Rostov

First, a little introduction, without which this story would probably have never happened.

It was in 1986; I was a secondary school student - this was an awkward age when willing or not, one gets disappointed in studies and the way grown-ups try to put you in.

Me and a class-fellow of mine, we used to bunk off our PE classes that were privately thought to be an "optional" course. We used to go to his place, - his mom was at work at the time, - we would listen to LP records or looked at a cacti collection which was a fashionable hobby of those happy-go-lucky times.

Once, while we were bunking off yet another class, we decided to change our habitual route and came to see his housemate who had a cassette tape recorder.

"Now we're gonna put on some music and you should guess who it is" - they said cunningly and pushed play button.

Rhythmical dance music poured out of a speaker sounding very much like some popular band

"This must be a new Modern Talking's album", - I answered without much thinking and was laughed at right away. Shame upon you, it's C.C. Catch! - They said the name I'd never heard before. This was how this glamorous girl and singer entered my life for the first time. It's been almost twenty years since that day. One routine day I visit a local Internet portal in Rostov and come across a colorful banner with a flash line: "June 24. First time in Rostov! C.C. Catch! Mega-Star of 80s!" I get overwhelmed with surprise and joy. Does it really matter to me that we're not anywhere near 80s and totally different artists hold hit-parades? Can any Beyonce or Jennifer Lopez compare to a brilliant European disco queen? Who on earth would dare to claim that in one's senses?

By the way, this concert, dated to the 75th anniversary of Rostselmash plant, was planned to be held on the Theater Square, but it was decided that extraordinary security measures (Rostov is a capital of Southern Federal District) are only possible at a stadium, so the concert was transferred to SKA football ground thus postponing a forthcoming match of B league championship.

And here it comes, a welcome day of the concert! I am facing the problem of getting an autograph from my favorite singer, which is not an easy thing to do taking into account those extraordinary security conditions, for I seem to be an ordinary spectator, one of those many who has come to a free concert.

What helps me is my old badge certifying that I'm a correspondent at a local youth newspaper where I worked about eight years ago. I have kept it intentionally as if I knew I would need it some time!

The concert is planned to begin at 6 p.m. I come an hour before the start, put my badge lace on, come in leisurely, pretend to be bored and seat myself on a handrail next to the central entrance that football players and judges use to come out to the field.

A few minutes later a security officer comes up to me and asks me who I am So and so, I answer, I'm a press representative. He leaves me alone and asks me to come off the central passage which obviously does not suit me any way. Actually, Caro is expected to come out of this very passage. However, my luck smiles to me - I hear in passing that the singer will approach the stage in her car, so there is no need to stay there.

Slowly but steadily people throng stadium stands disregarding rain clouds drifting along the sky and the rain sprinkling now and then.

The concert starts an hour behind time. Sergey Minaev, concert's compere compliments Rostselmash plant on the anniversary and certainly does not forget to mention that C.C. Catch herself will make a scene today!

Meanwhile I move towards the northern stand, show my badge card to a guardian, step to the race track Some more steps and here I am standing behind a huge stage delivered by three Man trucks and erected the day before the concert. The first goal is hit!

All I have to do now is just stand and absentmindedly watch the performance of Funky-Beat dance group from Rostov, Matrix girls' duo, lame parodist named Khokhlov and wait until SHE HERSELF appears.

At about nine p.m. the side gateway opens and a Volkswagen minibus gets behind the stage in a reckless way. The stadium bucks up. Minaev is holding the microphone and gets ready to announce the star, lingering this moment with some lengthy preparatory phrases.

I'm also on my toes; I have occupied a good place by the door of the bus from which Caroline will appear in a little while. No, it is her father, an elderly man, who walks out first. It is well known that Peter Muller is a singer's director and he accompanies his daughter in almost all of her tours. He is invited to come through the stadium. Mr. Muller is wearing a jacket with a Catch Crew logo stitched on its back.

Black dancers, Crazy and Omega, walk out following him. They put on fine white one-piecers and masks within few seconds. Sound men put on an opening track from Like A Hurricane album. The dancers go up the stage from different sides and skirt the stage. I am peeping through the open minibus door and wait for Caro to look out. I can't see her through tinted glass.

