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Portsmouth 10/05/2013
12/05/13 @ 03:57:30 am, Categories: General, 1323 words   English (UK)

We wanted to review last night but actually, and this has happened to neither of us for a long time, fell asleep on the bed fully clothed! We CAN relate to Mr Ball sleeping half the day. We are shattered and we only had to be there on time and applaud him. I mean we all joked that we had to travel ourselves, handle our luggage etc. but at the end of the day we know he had to sing this grueling set night after night and that this was hard work. Especially as he never holds back or tones down.

Anyways, Portsmouth. Checking into the Ibis hotel was like a class reunion. We knew everybody in the busy foyer. This is brilliant about touring. You get to meet everyone in a short period of time whereas with a musical it is all a bit more spread out. After some photo uploading it was time to walk to the stage gate (another one of those where the bus drives in and they usually close the gates to keep unauthorized fangirls out). It was uncharacteristically bright and dry for Portsmouth. Usually we are drenched there. It was very breezy though so at least there were SOME weather issues to moan about while waiting. God it was cold. Generally the mood was quite good considering it was the last one but most people confirmed that they lived as firmly in denial as we did. It just didn’t feel like it was all going to be over soon.

He arrived late for the sound check and some fans feared he’d dash straight in because of that. We had an inkling he wouldn’t on the last day and were proved right when the bus arrived and he walked over to the waiting crowd. As everybody behaved and no one tried to cross the magic line, they let the gates open and we had a clear view of the Ball when he came up to us all to collect his last night cards and pressies. Naturally he too said he was sad it was all over but wanted us to make it a good one. We promised we would.

Dinner with friends, quick dash to the hotel, get changed then join the queue (!) to be let into the venue. When we arrived it looked like an open air concert as people formed a long line all across the square in front of the Guildhall. We guessed they were doing security checks and were right. At the doors they did bag searches and confiscated plastic bottles! Outrageous in our opinion. You could collect your drinks after the concert and only drinks bought at the Guildhall were allowed in the auditorium. This is just not on. Airports, okay. Glass bottles, sure thing. But not being allowed to bring your own water bottles?! Should we add it was BOILING hot in the venue?

They also said no photography. Hence we only took some during the encore as all around us people started to film it and take loads of photos on their mobile phones and no one seemed to mind.

The stage was very low and we sat just off centre in the second row. It was perfect. He was so close you almost felt like you were given a private performance. What a dreamy way to end the tour. Also we were close enough to be hearing his real voice, not just the amplified version over the speakers. We took lots of photos with our minds to remember this final performance of what must have been one of the best tours yet. Really hoping the DVD will be released in November and bring across the amazing achievement of this buy one get one free tour.

On an unusually unselfish note from us we have to conceit that for him it is good that the tour is over. Sometimes, when you caught him turned half away from the audience to listen to one of the solos from the band you could see he was shattered and also when you knew him well enough you heard the strain in some of the more taxing numbers (which we still think adds to their appeal). After so many shows in quick succession and with having a cold this is neither a surprise nor a complaint. Quite the contrary actually. We are in complete awe that he could do this – as said before: definitely super human. He so deserved his rest after this immense effort to have us all entertained so sublimely.

The audience was fantastic. He had told us at the stage door that he’d have his mum in and we are always so pleased when the crowds show so much appreciation when his family is in. Wonderful reception throughout and as we have said many times before: A concert is not only about him performing for us but about us, the audience, showing him how much his hard work and outstanding talent is appreciated. Basically, for a final concert of any tour, the aim is to have him in (happy!) tears for the final bow. We dare say we succeeded. The place practically exploded at the end. It was deafening and utterly satisfying to hear this uproar of delight when the final note was sung.

This tour was awe-inspiring and breathtaking and heavenly and delicious and moneynotetastic.

What more can a girl want? Well, apart from matinee concerts and a tour that goes on for six months like a musical…both indeed we are afraid Mr. Ball would not be too keen on – sadly.

