All the Roadrunning tour, 2006
It was a very late night last night, arriving in San Francisco after the show in Santa Barbara. Had a drink with Danny and Stuart in the hotel bar then ambled up to Guy's room where we spent a couple of hours looking at some of the footage shot of the L.A. show as well as listening to a few things from the Minneapolis show. There is some wonderful stuff in there and I left feeling pretty good about our work. It was however nearly 3 when I got to bed and so a late beginning to this day. When I finally surfaced I went straight for the gym. The San Francisco Four Seasons gym takes up the entire fourth floor of this very large hotel and I remember writing about it last year. An amazing facility which seems like a city block square with so much equipment, treadmills, spinning rooms, machines, free weights etc. I must admit to being lax with my gym routine for periods on this tour, so for penance on this last day I dragged myself in for the usual hour and a half.
I remember writing about the final day of last year's tour and how strange and blue that day was. Today was no different. When we got to the gig nobody really said much about it, but it was on everyone's mind. We had a final meet and greet with The Kamanawanalei'a Boys never sounding better, a last swing at catering and finally the show. The Greek Theatre in Berkeley is beautiful, sounds great and it was a capacity audience of 8,500 who couldn't have been better. MK, EH and band were in fine form and it was a wonderful way to wrap the tour. Of course there were hugs all around backstage after the show. Our own star road manager Pete Macay arranged for 5 massive platters of supremely delicious sushi to be waiting in the dressing room when we came offstage and we all gathered round, chop sticks striking and holding red Solo plastic picnic cups full of black soy sauce and green wasabi. Back at the hotel we gathered for one last bit of luxuriation in Guy's Lounge Luxuriatti. A few laughs, one last round of gin and tonics, the final song...Ben Webster's Danny Boy and a heartfelt farewell. Tomorrow is a 6 a.m. wake up for an early flight back home to Nashville for the Septics. As for the Brits, tomorrow will be a very long day indeed.
I got thinking about some of the high and low points of the past month and have assembled a few winners and looser:
Best Gym: The Four Seasons-San Francisco
Worst Gym: Le Faubourg Sofitel-Paris (a treadmill in a closet)
Best Hotel: The Peninsula-Chicago
Worst Hotel: Le Faubourg Sofitel-Paris (a bed in a closet)
2nd Worst Hotel: Baglioni-Verona (I'm sorry, is impossible!)
Best Restaurant: Ristorante Greppia in Verona, Italy
Worst Food: Most of the catering in the States
Best Gig: Cannot pick one, they were all good for different reasons.....except,
Worst Gig: Chicago. Nothing to do with Chicago, simply everything that could go wrong did.
Best U.S. City Revisited: Chicago, a fabulous city
Best City Never Visited Before: Verona, Italy
Best Day Off: Chicago, Comiskey Park White Sox vs. Astros baseball game
Most Breathtaking Venue: Arena di Verona
Least Breathtaking Venue: Le Zenith-Paris (100+ degrees on stage and not enough air to take a breath)
Best Box Set: Deep Ska-Proper Records, U.K.
Best Word Of The Tour: Luxuriation
The Best Drink In The Whole World: Bombay Sapphire Gin and Schweppe's Tonic over loads of ice and freshly squeezed lime.
I won't list everybody who has been part of this tour as I did last time, but I want to thank every single guy on this exquisite crew for making the show happen every night. You've worked tirelessly and always have a good word and a smile and there is no show without you boys. Thanks to every single person who made up the wonderful audiences that gave so much to us. I don't know who enjoyed themselves more, you or the band! To our tour and road managers, Tim Hook and Peter Macay, you have made our lives so easy this past month and can seemingly achieve the impossible. Would either of you care to come run my life for me when I get home? To Mark's manager, Paul Crockford, thanks for a wonderful tour, we missed you greatly on the U.S. leg. All the best wishes and hope that you're back in the pink very soon.
This has been a very special tour for having Emmylou with us. I've had the good fortune to play on a number of her records and produced four of her albums, but we never had played in a live situation prior to this tour. My hat is off, Emmy's a fearless artist, a stunning singer, brilliant musician, a seeker of honesty and has made us all better for her presence on this tour. She also makes gifts of the best books and can scour up some serious baseball tickets on a day off. The addition of Stuart Duncan for this tour has been a joy. I've known and worked with Stuart for many years in the Nashville record mills, but spending this month discovering his deeper talent, great sense of humour and high capacity for luxuriation, has now made him a dear friend. Thanks Stuart for turning us on to Jimmy Rivers, Vance Terry, Joseph Spence and others. To the usual cast of idiots; Guy, Danny, Matt and Glenn, I've NEVER enjoyed playing music with anyone more than you boys. This may seem short and glib, but I honestly can't put into words how much I think of you guys and how honoured I am to share a stage and studio floor with you all. To Mark, I can only echo the above. I've become a far better musician for knowing you. Thanks for another fun filled, memorable tour and here's to 100 more with much love to you always. You name the time and place; I'll be there.
As for myself, I plan to settle back home for a couple of weeks then it is off to the Gulf of Mexico and a family holiday. When I return I'll get back to some session playing as well as taking my own new instrumental album a little more seriously and completing it.
