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Part I – Point Me At The Sky 

Unfortunately we must begin with the tedious details of my trip from Frankfurt to London.  It started with a 2 hour bus ride from the train station to the tiny airport that the discount airliner Ryan Air flies out of.  The plane ride was an hour long, and rather enjoyable.  I haven’t been on a plane since I flew in to Frankfurt at the end of last summer.  I managed to get a window seat and listen to Dark Side of the Moon while soaring through the clouds and across the English channel.  It was pretty cool to look out the window and see both England and France at the same time.  Other than that, it was nothing too spectacular. 

Upon my arrival in London I had to go through customs.  This simply involved me filling out a little slip of paper and giving it to a girl at the customs desk along with my passport.  She asked me the standard questions like, “Where are you coming from?” and “What is the purpose of your visit?”  To the latter I replied simply, “Live 8.”  She smiled at that and asked me if I had tickets.  I told her I did not but I was just going to try to find somewhere to see it.  Even though I expressed no desire to find a ticket, she wished me luck in getting one. 

Next came an hour-long train ride from London’s Stanstead Airport to the Liverpool Street station in central London.  Once I arrived, I immediately thought of getting something to eat.  I had forgone my breakfast that morning because I was too focussed on figuring out how to get on the bus.  But even after arriving in London I still had to focus on getting to the hostel, so I put off eating then for the moment as well.  I bought myself a ticket for the tube and rode to Picadilly Circus, the busiest part of London which just happened to be where the hostel was located. 

I found it without much trouble, and at first sight I was quite unimpressed.  It looked like a dingy, grimy place to be, but once I got to my room I saw that it wasn’t so bad.  Once I had settled in I went back out on the street and looked for a place to eat.  But I knew I wanted to get to Hyde Park at some point, so I figured I might as well just go there and I would probably find a place to eat along the way.  There were signs in the Underground Station that listed the exits you could take to reach Hyde Park for the concert.  One of them was Baker Street, and since I’d wanted to go to Baker Street anyway the last time I was in London (because of the song and for no other reason) I decided to use that station. 

Once I exited on to Baker Street I had to figure out which direction Hyde Park was in.  I could see a bunch of trees fairly close in the northern direction, and I began walking towards them until I realised I wasn’t sure of myself.  So I turned around and went back up the street to a newsstand and asked one of the women there which direction Hyde Park was in.  She pointed me in the direction I had initially gone.  So I walked up to the park and began a very long stroll.  The weather was warm, but completely overcast and with rain of varying intensity.  As I walked through the park, looking for the stage or the screen, it began to rain very hard, and I got pretty soaked, but it felt nice and I didn’t care. 

I walked for awhile with no success in finding anything, until I came to the Open Air Theatre and asked the man at the box office where the concert was being held.  “You mean where is the screen that will be broadcasting the concert?” asked the man, and I said, “Yeah, where do the ticketless people go?”  He gave me some fairly simple directions, but when I took them I found that he had pointed me in a direction I’d already gone that lead to a dead-end.  So I just wandered around and walked straight through the largest and most open area of the park, wondering where the fuck this stage was supposed to be.  I was particularly thrown off by the complete absence of signs of any sort.  You would have no idea that a giant concert was supposed to be held there the very next day. 

So I walked clear through the park and out the other side, then proceeded to walk the perimeter of the park looking for another Underground Station.  I found another entrance to the park before finding and Underground Station, so I figured “what the hell?” and walked back through the park.  This time I found the screen.  It was being set up as I walked by and I made note of how to get there once I made it to the other side of the park where I had first entered.  I was a little disconcerted that I hadn’t found the stage, but I was appeased by knowing where to go for the screen. 

I still hadn’t eaten, but by now my stomach was digesting itself and living off all that stored fat I’ve been putting on in Germany.  I was putting off eating because of my money situation, which needs explaining.  I had $130.00 in my bank account when I left Frankfurt, and I took ₤50 out when I arrived in London.  ₤41 of that went to paying for the hostel.  After riding the tube back to Picadilly I went to the ATM machines to take out some more money, and found that 10 pounds was all I could get.  So now I had less than 20 pounds to last me the weekend, which would prevent me from doing anything at all that evening save lying in my bed in the hostel and maybe reading my book.  I had written to my mother the previous night asking her to put more money in the account, but I had been unwise in believing she would read the e-mail in time.  I knew I had to e-mail my dad while he was still at work and explain the situation to him. 

I went back to the hostel and asked them to use the internet.  I was going to ask my dad for money, as well as write to you about the situation.  But it was just my luck, as the internet was down at the hostel.  They told me to wait and it should be ready soon, so I went back up to my room and laid down just resting and feeling pretty awful about everything.  I checked with the office 3 times over the next hour or so, and the internet was never fixed.  In my room I laid there thinking about what a dreadful person I am.  That I had wasted every last bit of my money to come to London for a concert I wasn’t even going to see.  I came for Pink Floyd, but I would only be seeing them on a screen in a park which was actually surprisingly small.  Not only that, but I didn’t even have enough money to feed myself or do anything that would cost money if I wanted to be able to afford to get back to Frankfurt.  Unless I got some cash I couldn’t do anything at all except lie in bed or go walking. 

After the third failed attempt at getting to use the internet at the hostel I left in frustration, walking down Picadilly Street, certain that there must be an internet café somewhere.  I didn’t find one but there were plenty of phone booths.  I tried to call my house collect but these payphones didn’t allow you to do that.  I walked further on down the road until I found a bunch of payphones lined up and figured that the best thing to do would just be to pay for the call myself.  I saw that the minimum price to make a call was 30 pence.  I put that in the phone and called my house.  My mother picked up just as the machine was answering. She was a bit surprised to hear from me.  I told her I was in London, and….I got cut off before I could say anything.  Apparently 30 pence only gets you about 10 seconds of conversation.  So I threw in a pound and called again.  I explained the situation to my mother as quickly as possible, asking her to put more money into my account as soon as possible.  She said she would leave for the bank immediately. 

So now I had some peace of mind, knowing that the next time I asked the ATM for money it would give some to me.  Right next to the payphones was an entrance to a little park and a sign that said “Buckingham Palace” pointing through it.  I decided I might as well take a little stroll, and I walked the length of the tiny park to Buckingham Palace.  I walked around the circle and when I was making my way back I noticed a couple of pretty cute girls sitting near the gate and talking to the Bobbies or whatever the hell you call the police in Britain.  As I walked by I heard “How I wish, how I wish you were hear,” being sung in a very untalented American female voice, and I was shocked to find that one of those hot girls had been singing that in my direction, in response to my Wish You Were Here shirt that I was wearing.  I was caught off guard, as I’d been waiting for someone to comment on my shirt but nobody had until now.  I merely smiled and threw up my hands with and emphatic “Yeah!” and she said, “For sure!” and that was that.  I walked on by, my spirit very much lightened by that little exchange of pleasantries.  It was feeling like things were turning around.  I wondered if I should have gone and tried to talk to those girls, but A) it would be weird to do that in front of two British policemen, B) they were too young for me anyway (morality-wise), and C) I’m a big fucking pussy. 

But nevertheless it was nice and I started to feel good again.  Now that I could spend the money I had in my pocket I decided to catch a film.  I made my way towards the theatre I had gone to last time to watch Constantine, and on the way a random guy stopped me in the street to comment on my shirt and tell me Pink Floyd was one of the best bands ever to come out of his country (meaning England).  But he said that he also liked the music that was coming out of my country now, as if that was a personal compliment.  He was a nice guy, and anyone with an appreciation of Floyd is OK in my book, but he had to stand three inches in front of my face to talk to me and tell me how good the White Stripes are.  I said I wasn’t too familiar with them.  He changed the subject back to Floyd and said that he thought Wish You Were Here was their best album.  A respectable opinion, but my facial expression betrayed my disagreement.  He jumped to the conclusion that I must like The Wall the best, and I saw no reason not to let him think that.  He then proceeded to tell me that they were playing in London tomorrow as if I hadn’t known.  I informed him that this was the reason I was in London in the first place, and he bid me farewell and good luck. 

