Saturday, October 15, 2011

Flashback V.

All about a Belgian sandwich. [B-B-B Benny and the Jets!]

As most of you already know, my awesome friends got me, among other cool presents, a ticket to go to the Red Piano concert by Elton John, in Antwerp -- just an hour train away from Brussels. I've been meaning to write up this entry for a while, but put it off because of, well, insert any excuse here :) Anyway, here it is.

Thank you, guys! Miss each and everyone of you a lot.

7:15 pm, Tuesday October 13, 2009.

I'm so excited! The concert is starting in just over an hour. With help from CS, I've arrived in Antwerp (or Antwerpen -- I can never tell) safe and sound. When I left the house this morning, I've gone through the list:

1. Ticket? Check.
2. Hotel booking? Check.
3. Leave the studio/apartment unlocked so that the cleaner can come in and clean it? Check check.

Okay, #3 was just so I could tell you that I had a cleaner who came weekly on Wednesday, but I did have to make sure that the door was unlocked. To tell the truth, I was slightly disappointed when I found out that I would still need to take the rubbish downstairs myself, because it is not in her job's description, but still!


10:17 am, Wednesday October 14, 2009.

Last night was awesome!! Where should I even begin?

I arrived at my four-star hotel with plenty of time before the concert. You know a hotel room is fancy when it has a shoe shining kit

and a trouser press!

When I entered the lift to go out of the hotel, I ran into a middle-aged couple and we started talking. Upon realizing that I was heading to Elton John the Red Piano concert, the guy told me that he's gone to the Red Piano concert in Dublin, and "The man is pure genius!" I took this to be a good sign! So, on the train heading towards the Sports Palace, the concert venue, when a couple asked me if I was going to the concert, I gave a very enthusiastic yes. Then, without saying any word, the lady burst out laughing. It was hard to imagine that she was that excited about me seeing Elton John, and they didn't bother explaining to me what was so hilarious, so here were my guesses: (a) she thought that going to see an old, gay English performer in Antwerp was a stupid thing to do, or (b) she was just drunk. Judging by the way she maniacally laughed at everything else that her, seemingly also drunk, boyfriend said later on, I am going with (b).


The venue looked about the same as the Entertainment Center in Adelaide -- lots of people and lots of food and drinks stalls (although these ones had chocolate, waffles and hot dogs instead!). I was so happy that I just kept walking around and around, stepping on people's feet several times while I was at it. Really, there were just a lot of people. Then I realized that the music was playing inside so I thought, why am I outside?

Some singer was doing his warm-up act while I was blindly finding my seat, inside the by this time half-packed stadium. My seat was number J8, and the usherette led me to the J row, and told me to count from outside in to find the 8th one. I was seated next to a British lady who came with her husband. The guy was singing in Flemish, I think, as Antwerp is a Flemish-speaking area, so I started to try to find something else to do besides listening to mumble jumble. I decided that checking if I had the correct seat was a good thing, because, as I explained to the British lady, the last thing I wanted was some person coming in and telling me that I got his or her seat. The British lady told me that her seat was 7, and her husband, sitting on the other side, was 6, so I was good. 

We started telling each other about our life stories, and the warm-up act started to sing an English song. By the time I realized that it was in English, he already moved on to another song, which was a toss-up between either French or Flemish. I asked the British lady. "No, sweetie," she replied. "It's English. He's sung English songs the whole time." When I raised my eyebrows, in order to (hopefully) conceal my embarrassment, she said, "He's a Londoner," by way of explanation for his accent, with a tone that made me realize, wherever in Britain she's from, it's definitely not London.

