Allow me to provide some brief background information before I properly begin this piece:
Boybands were never a part of my musical interests pre-Take That. In fact, I used to listen to a lot of rock and alternative rock because of my older brother and also to classic rock because of my Dad.
But then one day back in 1995, one of my older brothers decided to watch the Brit Awards on TV—much to my dismay, because I wanted to watch something else—and it was there that I witnessed the first-ever performance of Back For Good by this boyband called Take That.
The rest, as the cliché goes, is (crazy, wonderful) history.
“All I do each night is pray…”
Fast-forward to December 2015 when I found out through Twitter that Take That were to perform at the HSBC Women’s Champions Golf Tournament in Singapore the following March. I remember sitting in bed, nearly dropping my phone in disbelief and feeling like I’ve been pushed into the icy waters of the Antarctic Ocean. I could not pass this up. I would not forgive myself if I missed this. I have to go!
After announcing it and freaking out to my best childhood friends on Viber, I bit the bullet and booked the flights, accommodation and concert tickets. Bye, bank account. It’s been nice knowing you.
Who cares about being an adult and other life plans? My 2016 will officially begin on March 2016.
“Just have a little patience…”
One of the hardest things I had to endure was The Wait.
Not that things didn’t happen during the (almost) three months in between. In fact, there was even a period where I thought I wouldn’t be able to make the trip, due to a sudden illness and hospitalization in the family. But throughout everything, I chose to keep the faith and to train my eyes on the prize: By hook or by crook, I was going to get there. You have to conspire with me, universe!
For the meantime, by pure chance and serendipity, I managed to find some Asian Thatters on Twitter who are also coming to see the show, and began to correspond with them. Thankfully, they’re super nice and awesome and patiently answered all of my queries and more, and when I explained that I might be going to the show by myself, graciously offered their company. Further proof that the Thatter Family is the best!
Friday: March 4, 2016
“We’ve said goodbye, the taxicab is waiting…”
Finally, departure day! I didn’t even get to sleep anymore as my flight was due to leave a little before 0600, so I left the house at around 0200 (excited much?) and surprisingly got to the airport within 20 minutes.
I tried my hardest to nap during the 3-hr+ flight, but my adrenaline was far too high so I just watched TT videos on my phone all throughout.
I landed in Singapore a little after 0900, did my usual routine (exchange money, buy a SIM card for mobile internet), and then went to the computer terminals to check on the BKK-SIN arrivals. I honestly had no idea which flight the Take That lads would be in, and whether or not I even have a hope of catching them in the airport. I messaged my fellow Thatter (let’s call her “A1”) and explained my dilemma: Should I stay in the airport and wait for them or do I go check-in to my hotel first and take a nap? She assured me that it was still early and that I should go take a nap first. I gladly took her advice, went to my hotel in the city center, set up the alarms of 3 mobile phones and dozed off.
I wanted to cry when I woke up to the sound of 3 alarms blaring. I was so exhausted and my body was screaming for more than 1 hour of sleep. But, the possibility of meeting TAKE THAT in the flesh subjugated all that. I dragged myself out of bed, checked my messages and saw that my childhood friend J (who’s now living in Singapore) was asking where I was. I asked her to meet me in my hotel and thankfully, she was game to accompany me back to the airport.
We spent the taxi ride back to the airport chatting and catching up. Our jolly cab driver asked us just as we were alighting, “Meeting a friend, la?” And we both went, “Yes!”
Well, Take That can be considered as “friends”, yes?
Anyway, we first went to the Terminal 2 Arrival area and it was nearly as quiet as a church. We decided to check out Terminal 3 and it was pretty much the same. Since we got there a couple of hours early from the projected arrival times of the Bangkok-Singapore flights, we decided to have a late lunch in T3 and continue our talkathon.
As we were finishing up our lunch, I got a Twitter DM from A1 telling me to head over to T1. I got a bit confused because I thought the lads would be taking Singapore Airlines (which lands in T3), but she explained that they were taking Cathay Pacific instead so we should go to T1, asap.
We channeled our inner F1 drivers and got to T1 as fast as we could, and there, just outside the Number 21 baggage Carousel, I finally met A1 in person, as well as a number of fellow Take That fans not just from different parts of Singapore but from all over the world as well. We passed the waiting time chatting, exchanging stories and giving one another encouragement (What should we say to the lads? Are they nice in person? Is Gary really that short?).
