Saturday 22 June 2013

Unexpected Bon Jovi

Funny how life works out. I was sitting at my desk at 5.15pm last Thursday vaguely thinking about doing another hour’s work, then going home and making a chicken curry, when my phone beeped and displayed the message “Sorry about the short notice. I’ve got some spare free tickets for Bon Jovi at the Stadium of Light tonight, do you want to come? Need to be there for seven.”

I’m not great at sudden changes to plans, so I gave myself a minute to figure out what I wanted to do. The answer turned out to be “go and see Bon Jovi with JK and C”, rather than “go home and do some work on the management course assignment”. That decided, another choice presented itself. My best friend, J, is a HUGE Jon Bon Jovi fan, to the extent that she used to draw pictures of him for assignments in Art class when we were at secondary school. (We’ve now both got mortgages and she’s got two kids; Bon Jovi have been going for a while.)

It occurred to me that J would possibly want to kill me if she couldn’t go. I then decided that she would definitely want to kill me if I didn’t offer her the chance to go, so called her to ask. I then called her husband’s phone, just to be on the safe side.

15 minutes later, I got a very excited phone call, and the plans were made. I was struck by the sudden fear that JK might have had other offers for the tickets, and called him to find out, whilst simultaneously taking a quick inventory of whether I had any clothes with me that were suitable for a rock gig, trying to figure out how to get there, wondering what to do about food, and hoping that the office bike shed would be sufficiently secure to leave my bike there overnight*.

As it was now quarter to six, I fled the office hoping that there would be enough tickets, taking with me my emergency coat from the coat rack and the trainers I’d cycled to work in, and sprinting to Boots in search of a sandwich. As I dithered between a tuna & sweetcorn and a chicken wrap, the phone beeped again. JK solved one of my problems by confirming he’d got enough tickets, and then introduced the other by asking which Metro station we were going to meet at. Confusingly, it turns out “St. Peter’s” is nearer the Stadium of Light than “Stadium of Light”; go figure. I didn’t know this at the time, so agreed we’d meet at the Stadium of Light Metro station around 7pm.

Next stop, Primark, for a cheap pair of jeans, then Haymarket to grab a train ticket. On the other side of the river, J’s husband arrived home on time. Had he not done so, I suspect J would have thrown the baby, the pram and the dog into the car, and dropped them off at his office with the words “Darling, these are yours for the evening. Mwah, see you later!”.

I got the ticket and scurried down the escalator and onto the platform to find a train already waiting with “South Hylton” on the front, which meant naff-all to me as I don’t get the Metro very often. I scurried further down the platform until I found a Metro map, confirmed that this train would land me in Sunderland not South Shields, then did what all the posters tell you not to do and hurled myself bodily onto the train as the doors went “BEEEEP” and started closing. Half a minute later I was glad I’d got on at Haymarket not Monument, as the coach half-emptied and I managed to sneak myself onto a seat in the corner and make a start on the sandwich.

Half an hour later, I was really glad I’d got on at Haymarket not Monument, as the train was heaving. The announcer kept reminding people that there was a train directly behind us calling at the same places. I doubt anyone trying to get on actually heard him, and if they did, I doubt they took any notice. It reminded me of an email about real-life Tube announcements that did the rounds a while back, one of which was: “Please let the passengers off the train first. Please let the passengers off the train FIRST ::pause:: Oh go on then, stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care. I’m going home”.

As we nearer Sunderland, I found myself trying to coordinate a meeting by phone between four people, one of whom had never met two of the others, and two of whom had never been to the Stadium of Light before and had not a clue where they were going. We’d agreed to meet at Stadium of Light metro station. Just before we got there, JK & C texted to say they were waiting at St. Peters. I decided to get off at Stadium of Light to meet J. Just as I reached the top of the station steps, my phone rang. It was J, and she was at St Peter’s. I had no idea where this was, other “further down the Metro line”.

At which point, inspiration struck, in the form of me remembering the earlier train announcement. I hurtled down the steps against the flow of people, then jumped back onto the train which was running behind my train (and which was, noticeably, a lot more empty). Five minutes later, I was at St Peter’s and had located everyone else. J was nearly jumping up and down with excitement. It’s nice when you can do good things for your friends, particularly since neither of us could have afforded the tickets due to the afore-mentioned mortgages. When we were inside the stadium I took a look at how much we’d have paid to get in (JK got them at the last minute through his employer), gulped, and realised that it was probably a good thing none of the people standing around us knew we hadn’t had to pay - £65 is a fair chunk of cash.

The gig itself was great. Whilst J LOOVES Bon Jovi, for me, they’re more in the “some quite good songs” bracket. I can, however, appreciate a really good show, and this was a really good show. We were lucky with the weather, which helped, and the “giant car” stage set was great, but what made the gig was the band’s showmanship. It is no mean feat to perform the same gig to a different location every night and still make the audience think you really care about them having a good time, but Bon Jovi had worked out that if the audience wants very loud American rock with a giant car, and flashing lights, with a short pause to wave your cameraphones in the air so that the stadium looks like it’s filled with little twinkly lights and a speech from the frontman about people capturing little pieces of history at that moment**, that’s what you give ‘em. They did, and we did. (The only thing they couldn’t give us was a pint of Foster’s that didn’t cost more than £4, although I think the “2-pints of beer in a glass” should catch on at more stadiums.)  Jon Bovi is a great showman, and they did a nice mix of classics and new ones.

Funny how many Bon Jovi songs you know. I realised that quite a few would have to make my “grew up listening to this” list: “Always”, “Bad Medicine”, “You Give Love a Bad Name”. Quite a few more would make my “left home to this” soundtrack; when I lived in Wiltshire I spent a lot of time in my car, and had “Crush” on the cassette player a lot. I was especially happy when “Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen From Mars” came over the speakers, though I was a little disappointed at no “Janie, Don’t Take Your Love To Town”. We danced, we sang, my camera battery miraculously didn’t run out, and we left the stadium happy.

I was even more happy when, having seen the length of the queue for the Metro home, J offered to give me a lift.

One amusing postscript: having dragged myself into work the next day feeling exactly how you would expect to feel if you’d spent four hours on your feet jumping up and down and singing, my boss approached our desks and announced to the office that he would be hiding in his room for the rest of the day, because he’d been to see Bon Jovi the night before, and had lost his voice.

* It was.
** Cheesy, but if that’s not your thing you’re at the wrong gig.

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