The concert was to start around 8:30 pm, but for some reason, EJ was late and the warm-up act took longer to finish. Around 8:40 pm, the usherette who helped me out before came in to tell my British neighbor that she was very sorry but the British was sitting in the wrong seat. So, I said goodbye to the couple and smugly contemplated the irony of the situation: me worrying that I was sitting in the wrong seat while it was them that got the wrong seats all along. I wasn't being smug for long. Ten seconds later, the usherette also told me that I got the wrong seat. Of course I did. If the lady wasn't in what she thought was seat number 7, sitting next to her, I most definitely wasn't sitting in number 8, either. I got very embarrassed and quickly got out of the row to find my real seat. The concert was getting darker by now, signalling that the warm-up act was about to finish and I got slightly panic, because I wasn't sure where to begin finding my real seat. About a minute later, the British lady waved her hand and told me to sit down next to her new seat. Things are always obvious when you are told the solution: of course my real seat would be next to her real seat. It wasn't my feeling-smart day, I tell you.

I sat down as the Londoner was saying his last words, before singing the last song. He graciously thanked the audience for the time, and EJ for the chance to perform. He was doing so well, until he said, "And, remember. Eat something. Drink something. Buy something. That's my motto." Well, I still remember it alright, but I don't think it has the same effect that he intended.

EJ took the stage with Benny and the Jets, and the stage had all massive letters lit up, making out his first name. The acoustics was amazing, and I was sooo close to EJ!! Okay, not close enough that he could hear what I would say, but I could hear everything he said.


As you can see, EJ was playing on a red piano, which probably explains the concert name, and he was sitting on top of a star-shape, well-lit red platform, wearing a glittered, embroiled black coat and a red top underneath, completed with red sunglasses. Towards the end of the show, he changed the red top into a blue top, paired up with blue sunglasses, just for a change. After the first song, which was definitely better than the cover version by a drunken Katherine Hegel in 27 Dresses that K., K., J. and I went to see, EJ greeted the audience and told us to "enjoy the show, because there's plenty of thing to look at tonight."

The instruction for giving an academic talk is often as follows: Divide your talk into three parts. The first part is for the general audience: short, sweet and simple. The second part is for the general mathematicians: a little more complicated, assume that they know logs and exponentials, but nothing else. The last part is for the experts in the field: show off your muscles, go for it. This, was what came to my mind as I was listening to EJ's concert, because I felt that it was the way he constructed the concert. Three parts: for the kids, for the teenagers, and then for the grown-ups. Let me explain. (Oh, and did I tell you, the central theme of the concert was Love, which explains all the red?)

The first part: for the kids.

As EJ was going through the famous songs, like Nikita, That's why they call it the blue, etc, the decoration of the stage was continuously changing. There were gigantic blown-up flowers, with a bright L-shaped light, all in red:

From the photo, you can see how tiny EJ was, compared to all the flowers. On the right side of the photo, you can see a part of the widescreen, where he later showed lots and lots of footage and pictures. What were they? Cue the second part.

The second part: for the teenagers.

The show had somber moments, when EJ was dedicating the song Daniel to Daniel Pearl, an American journalist who was murdered in Pakistan in 2002 while on his job, and when EJ sang the song Don't let the sun go down on me, as a remembrance to Stephen Gately, a friend of EJ and a Boyzone member, who passed away in the previous week. During these songs, on the widescreen there were images of a boy lying on some sort of bed, and the boy kept getting older until mid-30s and then the boy disappeared, with lots of commotion as a backdrop for the poignantly empty bed.

 I know it was a kinda inappropriate thought -- the kid was supposed to illustrate the loss of Daniel Pearl -- but I couldn't help thinking how good his body was!

Then, it was party time.

 I could try to explain the footage, but frankly I don't have an explanation and I don't think EJ did, either. I could upload more photos demonstrate what was also on the widescreen during the second part of the concert, but I think you have a fair idea. Except, perhaps, maybe you didn't expect that EJ also put in footage of his earlier days, which I wouldn't have recognized, had it not been for my British neighbour.

The third part: for the adults.

