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Features > Only A Footstep Away: The Waiting Room Tour

Durham by Kate

The Date: Monday 30th May 2005
The Time: 11.00pm
The Venue: The Walkabout, Durham
The Price: £5

My ‘Dr Karl’ pilgrimage began a day before the gig as I boarded a train and made my way cross country to my friend’s house (which is considerably closer to the venue than my own) where I was to stay for the next two nights. After a much-needed sleep, we made our way into Durham – picking up another friend on the way – where we were to stay into the wee hours of the next day. We set about experiencing the city’s café culture (read drank coffee and ate too much cake) as soon as we arrived, and flittered away the remaining hours in jewellery shops being enticed into handing over our money in exchange for sparkly hair clips, earrings and bracelets. Well, we had to pass the time somehow.

At around 5.30 pm, we moved towards Walkabout and found that there were already people waiting outside. Not many people, but people nonetheless. So we joined the queue, planning on getting the best seats in the house. It was almost 7pm when we entered the building and realised that, in fact, there were no seats in the house. So we decided to get some food from the bar and found that, actually, they weren’t serving food that evening. Disheartened, we set up camp on a table – having seen the massive queue outside, we knew there were going to be a lot of people inside the building very soon and we’d be glad of a part of it we could call our own. Waiting Room weren’t due on stage until 11pm so we were going to be there a while.

Getting restless, I tracked down the venue’s Media Rep, Debbie, who led me in the direction of the band and allowed me a chat with Chris Hawker and Tommy Rando, and I was suitably impressed with their characters. They chatted to me freely about the band, the tour and their hopes for the future. They also gave me a Mars Bar, which was no small deal for me, hungry as I was, and promised me a photo with Alan after the gig – I just had to find Debbie when the gig was over. When the time came to leave the boys, I was escorted back downstairs to rejoin my friends and wait for the concert. From then, it seemed that the DJ announced the imminent arrival of ‘Dr Karl’ every five minutes

Roughly an hour before the band were due out, we decided to make our way into the ‘moshpit’ (which was full of hardcore fans who’d either got there as early as we had and camped out right next to the stage instead of lolling around on a table, or who’d rolled in later on and pushed and shoved their way there) but we realised quite quickly that it wasn’t the place for us. We were thrown around and pushed and elbowed and glared at – I can see where they were coming from as I expect I’d have been pretty upset if I’d stood in the same place for three hours in order to get a great view and someone breezed in and tried to share it with me. So, we travelled back up into the slightly less claustrophobic raised area and managed to find some space behind a group of rowdy lads.

Eventually, a cheer went up and I could only assume that Alan had been spotted. Alas, seconds later, I laid eyes on the man himself and I can honestly say that I hadn’t expected to be so starstruck! He made his way down the stairs, through the crowd – all the while surrounded by burly bouncers – and onto the stage, then promptly broke into song. We were witnessing the somewhat surreal sight of our beloved ‘Dr. Karl’ flanked by bandmates Tommy and Chris, singing his heart out to such perennial classics as Wonderwall, Brown Eyed Girl and 500 Miles.

I’d love to say that we had a terrific view from where we were and stayed there all night but, about three songs in, we were on the move again – the stairs that Alan had walked down minutes earlier were filling up with people clamouring to get a better view and we trotted off to join them. The view from the stairs was a million times better and it was from there that I got some of my best photos. Plus, it didn’t smell as dodgy as the gaggle of male Alan fans we’d found ourselves amongst earlier (sorry, guys).

The tracks covered that night were real sing-along, dance-along favourites (not that there was much room for dancing), and also included a couple of Waiting Room originals. We were not disappointed. And the song that everybody went away singing was the fantastically clever rendition of McFly’s Obviously, with the words adapted to include reference to the women in Alan’s onscreen life – Susan and Izzy. “….obviously, Susan’s for me. How can I win? Izzy’s pulling me in. And I know I always will be far too good for her.” Chants of “SU-SAN! SU-SAN!” filled the room and I shouted so loud that my voice cracked. It felt good to know that my choice of partner for Karl was the same as everybody else’s!

Alan clearly had his fair share of female admirers, as countless pairs of knickers were thrown at him from the crowd. And you could see that it certainly wasn't the first time this had happened, as he casually picked them up and threw them towards his bandmates. What did faze him ever so briefly was the pair of bloomers that landed on stage as he sang. After holding them up for all the crowd to see, he carefully hung them off his microphone stand and went on with the show. What a pro!

