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June 29 - Bedford, England - Wrest Park

by LB

First the set list -

Fools Must Die
Message Of Love
Talk Of The Town
Time The Avenger
Nothing Breaks Like A Heart
Everyday Is Like Sunday
The Homecoming
I Go To Sleep
Back On The Chain Gang
Don't Get Me Wrong
Night In My Veins
Middle Of The Road

I'll Stand By You
Mystery Achievement

Thin Line Between Love And Hate
Stop Your Sobbing
Brass In Pocket

In the car, on the way to venue, engine running, tires "shhhhh-ing", I heard... something familiar. Just for a split second, then I lost it in the engine noise, etc. Then I picked it out again. I said, "I hear music! It's the soundcheck! It's the soundcheck!" Our friend Kevin pulled into the first parking space available and the three of us jumped out. Kevin: "Fuck, how did you hear that?!" Taunia: "She's scary." Me: "I always just hear it. I... It's just... I can SMELL a soundcheck!"

Cruelly stuck outside the gates, we made our way to where the sound was the loudest and most clear. We heard the string section and dialog in between songs. Standing on a footpath surrounded by trees young and ancient, vast green lawns, flowers, Pretenders music pouring over the garden wall... there was nothing else I could have hoped for, nothing more I wanted and certainly nothing more I needed. My eyes filled with tears. I wished everyone could feel this.

Soon, other people were walking around. You know, "too many" people, which meant it was time to get in line. As soon as we lined up, everyone else started lining up with their lawn chairs, picnic baskets, coolers, folding chairs, tablecloths, bottles of wine... this was getting very weird.

After an hour or so, they opened the massive gates. Kevin was in first. Taunia and I followed behind. There wasn't exactly a mad dash for the front. Oh boy. We took our places in the front row, center. People started setting up their little tables and putting out their food. We joked about which wine would go well with the Pretenders - red or white? "Ooh, these carrot sticks are DIVINE, and oh, I remember that song - they used to play it on the radio some years ago. Another glass of Chardonnay?" It was about this time that I started praying, in my own way that I have of doing it - 'Please don't let that happen ("that" being the confrontations we've put up with for standing at shows over the last few years). Don't allow me to come all this way, let this start out so beautifully and have it end so horribly. I know it's not an important thing and really just a selfish, crap request, but not this time, please, please, please...' A tall thin blonde woman wearing a black blouse and slacks, high heels, and carrying a walkie-talkie came up to us and stopped. She nodded to the security guys on the other side of the barrier. I faced her. "Sorry to bother you, but if you're planning on sitting down, I'm going to have to ask you to move to the side," she said, nodding to the lawn in front of the side of the stage. Huh? We were standing up. I said, "We were planning on standing up. Is that okay if...?" She interrupted, "Then do as you please." She walked away. Was that the head of security, or an angel?? What the...?? After all we've been through in the last few years, all the thrown cups of beer, the hurled garbage, the near fistfights - did the head of venue security not just tell me we were allowed to stand, but told me we HAD to or else get the hell out of there? Could this get any better? COULD THIS GET ANY BETTER?!?! I returned to my prayer state, "THANK YOU! You can give me shit another time - and I know you will. I look forward to it."

We stood there for a couple of hours. Just the three of us standing there surrounded by people having picnics and the one guy next to us who was so drunk he couldn't stand up without holding on to the railing. He managed to ask Kevin why he was there about 75 times. I hate those people - too drunk to stand, yet they manage to talk non-stop for 4 hours, bleating the same 3 questions over and over. I guess it was for his own safety that security made him and his girlfriend move to the side of the stage, then it was just the three of us in the front, a large empty space around us, then the picnic people.

Midge came out. Very few people clapped for him. "Is that the best you can do?" More people applauded. "No, no - no sympathy..." he said with a smile as he started his first song. The first half of his set was all right, but he kind of lost me during the second half when I was falling asleep standing up (during my 37th consecutive hour without sleep) and each song seemed to go on with no end in sight. At one point, the smoke machine was going and it went on for so long and with so much vim that the drummer and entire drum kit disappeared in it. The crowd responded with laughter, whistling, applause and cheering. It was an absurd and hilarious stunt.

Midge did an excellent job of getting the crowd going and they seemed to enjoy his set. We were suddenly surrounded by people standing at the front. I will be haunted by the scenes of people picnicking at a Pretenders show for the rest of my life, but most of these folks were standing up now and ready to rock.

After a lengthy equipment check "Test Chrissie's microphone... okay. Test Adam's microphone... okay. Test Andy's..." the stage was cleared for take off. A burst of thunder was heard and through the speakers came the sounds of a rumbling, grumbling thunderstorm that brought me right back to Akron. The "downpour" subsided and gave way to a sultry sort of song, of which I know not the title nor the artist.

The band strolled onto the stage, waving to the cheering crowd. Chrissie was wearing a black sleeveless t-shirt, jeans, boots and a denim jacket with short gold fringe on the sleeves. They casually picked up their instruments and ripped into 'Fools Must Die'. Message of Love followed on the heels of Fools and they never let up.

After Message Of Love, the Duke String Quartet was introduced and they took their places on Andy's right. The DSQ joined in on most of the songs and they all sounded great with the addition of strings. The DSQ stayed onstage the entire time and seemed to be having a great time.

Martin was behind a shield of plexi and from the position I was in, I could see the back of Chrissie reflected in it. Seeing the front and back of her at the same time onstage was a strangely cool thing and I couldn't keep my eyes off of her reflection.

Don't Get Me Wrong - I still can not get over the way Adam plays this song. Those notes fall and splatter with the playfulness of rain drops (if you've ever seen me playing in the rain or in the puddles it leaves behind, you'd know this is a very good thing).

The crowd sang along to nearly every song (including Time The Avenger) and responded well to the songs they didn't know (Everyday Is Like Sunday, The Homecoming, Nothing Breaks Like A Heart, and Fools Must Die).

During one song in the last part of the show, the smoke machine went a little wild. I think this one was an accident, but it was funny watching Adam vanish in the mist.

Moments after the band left the stage, the fireworks started. It was one of the most spectacular fireworks displays I've ever seen. They had a grand assortment - from the small bammers to the massive kaboomers. It finished off the night perfectly.

The band screwed up a few times here and there and Chrissie wasn't in the best mood, but I would have stood outside the gates for another 38 hours just to see it again. On one foot. In the blazing sun. Listening to that damn Kylie Minogue song that seems to follow me everywhere on loop right up until showtime. Well, you get the idea...

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