News & Insights 14 August 2008

It’s not often that our stage has turf…

The Lightyears play London Road StadiumOn Monday evening we played at London Road Football Stadium in front of Manchester United and around 12,000 people. 

For George and I this was a chance to perform to our biggest ever crowd, to mingle with some of the most famous sporting celebrities in the world and take a few more steps on the path to becoming a fully-fledged stadium rock band.

For Tony, however, it was an unrivalled opportunity to pick up some handy gardening tips from the groundsman concerning how one can most effectively prevent clover from colonising one’s lawn.

Each to their own, I suppose.

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So, the stage was set, we’d assembled all our gear on the centre-circle and kick-off was due in just under two hours. The match was a pre-season friendly between the newly promoted Peterborough United and European Champions Manchester United.

We were keeping our instrument cases in the bowels of the stadium and, as we carried them through the labyrinthine corridors beneath the terraces, we passed a familiar-looking figure deep in conversation on his mobile.

It was Man United boss Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in English football history. Alex Ferguson! Using a mobile phone! Like a normal person! Unbelievable. I wonder who he was on the phone to? Probably the Queen, or Steven Spielberg. People often claim that well-known celebrities look smaller when you meet them in real life, although in this case I felt the opposite was true. He’s a big man, is Fergie. Quite an imposing presence. I briefly considered trying to engage him in conversation about St Mirren (St Mirren are the football team I support – a not-particularly-successful Scottish outfit with the dubious claim-to-fame of being the only club ever to have sacked Ferguson) but, as he seemed busy, I decided against it.

In the Peterborough FC office we checked the stadium’s computer system, which keeps a running count of exactly how many people have come through the turnstiles. The gates had only been open a few minutes but there was already a steady trickle of fans starting to fill the terraces. The tally was growing speedily and during the latter part of our set we would be playing to a near sell-out crowd.

Tony in the centre circleWhen it hit 6.30 and the place was starting to fill up a bit, we took to the stage (well, I say “stage” – it’s not often that our stage has turf) and busted out She’s The One, This House Will Burn and Beat Alive. The set seemed to be going down really well and the stadium was getting busier by the minute. We were playing Sleepless as the Peterborough team emerged from the tunnel and we followed this with a couple of stirring, high-energy covers Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now and Jerry Lee’s Great Balls Of Fire

Man Utd appeared next and, I have to say, I found it a bit depressing that the cheer they elicited from the crowd entirely dwarfed the one we’d just heard for the home side. Such is the nature of United’s monopoly over world football, they can visit pretty much any town in the UK and outnumber the home fans. Rooney was ill and Ronaldo injured (for “injured” read “sunning himself up in St Tropez in a pair of tiny silver pants”) but otherwise Fergie was fielding virtually his first team. So, as we unleashed a hearty rendition of our penultimate song, Emily, the world’s most famous football team trained beside us. Rio Ferdinand was on the pitch, along with Carlos Tevez, and Dutch keeper Van Der Saar was waiting on the sidelines. Funnily enough this was not the first time we had crossed paths with Van Der Saar, as around this time last year we found ourselves eating breakfast next to him and the rest of the Dutch international team when we shared a hotel with them during the Korean tour [n.b. one day I hope to be able to name-drop people who aren’t football players – you know, Sting perhaps, or Alice Cooper – but, until then, Van Der Saar will have to do].

We finished on a cover of The Fratellis’ Chelsea Dagger, which got everyone going, and left the pitch to resounding applause from a 12,000-strong crowd. This, let me tell you, is quite a feeling. Backstage we were paid a quick visit by Barry Fry, Director Of Football at Peterborough FC and one of Tony’s personal heroes. The kick-off had been delayed by quarter of an hour and Barry explained that this was due to a few thousand fans who were still piling over the bridge on their way into the stadium. “They heard you boys playing and ran like billy-o to get inside and ‘ave a listen” he chuckled. Good old Bazza. 

Anyway, despite putting up an admirable fight, underdogs Peterborough eventually lost 2-0 to the Reds. Not too shabby, since many people were expecting a thrashing. 

So, with stadiums out the way, there’s only one direction to go in – amphitheatres. I’m thinking the Colesseum, perhaps, or the Hollywood Bowl. No point in doing things by halves.   

Chris Lightyear

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