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The Best Night Ever: Meeting the world’s biggest boy band (and telepathically attempting to get them to Eurovision)

(This post was supposed to go out a fortnight ago, so please keep that in mind if/when you are reading it. It was totally hot off the press at that time…)

A few weeks back I mentioned that something kind of amazing was about to happen to me, and that I’d show and tell once it had. Well, last Saturday was the day. If the mere mention of the words ‘boy band’ make you physically ill, and you’re not in the mood for trashing my taste in music, you won’t like this next sentence: last Saturday was the day I got to meet a group of guys who look a little bit like this:

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By ‘a little bit’, I mean ‘totally’. Yes, that’s right…I got to meet ONE DIRECTION!!!

Ahem.

In case that outburst didn’t give it away, I should tell you that I am a major boy band freak. Said freakiness goes way back – I grew up in the 90s listening exclusively to the Spice Girls, and every single boy band in existence (the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, *NSYNC, Westlife, Boyzone, NKOTB, Boyz II Men, Five, Human Nature…you get the idea). Sadly, I have the same taste in music today, with the addition of mass Eurovision/national final/Asian pop. So a few months ago, when I found out I’d won tickets to go and see THE boy band of the moment (which I never could have bought myself because you practically have to sell a kidney on the black market to afford one) I was just a teensy bit happy about it.

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Krista knows what I’m talking about.

Once I’d finished being a teensy bit happy, disbelief set in, because I never win anything that depends on a random draw. But that quickly gave way to “Screw that. Hashtag winning!”. I then broke the news to my mother, who said she’d be my plus one if none of my friends were interested. It turns out they weren’t, but only because none of them would admit to wanting to go. They are sorry now, believe me.

And so it was that a 22-year-old with a bachelor degree under her belt prepared to attend a concert geared towards teenagers with her mother (talk about YOLO). But wait – there’s more! A week or so before the show, I woke up to a phone call from the competition peeps casually letting me know that, not only would my mother and I be dancing all night to the best song ever, but we would also get to meet and greet the band before they took to the stage.

Umm, WHAT?!?

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You will may laugh, but I don’t think I’d ever screamed out loud in my life before that happened. More with shock than anything else, since stuff like this does NOT happen to me. I’d never encountered anyone even remotely famous, besides that time I saw a local newsreader in the supermarket and stalked him through the freezer section for half an hour. I’d seen famous people from a distance, but I’d never actually gotten to “accidentally” brush up against one. So the prospect of doing that to not one, but five of the most famous man-children on the planet was thrilling…and terrifying. But was I going to chicken out, or give the opportunity to one of those tween girls who owns all the 1D albums and merchandise and bursts into hysterical tears whenever the names Harry, Louis, Liam, Niall or Zayn are mentioned? No. No I was not.  

So a week later, I was having a panic attack as le mother and I headed down to the shiny new Perth Arena (which would make an excellent Eurovision venue should the EBU ever decide that Australia deserves a shot at hosting). All we knew was that we were meeting someone outside the box office who would march us and a small group of others into the depths of backstage to briefly fraternize with the guys before the concert started. When we arrived to do just that, we found approximately 10 million girls lined up outside.

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The reality was a LOT scarier.

I figured they were that breed of super-fan that does the hysterical crying, since this was 4.30pm and the concert didn’t start until after 7. It turned out they were lining up to attend the pre-show sound check, and after a while, we got the nod and the lanyards to join the same queue.

What felt like a year later, after a bag search and water bottle confiscation, we ended up in the arena foyer with the masses. They were filing into the arena itself, but our little group (consisting purely of hyperventilating, sweating people of various ages) was whisked away through a lot of swingy doors and into a massive room with a bar and very spongy carpet. There, we waited for what felt like another full year, having mini heart attacks whenever someone walked past the open door. I internally debated whether or not to grab a breath mint from my handbag (who knew how close we’d be getting?) and just as I did, through the door walked the actual, living, breathing One Direction. Naturally, I nearly choked on the mint.  

I don’t know if this has happened to you if you’ve met someone famous, but as soon as they came in I went into this weird dreamland where nothing felt real. In a way, I think that saved me from having a breakdown in the presence of the band (on the outside, anyway). The meet-and-greet began, and it turned out to be more of a ‘Hello!’, photo, photo, photo, ‘Thanks, bye!’ situation. These boys are busy. My mother and I stepped up, said a star-struck bonjour and had a few photos taken – me on the end and her for some reason in prime position in the middle (it’s a sad situation when your parents get more action than you do) and with that, it was time to make room for the next in line. It was all over super quick, but we did get to exchange a few words with and manhandle some serious celebrities, which was epic enough to be THE most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me.