We could not believe it was all over when he left in his car and waved us all good-bye. We couldn’t believe it when we were sitting in the bar area of our hotel with our friends reminiscing. We could not believe it on our way to London where we were heading to see Chorus Line with Gary from the Heroes tour at the Palladium and Wicked with Louise from the Past and Present tour (definitely a walk down memory lane and both great shows). Even now, two days later, we cannot quite believe it is over. We will fly back home tomorrow which is when it will hit us hard. This really was good-bye.

There will be no more standing at breezy stage doors in the British spring and no more enjoying Run, Songbird, When she loved me, Edge of Glory, Memory, Sunset Boulevard, Close Every Door, Wonder of you. No more party time, no more rushes to wave the bus into the night, no more meeting everyone everywhere, no more city centres swarming with excited Ballettes, no more hauling massive suitcases past baffled receptionists, no more dressing up, no more photos, no more post-concert get-togethers, no more travelling. The tour is over, the Ball has left the stage for a little while. He promised he would not retire when asked what was next for the umpteenth time. There is Audley End of course and there will be more.

But for now we have to face the void and deal with it. Maybe not appropriately but eventually. Memories will have to suffice – but what fantastic memories they are. We know we are blessed to have been able to see eleven shows when so many fans cannot even make it to one. And yet it was all over far too soon. Reality hits you like a shock after the dream land that is a UK tour.

A big thank you to all of you who said hello and gave us so much positive feedback about the website. We really appreciate this and it was wonderful to put faces to the names. What a joy it has been.

We need a perspective, Mr Ball. And soon. Hopefully you will find a challenge that is worth your while and we will be there like a shot.

Bristol - 9 May 2013
10/05/13 @ 07:49:01 am, Categories: General, 999 words   English (UK)

How perfect was last night?! What an amazing concert! Surely one of the best.

But first things first: We got to Bristol on our day off after driving through the incredibly beautiful Brecon Beacons national park. We can highly recommend a visit, also to Brecon town which is incredibly cute.

The rain caught up with us on our way in to Bristol. Sadly the forecast has been very accurate this tour so we were forewarned.

On the concert day itself the day began with sunshine but quickly turned into a stormy rain festival. We didn’t have too much hope for the stage door. Especially when our little group of fans shivered in the storm and rain and we all kept asking ourselves: Why, oh WHY are we doing this?! To be quite honest: we don’t know. It’s simply part of it all. Maybe it’s about the thrill of a stolen moment with him. The icing on the cake if you will. We never take it for granted that he lets us all indulge in this way. He could avoid us lot quite easily and no one could blame him. But here came the bus and out stepped the Ball. Very graciously he took his time for everyone, said he was getting a cold but would be fine for the final two shows.

It’s always such a shock when you stand there and wait for two hours and suddenly he is there, right in front of you, in the flesh. Very hard to form a coherent sentence when he turns to you and says hello. Once again we failed to come up with some witty reply or anecdote he would then recount at dinner parties for years to come. One day…!

Now, the concert. We had swapped our seats at the very end of row G for front row Balcony right next to the stage. The kind box office staff (you rock!) were ever so patient with us and took a lot of time discussing various possibilities and sight lines. In the end we were so happy we did that as it was a completely different angle. Almost his point of view but from higher up. Excellent view of the stage and audience. How beautiful it looks when everyone sways their arms to Run and how much fun when they punch the air in One Step! We are so getting you, Mr Ball. What a sight to behold! We were on a complete high. It would have been the perfect vantage point for photos from a whole new angle, but sadly, so sadly, the Colston Hall will not tolerate photos. As in zero. As in LOADS of security guards everywhere on constant watch. Apologies for that.

