Muse in Nijmegen

This past week the date of June 27th was boldly highlighted in my calendar: Muse was coming for an open air concert to the Goffertpark in Nijmegen in the east of the Netherlands and I would be there! The same park I saw Eminem in last year and David Bowie oh so many years ago in the early 1990s. Tickets had already been purchased last fall and I was going with my lovely friend Suzy from the Silverbluelining blog, we were meeting up there.

Fast forward to last Tuesday, two days before the Muse concert. I was leaving work late because I was meeting two friends of mine for the cinema to see Rocketman (I did end up seeing it, despite what happened next, and really liked it). As I tucked away my metrocard I missed the last step of the stairs and crashed to the ground, twisting my ankle quite badly, so badly that for a minute or so I couldn’t stand. First thought flashing through my head was, “NOOOO! What about Muse on Thursday??!!??”  Long story short, ice pack on my ankle when I got home later that evening didn’t help much, doctor said I needed to have x-rays the next day but in the end luckily nothing broken.  However the ankle was thick and painful enough to need extra support and I could barely stand on it.

So yes, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go to the long awaited Muse concert! Only standing places for that concert and there was no way I could stand for two hours during the concert and all the time leading up to that. Then Mr. Esther came to the rescue. My hero! He wasn’t going to the concert but offered to take the afternoon off work to drive me there (a little over an hour away from where I live) and borrow my mother-in-law’s wheelchair (she only needs it occasionally). My older sister ended up coming to the concert with me as well (she’d also bought a ticket a while back and the person she was going with canceled at the last minute). Downside to these changed plans was that I couldn’t spend as much time with Suzy before the concert as I had wanted to.

The weather on Thursday was gorgeous: blue skies, mid 20 degrees Celsius, perfect weather for an open air concert. We finally arrived at the Kiss & Ride spot near the venue at just after 5.30 pm (drive had taken 2 hours due to traffic jams!) where Suzy was awaiting us. My sister and Suzy took turns pushing me in my wheelchair to the concert grounds. I’m forever grateful to them and to Mr Esther for bringing me there! I could stand and hobble about for short amounts of time, so that was something.

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We had a nice bite to eat at the venue and then went in search of a spot to enjoy the concert from. As I was in my wheelchair for most of the time we figured in the end it would be pointless for me to watch from the field, I’d be too small to be able to see anything. So, we found the wheelchair platform and there was enough space left over for me to have a spot there as well. The down side was that only one other person was allowed to accompany me there. Suzy came with me first and later changed places with my sister as she preferred to watch the concert in the crowd, and rightly so. The park filled up with some 66.000 people (I was told by another guy there). This slideshow shows some crowd overviews before the concert started, taken from the spot I was at:

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Andy Burrows, the second opening act, was good. He used to be part of a band called Razorlight with which he had scored this hit called America. Then, at just before 9 pm, Muse finally took the stage. And yes, yet again, I loved the concert from its first beat! The music is always excellent, the singing is always excellent and the show they give is always great too. Here some pictures, mostly screenshots from some short videos I took (click on images to enlarge):

The great part of being on the wheelchair podium is that the view is good, the downside is that wheelchair people (at least at this concert) don’t sit-dance that much. This means that I, and also my sister, were probably the most active hands in the air, fist bumpers and clappers there. Also, lots of coming and going on that platform which was somewhat distracting. Next time, I think I’d prefer to be in the crowd. 🙂 Nonetheless, I enjoyed the concert immensely with neon lights and laser lights and dancers with lightsabers and silver plated suits. Here is one of their most famous songs that someone filmed, Uprising, at the beginning of the concert…

… and a video of when a huge creature emerged on stage near the end of the concert…

Anyway, when Knights of Cydonia started playing (traditionally always their last song at concerts), I was bummed it was almost over. The crowd went wild (yet again) with that last song, it’s always a total crowd pleaser, but alas, Muse really was done after it ended.

We met up with Suzy after the concert and I was glad to hear that she had enjoyed it immensely as well! It was her first Muse concert, and my 4th or 5th, but I have a feeling there will be more Muse concerts for Suzy and me in our future. 🙂 And we need to meet up again extra to catch up some more as we didn’t get around to enough of that this time around. Muse in September in Amsterdam, Suzy? Might be tough, though, with that concert already sold out and my finances a little depleted, but we’ll see…

A blanket of joy over 15.000 people

Last night my friend, my sister, her girlfriend and I went to Amsterdam to see Hugh Jackman on stage in his show The Man, The Music, The Show.

