The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester - Sat 3rd June 2006

Jackie, Wirral......
Fantastic concert at Bridgewater Hall Brian with a good mix of old and new numbers.  I think the new album is your best for a long time.  Hope we see you at Liverpool Phil next time around.

Elaine Pittaway.......
I set off from home and had a steady train journey across the Warwickshire countryside to Birmingham New Street station to catch the train to Manchester. Naturally the station was a busy place and I thought the checks being made on those going down to the platform for the same train as me were all part of the security policy in these times.  However, on being asked 'Did I have any alcohol' warning bells should have rung.

When I reached the platform there was a sea of red and white and I was one of a only a few not sporting a shaved head (really I haven't), a tattoo or several (not anywhere) or wearing an England strip of one design of another, or all three together.  Me being a football free zone did not know England were playing Jamaica on Saturday afternoon at Old Trafford ground! I must have looked a bit concerned as a police woman advised me she had seen much worse, things SHOULD be all right as there were lots of families, and it would be much worse when they were all coming back that night!

When the train came alongside the platform there was no 'women and children first' - not even a lady with a baby in a pram or two people each with a leg in plaster and using crutches were given consideration. There were far too few seats for the number of people allowed onto the train and I ended up sitting for an hour and a half on my case near to the exit door.  I decided to send Jackie, who was bringing her children Toby and Imogen with her, a text (on Hogwarts Express so they told me - but let me tell you it was nothing like Thomas the Tank or Ivor the Engine on my train!). Apparently they were surrounded by red and white as well.

We arrived at Picadilly Station within a few minutes of each other and made our way to Jurys Inn to await the Scottish side of the party arriving, as in Catherine and Helen. Claire Rodgers, who had identified us on the escalator in Belfast last November, had bravely agreed to come and meet us all at Jurys and kindly recommended and booked a restaurant for a pre-concert meal. Thanks for this Claire, we all enjoyed the Mexican food, Sangria, and your company.  It was a lovely evening for a walk back to the Bridgewater Hall and good to see the place was very busy.

We had great seats and an interesting conversation was going on behind us before the concert started.  Two mature ladies, whose tone and manner of their conversation reminded me of when Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough used to 'do' Cissie and Ada (for those who can remember that far back), were discussing the Eurovision and thought the UK's entry was no good at all and Brian's was nothing special!  I had the biggest button on my lip as I was wanting to turn round and say 'NOTHING SPECIAL! - what are you talking about......'

Don Mescall just gets better and he went down well with the audience, who were a very strong gospel choir when he asked us to be so for 'The More I See The Less I Understand'. As always there were too many empty seats when the support act is on stage - those who did not see him missed another Irishman in the ascending.  The queue for purchasing and signing of his CD at the interval went on and on, and he was in the foyer at the end of the evening for those who did not catch him first time round.

Finally it was time for Brian and the band - the lights went down and a song started - for those who have not yet experienced this new introduction - think 'Rocky I, II, or however many there were, and 'Eye Of The Tiger' - I don't want to spoil it by saying too much more. We were half expecting Brian to come down from the ceiling or make some sort of spectacular entrance, but he rushed onto the stage and immediately went into 'What You Wish For' - a really upbeat tempo song to start the show.  We were treated to a further three new songs from Homebird, including 'Every Song Is A Cry For Love' (with the bended knee) and Silver Chains (so, so lovely), plenty of older favourites and LOTS of chat from Brian, which is what we like.

The time flew by and all too soon Brian was explaining how he would be hiding behind the door in the hopes we would want an encore - this we got in the form of You Raise Me Up - which went down a storm and generated a standing ovation.  The signing queue was the longest I have ever seen - I think the staff at the hall had never witnessed anything quite like it and were unprepared as to how long it would take for everyone to have a turn - and give us all a turn Brian did.  He must have been kerpoopitated by the time Aisling (and her Eurovision photo album) came to the table as the very last  person. We just used the time to catch up with some familiar faces, Julie Lawrence and David and Andrew, Aisling and Majela (and to look at the photos and hear about THE trip), and sit and have a chat amongst ourselves until the line reduced considerably.  We then retired back to Jurys for a glass of pop (!) and to see Claire safely into her taxi.  Claire it was lovely to meet you and we hope our company was not too much of an ordeal for you!  Hope you can join us again sometime. Sunday was spent more leisurely and we parted company at the tram stop - Jackie, Toby and Imogen heading for Starbucks and Helen, Catherine and I for Salford Quays for a bit of retail therapy and then what turned out to be lunch al fresco - by the water in Manchester!

Once again another lovely time with great company plus lots of laughter and memories.  Gina and Pat - we hope we can all be together at another venue sometime in the not too distant future and Claire - hope you can come too.