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July 7, 2008

The Longest Day Of The Year

...or how to squeeze three buzzes, one drunk and a whole lotta music into a 24 hour period.


1) I'm an athiest, so my observation of religious stuff is from that perspective. I do not intend any offence by any of the comments below, but while I try to be non-judgemental of most religions, frankly, sometimes they scare the bejesus out of me.

2) I do not advocate drinking to excess as it's not clever... even if it's fun from time to time and yes, I've been known to do it.

3) I am not, nor have I ever been, a Dolly Parton fan. As such, I know little about the lady, other than what she told the audience when onstage.

Saturday morning started slowly. I first woke up at 8, but, knowing that it was going to be a long day I forced myself to go back to sleep and managed to doze off until around 10am. A veritable lie-in!

Batteries fully recharged, we got up and set about preparing for the wedding we were going to that afternoon in Wapping. Shoes were shined, best duds were pressed and donned, hair was fixed as best as possible. As is typical of couples, Tim and I dressed seperately but somehow managed to 'match' anyway.

Getting to the wedding was relatively painless. Two buses and we were there, on time... just. As we made our way to the church, a long haired, long legged blonde women sprinted past us wearing a dress and flip flops, clearly headed to the same venue as us.

"Going to the wedding?" We called after her.
"Yes, I'm SINGING in it!" She shouted back.

Quite a surprising turn of speed, considering her attire.

The wedding was between one of Tim's study mates and her long-term boyfriend. It seems that they've been together since they were 15. At 22, they decided that they are ready to formalise the deal. 22 years old. Wow. In some ways I find the idea that two people can meet and marry their soul-mate like that heartwarming. That sentiment is balanced with a heavy dose of incredulity that anyone these days would even consider settling down at such a young age. There's just too much to do and see out there. I firmly believe that, in this day and age, kids don't fully mature until the age of 30... at least.

The wedding was the first real Catholic ceremony I've been to, or at least the first that I remember going to. I have to say that for the most part I agreed with a lot of the sentiment of the ceremony. I guess I'm the kind of athiest who agrees with the social building blocks inherent in much of the religious doctrine, but without feeling the need to put it into the framework of deity-based worship. "Thou shalt not kill". Sounds good to me. "Thou shalt not commit adultery". All good stuff. Those folk who say that without religion you can't be a moral person are talking out of their collective behinds.

The priest officiating made some good points about each person in a marriage needing to be allowed to grow as individuals and so on. He also start the proceedings by trying to be very inclusive by saying that he welcomed everyone from different faiths and so on and that we all should come together to celebrate the union. I did catch him later on, though, sneaking a line into a prayer that made my ears prick up... something along the lines of "Lord, help all people to recognise that there is only one true faith". Bang. You can eat in my restaurant, but don't bring in your own food.

Lots of hymns were sung. There was lots of standing up, sitting down and kneeling. I wasn't prepared for any of the 'expected' audience responses to calls from the priest, so for most of the service I kept my mouth shut. By the end of the ceremony my back was killing me again. I'd taken a couple of painkillers as a precaution, but they didn't seem to want to cut through the twinges.

As we posed for group pictures I was definitely feeling uncomfortable and was unsure whether I would make it through the concert that evening if we were called upon to stand up. Things started to look up, though, as the post-ceremony champers was dished out. Two swift glasses and Daily Buzz No. 1 was incoming. As the family photos were being snapped, four of us sneaked off to a local bistro for a bit more bubbly and some mezze. To our surprise we got to do some celebrity spotting. As we munched on our nibbles, in walked none other than Graham Norton, with his plus one. Now, we often see celebs out and about, but my policy is that 'they're people, too' and so I basically ignore them. I couldn't help but catch Mr N's eye, though, complete with its irreverant Irish twinkle. I have to say that if I was a ROCK GOD, I don't know how I'd cope with celebrity. I'd hate to have people recognise me in restaurants.

Anyway, after that we headed out from the bistro to the reception, which was being held at a cocktail bar in the city. Very nice. Free bar. Hello Buzz No. 2.

After an hour or so we had to leave to go to see the Dolly Parton show at the O2. We met up with one of our friends, had a coffee and took our places just in time for the main event.

At this point I would like to mention that our tickets were FREE. I did not pay to see Dolly. It's not my bag. Really.

So, we took our places, sandwiched between cowboy-outfitted geriatric freaks and nubile 20-something lesbians. I'm not kidding. That was the demographic for the entire audience. Dolly actually mentioned that she was expecting more drag queens to turn up, but I guess being Gay Pride on Saturday, the long-nail, wig brigade were up the West End.

