JustBall.Net on the road blog - Read about our adventures
>>  Julia and Kerstin's trip blog
Brighton - Mack is back in town
10/06/09 @ 05:25:16 pm, Categories: Shows, General, 454 words   English (US)

Just back in the hotel to get changed after the concert. What an amazing night. Michael was in absolute top form and Mack the Knife was back on the song list. Still no Winner Takes it All though. The stage door afterwards was hell. We have in our time been at many, many stage doors. Only very rarely have we experienced such frenzy. It was a tiny bit scary even. Pushing, shoving. It was as if someone had dropped a chicken wing into a piranha pool (Michael = chicken wing). And naturally the minute he stepped out of the building heavens open, but the cold shower did nothing to calm down the ladies around us. Ah well. We survived.

The show itself was wonderful. For the first time, we sat at the left hand side of the stage. A new perspective and we can honestly say, it does not matter where you sit, the show is lovely from all angles. Only sitting in front of the speakers was a bit iffy. Our ears are still ringing with every money note. But hey, we were so happy to have all the money notes back, well almost all.

A slight drawback of arenas like tonight is that even though the audience is very positive the vibe tends to get lost a bit. he did get his standing ovations and cheers and big applause, but nevertheless it felt more quiet. But that is only due to the massive space.

Party time was lovely. The one security man did not try to stop anyone as apparently he had learned the error of his ways when he walked past the stage during One Step Out Of Time. he was apparently trying to police a few people who had remained standing for the song. The stage in this venue is very high so the poor man had no idea that while he was walking past the blocks of people Michael caught sight of him and walked along on stage, grinning mischievously. The security guard proved to have perfect timing. It could not have worked better, if they had rehearsed it. Just when Michael had got to the line “Now that you’ve gone, will you tell me, where I’ve been going wrong". The man turned into an aisle and walked away from him. Michael had a good time, laughing during the song, and so had we. For the remainder of the concert he sat on his chair and did not interfere with the proceedings.

Mercy keeps getting even better every time we see it. one of our favourites from the start it just rocks!

Off to Cardiff tomorrow, hopefully via some scenic routes, well we will see, and you will read :D

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Manchester - most memorable
10/03/09 @ 06:58:58 pm, Categories: Shows, Pre Stage Door, General, Travel, 896 words   English (US)

This morning we woke up to severe weather warnings and gales of 70 miles per hour. This slowed down our journey to Manchester, a bit. We would have been there nice and early, but Lisa (the sat nav) had decided to guide us through Manchester city, where we more or less stood for 30 minutes.

We got there in time for Michael, but unfortunately there was no space left for our car, apart from one car park belonging to a wholesaler. So, we just parked there and got to the stage door. We were a bit apprehensive about our little parking space, but then there was a continuous flow of traffic. So we stood there and waited in the freezing storm. We certainly had seen many nicer days. Roughly a quarter to five the “Star Security” began to move us all from the street, so the bus would be able to drop Michael off at the stage door. The bus finally arrived, reversed and stopped directly in front of the stage door. Michael got off, looking lovely and sounding much better than yesterday. He did say though that he had a tired throat. Naturally he got in rather quickly. We would not want him standing in a fierce storm.

But what happened next does not have anything to do with Michael, really, but it certainly cost us quite a number of years. Goooood….. okay, if you are only interested in the concert review, just skip this paragraph and get down the “the concert” bit. Otherwise, read on:

So: Here we were, Michael had just got in and we were happily talking to friends, when a quick glance to the car park stopped us dead in our tracks. They were just locking the gates and driving away. We tried to make a mad dash for it, but too late. The car was in there, locked behind a massive metal fence. All our belongings were in the car, including tickets (row F, Centre), the hotel confirmations, just about everything, apart from us and our purses.