All the while, my insides felt like blocks of ice and my stomach was churning like nobody’s business.
My friend J broke the tension by joking that she couldn’t wait to meet “Michael Owen”, the Take That member she had a crush on back in High School. I had to laughingly tell her NOT to call Mark “Michael”, because he is in no way, shape or form the football player (who incidentally, I have a massive crush on). “It’s Mark Owen, okay? Call him only MARK OWEN or else I’ll deny to everyone that I know you!”
The screen finally announced that their flight has landed.
This is getting real, y’all.
“Got a fist of pure emotion…”
The first to come into view was Howard Donald, with his stature and distinct flat cap. I may have slightly over-yelled “Howaaard!” to him as he passed by, eliciting laughs from my fellow fans.
Next came Mark Owen, who paused by the doors and gave us all an enthusiastic wave before heading to claim his bags.
At that point, I was standing on top of one of the lower railings and had a clear view of the other passengers. Lo and behold, I finally saw that distinct crop of blonde hair.
Me: “OHMYGOD IT’S GARY!!”
The rest: “Where?!”
As if in a sitcom, Gary suddenly turned right and disappeared from view.
Me: “I swear I saw him! He’s wearing shades and a white t-shirt!”
Me to my friend J: “Did you see Gary?”
J: “Uh, no. Not really.”
It took a few more minutes (which felt like several eternities) before Mr. Barlow reappeared, and by that time, the Take That Brigade were fully alert and in high spirits. He briefly waved and gestured towards the baggage carousel, and we were all left counting minutes before the lads would finally make their exit.
A jumble of thoughts were threatening to overwhelm me. “What do I do? What do I say? Would I cry? Would I faint? Do NOT make a scene or scare them away!”
I took a deep breath and willed my inner calm Yoda to reign above all.
“Glad you took the time to say Hello…”
The glass doors opened and all of a sudden, I was literally face-to-face with Mark Owen.
Me: *Eyes as wide as saucers* “MARK!”
MO: “Hello! How are you?”
Me: “Good! I’m good…Can we take a photo, please?”
MO: “Of course!”
He moved closer to me for the photo, all the while asking me how I am and if we’ve been waiting there for a long time. I took a couple of pictures of us (because he was still talking during the first one) but then I suddenly spotted Gary Barlow to my left. I hurriedly thanked Mark and said goodbye before he got swallowed up by the rest of the waiting fans and I moved towards Gary.
“I understand the meaning of I can’t explain this feeling now…”
Gary Barlow, though.
What. A. Man.
The moment he exited the glass doors, I felt as if everything else in the universe stopped existing but him.
I had no idea what was happening, but I took advantage of the “lull” that his presence created and I went,
“Gary! Hello! Can I have a photo with you?”
(I’m surprised I didn’t go grab him and envelop him in a huge bear hug.)
GB: “Hello, how are you? Of course!”
He leaned towards me for the photo, and it was a miracle my motor skills still functioned, as my mind was screaming, “Gary Barlow’s body is actually touching you right at this moment!”
My friend J got a selfie with him next, and all of a sudden, a throng of people came up to Gary and surrounded him, all wanting to have their stuff signed or to take selfies. I remember just keeping my eyes on him, taking in everything and marveling at how patient and affable he’s being to his fans—signing everything and taking as much photos with them as they want to. I could have honestly stayed there, staring at him from a few feet away (with hearts on my eyes, probably), when my mind snapped at me, “Why aren’t you asking him to sign something?”
I fished around in my bag and produced a small round canvas and my Sharpie, and made my way to Gary again (who was still busy signing stuff for fans and chatting with them).
Me: “Could you sign this for me, please?” *holds out the canvas*
GB: “Of course!”
I’m not sure how it happened, but suddenly, Gary was next to me, his left arm rubbing against my right arm as he leaned on me to sign the canvas.
My friend J must have seen the look on my face during that moment because after I thanked Gary and moved away, she laughed and teased me in our native language: “How did it feel to have Gary’s blonde arm hairs rub against yours?”
I can’t put my truthful answer in here, there may be kids reading.
