Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Expo & Cons You Raise Me Up 2015 - My Cardiff Adventure by Claudia Lindner

You Raise Me Up 2015  -  The John Barrowman Concert Tour

My Cardiff adventure

By Claudia Lindner

I never had the opportunity to attend a concert of John’s and when he announced his tour last year I knew, I had to be there! It was clear from the beginning that I wouldn't be able to afford to go to several venues, but just one. And it was also clear that given that, it would be Cardiff, because Cardiff is....Torchwood!

So I got a ticket for  John's concert in the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena on Saturday, May 30th . I flew to Birmingham on Friday, where a nice friend from the fan group picked me up and altogether with another fan from the group we drove to Cardiff. This way I could enjoy the coming into Wales on the Severn Bridge, which I have always wanted, as it is part of Torchwood, too and this bridge is quite spectacular – what a view.

After travelling most of the night, the morning and noon I was quite happy to finally get to my room at the B&B at 3pm and just lie down, feet up (because these were aching like hell!). And I almost immediately fell asleep, but woke up in time to get dressed & bus to the city centre and Cardiff Bay. When it became visible still some streets away, I really got excited, as it's so huge and looks fantastic, and I've always seen it on Torchwood and suddenly it became real!
So I hurried to get to the Millennium Centre and Roald Dahl Plass, and when I got there, wow! The whole scenery and the whole place was amazing!

I met some other fans and we were walking around the Bay. The Plass, the Pierhead Building, Mermaid Quay...and it's not just the beauty of the places or the buildings, but it was so interesting  as it felt like wandering around on a film/tv set all the time. I was constantly pointing towards spots where this or that scene of Torchwood – and some Doctor Who - was filmed.

   „Oh, look, there they were standing when Rex got them arrested on MD“. „Over there Jack and Ianto were sitting on CoE ep. 1“. „This path was where the team was running to the Torchwood entrance at the tourist's information in „Cyberwoman“.

And all those episodes where they were standing on or walking over the Plass, next to the Millennium Centre or standing on the step of the Torchwood Tower...Well, I can tell you, this Torchwood sightseeing went on all weekend and all over the city and I had so much fun with that! I was happy that water was running down the Torchwood tower for most of the weekend, as I had heard that's not always the case. But so the pics on the step turned out more authentic! Needless to say I wasn't granted entrance to Torchwood. Meh!

Oh, and I saw the Ianto shrine for the first time. It's so awesome they kept it over this long time. And it's so surreal to have a memorial inscription for a fictional character, but both things show how popular Torchwood and Ianto as a character are and what love and pride the Cardigans have for this show.

This night, we had a fan group dinner in a restaurant at Mermaid Quay, called Demiros, a nice place, which was packed on this Friday night. It was a great evening, meeting a lot of other fans for the first time and some again and getting to know some more. What I really enjoyed is how virtual people I knew from fan groups, Facebook and Twitter became real people. You may have known their names and faces,  but meeting them in real life and talking and chatting to them is definitely something else. So we had a great dinner, great chat and even some entertainment. John didn't come to sing for us ;),  he was doing  his concert in Blackpool that night, by the way, but there were singers in the restaurant who sang opera arias for us, and quite professionally, I should add.

Oh, and I should mention that the Roald Dahl Plass, The Millennium Centre and the Torchwood Tower also look spectacular when it's dark – and again, so many Torchwood moments came to my mind...

So I finally made it back to the B&B, which is quite an achievement considering the...ummm...creative Cardiff bus system. I don't know how the Cardigans deal with THAT. Every city bus map I looked on has this really big dot „City Centre“ on it, as if it was one big central bus stop, when it is actually dozens of bus stops with different names somewhere in the city centre. But you can't find them on the bus plan, as it's all absorbed under „City Centre“ which is confusing!

The next day started early and I knew it would be a long one, so I started with a good basis of...well, no breakfast at all. There was no time for that, as our tour of the city was to start early. And I had to get there first...the bus system, you know...  As it turned out, there was no time for a coffee or tea or a snack later either. And certainly not for dinner. I managed to eat nothing until late that night. I probably solely lived on excitement all day.