I made it to the theatre and saw that War of the Worlds was playing at 9:30.  It had only opened the previous night so I was surprised that I got a ticket, but I did.  It was only quarter to 9 when I got the ticket so I realised that if I was going to eat, the time was then.  I went to the nearest fast-food place (go ahead and roll your fucking eyes, I don’t give a damn) and got 2 things from the 99 pence menu.  After going nearly 24 hours without any food, it was a bit of a shock, but the food did manage to go in the right direction. 

So I went and watched the movie, which I must admit was quite a fun little picture.  There was absolutely nothing deep, meaningful, or even the least but intelligent about it, but my god can Steven Spielberg direct a thriller.  When he’s not dealing with deep issues, he seems to know what he’s doing.  The whole movie was just a non-stop roller-coaster ride.  Perhaps his best since Jurassic Park, only without any of the brilliant science-fiction that made Jurassic Park such a classic.  I left there feeling not one bit more enlightened about anything than I had been before, but it was a fun movie and I had no complaints. 

Finally it was late enough for me to go to sleep.  I strolled back to the hostel and found my room completely empty, but with sheets on all of the other beds indicating that the room was in fact full and others would be coming along shortly.  I took an allergy pill to help me sleep and I’m glad I did, as shortly afterwards my three room-mates, all Spanish or Mexican or some sort of Latino, came in and caused a big disturbance.  But once they were all quietly in their beds it was a piece of cake to fall asleep, provided I didn’t think about the day that lay ahead. 

Part II – Marooned 

I woke up to a knock on our door, and one of the hostel workers telling the Spaniards that they were past the designated check-out time.  As they scrambled to get their shit together, I took my time getting ready.  They were all gone before I was ready to go, but I found that my room keycard was no longer working.  So I had to go down to reception to get a different one.  There was a very long queue there at reception, and as I took my place at the back of it two ridiculously sexy girls came up behind me and looked inside.  They expressed frustration at the “massive queue” and said they just needed to get their bags so they could get their tickets.  “Tickets?” I asked out of pure curiosity.  “Yeah, our Live 8 tickets,” they said.  Lucky sexy-ass bitches.  Did they not see me with my Dark Side of the Moon T-Shirt and the anguish in my eyes from being ticketless and poor? 

Just before I went to get my card replaced, someone did notice the shirt.  A red-haired employee of the hostel also took it upon herself to inform me that Pink Floyd was playing today in Hyde Park.  I informed her that I was aware of that, and that was the reason I was there, although I unfortunately did not have a ticket.  Once I got my card replaced and made it to the stairwell, I caught her again and as we walked down the stairs together I asked her if she knew anything about how the concert was going to be done.  She started rattling off a list of the scheduled acts and I had to tell her that I knew all of that and I just wanted to know where I could go to watch it without a ticket.  She said that Hyde Park would be completely closed off so there was no hope of seeing it on that screen unless I had a ticket.  She told me her story of how she had very much wanted to go to the show just to be able to say she saw Pink Floyd on that historic occasion, but a ticket only became available to her a few days beforehand when she had already agreed to work that day.  If I was her I would have just quit my stupid job and gone to the show, but I didn’t say that. 

Of course I didn’t get all of this information in the stairwell of the hostel.  When we had left the building we were going in the same direction.  She was delivering some box full of god-knows-what to god-knows-where, but she was having a nice conversation with me as she did it. She told me that my best bet was to just find a pub that was broadcasting the show and watch it from there.  I said I’d rather watch it from an outdoor screen, and she recommended I check with the Tourist Bureau which was just down Picadilly Street.  Her name was Susie as I learned somewhere in the course of the conversation.  We parted ways and that was the last I saw of her. 

I took her advice and went to the Tourist Bureau and asked about additional screens for the Live 8 concerts.  The guy there didn’t know anything about out-door screens, and told me what I had feared most—that the only way I would be able to see it was with a ticket or from a pub.  I couldn’t imagine coming all the way to London to watch the show on a tiny goddamned screen with the sound down low in a noisy pub full of drunken bastards who most certainly wouldn’t give a shit anyway.  I left the Bureau and headed back up Picadilly Street to get to the Underground Station.  While I was walking, a group of French tourists stopped me, probably because of my shirt, and asked me if I knew of any pubs where they would be broadcasting the concert.  I was impressed with their English, but I couldn’t help them.  I said I was in the same situation as them, having come all the way to London for the show but having no way to see it.  They told me there were places selling tickets, both for the actual show and the screen in Hyde Park.  I asked them where it was and they just pointed up the street. 

The next hour was a nightmare.  I went down to the Underground Station to try and withdraw cash from the ATM machine, but it wouldn’t let me withdraw even though it indicated my account had plenty of money.  I tried every machine in the station, all from different banks, and had no luck with any of them.  Confused I left the station and figured if I could find one of these ticket selling places they may be able to draw money directly from my account.  The first two places I tried didn’t have anything, but the third place I checked had tickets for the screen and tickets for the actual event.  Tickets for the actual event were going for ₤350, which was too rich for my blood no matter how I boiled it.  Tickets for the screen in Hyde Park were ₤75, which was affordable, although I knew with the financial pickle I was currently in I probably shouldn’t buy one.  But I didn’t come to London to watch the show in some fucking pub, so I asked the guy if he accepted debit cards and he said cash only.  I explained to him my trouble with the ATM machines and asked him where the nearest Currency Exchange place was.  He pointed directly across the street. 

I made it there and went up to a friendly Arab guy in the window, handing him my card and asking him for ₤100 if possible.  But alas, the transaction was not authorised.  Apparently someone in my bank had decided at the worst possible time that they were no longer going to allow me to take MY money from MY account.  Oh the anger and frustration.  I now had only a few coins in my wallet.  If I couldn’t get money then I could not only kiss my hopes of seeing the show goodbye, but I would have the far more difficult problem of being stuck in London, unable to pay for bus fare to the airport or anything.  On top of that, I wouldn’t even be able to watch the show in a pub, as what pub would let a guy in to watch their television without buying anything? 

I explained to the Arab my predicament, and he said the only solution was to have my parents wire me the money by Western Union.  Have them wire it to London and I could pick it up with just my name, their name, and a passport.  I went to the nearest phone booth and called home.  It was now only 7:00 in the U.S. but I was desperate.  My mother was already awake however, and when I told her that I couldn’t access my account and needed money transferred, she handed the phone to my dad.  But by then I was running out of coins, and didn’t have time to re-explain the situation before I ran out of credit and got cut off. 

Stepping out of that phone-booth was one of the worst moments of my life.  There I was in London, completely penniless, with no one to turn to and no way of even contacting anyone.  Even use of the internet cost money.  I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t buy water, I couldn’t ride public transportation, nothing.  I felt stranded and lost.  There was only one thing I could think of to do.  Nearly breaking down under the pressure I went back to the Arab guy at the currency exchange and told him what had happened.  That I desperately needed to make a phone call but where could I make a call from without being charged?  He said that they were not authorised to make international calls with their phones, but I could try to Tourist Bureau.  I thanked him for his help and went back to the Tourist Bureau. 

I explained my situation to the people there, and luckily their hearts went out to me.  They let me use their phone but told me to keep it short.  I was able to contact my dad and explain the money-transfer idea to him.  He said he would try to figure it out, and he would also try to figure out why the bank wasn’t letting me have my money, but the bank wouldn’t open for 2 hours.  Once that was done, I saw that I had two hours to kill.  I could try to get money later, but until 2 p.m. I would be flat broke.  Luckily, I had purchased a tube ticket before the whole mess began, so I could ride the tube at my leisure.   

