Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ninth report from fans in London

Simon Woolf, whose submitted photographs and words comprised the entire "first report from fans in London" prior to the concert, has submitted some photos from the concert along with his recollections of the event. As for this latest set of photos, he says he concentrated his shots of the crowd because he knew the onstage shots of the band members were already being documented by others, which is certainly proved in the previous eight reports from fans in London here.

“The day a dream came true”
By Simon Woolf, with edits from Jane Woolf

It was a cold crisp day, bathed in glorious winter sun as we set off on our journey on December 10th. 2007, This weather is a rarity for the UK claims my wife Jane, who hails from Nebraska and describes the UK weather as grey! A quick check to ensure those golden tickets were still safely tucked away in a very deep pocket and the red wristbands were still securely attached from the previous day; it was time to go. We took the lunchtime train up to Marylebone Station in London with nothing planned until 7pm that evening, some inspiration from Jane, took us via the tube (subway) to see St Pauls Cathedral. We climbed the 446 stairs to the top, passed the Whispering Gallery and the Stone Gallery to reach the Golden Gallery, 280 feet above the ground and what an astonishing view of London! As we watched the sun setting over London, we knew we had to tear ourselves away to get over to Greenwich for our appointment with history.

We walked from St Pauls across the Millennium Bridge, famous for its now non-existent wobble, towards Tate Modern to catch the 4:54pm River Bus to The O2. The journey down the River Thames was magical as we slowly meandered our way down stream under Tower Bridge and past the towering offices at Canary Wharf to arrive at our destination at 5:45pm. Through the doors, past more queues of people in line to register where we had stood for 2 1/2 hours the day before, it was time to find some food.

We found a great Sushi Bar which serve some most excellent food, all washed down with a very warming bottle of Saki. It was the only place that could offer instant food, whereas all the usual Burger and Pizza restaurants were full with queues of people looking to grab some food before the concert. Refreshed and content, we set off to find our seats - block 402 row H seats 488 & 489. We went passed the place where the night before we had met up the hard core fans camped out to ensure they had the best place to see the concert. By now they would be in their prime spots! We were ushered to the security point to check our tickets and bags; I was still in dream like disbelief expecting to hear someone say at any time "Wake up simon, it's time to get up!" Then we were through and were guided to the escalator with the words "enjoy the concert". As we ascended to the top of the dome, everyone was in an excited mood and we watched groups of two huddled about, eating, drinking or turning to another group of two to start a conversation. You could feel the buzz of that common bond which had brought the lucky few to The O2. The mixture of people was so great to see. There were couples, both young and old, lifelong friends, a parent and child, and new friends who had just met via the internet to share the experience. As we counted down the block numbers to Block 402, I could see through the doors the vacant space of the arena with beads of blue illuminating the darkness. Then it was our entrance, conveniently nestled right next to the bar!

As we found our seats, the story of Ahmet and Atlantic Records was unfolding on two huge screens. All around people were either watching in silence or talking to their neighbours with the first question being "Hi, where have you travelled from?" Everyone was so incredible friendly, it was like we were all one big family. I sat next to a father and son from San Francisco who had made 2 trips to London, the first two weeks before being laughed off as the trial run! Our conversation is then interrupted by Harvey Goldsmith who welcomes everyone and introduces the first act, Keith Emerson of Emerson Lake and Palmer plus others who played "Fanfare for the common man". A succession of different artists joined the stage for the support acts, but most notable for me was Paul Rodgers of Free who sang "All Right Now". This really got the crowd going. Foreigner ended the support acts with “Do You Want To Know What Love Is” although as soon as a children's choir joined in the chorus, it was time to check out the bar for 2 pints of Boddingtons! Our timing was perfect as no sooner had the drinks been poured, the arena emptied for the intermission and queues began to quickly form! With the house lights on, the stage was quickly cleared and a giant TV screen was lowered as a back drop. Things were happening, drums were tapped, microphones were tested, Ladders were dropped from the lighting rig above the stage and then two brave road crew members gingerly clambered up their respective ladders to possibly the best seats in the house. A cheer came when they reached the top!