Band members Chris and Tommy were in no way overshadowed by Alan and took the opportunity to show off their vocal and instrumental talents throughout the night. Having chatted to them earlier, I felt a strange sense of pride seeing them up there giving it their all.

As the gig drew to a close, the moshpit emptied and a line began to form for the ‘meet and greet’ part of the evening. Oblivious to the fact that this was even going on, I skipped off to find Debbie. After asking countless bar staff if they knew where she was (they didn’t) and standing around for a good twenty minutes, looking over with jealous eyes at my friends who were now playing with helium-filled balloons, Debbie arrived and told me to wait by the bouncers. I grabbed a friend and we headed off towards one of the bouncers only to have him shout at us to “GET BACK!” When I asked if he’d seen Debbie, his response was “GET OUT!” so we, erm, got out – we thought this was wise – and, with tears pricking in my eyes (I really don’t take well to being shouted at), I found Chris and Tommy “getting drinks thrown at them” by the bar staff. Not literally, I hope. So they threw a vodka and lemonade my way and I was a bit happier.

The guys were obviously still coming down from the gig and they told me they were tired, but they seemed very happy. As they should be – they’d done great. After chatting for a couple of minutes, Chris grabbed my hand and said to Tommy: “She’s been really nice. Let’s go get her a picture with Alan” and we moved towards the crowd. Unfortunately, we just weren’t strong enough to push through and ended up back at the bar. “Later” they said. However, the good thing about having to return to the bar was that the band’s…we’ll call them entourage…had gathered there also and I got chatting to a bloke called Stevie and another whose name I really regret not catching. And, bless them, they also decided they were going to drag me through the crowds for a photo. And, this time, we were in! The crowd must have died back a little as we found it much easier to negotiate our way through. It felt great to just slip through, with Stevie’s hand pointing at my head as he said “She’s with us. Coming through. It’s alright – she’s with us.” and to pass by the bouncer who’d shouted at me earlier on.

In the cordoned off ‘meet and greet’ area, I surprised myself with my calmness. Stevie and his friend assured me they were about to wrap it up and go upstairs and I could follow to get a picture, so I didn’t even bother to approach Alan – I just gazed at him (mouth probably open) and took a couple of shots of him signing autographs and posing with a miniature Kieron Dyer (I think) figurine. I was looking right at Karl Kennedy! True to their word, the organisers wrapped up the meet and greet and I followed Alan, Stevie and a couple of others back through the crowd – collecting Chris and Tommy on the way – and headed upstairs to the same area I’d chatted to the guys in earlier. The band lined up and I stepped forward to take a picture, only to have my camera taken off me and be told to get in shot. The result? Two photos of myself, Alan, Chris, Tommy, Jen (Alan's wife who had travelled with him throughout the tour) and a giant kangaroo. I treasure them. Next, Alan posed alone with the kangaroo and either really enjoyed the moment or did a terrific job of pretending to. Then the time came for me to pose for another photo – one of just Alan and I. As I attempted to switch my (Dad’s! ) camera on and Jen reached out to take it from me, I was met with the horrible realisation that the batteries had gone flat. How could I have let that happen?! Fortunately, Stevie was on hand to take a picture of us and he took my e-mail address so he could send it to me the following day. Phew! I thanked Stevie for taking the picture and turned to Alan to bombard him with thanks and praise for the gig. He was visibly pleased to hear what I had to say, and it wasn’t until then that I realised how good he looked. Between you and me, I think he’s been working out! I lingered for as long as I could, and some of the guys bought me time with that line I love – “It’salright, she’s with us” - even after security tried to lead me away (which makes me sound like I made more of a nuisance of myself than I actually did! ) but eventually the time came to leave. As I was walked back downstairs, I shouted another word of thanks to Alan and had him look away from his group and shout “Cheers” after me. How nice! I thanked Debbie a million times as I was so happy and so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Alan and the band.

Flashing my favourite picture – the one of Alan and I together - around to family, friends and colleagues (basically, anyone who shows a tiny bit of interest has the picture thrust in their face) since my return, I’ve been met with a whole range of comments; from “He looks so different” to “He looks just the same” to – and I love this one – “Is that your boyfriend?”

I really am very lucky and will never, ever forget that night in Durham. Roll on November!

Portsmouth by Billy, Claire, Jamie, Karl, Lucy and Moe

The Date: Saturday 4th June 2005
The Time: 11.00pm
The Venue: Student Union, Portsmouth
The Price: N/A

Members of the PerfectBlend team descended on Portsmouth by plane, train and automobile to witness Alan Fletcher, and his band Waiting Room, in concert. This weekend had been eagerly anticipated ever since Alan had been kind enough to give us his guest list places for the Student Union event.

