London – Manchester – Paris – Werchter
I began and ended the second leg of this tour with mixed feelings, but for different reasons.
Sticky & Sweet was my least favorite tour and didn’t really enjoy it that much in 2008, why she was extending this particular tour was a true mystery to me. If she had extended the Re-Invention Tour or Confessions Tour, I surely would’ve understand. But it is Madonna and I wanted to see her again this year.
While discussing the trip with Hans we decided to attend the openings hows in London and the show in Werchter. Hamburg wasn’t too far away, so we added that to our schedule as well. Manchester we didn’t want to book as we were going to Michael Jackson’s opening show in the O2 on July 8 with his ‘This Is It’. We were much more looking forward to Michael’s show than Madonna’s; it was our first opportunity since 1997 to see Michael again
Paris was added to our schedule later even though we hadn’t planned on going to Paris. Because tickets were so easy to get, we decided to travel on to Paris after Michael’s show in the O2. A while later the second show in Manchester as well as the show in Hamburg got cancelled, which sucked. Hamburg was wiped off our schedule and refunds were given.
Suddenly the news reached us that Michael had postponed his first show from July 8 to July 13, we couldn’t make it the 13th. We exchanged our tickets for new tickets in September with amazing seats right in front of the stage in Block A. Because our Michael stop in our tour schedule was gone, we decided to go to Sticky in Manchester instead. Tickets were so easy to get, for the regular price we bought ourselves two Block E tickets in front of the catwalk.
Everything seemed settled and done until that terrible day June 25 2009………I had fallen asleep on the couch and woke around 00.30am (Dutch time) and a special news bulletin was on and it said ‘Michael Jackson ‘died’. First I thought I was still dreaming, but after rubbing my eyes a few times it became clear that this was reality. At that point Michael’s passing hadn’t been confirmed, they only knew he was rushed to hospital after suffering cardiac arrest. I was fully awake instantly and turned to either BBC or CNN to follow all the news. I was shaking from head to toe and started to cry my eyes out….this couldn’t be….not him.
All night I watched the news and when Michael’s death was confirmed, all was just a blur to me. I called my mother, she was already in bed but got out anyway. I just spent the entire night crying. Even though everyone knows me as a big Madonna fan, Michael Jackson was my first true hero and idol. When I was three years old I was dancing to his music already, later ‘BAD’ became my fave track and knew all dance steps by heart, I actually wanted to be like him. The Moonwalker soundtrack was my very first vinyl LP, which I won at a Dutch radio station. I was scared to death of the Thriller video. When I was a little older I even wanted to marry Michael. I loved every little thing about this man. In the 80’s I never understood why everyone loved Madonna, I never really paid attention to her. It wasn’t until 1991 after seeing Truth Or Dare that I became a fan.
I have always been a fan of Madonna in a very different kind of way than I was a Michael Jackson fan. Whereas I mainly was in love with Michael’s personality, with Madonna it was mostly the music and the image. I wanted to collect everything about Madonna, whereas with Michael I never felt the need to, I just own all the regular cd’s and dvd’s. He was in my heart and that was enough for me. Unfortunately I only got to see him live once, in 1997 at his HIStory tour in Amsterdam. I LOVED the show and cried during Earth Song. Wonderful man.
In the hours of his passing I went to bed at 5am, even though I had to get up for work at 7am. As you can imagine I was a total wreck at work the next day. I couldn’t hear his voice and songs without crying. It is so very tough to explain, but even though I didn’t know Michael personally there is still a bond with an artist that has been with you for most of your life. If he’s then suddenly taken right before his much deserved comeback, it is just absolutely terrible, something that will take a long time for me to cope with. I spent the next weekend watching his video’s on various music channels.
Of course now I wasn’t looking forward to the Sticky & Sweet Tour at all…….
London, July 3 2009
Together with Hans we left for airport Schiphol to fly to London together with Caroline. Unfortunately I couldn’t control my anxiety once again and the pill I took did not help. The flight to London wasn’t too comfortable, it was very cloudy so couldn’t see anything and at one point the plain fell down a few metres, so you can understand that my fingernails were tightly pressed into the chair.
