So, let me take you back to the 22nd October 2016. A few days before my daughter’s birthday and I’m online buying tickets for this gig a year and six days later. A birthday present two years running. That’s how good a parent I am. The purchase also came with the fear that 12 months later my daughter would be ‘meh’ about the whole Little Mix thing. Just give me Ed Sheeran Daddy, or let me sing ‘Once I was seven years old’ to you again [please, god, make it stop]
Thankfully, a yea on and my daughter was still very excited to see Little Mix – her first real gig. Yes she had seen Kacey Musgrave’s live at C2C – but this was 18 months ago, aged six and a half; in a Corporate Box; and she wasn’t already a fan of Kacey (though she is now rather fond of her version of Spoonful of Sugar) so she spent almost the entire time running around. This time she was here for the music.
‘When’s it starting daddy’
We had, due to increase security, arrived early. It was 6.30. There’s two support acts on first, I replied, one at 7.10, and one at 7.40.
‘What can I do’
We went and found the merch stall and bought a T-shirt – a proper old school one with the tour dates on the back. I did almost go back and get myself one too.
7.10 came and went with no sign of the first support act. Then 7.40 came and went, before a young gentleman called Jessara hit the stage and did a 20 minute stint. He was ok actually, but this crowd were no different to those at any age – not really bothered about the support act, they just wanted LITTLE MIX. At no point was there any mention of the missing first support act – Lina.
More waiting and boredom followed. The wait for the band to come on was not one my daughter enjoyed, and to be honest if I had to watch the handful of pop promo videos interspersed with the ads for the re-released album and the band’s perfume one more time … well, let’s not go there.
But I did explain that if she was going to go to gigs in future she’d better get used to this waiting malarkey as it was part of the deal.
8.30 came … and went. The band was meant to be one by now. And then at around 8.40, it began.
“That’s hurting my ears and my heart Daddy”
These were the words my daughter said to me half way through the opening salvo of ‘Power’ – the first track of the Little Mix set. She had not really been prepared for the noise. And it was pretty loud. Ok, not exactly My Bloody Valentine, but for a room full of mostly tween girls (Whilst not totally a male free zone, there was a general lack of young boys in the audience) it was a decent volume.
And for the next 90 minutes, we were in the Mix. What followed was an impressive wide screen cinematic performance – with video and the filmed live performance being projected directly onto the screen behind the band – whilst they and their group of fit young men, danced and sang their way through the hits.
So yes, the chorus’ were all backtracked and mimed – to varying degrees of bloody obviousness – but in this day and age this is hardly a shock; but most of the vocals on the verses were live and pretty solid, the band engaging, and here’s the thing: they’ve got some bloody good pop tunes – there, I said it. And for the adults, this helped big time. I enjoyed myself, as did my partner.
There was a little concern that the band and stage were too far away, but when the T shaped platform descended out over the audience six songs in, the band we sudden in front of us.
My daughter was mostly torn between belting out the tunes, and being oddly shy at doing the very same thing – even in a room where everyone else was doing just that. There is always something special about being at a gig and hearing the crowd singing the songs; but that is doubled when it’s an audience of mostly tweens doing so. It takes a special kind of hard-heartiness not to be drawn in.
So let’s talk about Joy.
Craig Finn of The Hold Steady often says at gigs “There is so much joy in what we do up here!”, but for me the joy here was that of being a parent. I do go to a reasonable amount of gigs, and luckily most of them are usually pretty good; but there is something different and a little bit special experiencing the joy that live music brings through someone else. My daughter was mostly transfixed, shrugging off any potential distraction by me or her mother, being annoyed if either of us deigned to sing along or god forbid get up to sing/dance – that wasn’t me, by the way. Selfishly she wanted this experience all to herself. No distractions. I love her all the more for it. It was like the feeling you get watching someone open a present you’ve bought them (and it is something they actually want)
Also I could not have been prouder by both the look on her face and her general reaction to the sound of a small child along the row from us blowing a whistle – we both know what kind of gig going person he was going to grow up to become and the special place in hell (if such a place existed) which would be reserved for him in the future.
There could not of been a better gig for the start of what I hope it a long a varied live musical journey for my daughter. It seems right that this should have been her first ‘gig’ as Black Magic was the first song I remember her really liking and claiming as her own, that was not introduced to her by either of her parents. As for the gig? ‘That was the best, daddy’.
For a spell that can’t be broken, indeed.