So the summer season of Wet Wet Wet concerts, which seem to becoming traditional, have been and gone and although brief what a fabulous 3 shows they were, celebrating 30 years since Popped in Souled Out - 30 years since I fell in love with the band on Saturday morning TV with Wishing I was Lucky, and 29 years and 1 month almost to the day that I eagerly awaited their arrival on Stage 18th June 1988 at Queens Hall Leeds for my first Wet Wet Wet gig. a night I remember well, I was so excited to be seeing the band live, and 29 years later none of that magic has disappeared, when the lights go down, after all the anticipation and build up to the opening gig there it is again that very same excitement right in the pit of my stomach.
Rochester - what can I say a beautiful setting, and despite all forecasts of rain (and boy did it rain when I'd arrived in Kent the day before), there wasn't a drop of rain in sight as I joined the small queue which grew ever longer. Ok it was a bit cool, but thankfully the tourist shop sold bright pink hoodies which matched the folding chair I'd carried down from Yorkshire lol. Met up with old friends, made some new ones along the way, and got to see some of the beautiful town of Rochester thanks to the amazing skills of the stewards on duty that day and the fantastic organisation Medway Council had for forming an orderly queue, knowing who was where in the queue, giving you regular updates on what would be happening, keeping their word and issuing wristbands in case of a rush from an adjoining pub, ensuring those who queued most of the day got to the place they wanted to be in the arena. Luckily I was in the queue early enough to get a barrier spot. The Castle was behind the audience, so the guys on stage would have a lovely view of it, - or it's ruins - or as Marti observed "The beautiful Castle - okay it's a doer uppa but I get that" . There was good support with the beautiful voice of Emma Stevens, and then the entertainment that was The South, (some amazing musicians amongst them) and the local radio filling in with set changes. Rochester really embraced the whole social media thing and it was fantastic to get constant tweets and Facebook updates between the sets all adding to the build up for the main act. At 8.50 (or thereabouts) on they came, to the familiar tune of Wishing I was Lucky and actually the audience knew they were lucky to be there watching. Tommy looking resplendent in his white denim jacket ensured he could be seen from the back of the stage (almost reminded me of the '88 gig and the Levis double denim). The set itself was a run through time, all the hits were there very little chatting between to pack the music in - let the music do the talking - and the set list was the same for all three gigs, with the exception of She's all on my Mind, which was missing from the Edinburgh set, but was sublime at both Rochester and London - and is without any doubt one of my favourite Wets' songs live. I adored hearing them play This Time, which always has been one in my top 10 favourite Wets' tracks, but Martis voice today now totally suits and nails that song. Marti wore a jacket (leather) throughout at Rochester (it was a tad chilly) but managed to get the reaction from the crowd upon peeling his Tom Ford (I suspect) sunny's off and to be fair, judging by the crowds reaction it's probably just as well the jacket stayed on - as whether she regretted it the next day or not (which Marti suggested she would), she managed to show "The Twins" whilst up on someone's shoulders much to Tommy's amusement! Come on - own up - are you on here lol? The hits rolled on the dusk turned to dark, the Castle lit up and all too soon the just under 2 hour set ended, with the encore of Lip Service raising the roof and Love is All Around .... Goodnight.
So Thursday - I go home on a high - back to Sunny Yorkshire. Suddenly it's Friday - and off I go leaving Sunny Yorkshire for London and The Hammersmith Apollo (or Eventim). Another round of excitement in my body - seeing some of the same faces from Rochester and others I hadn't seen for a while - it makes the gigs so much more special meeting up with others - it's been a long friendship and acquaintanceship along the way. Much to my surprise we had good tickets, because I thought we were sat out right by the wall, when in effect we weren't and was actually right in front of Mr Duffin - quite an achievement really - bonus. Unfortunately I missed Emma Stevens as the tube journey was longer than I thought out to Hammersmith and then meeting up with people on the way in for hugs and chats. So - once again - the build up music starts, the lights go down, my stomach flips over and on comes the band, Marti arriving onstage last - lighting it up with the smile and the dazzle from the sparkling jacket with white lining. It was a red hot atmosphere and temperature and the jacket didn't last much long than Wishing I was Lucky again the peeling off moment bringing huge screams from the entire theatre who (apart from the middle section first three rows) were straight on their feet and stayed there all night. Going to see the Wets these days is not only exciting - it's also a great workout for someone my age lolol. The sound quality was fantastic in the Apollo, again the music did the talking apart from Tommy getting the mic at one point and Marti and Graeme having a conversation bout Graeme's hairstyles and Streaks - how there's a word from the olden days (and it has nothing to do with anyone revealing "The Twins" in case you are too young to remember streaks lolol. It was great to see how they know the familiar faces - well I suppose after 30 years they will - Graeme C even posing and smiling at my phone so I could take a picture. The show went without a hitch or a glitch, sounded fantastic but again the 2 hours flew by in a flash over too soon, but at least I had a chance to look at the merch on the way out, which was good quality and the programmes at £10 (£20 for the signed ones) great quality for the money and containing nice pictures too. I even came away with a free souvenir courtesy of Mr Duffin who gave me his plectrum from the stage. Thank you Graeme a lovely thing to do.