Again, just as I was starting to recover, I remembered that I brought some gifts for the TT lads; mini red jeepneys from the Philippines. I made my way again to Gary (who by then was chatting with a group of fans) and went:
Me: “Gary? Sorry…This is for you, by the way.” *hands the jeepney to him and turns to move away*
Gary: *Literally stops talking in mid-sentence and stares at it*
GB: “What is this…?”
Me: “It’s a jeepney. From the Philippines…Where I’m from?”
GB: *Turns the jeepney to look at it from all sides* “A jeepney? This is lovely! I love it! I love it! *looks at me and smiles widely* Thank you so much!”
Me: “Oh. No, thank you!”
Insert internal groan from me here. Smooth, Marj. Not.
So off he went and signed and took photos again for fans. But just as he started moving away towards the exit, I got an idea:
Me: *Holds up my phone* “Could you please say hello to your fans Aly and Irene?”
GB: “Aly and who? Aly and Aileen?”
Me: “Aly and Irene”
GB: *Looks at my phone* “Oh. Hello to Aly and Irene!”
Aly and Irene are two Philippine Thatters I met through Twitter, by the way. And they’re so nice and awesome I thought I’d surprise them by having G say hello. Unfortunately, only the first part got saved on my phone, but it was really lovely and kind of Gary to say hello to them!
If only I could make Gary stay longer and get him to keep talking in that melodious voice of him.
Finally, Gary started towards the airport exit, still surrounded by fans of course. “Keep it moving, keep it moving!” He joked. My friend J and I followed, mainly just so we can just stare at his perfection. Fortunately, we managed to catch up with Mark Owen just near the exit doors, and I hurriedly snatched my canvas and Sharpie again to have it signed.
And thus the Funny Mark Owen Mini-Sitcom Portion began:
Me: “Mark! Hi, Mark! Could you sign this, please?”
However, Mark got distracted by a fan who asked for a photo. And when the photo was done, he looked at the fan’s phone and went, “Wait. Is that my phone?”
Mark started patting his trouser pockets, and as I was standing next to him, he looked at me with a confused face and asked, “Where’s my phone?”
I wanted to laugh, but he looked so adorable I could only go, “Um. I don’t know where your phone is, Mark.”
Mark finally realized he didn’t have his phone with him the whole time and pointed at a guy outside (probably part of their team) and went, “Oh! My phone’s there!” He turned, smiled at me and went, “Sorry!”
Thank goodness for that “icebreaker”, I finally got Mark to sign my canvas. However, I forgot to give him his own mini jeepney so I ended up chasing him again:
Me: “Mark, wait! I forgot to give you this!” *hands the jeepney to him*
MO: *Stops and stares at the jeepney* “Oh. What is this…?”
Me: “It’s a jeepney. From the Philippines. Where I’m from…?”
MO: *Turns the jeepney to look at it from all sides* “Oh this is wonderful. So, so wonderful!” *looks at me straight in the eye and gives me a wide smile* “That’s very thoughtful of you. Thank you very much!”
Me: “Oh. Thank you, Mark. Bye!”
He waved goodbye and exited through the glass doors.
Hotdamn, that signature Mark Owen smile, though. I’m surprised I didn’t melt right then and there.
But if you think this is over, it’s NOT.
Through the glass doors, I spotted Howard and his flatcap walking outside, surrounded by fans. I’ve gotten 2 out of 3 signatures so far so why not go for 100%? I yelled at my friend that I was going to go after Howard, and went off to chase him outside.
I quickly got Howard to sign my canvas, and opted not to ask for a photo anymore so as not to interrupt the group of fans chatting with him. But of course I forgot (yet again!) to give him his own jeepney and therefore I had to run after him once more:
Me: “Howard! Wait, sorry, this is for you by the way.” *Places the jeepney in his hand and turns to leave*
Howard: *Stops in his tracks and looks at the jeepney* “Wait, what is this?”
Me: “It’s a jeepney. From the Philippines.”
HD: *Turns the jeepney to look at it from all sides* “Wow, This is so cool!” *looks at me and smiles” “Thank you very much!”
Me: “Oh. No, thank you!”
Argh. Stop thanking Take That members, Marj! (I can’t help it, though.)
