember it, too, as he was working there at the time (it’s where they met). The held open auditions for the cast change and Michael sneaked in as last singer, in disguise and then sang a few Phantom songs in Michael Crawford’s voice, which he then did for us, well, a few lines. It was hysterical. The woman behind us was crying with laughter.

The whole evening was wonderful. At last a truly appreciative audience again. We would say second best we have seen after legendary York.

We couldn’t take many photos as one of the ushers thought we used a professional camera (we wish!!) which he very kindly explained in the interval. We should feel flattered, we suppose. Professional photographers are only allowed to take pictures during the first three songs (we know that, now we only need to find someone who is paying us for our efforts LOL). He said the artist especially requested for no flash photography (we wouldn’t dream of it), no mobile phones or tablet PCs and no filming. Just for your interest. Sadly the artist had not specified the permitted lense length ;-). But that was fine as we already had a few nice shots to share with you all.

A second innovation came in form of a selfie stick. “I have a very long one..” getting it all to work proved a little difficult though and resulted in the mobile phone taking a first and not so tentative step onto the stage, well, okay, it fell on the stage. But only once and it survived. We even had a countdown to the actual photo to get ready for it. It turned out nicely as you can see on his twitter account.

Sheffield was rounded off by a chat with the ever charming Tony Ball after the concert. And yes, everyone who met Michael’s dad knows where he got it all from. He looked fabulous (two words: Slimming World).

A great evening had by all and we are curious what Bristol will bring.

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Glasgow - 25 April 2015
04/26/15 @ 03:59:50 am, Categories: General, 820 words   English (US)

Glasgow – 25 April 2015

We are back in Scotland. During our Highland holiday last year we fell completely in love with this wonderful country, so really looking forward to spend some days here (we will spend the day off in Edinburgh). Beautiful weather at the stage door, just very very cold wind. We passed the waiting time with chatting to friends and thanks to a group effort of almost everyone at the stage door we hope we managed to get a lovely reminder of or first proper tour with little Malia and her fabulous parents Helge and Petra.

The Show

For this concert we had what probably will be the best seats on the tour. Front row, centre block, stage not too high, fan heaven. “Boarding” for the Clyde Auditorium was …. Let’s say a new experience. WE had to queue to get into the stalls and when we finally reached the doors a rather bossy usher barked at us whether we three were together and to turn left and go to the front row. We felt like saluting. Also the musicians and guest singers walked on stage long before the circle was completely seated. This resulted in a very meager applause for them.

Because of the acoustics of the venue it is hard to say anything of the audience reception as we hardly heard a peep from behind us. Again not everyone on their feet. We actually hesitated for a moment, because you are always torn between showing your appreciation and blocking everyone’s view. But then thought: What the heck.

We can’t begin to describe how much we love those seats. Even though there is a bit of a gap between the seat and the stage. The stage itself is not very high and it feels like having your own personal private concert. You also do feel a bit on display. We found ourselves sitting more upright, smiling like loons and only getting or bottle out to drink when it was completely necessary, as you never want to show any signs as if you are not appreciating the show in front of you.

We think that having three concerts in a row is quite a grueling schedule and you could make out that the voice might need a rest. That said the other concert goers would have noticed a thing, because he sounded beautiful. Just here and there was a bit of huskiness, which we quite selfishly enjoy. WE think while it is wonderful for us, who travel along with the tour, for the performers two nights one day off schedule would maybe be a bit more the considerate schedule.

Party-time meant we had to run to the stage because otherwise our view would have been blocked (see afore mentioned gap). We usually don’t like that too much because of all the pushing and shoving involved. Mind you seeing him up close does compensate you for it. Still this occasion it was a very wide stage, huge gap between the monitors, one of them we had reached with some ease, plenty of room for the others and yet we experienced the nastier sides of “fan behavior”. Kerstin found herself to be constantly shoved aside by a very eager young woman, who had reached the stage just a second after us and could have stood there peaceful just next to us, but seemed so freaked out that she could not get her preferred spot for what we assume would be the kiss in “Wonder of You” (which fyi happens at different places on the stage each night), that at one point, when Kerstin refused to be pushed into Julia and Petra, this woman turns and shouts “You f***ing B***h!”. Well that was a first… definitely. Being insulted while what certainly should be the most fun part of the concert, was bizarre. After “the kiss”, when a lucky lady right on the other side of the stage was kissed, the pushing and shoving ceased miraculously. The only cause of action in such a course is of course to turn away and completely ignore this behavior, just was a bit of a shock to see what a bit of alcohol and hormonal frenzy can do to people.