Brilliant, just brilliant. First we phoned the company that guards the premises, but low and behold, they had no key to the car park (we still wonder how the hell they would be protecting the premises without a key to the gate!). Then we phoned the company itself, but of course no one answered the phone. With the help from our friends we even tried the non-emergency police hotline, no joy. We would have to wait until they opened again at nine am the next day. We should mention that our hotel was a 20 minutes car ride away. We were stuck, without tickets, without clothes to change, without anything really. Said friend offered to get us to our hotel after the show and we then decided to make the most of the rotten situation and try to get ticket duplicates. So we headed to the box office and asked for their help. The guy there could not really understand our problem and kept asking, if we could not just get the tickets out of the car. That would be much easier. “well, but would not be able to climb the fence!” we informed him. He then replied this would not be a problem, as they were using said carpark for the concert parking and would re-open it around six. The guy manning the main car park should have the keys. We could have kissed him!!!! A true Eureka moment. Oh and by the way, we have not been alone with our plight. There was another car locked in as well. If they had put up signs, saying they would re-open the thing it would have spared us a nasty shock, an hour of the day spent with desperate phone calls and the embarrassment at the box office. But hey, this is the kind of adventure that will make a wonderful stage door anecdote in the future. We then had a very rushed dinner (thanks for having us!) and did not get changed in the end. At least we had our tickets.

Concert time:

Initially we were worried about Michael’s voice, but this proved to be unnecessary. He sounded wonderful and the audience adored him. This was the reception he deserves every night. The place went completely wild and he seemed so relaxed and even added a little dance to “Human”. The key change in The Rose remained as did the two omissions. A little strain was still audible, but only when you were in the know.

Loads of standing ovations, standing through the first two songs too! Cheers and applause in abandon. This was the perfect audience. It was just such an enjoyable experience being part of the excitement and seeing how it moved everybody on stage.

Just before the encore Michael admitted to having been nervous before he got onto the stage, because of his voice, but everything was fine now and he was close to tears when he took his final bow, repeating “amazing” over and over again. For us this was definitely the best audience so far.

We love you Manchester and wonder whether this atmosphere can be beaten by any of the future concerts. We have our doubts. But we hope for the best. It was all so well deserved. The perfect end to a turbulent day. Next stop: Ipswich..

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Edinburgh - Addition
10/01/09 @ 04:40:05 am, Categories: Shows, General, Travel, 106 words   English (US)

What we forgot to mention last night:

Michael got quite excited, when he told the audience about the upcoming Hairspray tour. He just could not wait to get to Edinburgh next year and an added bonus would be that he would spent New Year 2011 in Edinburgh. He was just like a little boy who could not wait for Christmas. At latest, when he started a little scottish dance you could tell, he will love every second of it there.

So, with brilliant weather outside we are about to leave the hotel soon and drive down to Newcastle taking a scenic coastal route. Talk to you soon.

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Proper Review
09/27/09 @ 02:54:45 am, Categories: Shows, General, 1798 words   English (US)

It’s not even half past 7 and we are back up. Not because we have to but simply because that is how it always is in our UK holidays. We keep waking up at ridiculous hours…probably the excitement of it all.

Anyways, we thought we could use the extra time to do a proper write up of yesterday’s concert.

The suits:
Michael comes on stage in a wonderful three-piece suit (it looks dark, grey or black, difficult to tell with the massive light show going on), white shirt, white tie. Loving it, seriously hot stuff. During the cause of the first act he loses the tie. V nice. When he comes back on stage after the interval he is wearing a longer-than-normal jacket (sorry, no fashionistas, don’t know the proper lingo), dark blue or slight purple (and patterned) shirt and matching tie. We just realised, we disagree on the colour, lol. Love this outfit, so very elegant. Then he changes once more for the build up to the finale and returns in black suit with white shirt and glitzy tie! It was most thrilling to see the posh fabric…it looks so soft…actually it’s rather tight fit at places (all the right places, we should add), so sometimes it is a bit distracting (in a VERY good way).

The boyx:
Whoever chose the outfit: Thank you. Sometimes their suits looked more like body painting, really gorgeous. Tight grey suits with even tighter t-shirts. Sometimes they wore the jackets, sometimes they did not. At the end of the show they changed into black shirts with a silver glitzy motive on the front. Gorgeous.

