The London Trip – long post!

Hi folks

Well, it took a while to arrive but in what feels like the blink of an eye, my trip to London has been and gone. It was a great few days. I just wish I had a little more time to enjoy it all!

Thursday
I arrived at my hotel – the Wardonia Hotel in King’s Cross – and quickly unpacked as I had a few things to get done before I presenting my magic lecture for International Magic that evening. Let me get this bit out of the way first. I liked the hotel. OK, so they don’t serve food and the room was small, but it was comfortable, had everything I needed and there are loads of places to eat in the immediate area. I’ll certainly stay there again.

I visited International Magic to make sure everything was arranged for that evening and a brief conversation with Jerry Sadowitz, who had not long returned from performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. When I returned a couple of hours later to get myself ready for the lecture, I couldn’t help but continually think “who’s going to turn up to see an unknown Scottish card magician?” Well, I only had to wait until people started arriving to realise that there would be a good crowd there to hear what I had to say and what I could do. In all, just over 30 people came along and they made for an excellent audience. My thanks to all of you for coming along and being interested in what I had to say.

Friday
I had arranged to meet up with my good pal Julie and her eldest son, Peter, at the Science Museum. While we were there, Julie wanted to find out some information, so while she was speaking to the people involved, Peter and I went and acted like big kids with some of the interactive stuff that is located on the 3rd floor of the Museum. Great fun, too! I even had my first experience of an IMAX movie. A fascinating film about dinosaurs that looked pretty cool in 3D.

Afterwards, we went walkabout for a wee bit. First of all to try to find a Pizza Hut for lunch, which we found, then to go to Covent Garden to see what was going on there. We stood for a wee while watching one of the buskers performing his slackrope walking routine – the exact opposite of a tightrope walker. Pretty entertaining stuff.

Julie and Peter (foreground) watch the slackrope
walking Busker in Covent Garden

After Julie and Peter left to head back home, I wandered about London a little more then decided to go back to my hotel. I was full of good intentions for the Friday night – go out to a show and enjoy myself. The truth, however, was that I was really tired and so decided just to stay in my hotel room, watch some TV and have an early night so I could ready myself for the following day.

Saturday
Finally, the day had arrived. REM at Twickenham. When I woke, I wasn’t as hyper-excited as I thought I would be, but that soon disappeared as I made my way towards Twickenham. On the way, I decided to make a slight detour and go look at a couple of London landmarks that aren’t that well known – some clock and a big wheel that sits on the banks of the Thames.

Some big clock I’m sure I’ve seen on the TV somewhere!

The only ride at the London Amusement park –
it doesn’t go that fast, but it’s really tall!

Even though I had my REM Fan Club wristband, that allowed holders access to the stadium about half-an-hour before the rest of the crowd, I still wanted to get to there early so I could soak up some of the atmosphere, the surroundings and a little sun. I was, by no means, the first to arrive. From what I could gather, Fan Club members had been gathering since breakfast time so they could try to get a spot at the very front-centre of the barrier – right in front of Michael Stipe.

The wristband

REM Fan Club members sit inside the stadium
and discuss the tour so far

As it was, I got a good spot just one person back from the barrier and to the left centre stage, right in front of Mike Mills. Conversations that had started in the queue outside were continued inside the stadium and new ones started with the new Fan Club members sitting waiting on the first band on – Guillemots. Some of the others who had been to REM’s other UK gigs during the week had said that they were not that impressed with them. However, it turns out that this happened to be the day they played a blinding set and where everything was perfect. Mike Mills even made a surprise appearance playing percussion during the last track of their set. Afterwards, more than one person was heard to say “they were a different band!” Very enjoyable and I’m going to have a wee listen to their albums.

Guillemots on stage

Next up were Editors, a band whom I’ve heard some of, but not a great deal. A lot of us had heard REM cover their song “Munich” on Radio 1 a few months ago, but other than that I didn’t really know a lot of their songs. Like Guillemots, they played a great set and I’ll certainly be sitting down and listening to their albums in due course.

Editors playing at Twickenham

Then, finally, REM made their way to the stage. They played songs from pretty much their entire history – from their current album “Accelerate” going all the way back to their first album, “Murmur”, from 1983.

Michael practices his T-Rex moves during “The Wake Up Bomb”

Michael even came down to the front of the crowd – twice. Once during “The One I Love” and again during “Losing My Religion”. The first time he came down, I managed to grab his hand for a second or so. Don’t ask me why I did it, I felt it was something I had to do at that exact moment in time. When he came back down during “Losing My Religion”, however, he was less than 3 feet from me. I held the sleeve of his suit jacket. Then I offered him my hand to shake and he did so! I shook hands with Michael Stipe!!! I couldn’t believe it – I still can’t! I got to shake hands with the lead singer of my all-time favourite band! I’m not going to be stupid and say “I’m never washing my hand again”. The important thing is I have the memory of that moment when Michael Stipe shook my hand while singing “Losing My Religion”. Fan-smegging-tastic!!!

OK, so it’s a little blurry, but this is how close I got to
Michael Stipe. The blur near the bottom of the picture is
my left hand holding onto his sleeve.

Then, almost as soon as it had started, it was all over. The band were saying goodnight and I was working out how to get back to my hotel. But what a concert! What a day! Great weather (I got sunburned!), good company (thanks to Sarah, Samantha, Charlie, Ros and the others who’s names I did not catch for your company during the day) and a phenominal concert.

It’s the end of the gig as we know it (and we feel great!)

Set List
Living Well Is The Best Revenge
These Days
The Wake-Up Bomb
What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?
Drive
Man-Sized Wreath
Disturbance At The Heron House
Ignoreland
Walk Unafraid
Hollow Man
Fall On Me
Electrolite
The Great Beyond
I’m Gonna DJ
Exhuming McCarthy
The One I Love
I’ve Been High
Let Me In
Horse To Water
Bad Day
Orange Crush
Imitation Of Life

Encore
Supernatural Superserious
Losing My Religion
Perfect Circle
Country Feedback
It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)
Man On The Moon

Before I go, however, I do have one amusing story for you from the concert. While waiting in the Fan Club queue to get in, one of the guys in front of me dug something out of his bag and started to inflate it. It turned out it was a 3-foot tall blow-up doll but he had been made up to look like Michael Stipe. When he was inflated and dressed, he really looked like Stipe in miniature – a “Mini Stipe” if you will. Best of all was that “Mini Stipe” managed to get into the gig with no problems from the security people and survived at the front until REM came on.

Mini Stipe being held up by his owner

During full-size Micheal’s visit to the front of the crowd during “The One I Love”, Michael shook hands with Mini Stipe and continued on his way along the front. At the end of the set, after REM had left the stage, one of the stage crew came running round from backstage and said that Michael had requested Mini Stipe for the encore. The owner duly gave Mini Stipe over and the next time he was seen was being carried on by Mike Mills and placed beside the piano. At the end of the concert, after taking their final bows, Michael walked over, picked up Mini Stipe and placed him in front of his microphone at centre stage.

What a great few days! What a great concert! I want to do it all again! I’ll just need to wait for the next tour to come along.

Speak soon.

The Cardman 🙂

P.S. Did I tell you I shook hands with Micheal Stipe? No? Let me tell you about it…!

#remlondon

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