News & Insights 1 June 2008

I’m in Seoul but I’m not a soldier

I have just woken up. It is 4.30pm.

Last night was a good night. A very good night indeed. 

It began onstage at 8pm and ended in a jacuzzi at 8am. Just as all great nights out should. 

Let me talk you through it step-by-step……

8pm, Grand Hyatt Hotel
I am onstage, sat at a grand piano. The enormous stage has been immaculately set to emulate the opening scene from Phantom Of The Opera. The MC, dressed in trilby, half-mask, cloak and tails, stands behind me. Seunghee Park, one of Asia’s foremost opera singers, stands centre stage. I am playing the Korean national anthem, and Seunghee is singing. 500 people are singing back. One of them is the British Ambassador.

Is this a dream? No. This is my life. This is just the kind of wackiness I get up to all the time.

9.30pm, Grand Hyatt Hotel
…And, as if to prove a point, here I am again, sat at the grand piano – this time dressed as the Phantom myself – entertaining the guests with my trademark lounge renditions of popular tracks by Metallica and Rage Against The Machine. I don’t think anyone has noticed. It sounds just like jazz! That’s the clever thing! It’s the Trojan Horse of the music world. Metal dressed as jazz. 

That reminds me of a story Hugh Padgham told us about how he used to smuggle ham sandwiches into Paul McCartney’s house when they were working on McCartney’s Press To Play album. Paul and Linda, as you can imagine, were pretty strict on enforcing their no-meat rule but the carnivores got away with it by making cheese sandwiches, hollowing out the middle and filling them with ham! Genius. Paul, if you’re reading this, you’ve been hoodwinked mate. 

Anyhow, I digress. Metal-filled jazz sandwiches, Phantom Of The Opera, grand piano. So, this goes on for a while and then I slink off backstage to join the rest of the boys and make sure they haven’t caned all the booze whilst I’ve been working.

10.30pm, Grand Hyatt Hotel
We hit the stage about an hour ago and this place is cooking! Due to the music starting late on in the evening, all 500 guests were pretty sozzled by the time we started and were absolutely gagging to get on the dancefloor. We’ve chucked out a mix of Lightyears songs and covers and the dancefloor has been full all night.

Possibly my favourite moment of the evening, though, is when we drop the pace about half an hour from the end and play Miles Away. Everyone grabs a partner and we play the song slowly, with real patience. We don’t generally use this song as a “dance” number but it really works. Magic.  

We encore with Emily, which has been requested by five or six people on separate occasions, and can’t resist ending the evening on a slightly tailored version of The Killers’ All These Things That I’ve Done, featuring the immortal line “I’m in Seoul but I’m not a soldier”. Bit of political satire there. Brought the house down.

So. Job well done. Next stop – PartyVille.

2.30am, Spy Basement
We are in Spy Basement. How did this happen?

Yet again, for the third time in as many years, here we are. Seoul’s seediest club. A haven for prostitutes and sexually-frustrated American soldiers. John is being chatted up by a man. I am standing at the bar trying to work out how five beers could possibly come to £35. Danny and Tony are having it large on the dancefloor. George is looking nonchalant in his suit, sipping a beer and trying to divine whether the girl talking loudly at him is an escort or a legitimately interested groupie. 

Actually, Spy Basement turns out to be a lot of fun. Dressed in matching suits and surrounded by a sizeable entourage, we look at bit like the Reservoir Dogs and as a result are attracting quite a bit of attention from the revellers (although it’s possible that most people just think we’re pretentious bankers).

We stay in the Basement for an indeterminate amount of time. Beers are downed, dances are danced, merriment is made. Hours pass.

6am, Hooker Hill
It is 6am. We are, apparently, on “Hooker Hill”. I have no solid recollection of how we got here.

Hooker Hill does exactly what it says on the tin. No further explanation needed. It’s a pretty steep hill as well, which is a challenge in itself at 6 in the morning after a few sherbets. 

Tony is on absolutely blistering form. I have never seen him this up for it. We broach the idea of going home; he’s having none of it. In fact, before we’ve even had a chance to hit the taxi he’s already crossed our palms with another round of beers. What a legend. This keeps us going for another hour or so but eventually, at about 7am, John, Danny and I throw in the towel. Tony and George, however, have officially locked horns in a fight to the death and neither one wants to lose face – the first one to stop drinking and start sleeping loses. We leave them outside the still-pumping Debut Bar with the expectation that we might not see them again for several days and jump in a cab back to Insadong.

8am, Jacuzzi, Somerset Palace
In theory, the evening ended when we left Hooker Hill. In actuality, there were still over two hours of life left in us. When we got back home to Somerset Palace there was a massive anti-US beef protest going on outside our hotel (see the BBC News 24 pictures here). Hundreds of Koreans had turned out. Can you imagine Londoners rioting at 7am on a Sunday morning? Bizarre. Anyhow, we spent some time chilling with the rioters before heading up to breakfast, still dressed in our suits, chowing down on some seriously tasty pastries and then whipping on our trunks and hitting the jacuzzi. This is the only way to end an evening. I say “evening”; it was in fact most emphatically the morning and the sun was shining furiously.

We eventually crashed into bed at 9.30am. Tony and George followed half an hour later. The tour was nearly done and so were we.

Lightyears over and out. See you back in Blighty. 

Chris Lightyear

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