What a night! But the day begins in the mid afternoon. I was hoping to leave at 3pm, but left exactly thirty minutes later. I had only refuelled on Friday, so my trip mileage counter was reset and showing only 2.5, as I pulled out of my drive. As I had given myself so much time to make to our second city, I was not in a hurry. I was going to cruise at 70, and listen to my favourite a-ha songs and enjoy the drive. The sun was slowly setting in the distance, as I got onto the M40, which although not busy was quite steady. I put my foot down to beat the first few weekend drivers and lorries. I had my live version of Take On Me playing and then Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears. After a while I wondered how Arsenal were doing against Bolton, so switched over to FiveLive. To my horror, we were two nil down and had put on a poor show. Although on any other Saturday evening, that would have dapended my spirits, instead I looked forward to the concert. Switching back to the CD changer as the NEC drew ever closer. It was 16:45 exactly as I pulled up into the parking space on a cold, damp winter night. It has been raining earlier throughout the day, so the ground was a slush of wet leaves and grass. My mileage counter read 88.2 miles as I stepped out of the car, I took a deep breath. My Saturday night adventure was just about to begin.
As my sister was coming from Nottingham, after finding the venue, I headed down the road to Birmingham New Street. I arrived just after 5.30pm, but would be waiting just under an hour before my young sister would arrive. Then we literally had three minutes to grab some food before jumping on the Virgin Train to London Euston, which would stop at Birmingham International. The journey took eleven minutes and gave us time to quickly catch up and grab some food. Then, it was rushing off the train to join the rest of the crowds heading towards the Arena. We picked up a programme, which while rather light, gave details of this UK tour, which goes hand in hand with their latest studio album (eight, that is correct!) I have only heard the first single from the new album, but went over to Amazon this morning to order my copy. I think it will be a case of taking some time to listen to the material, to see whether or not it grows on me. This was my first concert, so I was apprehensive of many things. Would we have good seats? What there be a good mixed crowd? Would they play my favourite songs? Would it be mad rush on the roads going home?
As we made our way into the arena, avoiding the temptation to buy any merchandise, I was impressed with the seating area. Then absolutely chuffed to be quite near the front, with a great view of the stage. Booking early, (15th April to be exact!) does have benefits. (Having just gone back and read that entry, I feel a sense of great relief of going for it!) However, when we found our seats, someone was sitting (quite innocently in my sister’s seat!) and as usual, I got talking. More on that later.
The supporting act was a fellow Norwegian folk singer, Ana Brun. I can only describe her as a poor man’s KT Tunstall. While I quite enjoy folk music, there is a time and a place, and the audience did eventually have enough and were glad when she exited the stage for the main act. There is only so much slow emotional music you can listen to on a Saturday night. The lights dimmed and the audience rose to their feet as a-ha appeared on stage. Then the lights eluminated the arena.
As expected, they opend with Celine, the first single from the new album and overall it is an enjoyable, uplifting radio friendly pop song. I have to be careful with my use of the world pop. A-ha have grown up and their sound has matured from the electronic synth of the 1980s into a more guitar based light rock. I will publish a full set list later, but one of my favourite a-ha songs was played a few songs in. It is called Weight Of The Wind, from their second album, Scoundrel Days.
Of course, when they played their signature tunes, ‘Take On Me’, ‘Hunting High & Low’ and ‘The Sun Always Shines On TV’ they got the whole crowd going. However, some of the other tracks, including heavier rock version of The Living Daylights and Stay On These Roads impressed the hardcore fan base. Overall, a great evening and a great way to spend my first Saturday night in December. I will try and post some more photos later in the week and include more feedback, particularly when I receive the new album. For the time being, I will leave you with some strange and wonderful trivia, which I am sure you will not know. Which artist has played to the highest number of paying people? Who holds the unofficial record for holding the longest note in a song? Answers on a postcard.