What to do to kill 2 hours in London?  I decided to head down to Westminster and try to get into Westminster Abbey, which I had missed out on last time because they had closed just shortly before I got there.  I made it there and saw Big Ben once again and everything, but my mind was too frustrated and bothered by the whole bank situation to really care.  I got to Westminster Abbey and saw there was a long queue…and what was that?  A sign with….what?  ADMISSION PRICES!!!  Ooh, the anger I felt.  It would cost me three pounds to get into the Abbey.  I had exactly zero pounds and zero pence. 

Nothing to do now but go back to Hyde Park and see what the situation REALLY was.  I took the tube back to Baker Street and retraced my steps from the previous day.  At the entrance to the park, I saw a guy who looked like he might be a security worker, but I just walked right past him into the park.  I went further on until I reached the area where the screen was, expecting to find ticket controllers.  There were a couple of black guys wearing Security uniforms, but rather than ask them about the situation I just walked by nonchalantly when their attention was directed elsewhere.  I could believe I had gotten in so easily.  What was going on? 

Part III – Outside The Wall 

I found the screen and saw that a small crowd was already gathered there, though the music hadn’t started yet. They were showing videos about the history of Live Aid and whatnot.  I spotted a group of friendly-looking young British guys and squatted down next to them.

“Can I ask you a question?” I asked.  “Did you guys have to buy tickets to get in here?”

“No, this is free,” one of them answered.

“Thank God,” I responded, and they all laughed.  “I’d heard that it was 75 pounds or something.”

They laughed again.  “No, this is for the spillover from the concert for people without tickets.”

“Great,” I said.  “I’m spillover.”  They laughed again.

For some strange reason I told them I had no money because my bank wasn’t letting me draw from my account, but that got no response.  They must have thought I was about to ask them for a handout.  But I just thanked them and told them to take it easy.  Now that I knew I could watch the concert for free on this screen I felt a lot better.  No matter what happened with the money, I could come back and see the whole show there, albeit on a pretty small screen amidst a pretty small and unenthusiastic group of people. 

I left the park and rode the tube back to the hostel, where I changed into some shorts and poured myself more water.  While waiting for the elevator I examined the map of London on the wall, and was amused to find that the park I’d explored the previous day and the one with the screen I had just been to was actually not Hyde Park at all but Regent’s Park.  The woman at the newsstand who had pointed me in the direction of Hyde Park had pointed me towards the wrong park and totally fucked everything up for me.   But once I saw that it was a different park, it all made perfect sense.  You needed a ticket to watch the screen in Hyde Park, but the one in Regent’s Park was free. 

By then it was already 2:00, so I went back to the Currency Exchange Bureau and asked if any money had, by any chance, been wired to me.  In all honesty I hadn’t expected any success, but what do you know?  My father had wired me an amount of money that came to about ₤160.  Now for the first time since I’d arrived in London, I actually had a serious chunk of cash.  The first thing I did was go back to the place that had been selling the tickets and asked if they had any left.  The man said he was sold out, and that 4 hours was a long time to go away and get cash.  I explained briefly what had transpired, then asked him the question that had been on my mind ever since I realised I’d been going to the wrong park.

“What’s the difference between watching the show on the screen at Hyde Park or watching it for free on the screen at Regent’s Park?”

He was unaware of any such screen, but came to an opinion rather quickly.  “Nothing, I suppose.  You’re just in a different park.  Although if you’re going to watch it in Regent’s Park you might as well just watch it at home.”

Although I believed watching from an outdoor screen in a nearby London park would be far better than watching on my crappy TV here in Frankfurt, I couldn’t help but see the logic in what he had said.  I really just flew all the way to London and went through all this bullshit so I could watch the show outside on a big screen.  But at least I’d be in the same city, and I was telling myself that’s what mattered. 

I decided then it was time to get back to the park and stake out a spot.  I took the tube back to Baker Street yet again.  As I was exiting the station I noticed a poster that said, “Going to Live 8?” with some pamphlets underneath containing directions from that particular station.  I picked it up and saw that Hyde Park was all the way on the other end of Baker Street, a pretty long walk.  But I was curious, and it just didn’t seem right for me to come to London for the Hyde Park concert without ever going near Hyde Park or the actual stage where the show was.  My original plan had been to get as close as I could and listen from there.  Now I resolved to go and see if there were any good spots outside the venue, and if not to go back to Regent’s Park and watch it from there. 

It was a very long walk to Hyde Park, and as I had not yet eaten I almost stopped a few times to get something but always decided against it.  I was too focussed on my goal.  Eating could wait until everything was resolved.  I finally made it to the park and finally saw some signs that a huge event was taking place in the city.  The streets became more crowded as I neared the entrance.  There were people camped out on little grassy knolls all over the place, obviously with the same idea as me.  You could hear the sounds from the stage, but it was so far and so muffled that you could barely make out what was going on.  I know Elton John was playing when I got there, but after that all I heard was muffled crappy sound. 

I pressed inward and onward until I got as close as ticketless people could get to the entrance without being told to back off by Security.  As I neared the entrance I heard a bunch of people asking for spare tickets.  There was a group of three young boys who asked me if I had a ticket, and I went up to them to ask them what the deal was.  Was this really as close you could get without a ticket?  Apparently so, but there were people lined up all along the sidewalk asking for tickets.  According to the boys, some people had actually gotten lucky and people had given them spare tickets out of the goodness of their heart.  I couldn’t believe that, but the idea that this was possible was enough to keep me there.  I resolved to stay there for awhile asking for a spare, and when that failed I would head over to Regent’s Park.  I told the boys that plan, and they were quite intrigued to find out about this free screen.  They were Londoners and knew Regent’s Park well, but they had no idea there was going to be a screen set up there to broadcast the concert for free.  They quickly decided that this was their best option, as the odds of all three of them getting spare tickets when hundreds of others were looking for the same thing were rather slim. 

I took up their position, sandwiched between an Italian couple and a black couple, both of whom were looking for free spare tickets.  I quickly took a liking to the black guy, as he talked to me just for the hell of it, saying how it wasn’t so bad from where they were.  The sound was muffled but at least they could hear it.  But he admitted that if the sound was so good from here imagine how it must be from in there.  The Italian guy also talked to me about his frustrations.  Like me, he had come all the way to London just for Pink Floyd, but he came from Rome.  He thought it was terrible how they were ticketing this event and they should just let everybody in who wanted to go in.  That sounds pretty good in theory, but I don’t really know about those logistics. 

Anyway, I stood there for twenty minutes asking every group of people who came by whether they had any spare tickets.  First there was a guy who had tickets for the screen which he would be selling for ₤50 pounds.  I thought this rather intriguing, as the shops were selling them for ₤75.  I expressed an interest in the offer, but he went away and said he’d be right back, but he never returned.  About ten minutes later we were approached by three guys, one of whom had two tickets to sell.  The guy had a can of Fosters in his hand and was obviously pretty drunk (or “pissed”).  He was out there with those two others, whom I assume were his brothers or something because they were much younger and very sober. The guy was selling tickets for the actual live show.  He had two tickets and was asking for ₤250 for the both of them. 

I didn’t have ₤250, so I asked him if I could just buy one, knowing that this would be a stupid move and I couldn’t even really afford to buy one.  I now had ₤150, but if I bought the ticket for ₤125 I would only have ₤25 left and that wouldn’t be enough to pay for all of the transportation I needed to get home.  But he wasn’t interested anyway.  He had to sell both tickets and it had to be for ₤250.  Still, the offer amazed me as the asking price at the shops was ₤350 for just ONE ticket.  They were going on e-bay for thousands of dollars and here was this guy willing to let a pair of them go for only ₤250.  Now instead of shouting to people asking if they had a spare ticket, I shouted to anyone who might want to split the price of this pair with me.  The Italian was broke, and the black guy didn’t want to pay anything.  I asked the drunken scalper again if he would just sell me one and his brothers urged him to do it but he said no.  He stuck by me for awhile as he could tell I was interested in the offer, but pretty soon when he saw nobody was going to join me in splitting the tickets, he walked off. 

