We can hear the anticipation out on the street, outside the window of our pension. This little town of pintxos bar, cobbled street, church, beach, waterfront and breath-taking view – already swollen with its early bout of summer tourists. A palpable change in the late afternoon, as the mood shifts from tourism to pre-concert high.
You couldn’t really see it, but there was a lightning storm going on behind you, to the back of the stage. It stuck around for pretty much the whole concert. You noticed the rain, though. It was so dark, stormy dark in the sky, and down where we were so light, so joyous, so loud and celebratory, so happy.
The bars are filling, people are smiling, laughing, drinking. We can see all of this from above as we ready ourselves, prettying ourselves. She looks lovely. So do I. After taking a photo at the window holding our tickets, we step out and join the multitude.
The sun is out; we are almost blinded by the light at first. The reflected sun shines down into these deep passageways, the narrow pedestrianised streets. The buildings four or five stories tall mean that rather than direct sunlight, the area is imbued with a glow, almost a gloaming, a super natural colouration. In the spaces between the buildings, the sun can often sneak in a direct look, and the beer drinkers and consumers of pintxos converge into the sunlight, an unconscious coalescing into these patches of warmth, a natural sifting together of minds.
We stop for a drink ourselves, celebrating, congratulating – we’re here! This is the thing we came for, that we’ve been waiting so long to do! This is going to be great!
But I still can’t believe it’s going to happen. They’re going to stop us at the gate and tell us that our tickets are forgeries.
We are radiant.
We join the flow from the old town to the boulevard, ready to catch a bus to the home of the local La Liga team, out on the edge of town. As each bus pulls into the stop, it’s swamped by concert-goers, but the bus drivers seem remarkably inefficient in getting everybody on board. It takes about 10 minutes to load the bus, but the mood is calm, expectant, jubilant.
The bus ejects us onto a street by the stadium and we are swallowed up by the large, very good-natured crowd, in a great mood. The lines to the small hole-in-the-wall bars are long. I am worried that maybe the stadium is a dry one. She goes to get some food while I line up for drinks. A 20 minute wait, but I get there. “Une cerveza. Umm – do you have tinto” I say, backing up words with strange hand signals that really bear no relation to what I’m attempting to say. She laughs, shakes her head, and points at the bar next door, which would entail at least another 20 minute wait. “Ah” say I. “Dos cerveza, por favour.” I carry them out, spilling a third as I am jostled among this thirsty crowd, back to meet her – under a tree, because it’s starting to rain, where she stands with churros. Churros? Really? But they strangely turn out to be just the right thing. Beer and churros – a symphonic combination.
Your energy is incredible. You’re 62 years old. You look 35 at most. And it’s actually you, right here in front of me. Excuse the hero-worship but you’re, well…you’re you. And your apparent joy at being here – I know you’ve done it for many, many nights prior, and have many more nights ahead – but this is like it’s your first time.
I’ve never bought the merchandise, it seems a flagrant bow to commercialism. But as we’re standing there looking at the t-shirts – well, I just need one. The sale is completed with churros & beer clutched in our little fists, as we manage to achieve understanding through a mix of intermediate Italian, beginner Spanish and advanced hand-signalling. Pointing, stabbing at the air with our fingers, we come away 70 euro poorer, better off by two t-shirts.
Time to go in, we down our drinks. I use the toilet (scared I’ll suddenly feel the urge when we’re lining up and can’t easily escape), one of those delightful plastic, outdoor urinals. Actually I quite like toileting out in the open like this; it means I’m not being cut off from the mood, nor from the light rain now falling. I will not be cut off from this euphoria, within and around me, swirling away and then back toward me. It’s time, it’s time. We line up, find ourselves in the wrong line, backtrack.
I have never screamed, ever. But here I am, in this stadium, in this small, beautiful town in the Basque country, screaming, screaming. I can feel myself fading away. I understand now, the old film you see of young women, hysterical as they watch Elvis Presley or The Beatles. I only very-nearly cry a couple of times. Jack of All Trades. The River. I sit down for the first time during the concert, and those first haunting harmonica strains trail out across the ground. I’m up again. The quiet desperation expressed in this song is something we’ve all experienced, mired in impenetrable situations.
Our tickets say no photography allowed, so I assume there will be full-body pat-downs, electronic wands being run over us as they hunt for and confiscate cameras by the hundreds. But…nothing. No security whatsoever as we are waved through, camera-less because we had not quite understood that Spanish security regulations may or may not be enforced, on a whim. But we are through, through the last impediment, now surely we will make it all the way, we will see him now, we will.
Though that storm looks ominous…
We get to our seats, undercover thankfully. The stadium sweeps down before us, bathed in light, a cocoon of light as the premature darkness spreads. And the rain gets heavier. The crowd on the ground are colourful as they pull on waterproofs, umbrellas go up, and some on the edges run undercover. Toward the back of the stadium, the cover on the football field is slick blue as the rain pools on it. Lightning bolts can be seen lashing the sky.
And now, with the sky dark, and the rain pouring down from it, out into this stadium drenched in light, we can see figures moving on the stage. The crowd begins to roar, and the lights go down.
We’re here, finally here. Yes.
Long as I remember the rain been comin’ down
Clouds of mystery pourin’ confusion on the ground…