some thoughts on wembley.
4:30 a.m. and we are floating sleepy-eyed to the train station & the morning is still dark & it feels creepy cos there is no sunshine and the air is that chilling-to-the-bone wet kind of coldness and everything is grey and every minute of time is seeping into the next, and its all one big eerie grayness of a morning, and so we drag ourselves onto the train and we flop against the seats and everybodys eyelids look soft and sleepy, and everything is very, very silent and if anybody speaks, the noise juts into your ears sharply, even though it seems miles away and you arent really paying attention to anything being said, and you slump yourself down in your seat and watch the stations all tick away, and all too soon it stops again but this time somebody says, we're getting off, and so we all kind of tell our legs to get up and take us off the train, and there we are at wembley stadium, those towers and those flags pushing into the grey sky in front of you, and suddenly everybody starts waking up a bit, we re-grip our hands around the noisy crinkles of bags of water and food and we all start to walk towards the stadium, and we zigzag down that sloping maze with the black railings, and we jump over them and our feet continue up to the final path that leads us to wembley, and we dont really realise it but our feet start to move a little faster, the corners of our mouths start to prick into our faces with the first coming of laughter excitement, and already at 6ix in the morning we have forgotten the routines of time and we are ready for the long blur into concert madness, and our legs slide past eachother faster and faster, and we speedwalk to the front of the stadium's outside, and we see the gray-faced rumpled people who are pacing the stadium after a night of concrete frozen hell that we know all too well, and we see the first michael jackson t-shirted fans of the day, and we want to go even faster, and then we are turning left at the twin towers and we are looking nervously at the fullness--or preferably, emptiness--of the turnstile steps, and we go past each one until we get to the one we are looking for, we lunge our legs over the steps and we inch as close to the top as we can, still leaving room to feel comfortably not stressful-crowded, and the first phase of fan paranoia is over cos we sit down and take out some water and settle down our bags, and we repeat a few times that its not so bad, look how close we are. so now we are settled into the gritty 'comfort' of the steps, and the past twentyfour hours are gone because we feel like we have been sitting here for a week straight, and all the inbetween time--poof-- and at first its not a good thing, you complain and you groan about the queuing, you call yourselves crazy and when thats been done you laugh at yourselves and that first taste of michael-jackson-fan-craziness seeps into your mouth and your tongue feels heavy with laughter and you shake your head and wonder at yourselves cos you feel like absolute crazy people and wahoo!! its good to be that way! cos we love michael jackson and we are going to sit here for 10 straight hours so that we can participate in the scariest, most paranoia-inducing, most stressful-hectic-crammed-smushed-smashed-&-pushed-mad-turnstile-dash of a race known to human beings!; thousandsthousandsthousands of people are going to push you and shove you for the exact same spot on front row, and what is there to do now except stake your spot on these turnstile steps and joy in the non-reality of being surrounded with hundreds of people who you have some kind of bond with, and so we dig the sharp edges of the grainy step edges into our backs and we stretch our legs and we share laughter, share food, share water, share stories, share jokes, share silence as we pass the hours. hour after hour after hour of waiting, waiting; waiting for that sharp, brightened moment where the hours and the waits dissipate into the sparks and cheers of the concert's first breaths of life, & sunshine butters the sky and too soon every molecule of air is dripping sweaty and thick, and we feel plastered to our clothes, plastered to our hair, plastered to the steps, plastered to the very swimming pool of air we are sitting in, and water becomes dirty and warm and soft, and we look around for the one undiscovered bottle that still might have that crispy cold sip of water that the sun stole from all the other bottles, but its not there so we sit back and fry a little longer, and after one hour, and another hour, and another hour, and even another, we start to notice that the morning's slow trickle of fans flocking to the turnstiles has now grown to a coloured mass of speckled faces and t-shirts below the steps, and stretching stretching stretching off beyond the neon-tape boundaries of the proper queue, and this renews our energy and gives us something to do, and so we all stand up and take a look at the faces milling into the distance; they seem to be in another galaxy because there is a very clear difference between the fans on the steps and the fans at the bottom of the hill; the bedraggled run-down tired melted faces of the turnstile-people have an enduring spark of excitement that shines hard through the dullness of sun's haze, and we squint out at the fresh faces poking out of that seething mass of newly-arrived fans, and they seem to have an excitement, but its more 2-dimensional, & they make us feel like the explorers, the tired souls of journeys and treks, with the inner gleam, the inner drive to peer out at the front, at the heart of the experience, and we feel invigorated because we feel relieved to know that these hours and hours have worked once more, & one more time we are those lucky few atop the turnstile steps, with the secrets of all-day all-night queuing that those afternoon-arrivers will never know of. and on and on trudges the day, and those green bugs keep darting in and around us, and the heat is getting bottled up in the air and we are being vacuumed into this opaque froth of bubbling fire, and suddenly, after endless wristwatch checks, the silent little megaphone clinging inconspicuously to the corner edge of the turnstile building begins to crackle and buzz, and an official voice