Tuesday, 7 December 2010
Glam Nation: London
I managed to rush back after a hectic weekend, but on the morning of the concert, I woke up with a sore throat, loaded nose, congested head and the shivers. I debated whether I should risk making myself feel like death by waiting outside in horrid sub-zero temperatures, the coldest spell in years, but you can guess which voice won that debate in record time. I'd never done much queueing for gigs nor been to any alone, so in making the conscious decision to brave the arctic conditions for six hours, I was shocked by what a rabid fucking cray I'd become. But as soon as I reached the venue with my crystal glove (just in case), small queues of even more rabid fucking crays gave me plenty of reassurance regarding my sanity. Hooray for rabid fucking crays! (I can't believe I just wrote that.)
The majority of fans were female of various ages. Some who I thought must've been northerners wore very little and shivered in the name of glam, others resigned to standing in the most un-glam of black bin liners to try to stay warm. I'm not sure Adam would've approved. There were four different queues in total, where fans exchanged tales of how we fell for Adam, our encounters, concerts, favourite performances and songs, counting the hours down together, even bursting into song. There was a familiarity in the way that we eased into discussions, freely gushing. The affinity between complete strangers with a shared passion was very apparent, the warmth of kindness and chatter taking the edge off the icy weather.
It wasn't all rainbows though, as the cynic in me felt there were ulterior motives too. Little cliques formed, making it easier to keep track of people moving where they shouldn't and tugging on their consciences. I sensed an underlying steely determination and when it boiled down to it, everyone was for themselves. The cold was unbearable and unfortunately it brought out the worst in some. I got further from the front as people had been saving places for others who turned up last-minute, and others who just pushed in. I couldn't summon my inner Bitchy McBastard to complain because getting into an argument would've left a bad feeling hanging over me. Queue-jumpers, you know who you are and you should hang your ugly heads in shame. I'll remind you that for every queue placed jumped, a kitten gets throttled.
I'd taken a gamble to try to get up close as I'd already watched my last concert from the back of the room. When I finally got in, my heart sank because I realised I got shafted by the extra O2 priority queue and the extra Paris VIPs. Even after a six hour wait, I only managed to get into something like the tenth row, sardines squashed against me from all sides and too many heads in front. Faint and you'd still be standing. The result was not worth the endurance test. You had to hope you didn't drop anything as the chance of retrieving it without simulating oral sex with your neighbouring sardine was precisely zero. There was also no point spending time on my appearance as everything turned into a mess after the eye-watering cold. In fact it was so cold I kept most of my layers on. Not that anyone would've been able to see what I was wearing anyway. It's the only time wished I were a yeti with hygiene issues. A brick shithouse build, hairy coat and no one wanting to be within a metre of me would've been ideal.
The warm-up act were very enthusiastic and tried to get the crowd going but they weren't really my cup of tea. In the gap between bands, people shared glitter and glowsticks. The projector guy discovered that when a picture of Adam was shown, the crowd would scream so he started fucking with us by flashing the pictures, amused by the textbook Pavlovian response each time. As the time drew nearer, people started stamping their feet and chanting his name in eager anticipation.
When Adam came on, necks elongated, arms flung into the air and the temperature suddenly rose. I wish that on low stages, Adam would stay close to the front so the angle allows more visibility. I was frustrated by the lack of lighting, and the peacock feathers, arms and cameras obstructed my view. Since I couldn't beat them, I decided to join them with my camera doubling up as a periscope. I couldn't even hear the start of Voodoo through the screaming so missed the first few seconds.
I'd been used to seeing Adam in two dimensions, so seeing him in three was enthralling. His strong other-worldly presence left me awestruck and I felt more than ever that he inhabited a different plane of existence. Everything about him was amplified and much more accentuated. He was bigger, taller, brighter, glitterier, more radiant, more animated and more dramatic than any video can convey. I remember looking on in fascination at his mouth, how big it became and how thick his tongue was as he wailed through RoF. I was a little surprised by how long his hair had grown. It didn't look too healthy and his makeup seemed to be excessive, leaning towards drag but I appreciated its benefit to those at the back of the room who received that heart-stopping moment of eye contact as he scanned the audience. His movements were huge but graceful and sharp. Sometimes it was too much for me and I wanted him to stand still so I could take my time to look at and study his appearance. I wanted to touch him to see if he was real but he was out of my reach in every sense.
