Over the last 6 years I’ve been fortunate enough to attend concerts by some of my favourite musicians in the world, and each one of those experiences has been completely unforgettable.
Ever since I went to see Ellie Goulding at the UEA back in 2010, I’ve made a habit of seeing someone live once or twice a year. The majority of those concerts have been local (either in Norwich or Liverpool depending on whether or not I was at university), but for the odd special occasion I’ve travelled, and it was always worth it.
Now, with no plans to see anyone live in the near future (although I am debating seeing Sophie Ellis Bextor in February), I thought I’d look back on my favourite concerts and see how they compare.
So here are my top 5 concert experiences…
5. Girls Aloud (2013)
When Girls Aloud announced they were reuniting for a tour in 2013, I knew without a doubt that I’d be getting tickets to see them. Given they’d gone on hiatus around the same time I’d started properly listening to them, seeing them in concert was something I couldn’t miss, especially with the strong suspicion that this tour would be their last.
My friend and I bought two tickets to see them in London back in March 2013, and this for me was the first time I’d ever gone to a concert away from home. After struggling to maneuver around London (and almost losing the tickets) we got to the O2 fairly early that night and prepared ourselves for the excitement that was to come.
Boy, did those girls deliver!
They were as amazing live as I would have hoped, with a stunning collection of costumes and upbeat and sexy dance routines. They played hit after hit and I sung along to every one of them as embarrassingly as possible. By the end of the night I certainly had a tear in my eye as it hit me that I’d probably just seen one of the last ever performances these five girls would do together.
Sure enough that was the case, as just days later the news broke that Cheryl, Nadine, Sarah, Nicola and Kimberley would officially be going their separate ways.
Whilst the night was amazing and the experience unforgettable, the reason it only ranks five is because of how much I regret buying a seat in the stands.
This was my first major concert, the previous ones having all been in a relatively small venue on the UEA campus, and so I was weary of standing amongst a massive crowd in front of the stage. With that in mind my friend and I decided to get two tickets for the upper tier seats, and it did have its perks. After all, standing up for so many hours really hurts your legs.
Unfortunately, being where we were, I felt like I wasn’t fully immersed in the experience. A lot of the time I had to watch the screens at the side of the stage to remind me that five of my favourite artists in the world were just a matter of feet away from me.
Nevertheless, it was still an amazing night, and one I will treasure for many years to come.
Highlight Song: I’ll Stand By You/The Promise. One of the group’s most beautiful covers preceding possibly their greatest song. It proved to be an emotional end for an amazing concert, and an incredible ten years for the five girls.
4. Gabrielle Aplin (2016)
When I went to go see Gabrielle Aplin in January this year I was more excited than I have been before other concerts because this was the first time I was seeing an act for the second time.
I first watched Gabrielle Aplin live in November 2013 with a friend from my halls at university. I will always remember that time fondly, because it was the first time the two of us had properly spent time together, and we later went on to become housemates and good friends in my final year at Edge Hill.
Gabrielle had been stunning back in 2013, and three years on she was just as amazing, better even. With a great new collection of songs from her sophomore album Light Up The Dark, as well as her beautiful hit singles from English Rain, the night was an incredible one that showcased her soulful voice and infectious charm. Many of the songs were accompanied by Gabrielle playing the guitar or piano, showcasing just how talented this 23 year old is.
I would definitely go to see her again for a third, fourth, fifth time…
Highlight Song: Home. It’s such a wonderful song, both lyrically and musically, and the atmosphere when she sung it was incredible.
3. Radio 1 Big Weekend (2015)
Getting tickets has never been as hectic as when Radio 1’s Big Weekend came to Norwich.
There was probably about 10 devices in my house all trying at once to get through the rush of people to get some free tickets to the festival, and thankfully two of them were successful. We came away that morning with 4 tickets for the second day of the festival and I was absolutely over the moon. Taylor Swift was performing that day and I was going to actually see her sing live!
The Big Weekend was the first ever music festival I’d ever attended, and in the days leading up to it I was incredibly nervous. I hate dealing with massive crowds of people, and I was almost certain that we’d end up really far away from the stage and I wouldn’t enjoy it that much.
Thankfully I was wrong.
Determined not to be pushed too far back, my friend and I went straight for the main stage as soon as the gates opened, and when we got there we were only a few rows away from the front. The only issue was that Taylor Swift wasn’t on for another 8 or 9 hours, and at some point we would get restless and hungry. However, despite both of us agreeing that we wouldn’t stay where we were for every performer, the time to move just never came about and come early evening we were still standing there watching the various acts perform. The only difference was that over the course of the day we’d slowly inched forwards until we were only one row away from the front.
I’ll never forget how amazing the atmosphere was that day, especially when Taylor Swift came onstage. Whilst the day had its low points (in particular a group of mums and daughters who were unafraid to push and certainly incapable of acting their age), I felt a great sense of euphoria as we walked back to the car that night. I’d seen a whole host of amazing singers (Olly Murs, Rita Ora, Imagine Dragons…) and all for free.