So along comes Saturday - and - oh no it's dull in London - but I have a train to catch, before a plane to catch in Birmingham - just out of London and the rain hits. Could this actually be the first Wet, Wet Wet Wet outdoor concert - please no - because in my bleary eyed start to Friday I'd forgotten a coat, Edinburgh was pretty much a last minute thing for me as my friend had got tickets way up in the stands and I have vertigo so had ruled it out, but was lucky to be offered a ticket on the floor from a friend. Got the Wet jet (with other fans from the Midlands) up to Edinburgh and it's Dry Dry Dry! By now I'm flagging - so to make the most of an overpriced bed I had a nap - and apparently whilst I was having said nap - it rained - but when I got ready to go out to the gig - thankfully it was Dry Dry Dry - a bit on the cool side so another pink hoodie had to be bought on the way up the Royal Mile. The excitement this time built long before I even got the Castle. The Royal Mile was absolutely buzzing, I could see the crowds up the top, and the yellow vested stewards, the tight security - but Edinburgh certainly had the vibe about it. Upon entering the grounds you actually could feel it in the air, and feel it in your fingers and toes that this was going to be something special. I walked in during the interval to find the crowd up and dancing to Sweet Caroline and the atmosphere was already at fever pitch. The Castle grounds felt quite intimate because it's not a wide venue - and the Castle in the background behind the stage was a beautiful setting never moreso than when it got dark and the beacons were lit. It really was a sight to behold and one I'll never forget for a long time. When the band burst onto the stage - Marti - sparkling jacket and sunglasses - and the smile - the crowd roared - I suspect the whole of Princess Street heard the roar from the Crowd. There was definitely a sense of pride from the Band being in Scotland and the crowd for the achievement of the 30 year anniversary. The setlist was the same again with the exception of "She's all on my Mind", but the show was actually longer and that was due to the reception from the Crowd after each and every song, and with the exception of Neil who ran off the stage rather than say Hello - each member of the band had their say and thanked the audience for their support. I felt very privileged to be in that audience on Saturday night - the band put in 110%, Marti just had the audience in the palm of his hand - and he made it look effortless. I honestly believe the crowd would have stayed all night if they had run through their entire back catalogue of 30 years. The end of the show came too quickly and Love Is All Around - and the backdrop to the stage opening to reveal clear plastic behind and the beautiful castle in all it's splendor - but then the stroke of sheer genius - on came the pipers to play with the band. Now did that raise the roof - well ok there wasn't a roof to raise - but you get the gist. A very emotional moment - very impressive and a fitting end to the Summer Season with Wet Wet Wet when it stayed Dry Dry Dry.
So finally it's home - after 9 trains, 2 tubes, 2 planes, several taxis, one bus - and the biggest blister under my foot thanks to forgetting my trainers as well as my coat - but what a fantastic few days - and worth the pain. 30 years on and still going strong - and why? Because of the great music, music which is great has longevity - and the bands who are the greats follow suite. It is amazing to see how they can roll back the years, and just how effortless Marti makes the whole thing look - the long held notes seemed to be getting longer with each gig - and he really has got the Gift, a true showman on that stage, comfortable knowing he owns it. So I would just like to say Thank you from the bottom of my heart - not only for a brilliant 3 shows - but for the past 30 years of brilliant music, travel, friendships and love along the way. THANK YOU.
Next stop Lytham (I was going to go to the Proms this year before Marti was announced ironically intending to get tickets today) - - 1 short car journey - must remember trainers - pink folding chair (yes I carried it all the way back from Kent) - bright pink hoodie - and hopefully won't need a waterproof. Roll on 6 August.