It was also shocking to see how little room he had to maneuver on stage. He pointed that out between songs. There were about three feet between the raised platform for the musicians and his monitors at the edge of the stage. He did manage to dance nevertheless but it got him VERY close to the greedy hands of fans during Help Yourself. They could almost touch him when we sang “grab a share!”…

He had mentioned his cold on the way in and you could hear it every now and then but being Michael a touch of hoarse here and there only adds to the absolute pleasure for us and we know this is bad, as for him this surely is not too enjoyable. But mmmh it sounded lovely. It even led to a beautiful embellishment of the final few notes of Help Yourself which he should keep! Lovely high note in there. As usual you could hear it most when he was talking and not so much while singing. From our bird’s view it was fascinating to watch him work so hard – he really is singing with his whole body.

His dad seemed to enjoy himself very much from what we could see and the audience was dreamy. So enthusiastic, so loud, so full of admiration. It was a joy to be part of it and by the end Michael seemed genuinely touched. And GOSH the sound! As we were on level with the stage the roaring of the audience hit us from the right and it was almost bodily tangible. Utterly breathtaking.

The slight drawback for the people downstairs were the security people. They tried to stop the first barrage of women but gave up there. Some ran early again, but since there was only a small gap at the aisles for people to stand in it wasn’t too bad as there weren’t that many in this early bird group. Anyways, so security gave up at the front but then point blank refused to let people from the back join the dancing lot in the aisles at the front. We heard later that some even threatens fans to remove them from the hall if they did not return to their seats. And it’s not like they hadn’t been forewarned! Our security guy up in the Balcony came to us at the end of the interval and said if we wanted to dance later on, could we please go into the second row as the balustrade was so low that it was deemed dangerous to stand behind it. We did that of course. But downstairs they were struggling and eventually Michael kindly called out to the security staff that they should let them run already. And down they came! It was quite a sight. Everyone was on their feet everywhere and we all had the most fantastic party. Sorry Cardiff, but Bristol clearly won this time.

We waved him good bye afterwards and floated back to our hotel on a complete high.

It is unbelievable that our two weeks in the UK are almost over. One last night to go. We will try and live in denial for a little while longer….

Cardiff - 7 May 2013
08/05/13 @ 04:40:32 am, Categories: General, 773 words   English (UK)

Day Off 06/05/2013

After three fabulous concerts in a row, including the filmed Hammersmith concert, Michael had a well deserved day off and therefore we as well.

So, what do you do, when the last concert was in Southampton and the next one will be in Cardiff? Yes, you drive back to London. We wanted to see the “Book of Mormon” as we heard so much about it and two great ladies who were not able to get over for the tour now had tickets and gave them to us. Being able to go and see the Prince of Wales theatre where Michael did Aspects of Love was an added bonus. So after a celebratory dinner across the street from the Adelphi where we toasted Mr Todd on his Olivier success we set off to the theatre (it did feel like it should open with Michael sat on a red barber chair – it didn’t of course).

What can we say? The show was fabulously funny! But of course addressing serious issues (AIDS, poverty, violence, civil war to name but a few) disguised in outrageous song and dance numbers. The audience was borderline hysteric with laughter. If you are a serious Christian you probably would be offended but then again – only if you turn a blind eye to what happens in Africa and gloss over the fact that the missionaries are there not to help but to recruit. It’s no show for kids though. Luckily we are grown-ups;-) Catching tunes, very energetic performances and clever staging made this an unmissable experience. Thank you so much for the tickets!

Such a joy to experience live theatre again. We do miss the West End. Please announce a musical soon, Mr Ball!

Cardiff 07/05/2013

After the show we drove the three hours to Cardiff on empty motorways and got here at about 1am. It’s great to be back in Wales with all the street signs in both languages. Just loving it! And Cardiff is a great place to spend a lot of money quickly. Luckily we were busy meeting friends. The stage door was not so much a door but a ramp leading to the loading bay of the big shopping centre of which the St David’s Hall is part of. So we all just formed a line along the ramp and waved at Michael in the bus when we was driven up the ramp. No direct contact so no photos. Sorry.