So there you have it, another tour come and gone. The wind is out of the sails, the tents have been folded away not to be unfurled again until 2008 or beyond. In a few days these All The Roadrunning 'notes' will be gathered together as a link at the top of the webpage and I will go back to updating that page as things of interest happen. For those who have followed these 'notes' I thank you for your time and hope you got a little something from the reading. I certainly did from the writing. Until the next time............
Santa Barbara, California
We decamped Los Angeles for a VERY short flight up the coast to Santa Barbara. About 125 miles north of L.A., Santa Barbara is a seriously well heeled and beautiful coastal town with wonderful restaurants, resorts, balmy breezes, Spanish architecture and old California charm.
I last played the Santa Barbara Bowl way back in 1981 with my friend Rodney Crowell when we opened a show for Christopher Cross who, at the time, had a big hit record going. Standing out on the stage tonight it was much as I remembered it, a very friendly outdoor amphitheatre that seats about 4,000 tucked into the hills surrounded by the eucalyptus and pine trees.
Tonight's show certainly appeared to be sold out as I didn't see an empty seat in the house and was our penultimate show. Without a trace of ego, I have to say we are getting really good at playing this show with Emmy and wish it could go on well into the summer. It's been a wonderful tour of camaraderie, music, travel, food, great shows, fabulous audiences and loads of laughs, but tomorrow is the end and we fold up the tents. Having accumulated about a dozen stage shirts in the wardrobe trunk, I took all but a couple out to pack and bring home, a sure sign that we're just about done.
A runner for our last flight on the Gulfstream up to San Francisco where we'll spend the night and play the finale tomorrow at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley.
Los Angeles, California.
The Universal Amphitheatre, much like Comiskey Park, no longer retains it's original identity and has become Gibson Amphitheatre. For enough money I suppose I'd be willing to change my name as well. Any bidders. I'd attended shows here over the years I lived in Los Angeles our house was less than a mile away. Before the theatre was enclosed it truly was an open air amphitheatre and in the summer evenings the music came floating across the hill into our Lake Hollywood home. I recall Emmylou's voice wafting in on more than one occasion. It was, however, the first time I have played in this venue, a wonderful sounding theatre from our vantage point and after talking with friends, the audience's as well. Tonight's show was filmed for possible release as a DVD (POSSIBLE being the operative word, don't e-mail me) including our Hawaiian meet, greet and beat group, The Kamanawanalei'a Boys. Our dear pal and collaborative keyboard player Jim Cox came by for a visit and sat in with the K. Boys on uke making for a snappy little Hawaiian set. I'm glad it's finally been documented.
The show was polished, fun and relaxed for a capacity 5,520 crowd of vocal Los Angelenos. Many old friends dropping by both before and after the show including our pal and brilliant guitarist, Albert Lee.
Tomorrow we play in Santa Barbara followed by our final show in Berkeley. It's hard to believe we're nearly wrapped. Stay tuned.
My children had an early flight back home so it was up at 6, had something to eat and they were on their way to catch the train to Midway Airport at 7. I thought I might get back to sleep when they left but instead went to the gym for a serious pummelling. Back to the room and scavenged whatever was left on the breakfast tray then went out for one last walk through downtown Chicago before packing up and decamping for tonight's show in Minneapolis. One correction in yesterday's Chicago notes. It of course is Comisky Park where the Sox play and not Kaminsky. As mentioned, it's no longer either but U.S. Cellular Field. Bring back Comisky Park.
Tonight's venue was the beautiful Orpheum Theatre in beautiful downtown Minneapolis. A wonderful old theatre from, well I'm not certain, but surely not newer than the 1920's. It has been restored to its original splendour and is as intimate as it is elegant. A capacity 2,600 Minnesotans made us feel welcome from the first song to the last. It was a sure footed and fun show, the sound was great and everything worked! A far cry from last night's gremlin plagued show. One of many highlights was If This Is Goodbye, the best it's ever been played.
A runner to the G-4 and a long flight to Los Angeles. I was good for exactly one g&t before the length of the day broad-sided me and I slept most of the way to the city of angels. We have a day off here tomorrow and will base from LA for the next few days. It's down to the final 3 shows of this very special tour, hard to believe it's gone so quickly and in less than a week it will all be a memory but one not soon forgotten.
A perfect day off yesterday. Chicago was wonderfully clear, dry, sunny and warm. Several of us spent the afternoon at Kaminski Park home of the White Sox who squared off with the Houston Astros, the Sox taking it 6-5 in the 10th inning. Sadly, it's no longer called Kaminski Park but U.S. Cellular Field, a most awkward name to the highest bidder. I suspect it will always be Kaminski to most people, including me, even though it's not the original Kaminski that I went to as a child growing up here, but a new park all together. There was plenty of well played baseball on both sides and the usual ball park menu of hot dogs with grilled onions, beer, peanuts, etc. Emmylou, who is a severe baseball addict, was able to swing some fantastic seats a few rows up along the first base line. There couldn't have been a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon. The only thing nobody thought about was sun block and we all came away looking as if we'd witnessed a nuclear detonation. After the game I took a late afternoon walk along Lake Michigan with my daughter and I can't say enough about what a great city Chicago is, especially in June.
As this tour is not playing Nashville, many of our Nashville friends and family, including my children have made the journey north to join us here for the gig. Mark hosted an intimate buffet last night, good friends, good food and the vibe very relaxed. About 10 o'clock we excused ourselves and took to the street again primarily to find a Walgreen's for aloe gel to soothe our ballpark sunburn. Along the way we stopped at Ghirardelli's for ice creme then continued walking, still not ready to give up this perfect day.