The show started with a string of musicians 'introducing' themselves by executing centre-stage licks, then making their way to their respective positions. All of them could play. The band were tight. I have to question whether Dolly really needed 4 different guitarists onstage at one time, but hey, it's her show, right?

Right, I'm going to complain about the sound. We saw Prince at the O2 'in the round' and the sound was awesome. The setup for Dolly was traditional stadium style, with the stage at one end of the oval. Our seats were close to the front, off to stage left. Unfortunately, we got output directly from the speakers plus really strong reflection and so the sound was really muddy. Not good.

At around 8pm Dolly came onstage. How that woman can walk without falling on her face all the time, I don't know! The show was split into 2 sets with a 15 minute intermission. No costume changes, no wig changes, just Dolly, blinged to the hilt, singing hits old and new and recounting anecdotes inbetween songs.

She did every Dolly song that I knew, including "Jolene", "9 to 5" and "I Will Always Love You". She also did most of her new album (available in shops NOW) and a smattering of 'old time' songs.

She did a good job. Her voice was powerful and accurate. Her tales were endearing and she came across as just a humble ol' country girl made good. In her pre-amble to Jolene she recounted the true story that the tune was based on, where a red-headed temptress had tried to steal her man, but that she'd managed to run her off. She closed out the story by saying that sometimes when she looks at her husband of 42 years, snoring in his barker lounge chair, she sometimes wonders where Jolene is...

Musically, the high points for me were when she sang traditionally styled songs, with a celtic twinge. Heavy on the vocals, backed up with acoustic lap-steel, they were haunting. Think soundtrack to "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?"... or perhaps "Deliverance".

Just as I was starting to get into the concert, letting my guard down, she called her backing band to come sing a capella with her. As they made their way out of the shadows, wearing their predominantly black outfits, the spotlights caught the sequins on their shirts. I'm not kidding that on first glance I thought they had swastikas on them (as they looked like armbands etc), but they turned out to be Christian crosses. Whilst I was relieved that the symbols weren't from some neo-nazi group, I was still slightly alarmed. There seemed to be a lot of praising of God kicking off, particularly from the cowboy freaks next to us, who were becoming increasingly evangelical. When Dolly pulled out "I Will Always Love You" I thought we were safe, but she followed it up with a song off her new album called "Jesus & Gravity" which whipped our neighbours up into a fervour. Now, I'm a fan of devotional music to a degree as it can be truly uplifting, but these guys were so into it that they were spreading their arms as though they were hanging on a cross. I couldn't get out of there quick enough. It freaked me out. To make matters worse, the girls on Tim's side were dancing as though they were having seizures, nearly hitting him in the face from time to time.

Weirdos and bad dancing notwithstanding, I have to say that Dolly's performance was a good one. I was never bored throughout the entire two hour show. She charmed us with her tales of growing up on a farm as one of 12 kids, with stories of how she set up a reading club for kids, seeing as her dad was completely illiterate and so on. She seemed like a very talented, outgoing, courageous woman... and I have no idea how she managed to play guitar so well with those nails. I suspect she may have been shadowed by one of the multitude of other musicians onstage.

By the time we made it home at around 11:30 I was in dire need of some secular music therapy. We popped open another bottle of champers, leading to Buzz No. 3, stuck on some Freemasons dance mixes and promptly decided to go out. Strangely, at some point in Dolly's show, my back had stopped hurting! The healing power of music? The healing power of Dolly herself? Who can say!

Cutting a very long story short, after two clubs and enough overpriced vodka to put a small dent in our finances we crawled into bed. 7am had arrived, bringing to an end our 'longest day' of the year (so far). Today we have 'club lag' (like jet lag, only you don't actually have to go anywhere). No rest for the wicked, though. It's Jason Mraz tonight, over at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. Hopefully I can stay awake for the show!

1 comment:

Axe Victim said...

I have 'lag' just from reading about your wonderful day. While I was readig I was wrapped in the narrative. I used to have a Greek girlfriend and man, those Greek Cathoic weddings were sooooooo painful. I've been to some ordinary catho weddings too and they simply can't hold a candle to the boredom of a Greek 'do'.

I got married at age 31 years. Do I get a badge? Trouble was I never wanted children. And then, one day I just did. It was the death of my father that did it.

Oh Dolly. Where art thou? I love Dolly Parton and your description of going to her show made me laugh out loud - thanks.

Clubbing? At her age? At your age? Tsk tsk tsk... If only...well done. Now get on with sorting your band out laddie!