And just like that, the TT lads were gone.
My friend and I went back inside the airport and I proceeded to flail and squeal and do all sorts of fangirl gestures to her. We regrouped with the other Thatters and proceeded to flail and squeal and fangirl/fanboy all over again. After taking group photos, we bade each other goodbye and “see you tomorrows” and went our separate ways.
I had to tell my friend to literally drag me by the arm if need be as we headed back to the city, as my brain honestly could not function properly at that moment.
We went to the 313@Somerset mall to claim my concert ticket, and funnily enough, the girl who assisted us was a massive Take That fan as well so it was a real hoot telling her how we got to meet the band just moments earlier (there were loads of flailing and OMGs were exchanged).
We had dinner, shopped a little, relived the hilarious moments earlier, and then parted ways. I met up for coffee with a local friend who I met through Twitter several years ago via our common love for Formula 1 but she sent me back to the hotel early so I can get some sleep. But to be honest, how the heck do I sleep after the day I just had?
I was exhausted, but it was the best kind of exhaustion.
Bring on tomorrow!
Saturday: March 5, 2016
“Today this could be, the greatest day of our lives…”
I woke up groaning, and for a few moments I had no idea where I was. The only thing I could think of was how annoyed I am at myself for setting the alarm on a weekend and that I want to sleep some more.
But then my mind recovered and remembered that I met the band yesterday and today’s the Take That concert.
That made me practically leap out of bed.
Strangely enough, I had practically zero appetite that day. I only ate a piece of bread, an energy bar and drank some orange juice for my late breakfast/early lunch, sent messages to fellow Thatters A1 and D that I was on my way to the venue, and then set off to officially start my day.
While waiting in the Harbourfront Bus Interchange, it suddenly started to rain. Not a light drizzle but the sort of downpour that made my glasses fog up and become opaque even within the safety of the bus shelter. Oh man. Thankfully it stopped after 10 minutes or so, and apparently, it was still blazing hot and sunny over in Sentosa.
Throughout the whole bus ride, there was this strange calm that enveloped me. I cannot believe that my 21-year wait to see Take That perform live would finally be broken later that day, but I suppose meeting the lads the day before greatly helped in lessening my anxiety and sky-high expectations.
As I was making my way to the queue, I chanced upon A2, a Filipino Thatter living in Singapore who I met at the airport the day before. We queued together (Numbers 21 and 22!) and passed the time chatting about Take That and our other musical interests. It felt great to connect with someone with the same interests so easily, especially since we can discuss using our native language so we didn’t have to worry about anyone understanding (and possibly judging) our crazy and weird conversations (ha!).
Nearly 3 hours into queuing, the rain that befell on us in the Harbourfront Bus Exchange finally reached Sentosa. Everyone donned their plastic ponchos, opened their umbrellas and bemoaned the sudden downpour, but I was confident that the rain would stop before the show began. And even if it did rain during the show—who cares? For one night, we would all be waterproof for Take That.
Finally, the wait was over.
We Super Fanzone ticket holders were carefully escorted into our area, and much to our delight, we got right to the front of the stage!
We took photos, chatted some more and then, as if a switched has been flipped, nighttime fell and before we knew it, we were hearing the glorious sound of the Shine intro.
“OHMYGODTHISISIT!!!” –My main thought on loop, in case you want to know.
“What a day to belong to a face in the crowd and the beat of your heart…”
Dilemma: Do I stand there taking photos and videos of every single moment or do I choose to just enjoy and take “mental photographs”? In the end, I decided to do a mixture of both. (And I brought along the mini-binoculars I use when I watch F1, the better to see Mr. Barlow’s sparkling green eyes. I’m not sure how I’m still alive after several moments of direct eye contact with him throughout the show. Judge me all you want, but they were worth it.)
Anyway, my memory is such that I can practically remember all the trivial, minutest details—so I’m just going to give you an abridged list of my notable observations/things that happened during the show:
*Gary. Barlow’s. Voice. Live. I can honestly write a whole blog post about it (maybe next time), but the short of the long is that his voice sounds way better live and that it was worth the 21-year wait to hear it. Perhaps even the angels singing in heaven may not be able to compare to it. I am not even kidding.