Whilst I probably wouldn’t choose to go to a festival again (without good reason) I will definitely be forever grateful that I got to experience one right in my home city.
Highlight Song: Shake It Off. The song is endlessly enjoyable and creates such a phenomenal vibe when performed live.
2. Kylie Minogue (2014)
I feel I need to point out before I say anything about this concert that there is virtually nothing separating my number 2 and 1 ranking.
To this day Kylie Minogue is probably my favourite ever musical performer in the entire world. She’s gorgeous, charming, talented, cheeky…the list could go on and on. I know it’s incredibly cliche for a gay man to rave about Kylie but I feel no shame.
When my flatmate in first/second year at university bought tickets for us to see Kylie for my birthday I couldn’t quite believe it. Here was this woman who I adored, whose music I listened to day after day, who was an international superstar, and I was going to see her perform live. How do you even take that all in???
The end of September 2014 couldn’t come soon enough, not least because I was excited to go back to university for my second year. When the day came I went through a whole mixture of emotions, most of them good, and sat around impatiently waiting for the hours to go by. It was agony having to wait around so long, but it was so worth it.
This concert was only my second one at a large venue, and my first with a standing ticket. I had all the worries that I’d had when I’d booked my Girls Aloud tickets, but my fears were proved to be misplaced as we came into the Echo Arena just two rows from the front. Well, the front of the standard area. It would have been a bit much expecting my friend to buy us the ‘Golden’ tickets that were right by the stage.
My view was incredible, and for several hours I was completely captivated by the Australian goddess that performed in front of me. Everything that happened on that stage was exactly how I pictured a Kylie concert to be. There was over half a dozen (extravagant) costume changes, camp and seductive dancing, eye-popping visuals and a whole back catalogue of hits from I Should Be So Lucky to Into The Blue.
Words cannot describe how happy I was that night. It truly was like one of my dreams had come true. I only hope I can be fortunate enough to see Ms. Minogue live again sometime in the future.
And if you’re wondering, yes…of course I knew all the words!
Highlight Song: All of it? Either the Dollhouse Medley with songs like Hand On Your Heart and Never Too Late that I’m less familiar with, or All The Lovers. Quite possibly my favourite song of Kylie’s and, as you’d expect, the stadium went wild for it.
1. Little Mix (2016)
So if you read my piece that I posted a few weeks back about Little Mix then you probably realise how crazy I am about these girls.
Ever since they won the X Factor back in 2010 (beating my big crush Marcus Collins) I’ve been a massive fan of these four girls, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to see them live this year after they released such an amazing third album.
It was only really by luck that I got tickets actually. I’d looked into getting them with one of my housemates, but the only tickets available were extremely far back and given how I’d felt about not being near the front when I’d gone to see Girls Aloud, I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. However, not long after that I noticed on Facebook that the girls had added a third Liverpool date to their tour, meaning new tickets would be going on sale.
It was all very much a whirlwind of events, given the day the tickets came out my friend had to go to hospital. Needless to say I felt awkward asking my housemate, who was doubled over in pain at the time, if she definitely wanted me to buy her a ticket to the tour. But things all worked out in the end, until she found out a couple of months later that one of her university performances was scheduled for that day and she couldn’t make it after all.
Anyway, the day to see them eventually came around and I couldn’t contain my excitement, although I was a little apprehensive. I knew that their main fan base was young girls and so I felt like my friends and I would stick out amongst the crowd, not that that was really much of a big deal.
I wasn’t bothered, though, by the time we got inside the Echo Arena and were sat down in our seats. Seats that I was amazed were as close to the front as they were. I mean, I knew that we were only 10 rows back from the front, but I’d expected their to be a massive gap between the audience and the stage. By that point I was definitely running on a high.
By the time the girls came on things couldn’t have been more perfect. We had a good view of the stage AND were sat down, there hadn’t been a massive wait between the support and main acts, and now Little Mix were about to perform. Things couldn’t have been better.
But they were.
I don’t know what my expectations were before the concert but they were completely surpassed by the time we left the stadium a few hours later.
The choreography was energetic and flawless, their voices well-tuned and their harmonies incredible. The staging was breathtaking and the girls’ personality shone through on every performance. It was a slice of pure pop perfection.
As I said before, there is almost nothing separating this concert from Kylie’s in terms of how amazing it was. Little Mix probably clinched the top spot based on greater convenience (seating, less waiting, etc.) and because they were 100% better than I’d expected they would be…and I’d expected them to be pretty damn great.
I’m also proud to say that we knew all the words better than 80% of the audience in that arena, and we also weren’t afraid to dance about and, of course, get weird!
Highlight Song: Lightning. The performance of this dramatic song was perfectly dark and intense, with some wonderfully fierce choreography.
Other concerts I’ve been to but haven’t mentioned in the list are Cher Lloyd and Emeli Sandé in 2012, Eliza Doolittle in 2011 and obviously Ellie Goulding in 2010.