Today....up for breakfast at 8 with my youngest son and daughter while middle son wisely slept. They went on to the aquarium and I back to the room then out for a walk. We all hooked back up around noon and made straight for Downtown Dog for the best hot dog ever. Vienna beef franks done any way you want 'em. They offer a thing called a char dog which is cooked to a blackened outer crust while the inside is hot and juicy, slathered with yellow mustard, sweet and mild chopped onions and brightest green pickle relish I've ever seen. Definitely some food colour in action there. It was a miracle on a bun. Michigan Avenue, Downtown Dog, go there.
Tonight's gig was out doors at the Charter One Pavilion, just off Lake Michigan. It seemed as though everything conspired against us tonight, the cold, the sound, the lighting generator, equipment failures, in ear monitor failures, and human failures. Every once in a while you have one of these gigs where nothing goes right, all you can do is roll with it, laugh and hope tomorrow night is back on track.
Gym, breakfast and decamp NYC.
Heavy storms all up and down the east coast and our flight was diverted to Bedford, Mass. with a 40 minute drive to Boston. It was storming down rain when we arrived at the Bank of America Pavilion, an out door venue with a sail looking contraption covering the place. The rain was coming down so heavily that the sound of it hitting the covering was as loud if not louder than the in ear monitors. It was a muggy soundcheck but about a half hour before the gig, the skies opened up, the rain eased and the dusk came peeking through. It still made for a hot sticky gig, but the fabulous Boston audience saved it all from becoming a drag. In fact it was one of the best audiences we've had and the gig turned out great for it. A real inspired evening for MK, EH and Co.
A runner to the G-4 for some seriously mediocre Thai food and after a couple of hours we were deposited in Chicago. A grand hotel and a day off tomorrow.
Absolutely nothing today, never got out of the room until it was time to leave for the gig. Still feeling a little jet lagged, at least that's the excuse. Spent a good part of the day with a great book that Emmylou gave me while we were in rehearsals for this tour, Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx. I noticed that Guy was reading Lincoln by Gore Vidal, another gift from Emmy who is keeping us on our literary toes. I'd read the Vidal book several years ago. It is one of the best books written about the Civil War and of course Lincoln's struggle, as well as his life.
Radio City Music Hall, the legendary theatre, was our venue tonight. Jimmy Bufffet came backstage after soundcheck to visit and we were told that Bob Seger had flown in especially for the show. It's a tricky stage for sound with a lot of the house sound spilling back onto the stage making it difficult to hear each other. In those cases we just trust in our experience, knowing what we're doing and the surety that what's leaving the stage and getting to the audience is good. Judging from the reception, it was. In no way did it dampen our enthusiasm or fun.
There was a big after show reception in the RCMH bar. Among others who I was glad to see were our old neighbours from Nashville who currently live in New York, The Blaser family. Another old friend, Howard Emerson and his family. I'd met Howard years ago in Los Angeles while he was working with Eric Anderson and he's a great guitar player. Of course Rudy Pensa, his wife Fran and daughter Stephanie were there and I was introduced to legendary arch-top guitar builder Joe Monteleone. Terry Kilburn who, among other things, looks after Mark's website. Too many to mention them all.
Arrived back at the hotel just past midnight and in time for a night cap with Danny, Guy and Pete Mackay and a listen to Ken Nordine's "Word Jazz" LP from the late 1950's. Nordine was and still is a radio announcer with the greatest voice and did a few albums of brilliantly convoluted, somewhat stream of consciousness stories backed by sparse music for effect. I think it's still in print on CD and is a classic.
Tomorrow we decamp and fly to Boston for a show, then on to Chicago for the night.
I stand corrected on something I'd mentioned in my Toronto notes of the 19th. The cup of french fries doused with gravy is of course Poutine and originated in Quebec. Where moulline came from I don't know, dodgy memory. Regarding another cup, the Stanley Cup, it was suggested that the final game 7, Edmonton vs. Carolina might have played a role in the attendance being a little soft at Molson Amphitheatre. It's been 13 years since Canada claimed the Cup and many folks and TV's were tuned in there.
The ACE GYM AWARD of the tour so far goes to the fitness centre and spa at our hotel here in New York. Two floors of blood, sweat and tears, pools, sun deck, hot and cold running saunas, massage therapy, aroma therapy, alfalfa grass and haiku therapy. I got in this morning and worked hard atoning for sins dating back to 1955. Emmy was also on hand pushing the weights around and MK was bounding in as I was dragging out. We're such a virtuous band in the early part of the day. I didn't recall taking the aroma therapy but definitely came away with one. Back in the room I devoured everything that was left from the breakfast tray before winging to Washington on the wonderful G-4.
Constitution Hall was tonight's venue. We played here on the 2001 Sailing To Philadelphia tour and I remember it being a tricky stage for sound, and so it was again. Still we overcame and turned in a good show I think. Washington, D.C. is always a homecoming for Emmylou who spent her formative musical years here, playing the folk clubs and absorbing so much of the music that she's distilled and made her own and she recalled seeing Joan Baez play here at Constitution Hall during those early years. Emmy's own songs are always a highlight, Red Dirt Girl, Michelangelo and Boulder To Birmingham are never less than brilliant. As mentioned, the U.S. catering is living up to it's past standard, only a bit better than high school cafeteria food. Just as well, we'll all be able to tighten our belts a notch by the end of the run.