The group was taken on a Cardiff sightseeing tour by Tony Lloyd, a great guy and fantastic guide for Woodies and Whovians, and we really had a fun tour around the city with him. Check him out on FB if you are looking for a guide! Oh, we went to so many torchwoodesque places, but it wasn't all Torchwood or Doctor Who on that tour. We saw a lot of sights...the Castle, the National Museum of Wales, where inside a lot of Who and Torchwood scenes had been filmed. :)

Also, we saw the old Glamorgan Building of Cardiff University, which was used to film the alien mayor escaping over the balcony and running away from the  Doctor and his companions in Boom Town. Its balcony also was the place where Captain Jack's first appearance on the balcony in London during WW2 was filmed. We had to re-enact that, of course! :)

We learned some Welsh words and about Wales' national symbols (more or less all stolen from battle enemies, according to Tony ;) ) and some others like leek. How fantastic is that, I mean, which country has something like leek as a national symbol?

We also visited the Castle Arcade, a beautiful Victorian style shopping mall. They filmed Torchwood S1 ep. 13 there, End of Time, when Jack and Gwen had been in Bilis' shop „A Stitch in Time!“ Oh my god, Cardiff is such a treasure chest for me! But not only because of Torchwood, of course. It's just so amazing!

We returned to the Bay by bus to walk around there for another sightseeing tour and it was a beautiful, sunny afternoon – and hey, I actually got sunburnt there, which I didn't really expect at the end of May in Wales!

A bit later it was time to hit the stage door of the Motorpoint Arena to meet John, which means, fangirling content beyond this sentence.
I hadn't met John for over two years, and it actually would only have been my second overall occasion meeting him. The stage door at the Motorpoint Arena actually isn't so much of a stage door, but rather a driveway for delivery or people arriving, with a gate and security guards. So we were crowding at the sides of the driveway. John was late, so we spent some time waiting and entertaining ourselves. Again, it was fun meeting more fans you only knew online so far and chatting and taking pics and selfies.

Moreover, John's dresser Finlay McLay and his musical director Matt Brind joined us for some chat and took pictures with us. Both very lovely guys. Then John finally arrived in his „German beauty“ (his name for his car) with the very recognizable license plate. For those who never met him, know that he is even more handsome in real life than on pictures or tv. :)
As we were standing on both sides of the driveway, John came out and told us he wouldn't be able to take photos with us, as we were too many people and of course he only would do it for all or for no one. Fair enough, I'd say.

By the way, while he stood there, I made a fool of myself, because when he explained that about the pictures taking, I couldn't understand him and gestured that and shouted that to him. So he looked at me and answered something like „yes, that's because I don't want to shout, as I have a concert to do tonight“. Oops! I was so embarrassed, I felt like my face reddening like a tomato and gestured something like „sorry, ok“ to him, at which he reacted with something like an ok- gesture. Oops.

John then signed all our pictures and items for us, chatting a bit with us. He wasn't all goofy and quirky, but rather quiet and focused, yet still very kind. While he signed my „No H8“- bag I told him how thrilled I was to meet him and asked how he was. He replied „very well“ and I said how much I was looking forward to his concert, and he answered something like that I was in for a great night and everyone cheered. And John was off to the next person to sign their things. So this was a brief, but nice encounter. Oh, and John's phone rang during signing, so he stepped aside to take the call. It was obviously his PA Rhys, whom he told that he had forgotten something and asked him to bring it for him. I couldn't understand what it was, but other fans told me that it was his bathroom bag. I only overheard John saying something like „I can't believe I forgot it“, so might as well be.
Finally, John waved us goodbye and he went inside for soundchecks.

Now I had to hurry to get a bus or taxi back to my B&B to change clothes and then go back to pick up my ticket at box office to be in time for the concert and the supporting gig. Unfortunately, the bus stops I found only had buses going to totally unknown directions. And as it is with Murphy's Law, any other time dozens of free taxis would pass by, ready to pick you up, but at that moment? None.
So with growing despair I kept  running back and forth rather panicky in that area of the town, as it became later and later. Then finally I found one! Oh, and the driver asked me whether I was from South Africa, hearing my accent. I thought that was quite funny.