Suddenly everyone started to return to their seats and the floor below. Even those seats that had remained empty during the support, began to fill. At one point we did wonder if these empty seats belonged to people denied admission having failed the tight security measures to beat the touts. Those fears were quickly dispensed, it was a full house. At about 9pm, the lights started to dim and darkness returned. The arena erupted into a massive cheer, the main event had started! A clip played from "The song remains the same" film of The Band's arrival in Tampa in 1973 and as each band members was announced on the screen, a huge roar came from the audience with the loudest being for John Bonham. Then suddenly from the darkness there is a thud from the drums and a flash of bright light, then the unmistakeable sound of a Led Zeppelin chord bellowed out from Jimmy Page's guitar with the distinct voice of Mr Robert Plant, quickly followed by a massive cheer, "Good Times, Bad Times" was being play live by a band I thought I would never have the opportunity of seeing. The emotion began to well up inside me as I and 19,999 others watched in awe and disbelief, Led Zeppelin are back on stage playing live. The sound was awesome and as each number was played, they got better and better. I have seen Jimmy Page and Robert Plant perform twice before, but they were never this tight. They needed the solid base riffs that only John Paul Jones can give and Jason's thumping of the drums were just like his father, they were simply brilliant.

So for our favourite bits.... Well for me it has to be all of it but if pushed I would say "Kashmir" and the encores with "Whole Lotta Love" and "Rock and Roll"; For Jane, she loved "Dazed & Confused", especially when JP pulled out his infamous bow. Jane was fixated to this through our binoculars; it was a pity that we could not take photos through the binoculars! Even though we were high up "above the gods", we could feel the music vibrating through the floor and seats, but then who was sitting during the encores, long live Rock and Roll!

The show ended and the three original members of the band huddled together as Jason dropped to the ground to pay homage to them, but they would not have it and pulled him up and greeted him as one of their own. They left they stage; the show was over and I can confirm the songs most certainly remains the same! Now we had to get out and quick, it's 11:10pm and the last train from Marylebone leaves at 12:10am. Everyone makes for the escalators, but we make a bee-line for the lifts (elevators) and make it to the ground floor to the exits, passed all the waiting journalists, some with their camera crews ready to catch the eye of a passing fan and pounce. Some are stopped and a microphone is thrust towards them with the question "What did you think of the concert?". On our right, hoards of people had descended on the merchandise counters, eagerly trying to snap up the last T-shirt, mug or special Limited Edition Posters at £60 each (only 1,000 were produced). I hear that everything sold out by the end of the evening!

We made it to the station within 5 minutes of leaving our seats and descended to below ground to find our train. Everything was well organised, two trains were waiting to take us westbound to Baker Street Station and we found two seats on the train, which quickly filled. Everyone spoke to everyone, sharing stories of what they had just experience. One guy had flown in from Australia, but having now made it to the UK, thought he would stay a few months and find work! Another recanted how he has seen Led Zeppelin twice before, but felt the sound they produced tonight was the best he had ever heard. He then went on to tell the story of when he was on a flight and it was delayed at the airport (I can't remember which and the reason for the delay), so decided to pass the time at a bar, only to find he was talking to someone who had also been delayed and notice the "R Plant" on the boarding pass. He suddenly realised he was talking to Robert Plant and was soon joined by Messrs Page, Jones and Bonham who joined him for some drinks! And as we journeyed under London, other stories were recanted; we reach our stop and said our goodbyes well in time for 12:10am from Marylebone and home. It was truly a magical day out.........

Best wishes

p.s. near the end of the Led Zeppelin set, we saw 6 security guys escort someone from the standing area of the Arena. Does anyone know what happened to cause him to be ejected?

The final series of four photos depicting the group hug is from Wyatt in Illinois.

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