Friday, 13 April 2018

Fall Out Boy Mania Tour Live At The O2 & Other London Adventures

A couple of Saturdays ago, I took a little trip to London with my sister to see Fall Out Boy perform live for the third time, and I had such an amazing time, I'm still buzzing almost two weeks later. I wish I could rewind the clock and do it all over again.

Fall Out Boy have been one of my favourite bands since about 2005, and they're definitely one of the best bands I've ever seen live, so when I heard they were touring again, I just had to get tickets. Typically, when I could finally afford to buy them, they'd all sold out, so I went against everything I believe in, and bought some off a resale website for more than double the price. The hiked up price was still worth it to me, though, because as you know, I'm a bit of a concert addict and the experience always means more to me than the money, plus I hadn't done anything remotely fun since last August. In the last eight months, I'd only left the house for medical appointments and a handful of short shopping trips, and after the year I'd had, I knew a night away enjoying one of my favourite pastimes, and seeing one of my favourite bands live would do me some good. Of course, I was absolutely right.

We arrived in cold, rainy Marylebone around midday, and as we had a little time to kill before we could check in to our hotel, we headed over to Covent Garden, but only did a quick lap of the piazza because it was hellishly busy and Marie was struggling to drag the suitcase over the cobble stones. Covent Garden ain't made for wheelie suitcases, that's for sure. We treated ourselves to some Ben's Cookies (best cookies ever!), and then grabbed another cab to the London Eye, and took a river cruise up to our hotel at the O2.

Whenever my sisters and I go to a gig or an exhibition at the O2, we always take the ferry from The London Eye. I personally think it's the best way to travel there when you're not in a rush because it's more enjoyable than being crammed on the tube like sardines, and cheaper than a cab, and you get to do some sight-seeing along the way. It takes you from Westminster up to Greenwich, so you get to pass landmarks like Big Ben, Westminster, The London Eye, Tower Bridge, The Shard, The Walkie Talkie, Canary Wharf, and so much more, while enjoying being out on the water. It takes about 35 minutes to the North Greenwich Pier, and if you pay by Oyster Card or Contactless, it will only set you back £7.50 each way- which is £2.40 cheaper than purchasing an adult ticket. We used Contactless, and just had to scan our debit cards as we got on and off of the ferry, and it was soooo easy and convenient.

It was cold and wet, but we sat outside on deck for most of the journey because we're hardcore like that, enjoying the incredible views from The Thames. We eventually retreated inside to the warmth, when we lost the feeling in our fingers, and then got off at the North Greenwich Pier.

The mannequins raising awareness of male suicide.

Marie had booked us a room at the Intercontinental Hotel which is literally right beside the O2, thinking it would be less hassle than getting a hotel across the city, and having to travel across London after the gig. It would have been less hassle- if a member of the pier staff we asked for directions hadn't given us the wrong route to get to the hotel. The hotel was surrounded by tall metal fencing all along the riverside footpath, so we had to walk a good mile or two from the ferry around its perimeter before we reached an opening. With my body already screaming at me, and my sister towing our luggage (thanks, human pack-horse), we were both exhausted by the time we got to the lobby. If we'd taken the other route, the right route, around the O2, we would have reached the hotel in minutes... They could really do with some signage, or installing some gates in their fence line.

Fortunately, it was all forgotten when we saw how beautiful the hotel was, went to check in, and were given a free upgrade to a deluxe twin room by the lovely Italian lady checking us in. I don't think that's ever happened to me in my life! We were given a room on the tenth floor, and it was absolutely beautiful. It had two big twin beds with the most comfortable mattresses, massive pillows, and good quality bedding, and a big bathroom with a marble bath tub, a walk-in monsoon shower, fancy Anne Semonin beauty products, and even speakers over the sink so you could listen to the TV in the bathroom. There were tea and coffee facilities (including an Espresso maker), along with a mini bar, and a big smart TV. We also got free Wifi, and had a floor to ceiling window with a panoramic view of the O2 to the left, and the Thames and London skyline to the right. Sure, it was a bit industrial in the middle, but it was a pretty great view and we could see for miles. I seemed to notice something different every time I looked out, and felt really relaxed watching the waves on the river lapping on to the riverbanks. We normally just book a Premier Inn, so that room was such a treat. I didn't have the energy to take many photos of the hotel room, but it was absolutely gorgeous, and the hotel was stunning. It was so fancy, it even had a ballroom! I only wish we'd found time to check out the rooftop bar, and make use of its pool and spa. We're planning to stay at the hotel next time we see a show at the O2, so we'll definitely be checking them out next time!