EJ started with the song Someone saved me tonight. It was the first time I heard the song, so I wasn't very familiar with the lyrics, and watching the widescreen didn't help me understand the song, either. I was not entirely sure why the clip was chosen for the song, seeing as there was no saving in it. The guy laid down two pillows, one on the floor to rest his knees on, one in the oven to rest his head on, then turned on the gas knob and committed suicide. We know he died because his soul, half-naked in skin-tight silver pants, was seen leaving his body, adorned with white angelic wings. So maybe the idea was that he died and someone would save him in heaven?

The room (on the widescreen) turned red, so did the walls, the chair, etc. We saw a bride walk in. We could tell that she was a bride because she was wearing a see-through floor-length veil, and it was about the only thing she wore, in addition to a white belt that covered nothing across her waist.

 I know it's hard to tell from this photo, but that is a belt, not a G-string. Just trust me. Well, okay, I know this because at one point she was sitting down to watch the soul dancing around, and it was like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct all over again, but at least Sharon Stone was wearing clothes, if not the most important garment. By the way, whatever this bride did, it did not look like saving to me, but then again, I'm not a guy. Maybe guys feel saved when they dance around with wings while naked chicks pretend to be brides and watch under sheer veils.

Then, we saw him in heaven. All the dancing must have worked. Maybe he was auditioning for a heaven ticket, and she was the heaven gatekeeper. (They must have strange uniforms for guards up there.) However, if she was indeed a gatekeeper, she wasn't seen on heaven, which was illustrated by the blue clouds. There was a cottage, and he was inside, begging a talking teddy bear to let him have some honey. He was probably exhausted from the dancing.

Down on earth in the red room, we saw her getting a little too bored and too energetic - which is never a good combination. She danced around, then she sat down (that Sharon Stone-style again), and then she stood up to dance some more. The male soul couldn't care less. He's now seen roller blading. On clouds. With the teddy bear.

You can certainly understand why guys would choose a talking bear over an angel, however naked she was.

This has all become too much for the bride. She threw a red-piano miniature onto the floor, and that was the end of the red-piano.

Clearly, it has become too much for the widescreen too, because it went off for the next three songs. As fascinated as I was about the video clip, I really enjoyed the three songs that EJ sang without any visual effects on stage. The band also disappeared, leaving only EJ with his piano, doing what he does best - singing and playing piano. When the widescreen was back, there was a couple dancing around, with the girl practically, you guessed it, naked. It's a bit like, with the song Someone saved me tonight, the widescreen has passed the point of no return.

There is no way I can to do the rest of the concert justice, so I'm just going to mostly upload the photos, and let you see them for yourselves.

When singing Candle in the wind, EJ showed the footage of the epitome of sexiness:

And, I can't remember what he was singing at this stage, but it was not important, because here's the other epitome of sexiness:

Judging by the size of the drummer, whom you can see at the bottom middle of the photo, you can imagine how big the pair of legs were. By the way, the pole dancer was Pamela Anderson, in case you can't recognize her boobs. While I don't remember what the song was, I distinctively remember it going for some good five minutes.

In those five minutes, the stage has transformed a little, into this:

At one point, EJ stood up and patted on the cherries below the banana, near his star-shaped platform. He also encouraged people to come up the stage and gather around his piano while he was singing... something. It's a little hard to pay attention to what exactly he was singing, because at this point the breasts where shooting out... confetti? or strings of papers? and red balloons were floating down from the ceiling, around the whole stadium. In addition to the pair of female legs, the banana and cherries and the upright, peeled banana, there were also a lipstick, a cigarette, an upside-down ice-cream cone and a hotdog. Don't ask.

In a few minutes later, all the highly artistic decorations were gone, and the over-enthusiastic concert goers were off the stage and back to their seats, EJ was back.

He hoped that we enjoyed ourselves throughout the concert, and that he wanted to sing one last song for the night, Your song, dedicated to everyone. It was a perfect ending for the night.

Before the last song started, EJ said, "Wish you a lot of of Love. Health. Happiness. And Sex." The Londoner could learn a thing or two from EJ about choosing the last words.

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