You really have to go to Ultimate Power to realise why it’s such a big deal.
With events taking place around the UK - Manchester, London, Cardiff, Bristol, Liverpool - it grew a rapid reputation as a guaranteed Good Night Out; like New Year’s Eve without the massive letdown. In fact, it’s pretty much what New Year’s Eve should be, with the added bonus that it happens all year round.
Picture hundreds of people belting out the same Celine Dion song with something close to religious fervour, heads thrown back as a bunch of guys (the organisers) rock out onstage so you don't feel like an idiot, then waking up in the morning with an aching neck because you overdid the head-banging... 'The Best Night Of Your Life' isn’t really an overstatement.
What's best is that there's nothing trendy about it - it's not some hip new bar with a reservation policy and limited capacity. Ultimate Power is about cramming people from all walks of life into the same room and unleashing that almost-hero worship for the 80s anthems that really get you to emote - something that seems like a rarity in modern music.
We did a Q&A with Dave Fawbert, one of Ultimate Power's founders along with Steve Proud, Brian Mahoney, “Mr” Flash and Alex Gilbert, for the event's 10th anniversary party at Electric Ballroom in Camden, London:
What made you start Ultimate Power?
The five of us all worked in music at the time and, through the course of chatting away about songs, we realised that we all had a shared love of these often-neglected, never-heard songs called power ballads. We joked about the idea of playing one or two in a club – and even about an entire night of them. Eventually an opportunity to do just that arose, when there was a spare night going at a (now-defunct) place called The Fly on New Oxford Street.
We didn’t even know if there were enough power ballads to fill a night’s worth of music – but we managed it, and the reaction was amazing. And then it’s just grown since then – first it was just our friends coming down, then we noticed more and more people who we didn’t know – suddenly it dawned on us that there were these huge numbers of people that loved the songs just as much as we did. Which, to be fair, makes sense, when you consider that the majority of the songs we play were utterly enormous chart hits that sold millions.
Why power ballads?
Because they’re the most emotionally honest songs you can get. They are songs of heartbreak, longing, unrequited love – people putting themselves out there and telling the world about their deepest fears, emotions and desires – they’re brave songs.
And, of course, they are all incredibly well-written songs, with amazing, soaring melodies, while they were recorded in an era of money-and-time-no-object production, so you have these amazing musicians, amazing engineers and producers all working together to create songs that would last and last. They just sound incredible on a big PA.
How does it feel to be still going after 10 years?
It’s crazy. We never viewed the club as anything other than a bit of fun for the first few years – just getting enough door money to pay for our drinks for the night and a cab home was more than enough. Then suddenly we found ourselves in these huge rooms, playing to thousands of people.
We feel very lucky that people are still coming along – and discovering it for the first time – after all these years. But then the songs are so amazing that they’ll outlast us all – they’re beyond fashion, or changing tastes, they’ll never go anywhere, as late-night Magic FM demonstrates.
You've sold out venues as big as The Forum - did you ever think it would get this big?
Absolutely not. Our regular London and Manchester homes The Electric Ballroom and The Ritz are both truly incredible places to stand there and see this sea of people singing along to every word. But I must admit our first solo show at the Forum – last year’s ‘Bat Out Of Halloween’ special (we’re back there again this year) – was utterly exhilarating.
