Right, so to my own concert report,
There was not much snow in Leicester, only a sprinkling, but I had heard that the previous day it had snowed continuously for 6 hours at Birmingham Airport. I remembered a previous occasion when I had tried to reach the Symphony Hall in snow. The whole of the centre of Birmingham was gridlocked, and we sat in the traffic jam as the time for the start of the concert came and went, and then the time for the interval, before turning round and spending the rest of the evening in Corley Motorway Services on the M6.
But not this time. I had taken the precaution of checking the Birmingham traffic webcams beforehand, and the traffic appeared to be flowing freely in central Birmingham.
We were a bit late leaving Leicester anyway, since our church's annual Carols by Candlelight service took place at 4pm, and we couldn't miss that. It was a lovely service.
My party consisted of me and Sue, with Judy and Sooty, two of Sue's work colleagues. It was around 5.30pm by the time we got away. But the journey was pretty straightforward, and we parked in the Brindley Place car park, a few hundred yards from the Symphony Hall £2.50 all day on Sundays), then trudged through the snow to the hall.
By then we were in need of a coffee, and there was a very long queue, but we got there eventually. There was no sign of any HWI people until, whilst we were sitting supping, Larry appeared. Judy was totally gobsmacked that Larry had come all the way from the USA just to see Hayley perform. Perhaps she didn't yet know what a wonderful performer Hayley is, but she was about to find out.
I then left the three ladies supping, and wandered towards the door of the hall, which had just opened, and immediately came upon Graham and Paddy. We chatted for a few minutes, then the three ladies joined me and we headed for our seats.
We were on the front row, bang in the middle, and also in the middle of a gang of HWIers, Grant, Karsten, Steve, George and Denise, and I know I have left a few out. Hayley's microphone was right in front of us, and I noticed that I was the second nearest member of the audience to Hayley, the nearest being Sue. The front row of seats is very close to the stage, so we were looking upwards at the performers and Hayley was about 4 feet away! Should be able to hear her directly from there, but a bit close for photography.
Eventually the show started, with a couple of songs from the choirs from the Edgbaston High School for Girls. They were excellent.
I am very tempted to post Hayley's full set list, but will refrain from doing so until after the Barbican concert, which will be pretty much identical, and shares the same programme (which is different from the one used for Manchester and Glasgow).
So I will just mention a few highlights, although to be honest it is difficult to pick out individual performances, so high was the standard of all of them. I loved every song and every performance. Hayley and the band were brilliant, and I enjoyed Rhydian's contribution much more than I had expected to. Especially the duet with Hayley.
The addition of the two extra members of the band, Tom Kenrick on bass guitar and double bass, and Micheal Simmonds on drums added something extra, after all how could she open her set with "The Little Drummer Boy" without drums? The remaining musicians were Hayley's usual band, Tim Evans on piano, Andy Moore guitar and the Raven Trio, since Stephanie was unable to perform, ill we were told. Let's hope she is soon better and able to perform at the Barbican.
I noticed Stephanie's absence most I think on "Love Came Down at Christmas", since I am used to hearing her part on the video I made of this song in Peterborough Cathedral last year, but I doubt that most people noticed.
All too soon it was the end of the show, Hayley's shows always seem like that because I know I could listen to her forever.
During the interval some very load bursts of white noise emerged from the loudspeaker right next to us, that made me jump out of my skin. I overheard sound engineer Arnaud saying afterwards that he had no idea what had caused it. My three lady companions all agreed though that they thought Arnaud was "absolutely gorgeous", so if you read this Arnaud, you have fans!
Hayley finished with "O Holy Night", needless to say to a richly deserved standing ovation. The encore was singalongahayley - we all joined din the "The First Nowell" whose words were printed in the programme. We gathered she had a second encore lined up too, but the rest of the audience stopped clapping too soon and it never happened. Not that Hayley hadn't already done enough!
I did attempt a couple of videos, but you will have to wait until after the Barbican before I will upload them, that's if they are any good. I haven't had time to look yet. I later heard that a Rhydian fan had been stopped from recording a video by security, so perhaps sitting exposed on the front row I was lucky to get away with it. I'm sure Hayley must have spotted the camera, but fortunately the security people didn't. Although how they didn't spot Karsten, sitting behind me with a very long telephoto lens on his camera I don't know.
Afterwards, as Grant has mentioned, we tried to work out where the stage door was, and eventually a minibus emerged, which contained Raven for sure (they had mentioned a minibus earlier in a tweet), but we were not sure whether Hayley was on board. So a few of us waited a while longer, until my companions got cold feet, so we gave up and returned to the car park
The journey home was a little more fraught than the journey in. I negotiated a couple of the icy roundabouts on Birmingham's ring road sideways (luckily there was nothing in the way) even though I was driving quite slowly. And on the M6 a lorry stated to snake just as I was overtaking it - I would not like to be alongside one of those when it jackknifed
But we go home uneventfully and not too late. And once again I am finding it hard to remember ever enjoying a concert performance more at any time in my life.
So thank you Hayley, Rhydian and the band, for a fabulous evening.