We spent the next few hours resting so that I could recover before the gig, watching The Big Bang Theory, and eating delicious cookies (and in Marie's case, napping) from our comfy beds.

Our plan was to go grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants in the O2 before the gig, so we started getting ready late afternoon, and headed over to the arena just before half six. Our hotel had a covered walkway to the arena, which conveniently stayed open 'til 1am, so we made good use of it. When we got outside, there were already two massive queues forming, so we joined the back of one and waited the ten minutes for the doors to open. There was a lot of work being done on the arena, so it wasn't until we got through security (which, reassuringly, is now airport-style) and had our tickets scanned (thank God they worked!!) that we realised the queue had led us straight in to the arena, and not the main entrance to the O2 complex like we'd thought. I still don't know how I didn't realise it- I've been there half a dozen times before, and it looked nothing like the main entrance! #Dumbass. Once tickets are scanned there's no readmittance, so we couldn't leave the arena before the gig, and our dinner plans had to go out the window. We hadn't wanted to watch the support acts, so we were stuck in the arena far earlier than we wanted to be, which was kinda annoying, but we were mostly just annoyed at ourselves for the mistake. We ended up sharing some fries from one of the arena's fast food stands to tide us over, and then headed in to the arena because I needed to sit down.

I'd booked seats right at the front of one of the nearest tiers to the stage (block 101, row H- A-G was replaced by the disabled seating block), and they turned out to be some of the best seats in the house. (Apart from front row, or y'know, Andy Hurley's lap). They were totally worth the money they'd cost me. We had an amazing view of the stage, and it was great to see the show a little less side-on than the last few gigs we'd been to. The only drawback was we had to walk down like a hundred stone steps to get to them, and getting to them without a hand rail was not a fun experience; they were so steep, I was terrified I was going to fall. I had the same problem when I saw Linkin Park there a couple of years ago. I must have looked like a right knob shuffling down them a step at a time. I really wish the O2 would install hand rails, or have stairs leading up from the floor for easier access.

We made it in to our seats during the first support act's set, who were an American funk-pop duo called MAX. I'd never heard of them before, and it's not the kind of music I'd usually listen to, but they were good fun, and we both enjoyed their set. The other support act was an American group called Against the Current, who had a similar sound to Paramore, and I really enjoyed their music, too. It was surprising as I rarely have much regard for support acts, but I'm glad we fucked up and got to hear them. 

Fall Out Boy exploded on to the stage at 9pm with a killer performance of The Phoenix, and they just kept on getting better and better as the night went on. They were phenomenal. They performed crowd-pleasing classics like Sugar, We're Goin Down, Dance, Dance, I Don't Care, Grand Theft Autumn (Where Is Your Boy), and Thnks Fr Th Mmrs,  awesome old album tunes like Thriller, Uma Thurman, Irresistible, and Centuries, hits like My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up), Save Rock 'n' Roll, and The Phoenix, and heaps of new songs from their newest album, Mania, including Wilson (Expensive Mistakes), Stay Frosty Royal Milky Tea, Church, Hold Me Tight Or Don't, and The Last of the Real Ones. Every single song was amazing; I loved every single one. It was all so good I don't think I could even pick favourites. I really enjoyed hearing Wilson (Expensive Mistakes), my current favourite tune, and all the new tracks live for the first time, and of course, all the classics. I was disappointed not to hear A Little Less Sixteen Candles and Young Volcanoes, though. Their vocals were some of the best I've ever heard, and they played their instruments flawlessly- especially Andy, whose drumming was incredible. I couldn't stop watching him impressively beating the shit out of that drum kit. That little tattooed bearded man sure has stamina. How does he do it? My arms would be dead after one song!

It wasn't just the music that impressed me, the set was also spectacular. They had a runway stage running down the middle of the arena from the main stage, and two raised platforms at the back where they performed several songs halfway through the show. There was smoke, fire, and fireworks keeping time with the music, and explosions of confetti and stringy stuff (yes, that's the proper technical term) being released which looked incredible. The fireworks lining the runway from time to time looked especially awesome. You could tell they'd sunk a lot of money in to the show, and had a bigger budget to play with them ever before.

It was a really fun experience, with the crowd going mental for every song, and everybody singing along to everything. It was the best FOB gig I've seen to date, and without a doubt, one of the best gigs I've ever been to. The only downside was, it was over waaay too soon, as concerts always are, and I didn't want it to end. I would've happily gone and seen that show again and again, but sadly, they only played a few UK dates, and it was the last one before they moved on to Europe. If you're a FOB fan and they're bringing the tour to your country, go and see them! I promise you won't regret it.

