I am that guy
When I was about 18 or 19 I had the best evening job of them all. I was a steward at Wembley Arena, the venue of giants, or the smaller ones at least. What a coup! I got paid minimum wage to tell people to stop smoking and not to stand in the aisle during some of the best concerts by the biggest acts… and also New Kids on the Block!
So who did I see, apart from NKOTB*… twice…? Well, there was Yes, there was Paul Simon, there was the Pet Shop Boys, Guns and Roses at Wembley Stadium and possibly Whitney Houston before she got cracked out of her head. Best of all, though, was the band of bands, the high priests of rock, yes… AC DC! I couldn’t believe my luck when I bagged that one. My position wasn’t the best, I was right at one of the rear exits, stage right, but that didn’t matter because their sonic boom filled the whole venue and where there wasn’t sound there was ego! The place was heaving like a friday night in an Irish pub, and to quote a familiar lyric, ‘the earth was shaking’ when they took to the stage. I can almost recall every detail of that concert including the rising stage where Angus Young belted out a perfect guitar solo and those canons at the end of ‘For those about to rock (we salute you)’.
Oddly there is one other thing that sticks in my head. It seemed quite innocuous a the time but over the years it has come to signify something, it just not until last week that I realised what it was. So I’m back at the rear exit of Wembley Arena and AC DC have just started their set. The whole place is going utterly mental and there was the expected crowd of people in their black AC DC t-shirts starting to get sweaty. I’d closed the doors and was diligently keeping an eye out for crafty smokers and aisle hoggers when a face appeared at the small window in the swing doors. Ah yes… a late comer. There is always one (more likely more). Now unlike in the posh realms of theatre, later comers used to be welcome. It’s not like you’re going to disturb the main act, even if you slam the door really hard, so like a polite steward in my hi-vis vest, I let him in.
Mr late arrival looked liked he’d just got off the last train from the city. He was dressed in a smartish suit, rain mac, neat hair and carrying a briefcase. He was a little narked that he was late but I reassured him that he’d only missed a song and a half and he happily went to his seat. It’s what happened next that amused me. As soon as he’d found his place he dropped his suitcase and began his Superman like transformation into sweaty rock fiend! Off came the jacket, then the tie, quickly followed by the shirt to reveal his AC DC t-shirt. He’d obviously been wearing it all day beneath his work gear in anticipation for the evenings entertainment. He couldn’t have been happier and completed his transition into total rock sweat-monster within minutes!
Another thing that always amused me in my late teens, the days when my metabolism still functioned, was seeing the tubby chap on a bicycle every day while waiting for the bus to college, and not being able to understand why, if he was doing all that exercise, he was still carrying around a spare tyre that was obviously not fit for his bike! In my naivety I never asked myself how far he’d gone or where he was going. Whether he was stopping of at McDonalds for breakfast on his way out and dinner on his way back? But he was just the tubby chap on the bike, which brings me to the point of this post.
Last week I joined the promotional bandwagon for the release of the Foo Fighters latest long player, Wasting Light. They had a ‘one night only’ showing of their rockumentary ‘Back and Forth‘ at a cinema near work and I was determined to attend. I’m not always the smartest bloke in the office but I know how to scrub up when we’ve got a client in, and typically on that day we had one of our biggest clients visiting the office for an all day meeting. So I’ve got my smart jacket and trousers on for work but I’ve got a medium grade rock fest to attend in the evening. What to do? I remembered Mr Late Arrival and his sneaky tee and searched the wardrobe for my Foo Fighers t-shirt to slip on under my shirt and jacket but due to the redness of the t-shirt this wasn’t going to work. By the time I got to the cinema I couldn’t bear the shackles of my smart work atire anymore so rushed to purchase a nice bright t-shirt to wear instead of my smart work wear. The transformation was complete. I had become that guy!
The next day, with the music still ringing in my ears, I cycled from the station to the office realising that not only had I become the smart chap at the rock gig but also the chubby bloke on the bicycle.
My life is complete, but you can rest assured that I will not be dressing smart for Glastonbury!
*You may not have liked the names on my list of free gigs I’ve attended at steward but looking back on them they were nearly all both class acts and legendary (perhaps not Whitney!), but there is an excuse for the New Kids on the Block gig…twice.
I will admit to being a Spurs supporter. In 1991, when the year ended in 1, Spurs played Nottingham Forrest in the Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, in the shadow of the famous twin towers. I was desperate to steward at the match but our bosses made it clear that you didn’t get to pick and chose which gig you worked. You were there to steward and steward you did. Well little old me broke the golden rule and put a request in for the big match only to be met with ‘the deal’.
Most of the afternoon slots at the football were taken and strangely a lot of my fellow stewards weren’t able to work the evening gigs at the Arena, so here was ‘the deal’. You can do the Cup Final, but you have to also do NKOTB… both evenings! I thought about this briefly and immediately agreed! The game was fantastic and we won 2-1. I stood at an entrance and was consumed by the atmosphere, a brilliant day brought to an abrupt halt when I remembered that I had to return to the Arena for New Kids. And two nights I did, both of which I was right at the front, collecting cards and gifts from hysterical girls who had possibly pissed themselves during the concert.
All I can say is if Spurs had lost I would have hated every moment of those two evenings but I think the pay off of seeing your team win a Cup Final at Wembley and being paid for the privilege was worth it, don’t you?