The girls:
Well, they changed their dresses a couple of times and really looked stunning.

The First Act:
We were treated to an Overture of different songs (You can’t stop the beat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Don’t stop me now). It felt great to be back, but it was a bit weird to have Callum standing on the “wrong” side of the stage and not having any backing vocals. You can tell, we are not very flexible when it comes to our concert setting. But that will surely change. The guest singers finally appeared at the back of the stage and we heard “Please welcome Mr. Michael Ball!” To our delight the front of the stalls got up on their feet and danced for the first two songs (I was made for Loving you medley and One Step out of Time) and we had a great time enjoying our front row view Blackpool will be row H so we had to make the most of it).

This was followed by Human, sung as a solo by Michael. During this number we still had to come to terms with him being so close by (eventho the NIA is a bit of a heartless arena, the stage was fairly close), so will hopefully get a few more things to say about it as the tour progresses. Don’t stop me Now was arranged as a company number and worked really, really well. Just a crying shame the two Louises, Emma, Ben and Adrian are positioned at the back of the stage behind the musicians, meaning we missed some of their hip action. It has to be said though, placing this song at the beginning f of the concert meant we really had to struggle to urge our well-trained bodies to remain put and NOT dash to the stage when the line of the song that usually has been the signal for party time came. Sitting through this number was the most odd sensation. But Mr Ball had several of those moments in store for us.

For Seasons of Love all of them finally joined Michael on the front of the stage. The song being a company number from Rent, Michael explained how he could now stage it as it should be done when he previously only sang it alone. It’s all about harmonies and every member of the 6-piece-ensenble gets their chance to shine. It really is quite some experience. These kids are all so talented. Amazing.

Naturally we had read all the songlists that are around, so we KNEW he’d sing The Rose, a song that means so much to him and his family. We did look forward to it a lot and were indeed grabbed by the heartbreaking sincerity with which he performed it. Quite a killer really. It got us two bunnies really emotional.

Next on the agenda was Michael’s “classic album track” from Sunday Brunch. The first one to be aired in this section (his choice). Supertramp’s If Everyone was Listening. What a song! Couldn’t remember it from the show…but the gentleman behind us was quite pleased with Michael’s choice apparently for he started singing along! Luckily only for a short while (and a serious glance from us). Watch out for this song though. Great stuff.

When the old barstool came out we knew it was time for Empty Chairs. And we know it’s been said before, but he seems to have re-discovered the song…heartbreakingly beautiful and very fresh.

Tell me it’s not True from Blood brothers led us into the finale of the first act. Obviously this worked really well as a company number. Michael then left the stage and the fab five took over to give us a Jesus Christ Medly of sorts, acting out the songs. Very cleverly done and a joy for the ears. When Michael was back on stage we knew what had to come: Gethsemane. Wow. What can we say? Just wow. His voice….the emotion…everything was just perfect. A sublime stage moment. And luckily no one spoilt it by clapping into the dramatic pause towards the end. Phew. The audience was in the know.

What a finale. We were still quite stunned when the lights came back on and everyone had left the stage.

Act 2:

The second act started with some numbers from Starlight Express (Michael explained how this was the only Andrew Lloyd Webber musical he had never sung a song from before. So he thought it was time to change that and he really liked the songs). Michael and Adrian duetted on Only You. A sight to be hold and a joy for the ears (and eyes).

It was a bit weird to have Love Changes Everything in the middle of the concert and not at the end. Michael told us, we might be familiar with the song and if we knew the lyrics and felt the urge to sing along, then “DON’T!” We were actually quite happy to hear that. Then he got a giggle fit, because of the audience laughter and his own cheekiness. Towards the end of the song he actually did invite the audience to sing along (sadly).