Apart from this incident though it was a great evening – still not York though. We might have a winner for this tour. But we will give Sheffield a chance to convince us otherwise.
Now off to Edinburgh. We already suffer from severe weekday and city disorientation, a typical tour occurrence. After a few cities and venues you lose all sense of what day it is and where the last concert was (we always feel it at its most acute when stamping the photos with the place name and find ourselves at an utter loss). We cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for himself!

Talk to you again after Sheffield! 

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York (23 April 2015) & Newcastle (24 April 2015)
24/04/15 @ 07:22:15 pm, Categories: General, 1047 words   English (UK)

We are back in the UK at last and joined the tour in York. It has been a while since we have last seen this beautiful little town in the north of England (some 15 years probably) and so we were really looking forward to be back. We spend our first evening to walk down memory lane (do you remember, Pat?) and locate the venue and stage door (it has been renovated) and took what must have been the hugest detour ever. But it was a mild night and the excitement for things to come let us almost forget our aching feet…almost.

Stage Door

The next day began with fog and cold weather but was brightened considerably by the arrival of Petra, Helge and baby Malia who would join us for the first three shows. Before we knew it the sun was out and it was hot, hot, hot at the stage door. Summer feeling! We truly were on holiday. It was a sizable crowd but when he arrived he very graciously took a lot of tie so everyone could have a quick chat and a photo/signature etc. Malia met Michael (again after almost a year) and we made the photos to mark this special occasion so were very happy indeed.

The Show

We were reminded again why we love going to concerts up north: the crowd was just amazing. On their feet the second he stepped onto the stage and so very enthusiastic that for once we could not complain (we usually feel there should be LOADS more admiration taking place). Do you know the feeling when a whole room full of strangers reacts as one? It’s dreamy. So much love and whoohoo-ing…not a concert but a love in. Truly. It was great! And he seemed so much more relaxed compared to when we last saw it in London and Birmingham. It almost felt like a different show. And how many Michael Ball concerts have you been to where you hear him singing Sex Pistols songs in the voice of Michael Crawford? Exactly. He really did…but don’t fret, only a few lines and he was talking about not having liked punk music while still rocking the look as a teenager. But he had the entire look: razor blade around the neck (not a very sharp one, mind), ear pierced, bondage trousers complete with safety pins (they chafed), only the curls refused any attempts to be made spiky.

The opening number of the second act is Something Inside So Strong (which we loved and were so happy that he had included it again) and he mentioned that they decided to use this song because it was actually an answer on Pointless (that’s a quiz show in the UK): name one of Michael Ball’s top 40 hits. So Mr Ball is trivia now!

When he walked back on for the encore in the end he said he would do something new: he’d take a selfie whilst on stage with all of us in it as a revenge for these things drive him mad during the concerts (hear, hear!! Mobile phone screens during shows are a pet hate of ours, so inconsiderate). Afterwards he handed the phone to the guest singers and while he was talking to the audience they did a quick selfie, too. It was hilarious.

Something he has always done in the encore but which we like is that after You Can’t Stop the Beat, when the audience goes all crazy he says thank you, smiles and then just gives us a quick Good night, turns on his heel and makes to leave. Outraged cries from the audience will stop him in his tracks and he walks back to the microphone. “Have I forgotten something?” YES! (as everyone is waiting for Love Changes Everything)and then he looks down and checks whether his flies are done up (they always are…), then laughs and says no, of course he has not forgotten it and proceeds to sing the most impressive money note after a mere two hours of simply astounding singing.

Another random observation: there was so much applause after Empty Chairs that they had to stop the show for a moment for people to quiet down again (well deserved, of course). We rarely experienced anything like it.

For us this was the perfect concert. He sounded amazing and was in high spirits, egged on by the waves of admiration and love form the audience. Such joyous two hours. We were floating out afterwards, no other word for it. We love you York. Next tour we will definitely be back!

Newcastle

Compared to the superlative that was York, the Newcastle audience felt a bit…less ecstatic. While he got a good reception during the first song only isolated groups of fans stood. The rest was eagerly clapping along but it is just not the same. Also no reaction whatsoever to the opening notes of Empty Chairs while All I ask of You was greeted with great enthusiasm. We actually never heard an audience not clapping when they recognized Les Miserables. Mind you, afterwards they were as enthusiastic as York. It was a breathtaking rendition, it has to be said.

What was very irritating – apart from the fact that an usher asked us to stop taking photos with our non flash camera, whilst everyone around us happily took photos with their mobile phones and flash and no one bothered to stop them (not even those who were openly filming the show!) – was that a few people around us evidently thought they had come to the “Michael Ball song-a-long”. We really, REALLY only want to hear him sing, thank you very much. It might have helped if they were any good but they were not. And the warbling came from in front AND from behind us. Also during really quite songs. Rude and inconsiderate. This is not your living-room!