Yes...this happened.

Yes…this happened.

For the record:

– They smelled really good (a creepy but true observation).

– They were taller than we’d imagined. You always hear people saying how “small” famous people are in reality, so this was a surprise.

– As you can see, they are super tan, and my mother and I are just kind of…red. News flash: Australia is not full of bronzed beach gods and goddesses who walk around in bathers to show off their bronzeness. And it really shows when we stand next to people from anywhere else.

– They were genuinely friendly and played up for the cameras, despite the fact that there is rarely a time when they aren’t being photographed. Nobody would be able to help falling a little bit in love.

Alas, we and all of our newfound love had to leave the squishy-carpet room and head off to the sound check ourselves. We joined the millions of girls at the front of the stage (who seemed to pick up the scent of 1D on us and started giving us death stares) and soon the guys emerged from the squishy room to deafen us all with a few quick song run-throughs and answer some audience questions that involved the word ‘twerk’. The world we live in. In contrast to most of what had happened so far, the sound check was over in minutes, and we were all shepherded upstairs where there were canapés, non-alcoholic beverages, and shockingly, in a time when nothing comes without a price, free programmes. It all felt very classy, if you ignored all of the hotpants-clad teenagers sprawled all over the floor fighting with each other about which band member was their “husband”.

That was pretty much where the class/special treatment ended, but it was amazing while it lasted. I just wish I’d stuffed some tiny sandwiches into my handbag as a souvenir. But sandwich-less, I followed the masses into the arena again, and we found our seats, which thankfully weren’t right down on the floor but off to the side in a tiered section (I figured that meant that at my ripe old age, I wouldn’t be forced to stand up the entire night, but I was wrong). My sexy earplugs went in, because the screaming was getting louder as the stadium filled up – the show was sold out and the capacity of the place is 13 000, which equals an unsafe scream level – and then, the lights went out, and came up to reveal…the support act. Those guys were called Five Seconds of Summer, and are an Australian punk-rock band that I had heard of, but wasn’t really interested in hearing for 45 minutes when I could be being told what makes me beautiful. Having said that, they were pretty good, if you like that sort of thing.

ANYWAY, the time did arrive when 1D made their appearance, and I immediately thanked the god of earplugs that I had mine inserted (I could hear the music perfectly, but the screaming was down to a 9/10). Because this post has already gone on for way, way too long and even those of you who were interested at the start are dozing off, I won’t go through the entire set list (also because I don’t remember it). What I will say is that the whole thing was really, really good. They sang everything the Directioners could have asked for, and they sounded great – definitely more Klapa s Mora than Jemini. There were gigantic, Moscow 2009-esque (almost) video screens, lights, streamers and balloons in action, and at one point, the boys were transported across the arena via a floating platform and deposited on a mini-stage directly opposite where we were sitting, where they spent a while doing what they do best, answering more questions, and of course, accusing each other of farting.

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Of course, that wasn’t the closest I had been to them that night (wink wink, etc) but it was still an awesome feature of the show, especially for someone whose previous concert experiences have seen the artist/s stick to the main stage. I have to admit, it made me feel like I was at Eurovision Training 101, with the vast amounts of people going crazy in a massive venue, lights and cameras, costume changes, and satellite stage. I now feel prepared to make the pilgrimage to *insert European city here* 2015, should my back account allow, so thank you, One Direction. Thank you very much.

Speaking of, they saved the best for their encore. Best Song Ever and What Makes You Beautiful were the last two songs performed, and I didn’t mind at all standing up for those (standing up for the rest and complaining about a sore back had me feeling like an old woman, but if you sat down you couldn’t see a thing). There was a euphoric (as Loreen would say) moment during these songs when I got all high on the excitement and decided that I needed to buy all existing 1D albums ASAP, and that it was shameful that I didn’t already have at least one in my collection. I will let you know at the end whether I did such a fangirlish thing or not.