pours freshness cool into the heat, into the fans, and our heads tilt and we fling open our ears to drink up every word of this announcement, and now things are really starting to roll on their way; people start clearing the steps and litter is tossed sideways and downwards like celebratory confetti, and even more is stuffed hastily into the corners of the steps, and we leave it behind and inch up the steps, and that late-night early-morning paranoia springs up from the ground after you stand up, and you smash yourselves into a tight bundled-up queue, and we all stand there trying to push the paranoia into somebody else, but it enters all of us, and we stand there for the last hour of the queuing ordeal, muttering to anybody that will listen that "this is the part that i hate" and even while we are saying it we have to grin because saying it lets everybody know that we all feel the same way, and the stress is so heavy that youve got to let it be comical, and we all laugh nervously and inch on into the queue just a little bit tighter, and we peer down at that endless jumble of people below us and we laugh because "this is the man with no fans", and then the neon-jacketed security people appear at the top of your line and we all feel in our pockets for our tickets, and bring them out and wave them in the air as our crumpled artifacts of golden-ticket excitement, and slowly we tear them down to where each side swings loosely, and we begin to tie shirts around our waists, and stuff small cameras into our pockets, as we try to do anything that will save even one second of precious turnstile-race time. and finally the blur of hours is starting to morph into a moment, and you know this moment is speeding up to you, and we all start to fidget in our smushed queue, and we throw our heads into the sun and groan out loud and scream i CANT TAKE iT ANY MORE! let's GO!!, and if these turnstiles dont open in the next minute we are going to spontaneously combust, and so we stand there, cramped and nervous, and then--BAM!! GO!! GO!!! GO!!!--in-an-instant-you-feel-a-violent-surge-of-force-in-every-direction-around-you-and-this- great-rolling-swell-of-people-swarms-out-into-the-mouse-hole-opening-to-the-turnstiles,-- and those five seconds between that first initial rolling-out of free space around you, when you had been smashed and still for the past hour, and that instant where everybody gets stuck in the most impatient push of a line, is absolute, utter, complete and horrible HELL...elbows and shoulders are flying and digging into your head, your neck, your back; your feet are hidden and burried under the swarm of frantic fans, and in spite of the scariest fright you can imagine, i had to throw my head back and roll laughter out across these hungry bodies, because the chaos, the histeria, the shock of this animal push-and-shove is too overwhelming, it is so scary and horrible and funny that i had to step out of myself and laugh inbetween these people..or else i think i would have cried. and it sounds horrible, it IS horrible, but it is honestly one of the most energised moments i have ever lived through, because there is no time to think, no time to do anything except push push push to get through that turnstile, and then the body in front of you dashes away behind the clank of the weary turnstile, and youve got clear space in front of you, and people behind you are screaming GO! GO! GO! and you catch a glimpse of the turnstile guy, and you are tearing at your ticket and your hands are shaking and you shove the thing in his little window and you push past that turnstile and you are on the other side--!!--and some wrinkled crank of a lady grabs your arm and makes sure you arent carrying any video cameras or tape recorders and god knows what else--microscopic zooming telescopes perhaps?--and FINALLY she lets go of your arm and you lunge for that shadowy light pouring in from the steps leading down into the belly of the stadium, and you fly over those steps and land in the sandy mush of the ground, and you are just bolted out of that darkened turnstile space like a frenzied horse on drugs, and people are streaming past you like madmen and youve got these blurred visions of neon obstructions sticking their palms into your face and screaming SLOW DOWN!! and so your legs halt to the hastiest speedwalk you can manage, and as you hear them screaming into the frightened faces of their next victims, you dash on, past each line of neon blurs, and everywhere around you, people are flying past, and i swear it feels like actual slow motion, after being cramped up against people for hours and hours, you are suddenly in this huge pit of a stadium with people's legs stretching longer and faster towards the front, and everything is happening at once and everything is chaotic and everything is crazy, and you get to that little black padded entrance to the holy grail of all concert barriers--the front barrier--and youre through! youve made it!, but no time to think, youve got to sweep your eyes over the small space and decide in a micro-instant where you want to stand, because if you wait any longer than one second, every clear space is filled and overflowing with the people behind and around you, and so you look for familiar faces and open spaces, and you see them and you yell out and you squeeze in and you flop down, and after that marathon that lasted for less than 2 minutes, you look around at the people still streaming into the front barrier and you breathe hard and heavy and you look at the friends around you and you all laugh to each other and glory in the fantastic relief and excitement of your front-row-second-row prize, and you gulp laughter in between breaths of air, and we stretch smiles over our laughter and say YES! YES! we MADE IT!! and so many times we all tried to stand back up, to breathe fresh air, to uncoil our legs, but there we found ourselves, once again, falling back to the ground with the security shouting SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN! GET BACK! BACK! and it was deja vu completely, you felt like you had been doing this same thing, re-living the same day over and over for a week straight, and it was crazy and it was hell and god i loved it more than anything.
