Monday, May 22, 2006

Back For Good

I have a question. How do fat neurotic girls in contemporary literature and TV ever manage to eat 'half a tub' of Ben & Jerry's? I have been belabouring a pot of Caramel Chew Chew with a heated scoop for fully ten minutes, and it has yielded but three smears of ice-cream. Gah.

Why the ice cream, you may ask. Well, that would be because I am feeling ultra-girly, having bathed in oestrogen last night at the Take That concert. The Manchester Arena played host to thirteen thousand nine hundred and ninety-eight screaming women (and two disgruntled boyfriends in the row behind us, looking very glum).

Drawn by the lure of reliving our adolescence and the pure joy of singing the choirboy bit in Never Forget far, far louder than we're allowed to in our living room, my housemate Anna and I had joined forces with Laura to spend all morning at our respective workplaces on the day the tickets went on sale hitting our F5 keys repeatedly. We kept getting more and more desperate and emails pinged around the offices. "London's sold out- Birmingham?". "Birmingham's sold out - Manchester???" (Of course, four hours after we'd justified the time and expense of going to Manchester, the bastards announced more London dates.)

Anyway, after a few personnel changes (Laura's boyfriend dropped out, perhaps because he had seen all the squealing and bailed out while he could) we set off. The Arena is huge, and resembles an indoor football stadium. Except this was like no football game I had ever been to. It was a sea of bunny ears and pink cowboy hats. Everyone was queuing in orderly lines - for WKD! "God," whispered Laura, awefully. "This is like the world's biggest hen night."

Bang on time, support act Beverley Knight tipped up, wearing an orange kaftan, black leggings and white stilettoes. Yeah, she was alright, even if she did scream "MANCHESTER!" for no real reason every five minutes.

She buggered off, they played some adverts. Thousands of women faced a dilemma over whether to nip out to the loos now, and risk missing the start, or hang on until Pray came on. (This, and Sure, were the two big toilet exodus triggers of the night.)

And then - it was time. The lights went down and the screaming reached an uncomfortable level. The back bit of the stage went blue. And, er, well then they sort of ambled on, really. It was only when they started singing that I realised they weren't stage crew. Even worse - I didn't recognise the song. What had happened? Were they (no) trying out new material?

Thankfully not, it was just something off the first album I was too busy falling off my first bike to have heard. What followed was an actual example of some new material (same as the old material, largely) then a romp through the old favourites we knew and loved so well. There was even a tango version of It Only Takes A Minute (hmm) and some Beatles covers (mm hmm).

My favourite bit of the concert was definitely the crowd's treatment of Gary Barlow. As previously discussed, I've got a bit of a soft spot for Gazza. He reminds me of a simpler, happier age when talent gave you a bye into a boyband and I simply will not brook any argument that he is a rubbish songwriter - neither would you had you seen the crowd's reaction to Never Forget, the night's final song.

When the tango-inspired strains of It Only Takes A Minute started up, Mark, Jason and Howard all had a crack at dancing with the Senorita, to polite cheering. However, when Gary sprang up from the piano, the crowd went wild. It's Tiger Tim syndrome, clearly - we love the slightly shonky more than any amount of gilded perfection. The rest of the band look pretty good for men in their mid-thirties, but Gary seems to have morphed into the manager of an office supply chain. In their white shirts and black trousers, the others looked James Bond-ish. Gary was more David Brent.

He knows this, of course, which is part of his charm. After they'd ponced round on a platform in the middle of the auditorium for a bit, they all retreated backstage. Some bloke with mad hair and a white coat came on - the Manager. He proceeded to intone his rules for making a boy band, as the chaps filed back out and did a bit of robot dancing.

As he proclaimed, "Rule 7. The boys should be able to dance," Mark, Jason and Howard spun, twirled and did other dancey stuff while Gary plonked away on a Yamaha. "Stop," came the ghostly voice. "*All* members of the band should be able to dance." Then The Manager man-handled Gary on to the end of the line-up. The noise was phenomenal. Go on Gary, bust that groove!