The 20 most ridiculous things superstar musicians have demanded at their concerts
The 20 most ridiculous things superstar musicians have demanded at their concerts
The Demands: 1 Large table for catering dressed with white tablecloths. Dressing room should be 78 degrees 4 Brand New White Towels in bathroom (2 face & 2 body) Hot Food: Juicy Baked Chicken: Legs, Wings & Breast only (Please season with fresh garlic, season salt, black pepper, and Cayenne pepper HEAVILY SEASONED!!) Steamed Garlic Broccoli Lightly Seasoned Green Beans Lightly Seasoned Steamed Spinach Beyoncé can only have Pepsi products. 1 Case of Aquafina water (half cold, half room temperature) 1 Hot Tea Set up (Please have NEW Coffee Pot) Sliced Lemons Wedges Rose scented candles Lighter for candles CD player
The Demands: 12 Small bottles still (non-carbonated) spring water (at room temperature) 1 Electric kettle for BOILING water 6 Large mugs for tea. All mugs should be new, washed and dried. 6 metal teaspoons 2 “Squeezy” bottles clear honey (not organic) 1 Bottle very best quality red wine (Italian, French or Spanish) 1 Assortment of chewing gum 1 Pack Marlboro Light plus 1 disposable cigarette lighter 1 Small selection fresh fruit, to include bananas, apples, grapes, fresh berries NO CITRUS FRUIT! 1 Small plate of assorted freshly made, individually wrapped sandwiches, to include chicken salad. Sandwiches must NOT contain tomatoes, vinegar, chili or citrus fruit
3/20 Kanye West
The Demands: 1 Tub Plain Yogurt for dipping 4 small Yoplait Yogurt 1 Bowl of assorted nuts 1 Bowl of Sunkist Salted Pistachio Nuts (No Red Coloring) 2 Packs of Extra Chewing Gum 1 Bottle of Hot Sauce (Tabasco, Caribbean Type) 1 Box of Toothpicks 1 750 ml bottle of Hennessey Liquor 1 750 ml bottle of SKY or Absolut Vodka 1 Bottle of Patron Silver Tequila 4 Six Packs of Heineken Beer
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty, David Parsons/iStock
The Demands: 5 AC power outlets Adequate lighting for a “relaxed atmosphere” White drapes to cover lockers and/or brick 1 Humidifier 1 Large throw rug — plush and animal print (Cheetah, Leopard) … must be CLEAN, as she will walk on it barefoot. Pipe and Drape the room in Dark Blue or Black drapes with Icy Blue Chiffon draped nicely on top 6 Candles — Archipelago Black Forest (if you can't get these, please let me know ASAP as we have a 2nd choice of candle for Ri). 4 Small, clear, square vases with White Tulips, no foliage (2nd choice: White Casablanca Lilies no foliage, 3rd choice: White Freesia, no foliage)
5/20 Katy Perry
The Demands: Arrangement of pink fresh flowers. White and purple hydrangeas, pink & white roses and peonies. If not available, seasonal white flowers to include white orchids–ABSOLUTELY NO CARNATIONS. A box of Huggies baby nature care wipes 6 Vitamin waters zero, assorted flavors Bowl of whole fresh organic grown fruit (apples, bananas, oranges and grapes) Plate of fresh-cut Crudités (to include cucumber, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, snap peas, celery) w/ ranch dip Snyder's of Hanover Honey Mustard & Onion Pretzel Jar of Salsa Baked (blue corn if possible) Tortilla Chips Freeze dried strawberries 2 bottles of Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio Throat coat, Twinnings Chamomile PG tips and Mint medley tea. Fuze slenderize assorted flavors A jar of quality honey Plastic drinking straws
6/20 Paul McCartney
The Demands: All lamps must be halogen floor lamps with dimmer switch. Only animal free materials (cottons, denims, velour, etc.) Do not provide furniture made of any animal skin or print. Do not provide artificial versions of animal skin or print either. No leather seating is allowed in the black stretch limousine either. Arrange for a dry cleaner before arrival. 6 Full and leafy floor plants, but no trees. We want plants that are just as full on the bottom as the top such as palm, bamboo, peace lilies, etc. No tree trunks! $50.00 - One large arrangement of white Casablanca lilies with lots of foliage. $40.00 - One long stemmed arrangement of pale pink and white roses with lots of foliage. $35 One arrangement of freesia. It comes in various colors so please mix them up. Freesia is a favorite. 20 dozen clean towels outside of the production office
