Trains and tiredness and it’s raining. When I reach The Astoria, the only people there are a group of girls who’ve come straight from school to queue up. I hang around with them for a while until I remember that the guest list will have a separate queue. I duck out and around the other side of the entrance with my umbrella up to wait for JC and fend off the touts. The guy from Ipswich who does a fanzine and his train-spotter friend are hanging about but I’m not in the mood for their brand of earnest chat today.
JC turns up a bit late and by then the doors are open. Tour Manager Tim’s at the box office and I claim a couple of ‘generic sticky passes’. I put my bag in the cloak room and we find ourselves in the Keith Moon Bar. The last time I was here was THAT GIG. We go to the balcony, as I’ve convinced myself that I don’t want a repeat of my near-death experience downstairs in the crush.
We spot a few Britpop B Listers in the crowd and a few bigger names, Michael Eavis, Jo Whiley, Neil from Suede. We cram into one of the table seats at the edge of the balcony and when someone wants the space next to us they ask which part of EMI we’re from. I tell him we’re with the fan club. Turns out it was the EMI conference at Canary Wharf today and the employees are here en mass. It feels like the whole company is here and they’re all up on the balcony. We are the only civilians.
There’s no support and it’s head’s down and straight into Airbag (the rest of the set list: Karma Police, My Iron Lung, Banana Co, Paranoid Android, Subterranean Homesick Alien, Just, The Bends, No Surprises, Talk Show Host, A Reminder, Lurgee, Maquiladora, Motion Picture Soundtrack, Fake Plastic Trees, Exit Music and Nobody Does It Better)
It’s a compact little set but the B sides are especially exciting. They play Maquiladora for the first time in ages and Lurgee gets an airing which I’m pleased about.
Thom apologies, but if he throws up on the bouncers it’s because he’s been up since Doncaster with food poisoning, he mimes puking to prove the point.
I rock in my seat but it’s hard to move and my knees hurt. I want to piss off the accounts department or whoever this lot who are sharing our table are. They don’t seem very interested in the gig and keep chatting. I think I manage to convince them I’m nuts by singing along and doing a weird sitting down dance in my seat.
There is a enthusiastically demanded encore. When they come back on, Thom has a stool and he does “One we haven’t really recorded” Motion Picture Soundtrack. Compared to the version I’ve heard on a tape, he’s swapped the lyrics round…“Red wine and sad films, cheap sex and sleeping pills…” I’m ready to burst.
He does the rest of the encore sitting down. The others come back on. Someone shouts “Jonny you’re a god!” and it throws them. Thom yelps a laugh. The audience take over bits of Fake Plastic and it’s a ‘moment’. A further encore, Nobody Does It Better and he’s dropping words all over the show. When they’re done they’re done. There’s lots of back patting, Ed especially is on a male bonding tip, hugging Jonny then Thom. It was kind of good to get the view from up here but I need to be able to move about and I want the contact you get at the front. I’m very selfish at these gigs.
I struggle through the bar to the toilets, past Zoe Ball and a scrum of EMI hacks. I can hear Caffy and find her to say hi, but don’t see her again for the rest of the night. The place is packed and the bouncer is letting people back up to the balcony and the other bar. We go for beer which isn’t free, much to the EMI staff’s chagrin. We sit with a view of the exits and spot Ed with a table of ladies and a bald guy who might be Stanley. Jonny, his wife, Tim and Colin are on the other side and I find myself explaining to JC who is who. Thom appears and I want to speak to him before we have to leave to get across town but I don’t want to interrupt. Ed passes us and asks me if I enjoyed it, I say ‘not bad’ meaning ‘bloody amazing’ and he smiles.
Thom’s not mingling; we’re trying to ignore the loud group next to us (is that Gary Numan?) There are too many EMI folks. I go to reclaim my bag, and when I come back I realise that everyone else is getting chucked out. I find JC outside in the rain looking a bit damp. I don’t want to leave but she drags me off, we have a night bus to catch. We come around the corner and pass the front door and there’s Thom keeping dry in the door way, seeing some people off. We exchange hellos and a hug, I mumble “See you later” and can’t quite make myself say anything else. I am too shocked. I don’t know if I feel happy or sad.
We drink hot chocolate to keep the cold out until the night bus arrives.