The audience is always wonderful in Wales. We haven’t been at the St David’s Hall before (and Michael realised during the show that the last time he performed there was 15 years ago). It’s a good venue and the stage is rather low. Excellent for the intimacy of act one.
Wonderful reception (especially for Anthem!) and he was in great voice after the day off. Sadly we were surrounded by many early-clappers as we call them who will not let him finish the songs before going completely mad with ecstasy (a feeling we can relate to very well!) but will clap into the final notes making it impossible to hear them.

The venue was very strict on photos so we only took the one in the beginning.

There were sound issues and during Love Changes one of the speakers emitted a very loud crack which must have sounded horrible in Michael’s in-ear monitors (he took one out and continued singing as if nothing happened, of course, as he is a true professional). After that the sound and equipment behaved.

Sadly everybody around us was already grabbing their stuff during the final lines of Love Changes Everything and they were standing long before he reached the final note and ran too early. We could not see whether this happened at the other side as well as we were in the side block but we were almost trampled over by determined women in our row. Why not run when he has left the stage? There is plenty of time before he comes on stage again and you will not gain a thing from being there early as he will ignore all those who spoilt his song. And quite rightly so.

But it was another special concert and lovely to hear him say thank you in Welsh. Mmmmh, nice!

Now it’s the final day off and we are heading to Bristol. The rain has finally caught up with the tour and it looks like the tradition of a wet final concert in Portsmouth will be continued. Let’s see what tomorrow and the day after bring. We will keep you posted.

Southampton - 5 May 2013
06/05/13 @ 05:16:35 am, Categories: General, 285 words   English (UK)

We dropped Julia’s mum off at the airport and got to Southampton in time for the stage door (we had missed him going in at Hammersmith). His security person was a bit nervous even though we had hardly ever experienced a better behaved fan crowd. People even formed two orderly lines so he’d have a corridor to walk through.

The crowd at Southampton is always so appreciative that we love the concerts there. The theatre brings back wonderful Hairspray memories and you are really close to the not very high stage. Perfect setting for the intimacy of act 1! We marvelled at him for performing to such high standard after yesterday’s tour de force. You could hear the voice could do with some rest but this will only have been evident to those who have seen several shows. The crowd loved him and it was an utter delight from Edge of Glory to Wonder of You. We’ve sussed it out now, the secret is out, the game is up: Michael Ball is a super human. There is simply no other explanation how he can do this night after night with such perfection when it surely is the most taxing set list ever.

Another aspect some people might be interested in. The Photo Flash Opportunity has not made an encoure since Bournemouth. That’s because there were hardly any flash photos taken during the other concerts.

How he has earned this day off!

We are off to London now for Book of Mormon (thank you soooo much Arlene and Dee!!) and then it’s Cardiff next and the final leg of the tour. OOER. Only three concerts left. It doesn’t bear thinking about…

Hammersmith Apollo - 4 May 2013
06/05/13 @ 05:14:41 am, Categories: General, 774 words   English (UK)

Sorry to be so late with this but we have been so busy that there simply was no time to sit down and do this properly. Now it’s the day off and here we go.

For those of you wondering what it is like to be present at the DVD recording: There is no big difference from a normal concert except you see more people in black standing on the stage holding cameras. Usually the only people in black clothes you see during a concert are technicians. They did not obstruct our view once and you totally forgot about them after one or two songs. This was different when we were at the DVD recording at Hammersmith a few years back. They had to change people’s seats (from the front side block to the back!) to make room for the camera crane but luckily the lenses have evolved and now no such drastic action was necessary.
Sir Tim Rice sat right behind us (centre row G, we were aisle row F) and seemed to enjoy the show immensely. Especially when Michael kept singing song after song of his. We kept hearing the word “amazing” being muttered. Quite right.