A runner back to the G-4, sushi making up for the lack of dinner, g&t's making up for the rest. Back to N.Y.C. for another night and tomorrow's show at Radio City Music Hall. Still having some jet lag so it's a relatively early night for me....2 a.m.
N.Y.C., New York
A day off in Manhattan.
I hadn't intended on posting anything today but thought it might be a good opportunity to address many requests I've received about the gear I'm using on this tour. If you are not a gear head you can certainly pass this entry over. There will be no mention of food, fun, booze, music, tourism or other perversions of the road.
The fact of the matter is, the longer I play and the older I get, the less of a gear head I've become, my eyes tend to glaze over when the subject comes up now. The only reason I mention it is that I cannot tell you what speakers are in which amps or what tubes power them. I don't know and don't care. As alluded to several times over the course of these 'notes' I am technologically inept and this is no joke, it's a minor miracle that I peck out these journal entries at all. I am now far more concerned with the playing of an instrument than what it is. And so, if the following seems a little lacking in detail then please forgive but there you have it.
- Fender Telecaster 1954
- Fender Stratocaster MK signature
- Fender Stratocaster '54 Custom Shop re-issue
- Rickenbacher Electro Hawaiian Steel Guitar 1938
- Gibson Les Paul '58 Custom Shop re-issue
- Martin OM-28 2000
- Flatiron Bouzouki 1995
- National Hawaiian Steel Guitar Style 1 1930
- Vox AC-30 mid 90's for everything except the Hawaiian guitar on Red Staggerwing which is played through a Crate 30. I know nothing about the Crate except it belongs to Glenn Saggers, MK's guitar guru. The Rick Electro didn't sound very good through the AC-30 which is too big of an amp for that, so Glenn pulled this out and it immediately fit the bill. A few knob twiddles and it was that easy. The amp I used on the record was little more than a cereal box.
- Vox AC-30 mid-90's, a spare in case the first one should go down. I never use both of them at the same time.
EFFECTS: (This is where it gets tricky as I don't know the models or names of these things, but I'll give it a go.)
- Boss digital delay
- Boss digital delay (spare)
- Dunlop tremolo pedal (it's purple with 3 knobs and 2 switches)
- Hot Cake overdrive pedal (these are from New Zealand and sound fantastic, they don't compress in on themselves)
- Ernie Ball volume pedal
- Boss digital tuner in case something goes terribly wrong
- A-B box between the two Vox amps in case something goes terribly wrong
- ON/OFF switch box for the acoustic instruments.
Re: the effects, please don't ask, I have no idea what series this stuff is hooked up in. I scarcely use them, mainly the overdrive on the end of Speedway and I Dug Up A Diamond where it needs a little more stick, and a little delay and overdrive on Emmy's tunes, but those actually sound clean as I'm playing so quietly. Speaking of playing quietly, I do. Most of the time what is coming out of my amp on stage is what I would call living room volume or just above, though Guy F. who is on the riser above me might have a different opinion about that. It's the level at which I play in the studio as well and is a large part of the toneful nature of my playing. What can I tell you? I like guitars that sound like guitars and not electric razors.
This is SO enough, my eyes are glazed over.
It's been an absolute whirlwind since the Barcelona posting less than a week ago. I spent a few days in Redditch, a little south-west of Birmingham, England with my wife and her family, day tripping to Stow-on-the-Wold, Warwick and Solihull. We had a grand visit and fab meals ending Friday evening with a barbecue in the back yard before journeying southward to spend the night in London and catch the early Saturday flight back to the States. If it is possible to have one, the highlight of our airport experience was a huge red banner screaming "does my bum look small in this?" strung across the entire length of Virgin Airlines' check-in counters. I'd like to think it has something to do with their larger, redesigned seats. As we were flying the competition whose seats were neither, my bum looked and felt pretty much the same as it always does. We arrived home Saturday night to the never ending delight of our dog, then having a sweep of second wind (energy, not intestinal) my son and I went out for a Vietnamese dinner at our fave restaurant, Miss Saigon. Sunday afternoon found me back at the Nashville airport and on my way to Toronto with a serious case of global whiplash. No sooner than I flipped the light switch on in my Toronto hotel room, the phone rang with a chirpy Guy Fletcher on the line saying that the world's largest and coldest gin and tonic with loads of fresh squeezed lime was in my future. And so to Guy's room for the antidote to global whiplash.
Up early this morning and hereby declare the antidote an unqualified success. A little coffee then it was off to the gym which I've ignored for almost two weeks. Great hotel, mediocre gym which is often the case. Still, in the competition between Richard vs. weights, the weights won, often the case as well.
There is only one civilised thing to do after a tough work out in Canada; find the nearest Harvey's Burger and get yourself in it. Exactly what I did for a #1 cheeseburger combo, reversing any benefit gained throwing the weights around. I think Harvey's is the best chain burger in the biz, fresh, hot burgers on good rolls with an assortment of just the right things to top it. They know what to do with french fries as well. Another item on the menu is a very Canadian thing called Moulline (sp?) which is a cup of fries doused with brown gravy. Can't vouch for it, maybe next time. Anyway, the Harvey's experience was all I'd remembered and it's the best 6 Canadian bucks you'll ever spend. Feeling like I hadn't completely undone myself, I went next door to Tim Horton's for a doughnut and cup of coffee. In this day of triple decaf latte's, extra shots, half-caf whatnots and other caffeine double talk, Tim Horton's offers a great, plain ol' cuppa joe. These two chains are must stops for me though seldom in rapid sequence as this afternoon. The English have a phrase, to "faff about", means to fool around or dilly-dally to put it politely. No faffin' about, have a Harvey's and a Horton's.
