Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Concert Day: Manchester Evening News (M.E.N) Arena, Manchester, UK (October 10, 2011)

It has been a pleasant three nights’ stay in Glasgow. Good to not be travelling for three days, almost too good—as it’s mentally exhausting, afterwards, to switch back to travel-mode again.

The last Glasgow concert was the last concert for Jeroen to attend in the UK this time around, so we bid each other goodbye at around 9:00am as he was heading to the bus station (heading to the airport) and I made my way to Pret-A-Manger to grab a sandwich (for the ride) and then to Glasgow Central Station. Spent some time before boarding at Costa Coffee a few minutes away from the platform, blogging & relaxing before departure.

After spending four months on the road during last year’s Get Lucky Tour, having to get adjusted to all sorts of new things each and every day, I sort of got tired of it to the point that, nowadays, I’m trying to minimize the number of mental and physical challenges I put my efforts into. Rest & unwinding is priceless for trips like these; true, last year I was on a four months excursion while this year it’s a mere two weeks’ walk in the park, but still, with time, my appreciation to moments of peace and tranquility increases… exponentially.

My hotel—the Days Hotel right at the Manchester University area—is a pleasant, quiet hotel about half a mile away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Leaving Manchester Piccadilly station, I walked in the rain for about 10 minutes until I found the place and was happy to have roof over my head once again.

Zuzana, a friend of mine whom I had met just over two years ago at the Hurlingham Club charity concert, made her way from the Czech Republic to Manchester to catch the show, so we decided to spend the few hours before the concert together. Rain went pouring hard as we made our way to Wagamama for some good, fresh meal, then upstairs to Cafe Rouge for hot drinks.

There’s something about sipping a hot drink while you’re looking out through the window watching the rain pouring down. I wonder what it is that makes people (myself included) feel so good about themselves while doing this. I tend to think that it has something to do with a positive contrast experience—on one hand, watching the rain outside makes your mind wonder what it would be like to be outside in the cold & rain; and as soon as that sense grips your mind, a sip of hot tea makes you feel as if you have been rescued from the bloody cold world out there.

The aforementioned text might sound like drivel to you. Still, people’s minds and how they work is a topic I have been fascinated with for a long while now. I tend to show a great deal of interest in seemingly-unimportant things like that.

It was raining in Manchester—well, it has been raining non-stop since the morning—so we decided on an early arrival to the venue.

The Manchester Evening News (often abbreviated M.E.N) Arena is located within a few minutes walk from the city centre and is adjacent to Manchester’s Victoria Station. As a matter of fact, in order to get to the box office to collect your tickets, depending on which direction you’re coming from, you’re most likely end up walking through the station. I was walking up the stairs to the arena…


… Only to be sent back down and around to the box office to collect my ticket. No ticket mix-up this time and I ended up with a really great seat—fourth row centre.

A few pictures before the show:


To my immediate left, Val and Colin—a particularly nice couple whom I have met a few times during last year’s tour—were seated. Was good to see them again and catch up. Plus, it’s always a better concert experience to be seated next to nice people—I only wish the people seated right behind me were anywhere close to being so nice (I’ll get to that).

Time flies when you chit-chat; 7:30pm and the Wonderful Eight took the stage.

It was good being back at the center. Fourth row, behind three rows occupied by relatively short people, provided for great (well, “great” considering the fact that this is, after all, an arena) sound and ideal view of the stage. Theoretically a perfect setting for taking a few shots—alas, this tour’s photography policy is all Mr. Dylan’s work and I decided to comply. Not much so, though, for scores of other concertgoers: shots were taken—stills and video—around me, as if nobody asked for the contrary.

Carrying on the upswing in quality, the concert yesterday evening was a bliss. The band seems to be pretty tight now and in great shape and what we were all receiving was approximately 70 minutes of sheer quality.