I stood there feeling defeated, but I found that I couldn’t accept it.  Those weren’t just tickets he had.  He had the key to the realisation of a life-long dream, the key to that once-in-a-million-lifetimes opportunity that I had been so keen on experiencing.  How could I just let him walk away?  I chased after him and stuck around as he tried to peddle the tickets onto other people, but for some bizarre reason nobody was willing to pay ₤250.  Now at a point beyond frustration, all of a sudden there appeared before me a solitary Englishman with grey hair and a soft voice, asking me if I really wanted to split it.  I said that he would want ₤250 but perhaps we could haggle him down.  If I could buy it for ₤100 I would definitely have enough money to get back to Frankfurt.  I explained this to the guy and he understood, but the scalper wouldn’t accept the offer for ₤200.  He kept saying that he’d originally asked for ₤500 but lowered it to ₤250 and was not going to go any lower.  If he couldn’t sell them he would go see the show himself.  When the reality dawned on me that this may be my only chance, and I might as well grab it while it was still in the realm of possibility, I agreed to pay ₤125 and the other guy mixed his money with mine and we bought the tickets. 

Shit shit shit shit shit.  I had a ticket in my hand.  I thanked the grey-haired soft-spoken stranger and wished him a good day.  Then, ticket in hand I walked up to security, flashed it at them, and they waved me through.  Just like that.  As I was walking towards the main gates to the concert field, a small group of people apparently made a break for it and ran off towards the field.  Security got them quickly and easily, and one of them came up to me and demanded to see my ticket.  Still a bit fuzzy-minded and confused as to the nature of my situation, I showed him the ticket and he let me go.  It’s odd, but between the time I got the ticket to the time I walked through the gates and onto the concert field, I don’t remember having a single thought.  But as soon as I walked onto that field and saw the giant screens everywhere and the big stage in the corner with the words “Live 8 London” on it, I nearly died. 

Part IV – The Great Gig In The Sky 

I was there.  I was actually there at Live 8 in the motherfucking concert grounds.  Not off watching it on some fucking screen in a distant park.  Not sitting under a tree outside the park listening to the echoes.  I was RIGHT FUCKING THERE. I was no longer outside looking in.  Just like that I was inside.  At the centre of the largest musical event ever staged.  It was completely unreal.  I hadn’t expected that at all.  Not in a million years.  I’d assumed scalpers would be asking for thousands of dollars—nothing in my price range.  But there I was.  In the fucking show.  RIGHT FUCKING THERE.  It was incredible.  It took me awhile to convince myself this wasn’t just some ridiculous dream.  I was actually fucking there.  Within moments, Bob Geldof walked on the stage to say a few words about poverty.  Unfuckingebelievable.  Shortly afterwards, Kofi motherfucking Annan walked on stage to express his support for the Live 8 cause.  The eyes of the whole goddamn world were on that field that day, and I was RIGHT FUCKING THERE. 

So it took a very long while for that high to wear off.  In fact I’m not sure it’s even worn off yet as I write this.  I still can’t believe I was there.  Nothing about that seemed real, it was all too HUGE for me.  All of those incredibly famous people, the biggest superstars in the music business, and me in the crowd.  The most famous group I’d ever seen perform prior to that show was Phish.  Hah fucking hah to that!  We’re talking R.E.M., Madonna, The motherfucking Who, Paul fucking McCartney, and of course….Pink holy fucking shit I’m actually going to be in the audience for their reunion show Floyd.  Unfuckingbelievable.  I still can’t get over it. 

But anyway, on to the more tedious matters of what I did while I was at the show.  The first thing I knew I had to take care of was putting food in my stomach.  I didn’t feel like eating but if I was going to get close to the stage and stay there for fuck knows how long it would be best if my stomach wasn’t shouting at me the whole time.  I bought a cheap cold baguette and scarfed it down, marking my second and last meal on the whole 3 day trip to London.  This was about world hunger, so I guess it was only appropriate I be hungry nearly all the time. 

After eating that, R.E.M. came on and did “Everybody Hurts” which might have moved me to tears if I’d been closer.  But I was still far away having just arrived and not fully scoped out the situation.  Then they did “Man on the Moon” which was awesome as well.  I then made my way down to the front by walking along the left side and then back on to the concert ground in the closest entrance there was, and discovered the barrier.  Apparently my ticket, like the vast majority of Live 8 tickets, was general admission.  There was a very large steel rail in a semi-circle around the stage which prevented General Admission people from getting right to the front.  That area was for people with Gold tickets, whom I assume were people with ties to the performers.  But even with that barrier you could still get pretty close.  The problem was the people were packed so tight that even if you tried you wouldn’t be able to shove your way to a decent spot, and certainly not up against the rail in the “front row” for General Admission tickets. 

I managed to squeeze my way in to a place where I was in the line of sight of the stage, but I realised pretty quickly that this was a bad place to be. There were at least ten really tall people between me and the stage in my line of sight and unless I jumped up and down I couldn’t see it.  I could see the screens, but….come on, if I just wanted to watch the damned screens I could have gone to Regent’s Park and avoided the ₤125 loss as well as the insane crowds. 

And the crowds certainly were insane.  It was more jam-packed than I had expected, although I suppose I should have expected it for the biggest musical event ever staged.  I’m used to small festivals and things where anyone could just mosey on up to the front row whenever they wish.  But not here, oh no, not so.  Anyway, I squeezed my way back out of there and decided to try going around to the right side.  But you couldn’t even make it halfway down the field on that side, so that was a bust.  I found a few places from which you could see the stage clearly but they were all very far away.  Finally I decided to go sit in a nice little area I’d found earlier on the left.  It was outside of the main concert field but you could still see the stage and the screens, just very askew.  It was a nice little grassy knoll with beautiful trees and scattered people just sitting around and chilling out.  I decided to sit there for awhile until later, then get up and try to get as close as I could for Pink Floyd.  For the past hour the bands had been Ms Dynamite, Keane, and Travis, none of whom I gave a shit about. 

But as I sat there on the grass some interesting stuff happened.  Bob Geldof came out and did a song of his own which was awesome.  It was pretty unreal to see Pink himself up there on stage live and in person right in front of me.  He did lots of stuff with his arms and hands and all I could think about was, “Are there any queers in the theatre tonight?” etc.  Then (I don’t recall whether this was before or after) Brad Pitt came out and said a few words about why the cause was so important.  Brad fucking Pitt right there live in person up on stage right in front of me.  But from where I was sitting it was hard to hear what he said.  I realised I wasn’t going to be content to stay there for too long.  And then Annie Lennox came on. 

Fuck it, I thought, and picked my ass up and brought it down to the area near the front row.  There was a little green wall that came out and blocked the stage, but as soon as it ended, where the steel rail began, everything in the line of sight of the stage was jam-packed with a crowd of people so thick that it was literally impenetrable.  But I’ve been to enough concerts before to know how it works.  It’s a game of endurance.  All those people standing there without the ability to sit down, eat something, take a piss, or even move their arms about freely—it’s only natural that every now and then some people will shove their way out, leaving room for newcomers to shove their way in.  I started on the outside and for most of the Annie Lennox set she was blocked by the green wall.  But surely enough, by the time she was done I had a view of the stage.  I was completely locked into a massive crowd of people, unable to move an inch to either side without bumping into someone, which happened a few billion times, but I was close as hell, I could see stage and screen, and the music sounded fan-fucking-tastic.  All I had to do was wait 6 or 7 hours and Pink Floyd would be on, and I’d be there.  My only worry was that when they did come on my view would be blocked by tall bastards in front of me, as when I began there were a good 6 rows of people between me and the steel rail marking the “front row” for General Admission.  Due to the frequent fluctuations of the crowd, sometimes I’d be caught behind some giant-headed bastards and sometimes I’d have a clear view, and sometimes I’d have to tilt my head to one side and sometimes to another, and it was always just a huge pain in the ass.  Most of the time I really didn’t care about seeing the stage, but I was worried that when the Big Moment came I would be sandwiched between some smelly bastards with the jolly green giant in front of me. 