I didn't take many photos of the gig and the ones that came out are shit, but I videoed most of it to look back on, so here are a few of the best ones, if you'd like to see them. 

You can find all of the videos I took over on my personal Youtube account, which I mostly use to upload any videos I take at the concerts I go to so I can look back on them from time to time. Yes. I already know I'm a total fan girl, and I'm okay with that.

After the gig was over, we headed out to see if any of the restaurants were still open in the O2. Luckily, most of them were, so we sat down for a very late dinner at Frankie & Benny's. (More for a sister catch-up than out of hunger. The sister was only home from Germany for Easter). It was odd eating at a busy restaurant after eleven at night. I'm so used to living in the country where everything but the pubs and bars are shut by then. I tucked in to cheese and chives potato skins, and a massive portion of carbonara (with added chicken), kindly made with penne for me, instead of spaghetti. It was absolutely delicious, but there was so much of it, I couldn't eat it all. We also treated ourselves to cocktails. Marie got a Benny on the Beach, and I went for a Woo Woo. It was delicious. I'm not actually supposed to drink on my medication, but I figured one wouldn't hurt. It's been years since I last had a drink. Sorry I haven't got photos of the meal to share; it was too dark and shadowy in the restaurant for decent photos.

Once we'd finished our meal, we made our way back to our hotel. I was in so much pain by then, I dosed myself up, stuck a trail of heat patches up my spine, and crashed in my comfy bed. It was a few hours before sleep came.

In the morning, I awoke before Marie, and lay there awake for a while in the dark realising I had numbness in three of my fingers- I must have pinched a nerve, as the feeling didn't return for over a week. The black out curtains did their job so well I didn't realise how late in the morning it was until I checked my phone some time later, and saw it was ten past ten. It felt like six in the morning! We'd originally aimed to be up and out before half eight, to go grab some breakfast, and visit The London Aquarium before going home for our family Easter meal, but I guess we'd needed the sleep.

We didn't end up leaving our hotel until our checkout time of midday, and went in search for an open shop at the O2 for drinks and pastries (FYI, there's a newsagents in the O2, and a Tesco Express out the front), before catching the ferry.

It was another dismal grey day, but it was dry and a little warmer than the day before, so we sat outside on deck again, marvelling at the views of the landmarks, and a random boat with a giant octopus wrapped around it as we passed by. Sadly, it wasn't a real giant octopus; that would have been a pretty awesome sight to see.

I've been to London and seen the sights at least fifteen times, but I never get tired of seeing it all again. There's something so magical and enchanting about it, and living in a small country town, I find the fast-pace of the city exciting. It was weird seeing Big Ben surrounded by scaffolding, though; Westminster just didn't look the same without the iconic clock tower standing out in the skyline.

At the London Eye, we got off the boat and back on to dry land, and wandered down to the London Aquarium to see if we could pay it a visit. The bank of the Thames was swarming with people, and I mean swarming- there was hardly room to breathe; it was hellish. When we reached the aquarium, it was so busy the queues were out the door, and we discovered you have to book a time slot to go inside, so that was another plan that quickly went out the window. (Last time we visited, which must have been over a decade ago, you could just queue and go in, so I don't know when that changed). It was disappointing but I was too exhausted to care. I'm sure we'll fit in a visit next time we're in London to make up for it.

We decided to hail a cab to Oxford Street to see if Selfridges was open instead, but once we got there, we discovered it was shut for Easter Sunday- some shops were, some weren't. Nothing was working out for us that weekend! After an impromptu detour past Buckingham Palace so Marie could see it for the first time, we headed to the train station to travel home. By then it was about 3pm. Typically, after we'd bought our tickets, the on-time train to Oxford suddenly disappeared from the boards, and the next train home wasn't until two hours later. After a bit of stressing and panicking, we decided to get a train to Reading, which had a million stops, and took FOREVER, changing at Didcot, and finally arriving at Oxford after 5pm where our Dad picked us up because the bus causes me too much pain. We arrived home around 6pm, and sat down for our annual family Easter Sunday meal- a turkey roast and all the trimmings- minutes after we got in the door. I held on until dessert, and then finally crawled in to my bed in agony and exhaustion, and have stayed there recovering ever since.

The aftermath has been painful, but my little London trip to see Fall Out Boy with my sister was more than worth it. I'd do it all again in a heart beat, and I'm certain I will. I already can't wait for the next one. I just hope it's not too far on the horizon. I'm having concert withdrawals already!

What's the best gig you've ever been to, or the best band you've seen live?

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Fall Out Boy Live At Wembley November 2015
Fall Out Boy Live In Birmingham March 2014
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