"I'm sure I speak for all the guys when I say that without you, none of us would be on this stage right now." Screams deafened me as I spoke, facing the flashing lights of thousands of cameras and phones. I'd pulled my earpieces out to be able to hear the reactions to my words. "I know every group or band say that they have the best fans in the world, but we honestly do. Every single person here in this stadium has a place in each of our hearts."
Tears were streaming down my face as I spoke to sixty thousand, at least, of our fans at the iconic Wembley Stadium, our home venue. It was the final show of our gruelling world tour that would be the last we would perform together for a while, if at all. Standing looking up, I could see the famous arch spanning the width of the stadium and grinned before drawing my eyes away; I tried to look at the people who were responsible for me and my four best mates being able to do what we do, tried to make eye contact with those closest to the stage, needing to make them to understand how much I meant every word I was saying, how much emotion I was feeling.
"Hand on heart, it's because of you beautiful lot that we've been able to do even a quarter of things we've done in our career. We've been around the world more times than any of us expected and have met and worked with some of the most amazing, and talented, people. Thanks to all of you, and any fans who have been to any of our shows, we've far surpassed anything any of could have dreamed about when we first auditioned for The Next Big Boyband seven years ago..." My words drifted into nothing as I attempted to hold back from completely breaking down. I struggled to catch my breath and my eyes stung from the tears I was holding back.
Four pairs of arms wrapped themselves tightly around me as I attempted to compose myself. I was supposed to be the 'confident and fun one', not the emotional wreck. It was always down to me to say our end of show thank you's just before we'd run off stage to catch our breath before the encore, but tonight was different. It was much more emotional, for us and the fans, and I was struggling. Despite everything, it felt a lot like a 'goodbye' rather than a 'see you soon', and I hated that feeling. I wanted it to go away, but things had been set in motion and there was no way to turn back the clock.
It was, as the media were referring to it, 'the end of an era'. We were the underdogs that no one ever expected to get anywhere in the music industry, yet here we were, seven years later finishing off a stadium world tour that had taken us to each continent over the last eight months.
"Aww Owen. You certainly have a way with words mate." Shaun, our baby-faced heart-throb wrapped a strong arm around me as the rest of the guys left me to wander around the stage, waving at the fans, his blue eyes glistening with tears. "And, I'm sure every person in this amazing place won't mind you having a little cry." The screams at his words as the audience, mostly comprised of girls aged between thirteen and twenty on average, were deafening. Plenty of our fans were both younger and older than the demographic we were marketed towards by our record label.
Our fan base spanned from little girls to women who were in their thirties and forties. It was these older fans who spent the most money─ on concert tickets, merch, and physical copies of the music we released. They also tended to be the fans who invested more time into our private lives, yet protected us from those who took things online too far. I'd never understood the dynamics of our fans and never really wanted to after the first year or so.
"We all feel the same way buddy." Josh, our youngest member joined Shaun, and within minutes, we were in another group huddle. A mess of sweaty bodies as arms grabbed at each other. The sound of sixty thousand pairs of stomping feet filled the air as the fans joined in on our moment. Josh disentangled himself from us and turned to face the crowd.
"Owen's right, it's all thanks to you that we're here. Saying 'thank you' feels so redundant and too... small to convey our appreciation of each and every single one of you." He stopped speaking as his voice was drowned out by the screams and whistles that surrounded us. I looked around at the guys I considered my brothers, my best friends; my family. Each and every one of them was grinning wider than I'd ever seen them smile before. They were glowing and I knew I looked the same despite the overwhelming sadness that was enveloping us at the same time. We'd always known this would come to an end, but it was still hard to let it all go.
"Right, this is our last song, sing along if you know the words." Shaun said that every night and it never failed to elicit a response from the crown as our band launched into Frenzy our latest single.
Running backstage to grab a cold drink and to change my t-shirt, I was breathless yet buzzing from the atmosphere. Adrenaline coursed through me, and I couldn't keep still during our few moments off stage and away from the limelight.
"Man, I honestly thought you were gonna break back there." Leighton, my closest friend out of all of the guys wrapped my in his huge arms which were clammy with sweat.
"Me too fella. I could see the first two rows crying and it just set me off." I pulled away and ran a damp cloth across the back of my neck and over my face in an attempt to freshen up. We could hear the crowd once again stamping their feet, causing a rumble so loud I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking the building was about to collapse. Rumours had been flying around online for weeks that this was going to be our farewell show, so fans had shown up from all over the world, ready to hear an announcement of any kind. Frankie, our head of security and tour manager gave me a little shove so we could all head back out on stage to perform the final two songs of the tour.
"I don't want it to end." Leighton spoke in a soft voice and broken as we walked back to the stairs that led up to the platform which served as our entrance and exit. "I know we all need the break and the chance to do other stuff, but that out there... that's always been our driving force, and I don't know if I can manage without that." His deep voice caught as he began to crumble. I leaned up against him and nudged him with my shoulder.
"Hey, you'll still have that, always will, just in different ways. We all will." It was a struggle to keep my own voice light when I had the same fears. What if the fans forgot us when we weren't around for a few months? It wasn't as if any of us didn't have plans during our break after having some well-earned down time, things that were different from what we'd been doing since we'd first auditioned on The Next Big Boyband hoping for just a little bit of exposure. We'd tried posting videos online before the show, but none of them got us the right kind of attention; attention from the right people who could give us our 'big break'.
Not one of us expected to win the show, or even have a career beyond a single and possibly an album. All boybands had a shelf life, usually around five years, and we'd already passed that by two years. We could easily keep going until we faded out into obscurity, but we wanted to end things on our terms and at the top of our game.
We never wanted things to get to the point where we were no longer friends. None of us wanted resent to set in. While we had arguments─ of course we did; a group of five lads living and working in each other's pockets, but we never let it break us as friends or as a band.
Every single one of us had lived every moment in the last seven years to the fullest, accepting the good, touring and meeting fans, with the bad, media intrusion and not seeing our families. Thankfully, the good far outweighed the bad.
"Ready to finish this tour on a high?" Brad, the brains of our outfit, asked us all.
"Let's do this." One final group huddle, and then we all set off at a run to thunderous screams for the last time.
YOU ARE READING
Ladz: OwenTeen Fiction
*HIATUS* The Next Best Boyband: Book One Finding fame and fortune on a reality TV show can be a double -edged sword, especially when the media and fans get attached to you in an unnatural way. Ladz are a boyband to keep an eye on, and the world is w...