Fever started with toreador Adam squaring up to Tommy before going in for the kill. I couldn't hear his voice very clearly during much of the song but it was more than compensated for by those bonus riffs and stratospheric high notes. It turned out that every time he hit one, I gasped and felt a rush rise up and the crowd responded by screaming. I was thrilled that his voice was on top form and as so often happens on the last night of consecutive gigs, he went for it. The surprise ending was magnificent and my fellow sardines, equally amazed, turned to each other as if needing confirmation of what just happened.
I couldn't see much of the dancers during the interlude, I just remember Terrance who I'd describe as beautifully big and round, moving very fluidly. There was an extended intro to Sleepwalker which sounded great. We were all very excited, wondering if it was intentional and whether any surprises awaited. The images of the stone angel and lightning stayed up for a while before Adam came on but without drifting down the steps and without the long sweeping overcoat. I think the coat adds quite a lot to the performance, completing the image of the tortured lone comic-book hero so I missed it. He explained about the sound difficulties and when he spoke there was a strange effect. He sounded really high, lacking in depth and richness. Something wasn't quite right with the sound but it was eventually corrected.
He was very relaxed and uninhibited when it came to the banter at the start of WWFM, potty-mouthed and swearing freely as he spoke about the sound issues and how he considered this to be the last show of the tour. We sang along but it was over so quickly. Sometimes I think it's better that we don't know the lyrics off by heart so we don't sing over Adam. I felt this especially during Soaked, a spine-tingling version where the crowd was mercifully quiet for much of it but unfortunately a whistle opened the floodgates. I appreciated the effort Adam made in using Brit English when he talked about being "pissed drunk". My reflex was he was saying it wrong by following it with "drunk" but later realised he was clarifying it for large number of non-Brits present.
I didn't see Aftermath. He was too far back from the front of the stage and there weren't enough gaps between heads, so to watch it I had to follow the many camera-periscopes. The videos were the first I saw of it. The whole venue was once again united in song and I was surprised at preferring the sweeter tone of his voice here to that of the powerful Soaked. Much of SFW was done away from the front of the stage so I watched the lasers, jumping and fist-pumping with the rest of the room. Adam shouted something in a high voice loaded with impatience which I assumed was aimed at the sound engineer. His voice was a little drowned out during Strut but I loved the stompy bassline so just danced (i.e. shuffled on the spot because that was the only thing possible). The ending was unusual because he missed out all the "Strut for me..." but it was another stellar vocal. As I couldn't see much, I decided to film MA as it's one that's often missing. The crowd went wild when he used Tommy as his plaything. The ear-piercing screams got louder as the night progressed. IIHY was one of the most enjoyable performances as I gave up trying to see, just enjoyed the buzz, jumping about and singing with abandon. There was a massive note just before the dancer intros that we all went crazy for and I was grateful he stood on top of the plinths for some of the time. He really went for it at the end so I was entertaining thoughts of a bonus encore.
I was happy after hearing the opening chords of TCB that we didn't get MW. It was an electrifying performance which involved some titillating tongue-tickling with Tommy. I tried my best to tiptoe that little bit higher to see Floorbert but my frostbitten legs still hadn't completely thawed out. My joy fell by a few notches when it struck me that the concert was finished as the band relinquished their instruments to leave. Damn my fucking sore throat which stopped me making enough noise to help us get a double encore! I thought during the course of the evening that we might as it was the last one, Adam was cheekily unfiltered and the atmosphere was awesome. I was dearly hoping for WLL but perhaps the sound issues had already ruled it out. Time had whizzed by and the end seemed so abrupt. The crowd scarpered to the barricades but by the time I got there it was already about six deep. The reunification of gloves would not be happening this time.
For me, the highlight of the concert was that extraordinary marvel of a voice, so in that respect, it was the best I'd heard in a long time. Fever — usually one for visuals — showcased it to staggering effect. Whenever a superhuman high note was hit, mouths were agape in astonishment. But it wasn't all about the glory notes as I really came to appreciate the stunning soft timbre of the more subtle performances, soothing and caressing. I feel thankful to have experienced Glam Nation as I know that the scramble to see Adam in future will only get more challenging. I wrongly thought there'd be a fair chance of seeing Adam up close if I got there six hours early. It was the closest I'd been but the effort was wasted as I would've had a better view from the back of the room. A week later I'm still ill so unless guaranteed a place in the first couple of rows, I'll never put myself through queueing that long again. But the things we do for Adam never stop surprising us. Feel free to taunt me with that statement the next time Adam returns for a concert.