He won them in the end though. He always does. For the encore the whole audience was on their feet. It would probably have been a great night had we not experience the utter perfection of York. It will be interesting to see whether Glasgow can beat them…or at least draw level.

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If everyone was listening
17/04/15 @ 04:35:23 am, Categories: General, 1997 words   English (UK)

Concert Pic

London – 11 April 2015
The day was finally here: We were in London to see our first tour concert. There had been plenty of talk about the lack of a DVD (most upsetting, especially for those who cannot go), the song list (everyone seemed really pleased with it) and setting (smaller band, but great sound) and we were very curious to see the show for ourselves.

We did the stage door which in that case is a stage drive – he drives past in his car and says hello. It was sunny but very windy in beautiful London and there were road works, and very dusty road works at that, going on right next to the venue so we were very happy when he arrived some 15 minutes after we did. We had gone all cultural tourists and been to the Victoria & Albert museum which is only a sort tube ride away and most impressive. Do you if you have the chance. The things we saw….You don’t care one bit for this, do you? Sorry, just teasing. Back to the Ball:

It wasn’t too crowded (a first for Hammersmith) and we did manage some pictures albeit the sun was behind him which always makes it hard to get decent results. We hope you enjoy them.

It was great to see the Apollo in its refurbished state. Last tour it almost fell apart (or some seats did), so now it was all nice and new – very green though. Our seats were okay, not fantastic, but okay. The view was good and this is what counts most.

There is no photography announcement, meaning, no announcement that photography is forbidden. Maybe a nod to the fans to compensate us for the DVD that never was. This makes our life so much easier as we try to capture the concerts for those who cannot at-tend as best as possible. Mind you, we wouldn’t mind a “no flash photography”.

WARNING: What follows is our usual “annoying flashes and mobile phones” paragraph. Skip if you have read this blog before. ;-)

We do not and will never use flash in a concert: too distracting for both performer and au-dience, downright dangerous and also completely pointless. But even this announcement would make life a little harder as people don’t distinguish between the two and then you get evil looks when you take photos. What they SHOULD do is ban mobile phones. The screens are most distracting, the cameras are mostly not at all equipped to cope with the already difficult lighting situation and you can see people filming the entire show. While it is of course understandable that you want a recording when there is no DVD this is just not on; especially when people then share it with the world via social media. These recordings will always be of low sound and image quality and thus do the artist a disservice and let’s not go into licensing rights.

*Rant over*

If you have been to previous tour concerts you cannot help but notice the smaller band. But this does indeed wonders for the sound. In previous years you were sometimes bowled over by a wall of sound, especially if you sat close to the speakers. It was so loud sometimes that you could not hear Michael sing properly. This, of course, is a problem for those sitting in the first few rows, especially when he was at smaller venues. We guess it was not as bad further down the aisle or in the circles. But now, with fewer musicians, you really do hear every word he sings, every note, every nuance. The sound is still amazing so no worries there.

The Concert
The first half was mostly dedicated to the new album which we loved, so we were two very happy bunnies. What we always do at the beginning of the first song is look around and see where people are on their feet to welcome Mr Ball on stage. It’s a good indicator how the tickets were allocated in the pre-sale. Yes, we know not everyone wants to or is physi-cally able to stand through the first song, but it still does give you an idea. For London, the fans were scattered a bit, more solid patches in the side blocks than in the centre block.

The opening number “Wake me Up” worked fine. We had more up-tempo ones before but it does get people going nicely.
This was followed by what we feel is a best of from the album. Especially happy about Need You Now, Jessie, Stuck Like Glue (we were not sure whether he would sing it live seeing that it was Reggae rap…but oh no, no such qualms: “I can Reggae rap with the best of them!”) and I Won’t Give Up. He followed the album tracks by several musical numbers, probably to please those who only come to hear him sing those songs and would rather he never did anything else.

Sandra (Marvin) and Adrian (Hansel) gave a beautiful rendition of Aladdin’s A Whole New World and we felt it a pity that people used to complain about the number of songs the guest singers were having a few tours back. To meet those complaints they are now only singing duets, not even one song each. Such a shame. This does by no means imply we didn’t like the duets. Quite the contrary! But there is so much talent on the stage; it would have been great to see more of it. These guys rock something fierce! But there you go, no pleasing everybody, as we learn every single tour. Someone will complain about some-thing. So now it’s the Germans complaining about the absence of guest singer solos LOL

A special mention must go to the flower medley, i. e. I Won’t Send Roses from Mack and Mabel and The Rose. How wonderful to be hearing the latter again. Always so emotional and a hauntingly beautiful song. Delightful money notes included. We were 100% sure he’d do the Mack and Mabel song, as were all of you, we are sure. Such a wonderfully cynical love song (Is it a love song? Or is it rather a stay-away-from-me-song, which natu-rally causes all women to be all the more determined to be loved by this man…). We like him mean. ;-) “He was a bastard” to quote Mr. Ball. It was the perfect vehicle to introduce the upcoming fun and frolics in Chichester, of course, and the 10-week UK tour (“and after that – who knows?”). Rehearsals for Mack and Mabel will begin in 1 June, he said.

