Saturday, June 20, 2009

London for the weekend - Saturday

tmp-30th-advert-300 Today's the day when we head to The O2 to Jeff Wayne's, The War of the Worlds 30th Anniversary concert tour.

The tour, updated for 2009, will feature a 3d hologram of Richard Burton and a 30ft Martian fighting machine descending from the ceiling – more details later on…

We had a rare lie-in. I got-up at 7.30 and Ann followed not long after. We had breakfast in the hotel around 9.30 - the restaurant was packed – and tucked into a cooked one! The weather forecast was for a warm day so we decided to head for the River and take a boat trip up the Thames on the Thames Clipper service a wide catamaran design that was exceptionally comfy and incredibly fast! I can't remember ever having done this before and it was great fun taking in the sites of all the converted Wharves along the Thames. The round-trip took about an hour.

We stopped off at Greenwich Pier and looked around the National Maritime Museum and then the Queen's House (designed for the Queen of Denmark by Inigo Jones). Both were really interesting – the museum even had a dude wandering around dressed as Neptune acting as a tour guide; frightening children and just looking weird!

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We caught the clipper back to Canary Riverside and decided to stop off for a quick bite around 2 at Zizzi's (mainly because it was the first place we saw!). We only wanted a snack so we shared a starter. Service was brisk and were back in the hotel by 2.40 – time to put our feet-up and rest awhile in preparation for tonight's Concert.

Transport-wise, we knew that the nearest station was going to be closed due to engineering work, so travelled again on a Thames Clipper.

We decided to eat at an Argentinian restaurant called Gaucho – mainly because it looked less busy that all the rest. As it was, we still had to book and come back. We returned just after 7pm and they had a table waiting via a lift journey. Boy, was it busy…and some! And very dark! It seems to be a trend these days to make flashy restaurants as dark as possible – just so you can't read the menu.

Anyway, the service was well above 'good'. It was one of the few restaurants where they actually bring out the cuts of meat and explain them all. Ironically, we didn't much care for all the faffing around because it was now 7.20 and the concert started at 8. Fortunately, all the waiting-staff seemed to be used to this challenge, and ours hurried along our order. We still only had around 10 minutes eating-time, but we made it…just! Hurrying the whole affair was a shame because the whole experience was a really good one. Running shoes at the ready as we left Gaucho at 7.58!!!

The Concert - The War of the Worlds

The show started slightly late – around 8.05 - mainly due to many people like us rushing from where they'd been eating. The first thing we noticed when we got to our seat (Row F, very near the front) was how many people were there! We not been here since 1999 when it was The Millennium Dome and had forgotten just how spacious it was. There were thousands of people there and those at the back of the venue looked liked the size of pin-heads. We've never seen a stadium so large…and so full!

There was a hearty cheer when the UllaDUBulla Strings took to the stage and a roar when Jeff Wayne followed. The lights dimmed and we were soon listening to the opening piece – the part where the Martians are justifying their attack on Earth. This wasn't on the original Album and I suspect had been added to contextualise the story for those not familiar with JW's opus.

Not long after, we were in to more familiar territory with the first appearance of Richard Burton (a hologram for this tour, replacing the standard projection from previous tours) and the dah-dah-daaaah…dah-dah-daaah piece by the strings (you can see I didn't formally study music!) – both were magnificent from a sight and sound perspective.

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The concert continued with the music being complemented by a cinematic-like screen behind the orchestra and band telling the story in pictures and film – a clever addition. For me, the best and most surprising part was when Justin Hayward sang Forever Autumn – the screen was unsurprisingly showing autumn leaves falling and then the whole audience realised that there were also leaves falling from the ceiling of the venue – thousands of them – brilliant!

Full marks for the two 'old boys' on bass and lead guitar (who I've seen before on the previous WotW DVD) for their music ability and stamina – they carried a lot of the tunes and played their hearts out. They did looked slightly out of place though amongst the 'yoof' representing the rest of the musicians!

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The biggest spectacle by far was the Martian fighting machine descending from the ceiling – it was massive, and positioned itself perfectly between the various musicians.

There was short break of just 20 minutes corresponding to the end of side 1 of the Album.

The rest of the concert was just as exciting. The strings worked very hard, so did the band….and so did JW, conducting like it was the first time he'd ever done it – enthusiastic doesn't begin to describe him, The audience clearly appreciated all of this and when the concert finished just after 10.20, everyone got a standing ovation – well deserved!

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Surprisingly, given the number of people trying to leave, our exit was swift and trouble-free.

After the Show
We had pre-booked a Thames Clipper to get us back to Canary Wharf, but it was the last one (23.50), so we had a bit of time to kill. We found ourselves back in a Zizzi's – this time we headed straight for the desserts – Ann had apple crumble whilst I sampled the banana/chocolate/toffee/chocolate/waffle thingy!

Just before heading for the Thames Clipper, we attempted to get hold of a Programme for the event, but we'd\left it too late as they'd all been sold – shame!

We headed for the Pier and after a short wait, boarded the Clipper. After about 20 minutes, we were back at Canary Wharf and by 12.25 we were in bed!

It had been a great day all-in-all and we're now big fans of the Thames Clipper service – what a great way to get around London!

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