Once in London we took the tube to Tottenham Court Road where our hotel St. Giles was located. We were allowed entry immediately in our very small hotel room. We had asked for two separate beds but were given a twin, way too small. We next ate something at our beloved Subways and headed to Leicester Square. Here we stopped at the HMV as it was a complete and total Michael shrine. The outside wall was covered with pictures and letters to Michael, even flowers. It was extremely moving and absolutely beautiful to see. A little further down the road where the Thriller Live tribute show was played in the Lyric Theatre, another shrine had been set up. Taken aback by all my emotions we crossed the street and ate and drank something at Starbucks.
In the evening we had dinner at Zizzi’s and visited the kaballah centre. Madonna wasn’t there, as we had already expected. Originally we had planned on having dinner with Sharon and James but they were at the O2 listening to Madonna’s dress rehearsal.
London, July 4 2009
The day of the first show arrived. We knew M had added some changes to the show; Holiday would be replacing Heartbeat (thank God), Dress You Up would replace Borderline. Frozen was also added to the setlist instead of the terrible rock version of Hung Up. Caroline decided to pay a visit to the kaballah centre and attend a class. Hans and me went shopping. Somewhere in a little village where I had never been before, I was looking for flip flops and ran into dancer Norman in a shoe store. We wished him a good show that evening and went on to find some cheaper flip flops, no way am I paying 30GBP for flip flops!
Right before we took the tube to Waterloo we ate some noodles from ‘Noodles in a box’, terrible ‘food’! A bunch of greasy noodles with some greasy unrecognizable green vegetables for 6 quid?! Definitely not something I wanted to repeat. At Waterloo we had to wait another hour before we could board the O2 Express boat to the O2. The weather was very hot and we were being fried in the hot baking sun at the pier we had to wait for our boat. The trip itself went fine and arrived at the O2 quickly. Out of respect we wore a Michael Jackson shirt, simply because this was the location where Michael would’ve started his 50 shows on July 13.
There was another large shrine at the O2 filled with flowers, letters, again very impressive. At the O2 we picked up our tickets (Block B2 row D) and picked up our free S&S shirts and new tourbook. Then we ate some fries and found our seats. Mario and Paolo (Madonnatribe) were seated next to us, so that was good fun! We said hi to almost all of our friends. Guy Oseary came up to us and had a chat.
The show started around 9pm and our seats were excellent. Candy Shop was improved to the previous version (loved the new hair, sidepart), new jacket and new backdrop video (a little less boring). Beat Goes On was exactly the same, but still good and being this close to the catwalk was great. Human Nature and Vogue were also exactly the same. The first real surprise was Holiday. We heard M would be doing a tribute to Michael in her show, and halfway Holiday is where it happened. A dancer dressed as MJ emerged from the stage, it was like the King himself was there on the stage. He danced to Billie Jean and Wanna Be Startin’ Something (and Another Part of Me) and copied his moves incredibly. Of course I had to sob a little, amazing moment, an absolute highlight. The screens showed gorgeous pics of MJ.
I didn’t like the new version of Dress You Up, didn’t recognize anything of the original stellar track. She could’ve sung Borderline and I wouldn’t have heard the difference. She’s Not Me and Music were exactly the same. The whole gypsy section as well. Unfortunately M still wore that terrible head piece in 4 Minutes and the robotic like costume, new pants and shoes which were great however! During Like a Prayer I was just taking pictures randomly, not even seeing what I was photographing, when suddenly I looked at the result of what I just shot……….WOW! Absolutely the most beautiful picture I have ever taken of Madonna, absolutely perfect. After Like a Prayer lyrics from Michael’s Man In The Mirror came on screen ‘if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change’, gorgeous. Now we were presented to a new version of Frozen, it started out spectacular but quickly dropped in energy, then in the middle of the song the beat came back and I actually enjoyed it. Ray of Light is now probably one of my most hated songs and Give it 2 Me was fun, loved the glittered glove Madonna wore in honor of Michael. After the show ‘Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough’ was played, I absolutely loved all the Michael references in the show.
