Take That – and party

Last weekend marked the arrival of a date keenly anticipated for over 7 months – if not 15 years. It was an event of such importance that embargoes were placed upon those getting to experience this phenomenon earlier than us. [In fact, even if I hadn’t spent the last 5 days sequestered in Southport, I would have delayed this post until Annabelle had been.] It had required an encounter with a total stranger outside Goodge Street station for a co-ordinated handover of small, yellow pieces of paper. It even necessitated an e-mail many months ago entitled “TAKE THAT EMERGENCY!!!”…

Yes, on Saturday night, I was amongst 89,000 people watching the mighty Take That (newly reunited with Robbie Williams) at Wembley. Two 2011 Firsts right there. Being a Take That live virgin (and a total newbie to an arena that huge – I’d only ever gone to Wembley to demo before), I learnt many lessons:

Firstly, watching Take That is a surprisingly rigorous physical experience. There’s the queuing (to get in); the standing (to keep your spot); the crush (as the crowd was brought forward); the heat (as people got even closer); the dancing (when TT finally appeared); the screaming (when they got close); the queuing (to get back to the station); the standing (on the tube home)… In fact, I got up from a seat on a bench outside the tube station at 3pm and sat back down again at 11.25pm when the tube reached Baker Street. Exhausting doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Secondly, don’t enter into such a situation if one is easily angered or hormonal. People get very territorial at these events. One woman sat on my feet multiple times in order to extend the area her group had. I hadn’t moved an inch, so I definitely wasn’t encroaching upon her space – I resisted conflict, but it was a close-run thing. When I’m hot, I can’t bare touching other people’s bare skin or hair – often an issue on the tube. For several hours on Saturday, I was touching three strangers’ bare skin and had one girl’s ponytail flicked into my face incessantly. It was all I could to keep my sanity and cool while rage was rising inside me! Actually, I nearly (or possibly did) lose it with a woman who deliberately obstructed my view of Robbie by waving her arms and deliberately pushing mine out of the way every time I tried to take a photo – it resulted in my having a long scratch from her watch down my arm. I got this photo though, so it was worth it!

Thirdly, going to see boybands live in concert will cause you to regress in behaviour to that expected of a 13 year old. Yes, I mocked my friends for their matching I ♥ Gary t-shirts (see above) and when they totally crumbled when the aforementioned Gary [Barlow] appeared less than 2 metres from us [the words “Oh my God, I never thought I’d be this close to him!!” were uttered by one of them…]. But later, when Robbie appeared in the same spot, all sense and sensibilities of someone turning 30 in 3 weeks time departed, and I screamed like an adolescent.

Fi and Ange are SO excited to be SO close to Gary Barlow…

The good man himself
Despite the fact that I wasn’t a big Thatter in my youth – I didn’t cry when Robbie left and I never considered watching them live – they are an indelible part of my teenage years. I can vividly recall the scene in my form room the morning after Never Forget was performed on TOTP for the first time. It was full of 13 and 14 year old girls raising their hands in the air and screaming – in much the same way that rather older women did during the finale on Saturday night, with the added excitement of the now returned Robbie. It goes without saying that my favourite part of the gig was the really old stuff, performed as a five-piece again after so many years. Oh, and finally getting to see Robbie live – I know he’s an arrogant twit, but he’s an awesome performer. Take That put on a show and their 2 hour set was well worth both the money and the physical exertion. And I will forgive them for including masks not once, but twice, in their dancers’ costumes – being close to the stage was great for viewing the boys, but less great for not being able to hide from the masks. 
Masked dancers acting as Thurifers – possibly a first for a boyband arena tour?
It wouldn’t be right not to link to some highlights, so here are a few:
Alice in Wonderland – Mark singing Shine while sat upon a large, pink caterpillar.
The Flood – there was water, abseiling and a breath-taking jump. Awesome. 
The retro TT medley – beautiful.

The gig got me thinking about a couple of other things that may turn into blogposts at a later date, but I think one Take That themed post in a week is quite sufficient! 

Take That Theology

It’s amazing how Christians will try and shoehorn their faith into everything, or everything into their faith. [Apologies, massive generalisation there, but it does happen.] How suddenly, theology can be applied to a wide spectrum of life – have you ever seen theologians getting excited about The Matrix? It’s really quite terrifying. Of course, we Christians believe that God is in everything, but sometimes I think we take a little too far. [Incidentally, if you’re hoping for a post on the religious themed Glee shown this week, it will happen – soon.]