After changing clothes I had yet another adventurous journey with the creative Cardiff bus system, so that I made it just in time to pick up my ticket and to go inside for the concert. The supporting gig had just finished, so I missed Rachael Sage, which was a bit sad as I was curious about her music and singing.
The Motorpoint Arena is a pretty big one, I think, and it was buzzing with people. I think I saw some other fans I knew and some of John's web team, but I was far too excited to really notice.
Then the concert started with „Wrapped Up“ by Olly Murs, which was just another song I didn't think was so special, before I heard John singing it. Plus, John did a fabulous dance number with it with his new dancers who by the way were fantastic. And he already had the audience with this upbeat number. John was clearly very happy to be back in Cardiff, and he said it's coming home for him.

I have seen videos of John's concerts on stage and I have watched him on tv doing different shows including singing, but nothing prepared me for this experience. To watch John singing live on stage is something completely different! He has such a stage presence and can fill the biggest hall or arena with his voice. He's totally capturing your imagination, let alone your attention. I think John is made for the stage. He feels so at home there and is such a creative, spontaneous, yet professional and  dedicated entertainer. His voice for me is perfection and it's so intense when hearing it live. It's so powerful yet like velvet and he can fantastically belt out an 11 o'clock musical number as well as a ballad or a very emotional song. And that's also what was so great about his repertoire, it was so diverse. Who would sing songs like „Loch Lomond“ along with „Cuando, Cuando, Cuando“ or „Xanadu“ and „You Raise Me Up“, „Listen to the Music“ and „Walks like Rhianna“ in one concert? John did -  and he made it work!

One of the next songs was „Hero“,  and I have never heard somebody singing it like this. John puts so much of himself into it, he really lives his music and his songs, so that he had me in tears already with that song. 
Oh, and with „Walks Like Rhianna“, there was a  hilarious dance number again with John and his troupe, the male dancers in mini skirts, like the women, and long hair wigs, too. And some nice comedy with it, John playing terrified when they appeared or lifting their skirts.
Some fans were complaining that he didn't have his former dance troupe with him on this concert tour, but I think, change must happen, it would be boring otherwise, wouldn't it? Fans then would say, oh Barrowman is always doing all the same. ;) And his new dancers, also called the JB4's are equally good & really fitted in with John and the show.

The audience really was also vivid and went with the flow, as I did. Just the people I was sitting next to or in between were rather quiet, so I always felt a bit like a fool or misbehaving when I raised my arms to cheer or clap or jumped up to dance or cheered John loudly after songs. But I didn't stop doing it though – too much fun!
Then there was that sweet moment when John mentioned that little boy Dewi, who suffers from a form of cerebral palsy and needs an operation asap and for whom Eve Myles and Kai Owen had started fundraising shortly before. The boy's parents were in the audience – they happened to sit exactly two rows behind me. John addressed them and spoke about Dewi and asked his fans to donate some money for him and he also passed big plastic buckets for that to people in the front row to collect it during the interval. And I'm proud to say that we fans raised 3000 GBP. John announced it after the break and the parents were in tears – aw! (By the way, if you want to donate yourself, too, you can do it here https://www.justgiving.com/DewisDreams/

During the interval I finally noticed some other fans and chatted a bit with them and I also saw some of John's „webgirls“ and talked to one of them.

John's concert programme contained so many great songs and ideas, like when he sang „Superhero“ while the video screen displayed Malcolm Merlyn scenes from Arrow and the stage was aflame in green (Arrow) light. The song ended with John miming the Dark Archer shooting an arrow.

John's parents weren't on stage in Cardiff, they were having some family gathering up in Scotland. Though I would have liked to see them, I wasn't disappointed, because John and his show just were too good so that I didn't miss anything. But he made one of his dancers, Callum Aylott sing a song on stage. It was after a dance number and the dancers already had left stage and he called him back and asked him to sing „Go The Distance“, which Callum obviously has been auditioning the other day for some show. Poor guy, he was a bit overwhelmed and shy at the beginning, but after a bit of support by John, he really sang well.