Oh, we never posted the set list, did we? But it’s all over the internet anyways. Nevertheless, here goes:

Act 1
Edge Of Glory
Marry Me
Fight The Fight
Closest Thing To Crazy
Both Sides Now
Love And Affection
I Won’t Let You Go
When She Loved Me
I Will Always Love You
Act 2:
Circle Of Life
Being Alive
Pretty Woman/Not While I’m Around
Empty Chairs Empty Tables
Do You Hear The People Sing
The Perfect Song
Close Every Door To Me - Adrian
Don’t Cry For Me Argentina- Soophia
All I Ask Of You - Michael & Alice
Tell Me On A Sunday
Sunset Boulevard
Oh What A Circus
Any Dream Will Do
Love Changes Everything

One Step Out Of Time
You Can’t Stop The Beat
Help Yourself
Wonder Of You

As London is his home venue the atmosphere is usually electric and this night was no exception luckily. We are hoping this will come across accordingly on the recording. They loved him from the word go. His family was there to support him and we are sure this helped after the trauma of having been burgled (why do terrible things happen to someone so incredibly nice?!). It was wonderful to watch. And BOY did he perform. This DVD will be stunning if they even catch 10% of his energy. It was the second and final concert for Julia’s mum and she was rendered speechless (well, no, actually she found her whooohooo ;-)). Songbird, When She Loved Me and Run were our highlights of the first half. The things he can do with his voice (during Run while swaying his arm and body!)… All praise to Mr Todd for challenging Michael to explore a new range of voice and opening a new approach to singing. The album has such an intimate feel to it, loungy, like in a dark and cosy jazz club, you hear every syllable clearly pronounced and he paces himself so precisely. Sometimes when the sound is well-balanced, you feel engulfed by this luscious blanket of perfect sound and cannot help a little swoon. Then come the money notes and leave you gasping.

Highlights of act 2 were definitely Sunset Boulevard, Anthem and Being Alive. We would have given him standing ovations after every song but didn’t want to look like morons LOL. But in all honesty he would have deserved them. This was an outstanding performance and he worked so hard up there to deliver sublime entertainment for us all.

At the end we thought people would tear apart the Apollo (which looks a bit tired, it has to be said) with ecstasy. Stamping and howling for more before he returned to the stage for the encore.

This was definitely a standout performance and the best concert of all eight we have seen so far. What a joy to have been there.

The slight downer for us were two women who were clearly very drunk and kept shouting at inappropriate places, clapping into his moderations and generally were very badly behaved. At least they shouted appreciative stuff but it was still annoying. This happens so often, we wish they would not sell alcohol at venues. Sorry when this seems harsh but the number of times some drunk audience member fell over others at party time or ruined a quiet moment by shouting silly stuff into the silence…Ah well, rant over.

Brighton 03/05/2013
03/05/13 @ 09:03:22 pm, Categories: General, 495 words   English (UK)

Still smiling at his clever tweet after Bournemouth… the early bird doesn’t always catch the worm. It confirmed what we were not sure about: He did not kiss anybody that night when people had run early. No hand holding and no kissing for the overexcited….

Anyways, what a wonderful concert Brighton was! And what a beautiful day! Sun and sea go together perfectly (too much of both clearly – this is turning into a very bad poem! LOL). We had a great day off and showed Julia’s mum some o f the most beautiful corners of the south. It felt very nostalgic to drive past the festival theatre in Chichester to show her where Mr Todd was “born”. They are taking it down or rather large parts of it and somehow this was a very sad sight.

Then we had a gloriously sunny day in beautiful Brighton. We always love coming here and seeing the Lanes and spending too much money on sweet nothings. After a stroll on the pebble beach we got to the stage door in time to see him arrive and spend a while in the freezing shades of this particular back door. It wouldn’t feel right without it. Even when the day is very sunny it will always be cool and windy back there. He arrived by bus and did the usual. Sadly with his back to us most of the time as it’s a very confined space. So no stage door photos today, sorry.

Julia’s mum was very excited about her first tour concert (the second and last will be Hammersmith tomorrow) and oh BOY did he not disappoint. The audience where we were sitting seemed a bit slow at first but this did change dramatically throughout the evening. He was in fine voice and good spirits. Excellent seats in the second row. With the very high stage it was just perfect to take it all in. You could hear he had had a day off and it was almost overwhelming. What an outstanding performance!