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I knew what to expect from YouTube films I had seen from some years ago of Hugh doing such a show in Australia but what I wasn’t quite prepared for was the blanket of love and joy that one man was able to spread out over an audience of 15.000 people. It helps if you like the musical numbers he performs but I imagine that even if you don’t like the music, the joy just emanates anyway and is irresistible. Hugh Jackman really loves doing this.

The show opened with images of iconic Hugh Jackman film moments set to the opening beat of the song The Greatest Show, followed by a full on energetic performance of that song and the following song Come Alive by Hugh and his crew. I tried to take pictures with my phone but the quality isn’t great (some of these are snapshots from videos I took that aren’t great quality either, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them).

He proceeded to welcome the audience, telling us in one Dutch sentence that he couldn’t speak Dutch. He tried to pronounce Dutch town names in song, very quickly, which cemented the connection to his audience. He looked at an audience member and commiserated with him being there as there would be no Wolverine in this (“it’ll be a long 2 hours for you”). He was present, knows where he’s at, acknowledges what’s happening around him and engages the audience with humour. He then started to tell stories of his youth and the beginning of his careeer. He sang the Gaston song from Beauty and the Beast, which had been his first musical role. The joy with which he performs this is just infectious.

Someone filmed it and put it on YouTube…

He spoke so lovingly about his wife Deb and his kids, it was heartwarming and there were ‘aw’s coming from the audience. He sang a song that that had been sung at their wedding (The Way You Look Tonight). In the pictures I took Hugh is mostly a blob of light but luckily that was not how we actually saw him when he performed. It’s just tough getting good pictures with all the effects lighting, but it does give you a sense of the atmosphere.

Pictures taken off the screen were better…

Before the intermission there was a Les Miserables section with a medley of Valjean’s Soliloquy / I Dreamed a Dream / One Day More. Especially in the soliloquy Hugh showed that he was not just singing a song, he was also acting the role and became Jean Valjean for a little bit, which made the performance extra powerful. The man was giving everything.

After the intermission he became Peter Allen, The Boy From Oz, a role that had earned him a Tony Award.

That was a really fun segment where he went into the audience and picked up a guy to dance with him on stage. The guy’s girlfriend was asked up as well, Hugh couldn’t pronounce her name ‘Maartje’ but he did kiss her “94” times on her cheeks as that is how Dutch people greet each other (“when you meet someone in Holland it’s like you’re married!”). Hugh referenced one of the moments during this segment on Twitter last night:

The segment ended with a spectacular show with among others the song I Go To Rio

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He then sat down to sing the Peter Allen ballad Tenterfield Saddler beautifully…

… and that was followed by an absolutely captivating performance of A Million Dreams (another song from The Greatest Showman). A dancer performed the song in sign language and dance, Hugh joined in beautifully and at the end (not filmed anywhere that I could see) Hugh received a standing ovation. I couldn’t film the standing ovation myself because I was clapping my heart out but I did film the performance (and film doesn’t quite do it justice, it felt more special live).

Hugh received his standing ovation after the song graciously, he looked a little emotional during it, you could see him savouring the moment. (MTA that I have now indeed found a clip of Hugh receiving his standing ovation and being somewhat emotional HERE).

There then came a Broadway segment (with Singin’ in the Rain for instance)…

… and a beautiful sequence with an Aboriginal group of singers that ended in a lovely rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

There was a tap dance and drums sequence and at the end of that Hugh did do a Wolverine growl, to the delight of the crowd. I didn’t get a good shot, this is the best I have, where he used his drumming sticks for the claws. The body language totally says Wolverine!

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He did From Now On, my fave song from The Greatest Showman, and everyone was up on their feet for that.

The final song was a Peter Allen song called Once Before I Go. This last song became a little special as it contained a brief second or two of my ‘personal’ Hugh-encounter! By this time the audience (including my friend and I) had been swaying along to several songs with the phone lights on, this song was no exception. I heard later that my sister and her girlfriend, who were sitting elsewhere, had joined in with the lights as well.

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Anyway, my friend and I said to each other that when Hugh turned our way again, we’d stop the soft rhythmic swaying of our phones and we’d just wave our lights madly at him to say ‘hi’. We did just that and, lo and behold, he registered us and he waved right back at us! I found a video of this exact moment on YouTube, filmed by someone who must have been sitting not too far off from where we were sitting. At 1:28 – 1:30 minutes into the video you can see Hugh registering something, he gives a little smirk and then he waves right at us, in the same rhythm as we are waving our phone lights at him.