Years ago, I made what some (ok, one person) labelled as an ‘inspired connection’ between the rules of boyband formation and 1 Corinthians 12 – a rare moment of blogging theological connection. This morning, I made another such connection, which I felt should be shared.

By means of introduction, I feel I should explain the thought process behind this connection. While walking from the station to the office this morning, I pondered a piece of writing I’m currently working on in which I’m trying to reflect (theologically) on the way my student small group mirrors Acts [don’t ask, it’s doing my head in]. Then my mind leapt to other theological reflections I’ve done and the boyband thing came to mind and I thought about how it applied to Boyzone and Westlife and how it didn’t work for Take That. Thus, I came to ponder on what Biblical connection you might be able to make to illustrate that particularly band’s story…

Clearly, it has to be the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32).

Gary – et al – are abandoned at home while Robbie goes off on his own to make his fortune. It’s not easy at first, but eventually he becomes a big success and Angels becomes one of the most popular songs to play at funerals. EMI pay him millions of pounds to make more albums and he’s rich beyond his wildest dreams. Addictions come and go, as do women, but awards are continually bestowed upon him.

But eventually the songs stop reaching #1 and his fascination with aliens over-takes his interest in music. He watches as his former bandmates reunite and produce hugely successful albums and sell-out tours. After much thought, he swallows his pride and meets up with them in LA. They have fun and a year later he’s back in the band, on a #1 album and in a sell-out tour.

But is everyone happy? Is Mark the resentful older brother who’s disappointed that with Robbie back he’ll no longer be second choice for lead vocals? Will Shine be the Babe of the new Take That (i.e. Mark’s only decent track)? What about Jason and Howard – will they simply return to being the two guys whose names you can’t remember dancing around at the back? And what of Gary, dear old Gary? I rather think he might be the father of the analogy, cheering along the reunification – who has slaved away for years, writing great songs and keeping the band together (well, since 2005) – telling the others not be churlish and to welcome the prodigal son back into the Take That fold.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve thought about this a little too much. Am I a tad over excited that I’ll finally get to see them in the flesh in July? (Quite possibly.) Is my brain over-worked from endless form filling in? (Most definitely.) Can you ever have too much theology? (Absolutely.)

Musical Therapy (& a solution)

As of this morning, I have an exceedingly cheesy line up of musical excitement in the diary for late June/early July next year. On June 25th I will be at the O2 for Glee Live and two weeks later I’ll be at Wembley for Take That. This is super exciting for a whole host of reasons…

Firstly, it’s Glee – live. This not only means lots of cheesy songs, but also the prospect of being in the same room and breathing the same air as Mr Schu. Awesome. Secondly, Take That – need I really say more? I’ve never been to Wembley (except to protest at an England vs Israel match), never seen Take That live, never seen Robbie live (it disturbs me slightly that I still have such a soft spot for Mr Williams after so many years, but whatever…) and I’m going with a fabulous group of people. See, it’s all super exciting.

However, I need some help.
[I know a few of you will already be making lists of therapists I could go to right at this moment.]

My taste, or rather my collection of music is boring me. There’s still months to go until Glee season 2 airs here, and thus longer until I can justify acquiring the next load of soundtracks – last season’s is wearing a little thin. It also seems that there really is a limit on how many musical theatre tunes you can listen to in a week.

Plus, I now have (until the end of January) unlimited Spotify and I want to make the most of it. At the moment, the best thing about this is the fact that I can access my playlists offline via my iPhone – meaning that it’s excellent accompaniment to tube journeys. However, two weeks in and what I’d already diligently stored over the last year of listening at work is becoming tedious – but the wealth of Spotify gives me brain freeze, I can’t cope with the choices!

Yesterday I even resorted to typing ‘spotify’ into gmail to uncover all emails and chats in which friends had recommended links in order to re-discover stuff. Then I found a friend had listed albums they’d liked in their wishlist, so I went through those too. All good, but I made few really awesome discoveries.