*During their 4th song, Hold Up A Light, Mark went down the stage to interact and shake hands with the fans (as per his routine), and unbeknownst to me, he was handed a pink towel by a group of Singaporean fans situated in the right side of the stage. As he was getting closer to our area, he decided to mount the barrier during the chorus! I was quite excited to go shake his hand or just give him a high-five, but when he got to me, the pink towel he was holding somehow landed in my hand instead. Bewildered, I held it out to him and tried to give it back, but he didn’t come back for it. I was so confused about this incident but A2 just told me, “He gave it to you, so just keep it!” (P.S. I inadvertently filmed a part of this incident and I would have gladly shared it here but my screaming and rambling were so embarrassing so I’d rather not. Sorry!)
*Mark Owen attempting to speak Chinese/Singaporean was too adorable for words! I lost track of how many times he said “Xie xie!!” throughout the night.
*Patience live was too lovely for words. Gary’s falsetto is like warm honey running down your throat. You know what I mean.
*I finally got to see the famous/infamous Pray dance routine live (albeit in semi-slow motion, I blame the heat and humidity)! Howard and Mark can still put young boyband members to shame with their moves, and those who say that Gary cannot dance can stick it where the sun does not shine—that man can still get down on his knees like he’s 19!
*Let’s talk about THAT stagecrasher during Could It Be Magic, then: Everyone was busy enjoying watching the lads sing and dance when suddenly, this woman ran up to the stage, stumbled in the steps and was in the process of being taken away by security when she somehow got away and practically crawled on to the stage! Sir Gary of the Barlows came to her rescue, helped her up, gave her a hug and then made her leave the stage with as much grace as possible. I know we are all TT-mad but honestly, for a split second I got scared for the lads when I saw her rushing to the stage. When I reviewed my video of the incident, I very audibly screamed “Oh My God!” the moment that happened! And yes, after being escorted off the stage by security, that woman attempted another run to the stage a few minutes after. Geez. Quit while you’re ahead!
Here’s a clip captured by a fellow fan YuSin:
(I would’ve shared my own video but my “Oh My God!” scream was so embarrassing!)
*Mark Owen and Gary Barlow getting to sing their own songs 4 Minute Warning and Let Me Go were pleasant additions to the setlist. I kind of wish Howard got to showcase his DJ-ing skills as well!
*The Piano Medley included How Deep Is Your Love which was such a welcome addition. The lads rarely sing this live so it was a treat for us Asian fans.
*I seriously needed a MOMENT when Back For Good started playing. My friends were all teasing me that I will cry when I finally hear that song live but honestly when the moment arrived, I felt everything and nothing at the same time. Time stopped. It was too beautiful and complex to be explained. When I’m sad or stressed or upset, I just remember this moment and I instantly feel better.
Video of Back For Good (Many thanks to A2 for this vid–I was too busy savoring this MomenTT to properly take a video on my phone!)
*I don’t care whether you are the Pope or the Prime Minister or a pauper—when you hear Lulu’s part in Relight My Fire, you have to sing along!
*By the time Rule The World started, I knew the night was coming to a close, so I chose to savor every single line and thank the heavens that all the stars indeed came out for us that night!
*Never Forget Live was nothing short of glorious. To be able to finally lift my arms up in the air with thousands of Thatters was an unforgettable, goosebumps-worthy experience.
Overall, I’m extremely happy that the crowd sang along loud and proud and was very participative. The Power of Thatters!
“Don’t say goodbye to me…”
Moments after the lads exited the stage, we were all still in a wonderful daze.
Did that just happen? Did that just REALLY happen?
Yes it did, and it was short and sweet but still absolutely perfect in every way.
When I finally got back to my hotel, it was only then when I realized just how hungry I was. I have not consumed anything other than water for the last 12 hours or so. But who needs food when you have Take That to fuel you?
Take That were worth the wait.
Take That are worth it. Full stop.
So what were my (other) takeaways from this trip?
I have learned that:
Things will all fall into place when the time is right and that the universe will conspire with you when it comes to the things you are truly passionate about.
You need to take a leap of faith and break out of your comfort zone in order to experience truly extraordinary moments (and to meet truly extraordinary people).
And to quote one of the most famous Take That song lyrics ever:
“Someday soon, this will all be someone else’s dream.”