Shower, check out of the hotel and it's down to The Molson Amphitheatre, an outdoor venue near the water that we played last year. Tonight's meet and greet was attended by my dear friends Bill and Heather Howitt of Windsor, Ontario. We met nearly 30 years ago here in Toronto and have shared so many good times together. Tonight they were witness to the aloha spirit that we forcibly inflict on m&g guests, a side of me that Heather and Bill have previously escaped. It was wonderful seeing them if only for a few minutes. The show was not a sell out by a long shot, but those in attendance made up for those absent, a very relaxed and swinging show partially due to our combined jet lag as well as having had several days off. Profoundly confident but not pushy is the best way to describe tonight's performance. Profoundly confident but not pushy sounds like a crap description for wine but we all had a helluva good time up there on stage and the Toronto audience couldn't have been better.
A runner from the stage to meet our purring Gulfstream 4.....the king of private jets is back! She's a builder and a destroyer...a builder of respect for air travel, design and aeronautics and a destroyer of tolerance for anything less, simply by sitting in one of her luxurious seats. Does my bum look small in this? A jet that is going nowhere except to your desired location. Our air hostess, Christie is fab, funny, on the ball and knows what to do with a food expense account. Tonight the seven seas and the great harbours and bays of the world were poorer for the massive platters of sushi that were served. The distillers of gin, the brewers of beer and the makers of wine all rubbed their hands with pleasure for the Gulfstream's bar was stocked to overflowing. Fruit platters second to none, papaya, mango, strawberries the size of plums, lychee nuts the size of lychee nuts, fresh blueberries and more. This is going to be a stunningly good bit of roadrunning.
Q. What could possibly follow today?
A. A day off in Manhattan tomorrow!
Now, let me get this straight one last time. I'm getting paid to do this?
Today is the last of the European shows on this tour and probably the longest and busiest day I've had. Late morning, we checked out of the hotel in Paris and flew to Barcelona arriving mid-afternoon. Checked into the Hotel des Arts with Danny, Guy and I sharing one 'day room' as we will not be spending the night here, since we'll be back to London after the show. With only one bed, the three of us camped out on any flat surface to lay down and for a while I practised my guitar in the bathroom. As tonight's show is not until 10 tonight, we gathered in the hotel restaurant for an early dinner after which we went to the venue for sound check and a meet and greet. Hadn't had an m&g for a while and it was good to fire up the old Rickenbacher Electro again.
The audiences of Spain are always memorable to put it mildly, completely mad would be more to the point and tonight's was no exception. Explosive. Emmy, Mark and Company in top form. We've begun playing All That Matters again after several night's absence and it's good to have it back, Emmylou and Stuart add much to that song, as they do to them all.
Several farewells tonight, one being Darin Wey our head caterer. It's true that an army travels on it's stomach and Darin's 5 star cuisine has fuelled us all over the last few weeks. American catering and general quality of meat, produce, dairy is several rungs down the ladder and Darin will be sorely missed. It was good-bye to Paul "Cod" Tallowin, our merchandise man. If you've come to one of the shows and seen or purchased a program, t-shirt, etc. it is Cod who gets it there. Hope to see you again soon pal, you're "good as gold mate, good as gold". And our lighting director Simon Tutchener who leaves us after tonight's show to tend to previous commitments and delivers us into the hands of his able assistant for the U.S. dates.
After the show it was a split runner, the Yanks back to the hotel in Barcelona and the Brits to the Legacy for a 2 hour flight to London. As I'm spending a couple of days with my wife and her family in Redditch near Birmingham, I flew back to London with the others. Some sushi, gin and tonics and laughs and before you knew it we'd arrived. A car was waiting on the tarmac to take me up north to Redditch, a two hour journey arriving at 4 in the morning. Paris-Barcelona-London-Redditch, four cities, two plane trips, one show plus a two hour car journey packed into less than one day!
I'll have a few days off here with my wife, her brother and sister in law, Stephen and Margaret Ward to catch my breath before flying back to Nashville then turning round and heading north to Toronto and the beginning of the U.S. tour. Stay tuned.
Yesterday was a day off under Paris skies. I got up late, fell into a sidewalk café for an omelette fromage and cappuccino then walked for a couple of hours. It is a city that's quintessentially what you want it to be, beautiful, continental, sophisticated, vaguely arrogant, warm and breezy. It's the Paris you saw in the movies, the Paris of Life Magazine, the Paris of your imagination. I began a new book that I cannot put down, Accordion Crimes by Annie Proulx, a gift from Emmy....fantastic story and brilliant writing. To dinner with Guy, Stuart and Danny at the fab La Coupole, then back to the hotel for a night cap. A grand and restful day off.
