I had seen the F1 FanZone at previous races, and there had been some talk of me taking to the stage to sing a song or two. But it never happened, until a week or two ago I was invited to take part in the first time the FanZone has set up its bigtop in London, in conjunction with the British Grand Prix, which I came to report on this weekend at Silverstone, an hour’s drive away.The FanZone is a fabulous concept, a kind of gaming zone where spectators can test their pit stop skills, their reaction times, their driving acumen and other things all in a portable theme park that travels along with the Formula One series. It is usually set up quite close to the venue – as in Monaco or Abu Dhabi – but this time, it was set up in London in order to allow spectators who could not attend the race to see all the action live on the the giant screens beside the stage.
For that’s one of the main draws of the F1 FanZone: It has the rights to show the live broadcast of the racing action over the weekend. For me the other attraction is clearly that big, beautiful stage where the FanZone also puts on acts throughout the weekend. This weekend, for instance, it had the band of Eddie Jordan, the former Formula One team owner (who pulled out at the last minute and sent a replacement drummer!); like a huge British beatbox band called “Duke,” like a famous cheerleading group of dancers and a band from Leeds called Skinny Living. Oh, and me.
I only got to see a part of the the Skinny Living set, as I had to rush off to collect Joe Cady at just that moment at the Stratford International station, where he had just arrived from his trip over from Paris on the Eurostar. So I managed to get a few bits of video of Skinny Living, but not much more. (Also, it was very windy, and that had some weird effect on the camera – or on me, or on both – so it’s very jerky.)
Joe and I took to the stage for a half-hour set at 4:30, advanced at the last minute to make way to vacate the stage immediately afterwards for the autograph signing of the Formula One reserve driver, Charles Pic.
Unfortunately, the only rain of the day began to fall just as Joe and I took to the stage, so some of the audience ran for cover under the various events tents, but our music was piped in and broadcast throughout the FanZone, and it was a pure fantastic pleasure to play on such a cool stage. The soundmen had come straight from working with a few supergroups at the Glastonbury Festival, and their fabulously professional work made me feel totally at ease, and in my element as I sang my songs and some covers.The set list as I recall it (it was written in advance and then improvised as befit the feeling of the moment) was: “Mad World,” “Crazy Lady,” “Borderline,” “Wicked Game,” “What’s Up!” and “Not Much in the Mood.” So that was three covers and three originals, and I had at least three more originals planned, but the Formula One driver arrived in a helicopter and the fans were waiting for their autograph signing, so we cleared the stage and handed it over to the real star of the day.
I was then kindly offered a helicopter ride back to Silverstone by the organizer, but I had an appointment in a nearby record store to buy a bunch of CDs, and then a table waiting at an Indian restaurant. I opted for the latter, and had a leisurely evening in London, no doubt my best visit to the British Grand Prix so far…. (Oh, yes, and the race turned out to be extraordinary too!)