Those thoughts cycled around my brain for the whole night, but for now I’ll just mention all the bands I saw from there and tell you my impressions. 

Annie Lennox:  Totally awesome.  She could easily be one of my favourite female performers, but I just don’t have anything by her.  I’m open to recommendations.  When she did “Sweet Dreams” it was crazy, a song I never expected to get to hear performed live. 

UB40: Until then I hadn’t even known what UB40 was.  I knew their songs, especially songs like Red Red Wine but I had no idea that was UB40.  I wouldn’t say they’re a great band but it was entertaining and again, it’s always cool to see songs that you seem to have always known performed live. 

Snoop Dogg: He was the fucking shiznit.  He got out there in front of the largest sea of white people I’ve ever seen before and completely blew everyone away.  And now I finally know what it’s like to throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care.  I didn’t expect it to be so awesome, as I’m not a real rap fan by any means, but it was definitely one of the highlights of the whole day.  “What’s my motherfucking name?” he asked a few hundred times.  “Snoop Dogg” was the answer.  Even after he was done, a guy standing a few feet behind me kept shouting for Snoop Dogg at random moments throughout the afternoon, and for some reason it was always funny. 

Razorlight: This was one of the bands I’d never heard of and had never heard their music before, so I didn’t get into it as easily, but I think they were pretty good. 

Madonna: If you’d told me last year that before 2005 was over I’d see a live performance by Madonna I would have laughed at you very hard, but there she was.  Before she came on though, Bob Geldof came back on and showed a very disturbing and very good little video showing actual scenes from Ethiopia of starving, disease-ridden African children.  The last girl in the video looked like she was about to die, and Geldof explained how the last Live Aid saved her life, and he brought her on stage (which I’m sure was included in the highlight real) to show that we really can make a difference.  Anyway, she got a huge round of applause, then Madonna came out and she got an even bigger round of applause.  Now the only song I have by Madonna and the only song I had any interest in hearing is Like a Prayer.  And that was the first thing she sang, and she sang it really fucking well, so I was happy.  She did a pretty good Ray of Light too, but then closed with Music and fucked it all up by insisting everyone sing the chorus and doing it about 20 to 30 times before finally giving up on it.  “Music makes the people come together, yeah.  Music makes the bourgeoisie and the rebels, yeah.”  I’d heard it enough after 5 times, but after 20 it was a little ridiculous.  But anyway, she put on a surprisingly good show. 

Snow Patrol:  Never heard of them.  Don’t care if I never hear of them again. 

Joss Stone: This was perhaps the worst performance of the day.  I’ve never even heard of this bitch, but she seemed like she was straight out of the same machine that cloned Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson.  Just another young blonde with a shapely figure, prancing around on stage to music that could be written in five minutes and showcasing her voice which couldn’t be further from unique.  A couple of ladies behind me made remarks like, “She’s brilliant!  And she’s just a child, too!” which made me just a little bit nauseous.  Maybe she doesn’t deserve so much hatred from me, but my opinion of her was forever shot when she, like so many other performers, tried to say a few words about the cause of Live 8.  She just ended up being a giggly little bitch and making light out of what should be a serious matter.  But anyway, she sucks and that’s all there is to it. 

Scissor Sisters: Another band I’d never heard before, although this one was pretty damned good.  Although it may just have been the juxtaposition of actual music with that poppedy-pop-pop-crapola from the previous performer.  Either way, I enjoyed it thoroughly, although it was kind of funny when for their last song they gave us all a “treat” by performing a brand-new never-before-heard Scissor Sisters song.  Any fucking Scissor Sisters song they played would have been new to me, so I didn’t care.  And I’ll bet any actual fans of the Scissor Sisters would have been happier to hear them just play their hits like everyone else was doing instead of showcasing their new material. 

Velvet Revolver: Of all the bands that played, they definitely seemed the most fucked up.  I’m not too familiar with this band, although it seemed like I should be.  I recognised Slash right away, but the others I didn’t know about.  As far as the music goes, it was pretty nice to just rock the fuck out for a little while, but that seemed to be all it was. 

The Killers: For some reason everyone seemed really excited about this band, but they got out there and only did one song.  They weren’t bad, but I was glad to see them leave quickly as by now my legs were aching and I was starting to cramp up.  The tightness of the crowds seemed even tighter than before and it had been a long-ass time since I saw any performers I was familiar with.  A guy next to me had a set list and it was so discouraging to look over and see just how far we were from Floyd.  Around this time I was starting to doubt whether I’d be able to make it.  But the name of the game was Endurance and I hadn’t come so far just to give up my spot, now only 3 or 4 rows back from the front. 

Sting: I really don’t know what kind of opinion to have about this guy.  It really all depends on my mood.  Sometimes I can really enjoy Sting and other times I can’t stand him.  Luckily, last night I was ready to enjoy him.  I had to enjoy SOMETHING as I was getting a little frustrated with all these performances from bands I didn’t know.  They were mostly pretty good but when you’re getting shoved back and forth and every few minutes get pressed against the sweaty fat man to the side of you, it tends to get annoying.  So from this state of mind I did my best to enjoy Sting, and I suppose I did to a degree.  He ended with “I’ll Be Watching You” which is of course the one song I really wanted him to play, but he changed all the words to fit with the message of Live 8 so nobody could sing along, although it was a cool idea and good of him to go through the trouble of pulling the old Elton-John-lyrical-switcheroo for the occasion. 

Mariah Carey:  Okay, it’s a toss-up between whether Mariah or Joss Stone was the worst performance of the evening.  They were both stupid bitches who don’t deserve the careers they have, but although Mariah’s music is less intolerable her personality is far more detestable.  She’s a fucking diva through and through and doesn’t try to hide it.  After her first song she demanded a sip of water from her stage-hand and kept demanding water after every song.  She brought an African children’s choir up on stage with her for the first two songs, and demanded a mike-stand be brought out for them and when it wasn’t she got frustrated.  She tried to talk seriously about the Live 8 cause but she was clearly just spewing a bunch of bullshit that she though would sound like genuine caring.  “Helping starving people is just like the most important thing in the world and we all need to do whatever we can to help and together we can make a difference” and blah blah blah shut the fuck up, bitch.  Even though she had that children’s choir to back her up, when she was singing she ignored and upstaged them completely.  When she finished singing and her applause was weak and pitiful, she would tell everyone to give it up for the African children’s choir and the crowd would go wild as we felt we should.  She got rid of them after her second song and when she was done she walked off the stage to nothing but polite clapping, and I’m pretty sure she yelled at everyone she could grab as soon as she got backstage, including those poor African children. 

Robbie Williams:  Have you heard of this guy?  I’d never heard of him before I came to Europe, but he’s quite a phenomenon.  Apparently in Germany, and I guess in England as well, he’s a huge fucking superstar.  He gets played on the radio all the time and every goddamn German household has his goddamn albums.  He’s a British singer who’s mega-famous all over Europe but nobody in the United States has even heard of him.  And he lives in the United States because he likes not being recognised.  Which is strange, because he’s not a shy person.  In fact, he’s the complete opposite.  Arrogant and obnoxious.  But yeah, the fucking crowd went NUTS when he came out.  He probably got the most enthusiastic welcome of the night.  He did four songs and between them did lots of talking and joking around to the audience.  The guy obviously thinks he’s Sex Personified.  Ugh.  The thing is, his music wasn’t all that bad.  In fact it was rather on the enjoyable side, but I can’t fucking stand the guy. 

After Robbie Williams, as I’d hoped, a pretty decent chunk of the crowd left.  All the chicks and bastards without taste who only wanted to see their precious super-stud Robbie and couldn’t give a fuck about REAL music left.  Who wants to see the Who?  They’re like a million years old!  Pink Floyd?  I thought he was dead.  And such.  But yeah, it was good news for me because I managed to slide my way up to the second row.  And during the break, the people standing at the rail in front of me left to go as well.  I was so excited because this was my chance to get in the front row (at least as “front” as it could get for me) so while this old fat couple was backing out I reached around and put my hand on the rail.  But the couple was coming straight at me and another bloke poked his way in and took the damned spot.  I didn’t notice, but the woman must have tripped or something because the next thing I knew she was yelling at me.