7/20 Mariah Carey
The Demands: Each room must be draped. Black drapes are fine. The entry door should open into the living room space, not the dressing room. Temperature should be about 75 degrees. 1 Three Seat Couch — Plain Color, no busy patterns; black, dark grey, cream, dark pink are fine 12 1 Liters of Fiji Water 3 Bottles Chardonnay — Chilled 12 Coke 12 Diet Coke 12 Vanilla Protein Drinks 6 Sparkling Water (Pellegrino) 12 Melon Flavor Gatorade 6 Red Wine Glasses 6 White Wine Glasses 4 Joe Malone Vanilla Candles 2 Vases White Roses Fried Chicken (warm) 12 Small Bottles water (room temperature) 3 Whole lemons and honey Sugarless gum
The Demands: 25 pound dumbbells 24-Diet Coke 16oz plastic bottles 12 Diet Coke 12oz cans 6 Verner ginger ale soda (or Schweppes) 48 Daisani, Poland Spring 12oz bottles “NO Evian” 1 Loaf white bread 1 Loaf wheat bread 6 Lunchables snacks (3 turkeys & 3 ham with cheese) 6 Cans Red Bull 16 Cans Sugar-Free Red Bull Large fresh jumbo shrimps with cocktail sauce and plenty of lemons 1 Jar of banana pepper rings
9/20 Grace Jones
The Demands: 6 Bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Champagne 3 Bottles of French Vintage red wine (e.g. St Emilion, Medoc, Bordeaux) 3 Bottles of French Vintage white wine (e.g. Sancerre, Pouilly Fuisse) 2 Dozen Findeclare or Colchester Oysters on ice (unopened)—(Grace does her own shucking.) 2 Sashimi and Sushi platters for 8 people 6 Fresh lemons 1 Bottle of Tabasco sauce 1 Fresh fruit platter for 8 people 6 Bottles of Coca Cola 12 Bottles of still and sparkling water 12 Bottles of fresh fruit juices Wine glasses, champagne flutes, tumblers (all glass, no plastic) Cutlery and sharp knife 1 Oyster knife 1 Make up mirror (no neon strip lighting, only opaque white bulbs) Fresh towels, clothes hangers, clothes rail 3-4 Bunches of flowers—prefer lilys and orchids Sofa and arm chairs
The Demands: Four dozen natural-scented incense sticks Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap Pork-free food E-Z Wider rolling papers and a pack of Dutch Master President cigars Pinot Grigio Heineken Bottles of Jack Daniel’s Patron Silver tequila Nivea chapstick A bottle of Hennesey or Courvoisier Grey Goose Andis T-Outliner trimmers Extra sets of speakers
11/20 Jack White
The Demands: 1 dozen chicken wings (buffalo, teryaki, suprise us) 1 bowl of FRESH HOME-MADE GUACAMOLE 8 champagne flutes (real glass) 8 wine glasses (real glass) 8 highball glasses (real glass) 1 hummus & pita chips iPod player with sufficient volume control NO fluorescent lighting PLEASE NOTE: This is a NO BANANA TOUR. (Seriously)
The Demands: 200-person entourage 2o international phone lines Her backstage room must look exactly like her own home (that means she ships around her furniture) Special flower-scented fabric Actual flowers Personal chef who prepares only vegan foods Her own dry-cleaning service
13/20 Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys performs at the UEFA Champions League Final
14/20 Jay Z
The Demands: 7 sets of metal silverware 1 Lighter 3 Glade Candles (French Vanilla, Rain shower, Wild Berry, Tangerine Ginger) 3 Cans of Chunk White Tuna 10 Nutri-Grain Bars (Blueberry, Cherry, Apple, Strawberry) 6 Individual Packets of Quaker Oats Instant Oatmeal (Brown Sugar and Apple Cinnamon) 1 Assorted Fruit Platter with strawberries, seedless red grapes, bananas, mango, blueberries, cantaloupe and raspberries 2 Cases of beer (one imported and one domestic; brands preferred: Amstel Light, Corona, Bud, Bud Light or local beer) 3 menus for local seafood and Italian restaurants to order meals for Alicia
15/20 Mary J. Blige
The Demands: 2 Humidifiers 10 medium prewashed bath sized towels NO DAIRY OR PORK OF ANY KIND!! 10 1.5 liter bottles of FIJI water (absolutely, positively must be FIJI) 6 cans of Diet Dr. Pepper 6 cans of Schweeps Ginger Ale 2 packs of Mentos — cinnamon fresh only 6 cans of Red Bull energy drink 6 bottles of Black Cherry Propells in sports bottle 8 sets of silverware 24 napkins 1 tub of clean ice
16/20 Lady Gaga