This morning found me again at an outdoor table having breakfast and caffe, more walking and then off to our show at Le Zenith. We played this venue in '96 and '01, both times a steaming hell hole of a place, but tonight took the biscuit. As Parisian temperatures soared into the 90's, Le Zenith, an inflated derrigible of a building with no visible air conditioning or ventilation system, cooked above the 100 degree mark. The venue's idea of air movement is to open the doors and loading docks in hopes of letting some air in. The fucking place should be shut down. At some point one of our crew took a reading on stage of 115 degrees. After sound-check a half dozen electric fans arrived, were assembled and placed strategically around the stage for the show. What it must have been like in the audience I can only imagine especially for those seated in the upper tiers. Still, the blistering temps failed to dampen the spirit, it was a terrific audience as the French always are and together we sweated out a great gig. We were completely saturated by the end of the show and I must rate this as one of the two hottest show, the other being an old German U-boat factory in Hanover on the 1996 Golden Heart tour, another place with zero ventilation. Also a problem tonight with over active security during the encore when fans are allowed to come to the front of the stage. Our own Peter Mackay came to the rescue calling them down, prompting Mark to comment on mic about "the stupid security".
Back at the hotel our friend Philippe Cohen-Solal was waiting. You might recall from last year's notes that Philippe is a great club DJ and record producer based in Paris who is having much success with the Gotan Project, traditional tango music with a twist. His newest album "Lunatico" has just been released and is a hit and he's beginning a tour of this project, a big band complete with string section and loads of visuals. If the Gotan Project is playing in a city near you I highly recommend it. Always great to see Philippe and catch up with him.
Tomorrow we are off to Barcelona for the last show of this all too short European tour.
An early bag call and check out in Manchester. A mission while there was to try to find a University of Manchester t-shirt for my middle son who attended UM for a semester but failed to bring back a shirt and now regrets it. By 10 this morning I was packed and dressed with Manchester's sidewalks under my feet. I was told there might be a slim chance of finding a UM shirt at a shop about a 20 minute walk from the hotel, but no luck and there wasn't enough time to get to the collegiate shop on campus at the university. So, it will be an internet search.
The reason for such an early Manchester departure/Dublin arrival was the England vs. Paraguay World Cup match of great import to the vast majority on this tour and less so to the Septics. We arrived at 1:30 in the afternoon at the gig where a TV was set up in catering and the pitch of the room rose and fell with England's performance. As for me, I drifted in and out of the game, opting to take care of some computer stuff and quietly practice. By the end of the match there were many happy Brits.
Here's a quiz; remember the extra wrinkly shirts I mentioned that I'd purchased in Hamburg about 10 days ago? The ones that are supposed to be that way? When I walked in to wardrobe tonight to pick out what I was going to wear, our wardrobe mistress du jour was beaming with pride because she'd ironed them all so perfectly. Not a crease in the carload. I didn't have the heart to tell her she'd got it completely wrong. So, it was a less than casual look tonight on stage.
Tonight's gig at The Point was great. What an audience, so giving and appreciative. The band was in grand form and thrived off what we were getting from the crowd. So many high points including a stellar fiddle solo from Stuart in Red Staggerwing tonight. Faux pas of the night award goes to yours truly who, during This Is Us, decided to have a meander around while playing, accidentally mid-tune stood on the on/off switch to Emmy's guitar and cut it off. I wasn't sure if I'd done it or not and didn't want to stand on it again to correct an error that I wasn't certain of making in the first place. Complete balls up. Anyway, apologies were made during the first walk off and I will make certain that doesn't happen again. Apart from that it was a stellar gig.
A runner to the Legacy and it was off to Paris where we will spend the night and have a day off tomorrow. A sidewalk cafe is in my future.
Saw my wife off this morning at the Marylebone train station, conveniently located across the street from our hotel, where she caught the train north to visit her brother and his family and spend the week with them. I will join her there for a couple of days before beginning the American leg of this tour.
Mark, Emmy and band departed London from Northolt airfield, had a savoury lunch of shepherd's pie and landed in Manchester for tonight's gig. We went straight to the MEN Arena, sound checked and played our gig. No meet and greet for the last couple of nights. Our illustrious leader's manager, Paul, told me, "It's the English. They don't like Hawaiian music." Well, I'll hold out for tomorrow night, maybe the Irish do.
Great venue, I remember playing it last year. It's large and echoey, but in a good way and we had a very relaxed, fun gig tonight. A runner after the show to our hotel in Manchester where the band made a post performance appearance in Guy's room for sandwiches, g&t's, Johnny Hodges, Billie Holliday, Joseph Spence, Supergrass, Chet Baker, Hank Penny, Razorlight, and of course the Louvin's to name a few i-Tune faves.
It's an early getaway in the morning. Arriving in Dublin before 1:00 to watch the world cup match in the afternoon, do a gig in the evening then fly into Paris to spend the night and enjoy the following day off. Nothing like springtime in Paris and a day off to sit on some sidewalk cafe and watch the rest of the world drift by.
A day off yesterday in London with my wife who joined me here for a few days.
This morning it was in the gym then off for a walk round Regents Park before heading to Wembley Arena for our one and only London show. I'd always heard about this venue but never attended a gig or played here. A cavernous and echoey place, one of those venues that makes you glad to have 'in ear' monitors which delivers the band sound while blocking out much of the hall's echo. I think it was a great show judging from the audience reactions and that of so many people we spoke with afterward. At times it felt a little difficult on stage, perhaps due to the sound of the gig and/or a show following a day off and/or a hometown gig. Although I'm American, I still feel Britain is home.