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After basking in the noise, the boys disappeared backstage, never to return (until the next night, that is) and with aching joints, a bit of a headache and a jacket that I may never wash again, mamma and I disappeared off home. And that, believe it or not, was that. It honestly was one of the best nights of my life – totally worth all the money I would have payed for it if I hadn’t gotten lucky. You may laugh at that comment, but it isn’t every concert you go to that you get to meet a.k.a. touch and pose with the artists, attend their sound check AND get free sandwiches (the sandwiches clearly being the highlight); nor is it every concert you go to that ends up being so entertaining and lacking in bum notes. As much as it prepared me for the ESC more than any other I’d been to before, it also set a high standard for my beloved contest to meet. Don’t send me death threats, because I still love Eurovision more than any boy band, and I fully expect it to be amazing when I do get there. It’s just that, after last weekend, I can’t help being a little bit of a Directioner myself. Albeit a geriatric one.

One final word to make the title of this post make sense: there are a lot of artists (and not those brought back from the dead) who would do a great job at the ESC for the UK, and after seeing them live, I think 1D would be one of them. I did spend the evening imagining what it would be like if they did it, and then used all of my brainpower to put the idea into their heads, so we may get the announcement any day now.

Ha ha. I know it would never happen! Well, maybe in 15 years when their hairlines are starting to recede and they’ve broken up and reunited three times and they try to use it as an avenue for a comeback. Until then, this girl will have to dream.

But the guys should keep this in mind: boy bands have been pretty successful at Eurovision in recent history. Here’s proof.

Eden – 5th in 1999 for Israel

One – 6th in 2002 for Cyprus

Prime Minister – 10th in 2002 for Russia

No Name – 6th in 2005 for Serbia and Montenegro

Blue – 11th in 2011 for the UK

Yes, there have been exceptions, but more often than not the outcome of sending a European version of *NSYNC has been positive. So maybe the BBC should source a hypnotist who can convince One Direction to step up in Copenhagen. Either that, or they can wait a decade or so and let the band come knocking. It’ll happen, you’ll see. We’ll all be dancing to the second-best song ever.

So that is the end of this particular ramble. I apologise for the length and any brain cells you may have lost trying to get through it. Rest assured that normal transmission will resume in a few days. I have some (hopefully) exciting stuff planned for the rest of the year, including a countdown of my top 50 Junior Eurovision entries of all time, so have your judgment hats at the ready, folks!

But for now, answer me this:

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?

 

PS – I did go and buy all existing One Direction albums, but managed to stop myself from pre-ordering the third one (I still consider myself relatively sane.)

PPS – Here are a few more photos taken by moi on the night, for anyone interested.

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This really is the end.

 

EBJ’s top 10…host entries

There are less than three weeks to go until Sweden’s Melodifestivalen kicks off, and that makes Jaz a very happy lady. MF is arguably the most awesome of all the national finals, inarguably my personal favourite, and this year, the one that will select the host entry.

Whoever wins the title of The Act Who Has To Live Up To Loreen on March 9th can go into the big show knowing one thing – they’re bound to get one of the biggest rounds of applause on final night, whether or not their song is any good. The thing is, some countries thrive on choosing their own entry when they have the responsibility of hosting. The pressure of trying to win is off, and so they don’t try so hard, and often what result from that is a really good effort. Other countries either don’t care at all about succeeding in front of the home crowd or, I suspect, purposely pick something average/rubbish to make sure they don’t win again (it’s kind of tough on the wallet, the old ESC). But rest assured, we will get something douze-worthy from Sweden this year. My psychic told me so.

The point is that MF’s nearness got me thinking about all the host entries past – the good, the bad, and the ‘meh’. For today, I’m only focusing on the good. So without further ado (as if there could be much more) here are my top 10 host entries of all time.

 

#1. Israel 1999

Yom Huledet by Eden (in Jerusalem)

5th place

I have tried and failed to get my family to sing this to me on my birthday instead of the usual song, I love it that much. In case that comment made no sense to you because you don’t know what Yom Huledet means or haven’t heard the bilingual version, a) it means ‘birthday’ and b) Eden repeat that quite often in the bilingual version. My scientific Eurovisiony studies have found that this song is guaranteed to increase your happiness level by 43%, so if you’re feeling a little Rona Nishliu today, you know what to do.

 

#2. Turkey 2004

For Real by Athena (in Istanbul)

4th place

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kva951_ov0s

I didn’t know ska could be so good until Turkey brought it to the ESC stage on home ground. Actually, I didn’t even know what ska was (and still don’t) but that’s irrelevant. What I do know is that this song is super catchy, energetic and a little bit bonkers, which is what makes it so good (the trumpeting also helps). It was great to see the hosts go for something so different to Everyway That I Can in…well, every way.

