That said, I definitely had some high expectations for the Notting Hill gig. Above all these were social; I belong to a small but close-knit Magne F fan community, and this concert promised to be a gathering of many of the fans I have gotten to know over the past few years online. That reason alone was enough to fuel my anticipation for months, and I couldn't wait to meet some dear friends and make new ones as well.
Here's how I thought it would go down.
The fans would show up before 7:00pm and talk and socialize in line, like usual at a-ha gigs. Then the doors would open promptly at 7:00, we'd all be whisked through the guest list checking process, hands stamped and be ready to party together by 7:35 at the absolute latest. The place would be packed but there would miraculously be plenty of room for us to mingle and introduce ourselves to everyone in the room. By the time Magne's set began, we'd all be fast friends and no matter where you stood you were guaranteed a good view. The music would be note-perfect, the band energized, Magne chatty between songs and the set would be all of 'A bot of black' plus selected tunes from PPFT, as well as various songs Magne has written for a-ha. Once the gig was over, the band members would hang out for drinks afterwards and Magne would come out and circulate - because by this point in the fantasy anything is possible - and all the fans would stay to close the place, drinking, dancing and making all kinds of wonderful new memories together that we would relive ad naseum on the forums for months to come. To cap it all off, at some point in the evening I'd have a great conversation with the man himself and not make a complete ass of myself in the process.
Yeah, I kinda had you at the beginning, but it's not very realistic, is it? ;-)
But what really happened was:
My friends and I arrived at the venue at 7:30 thinking we'd be able to walk right in since doors were supposed to open at 7:00. Instead we joined a line outside and socialized for a bit, taking pictures and reconnecting with old friends. Once the doors did open close to 9:00 there was a delay getting people in because the guest list was checked twice and the process seemed to go pretty slowly. So it goes, those kind of organizational things happen all the time, and for the most part people didn't seem too put out by it.
The venue was as tiny as we were led to believe by the people who had seen Magne play there before. Since we joined the queue so late, we were stuck in the back by the toilets; fortunately a couple of friends had saved a spot for me behind the sound booth and the view was pretty good from there. It was really hot in there but no one seemed to mind, I certainly didn't!
The band took the stage and it was obvious from the start that they were all in a good mood and ready to party. Magne was indeed chatty between the songs, telling stories and interacting with the audience, and that was a lot of fun to see. The music was ace, although if I had any criticisms at all about the night it would be that Magne was so relaxed that at times the quality of his vocals suffered a bit for it. However if I had to choose I would want the relaxed and chatty Magne rather than a note-perfect and distant Magne ;-)
He couldn't have had a more enthusiastic and supportive audience! It was so fun to sing along, knowing I was surrounded by kindred sprits (and no one could hear me LOL).
Notes about the set...
The set was just the same as it had been in Oslo all week - don't know why any of us thought it would be different, I guess it was because it was his own show and we just assumed he'd want to rock out and play whatever he wanted. The PPFT tour was notable in part because Magne just did whatever came to mind - well I am sure some of it was planned - even playing 'Kryptonite' twice in one set! This is not a performer to shrink from trying something new or changing things up for the hell of it. So it wasn't absolutely crazy to expect the unexpected...I guess the unexpected was that nothing different happened!
Loved the way he sang 'A dot of black in the blue of YOUR bliss...' and messed up the lyrics in a few places - this didn't detract from the songs at all, in fact it made the whole thing a lot more relaxed and fun somehow. Favorite song was 'Don't do me any favours' which I don't really like on the a-ha album...Magne made it really rock. Nice ending to the set, with 'Summers of our Youth.'
Once the lights came on and the club music started up, a lot of people started to leave but I wanted to hang out and finally chat with friends. The music was a bit too loud to talk, and my husband seemed anxious to go - a lot of the Americans had already left - so after one more drink and a few rushed introductions, we left. I later heard that some good friends were on the other side of the bar partying and stayed until the place closed. Ugh, can't believe I didn't see them in that tiny place!
We wound up getting a drink at a Tex Mex place next door with about 12 other fans - including the a-ha Ireland bunch, who were a blast to hang out with. After a while we decided to catch the last train back to our hotel, so it was a pretty early night. I think that was the only real disappointment, I had hoped to be out late and have a lot of chances during the evening to talk with other fans but everything seemed to rush along and before I knew it we were leaving.
Anyway, to summarize: great casual show and a lot of fun! I hope it won't be long before there are more solo concerts, but something tells me it could be a couple of years at least before I travel again. Spent way too much money on this one trip ;-)