& then the support acts come and go, and the happy tunes of Motown swirl out into the thousands, and you get a chance to look around at these faces bordering the front row, and you want to run up to all of them and hug them and scream and laugh and jump up and down with them and laugh about being in the front, and you see tired weary faces, struggling to last through the night, and you see sloppy grinning faces wailing happiness into the crowd, and you see curious eyes jumping up behind the rows in the front, and you see in all of these the same drunken silliness of spirit that you feel inside yourself, and then oh my god, THE CAMERAS START PANNiNG and we all go HEY! MiSTER CAMERA PERSON! OVER HERE!! and we wave and shout and jump and scream and bob and laugh and yell and point and clap and howl and whistle, and we realise that it is STARTiNG, the beginning of everything you waited for is happening, and the two huge screens on each side of the stage light up with mirrors to OURSELVES, and the cameras sweep the crowd, picking out the posters and the signs and with every picture of michael, we all cheer and laugh and all these thousands and thousands of people scream their loudest approval for this man, and we all watch it on the screens, and we search for faces we know, emotions we recognise, and we swing our heads from side to side, deciding between gaping at the swell of humanity still pouring and seething into the stadium behind us, and the jumbotron excitement of posters and cheers, and the emptiness of a stage directly sprawled before your eyes, the stage where you have the rare flung-open secretive enjoyment of knowing the magic you dream of will dance for a night. and THEN...Ben leaks through the speakers, so softly, and at first there is a roar of bottled-up excitement leaking over the audience, and then everybody is hushed almost, as hands reach for eachother in the sky, and the melodies of michael jackson's childhood voice sweep over us, and you try to hold your breath and take in all the beauty of the moment, but you cant because what is happening is that there is this rush of...aaagh after all this waiting it is starting, it is finally starting, and this entire day devoted to waiting just floats away, and forever for the rest of my life, when i hear the beginning of the song Ben, i will feel that hushed excitement of standing in the front of seventyfive thousand people as we all realised at the same moment that a michael jackson concert was beginning, and when i hear the last notes of the song Ben, i will forever hear them being drowned out with the impossible-to-contain anticipation of those nights...and so Ben ends, and everybody cheers madly, and then for one tiny, tiny moment, there is a silence in the crowd, and then that music, that blast of triumphant HIStory sound, comes biting into our smiles, and your face feels like it is going to snap because it is unused to having, to NEEDiNG, to smile so widely and so stretched, and then those 2 screens begin their slide to the middle of the stage, and the crowd cheers them on, and they touch eachother, and you know, you KNOW, that the actual michael live part is beginning, and the spaceship appears on the screen, and all that liquid silvery metal smoothness, and the ride begins, and everybody is screaming screaming screaming cheering cheering cheering, and there is that music, its not music even--but its a soft crackle of chug chug puffing, tiny little static beats tapping the ride on its way, and the video hurtles onwards, and it is one of the single most euphoric uplifting feelings you can experience; to be surrounded with thousands of people jumping up and down and waving arms and howling excitement into the air, and the video spirals down through HIStory, and then it breaks into this serene openness, and everything is floating and free and the crowd only grows more wild, and then it shows those pointy things, and the stadium, and the spaceship pauses at the top, and then it starts to roll down, and EVERYBODY iS GOiNG CRAZY, AND SMOKE iS POURiNG FROM THE STAGE, and there are sparks and oh my god all of a sudden there is this THiNG on stage...this spaceship...and you know that MiCHAEL JACKSON--the magic sequined sparkle-footed performer of michael jackson--is standing like 15 FEET AWAY FROM YOU iNSiDE A SPACESHiP...and aaaaghhh ahhggggg....the sparks finally stop and the spaceship becomes quiet and meanwhile you are standing like 15 feet away, in this pulsing quiver of excitement called audience, and then this door flies open, and there is this metallic figure standing there, and you can tell its tight and locked inside the buzzing frozen moment of biting, raw excitement, and then this figure moves--and its metal flies down off the stage, and this figure turns around, and you stand there completely swept up in what is happening inside you and around you, and in the flash of a second, this figure turns back around unmasked and it is michael jackson, and it looks out at you with that strong, determined, somewhat-mournful blank gaze, and lights flash red and music pours into your ears and your brain and your heart and the concert has started, and people are waving jumping dancing, and, and, and, its all electric crackle magic & your happiness is filled up with music & dance & madness & you stand there inside the naked soul of the concert, feeling as though you are plugged into some fantastic energy source, & the night is crammed with euphoria, seventyfive thousand laughter smiles shivering in nighttime’s ice, unexpected blast of heat sputtering in our faces at Black or White, that endless melody at Heal the World of “you and for me, you and for me, you and for me,...” fading into the dark, and “heal the world...all of the time...all of the time...”, and going wild when michael acknowledged our love during beat it, and we laughed and screamed yes! yes! we love you! we do! & stretch arms reach for silver half moons exploding off stage at HIStory, & you settle back into the screams around you & so many times through the night it is just yes yes yes yes yes YES YES YES YES YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! at the perfection of the magic madness, and you cover your mouth and breathe deep and stare out into the magic in this frozen moment of tonight.