“What’s the matter with you!?” she shouted.  “You can’t wait until we got out first?”

I had no idea what she was talking about, but I could feel the hostility coming from her.  I just said, “I’m sorry?”  My confusion must have leaked through.  I turned away, but then I heard her husband yelling at me.

“You need to calm down, you bloody wanker!”  That’s an exact quote.  I’ll never forget it, as it was pretty dramatic.  The bright white lights just happened to pass right over him as he glared at me with such deep, unwarranted hatred in his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” I insisted, but that was all I could think of to say.  He turned and walked away before I could think to say anything else.

I don’t know what they expected of me.  There wasn’t much room to manoeuvre anyway, and if that fat bitch tripped it was probably her own damn fault.  But I couldn’t brush it off so easily, as I have some sort of mental defect, and when people look at me with that much contempt it sticks like the aftertaste from some nasty substance.  All I am to those people is some “bloody wanker” who shoved a woman out of the way to get to the front row.  And that’s all I’ll ever be to them.  Why that bothers me, I have no clue, because it certainly shouldn’t. 

And I knew that I couldn’t let it bother me then.  The best two performances of the night were coming up.  I shoved that ugly business to the back of my mind and got ready to rock harder than I’ve ever rocked before. 

Part V – Comfortably Numb 

It wasn’t too difficult to forget all my troubles and just go fucking nuts when The Who came out.  Another one of those bands that I’ve always dreamt of seeing live but never thought it would actually happen.  And then all of a sudden, there was Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend up there playing “Who Are You?”  That was awesome, but when they began their next song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” it was BEYOND awesome.  That’s up there in my Top 5 favourite songs by them, and definitely one of the songs I would have picked to hear live if I could pick.  When it started I turned to the guy next to me, with whom I’d been exchanging random comments throughout our day of being pressed and shoved against one another, and just said, “Awesome.”  He said something along the lines of “Fuck yeah” though those were not his actual words.  It was good to be next to someone who actually appreciated the music, not standing behind an old fat couple who just came for Robbie Williams.  But yeah, it was totally incredible to hear that song live.  It was every bit as awesome as I’d imagined it would be.  They played it perfectly, and Roger Daltry put plenty of Oomph into his trademark screams and the big “Yeeeeeeeeeaaah” that comes at the end of the instrumental.  I gave a very loud “Yeah” myself when he did that, along with a bunch of other people.  But when they stopped after that and didn’t play anything else, I couldn’t help but feel just a little bit let down.  Just 2 fucking songs?  Robbie Williams did 4 songs.  And The Who were only doing 2?  Granted they were pretty long, but come on?  The Who have so many fucking hits, and they’re just going to leave us with 2 songs?  What about Baba O’Reilly?  What about Pinball Wizard?  Anything from Quadrophenia?  Come on, Who, you could have stayed out there a bit longer and nobody would have minded. 

Then again, I couldn’t really be too upset, as the end of The Who performance meant that the next performance would be The One.  The One I had come all the way to London for.  The One I had waited all of my life for.  The One I had dreamt about for years, assuming it was only a fantasy and the real thing could never occur, and even if it did I’d have little to no chance of actually BEING THERE when it happened.  Well, there I was.  And as I stood there waiting, watching the stage as they rolled out Nick’s drums and Rick’s keyboard, a tall guy in a cowboy hat who could only be The Man himself, Roger to the motherfucking Waters, I got chills ALL OVER.  And then, like Divine Providence itself, as though the Heavens were parting to shine down and strike me with unbelievable good fortune as if to make up for years of terrible luck, four people from the front row decided it was time to take off.  And without hesitation I grabbed my piece of the rail and stepped up, breathed in the fresh air and felt MAGNIFICENT.  Only a few hours before I had been expecting to settle for seeing the reunion show on a screen in another park.  A few weeks before I had been expecting to settle for sitting against a tree somewhere and trying to discern the echoes.  A few months before I had never expected such a show to ever take place.  But there I was, and at that moment in time everything was Perfect.  Not only was the band playing together again for the first time in 20 years, not only was I in London while they did it, not only was I in the fucking audience, but I was AS CLOSE AS I COULD GO.  There was nobody in front of me now but the people in the Gold Circle, who were separated by enough distance not to make a difference.  The view of the stage was completely clear and unobstructed.  I could put my arms out right in front of me and not be hitting someone in the back.  I had room to breathe and room to move and room to rock as much as anyone could ask for.  It was really like everything in the universe had come together to bring me this experience.  An experience I had waited not just a few years for, but several LIFETIMES for.  And it was happening NOW. 

Every other band had an introduction.  Someone would come out and say a bunch of words about the band and then introduce them and the band would come on and play.  But not this time.  Not one word was spoken.  The lights just went completely black.  Everyone went quiet.  Ever so faintly it could be heard, “ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom…”  What was that on the screen?  The Pulse!!!  “Ba-boom, Ba-boom, Ba-boom….”

“I’ve been mad for fucking years, absolutely years I’ve been over the edge for yonks…” said the guy standing behind the guy next to me.

“I’ve always been mad, I know I’ve been mad like the most of us are,” I said.

“Very hard to explain why you’re mad,” he said.

“Even if you’re not mad,” I said with a tone of finality.

“BA-BOOM, BA-BOOM, BA-BOOM…” and with a “Whaaaa, Whaaaaaaaaaaaa, Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…………….” SMASH!  The white lights burst to life as the opening notes of Breathe echo through the air.  There before me, less than fifty yards away, in plain sight, right before my very eyes are PINK FLOYD. 

That’s Nick fucking Mason on the drums!!!

That’s Richard motherfucking Wright on the keyboards!!!!

That’s David goddamn fucking holy shit fuck ass Gilmour on guitar!!!!!

And who’s that on bass?  Who could it be?

That’s right.  None other than Roger holy mother of shit fucking hell damn fuck ass nigger shit fuck Waters!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!! 

What could I do?  There was only one thing to say: “WOOOOOOOWOOOOOOOOOWOOOOOOOOWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  Every ounce of energy in my body went into that “Woo” and it was the greatest “Woo” I’ve ever given or ever will give ever again.

Every note, every fucking goddamn note tore right through my soul.  It was all So Fucking Perfect.  It was Unreal.  How could this be happening? How could I be actually witnessing this?  So fucking up-close and personal like this?  Surely this kind of thing can’t happen in a life like mine.  But holy fucking shit it CAN and it DID. 

The opening of Breathe seemed to last forever, with aerial shots of the giant inflatable Pig tethered to that factory taking up the screen, but finally we came to the verse.  “Breathe, Breathe in the air,” I sang at the top of my lungs.  I couldn’t even help it.  I had assumed I would remain quiet and just listen to it, but I was overwhelmed.  There was too much happening inside of me.  After 7 hours of standing and waiting and sitting through decent band after good band after terrible band after decent bad, THIS comes along and blows everything fucking away.  None of the other performances even came CLOSE to this.  No other performance I’ve ever seen in my life came close to this feeling.  And I wasn’t even on ANY DRUGS AT ALL!!!!  I’m overwhelmed just writing about it.  The fact that I actually had this experience, that as I write this it happened LESS THAN 24 HOURS AGO is still mind-bogglingly unbelievable to me. 

But we can’t stay on Breathe forever.  We sang through the first verse, and the second, and then moved straight to the third, “Home, home again….” which was quite a pleasant surprise.  And oh my god how it ripped me apart.  I was a complete mess, my brain in a state of ecstacy so unique and profound that I’ve never felt anything like it nor do I believe I can ever feel it again.  “Far away, across the field, the tolling of the iron bell, calls the faithful to their knees, to hear the softly spoken magic spells.” 