There was a large reception after the show, a very noisy affair with hundreds of friends that came to say hello. The room it was held in, glass and concrete floor to ceiling and the volume of noise was absolute cacophony. Still, it was a great time and a fun gig in London.
Tomorrow we de-camp and make our way north to Manchester.
Yesterday was one of those three cities and a gig day (Verona, Rotterdam, Frankfurt), maybe that had something to do with being so completely knackered after the show. When we got to our hotel in Frankfurt last night I'd fully intended to pop over to Guy's room for a drink and some sounds with the boys, instead I packed it in by 12:30 and slept straight through until 9:30 this morning! I had some coffee sent to the room then walked about a mile to Switzerstrasse, a main shopping street to pick up a few things and back to the hotel for a workout in the gym, a lie in the sun, shower, pack, check out and off to Festhalle, our venue for tonight's show.
The miracle of electricity transformed tonight's meet and greet. After nearly a hundred m&g's with the acoustic National Hawaiian guitar, I plugged up the Rickenbacher electric steel and instantly updated our group a full decade into the 1930's and late 30's at that! It was a large group of folks and we had our own stage in the hospitality room tonight.
The Festhalle is a notorious cavern of a place where I think I heard a few notes still reverberating from our show there last year. Still, it was one of the best shows yet, a real rocker. One of many high point was Emmy's performance of Michaelangelo and Red Dirt Girl. It's all too much fun and the only drawback is the brevity of the tour.
A runner to London after the show where the Brits will sleep in their own beds and the Septics in a hotel. Septics, cockney rhyming slang for Americans; septic tank=Yank. A day off tomorrow and a show in London the following day.
We decamped after a great stay of several days in Verona, a city that we all loved. Flew to Rotterdam this afternoon for a gig at Ahoy. I played there in the early 70's and that is the gig to play. It was our first stand up gig of this tour and reminded me of some of last year's Shangri-La shows. Emmy sang brilliantly tonight and in fact it was a top drawer show.
A runner to the Legacy where a Thai feast was waiting along with beverages. It was a short 55 minutes to Frankfurt where we will spend the night and play in that city tomorrow.
Yesterday was a beautifully hot and sunny day off in Verona. Most of us joined our friends Marco and Valerio for a spectacular 3 hour lunch at Ristorante Greppia. A meal to savour and remember, the most delicious salami, smoked ham, prosciutto, fresh tomatoes with basil and mozzarella, gnocchi in cream sauce with raddichio, spaghetti drizzled with olive oil and finely chopped kalamata olives, spinach ravioli stuffed with ricotta in a creamy tomato sauce, grilled beef tenderloin, saut�ed mushrooms, fried potatoes and zucchini that I don't know how it was prepared, but was the best tasting thing I've eaten in a long time. Wonderful Italian wines accompanied the meal followed by fresh fruits, cheesecake, almond cookies and grappa. Ristorante Greppia is a must go if you are ever in Verona. Check their web-site, www.ristorantegreppia.com. A warm grazie to our hosts Marco, Francesca and Valerio for their kindness, always being able to find the finest cuisine, but most of all their friendship.
On the way back I stopped in at the Cathedral of Santa Anastasia, a Gothic church constructed between 1290 and 1481. Cool, dark, quiet. A fellow was playing the pipe organ not in a majestic way but soft and meditative music that sounded like it was written in the 1600's. The man, probably in his 60's, dressed in jeans and a denim shirt didn't look like what I thought he might judging from the music being played. Through all the impressive religious art, ceiling paintings, carved marble pillars, etc., the most striking thing for me was a singular holy water font being supported on the back of a hunchback. Carved in marble in the late 1400's, the hunchback played well to the superstitious and it was said that if you rubbed a hump of a hunchback it would bring you good luck. Indeed while I was looking at it, a lady kneeled down and touched the back of the carving.
Had a caffe and another wander around the city as the sun was going down, then back for a quiet and early evening in. Tomorrow we are off to Rotterdam.
The hotel we are staying in dates back to the 1500's, was the residence of a wealthy land baron and through the years has always been used for hosting people. It's very imposing, grand, ornate and at times uncomfortable, but the staff is good and they bring a lovely tray of caffe, yoghurts, blood orange juice and croissants to the room every morning. What the hotel doesn't have is a gym, so I met our road manager Tim Hook and Emmylou in the lobby at 10 and we all marched off to the Fitness First Centre, six or seven blocks away. A mega gym that seems to be owned by the Phillips Corporation, with anything you could possibly want and a loads of it. It's always tricky getting used to different facilities and equipment, it still takes me a minute to do the math conversion from pounds to kilos. Most hotels that don't have their own gym usually do a tie in with one nearby for guests to use gratis. Not the case here, so after 90 minutes I left the Fitness First Centre 16 Euros and a couple of pounds lighter. Walked back to the hotel and devoured everything left on my breakfast tray! Fully intended to get a shower and find a quiet cafe for some coffee and lunch. Laid down to read a few pages of the Alec Guinness bio, fell asleep until past 4! A quick shower then down the the Arena di Verona for soundcheck and gig.
And what a gig it was. The Arena di Verona, one of the earliest surviving Roman amphitheatres. As early as the 1600s, Verona had elected a commitee for the preservation of the Arena. Opera, rock groups and theatre are all part of the entertainment that is presented in the Arena. We played several ancient amphitheatres on the Sailing To Philadelphia tour in 2001, but none on the Shangri-La tour and it was great to perform in that atmosphere again. Everybody enjoying themselves to no end and the view from the stage is spectacular. A really great show tonight on many levels, Mark and Emmy, the vibe, the band's performance etc. all came together for a special night for all who were in the Arena, especially us.
