So here we are in Manchester. I live here (well, it’s where the suitcase gets unpacked, anyway). It’s famous for many things, not least some of the finest bands of all time. It’s also well known in the UK for often being somewhat damp. Today though, there literally is not a cloud in the sky.
The white covering they’ve used on the cricket pitch is also bouncing the sunlight back up into people’s faces to such a degree that everyone is positively squinting as they work today – which makes a nice change from moaning about the rain…
The tour offices here are located in the structure that houses the VIP boxes when the venue is carrying out its day job as Lancashire County Cricket Ground (and not galavanting with pop groups on the weekend). This means that a quick slide of the glass doors means we can spend the afternoon on the balcony with the laptop watching the day unfold.
I’ve mentioned before that the touring crew now has a pretty high proportion of Americans and Canadians, which means that whilst for many of us we’re finally on home turf, there are a lot of folks still a very long way away from home.
This is borne out by a conversation overheard in the dressing room corridor where someone remarks that they couldn’t make head nor tail of the Manchester accent and had spent the day asking people to repeat themselves. Given that the next two shows are in Dublin and Glasgow, I don’t much fancy their chances for things improving…
Chris makes mention during the show that there was a little trepidation about returning home to the UK after so long away. I remember coming back before Christmas last year and it was certainly a bit of a strange experience.
Tonight though, when In My Place kicks in and the stadium is flooded with light, the welcome is ecstatic.
For a long time now, Chris has introduced the closing sing-a-long section of Yellow to the audience as "your X-Factor audition". It’s a logical extension then, to find Simon Cowell aboard and in full effect. I’ll not ruin the gag for the shows still to come. Hard but fair is all I’m saying…
Tonight, there’s a camera for the video screens way out in the crowd, dead centre. I decide it’s a good spot to clamp up a couple of cameras myself and let them run through the show. I go out during the C-stage section to check on them.
I’ve always enjoyed being in amongst the crowd as the band step off the stage after Lost. Some people think it’s the end of the show and bail for the car park to miss the traffic (and the last EIGHT songs!), mostly though the response at this point is just confusion.
People aren’t sure what’s going on and then gradually, they pick out the spotlight that’s following the fellas through the crowd and out to the tiny platform right in the midst of the cheap seats. Tonight, I hear my all-time favourite quote from someone next to me who clearly hasn’t quite sussed that the band are behind them. They look at the video screens in front of them, as the band get their acoustics on and get started at the other end of the stadium.
"Where did the stage go?" they ask. Genius.
I make it to my cameras on the tiny little platform in the middle of the crowd just as everyone realises where the band actually are. I look over my shoulder and see the crowd sweep across the floor towards the C-stage. For a moment I’m utterly convinced that I’m not going to make it back to the main stage in time for the encores.
I’m too far from the C-stage to run back with the band and there’s a crush of about three or four thousand folks trying to get a better view if I go the other way. Still, at least I’m on home turf, so I do have the advantage that they can all understand my bumbling-Englishman-apologising routine. A thousand "excuse me, terribly sorry"s later and I’m back onstage ready for the band to do the encores.
I glance over my shoulder and see that I’ve beaten them to it. The Viva remix is almost running out and they drag themselves onstage with just enough time to pull on a clean shirt and drag a towel over their faces before getting back up there.
Good to be back…