We took the first boat back, but when at Waterloo we were a bit clueless at how to get back to our hotel. We seemed to have missed all the busses and when we finally got on one, it stopped earlier and dropped us of somewhere. We then decided to walk and of course got lost, after asking directions we finally found Leicester Square. It took us two hours to get back……
London, July 5
Woke up with a massive headache and had some aspirine for breakfast.
In the afternoon we ate a good meal at Zizzi’s and then took the bus to Waterloo (much cheaper than tube). Again waited an hour for our boat which was delayed. At the O2 the queues at the box office were much bigger than the previous day, so we waited 45 minutes until we got our tickets. We did speak to Sharon and James right before the show.
Once in our seats (Block B2 row D again), we sat next to our friend Martijn (from Holland) this time. After Paul Oakenfold’s set (yep again mostly the same material as played in 2006 and 2008) we were tapped on our back by Guy Oseary, he again questioned how we were. Within seconds we were surrounded by fans wanting to take pictures with Guy, it was hilarious. Our seats were a bit more near the centre, so absolutely perfect!
Lady Gaga as well as Ethan Hawke were both front row catwalk during the show. Madonna seemed to have a much better time now than yesterday and the show was very well received (yes by me as well). Madonna started requesting shirts from people in the audience during La Isla Bonita (G-A-Y 2005 flashback). A lot of people did take off their shirts but Madonna sincerely requested the shirts not to be thrown at her, which people still did of course. Madonna was having fun and it showed. Again the MJ tribute was my fave moment in the show, as well as the fabulous Like a Prayer. After Ray of Light we left the O2 already to avoid traffic at the pier. Of course we got on the ‘all stops’ boat so it took a lot longer for us to get back at Waterloo. At Waterloo we found a bus quickly and got home two hours earlier than the previous night.
London July 6
Today Caroline went back to Amsterdam, we stayed in London.
The movie Drag Me To Hell was on our schedule, a movie that I had wanted to see for quite a long time. Last year Hans and I saw Eden Lake in the cinema at Leicester Square and we loved it so much, that we wanted to repeat the experience. Drag Me To Hell only played in the Odeon, small theatre and small screen but better than nothing. Again an amazing movie, what a way to spent an afternoon! In the evening I couldn’t take money from any ATM anywhere, I panicked but after phoning them in Holland it seemed there were technical fuck ups from their side.
Our collection of Michael tribute books also grew larger each and every day, we bought everything we found (I guess it is part of the mourning process)
Manchester July 7
Today we took the train to Manchester (where we had never been before) for tonight’s show. We thought we had reserved seats, which we didn’t. With a large box filled with Krispy Kream donuts (soooo lovely) we sat down in the quiet zone which we were anything but.
In Manchester we found our hotel by foot, our hotel room was huge, three times the size of our hotel room in London! Michael and his memorial service were planned to be shown on television, but we couldn’t watch it as we had a Madonna show on our schedule. We walked a bit through the centre of Manchester and went to the M.E.N. arena to pick up our tickets. On our way there Hans found it necessary to film a sign leading to the arena and almost got run over by a bus!
We quickly found the arena and we were the only ones there picking up tickets. They were setting up the merchandise stands and a soundcheck could clearly be heard. Human Nature was blasting from the speakers. In the evening we ate at an Italian restaurant where we were the only customers. While at the M.E.N. arena I suddenly felt very sick and quickly found a bathroom. Believe me if there is one place you don’t want to get sick, it is on holiday and certainly not right before you’re about to enter an arena. After my toilet visit I felt a bit better and realized it probably had something to do with our Italian food.
The M.E.N. arena was extremely hot inside, they probably had never heard of airco before. Our seats were good in block E right in front of the catwalk, our seats were also dead center. Our friends were seated on the front row and at one point we joined them there. First it seemed we were OK to stand there, but 15 minutes before the show started we were led back to our seats, which was a big bummer. We saw the show from our seats in row 8, still great but not as good as front row obviously. Madonna addressed the crowd before You Must Love Me and spoke about Michael’s memorial that day, she told us to remind ourselves to cherish people while they’re still alive and not wait until they are no longer with us. She truly impressed me with her speech and couldn’t agree more. She also told us it was only fair of us to give her our shirts as she had been doing it for us for years.
