All the gigs of my life: Gig 84 – Mark Owen, Thursday, December 04, 2003, Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Seeing out my 2003 gigging year in style with the delightful Mark Owen.

‘Still a little pop genius.’

My last gig of 2003 also marked an end to three weeks of almost non-stop gigging. I was thoroughly exhausted, not least because I was preparing for a trip to Canada for Christmas, followed by exam season in January. But what a way to end the year.

Mark Owen’s 2003 comeback was a joyous revelation for me. After David Bowie’s “Reality” tour and album, Mark’s “In Your Own Time” album was the glittering highlight of the year’s many musical delights. I’d been thrilled by his pop genius when I saw him at the Islington Academy that September, and was eager for a chance to see him live again.

So, knackered as I was, I strode out to Shepherd’s Bush to see Mark, and of course, my diary entry for this gig opens with the salient information:

Oh… what can I say? Wonderful, inspired pop tunes. Skinny, sexy, pretty man.’

It turned out that this gig was filmed, though I have so far failed to find any evidence of this filming online – the only Shepherd’s Bush Empire footage of Mark on YouTube comes from a decade later. But perhaps the filming was intended for an upcoming video project, and could explain some of the odder aspects of the concert, like this one:

The opening song featured scantily clad girly pole dancers, bizarrely. Didn’t think much of that, but later, when Mark did a little twirl round the one in front of ME, seemed a much better thing.’

And it turned out that Mark was not the only representative of Take That in the room that night.

Oh and Jason was there! On the balcony tho’, not joining Marky for a breakdance, sadly. Got lots of screams. That’s actually how I knew he was there, for I never spotted him myself.

There was new music!

‘Oh! gotta mention the new song he played, can’t remember what it was called, but it was CLASSIC, hope it’s a single, and there was this video of him acting silly in a car going on behind him.’

I feel like I’ve stumbled across this car video on YouTube before, but can no longer find it. Can any of the Mark faithful inform me of what this song was?

The musical highlights continued with a lot of rare tracks getting an airing this evening.

Yeah and “How Do You Love” had a video of him roaming London and sitting on a roundabout with huge placards on him saying “How Do You Love”, appropriately enough. And “Pieces Of Heaven” was particularly great. And we had both b-sides of “Four Minute Warning”, though he had to stop “Live If You Try” as it began ‘cos he’d forgotten which song they were doing! Bless. And “I Am What I Am” was all punk and mad. Nice to hear a few more tunes from the first album.

And then, some more strangeness ensued at the end:

‘Male voice choir appeared for “Child” in the encore, very bizarrely!’

Reading this report, it sounds as though this gig was filmed to be maybe a TV special or released on DVD, but sadly this never happened. Is the footage of this concert lurking in a dusty cupboard somewhere, I wonder? (And if it is, please RELEASE IT NOW!)

For all of Mark’s wonderfulness, I wasn’t quite as thrilled by this gig as I had been by the September one, and I put the blame for this squarely on my fellow audience members.

‘Oh, I didn’t like the audience tonight, perhaps inevitably they’re all a bit mainstream for me, but even so the atmosphere didn’t seem quite as warm as Islington.

Reading this now, it sounds like further evidence that this show was meant to form some sort of Evening With Mark Owen special on the telly. Perhaps the unengaged crowd was due to the fact that many were media invitees rather than fans?

But never mind. Mark is miraculous. And I am quite shattered.’

And so ended not just my last gig from Miraculous Mark – so far! – but my last gig of 2003. It was a year that stands out as not just very probably my greatest in terms of the live music experiences I had – only 1997 can rival it – but also my last great hurrah of youthful musical obsession. In 2004, my life would change completely, with new people and experiences enticing me further and further away from the gigging life.

So that makes me all the more happy that I spent this last year of gigging glory seeing so many of the bands and artists that I’d ever loved, in one form or another. And I’m also glad that, at its very end, there was Mark Owen, who in recent years has become one of my favourite singers of all time. I deeply regret the fact that went on after this gig to completely ignore his solo career for over a decade, but now that I’ve caught up, there could be few musical events that would thrill me more than a new solo album and tour from Mark.

Until then, I’ll have to make do with my memories of 2003, and the joy of seeing out my gigging year at this concert, with the dazzlingly wonderful pop genius that is Mark Owen,

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