Flight Of The Concords – Wembley Arena

Tuesday 25th May 2010

At the time of booking, I’d never heard of these boys, other than the phrase ‘Flight of the Concords are hilarious’. That’s all the information needed before booking tickets for Wembley Arena.

report to follow…

Masters Snooker Semi-Finals – Wembley Arena

Saturday 16th January 2010

I played snooker throughout the whole of my teens and was a keen follower of the sport at the time. But I’d lost track of the game in the last 20 years.

I’d studied in Sheffield and lived in London, but for some reason, even though I loved Snooker in the 1980s, I never considered going to watch a match live at either the Crucible or the Conference Centre. Football aside, Darts was my main sport now. So the fact Barry Hearn had now taken the reigns at Snooker’s HQ, it was time to book tickets for the Masters at Wembley Arena. While I’m at it, it made sense to book a whole day covering both Semi-Finals.

Unfortunately, we arrived minutes after the first match had begun. Having to wait outside the hall, we followed the game on a small TV. We were then allowed in just before the break for the third frame. Unlike the atmosphere at the Darts, you could hear a pin drop and it was so difficult to keep quiet whilst looking for our seats. Armed with our earphones, we were able to follow the commentary from Dennis Taylor and Ken Doherty.

The opening Semi-Final was between Ronnie O’Sullivan (No. 1) and Mark Williams (No. 15). Both players were superb throughout the match, going at it blow for blow. Just when you had thought, Williams had done enough, Ronnie would force his way back into the match. It was fitting in the end, that it would go to the last frame. The Rocket eventually coming out on top 6-5 and through to tomorrow’s final.

It would have been great if the matches were reversed. Having two super quick players up first meant that even though it went to the maximum 11 frames, it finished in no time at all and we had over 3 hours to kill before the second Semi-Final. So after a bite to eat, a drink, one mate going home and even more waiting, the next match was about to begin.

Up next was a match up between Stephen McGuire (No. 3) and Mark Selby (No. 6). A slow start to the game made me think that the decision by one of my mates to go home early made some sense. The other mate just moved around the arena. I think I counted 5 different areas he sat in throughout the day. The main thing that kept the game entertaining was the commentary, but that was also proving a problem too. The ex-pro’s kept cracking jokes and thus making the audience laugh. Even though the referee called silence a number of times, it was like we were being told off for something outside our control. Eventually, the match recovered and got going after the interval, with Mark Selby going through to the final after a 6-3 win.

Not sure what impact Barry Hearn will make on the Sport, but it definitely needs a push in the right direction. At Boxing you hear “Let’s get ready to rumble” and at Darts you hear “It’s time to meet the players” before they are introduced with loud music blaring into the arena. For the first time, Snooker introduced its own “Let’s get the boys on the baize” with a musical introduction. However, unlike Boxing where a punch is thrown immediately, or in Darts where a 180 is possible, what you get with Snooker is a safety shot off the break. So the excitement of the intros is lost.

All in all though it was a fantastic day out. I loved it and may make it a yearly obsession!

Eddie Izzard – Wembley Arena

Friday 4th December 2009

It’s almost 10 years since Eddie Izzard’s ground-breaking Circus Tour was recorded live in New York. With him back on tour, it was a great opportunity to see the latest performance live at Wembley Arena.

Over the years Eddie Izzard has performed quality atheist material in high heels to a largely religious audience and also tackled a routine in French to an English-speaking audience. It requires a kind of genius with big balls to pull off either of those feats.

I was really excited about The Stripped Tour, knowing that Eddie Izzard would probably perform routines that other comedians simply wouldn’t touch. The only downside was that our floor seats were so far away, it was impossible to see him on stage. That is until you noticed the amazing portrait styled screens giving you the impression you were following a giant Eddie Izzard.

Eddie Izzard’s biggest problem is that he has too much to say and just doesn’t have the time to say it in. A superb routine on the difficulty of Latin and Caeser’s reaction to being told about Hannibal and his elephants was superb. As he’s performed routines in other languages previously, he decided it was time to tackle the language of dinosaurs. It’s great that he can now perform routines without the need for language at all.

There was so much great material throughout. I loved the amount of times he just happily accepted Apple’s terms and conditions, to the fact computer software download times did not follow any of the laws of physics.

Aside from the astonishing 43 marathons in 51 days, Eddie Izzard is a comedy genius and it was a joy to see him live in action!

Michael McIntyre – Wembley Arena

Saturday 3rd October 2009

Another chance to see Michael McIntyre in action, this time much closer to home for both him and us. No chance of arriving late this weekend, as a friend was driving and he’s always prompt!

On this occasion, our floor seats were way back from the stage. So when Michael McIntyre joked about the audience being so far away they could have just bought the DVD, I have a feeling most people might have been in agreement.

Finally, McIntyre got to shout out ‘Hello Wembley’, a likely ambition for many southern performers. One of my favourite moments was when he joked about the action when playing snooker being similar to tossing off someone behind you. I played snooker almost every week throughout my early teens, so it’s just one of those hilarious things you’d never really think of.

During the break I met up with friends sat elsewhere in the arena. One commented that comedy didn’t really work in a large arena, unless you were sat near the stage. Another commented, that he felt McIntyre was too rehearsed.

My personal opinion was that McIntyre seemed slightly nervous, possibly because it was in his home town or possibly because it was being filmed for DVD. He seemed much more relaxed in Nottingham a week earlier. The crowd also seemed warmer in Nottingham than at Wembley.

Once again it was a fun night out and well worth the trip up the road.

Premier League Darts Final – Wembley Arena

Monday 25th May 2009

Darts at Wembley, yeah that’s right! For those that remember the sport in the 80s will be surprised, but now Darts has probably the largest indoor following for an individual sport in the UK.

I’ve been following the Premier League tournament for the past few years and just had to get tickets for finals night. So for the first and probably the last time, I decided to use a secondary ticketing outlet. With a table booked at the front, I could finally get up close to four of the world’s top darts professionals.

Phil Taylor has dominated Darts for the last two decades and since the Premier League’s inception, he’s been the champion on all previous occasions. Even though, he’d suffered defeats in the league for the first time earlier in the tournament, he was once again odds-on favourite to take the title again.

The atmosphere was electric. The players entrance into the arena is now very reminiscent, almost copied, from what you commonly associate with Boxing. The first semi-final pitched world no.2 Raymond Van Barneveld and no.3 James Wade.  In a thrilling match, The Machine came out on top 10-8 against Barney to progress to the final.

Then it was the turn of The Power against The King. It didn’t take long for Phil Taylor to realise Mervin King was not in this semi-final just to make up the numbers. King went in front early and never looked back. Taylor tried to get back into the game, but King held on for an unexpected 10-6 victory.

In the final, The Machine came out firing and immediately into a 7 nil lead. Against all the odds, The King then hit back with 7 out of the next 9 legs in what no longer looked like an impossible comeback. Nevertheless, this was short-lived with Wade managing to close out the match with an impressive 13-8 victory.

Wow, who would have thought, thousands turning up to watch Darts. When the tournament was introduced in 2005, the first night had just 600 people. In 2009, Liverpool boasted 8,000, a record in modern times for the sport. The day out was an amazing experience and having a front table made it all the more worthwhile. Up close to the oche watching the world’s best players, what more could anyone want on a Bank Holiday Monday in May!