Thing is, I lack patience. A couple of songs by the same artist? Fine. An entire album? Potentially tedious. For example, I enjoy folk, but an entire album of a wailing woman and an acoustic guitar just depresses me. For this reason, I’m particularly after anyone who’s created (or knows of) some genius Spotify playlists.

In return, I can at least offer you the following:

Otherwise, some good atmospheric film soundtracks wouldn’t go amiss, nor would some slightly obscure classical stuff. Clearly I’m just lazy, which is why I’ll happily write a post about this, rather than actually spend time hunting it out myself.

I’ve found a solution to my problem – a whole website devoted to the sharing of Spotify playlists. Currently I’m plugged into an X Factor 2010 collection. Judge me not – I’ve barely had any opportunity to watch the show – and as this playlist includes the original Viva Las Vegas, rather than Wagner’s slaughtering of it, it’s an altogether happier experience.

24 hours of Musical Theatre

The amazingly fact-full Savoy Theatre is currently home to Never Forget, a musical based on the music of Take That. Whilst I’m a big fan of high quality musicals (Wicked, Avenue Q & Rent to name just a few), I’ve always been rather suspicious of those that are based around a successful band’s back catalogue. After all, the plot for We Will Rock You revolves around aliens!

Never Forget’s plot was even more tenuous – a Take That tribute band. You know you’re in for an interesting evening when your first words on entering the theatre are “I don’t think we’re drunk enough for this”. There was dancing, stripping, weird costumes, walls of water, bursts of fire…kind of like an extreme hen night in the clubs of Manchester.

But the producers had a secret weapon…by ending the show with a medly of Take That songs, they ensured the audience left dancing down the aisles believing they’d had a quality night’s entertainment. Thank God I had free tickets!

The ‘free tickets’ absolve me of all feelings of loser-ness having admitted to going to a Take That musical. However, I don’t think there’s any way I can avoid looking like a loser in the second part of my MT day!

Twelve hours after leaving the Savoy, I was back in the West End clutching my trusty brolly, and engaged in the very British pursuit of queueing, in the rain, with a lot of weirdos. All the weirdos had gathered for a Broadway Diva’s (star of Wicked, Rent and Enchanted – Idina Menzel) signing at what must be the campest shop in London, Dress Circle.

Totally worth it though. And gave me plenty of time to catch up on some podcasts. I was definitely the most normal person in the queue! (That’s me, towards the end of the queue in the photo with a turquoise umbrella. It wasn’t the end of the queue, just where it bent to go around the corner.)

Uh-oh, addictive personality strikes again!

At the end of last year it was facebook, now it’s youtube that’s keeping me awake to ridiculous hours of the morning. I appreciate that I’m starting my youtube addiction at least a year after everyone else – but there’s good reason. For ages my laptop didn’t really like video clips and I didn’t have a fast enough connection. Then my hard-drive crashed and once replaced, I’d lost all sound – so whilst the picture was great, there was no sound, which made the whole thing pretty pointless! Last night I picked up my new laptop and once the tedious process of installing everything was over, I swiftly headed over to youtube…

It started pretty tamely, just some Avenue Q clips of the cast doing non-Avenue Q songs:

Kate Monster & Trekkie Monster singing Popular from Wicked.
The guys doing a Take That medley.

Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately
, things rapidly spiralled out of control when I found complete episodes of Bug Juice. This was a show all about the wonderful world of American Summer Camps, which used to get shown on channel 4 during the summer holidays, and was about the only thing that made holidays in our grandparents’ mobile home in Yorkshire bearable. (July in Yorkshire = rain and lashing winds, especially up on t’moors.) Three and a half episodes later it was after midnight and I really should’ve stopped. Except I carried on, and watched another!

And at the point where I really should have put the laptop away, I decided to look for Kids Incorporated clips, lost on a nostalgia high. British people will have virtually no knowledge of the show, which was on the Disney channel in the US – but for me and my sister it always reminds us of the time we spent in Boston whilst our parents looked after a church there. The whole concept of a show where children sing cover versions of songs was amazing as far as we were concerned. Turns out having watched a few clips from the year we were there, it wasn’t so good, but it did have Jennifer Love Hewitt in it, which made it more amusing. Has a classy theme tune too.

Think it was well after 1am by the time I actually gave in. Really do need to have more control over the addictive side of my personality… Hopefully the novelty will wear off very soon.