I won tickets for Aberdeen and that is the only reason I’m going. By rights I should give in and go to bed for a week. I’m too old for this shit, not fit enough, shouldn’t drink every night, shouldn’t worry so much. I should get a budget for my own room so I can get some sleep. I should have learnt all this stuff by now, but somehow it doesn’t work like that.
We make our way to Aberdeen in the first class carriage. It is dark by the time JC (my 7th plus one in the last 10 days) and I arrive. We have just enough time to check in to the weirdly old fashioned hotel before heading out tothe Exhibition Centre on the edge of the cityin a taxi. I have to hang about for an hour to collect my other tickets. The power of the internet allows Pocki to track down someone who wanted to come who could get here on time. I leave the spares at the box office for someone from the RHMB. Every extra minute waiting outside when a gig in about to start is agony.
Usually given the chance, I would have swapped my seats for standing but I feel like crap, I’m cold and at the end of my tether, so I take the seats. As has been par for the course on this tour, I immediately feel hemmed in, stuck in the middle of a row. There aren’t many other guests in the row, just a couple who are talking about “Philip” and have the only passes in the place. I say something to them about the seating and the woman asks me if I saw them in Edinburgh earlier in the year, when I reply in the affirmative she says, “Why would anybody want to see them twice?” I am painfully diplomatic, you never know if the vaguely posh person you’re sitting next to is one of the band’s family member. “They’re different every night” I tell her and bite my knuckles to stifle the laughter. She says, “Oh I’m sure “the boys” would be pleased to hear that.” I don’t really care who you are, but please don’t be quite so condescending.
I stand up and move about but a steward shines a torch on me, demanding that I sit down again. I can feel the whole seating structure moving. I sit down and start to cry. I’m sobbing for the entire first half of the set. It’s the only catharsis I’m going to get. It’s my last show of the tour and I haven’t felt the feeling yet. I haven’t really connected. Everything feels so distant. I have a hollow feeling in my chest, a pain, disappointment. And then mid way through we get Creep and I HAVE TO STAND UP. The lights blaze on the guitar crunch and I feel it tear me apart. They play No Surprises in the encore and I attempt to phone Clara so she can hear and I start crying again.
The chaps who bought my spare find me at the end, very chuffed to have made it in time. I find the Japanese contingent and collect hugs from everyone and can’t control myself. I always hate the last one, they all want me to come to Dublin but there’s just no way, I’ll make myself too ill. We linger before going outside.
Outside in the dark I wish I had a hat and scarf. I wish I was in a warm bed but I want to spend a bit more time with people I might not see again for years. We never know when the next tour will be. I want to salvage some feelings. Sam and Keiko and some of the other hardcore are here at a railing near the back of the bus, I join them. Big Colin comes out and tell us that he’s let the band know we’re here and he’ll ask them to come out and see us. (I hear later that Big Colin took pity on them and invited them inside for a coffee earlier on when they were queuing). Keiko appears with a beer for me, blagged from ADF. I talk to Sam about the film he shot of us in Portugal (they showed it to the band, Dilly Gent liked it. Now I really wish I could have talked to her in London) and I talk to Emily, who always seems tired and nervous and jittery, but is probably no worse than I am myself.
Thom and Phil come out at the short end of the bus cordon, the people waiting run down and I end up at the back – I don’t do this anymore. I can only look on and listen in. Thom is on form, Big Colin and I trade some back-chat because we know what he’s like. The Americans start in on politics and Emily comes on like a foreign correspondent, asking formal questions. Colin asks if she has concealed recording equipment. Thom reels off his story of political engagement inspired by witnessing police horses and broken legs at the Poll Tax Riots. Get him on a soapbox says Colin, “It’s all about the music, when did you get so serious.” “Yeah,” says Thom to me, “I just want to dance. I saw you dancing and in Nottingham too.”
Sam gets his set list signed, but only by Thom and he gives it to me – “For your anniversary.” It’s ten years to the day since I met first Thom and spoke to him. Today is also Keiko’s 80th gig. She’s happy. She still has Dublin to go. I wave to the blacked out windows of the bus. Keiko and I trudge up to the Holiday Inn, so I can call a cab (JC went back to our hotel as soon as the show was over). There are lots of goodbye hugs and everyone wants to know if I’ll come back to Japan for the shows in April…