with mr doherty and his shambles of babies and our friends from the forests of finland deciding they couldn’t be quite arsed enough to bother to visit this place (twice in mr doherty’s feeble case) I had reached that point where I would have agreed to go and see the chuckle brothers performing we will rock you at a disused tractor factory in aylsham if they agreed to actually turn up. it would just be nice to get hold of a ticket to go to the excruciatingly awful lower common room and see anyone, even if it was kirk brandon and mike peters or someone. well, maybe it wasn’t that bad. so leafing through the free advertiser on a friday morning, reading the crime reports and special deals on honda civics at a garage in wymondham, there, between the patios and 60s birthday messages for a woman called travis from clacton, an over saturated, colour bled small ad for natalie imbruglia who will be singing stuff at said lower common room on halloween as part of a UK tour that takes in london and, er, norwich. that’s it. well, she won’t cancel everything at the last minute. I mean, she’s like a real professional pop person and everything. she’ll probably bring her own travelling venue on the back of a lorry that they can construct inside the lower common room so that it actually ends up being the kind of place you might voluntarily fork out 20 quid to see someone because they’re the only people who’ll turn up. and besides, its natalie imbruglia, right? it’s probably a good idea to go and see her in real life just to check whether she really does look like she does in marie claire or whether they actually airbrush her entire head and actually in person she looks like supergran on speed or that mad woman from rentaghost.
as the students are not yet back there’s a slim chance that the 1500 tickets for an event that’s likely to be more bearable than an environmental science roadshow featuring a beard from cambridge and maybe bill oddie will not have sold out 3 hours before they’re even announced, I plunge onto the uea ticket bookings site and register for about the 5th time, letting them know my preferences don’t really include spoken word folk ambient evenings with organic muppets, and check down the list of student clubs nights featuring half dressed disaster areas, half man half biscuit tribute bands (arctic monkeys hahaha) , and revival nights, and there she is, too recent to have her own picture, for 20 quid. oh go on then, natalie imbruglia. if you even turn up I’ll be pleased to see you, so you probably don’t have to do too much to impress me once you get going and we’ll all be feeling like we made a good, albeit bizarre, decision to meet in east anglia, where in general, the audiences are, well, rubbish.
have you checked to see whether it’s still on? nah. its natalie imbruglia, right? I mean, she’s not going to cancel is she? I didn’t even check the ticket booking site, which had flashing messages in big capital letters and everything when the shambles and the leaves decided norwich was a backwater too far. I finished off a project plan for global search, updated the calendar for meetings about ecommerce globalization, unified product information architecture worldwide routing and globalized web platforms, cut out an evil toothy face from a haphazard pumpkin, put 170 mini mars bars and 34 chupa chups into the treat collection jar, got in the megane scenic and headed out to the university. in the rain. backwards. its only about 10 minutes to get there, but the campus has one of those one-way systems and menacing car parks that make late 30 somethings want to stay in and watch videos of waking the dead instead, but I ploughed on, through the already skyward car park barrier, which obviously made me paranoid about not having a ticket to put in the other barrier on the way out and how I’d probably get stuck in the barrier with 500 cars behind me and I’d have to reverse out and call a man with a torch called dave to put a special key in or something to let everyone through, who want to kill me by now and I should have just stayed in an watched spooks instead. anyway, having found a space under a street lamp (under strict instruction from home) I started walking over the car park and down the hill past what used to be the sports hall to the lower common room, which used to be the lower common room, which I used to walk to about 3 times a week about 20 years ago, to go and see people I’ve never heard of shout at microphones about red wedge and urban decay and class war and and suchlike, but now I’m tripping over cables from luxury tour buses for aor queens and everyone around me looks like they’ve got a day off from anglian windows or norwich union, but then, even though I try and look like I might just be a journalist or something, who has to be here, I probably look like a 30-something dad, who’s got a night off from the washing up and actually thinks natalie has a brilliant voice and her songs are so, well, you know, like, good, all of which is probably true, but I’ve brought a pen, just to see if I can’t keep the journalist thing alive as long as possible. I had a haircut this morning, which always gives me a headache in the evening, but I’ve shot myself in the head with 2 nurofen arrows and I’m holding up. as I walk through the security and fumble around for my ticket, I’m still trying to pull of that ‘I don’t really want to be here’ look, but I getting past the point of caring even if neil sees me and it ruins 20 years of carefully cultivated cultural snobbery.
once I’m in, I’m reminded just how godawful a place the lower common room is to see any kind of event. the ceiling around 3 sides of a square must be around 7 foot high and the 4th side is the stage. in front of the stage is a smaller square of old parquet flooring which can probably accommodate around 300 people standing looking at the stage – this is the only place people under 6 foot can actually see anything – or 200 students fumbling drunkenly at each other while madame disco poopoo or something spins 70 glam classics and everything smells a bit off. and it’s hot. it’s always been hot. for about 40 years its been hot and so by the time I’ve had pint of stella in a glass that can only be described as a plastic challenge, and stood contemplating the rise of the woolly hat as sported by robert post tonight and daniel powter at all times, and shuffled a few places to the left and filled a couple of gaps left by some people who had passed out, I’m about ready to take the replay top off and assume my watching position. miraculously, for the lower common room, a gap opens up in front of me, which is just right for a 6 foot plus person like me to see the whole stage, although the saturday staff from john lewis who are all around and below me have no chance (can you see her? can you see her now? will be the soundtrack to the evening).
then the moment where the lights go down and some ill-advised intro music pipes in comes along and this is everyone’s cue to cheer and clap until the act bounds on stage at which point the crowd erupts into an ecstatic frenzy like they’ve been brainwashed by colonel kurtz and the night kicks off. except, in norwich, this is more like 30 seconds of low-key ‘yeah’s and a couple of whoops, followed by a protracted murmur and then total silence at which point the intro music turns into some more intro music and some people actually get bored and leave in an embarrassing shuffle through the crowd. oh, but then the lights come on, the band bounce across the stage and we all go understatedly apoplectic again and then there’s natalie, bouncing across the stage in a probably ridiculously expensive grey tshirt and what looks like diesel jeans, which is funny to me, for some reason. she says hi, and sings lots of songs and then a couple more and then gets on her bus to go to amsterdam.
she’s not got snake hair or a beard or anything. she’s beautiful, she sings like an angel and I love her. I’m still a bit worried about the car park though.