There can be a lot of pressure behind firsts.
The first step is always monumental. The first kiss should be sweetly ripped straight out of a fairy-tale. That first job out of university must be the right one to help climb on a very long career ladder and the first adult handbag must convey the message that one is now ‘grown’. In the same way, the first concert should be memorable enough to be painted with a permanent marker around the corners of the brain…
I’ll tell you here and now; my first concert will be remembered. Oh, yes, it sure will be.
There And Back Again was definitely the soundtrack to my cold winter days and I hit the replay button on ‘Lost On Me’ to the point of breakage.
I already knew all the lyrics to his biggest hits like ‘Congratulations’ or ‘Love Die Young’, but it was his latest album that had me desperately digging through his entire discography for missed gems like a lost treasure I buried deep underneath. Lucky for me I didn’t have to look too hard. Hence, when I found out Eric was bringing the show not only to England but to Manchester, a few minutes away from my house, well getting a ticket was a no brainer. Plus, it fell on the day after my birthday – the perfect present to myself!
The Pre-show Jitters.
Excitement and anxiety are the common recipes for most big moments in my life, but somehow, my anxious feelings always take the lead. I scoured the internet for every ‘what (NOT) to take to a concert’ posts I could find and searched ‘concert outfit ideas’ on Pinterest.
My aim was to go light and hands-free and when it came to my look of choice, comfort was the main requirement. So, I layered a midi-dress with a white t-shirt to match my sneakers and completed the look with a jean jacket. I picked a darker shade of lipstick for an edgier look as opposed to my signature vivid red.
As I aimed to travel light, I carried my ID, some money and my DSLR camera.
There were a lot of moments before the show when it dawned on me just how overjoyed I was for what was about to happen. Standing outside my house as I waited for the Uber to roll up in front was one of those pinch-me moments I couldn’t shake. I turned to my sister who was also joining me and said: “We’re early. We are never early. Eric Nam made us early!”.
The Uber showed up 3-minutes later and we drove straight into a moment in time we hoped to remember forever.
Manchester’s O2 Ritz was definitely the right place to be as we came off our Uber right in front of the venue. There was a long line of passionate people waiting at the front ready to have the best time. Everyone with whom I locked eyes as we walked past had the same anticipation in their eyes that I’m sure I too couldn’t hide.
We went straight to a member of staff as instructed in our email correspondences in regard to accessibility in the concert and they led us straight to the accessible entrance. It didn’t take long for us to get caught up in conversations with like-minded strangers as we waited in line some more.
Right about 7 pm, our tickets were scanned, and we were one of the first people let into the building. We were directed to the front left corner of the venue and were then given two options. We could either be placed in a more spacious area by the side of the stage near the toilets for easier access or we could stay in the midst of the crowd in the very front. My sister and I chose the latter – we wanted to watch Eric perform up close obviously!
As the venue started to be filled up with hopeful bodies, we chatted with the people around us for nearly an hour. There was a dad who brought his daughter to the show, two friends who were about to experience their second concert ever and a boyfriend who told us he was really there for emotional support.
Sometime around 8 pm, Rhys Lewis came out as a special guest of the show. I wasn’t familiar with his music, but he demanded my attention and was quite engaging he was as a performer.
Songs like ‘No Right To Love You’ and ‘Alone’ made it to my Spotify playlist instantly. Together with a very handsome piano player, they played about five or six tracks. The cheer of the crowd was a clear indication that he had specifically caught our eyes. Rhys even joked about handing him the mic but didn’t as he raced for time. The entire set helped enhance the mood in the room so by then everyone was pumped up and buzzing for Eric to take the stage.
“Eric! Eric! Eric!”
Our voices echoed with enthusiasm and heated emotion. By then my jacket had already come off and my energy was up to the max.
Right in front of my eyes, I saw his silhouette from the back door and in an instant, Eric made his entrance. Up the stairs and onto centre stage.
He opened the show perfectly by playing ‘Any Other Way’ with the help of his band. I screamed at the top of my lungs and sang along to every word I now knew by heart.
The first noticeable thing was how charismatic Eric is as a performer. He had this flirtatious energy he did not turn off for a second and seemed as though he was having just as much fun as he expected of the crowd. There were countless body rolls and a number of winks I’m sure caused a few heart attacks.
From ‘Don’t Call Me’ to ‘Down For You’ or ‘Echo’ it was all one big party with the perfect live music, dope stage lighting and two incredible dancers who got the crowd hyped up even more.
There were also moments when he slowed down. ‘Love Die Young’ and ‘One Way Lover’ sounded even better live which I didn’t think could be possible really. Eric joked about how his concerts are actually TED Talks because of how much talking he does throughout and took the time to sing happy birthday to everyone celebrating. The party started again with ‘You’re Sexy, I’m Sexy’ and ended too soon with ‘Congratulations’.
We begged for the show to continue, and our wish was his command. During the encore, he sang two more songs!
After the show, a member of staff who told me I had a lovely smile gave me a copy of the setlist that was kept stuck on the side of the stage. I’m keeping that very well.
(Spoiler Alert – Setlist Below)
Clearly, I had the time of my life. Time went by a little too fast, but that’s just how it is when there’s fun involved.
If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend the show. I’m not quite sure how many legs are left on the tour, although I know most of them are sold out – as they should be. It was the best night and if I could I would without a doubt go there and back again.
Your restless romantic roamer