The Demands: 2 Bottles of white wine with wine opener — Kendall Jackson or Robert Mondavi preferred 1 Pack of Straws 1 Cushioned office style chair TV with cable and a DVD player 1 Rolling clothing rack 4 Unscented candles Cool-mist humidifier 3 fans Tea kettle, organic ginger and lemongrass tea and honey are very important. 1 4 pack of Red Bull Light (on ice) 2 Bottles of Green Tea 1 Container of Guacamole Hot dogs (Yves veggie dogs eaten with toothpicks) A smoothie station (with frozen berries, fuze and whey protein or non-fat Greek yogurt) Blender needed 1 Plate of cheese (non-smelly, non-sweaty on ice) with whole wheat/healthy crackers A mix of assorted fresh fruit (cut and must have edible skin OR edible seeds OR citrus)
The Demands: 1 Wig Room 1 Room for Dr. Stacey 1 bottle of fine red wine (No Kendall Jackson) 1 bottle of fine white wine (No Kendall Jackson) 4 Cokes 4 Diet Cokes 1 coffee table 1 end table for the phone to be placed on TV with VCR with a cable Hook up. Please make sure we can get the following channels: Turner Classic Movies or AMC
18/20 Taylor Swift
The Demands: If arriving before 11 a.m., the following from Starbucks: 1 Grande ICED Caramel Latte w/ 2 sweet-n-lows 1 Grande ICED Americano w/ 2 sweet-n-lows with soy milk 1 slice pumpkin loaf 1 Stick Butter 3 Boxes Kraft Macaroni/Cheese 2 Four Packs of Red Bull 1 12 Pack Corona Beer 1 12 Pack New Castle Beer 1 Bottle Welch's Grape Juice 1 Avocado 1 Bag of Twizzlers red licorice 1 Case of Smart Water 1 Pint Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream 1 Pint Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Brownie Frozen Yogurt
19/20 Iggy Pop
The Demands: A copy of USA Today that's got a story about morbidly obese people in it 6 bottles of Grolsch or decent local beer F——— loads of good red wines 6 large bottles of good quality sparkling water 3 cases x 12 oz bottles of still mineral water 6 bottles of alcohol free beer 1 case of big bottles of good, premium beer A bottle of vodka Cauliflower/broccoli, cut into individual florets and thrown immediately into the garbage. I f——— hate that
20/20 Van Halen
The Demands: Nuts Pretzels M&MS (WARNING: ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES) 1 large tube of KY jelly 3 packs of Marlboro cigarettes (box) Herring in sour cream 2 gallons non-carbonated, bottled spring water 3 fifths Jack Daniels Black Label bourbon 2 fifths Stolichnaya vodka 1 pint Southern Comfort 2 bottles Blue Nun white wine
It’s quite surreal to see the acts we’ve seen at all these venues – such as when Prince played the Electric Ballroom during his Hit and Run Tour in 2014 – and then to be stood up there playing air guitar the following week.
Which songs get the best reaction?
The real ‘big 4’ have to be Journey’s 'Don’t Stop Believin', Bonnie Tyler’s 'Total Eclipse of the Heart', Always by Bon Jovi and the daddy of them all – the full 12 minute long version of Meat Loaf’s 'I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)'. It’s the musical equivalent of the Sistine Chapel in our minds.
Is there a reason why you stand on the stage and face the crowd?
It happened naturally at first – we were just enjoying the songs so much we’d be singing along and dancing as we DJ’d, but then we realised that actually it had quite a useful effect, in that people who turned up for the first time and were worried about letting go and singing along – for fear of looking stupid or being laughed at – could look up at the stage and see us idiots up there, looking stupid and not being laughed at (well, not too much) and think ‘well, if they’re doing it, then I can too’.
It’s about encouraging people to just forget about looking cool and to just embrace the music and the fun as much as possible. It’s a bit like Bez – we’re the representation of the crowd up on the stage. Plus, we know most of the words.
Do you have any plans to extend it further?
We’re now in six different cities (London, Manchester, Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff, Glasgow) which, again, would have been beyond our wildest dreams when we were first starting up.
We’ve done pretty much every major UK festival – but there are always new places to go, and the power ballad is universal. It’s not constrained by place or time. When the first settlement on Mars needs some DJs for their Friday night party, we’ll be up there on the next rocket.
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