The second half opened with Something Inside So Strong. What a blast from the past! We remember it from our very first tour in 1999. Great song.

Michael then gave us a tiny view of his world as a teenager. Do we remember 1978? He was 15, he was not having a great time and just so ready to be the rebel. It was the time of Punk and he loved it, everything. He had a razor blade hanging down a chain or his ear-ring (depending which of the two concerts you re-tell), he coloured his hair and tried to get it sticking up in spikes, which apparently does not work with curls. He did love all about it, apart from the music. Pogo-ing and spitting was just not his… then… now better watch out in the first rows, he laughed and introduced us a song that unexpectedly grabbed the top position of the charts, “You needed me”. We still try to imagine the little rebel Michael tried to be while watching Top of the Tops teary eyed.

Further highlights were the duet with Alice (Fearne), Falling Slowly from Once. They sound immensely beautiful together, wonderful harmonies. We remembered I Won’t Let You Go very well from the last tour and album Both Sides Now.

Angel and the title song completed the IF Everyone Was Listening section. We think that’s just five songs he didn’t sing and for one of those he would have needed The Overtones, so we kind of gathered this wasn’t going to happen. ;-)

We love a bit of Blood Brothers so were very happy he included Tell Me It’s Not True even when this meant the bunnies and Julia’s mum were singing it all the way to Birmingham. It’s one of these songs that stick with you even though they are terribly hard to sing and thus the noises in our car rather resembled those of cats being strangled instead of the dulcet tones we remembered from the night before. But hey, girls just wanna have fun!

We wondered whether he’d maybe do Katy Perry. But we were wrong in two aspects: We thought he might open with it and that it would be Fireworks. Instead it was Roar and placed right at the end of the evening to begin “party time”. We THINK the plan was to start the dash to the front and dancing in the aisles with Happy (arranged with a little twist) but as soon as people hear an upbeat song towards the end of the night, they will be on their feet.

No surprises in the last four numbers, just well-loved classics to bring an intensely enter-taining evening to a close that will leave you exhausted from all the clapping and dancing – and grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

Song list
Part I
1. Wake Me Up
2. Need You Now
3. Simple Love
4. Jessie
5. I Won’t Give Up
6. The Climb
7. Stuck like Glue
8. Can You Feel the Love Tonight
9. Last Night of the World
10. All I Ask of You
11. A Whole New World (duet with Sandra and Adrian)
12. I Won’t Send Roses/The Rose

Part II
1. Something Inside So Strong
2. I Won’t Let You Go
3. You Needed Me
4. Angel
5. Falling Slowly (duet Alice and Michael)
6. If Everyone Was Listening
7. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables
8. Tell Me It’s Not True
9. Roar
10. Happy
11. One Step Out of Time
12. The Wonder of You
Encores:
You Can’t Stop the Beat
Love Changes Everything


Birmingham – 12 April 2015

After glorious sunshine in London winter came to Birmingham. Or so it felt to us. Grey skies and cool temperatures as well as a forecast of heavy rains and gusty winds didn’t make for joyous stage dooring. But the rain kindly waited until 5pm to start (but boy, DID it start then).

Michael kindly came to the stage gate at the Symphony Hall and everyone got their auto-graphs and a quick chat.
The venue is so much nicer than the Apollo in London and Birmingham is always a fantas-tic crowd. Michael had said he was relived that London was out of the way (a lot of pres-sure there) and from the first note he seemed more relaxed and enjoying himself. The au-dience welcomed him home (he was born just out of Birmingham) like a long lost son.

At one point he asked, if we were listening to his Radio 2 show. And when everyone cheered he said, well it’s aired each Sunday night at 7pm, looking at his watch, he made a dash for the door, then stopped and said “It’s on now. Isn’t technology amazing?”.

It all seemed to be over far too soon, especially since we were leaving on the next day for home instead of Brighton. This pain was only eased by the sure knowledge that we would be back for York and the rest of the tour.

We hope you like the photos as we are experimenting with our camera a bit.

Still, no amount of photos will ever be a replacement for a DVD. We know already that this will be the recurring theme at stage doors.
One week to go and then we are back in the UK and hope to provide you with lots of photo evidence of the tour. 

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