Apart from a slight timing issue during Being Alive which was well covered by our true professional (Julia’s mum didn’t notice a thing, only the relieved smile between Michael and Callum when things were back on track) everything went smoothly. This time, people did not run early and so there was hand holding and kissing – well, seeing the stage is so very high he kissed his fingertips and “gave” those to one lucky lady at the stage.

We floated back to the hotel afterwards and our tour guest cannot believe just how fantastic he was. Seeing Michael perform live really is something else. You have to see (and hear!) it to believe it. She was thoroughly impressed with the demanding set list and the utter perfection of the performance. Who’s surprised? ;-)

3am again – now some sleep then off to London. Thank you Brighton. So many fantabulous memories!

Bournemouth - 01/05/2013
01/05/13 @ 08:39:50 pm, Categories: General, 642 words   English (UK)

What a perfect day it has been! Sun, 17 degrees and we were at the seaside. Okay, and yes, we admit to many spontaneous attempts to sing Mrs Lovett’s eerie “By the Sea”…we failed of course. But never mind, we were back at Bournemouth. The beach there is sandy and we like this, the sky was dark blue and everyone seemed in a wonderful mood. Spring seems to have finally won the fierce battle with winter. We even had ice cream while walking along the promenade! And we were wearing t-shirts! Enough of weather-fangirling we hear you groan.

Suffice to say we enjoyed our first day at the south coast and it was lovely seeing everyone again after a whole day;-) Michael came on foot and walked down the slope towards the stage door. Very casually, stopped, chatted had pictures. He said he really wasn’t feeling well yesterday and he really doesn’t recommend his Oxford hotel (even though it looks really nice in the internet!). As we rarely stay in 5-star hotels it will be easy to follow his recommendation.

Loved our dinner and the company. Many thanks to the Australian contingent!

We have a soft spot for Windsor Hall at the BIC as we did a venue tour a while ago there which was really fascinating.

The stage is really high so you have to keep this in mind when booking. We had great seats in row E. This time the security let everyone do their thing with regards to photography which sadly let to lots of flashes going off. We hardly saw any in Plymouth and only very few in Oxford so this was a shame. It got so bad that actually Michael had to revert to his photo opportunity solution where he asks everyone to take their flash photos now and give them a few poses (in very quick succession sadly;-)) and then everyone should put their cameras away. This worked a treat and we will now NOT rant about the uselessness of flash photography in concerts as we have done this so many times already.

Also you probably saw his tweet and wondered what this was all about. To remind you, he tweeted:
“Bournemouth was amazing. Loved it. BUT…the early bird doesn’t always catch the worm. Day off. Bliss.”
Well, you might have guessed actually. While in Plymouth no one dared running to the stage, Oxford still was very civilized with people only going down there really slowly and during the short interval whereas in Bournemouth people again ran while he was still singing Love Changes. The look on his face…

Please don’t do this, everyone. It’s neither fair nor polite and there is plenty of time to run when he is finished singing. Why would you rob yourself of a sublime money note?

Anyways, the concert itself was wonderful. The sound was excellent where we sat as the speakers were really high up in the large hall and not right in front of you.

Run is so amazing we could hit the repeat button again and again. These low notes…swoon swoon. Also songs that we really did not have on the agenda are becoming favourites. Memory was a surprise. We have heard him sing it many, many times but it is different now. He is singing so intimately and yet with such strength and modulation. Actually this is so impressive in the first half as well. He is creating the intimacy of the album in large halls with incredible pacing and modulation. It is truly delicious.

He really deserves his day off now though. This tour is hard work.

On our day off we will collect Julia’s mum (a convert) and take her on a sightseeing roundtrip before we take her to Brighton and Hammersmith. Happy days.


On the road with Michael Ball.
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