I did enjoy the show, only a cable came loose from the ceiling and heard two fans got injured. When at the hotel we first spent an hour trying to post a message on the website, then found our sheets quickly.
London July 8
Today we took the train back to London, which went fine. In the afternoon we had tickets to Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker in the Vue cinema on Leicester Square. Today was the original date of the premiere of Michael’s tour for which we originally had tickets, so wanted to spent the day thinking of Michael. Moonwalker was amazing on the big screen, especially the Smooth Criminal video (my fave song and video of all time), as if Michael was with us for just a few moments again…
Later on we had tickets for the Thriller Live Music in the Lyric Theater. This musical was set up in honor of the 25th anniversary of Thriller, but of course after Michael’s passing had a whole new meaning. We had great seats row 5 center in the stalls. We went crazy right from the start. The show starts with the young Michael, an amazing look a like! All was sung live and the dancing was fab. The singer that played the young Michael really looked like him so there were a few gasps in the audience as it was kind of startling. With performances of ABC and I want You back among others we were taken back to many years ago and it was like the Jacksons themselves were performing for us. The show moved on to Michael’s later work, Smooth Criminal was the absolute highlight. The video was acted out in front us with every single minor little detail, the setting, the costumes, the moves, everything! The Michael impersonator was fabulous, he looked so much like him and the dancing with absolutely similar.
The audience completely lost itself in the show and were screaming and shouting ‘Miss You Michael’, ‘Love you Michael’. Billie Jean, Bad, Heal The World, Dangerous, Thriller and many more were performed for us in perfection. Certainly now that Michael has passed, this is the ultimate way to ‘see’ him again. The show was absolutely amazing, but at the same time it hurt knowing we will never get to see Michael himself performing these songs again. Of course there is only one Michael and that is the King himself.
This Thriller Live was the absolute highlight of my vacation and definitely want to repeat it, recommended to all!
Paris July 9
We woke up extremely early to catch our train to Paris. I couldn’t eat anything and when I tried to pay a visit to the toilet in the lobby of our hotel, I quickly made my way out. It smelled as though hundreds of fish had been rotting there…..barf…..
In the Thalys I got myself some tea, even though I still hadn’t eaten next to nothing (my stomach felt very sensitive). Suddenly I felt very sick and made my way to the toilet in the train, I made it just in time because everything in my stomach was making its way back up, but I managed to hold it down. WHAT a place to feel sick! I spent around 5 minutes in the toilet trying to breathe and feel a bit better. When the sick feeling in my stomach eased I made my way back to my seat and ate a dry sandwich with nothing on it. My stomach felt slightly better, but I still wasn’t feeling well. I had felt this ever since Manchester, maybe a case of food poisoning?
Finally in Paris we took a cab, something that made us wait half an hour to get one. Since 2004 we have been staying in the same hotel in Paris as it is right next to Bercy. But everything changed about the hotel and it was hard to recognize it. The bathroom even had a see through window so you were able to give private shows in your room. In the afternoon we paid a visit to Bercy where of course dozens of tents were put up by people having spent the night there, the real die hards that want to get to the front no matter what. We had absolutely no interest in this, so fed up with all the pushing and shoving.
We then went to Lucky Records by foot, a walk that seemed to be a bit longer than expected. We followed the Seine and underway ate a salad which was expensive, only to find out there was a cheap bakery right around the corner! Lucky Records wasn’t really impressive this time, maybe a case of credit crisis as well. For our way back we decided on the tube, not wanting to walk that distance again.
My stomach still didn’t feel alright, still I ate a pizza as I needed some solid food. We then settled in the queue outside Bercy and it took a good full hour before we were finally inside the venue. Inside we ran into Norman (dancer) again, who wore an amazingly gorgeous MJ shirt. We decided not to bother with getting to the front, Bercy is such a hell when it comes to heat, pushing and shoving. Madonna started the show late and I thought Bercy was a bit colder than previous years. Especially with DWT I thought Bercy was about to explode with enthusiasm, the same with RIT and CT, but now people seemed a bit more reserverd. We got fed up with people passing up to get to the front, then walking back as it seemed too crowded. A lot of people fainted and tried to gain their senses at the sides of the venue.
