“This is not my surrender
I’m not runnin’ for cover
I’m right here
I know you see me
But your words no longer defeat me…”
~Kelly Clarkson, “The War Is Over”
Warning: this post will contain excessive excitement, enthusiasm, elation, and, yes, exclamation points. Because Sunday? It was the BEST. DAY. EVER.
We headed down to Atlantic City around noon and then proceeded to stalk (erm … visit) the Taj Mahal box office for our Meet & Greet passes. First we were told they’d be there at 3:30, then 5:00, then 5:30, then … well, you get the picture. They weren’t brought down until nearly 6:00, but that’s okay because while we were waiting, we got to listen to Kelly’s soundcheck. The doors were closed, but it was still really awesome to hear her and the band practicing – especially because one of the songs was a new addition to the setlist and something we hadn’t heard her perform live before! The passes arrived shortly thereafter, and to say we were thrilled is probably the understatement of the year. Decade. Century. How did we show that? By taking a zillion pictures with our passes, of course.
Our instructions told us to meet by stage right at 7:30 – when the opening act started – but we got there fifteen minutes early, just in case, and were met by the head of Kelly’s security, who checked our passes and separated us according to group. I love that they save the fanclub meet and greet for last because it means you get more time with Kelly. They took us backstage (literally behind the stage – we saw the dressing rooms, catering, band area – SO NEAT!) and Kelly’s security head explained how things would go. Everyone with RCA passes would see Kelly first, then the radio winners, and then us … which meant lots of nervous and excited chatter as we (im)patiently waited our turn. It’s funny: we’ve known for a week – some of us longer – that we had the passes, so you’d think that would be enough time to process it, but standing backstage was still so surreal. It’s like we were floating in a bubble of happiness and the air around us was just fizzing with energy and adrenaline.
I was the first of our group of six to talk with Kelly. I made myself a notecard again, complete with a reminder to actually tell her my name this time (go on and laugh!), but I was (slightly) calmer than the first time four and a half years ago so I decided not to use it … and then forgot to say my name AGAIN. Oops? That’s alright, because I said everything else I wanted to. Before I even got over to her – as soon as she was finished with the person in front of me, actually – she smiled and called over, “Ooh, I love your sweater!” That almost made us all crack up, because I seriously made myself nuts trying to find the perfect outfit. I went to four different stores, had five different possibilities, and didn’t decide until about an hour before we left. Boy, am I super glad I chose that one!! :) I thanked her, she hugged me, and as she pulled back I was instantly struck by how intense and expressive her eyes are. I remember that from before, too – she holds your gaze the entire time you’re talking with her and you can just tell she truly, genuinely cares. She doesn’t do the M&Gs because she has to; she does them because she wants to, honestly and sincerely. The first thing I told her was that I’m a writer and how I build a soundtrack/playlist (though I’m almost certain I got flustered with her two inches away and called it a setlist, but whatever – she knew what I meant) for each book, and that for the one I’m starting now, the main song on that list is her new one, “Stronger.” As soon as she heard about me being a writer, she said “Oh my God, that’s so cool!” and she broke into this huge smile when I mentioned her song being the inspiration for my characters and their upcoming journey. She said that it’s one of her favorite songs and totally empowering to sing – and I know there was something else she said, too, but it is SUCH a blur when you’re up there with her that I cannot for the life of me remember what it is.
The other important thing I wanted to tell her … well, it was more of a thank you than anything, for her song “The Sun Will Rise.” I told her that it was one of the only things that brought true comfort and peace to me after our family went through such a horrible time last year. I swear, I’ll never, ever, ever forget the look on her face – and in her eyes – when I told her what happened with Gram. There was such empathy there as she said she was so sorry, and Mary Kate said she looked really touched by what I’d said. How many celebrities do you find who so fervently and compassionately care about their fans like that? It was just very, very sweet and very, very special. She told me that they were going to sing TSWR that night, but had replaced it with a different one for the acoustic set. We took our picture next – I asked for a hugging one, she said “sure!” and grabbed me – and before it was time to leave, she called out this loud “good luck with your writing!” SO UNBELIEVABLY COOL and something I’ll remember always. And our picture? It is definitely getting framed and hung up immediately!!!!
Marissa was next to meet her, then Sara, Mary Kate, Julie, and Daniel. It was so wonderful to watch them all with her, especially everyone who was meeting her for the first time and having their dream come true. The joy was truly palpable and there are no words to express how elated I am for them that they finally got to have this experience. Seeing them with Kelly made my heart so happy. Seeing all my fabulous friends with her did.
I think the best way I can describe meeting and talking to her is that it feels like a bear hug. Like Mary Kate was saying yesterday – when you’re with her, she makes you feel like you’re the only person she cares about at that time. It’s a really special, genuine quality – and she is so humble and down-to-earth. Marissa, Sara, and Mary Kate talked to her about dancing, teaching, and delivering babies, and her response was “Man … writers, teachers, dancers, nurses … y’all are talented! All I do is sing!” She meant it, too. She’s just so gracious and personable, always treating her fans like friends. And, honestly, I believe that’s how she views everyone. The gratitude and appreciation goes both ways, and that sets her apart from so many others.
As soon as we got back to the arena, we shared a group hug and bounced around in excitement. To be blessed enough to share the M&G experience together was and will forever be such a gift. And the concert! It was FABULOUS, a celebration of her ten-year career (looking forward to the next ten!) that included lots of songs from every album. She even did a song in the audience right from the row behind us! She is so personable and spunky – stopping to chat with people in the audience and teasing the spotlight guy who couldn’t seem to find her for half the show – and she seriously has SO much energy, it’s crazy. I can’t get over how she can sing while twirling, spinning, jumping, and bouncing everywhere. As for us … we danced/jumped/sang so much that we left the casino barely able to walk or speak. Oops? Such a truly fantastic time, though, and I loved getting to experience it together with my family and friends. It made it so very special.
This week’s Tuesday’s Tunes? Concert videos, of course!
“I Forgive You”:
“The War Is Over”:
It’s no secret that Kelly’s been a gigantic inspiration to me for years, and I will be forever grateful for having the opportunity to talk with her again. She’s such a special person, one who truly makes the world better for being in it, and there really are no words for how very much Sunday meant. To be able to thank her for her music, to explain what a chord it strikes, how deep an impact it has, and how strongly it helps give us faith when we need it the most … and to see her reaction to my writing … and just to have a conversation with each other, to be reminded yet again of how graciously and whole-heartedly she cares about her fans, it was truly a treasure to cherish. It was a ray of sunshine, a cloud nine to settle on, and a starburst of hope. It resounded. It resonated. Kelly’s heart is as big as her talent, and we are the luckiest ever to have gotten to experience it again. Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like that.