 

#3. Denmark 2001

Never Ever Let You Go by Rollo & King (in Copenhagen)

2nd place

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sig2Pv-gb9g

If you’re a country holding Eurovision, and you don’t want to fall flat on your face in front of the local crowd but you by no means want to win again, coming second by a small but not too small margin of points would be a dream come true. Denmark made that dream a reality in ’01 with this bluesy toe-tapper, which was in many ways a stronger entry than winning Estonia’s. For one, the lyrics did not refer to carpet. 

 

#4. Serbia 2008

Oro by Jelena Tomasević (in Belgrade)

6th place

Neither Serbia nor Željko Joksimović can do any wrong when it comes to Eurovision (Željko especially is perfect in every way) and the two combined made magic in Belgrade. There’s something about his compositions that always wins me over. They aren’t infectious earworms, but they are ethnic, atmospheric builders. That trademark style, plus the body (not prop) focused staging and Jelena’s engaging performance did the hosts proud. Oh, and so did the expertly poofed dry ice.

 

#5. Ireland 1993

In Your Eyes by Niamh Kavanagh (in Millstreet)

1st place

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAKqQJshR_c

Ballad haters, avert your eyes – I’m about to get all gushy about the middle win of Ireland’s triple whammy. For me this is a classic entry, at least of its decade, and it’s ten times better than the winners that came before and after it. Niamh’s vocal was flawless, adding punch to the big notes in the chorus and elsewhere that could’ve gone sour in the wrong hands (or vocal cords). All in all, a great song in the mould of what Ireland used to do best.

 

#6. Azerbaijan 2012

When The Music Dies by Sabina Babayeva (in Baku)

4th place

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzT7O3Fnwpk

The top 5 probably came too easily to Sabina last year, but I have to commend Azerbaijan for the effortlessness with which they choose polished pop songs – cough, almostalwayswrittenbySwedes, cough – as their entries. Watching this performance back recently, I found I’ve even gotten used to the last-minute Azeri-ness thrown in to distract us from the fact that the song was written by Swedes. Shh, don’t tell anyone!

 

#7. Yugoslavia 1990

Hajde Da Ludujemo by Tajci (in Zagreb)

7th place

It was all about having fun for The Bunch of Countries Formerly Known As Yugoslavia when the Croatian capital hosted the contest. Needless to say, Tajci’s performance of this effervescent entry got the most enthusiastic ovation of the night (according to those who had been born at the time). I definitely would have given it a vigorous clap.

 

#8. Israel 1979

Hallelujah by Milk & Honey (in Jerusalem)

1st place

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAt2XSmSfjU

Before Ireland got in on the act, it was Israel that specialised in winning on home soil. This was a classic entry that deserved to win no matter where, and still makes as good a singalong song today as it did in ’79 and again in Jerusalem in ’99, when all the contestants came together at the end of the show to sing it (obviously – what else were they going to do with it?). A real Eurovision anthem.

 

#9. Finland 2007

Leave Me Alone by Hanna Pakarinen (in Helsinki)

5th place

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BA00BD7vZ4

Unlike Turkey in Istanbul, Finland’s mentality was ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ when they hosted the show. Sure, they got a real person and not a creature of the undead and co to represent them in Helsinki, but that real person was singing yet another rock song. The lack of gamble didn’t pay off, but I have to say I rate this as a rock number. It takes itself more seriously than Hard Rock Hallelujah, but Hanna had the right voice, intensity and ability to look both frightened and mental at the same time to carry it off. I guess she really did go crazy just to stay sane.

 

#10. Luxembourg 1973

Tu Te Reconnaîtras by Anne-Marie David (in Luxembourg)

1st place

Before Ireland or Israel, there was Luxembourg, and before Luxembourg…well, I could go on, but let’s just stick with Luxembourg. Anne-Marie (who has apparently come out of hiding to submit a song for Malmö) won for the host country with this dramatic ballad that I love equally in French and English. If it wasn’t for those pesky EBU rules and regulations, we could be seeing a dance remix representing France this year.*

 

* That is really not what I’d like to see representing France this year.

 

EBJ extras (a.k.a. the ones that just missed out)

Rock Bottom by Lynsey de Paul & Mike Moran (1977, London, UK), Everything by Anna Vissi (2006, Athens, Greece), Mamo by Anastasia Prikhodko (2009, Moscow, Russia) and Taken By A Stranger by Lena (2011, Düsseldorf, Germany).

 

Which host entries would you rate as the best?