Corned Beef City, the unreleased-as-of-yet rock song which was featured in the preceding three concerts, went missing this time. The band went on to play a series of songs which were all played in previous tours, although with certain variations (Why Aye Man’s outro being one of them) until both lead guitarists of the show grabbed their acoustics and the Privateering frenzy kicked off.

Good times with this multi-faceted song. Sometimes quiet and melancholic, then powerful to no end courtesy of Mike’s pipes and John’s violin, then on to a short march-like phase.

I wrote before about Privateering being the pinnacle of the show (in my opinion, based on what I had seen so far) this tour around, however has changed yesterday as I had the opportunity to listen to Haul Away for Home while seating in a place that offered proper acoustics.

Being able to decrypt a fair share of the lyrics, I am convinced that this is a farewell song. Not sure, however, farewell from what—perhaps because I’m still missing some of the lyrics, or maybe because of Mark’s tendency to keep the lyrics open for interpretation.

The National guitar is employed all throughout but what actually makes the song (instrumentally speaking) is the whistle. This song being played is when Mike McGoldrick shines. A soul-wrenching song that I predict will be the driving power behind many worldly tears for years to come.

As not all of the songs recorded by the band end up being released, obviously there’s a chance that Haul Away for Home will be excluded from the upcoming album. Such an omission is, in my view, sufficient grounds for a prolonged, challenging and uncompromising public outcry followed by a hunger strike.

Brothers in Arms was the first Dire Straits song played in the concert. Seating in a proper location I am happy to report that we’re back to the 58’ (or 59’; I couldn’t tell them apart) Gibson Les-Paul in standard tuning. A world of difference comparing to the cyan-coloured guitar previously used for this song’s performance.

Standard eleven songs set and off for the thirty minutes intermission before Dylan’s set.

I was properly armed with earplugs this time around so I decided to give Bob Dylan’s set a chance. My problem with Dylan’s show is not so much with the contents but with the sound, which I find way, way overly and unnecessarily loud. Yet, being seated in such a good seat, I figured I might as well pop some earplugs in and see whether I can enjoy the show.

Went to the restrooms during the intermission. The men’s restrooms featured about 25 urinals which had a huge line-up for; it also featured about 15 sinks, properly armed with soap. Huge line-up to the urinals, while all 15 sinks were, 99% of the time, unused.

Bliss. I’m in a man-made bacteria factory. What a fucked-up world do I live in.

Re-entered the arena a few seconds after Dylan’s show started. Making my way down the stairs towards the floor seating areas, I noticed that everybody on the floor is standing up, with quite the mess going on in the front rows. For the first ten minutes—until some ushers came by and urged people back to their seats—it was impossible to get to my 4th row seat; but even once I got there, being seated meant that you can’t see anything because people were standing for the greater part of the show.

At some point I got sick of standing so I sat down, trying to enjoy the show that way (and that would be the point to mention that, helped with high-potency earplugs, Bob Dylan’s show is not bad at all. Not anything that I’d consider following for four months, but still). That was more or less exactly when a few hard-core Dylan fans decided that the best way for them to enjoy the show would be to repeatedly introduce their claws to the back of my seat, often beating me up as well.

Curse my luck for being seated in front of unruly thugs, but hey, you go out watching so many shows, you can’t expect the entire experience to be pleasant.

The concert was over at 10:30pm. Shortly after removing the earplugs, I discovered what I was fearing most—unless I’m awfully wrong, there’s an ear infection developing in my right ear. That means a Doctor visit while in Nottingham, either later on today or tomorrow. Brilliant.

Long walk in the rain to my hotel…


… And a good night sleep.

Signing-off this post while on board the train from Manchester to Nottingham, seated next to a pleasant group of Bob Dylan’s fans.



Anonymous said...

Hi Isaac, It was lovely meeting you again in Manchester. Sorry to hear about your ear infection. I hope it heals up quickly. btw my husband's name is Colin. Enjoy the rest of the tour! Best Wishes, Val

Isaac Shabtay said...

Hi Val, was good seeing you too. Sorry about the error - duly corrected.