I don't know whether it was the demographic, or the Fab Four, but this has to be the nicest concert I've ever been to. Nothing more destructive than a teddy bear was hurled at the stage, and even the clamour to touch the band on their meet-and-greet was relatively genteel. The band all looked genuinely grateful (you must know how much I hate ungrateful misery-dick celebrities) . Howard summed it up: "I can't believe how lucky I am, when I think I was a decorator from Ashton-under-Lyne!"

Towards the end, I suddenly realised where I had felt this atmosphere before: the Wimbledon Veterans' Matches, when they wheel out Pat Cash and John McEnroe for a bit of a knock-about and some light banter. That's not to say the show wasn't professional - it was bloody impressive - it's just that they really looked like they were enjoying themselves. (Yes, mutter away, you cynics, about how Jason had spent all the money and was working in a chipshop and Howard had had a near-nervous breakdown. I care not.) The only downside? I'm afraid the quantity of hormones sloshing round will bring on an early menopause.

And God, I can't wait for the Spice Girls reunion. What? What?


Anonymous paul haine said...

They all look a little...wonky...

5/22/2006 6:38 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

Don't worry, i de-buggered it by using a different photo. Although looking at the new one, I don't think that's a happy phrase.

5/22/2006 6:40 pm  
Anonymous paul haine said...

Was this photo taken during the homoerotic 'covered in jelly whilst naked' stage of their career?

5/23/2006 1:33 pm  
Anonymous galatea said...

You'll note that I've now taken the picture of Take That in thongs down, having opened the blog in work without thinking while my boss was not five feet away.

I don't think we approve of naked man-flesh here, but then we don't approve of anything...

5/24/2006 12:46 am  
Blogger Aidan said...

All things told, and despite your impressive descriptive powers... it does sound pretty horrific.
Then again, I waived all rights to critical judgment the day I traded in my raffle prize of two free tickets for any Wembley Arena "gig", for the calendar year 2000... for, er, Britney Spears' "Oops..." tour. Well, actually, I enjoyed it, and every damn costume change. Just made sure I had a female friend along with me to ease up on the "sad-bastard" looks, and a notebook in hand while waiting, so it looked like I was there for professional purposes rather than, well, I dunno...
Funny, mind. Support acts were all Aaron Carter-esque, and you'd assume all the kiddies brandishing day-glo streamers, while needing an adult along, would drag mum to these increasingly-regular events.
But this night in particular, it seemed a lot of brave dads had made the arduous sacrifice...
But anyway, may your dreams be filled with BackForGoods and Prays and whatever else they flounced around to... enjoy!

5/24/2006 6:06 am  
Anonymous paul haine said...

I'm still holding out for Matt, Luke and Craig to get back together.

5/24/2006 9:07 am  
Anonymous Laura said...

I happen to think Gary looked quite fit. Obviously not as nice as Mark Owen who is still impossibly pretty, but Gary would be my first choice for a date!

5/24/2006 3:28 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

'Fit' and 'looks like an office supply chain manager' are not necessarily incompatible, are they?

('Fit' and 'looks like a mobile phone saleman' are, though.)

5/24/2006 3:31 pm  
Anonymous lb said...

'Looks like a mobile phone salesman' makes me think of something like Dean Gaffney.

5/24/2006 4:53 pm  
Anonymous laura said...

'fit' and 'looks like david brent' are

5/24/2006 7:13 pm  
Anonymous galatea said...

Dean Gaffney, I once wrote, has a face that provides a free advert for paper bags. I stand by that - I mean, I know lap dancers aren't necessarily looking for the same thing in a boyfriend that the rest of us are, but Jesus.

David Brent, though - well... I have a theory that if you watch any comedy show long enough, you will start to feel a flicker of attraction to at least one of the characters. (Possibly you'd plump for Tim first, but who knows?)

5/25/2006 2:41 pm  
Anonymous laura said...

Of course I would plump for Tim first. Surely you know about my undying love for Martin Freeman? Only sealed further by his marvellous Arthur Dent characterisation. *sigh*......

And no, there is no flicker for David Brent.

5/25/2006 9:13 pm  
Anonymous Laura said...

Oh - I've also learned all appropriate parts of Ok Go - including the footwork bit at the end, which did have me for a minute I admit, but is now sussed.

It's just the darn hand bit at the beginning i get mixed up with. But otherwise it's sweeet.

5/25/2006 9:15 pm  

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