It was so sad when the song was over.  Knowing I’d never have that experience again, yet overjoyed beyond comprehension that I’d had it—that I was STILL having it—and that it was far from over.  Based on what I’d read I assumed the next song would be The Song, but I was struck with another pleasant surprise.  “Cha-ching” went the sound effect, and the next thing I knew they were playing Money.  Apparently they had added that to their set list and Holy Shit was I excited.  The opportunity to rock out to Money was always a dream and completely unexpected up until the very moment it happened.  But rock out I did.  I rocked out so hard I might have embarrassed myself if my mind was in a state capable of embarrassment.  But during that solo I banged my head against the sky so fast that when I opened my eyes it seemed like the earth was spinning around me.

You might be interested to know, if you don’t know already, that they performed Money in the CLASSIC way that night, without any of the Woo-woos that Dave used in Delicate Sound and P*U*L*S*E.   When the screen wasn’t showing shots of the band, it was simply showing the Dark Side of the Moon record spinning around. 

That song came to an end and I “WooooWoooed” as much Wooing as I could muster.  Roger and Dave removed their guitars from their shoulders, and for a split second I worried that they were going to be like The Who and only play two songs as well.  But of course I was wrong, and when I saw them both strapping on acoustic guitars I got another chill.  Here it comes.  For the first time in over 20 fucking years, that timeless masterpiece of a song would be played as it was originally.  Roger Waters on rhythm and David Gilmour on melody.  Unfucking real.  Who would have ever guessed that would happen again?  But goddamn it, it did happen and I fucking saw it and I’ll never ever forget it. 

This too was also done in the classic sense.  They didn’t just start playing out of nowhere.  They had the sound effect to begin the song exactly as it sounded on the album.  But as Roger began to play that melody, right after the initial thunderous applause that followed, he decided to say something.  He said what an amazing feeling it was to be playing up on stage with “these three people” after all they’d been through, and how great it was to share it with us, the audience.  He said this was for us, and also of course for Syd.  I was surprised to find that I was the only one who gave a “Woo” for Syd Barrett.

He continued to play the rhythm for a few measures and then in came Dave with the melody.  Lots of cheers.  Nuts.  Insanity.  Beyond comprehension.  This had not been heard for over 20 years.  That’s pretty much my entire life.  And now it was being heard once again, one last time, and I was there to hear it.  But the thing about that song is that you can’t hear it without longing for someone to share it with.  And just as I’d felt the last time I was in London when that street musician was playing it in the subway, I really truly wished you were there.  Oh god, how incredible that would have been.  I kept my mind on you through the whole song, keeping you there in spirit as much as I possibly could.

“So you think you can tell heaven from hell,” sang David Gilmour.  Not many people had been singing to the other songs but a great deal of people knew this one and everyone who knew it was singing it.  You could feel the incredible vibrations in the air.  “Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?” Dave sang and I felt the words had new meaning.  “A smile from a veil?  Do you think you can tell?”

“And did they get you to trade….” what’s this?  It was Roger singing this verse.  Like the P*U*L*S*E version and the In The Flesh version were coming together and joining each other to create the version they were always meant to be.  Roger and Dave together, playing in harmony, and each of them taking a verse to sing.  “Did you exchange a walk-on part in a war for a lead role in a cage?”

Roger finished and Dave burst in with his vocal improvisations, something missing from every Waters version of the song but now back and completely overwhelming me with emotion.  I could feel a lump in my throat and the feeling just kept growing and growing until finally.

“How I wish….how I wish you were here.  ‘Cause we’re just TWO LOST SOULS swimming in a fish bowl year after year.”  Roger’s voice and Dave’s voice together, backed up by their amazing background singer.  All mixing together for one spectacular sound.  “Running over the same old ground.  What have we found?  The same old fears.”

And oh my god how I wish you were there. 

Three songs down.  One to go.  And there was only one song it could be.  I looked around me and thought about what most of these people must be thinking.  “When are they gonna play ‘We Don’t Need No Education’?” or “Which one of them is Pink?” and such.  The guy standing next to me, the friend of the guy who had recited the words to “Speak to Me” along with me, might have been thinking such a thing.  Before they had gone on, his friend said sarcastically, “Pink Floyd, you’re favourite band,” and he responded, “It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s just that I don’t choose to listen to them.”  What he was about to hear, and what everyone else there was about to experience would totally blow them away. 

It came out of nowhere like thunder from Heaven.  The opening note, blasting its way through space, into my eardrums and down to the core of my fucking soul.  The chill I got then was just about on par with the chill I got when the band first came on.  Here it was.  THE SONG.  The Greatest Piece of Music Ever Written.  Comfortably Numb.

But not only that…the greatest piece of music ever recorded was Comfortably Numb, P*U*L*S*E version, thanks to Dave Gilmour’s extended guitar solo.  Dave also sang the chorus.  But who sang the verses?  Roger’s voice….the voice that was MEANT to sing the verses…was absent.  The one imperfection in that otherwise perfect track.

Now, for the first time in 20 years, and for the first time EVER since Gilmour developed that extended solo, Roger Waters was back in his rightful place and singing the words that were meant for him.  Could it be….I wondered….could it be that I was about to witness first-hand The Greatest Piece of Music Ever Played???? 

“Hello, hello, hello, is there anybody in there?” sand Roger, and I along with him, every ounce of my soul behind the words.  Singing them like I’ve never sung them before—along with Roger AS he sang them.  The verse ends, and then…

“There is no pain you are receding…” Dave’s voice, and mine along with his, my soul still completely enmeshed in the words.  Not caring at all what anybody around me thought.  Not giving a shit about anything but the fact that THIS MOMENT was the moment I’d been wishing for ever since I knew enough about music to wish for it.

“I have become comfortably numb…”

And then came the bridge.  Chills chills chills.  Oh my god it was amazing.  I’m sure you can relate as you’ve heard it live too.  But oh my fucking God this was The Pink Floyd.  Playing their greatest masterpiece, the greatest masterpiece in the history of music, together again for the first time in 20 fucking years.  Too much for one soul to handle all at once, so I just focussed on the music.

“Okay, okay, okay, just a little pin-prick…” came Roger’s delicate, beautiful voice again.  “There’ll be no more…Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah” I shouted so loud there that my lungs hurt.  “But you may feel a little sick.”

“When I was a child, I caught a fleeting glimpse,” sang Dave before I knew it.  “Out of the corner of my eye.”  The last words of the last chorus.  “I turned to look but it was gone.”  Pretty soon the words would be over and the solo would begin.  “I can not put my finger on it now.”  What was this doing to me?  “The child is grown, the dream is gone…” No longer a dream, this was now reality and the one experience I had always lamented over never having had the opportunity to have…the chance to experience this solo live and in person, was now becoming a Reality.

“I………………………………..have become………………..Comfortably Numb.”

Once more I became paralysed with a chill so deep and profound that no words can do it justice.  The music played on and on and I moved with it and I FELT with it and I relished every single fucking goddamn second of it.  I’d heard it before but this was hearing it for the first time.  THE solo.  Dave Gilmour’s extended guitar solo, just like on P*U*L*S*E.  The Greatest Piece of Music in the world.  Being played.  Right then and there.  And there I was in the middle of it, absorbing it as it happened.  It was too much, really.  Overwhelming.  I was shaking and quivering all over, my face contorted with so much emotion that I couldn’t even think straight.  I had the feeling that I was about to burst into tears.  I didn’t, but that feeling of overwhelming emotion you get just before you burst, when the emotion is at its peak just before release…that was the feeling I had.  Thoughts of my entire life flashed before my eyes.  The girls I’ve loved.  The friends I’ve had and lost.  From my first discovery of Pink Floyd to that very moment, everything coming Full Circle.  This was something equal to or greater than the emotion I would get from making love to a woman I Love, and I was aware of that.  I knew that This Moment was The Moment, and that once it was over I could never get it back.  And that tore me up just as the notes tore at me.  So much beauty.  So much overwhelming joy and sorrow and despair and ecstasy all rolled into one.  And it’s all so temporal.  All beauty must die.  All great things must end.  All perfect songs must come to a close.  And as those final notes blasted on I couldn’t help but feel a sadness more profound than any I had ever known.  It was over, and I would never get it back.  All I could do now was carry with me for the rest of my life the feeling it once brought me.  That I HAD become Comfortably Numb. 