We all met up on the afternoon of the gig, and after checking into our hotel, sampled some of the delights of Portsmouth, with local lad Jamie as our guide, before returning to the hotel to get ready for the night ahead.

We walked past the Union about an hour before we planned to enter and saw a street-long queue. We figured we'd be okay, after all, we were on Alan's elusive guest list. We went to Jamie's "local", which was in actuality a 20 minute hike away, had a shot and a few beers, and headed back to the Union... only to find the queue had since doubled in length.

Panic stricken, we asked a security guard if we could enter, as we were, after all, on Alan's elusive guest list. His first response was "Alan who?", followed by "what guest list?". It wasn't looking good. After we told him we were from PerfectBlend (don't you know who we are?!), and after Lucy and Claire batted their eyelids, and after his eyes had finished rolling to the back of his head, he agreed to go and phone Alan to ask if we were, after all, on Alan's elusive guest list.

Five minutes passed, and just as that sinking feeling began to crawl out from our stomachs, and the students began whispering and pointing and saying "wow, that Billy L is hot, I thought that was just a myth", he re-appeared and let us in. It turns out that we were, after all, on Alan's elusive guest list.

Even then, 2 hours before Alan was due on, people were lining up by the stage trying to get prime position. We managed to stand to the right of where we assumed Alan would appear, around 2 rows back, and spent the next couple of hours working our way nearer the centre of the stage, and to the front of the crowd, whilst laughing at the cheesy music the DJ was playing. We also spent quite some time admiring the homemade t-shirts of many of the guys in front of us, all proclaiming their love for Dr Karl!

Finally, Alan arrived. The crowd surged and it we started to get crushed. Whilst Jamie and Lucy braved it at the front, the rest of the group dispersed to the sides of the stage, where it was far more comfortable, and far less hot.

All the songs played by the band were met with ecstatic cheers, but nothing could top the cheer that went up when Alan sang his now legendary version of Obviously. After finding out that he was likely to sing this from Kate, we all ended up with our phones in the air, giving those who couldn't come to the gig a taste of what it sounded like.

The band also played one of their own compositions, 'Just Like Me', which went down equally as well as the covers that they played.

As Alan rounded up the gig with an acoustic version of "Livin' on a Prayer", he announced that the crowd had been "spiggin' awesome" before disappearing backstage. Beered up students shuffled and pushed anxiously after promise from the DJ of an encore, but it was not to be. Then, in a frantic push of security and flyers, we were face to face with Alan Fletcher as he pushed his way into the DJ booth!"Your only way of guaranteeing meeting Dr. Karl is to buy a CD from the DJ booth. £10 a time."

We bought one between us (well, Lucy did), and took up our place in the rowdy gaggle to get into the booth for our meeting.

I went up and at first Alan held out his hand for the same handshake he gave everyone, then I got to shout in his ear: "My name's Jamie, I'm from The Perfect Blend."

"Waaaaahhhyyyy!" Alan's arms shot out and he clutched me to him like I was some long lost friend from the past. He yelled how pleased he was I'd made it, then I explained that there were 5 others, CD-less, behind me in the queue, and more importantly behind the wall of bouncers.

No problem. "This guy is from a website that is very important to me," he told head honcho security man. "I want you to let his friends through." I pointed out Mark first, then Lucy, Karl, Claire and Billy; we were all through.

We were each enveloped in a bear hug as we introduced ourselves. Alan seemed genuinely pleased to see us, something that we'll never forget! Most of the meeting was a blur, but we also had a chat with his wife, Jennifer, before having a group picture taken and leaving so the hordes behind could also meet the man.

"And you're the wife," I blurted out to a somewhat surprised Jennifer Hanson. Clearly not expecting anyone at the gig to know or realise that she was Alan's real-life Susan, she chatted briefly with myself and Claire, and indeed, I was so engrossed in talking to Jennifer that I almost missed the all-important Alan and Perfect Blend team group shot. Luckily, the cries of the others yelling "Mark! Mark!" eventually sunk in and I took my place in the photo.

Unfortunately, it was over much too soon. There were still hordes of students in the queue behind us, so we made our way out of the union and back to the hotel, where we sat in the lobby, very civilised, drinking tea and reminiscing about the night we'd just had.

Jamie took us on a tour of Portsmouth on Sunday morning, before we had lunch and went our separate ways. We all agreed that it had been a fantastic weekend, and can't wait until November when we can do it all over again!

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Click here for an interview with Waiting Room