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.
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 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.
1. Wake Me Up
2. Need You Now
3. Simple Love
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
1. Something Inside So Strong
2. I Won’t Let You Go
3. You Needed Me
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
11. One Step Out of Time
12. The Wonder of You
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.