Tuesday 14 August 2018

5 Romeos and my Juliet - lapping up 5 Seconds of Summer

After months of dread, Miriam O'Callaghan finds herself in fair Verona, enjoying her daughter's teen idols

5 Seconds Of Summer rocking on stage.
5 Seconds Of Summer rocking on stage.
Miriam O'Callaghan

My daughter's godparents get her tickets to see her favourite band in her favourite city: 5SOS, the Australian pop-punk band 5 Seconds of Summer - Michael, Ashton, Calum and Luke. Verona, here we come.

That day, the city's previous occupiers, the Romans, Ostrogoths, Lombards, Venetians, Hapsburgs and Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen, have nothing on the 15,000 young ones roaming its pink-marble streets, checked-flannel shirts around their waists, eyes to rival Alice Cooper and hair in electric red, violet, blue, pink, purple, green.

The young hordes have assembled on the banks of the Adige from all over Europe - even England - to catch the boys on this leg of their Sounds Live, Feels Live World Tour.

To this mother, it sounds like 1,000 Concordes taking off and landing in unison. In a thimble. It feels like heaven. Especially after months of dreading it on the sly.

But that's the end. First, we have our plan. Juliet's balcony; her tomb, San Zeno; the stone bridge; a quick dash to the Arena di Verona, so we know where it is; then a nice, long lunch. We're already starving, even if donkey spotted on the previous night's menu was particularly disturbing to a girl refusing to eat anything with a face. The concert is at eight. We'll queue up around four. Nice and early.

The Juliet bit? Check. Forget the rest. Because at 11am, there's a rainbow ribbon of youth and beauty trailing from the arena. The Blessed with tickets for sound-check, we ask? No. Unnumbered seats, is the response. That's us. She pales, swallows. "Run", she says. We do. All the way to the ribbon's frayed, wet end. Yes. It's lashing. Cats and dogs. With nine sopping hours to go.

She's mortified. At a concert. With her mother. It was that or nothing. But there are other parents dotted along the queue, Martello towers against a Napoleonic invasion. Even if the army patrolling the queue have Daesh on their minds. Over the hours, food is brought, the girls in front do their Greek homework, others study for a physics exam, songs are sung, fans tour the queue with A4 pages for various fan projects, numbers are swapped, friends are made.

We parents eye each other: "Aren't we eejits, sure it's a lovely crowd, aren't they grand?" Until the crush starts and we find our purpose. Whispers of, "get away" become an urgent "Mom, don't let me go". As if. The girls themselves are terrific. In German, Spanish, Italian, American, they mind each other, hold hands across the barriers. It's dangerous, suffocating.

Until we're in. Like Jon Snow coming up for air from the battle-pile of bodies. And the arena is white, gleaming; Don Broco are playing, the girls are up dancing, singing. Then, as night falls, the boys appear. And in the International Space Station, Tim Peake sees, hears, feels the arena lift, explode in love, light and longing.

And what boys 5SOS are. A credit to themselves, their managers, their families. Generous, joyful, respectful, engaging, totally present to their shaking, crying, singing, screaming fans. They play 20 songs - Outer Space, Jet Black Heart, Amnesia, Disconnected, Beside You, Catch Fire, Waste the Night, Permanent Vacation injecting pure joy into fans' veins.

The audience chants, "We Love You" and when Luke says, "We love you too", 15,000 teenage hearts melt, sweeping over steps 2,000 years old.

This is the 5SOS fandom. The teenage thrill of total romance, with zero risk. "Who do you prefer?" I ask my daughter. "Don't be so stupid. How could I choose?"

Then it's over. After Calum's "Vi amo", we forget to buy 'merch'. Though she has her leather bracelet bought in the queue. On the blackboard in her room, the months-long concert countdown is replaced by three words. Thank you 5SOS. Thank you, too, from her mother. As you'd say yourselves, "You're alright, though".

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