I thought the show was OK, but not my most memorable show. The MJ tribute was still my fave part, but I also started to really appreciate Frozen. Still didn’t like Dress You Up at all.
Almere July 10
After only one day in Paris we made our way back to Holland with the Thalys. First we had a really annoying child in front of us, then later a guy took her seat that tried to speak as loud so that everyone in the train could hear him. First it made us laugh but later it became annoying and when he spoke about someone who was so fat that it made him horny, Hans politely asked him to keep it down as not everyone was interested in his stories. I have never seen people turn that silent that quickly.
In Holland we first went to Purmerend to pick up Hans’ car and drove to Almere, here we picked up Duco who also spent the night so we could all head to Werchter in the morning.
Werchter July 11
Early in the morning we drove the car to Sloterdijk and picked up Amon. The four of us then drove to Werchter, underway we listened to the double cd King of Pop by Michael Jackson and sang along with everything. The whole drive to Werchter we did by a route we printed off the internet, but due to traffic it took us three hours to get there.
Once at Werchter we parked the car and when we asked someone working at the parking fields on what best way to get back to the main road after the show, she answered ‘yeah Holland is the direction of Antwerp’, DUH…..we knew that already, that wasn’t what we asked….
It was rainy and still very quiet. We tried to find something to do in the near village but only 1 shop and 1 bar were open. So we got ourselves something to drink on the terrace and tried to pass time. As dinner we bought some fries that cost us four euro’s! We had a good laugh about Duco. We saw and listened to some of the soundcheck as a piece in the gates weren’t sealed off.
When the Gates opened we slowly made our way to the entrance. Our umbrella was in our car as it was too big to carry inside with us. Our bags weren’t checked and when finally on the festival terrain of Werchter I had a déjà vu and thought I was back at Live 8 in 2005 in Hyde Park London. First we couldn’t find the golden circle at all, this seemed to be quite small and didn’t fit that many people. Good news as we could easily find a good spot. During Paul Oakenfold’s set it started to pour and didn’t stop, as we didn’t have an umbrella we got soaked from head to toe….it all started to become a very big disaster.
After speaking to Guy Oseary we thought what the hell, and we gave up our spots. We then walked around a bit, by returning into the golden circle it was suddenly completely stuffed with people (where the hell did they come from?) The right side of the stage wasn’t as crowded so we found a spot there. There were however a few ladies in front of us trying to get laid that evening, as every guy that passed them got shouted at. Hans quickly left his spot because their cigarette smoke was driving him nuts. Amon followed him quickly. I remained at the spot.
Madonna was really testing our patience and madame only started a little before 10.30pm…..the audience was a bit dead, certainly compared to the previous shows. But Madonna kept on smiling and tried to make the best of it. When she however asked people to take off their shirts during La Isla Bonita, almost no one obliged. But what did she expect, it was an outdoor event, it was cold and people were soaked from the rain. Madonna wouldn’t have been Madonna if she hadn’t played the in Belgium ‘forbidden’ song Frozen. The song is on the setlist so she sang it, hadn’t expect her to do any differently.
During Ray of Light we already made our way to the exit, but first we had to find a way to get out of the mud. By car we thankfully beat all the traffic and were on the main road in no time. Amon was driving and Hans and Duco were in the back, I fell asleep multiple times, this week just broke me. After dropping off Amon and Duco I finally got home at 4 in the morning and slept until noon the next day.
I much prefer the 2009 edition of the tour over the 2008 edition. Madonna seems much more into it, has more fun, speaks more and the new songs in the setlist fit much better. I rarely spent a week this busy. Five shows in one week time + other events is really a lot, especially with all the travelling and not feeling well. If I will ever visit Werchter again? Probably not. Will I be lining up for tickets for the next tour? Of course.
Even though this was the Sticky & Sweet Tour, for me it was really the ‘Goodbye Michael’ tour. The entire holiday was overshadowed by his passing. An angel that is truly gone too soon. That is why I look back at this tour with mixed feelings; had the best time with my friends, travelling with Madonna to her first five shows of the tour. But rarely have I cried so much at the same time. I have never smiled and cried so much at the same time…..