As introduction to the next song he spoke about how a very young Michael once attended a concert of his then favourite band back in the 70s. He got a bit excited at the end and dashed to the front of the stage (he smiled at us and said, he has seen that happening since). Anyhow, while he was at the front of the stage he reached out and she back and for a blissful moment Michael and Agnetha were joined. Then we knew he was talking about Abba. Back on the barstool and we finally heard The Winner Takes It All, live for the first time. Definitely one of our big highlights! What a powerful and sad song.

We knew we were in for a lot of fun, when he talked about Vera Lynne, who is at the top of the charts at the moment at 92 years old. That gave him “bloody hope” he said. On a more serious note he talked about the creativity during the war years and how he loved the art of this period., Especially the closed harmony groups. He apologised for the Andrews Sisters and then the sextet formed a wonderful and sparkly rendition of the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, complete with fantastic choreography.

This led beautifully into the classic Mack The Knife from the Threepenny Opera (Dreigroschenoper in German). Why it took him so long to gather the courage to perform that we don’t know. It was perfect (we promised that we won’t moan that he did not sing it in German).

We knew he was about to leave the stage, when he started to talk about not having explored song writing enough, but that it was thrilling for a writer to hear his work interpreted by other artists. Naturely this song means a lot to him and they mustn’t get it wrong, no pressure! He left the stage and let Adrian and Ben sing a sweet rendition of the song.

Emma Williams had her chance to shine in The Prayer with Michael. And he is right. She has grown up nicely. The two voices do blend really well.

He started talking about Hairspray, but we knew it was too early for You Can’t Stop The Beat, so it had to be I Know Where I’ve Been. Truly amazing. This song is so full of hope and has such beautiful lyric. We are delighted that it will be on the DVD. Just WOW!

Next came the ultimate treat: Mercy. All six of them looking dashing in their finale frocks and suits. They were all having such fun and the song has so much vibrant energy, it’s wonderful. Stunning arrangement, we had the best time. And it’s absolutely one of our tour favourites.

This led into You Can’t Stop The Beat and a rush to the stage, party time! It was oddly familiar to hear the song and see the routine from the very front. We were half expecting Michael to pop out of a giant Hairspray can, wearing a glamorous red frock. He did not of course. But it was so good to be transported back to the era that was Hairspray and have everyone around you dancing.

Only two songs left and the official end of the concert was Put A Little Love In Your Heart. A joyous number performed beautifully by all of them.

Michael returned after a little while of thunderous applause to treat us to a phenomenal rendition of The Impossible Dream. His first ever audition song… and Yes, he did get the part.

When he left the stage for the last time, we could not believe it was all over. Time went by so quickly, but hey, nine more shows to come. So we will see it all again tonight in Blackpool. Can’t wait!

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Two Tracies
01/09/08 @ 06:56:57 pm, Categories: Shows, 244 words   English (US)

Tonight we wanted to make sure, we will be early, not to be in danger off missing parts of the show (which nearly happened the night before). Well ten minutes before curtain up, certainly is earlier (than 2 minutes late).

What we did not mention yesterday: Johnnie Fiori was off (no idea, if she is on holidays) and her understudy Sandra Marvin was on. Dermott Canavan (Male Authority Figure) was off as well. Michael told us, he was hit just before Monday Night’ show by a nasty stomach flu (Giving us more details than we wished for). His understudy was Adam Price and he did a great job. For the first time we understood everything he (The Male Authority Figure) said.

This was the same tonight plus Elinor Collett (Penny Pingleton) was off, sigh. Get well soon Elinor, we missed you.

And then minutes before the second half started there was an announcement made that Leanne (Tracy) was unable to continue her performance and Charlotte Riby would take over. She did a fantastic job, especially as she had no advance warning. We could hear Michael saying “well done!” to her at the curtain call. We hope Leanne will feel better tomorrow.

What has to be said is, that Sandra does a marvelous job as Motormouth Maybelle. The audience was much better than yesterday and there was quite a crowd when Michael left.

Looking forward to tomorrows matinee and Phantom in the evening.

Julia and Kerstin

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