Ten seconds have passed since the beginning of the track "My Lover is Teacher" - a man's sampled voice comes out of high-power dynamic speakers. Half a minute has already passed, the beat rings. The dancers are moving hot in time to the beat. I am getting worried that Caro will not have the time to jump out to the stage.

Now, finally, she comes up to the very exit, - I can see her! She looks serious and concentrated. Her face is well-tended and as beautiful as it used to be, bearing the trace of some wisdom gained as the years have passed. She is looking up the stage. It shows that she's nervous but self-collected. Her hand is holding tight the radio microphone. Then she jumps out and runs to the stage up the stairs as swiftly as if she was a young girl. She's wearing white jogging trousers, white shortcut jacket showing her slim tummy and gumshoes of the same color. Her hair is gathered up into a tail that gamy swings with her every move. She's had the time, thank goodness!

"Good Guys Only Win In Movies" is heard over the stadium. The singer fuses in the dance with her both dancers and when the song ends, one can hear spectators heartily greeting her.

Caroline greets them in English and Russian. She proceeds with a long welcoming sentence in English which seems to have become her third native language.

I will not give the detailed account of the songs she sang live, I will only say that the major part of a 45-minute show was made up of hits from the singer's first three albums, including a mega mix with Crazy dancer's rap vocal. Caro sang most of her songs without background dances with the use of an original minus-audio record (which was for better!). So, the dancers spent most of the time off-stage, enjoying the favor of newswomen and security officials' daughters, who asked the exotic guys for the permission to take photos next to them.

As it grew darker, Caroline presented more and more magic view in the multicolored limelight. The spectators, in their turn, responded with their lighter flashes.

She seemed to feel and enjoy positive emotions shed upon her from the stands. She sincerely thanked the audience with her most womanly voice in the world, stayed still bowing, kneeling down, raising her hands to the sky

"Let this song be dedicated to Rostov and its wonderful dwellers!" - The singer says during a break before getting to another song. The stage plunges into soft blue light and one hears chords of "Jump In My Car" in the air.

In the end of the show Sergey Minaev goes up to the stage and suggests that Carolina gives a hand cue for fireworks. She can't understand what he asks her to do Minaev gives a hint: "Let's make a counting. Come on, Caroline Eins, zwei"

"Drei" - Caro takes up cautiously.

"Well done! Now attention everybody! Ready! Give us the fireworks, come on!" - Sergey shouts out and a few seconds later huge colored flares burst out over the SKA stadium. The singer warmly parts with the spectators and comes down the stairs in the light of the fireworks.

Once again I occupied my place by the Volkswagen door. There is a commotion all around the place. I get unexpectedly shut off by security officials, and then while Caroline is finishing her descent from the stage, I run off the opposite side and hold out to her a marker and a cover inset of Catch The Catch compact disk, turning it up with its reverse side where there is a photo of the singer.

Caroline is not looking around, her glance is serious and is directed strictly towards the open door of the minibus. But she cannot help noticing the objects I held out. She cautiously takes the CD case with the cover over it and having thought for a little while she chooses a free space for an autograph and puts her signature a little bit to the left of her picture of those times - a beehive and leather clothes. She carefully gives me back my treasure and, having moved a half step forward, she autographes someone else.

I get overwhelmed with triumph as if I was a teenager fan of some kind. I'm not leaving, I watch Caro giving some more autographs and getting into the car. But even there she's never left alone, her fans hold out show cards of Shake Your Head single which, by the way, was not performed that night.

After her father comes back from the stadium stands and gets into the car, the door is shut down and after a half-a-minute pause the minibus takes off towards the opened gates.

The show in Rostov has ended, it's been yet another Russian city in the singer's tour list. But I do not feel sad. Caroline still stays with us, in her songs, smiles in the pictures and - don't call me teenager fan - in her autographs! No matter where she is

Roman Azbukin

(25.07.04)

Rostov

Rostov

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