There was no way he could have really seen us, but he had seen our lights and he had answered our greeting with a greeting of his own. That’s awesome, right? Yeah, had to screen cap that… this is Hugh saying hello to my friend and me!

The only down side to this concert was that after this song, Hugh was immediately gone, the big lights went up and it was all over. But what a glorious evening we had had!

So, yeah, I did have to buy a tour book as a keepsake. The merch prices are always a little steep, but I just couldn’t resist it…

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If there is one thing to admire about Hugh Jackman it is that he knows how to live in the moment. He is very present and focused, reacts to what happens around him, he is joyful and exudes pleasure in what he does. He has a huge heart that he is able to openly share with thousands of people at a time and because of that everyone opens their hearts to him in return. He has done and will be doing this show many, many times with the same stories and jokes and songs and yet it feels fresh and new, as if he is performing it the first time in full just for you. It is amazing that you are in a stadium with 15.000 other people and yet somehow the man seems to be speaking to you. He can spread love and joy and make you feel special and that makes Hugh Jackman a special kind of man.


MTA – I have now also compiled a playlist of the evening:

BTS – the stress!

So, my daughter has become fan of the Korean K-pop boyband BTS.  

She and a friend of hers have seen the concert movie, that came out a few months ago, two or three times in the cinema. She knows the songs (although she doesn’t sing along to the Korean parts, that’s a little tough), the stories they sing in their songs (taken from their life experiences), the boyband members’ names and their background stories. In her room she now has a little BTS shrine…

… and now the boyband is doing a world tour and they are coming to London. With cheap lodgings possible at my brother’s house my daughter is desperate to go with her friend. And who am I to stand in the way of fangirls? So, last week Friday we were ready for the sale to begin for the show on June 1st at Wembley Stadium. I was logged in on a laptop, my daughter was logged in, her friend was logged in at her home as well, as was her friend’s brother. Oh man, we tried for hours, but no dice, no tickets! Even my work colleague, who I was Skype chatting with, offered her help, but no luck. There is also a show in Paris, so we tried that as well, even though lodging would be way more expensive, but nope, couldn’t get anything there either. The girls were very disappointed.

Last Saturday morning a second Wembley concert was announced for June 2nd and the tickets went on sale this morning. My daughter couldn’t be home, so I logged in on two laptops…

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… my colleague also logged in at home and the brother of  my daughter’s friend was logged in. Again, no luck! Got all sorts of errors on the website, my colleague got those same errors.

Finally we got this one, which was supposed to mean we had made it into a queue…

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… but even then we got kicked out. My colleague at one point was able to secure two prime tickets (the most expensive, but what the heck) but when she wanted to proceed to check out was kicked off again. Happened to me as well a few minutes later with two other tickets. Aaaargh, the frustration! But then finally, after about 45 minutes my colleague got through and sure enough, was able to secure two tickets! Quite high up and to the side of the stage but good enough.

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My daughter, who had just come in from an appointment and was going off to school again soon, was over the moon! After my colleague got in, I also got in (several times, actually, after refreshing) but the tickets I could purchase were even further back. So, these two tickets are it. And oh my goodness, the stress and heart palpitations this has cost me… Who knew a Korean boy band would be so popular?

I’m glad I’m working from home today, I couldn’t have survived this stress at the office. Speaking of stress at the office, another colleague was apparently in a heated argument with micro-manager yesterday. Looks like the next generation of micro management warriors is standing up. Anway, let’s not think of work. I need to de-stress after this whole ticket saga. Looks like I have another London trip to book. I’ll be going to London with the girls, just won’t join them for the concert. K-pop isn’t quite my thing and the girls want to fangirl on their own. 🙂

Jeff Lynne’s ELO live in Amsterdam

Last night Mr Esther and I went to see ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) perform live in Amsterdam at the Ziggo Dome concert hall. Actually, it was Jeff Lynne’s ELO, as the original ELO are not together anymore. This was before the concert started…

The warm up act was a singer called Billy Lockett. He had a great voice, the music was nice and he was just cute in his interaction with the audience. The hall was three-quarters full, I think, when he sang and he seemed pleased with the reception.  Said he thought that there were more people there than he has followers on Twitter, which may be a fair point. 🙂