It’s amazing how effectively writing all that down resurrected those emotions in me.  This whole day I’ve felt like shit, having not slept but half an hour last night before going on the very long and stressful journey back to Frankfurt.  I didn’t even think I had it in me to write all that, but I’m glad I did and I’m glad I wrote it now that it’s still completely fresh.  I still can hardly believe that this experience, the most profound and incredible experience of my life, happened LESS THAN 24 HOURS AGO.  But it’s something I can now plainly see I will carry with me forever.  Whenever I listen to that song from now on I’ll no longer be thinking, “If only I could have been around to see them perform that,” but I’ll be thinking of the emotions I got when I WAS around to see them perform it. 

Epilogue – Absolutely Curtains 

But there is more of the story to tell.  The band finished and the applause was uproarious.  I had been saving my voice all day for Pink Floyd and when they finished I decided to give it all up.  I Wooed and Hollered as loud as I could, thrusting as much love as I possibly could towards the stage.  When I listen to the recording I wouldn’t be surprised to hear my own voice hollering at the top of my lungs and projecting it across the stage.  And on-stage the scene was incredible.  The band members had all put down their instruments and they were shaking hands…even HUGGING each other.  The Pink Floyd saga which for our entire lives had its ending in hostility and darkness, now has a beautiful Happy Ending.  One which I was privileged to witness myself, a dream that actually did come true. 

The band walked off the stage and I continued to clap until my hands were aching in pain.  The guys standing next to me started to talk.

“So what do you think of Pink Floyd now?” said the one who was already a fan.

“They’re actually amazing,” said the guy who hadn’t been a fan before.  “They put on a really incredible live performance.”

My soul was warmed to know that I stood right next to a man as he was converted from non-believer to Pink Floyd fan. 

The next thing I knew, someone from inside the Gold Circle was talking to me.  I looked and saw a cute blonde woman with a pad and paper standing a few yards away from me past the other steel rail.  She was asking me what I thought of the show.  I knew I was going crazy and I knew everyone around me could feel the vibes emanating from me, but here was this reporter who had noticed and thought my reaction seemed profound enough to come and specifically ask me about my experience.  I told her about how I came all the way to London just for Pink Floyd.  How it was the most incredible experience of my life.  She asked me what I thought of Live 8 and I said it was amazing but she asked me what I thought of the message.  I was still very worked up over what I had just experienced.  I had to shift my thoughts very quickly and all that came out was, “I think it’s great.  Too many people aren’t aware of what’s going on in Africa and if this helps raise awareness then it’s totally worth it.”  She asked me for my name and I spelled it out for her.  She thanked me for my input and walked away, just a split second before I thought to ask her what news organisation she was writing for.  So my name might be mentioned somewhere in some article about Live 8.  I’ll probably never know, but just the fact that I was interviewed gave me a feeling of overwhelming satisfaction.  Of all the people experiencing that moment it must have been clear that I was enjoying it on a level far deeper than anybody else there.  I can’t help but feel satisfied about that. 

Anyway, the next thing I knew, Paul McCartney was being introduced.  He said a few words about Live 8 and then played some old favourites.  As a Beatles fan I found this just as exciting and enjoyable as The Who performance, though I know you don’t care.  He played Get Back which is a song I never liked but somehow it managed to kick ass then.  Then he brought out some guy I don’t know to sing Baby, You Can Drive My Car which I didn’t really care about but was fun anyway.  Then he played Helter Skelter, which I never really understood until then.  It always just seemed like a kind of annoying hard rock song but man how it fucking rocked.  Finally, he sat down at the piano and did The Long and Winding Road. 

And then came the big finale.  After the last note of the Winding Road he went right into the chorus of Hey Jude.  “Nah nah nah—nah nah nah nah—nah nah nah nah—Hey Jude.”  As he sang, the performers came out on the stage for the final bow.  Everyone from the whole day got onto that stage.  It was really quite a sight to see.  Of course my eyes immediately went to the Floyd members, but they weren’t out front so it was hard to see them unless the screen panned by.  But still, all of those rock stars up there together was an unbelievable sight indeed.  Pink Floyd, Paul McCartney, The Who, as well as everyone else all sharing a stage and singing the chorus to Hey Jude while the audience sang and clapped along as well.  Bob Geldof took the mike and said a few words to close out the night about the G8 summit, how this can’t be ignored, and how he’ll see us at Edinburgh.  I just thought it was a trip to see Geldof and every member of Pink Floyd on the same stage together.  Something I’d never seen before, though Geldof has and always will be closely associated to Pink Floyd in my mind. 

The music died and the applause echoed through the air, so loud and so intense that McCartney decided it wasn’t over yet and picked up Hey Jude again to sing the chorus a few more times.  Finally it was over.  We clapped and clapped as they all left the stage.  And then it was time to go. 

The show had overrun by about two hours so the Underground trains were closed, but I was told by the guy standing next to me (new Floyd fan) that Picadilly was only 3 miles away and I could easily walk it.  So I journeyed out of Hyde Park feeling absolutely marvellous.  Chants of “Nah nah nah nah, Hey Jude” sprouted up randomly amongst the fans, and that stayed in my head for the rest of the night.  I tried to get it out but simply couldn’t, and I didn’t mind so much.  I made it out to the streets and asked a few of the policemen to point me in the right direction.  I kept walking down the one main road which had been closed off and was now completely filled with people making the trek back to wherever they were going.  It was an incredible sight to see. 

Soon enough I realised I was on Picadilly road and all I had to do to get back to the hostel was to keep going straight.  I reached it and went up to my bed.  I felt great to lie down after having stood for nearly 8 hours straight and enduring all the aches and pains that came with it (although from The Who onwards I barely felt the pain at all).  My mind was too full to go to sleep, but I had to leave by 4 in the morning anyway so I was content to just lie down and think for a few hours about what had transpired.  I was definitely awake for several hours, and I don’t know when I fell asleep but the next thing I knew I awoke and saw that the sky was becoming light.  It was almost 4 and I had to go.  I got everything together and began the long, horrible journey home which does not need to be described. 

And now I’m back here, and it all feels so distant.  Two days ago I woke up in the bed I’m sitting in now, and tonight I’ll go back to sleep on it.  If it weren’t for the extreme fatigue I might feel like I’d never left.  But within those two days I had the most incredible journey I’ve ever had.  It went up and down and around and around.  From extreme happiness to utter despair and right back again.  From wishful thinking to hopelessness to despair and finally to the realisation of what had once just been wishful thinking.  I went to London to get as close to Pink Floyd for their reunion as I could possibly get.  And I did just that.  And it was far closer than I had ever dreamed.  As close as I could possibly have hoped for.  Nothing at all about the experience was disappointing.  While there were moments that I wished I had never come, it all worked out better than I’d ever dreamt it would.  And while now I have to face the consequences of having no money (as I spent all of it on that ticket and returning to Frankfurt and my bank still won’t let me withdraw from ATMs) I know that it was all worth it. 

And deeper than that, I said that my whole life would be worth it if I could have that experience, and I had it.  This past weekend was, certainly, the highlight of my life.  This is something I will take to my grave knowing that YES it WAS all worth it.  Everything.  All of the bullshit and frustration and pain and sorrow, everything in my life was WORTH IT because of that experience.  I would live my miserable life again and again just to relive that one solitary moment in time when Everything was Perfect.  The time when I took matters into my own hands and decided to give myself that experience and fuck the consequences.  The time when I turned a dream into a reality.  The time when I became comfortably numb.