When I booked my tickets six months ago to see Take That, little did I know that it would be due to take place immediately following two of the worst terrorist atrocities on British soil.
I don’t mind saying that the suicide bomber at Manchester Arena last week, and the jihadi knife attackers on London Bridge on Saturday, struck fear in my heart and made me think twice about going to the concert last night. But then I thought that I already have to make compromises to accommodate one guerrilla in my life – the ever present Multiple Sclerosis that does its best to trip me up every day. I’m not going to make room for another terrorist to affect what I do.
And so defiantly, but with some degree of trepidation, the Pipster and I set off to the Genting Arena in Birmingham yesterday to see our favourite band.
At the time of booking no disabled access tickets were available. This isn’t unusual, I often think these tickets are as rare as the mythical unicorn. But past experience has taught me that you can usually swap them on the night. I don’t recommend this approach if you’re unable to negotiate stairs at all, but I had a coping strategy planned if they wouldn’t swap them. I would hobble up to my seat and then wait for everyone to leave at the end and slide down the stairs in my backside if I really needed to, I just hoped the ticket gods would be kind.
We arrived very early and were lucky to bag a Disabled parking space very near to the arena entrance. Where crowds are concerned I no longer bother to struggle walking with my stick. It’s far too easy to get swept along, knocked down and nearly trampled when you are the wobbly-legged one in a seething mass of humanity. I therefore always use my wheelchair for concerts. Not only does this mean I don’t get literally floored, it means the stewards spot me, take me to the front of any queues, usher me and the Pipster straight through raised barriers and point out all the accessible routes. And this is exactly what happened last night.
As soon as we went through the door a steward waved us over. The heightened security meant that we, like everyone else, were scanned and all bags were searched. We went straight to the box office and they swapped our seats for accessible ones with no problem whatsoever.
When we eventually took our seats we couldn’t believe our luck. The concert was in the round, the stage was in the centre of the arena with the mosh pit of dancing loonies who had standing tickets immediately surrounding it. We were on a platform above the head height of said loonies and had a perfect view, I stayed in my wheelchair and the Pipster had a chair next to me.
Of course Take That took part in the One Love concert in aid of the victims of the Manchester bombing prior to flying down to Birmingham and so we had a double whammy. The first part of the One Love concert was shown on screens in the arena before the support act, All Saints came on – and they were great too.
Is it another sign of old age that so many bands that I remember first time around are reforming and releasing new albums? Anyway, All Saints were fab. Who knew that the Appleton sisters could actually sing?
And then it was time for the main event.
The crowd went wild when Take That entered the arena, not on the stage, but through the audience and Howard climbed a platform directly in front of us to strut his funky stuff. There was a young girl with Downs Syndrome a couple seats along from me and she was so thrilled when he walked past and shook her hand, the beam on her face was ear to ear.
We were treated to two hours of spectacular staging, numerous costume changes, pyrotechnics and incredibly high energy performances.
For the record, Mark has a penchant for bizarre head-dresses and red platform boots, Howard favours MC Hammer “elephant arse” pants and Gary is clearly having a midlife crisis with his current bleached, bouffant “do”.
All that said, these boys sure know how to belt out a tune and put on a show! It was fantastic!
Another sign of old age, I remember the days when the crowd waved their lighters during the slow songs. Last night a million (well, 15,000) mobile phones were waved in a magical night sky for A Million Love Songs. Cheesy, but incredibly atmospheric.
It was all over far too soon and bearing in mind the Manchester bomber chose to time his attack as the crowd left the concert, the part I was dreading came around way too quickly. We didn’t hurry to leave the hall but waited until the initial rush had abated.
Again, the stewards were excellent and when a chap spotted me in the wheelchair he called us over and opened a side door which took us straight out to the Disabled car park and we were very quickly on our way home.
The terrorists didn’t stop us having a fantastic night out, watching a brilliant band at a very well managed venue.