We all came to see ELO, however, and boy, did they deliver! Mr Esther (along with a friend) had seen Alan Parsons live a few months ago and had been disappointed in the Parsons voice. He hoped Jeff Lynne would be better and Lynne certainly was! His voice is still great and he had great backing singers as well. The band was good and there were violins and a cello, which gave a beautiful richness of sound. Add to that the beautiful background graphics and the light and laser show and it certainly was one heck on an evening! Here are some picture impressions (click on images to enlarge)…

The only down side was that there were seats also in the field (where we were). We wondered why there would be seats but figured maybe it had to do with the average age of the audience being a bit older than our age. When you want to dance and clap besides sing along, it’s hard to stay in your seat, especially as most of the concert was upbeat. It’s also annoying when people complain when you jump up and stay up for a while. However, that didn’t stop us from dancing in our seats (and waving with our hands and clapping and singing along and woohoo-ing). Finally, the last 20 minutes or so, people couldn’t stay in their seats any longer and when Don’t Bring Me Down started playing, everyone got up on their feet and stayed there till the end of the concert. Here, a clip I found on YouTube from last night of Jeff Lynne’s ELO singing that song…

One of my fave songs of theirs is Mr. Blue Sky

… but really, all the numbers they performed were great (check out last night’s setlist here). I could share many more clips that I found on YouTube from last night, but I won’t bore you with them all here. If you’re curious just type in “elo ziggo dome 2018” in YouTube search and you’ll find loads of clips there. 🙂

Mr Esther got a concert t-shirt with the ELO spaceship on it…

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… and we left the concert very happy and wishing it had been longer than the 90 minutes or so that it was. Should they play anywhere near you (and you like their music), go see them live, it’s totally worth it.

 

The real Slim Shady!

Yesterday evening, Mr Esther junior and I went to see Eminem perform live in Nijmegen in the east of the Netherlands. My son has been an Eminem fan for about 3 years now and this concert was the gift he got from us for his 17th birthday. He is the only one of his friends who really loves Eminem, so, as they are no fans, I said I’d love to go with him. I’m not a rap or hip hop fan at all but through Es jr’s influence I have started to really like some of Eminem’s songs and found myself excited to be going to this concert as well! Of course, my excitement was no match for Es jr’s excitement.

We got there quite early, in the afternoon. I got Es jr a commemorative concert t-shirt which he absolutely loves…

We walked around, got drinks and something to eat and then secured ourselves a nice little spot. Es jr didn’t want to go up too far in the front, he doesn’t like the pushy crowdy element when close to the stage. It was quite hot, so while waiting and chatting we shielded ourselves from the sun for a bit.

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The evening started with two rap acts to warm up the crowd. Finally, at around 9.20 pm, Eminem started his concert and Es jr was in seventh heaven. This was pretty much our view – good view on the screens and we could see Eminem (encircled in this picture) jumping around and rapping on stage.

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He had an MC/side-kick to help whip up the crowd and sing along with him and it was a great concert! He sounds great live, just like on his recorded music and really gave his all to make the concert a good one. Eminem hasn’t been to the Netherlands in 15 years, so him singing ‘Without me’ where he sings “Guess who’s back? Back again? Shady’s back, tell a friend!” seemed extra topical.

For those who don’t know, Eminem is also nicknamed ‘Slim Shady’…

He sang a lot of great songs, some of his greatest hits…20180712_213524_resized… and Es jr could rap along with pretty much all of them! He was also not shy to stick up his middlefinger together with thousands of others when asked to do so by Eminem.

Eminem has this one song where he does a really quick rap in the song “Rap God”. In fact, I understand that that song is in the Guinness Book of Records for being the hit single which contains the most words.

There was a beautiful section where Eminem sang some duets with Skylar Grey, songs that have been recent hits from his latest album. Skylar Grey really has a great voice! He also did this song with her from 2000 called “Stan” about a stalker fan…

As the sun set, it all looked even more beautiful.20180712_223703_resized

The last song ‘Lose yourself’ (one of my fave Eminem songs) was beautifully lit and beautifully performed, a perfect end to the concert.

It ended with a few fireworks…20180712_225316_resized… and it really was over all too soon. In fact, that may be my only gripe: the concert lasted barely 90 minutes. I’m used to concerts being a little longer than that, would’ve been cool to have a little more. No matter, though, we were very grateful for all that we had seen and heard and Es jr really was very happy! “I can’t believe Eminem is here, so close to us in the flesh!” he beamed at me during the concert. And: “Best birthday gift ever!” he exclaimed afterwards. This concert certainly is a memory to treasure, for Eminem and for sharing that with my son. 🙂