Again, I must praise John's choice of songs to sing. As I mentioned, it was a really great mixture. And sometimes I was totally surprised, wouldn't have expected him to sing some of them. Like „Everlasting Love“. He shared a wonderful and sweet story about his Mum's 80th birthday with a video of her welcoming her childhood friend who was a surprise guest and whom she hadn't seen for decades. And I have loved that song for so long! As it is with John, he doesn't just sing those songs, he does his own rendition of it, with the Barrowman-twist, so to speak, as he did with this one, with some variations which showed off his amazing singing talent. He also gave us what he called his „Diana Ross“-moment during that song, when he made them turn up the house lights and told us to hug the person to the left and the one to the right and shouted at us if we wouldn't. ;) That was a real challenge for the woman next to me – she probably thought I'd crush her, but in the end, she did it, bless her. ;)
I was also thrilled that John sang two Cole Porter songs: „Thing called Love“ and „Just one of these Things“. Awesome! I sometimes think Cole Porter must have written the songs with John in mind to sing them, he sings them so beautifully, with so much energy and verve, and his voice is perfect for them.

John's outfits also were fabulous, with a lot of sparkle on his collars and sleeves -  masses of sequins on it as well as on his shoes. From his videos and tweets we know Finlay had a shit load of work putting them on and repairing it when they fell off on stage! And you should definitely see John on stage in sparkly kilt, that was amazing!

He wore it when he sung „Loch Lomond“ which again made me cry and got the audience onto their feet, as they did several times this evening. As encore he sang his very own theme song „I Am What I Am“ and audience cheered and applauded wildly when he finished and finally went off stage.
Wow. I was sad when it was over and I immediately wanted to see it again, a feeling which stayed with me for the rest of John's tour which I then only was able to follow from afar. :(
It's not just John singing or dancing, his concerts are a piece of art and entertainment. He sings, he dances with his troupe, he tells stories and shows pictures and videos with them. I follow John on social media, but many of the stories and pics and videos were new to me and he has so much comedy talent when he performs them or imitates people.

For instance he showed a video where he and Scott threw some balls for their dogs down a hallway in their hotel on a trip to San Francisco and the dogs chasing after them. He then told us that after that he got a call from the „duty manager“of the hotel who had a heavy spanish accent and told him they had heard John „was rolling his balls“ in the hall. Me writing about it is not even a quarter as funny as John telling the story and imitating the guy's voice. Hilarious! That particular story also was an introduction to the song „This is the Moment“ and for John just one of these moments in life you have to enjoy to the fullest, as they never come back!  All his stories were great fun,  and John also interacted a lot with the audience – chatting naughtily with some, especially (probably hot) guys. :)
It was a great evening! If you ever have the chance to see John live on stage in concert – do it! It was absolutely and ultimately so much more than worth the effort, the costs and the slightly complicated journey to Cardiff and back!
There are a lot of songs and stories from the concerts online, so check them out on YT and other sites if you would like to see and hear what I've mentioned here. :) It will certainly whet your appetite for John's concerts!
After the concert we went back to the stage door to wave John goodbye. As John was driving himself home, he couldn't come out the sun roof of course to wave us, but he wouldn't have anyway, as it was raining – naturally. So we only watched him leaving the Motorpoint Arena and driving away to Sully. I was pretty wet by then and so we all got a taxi to get on our way back to our hotels.

The whole Cardiff trip and John's concert was an awesome adventure, so I won't bore you with pathetic stories of  my lost train ticket (which I managed to print out again thanks to great help from a friend – thanks, Audrey -  and the people in my B&B – thanks, Paul!) or of an exhaustingly long and annoying journey back home including awful airports, coffee shops with rude employees and missed trains late at night at godforsaken railway stations (After 13 hours travelling, I finally arrived home on Sunday night). Let's just focus on positive things which happened after that awesome concert: I had a great breakfast in my B&B including fantastic Veggie Eggs Benedict – to die for! After checking out, I took the bus to the Bay and sat by the Torchwood tower, walked around Mermaid Quay and bought Welsh Cakes (delicious!) and also walked over to the Norwegian Church and patted the Scott sculpture just like Tommy did in „To the Last Men“ (unfortunately, I have no picture of that – my camera battery already died on Saturday)
It was a great trip, just too short, and I must come back to Cardiff as soon as possible, with more time on my hands!

And when there will be the next JB-concert tour – I will definitely be there again!

John's concert set list

First half:
Wrapped Up
Quando Quando Quando
Just One of those Things
Thing Called Love
Listen to the Music
Thousand Years
This is the Moment

Second half:
Keep It Comin' Love
Walks Like Rhianna
Loch Lomond
Everlasting Love
You Raise Me Up
I Am What I Am

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