Our good friends, Marco and Francesca Caviglia, Valerio and Letizia Barbantini and Rudy Pensa are here with us in Verona as well as Tim Meyer and Steve Rayment. Tim, who was my guitar tech and Steve the road manager of last year's Shangri-La tour, are in town with Roger Waters who plays the arena tomorrow night. Also a surprise visit from Susi Russell our never to be equalled flight attendant from last year's tour. Great seeing old friends, lots of hugs and laughs all round. Day off in Verona tomorrow.
Awake and out on the street by 11. Rather than take the shopping route again, I walked to and across the Adige River that runs through Verona. I fell in at a couple of cafes for their miraculous espresso. I don't pretend to speak Italian, but espresso means 'press' and has become synonymous with the style of coffee which is squisito....exquisite. There was a small park with a few benches in the sun where I stopped and sat for awhile looking across the river at the orange, creme and pink stucco apartments with their red tiled roofs. A beautifully blue and sunny day, one that makes you happy to be alive and exactly where you are at the moment. I kept thinking how impossibly lucky my life has been and continues to be; no accounting for it other than luck.
Here's something cool, in searching for the name of the above mentioned river, I stumbled onto www.virtourist.com. It has great guided tours and photos of cities of the world and, along with Guy Fletcher's tour diary (www.guyfletcher.co.uk) is a good companion to these 'notes' for getting a feel of the cities we are in. Very educational.
We flew out of Verona, where we've been basing for this leg, a short 45 minute flight to Zurich. Tonight's venue was the Hallenstradion where we have played before, It has been remodeled and I remember there being a wooden, banked indoor bicycle track running round the the interior. That is no longer the case and Guy says the roof has been raised. Very echoey, but once the audience was in and we began playing it sounded fantastic. I have to assume it was a sold out crowd as I couldn't see any empty seats looking out from the stage. If so, we played to 8,050 wonderful fans that began reserved and gradually became more enthusiastic as the show progressed. By the encores the entire place was on it's feet and roaring. The best description I can think of for these shows is loose and playful. We're all having a helluva good time.
From the stage into the Mercs, to the airport and boarding the Legacy for Verona. A couple of healing g&t's on the flight and back in the hotel by midnight. A night-cap with the boys then one last cup of tea with Danny and Guy. Splendid.
Amazingly, I was awake by 9 this morning feeling better than I had any right to, having just gone to sleep a few hours before. I read for a while, ordered up an espresso and croissant and got myself out into this beautiful city of Verona. We are staying in a hotel that's centrally located to the old cathedrals, hip shops, open air markets and a hundred little sidewalk cafes with umbrellas, caffe and very delicious food. I wandered around for a couple of hours taking in the sights and sounds, shoe shops, sausage and cheese markets, wine stores and even a cool dress shop with the unlikely name of Nashville. I stopped in The Cathedral of Verona for a while and simply enjoyed sitting in the silence and beautiful surroundings. The cathedral was begun in 362 A.D. and has gone through many re-constructions and additions, a major renovation taking place between the 15th and 16th centuries. I always enjoy entering these places of worship for their aesthetics, cool, dark and quiet.
The above paragraph represents the sane part of today. Everything that followed was complete madness. We flew into Naples late in the afternoon and were greeted by 6 Mercedes and a police escort to take us through a city that was gridlocked with traffic. Traffic is always congested and the drivers insane, coupled with the end of the day and the all the people going to the Festivalbar, which is the event we were playing. I don't think I can describe the half hour that followed. Polizi on motorbikes with sirens blaring, trying to clear a tiny path in the congestion for the fleet of Mercs to tear through, which they did at 80 mph or more, then slamming on their brakes at the last minute. They didn't keep any distance between vehicles for fear of some other car sneaking in. Matt described it best, saying it felt like he was in Grand Theft Auto. Harrowing. We were deposited at the large piazza in Naples where the event was taking place. A live outdoor music show with many bands, mostly Italian but a few national artists as well, and 150,000+ fans. The festival travels to different host cities in Italy through the summer, taped and shown on TV. We did a quick run through on stage for the cameras with Emmy and Mark singing live to the studio track and us up there miming what we'd played on the record. From there it was off to the Hotel Grand Parker's, which was anything but grand, for an hour and a half trying to luxuriate but failing. As it was Napoli we were all desperate for pizza and since we didn't have enough time to go out and eat, pizza was ordered in to the hotel, about 20 of them. The lot of us gathered in Paul Crockford's room, sitting on the bed, floor, standing around anywhere you could find a space and inhaled these delicious things. Very thin crust of beautiful tasting dough, fresh and tangy pomodoro sauce and lovely mozzarella. Some were topped with mushrooms, ham, anchovies etc. and others were simply plain. Everybody's diets went out the window and we couldn't stop shovelling this stuff in. Brilliant.
As we were about to burst from all this pizza, it was time to go back to Festivalbar. When we arrived we were ushered through what seemed to be a large government building on the plaza, room after room of make-up people, other bands wandering around, tables of food being catered for the event, cameramen, paparazzi and hangers on. The focus was young rock bands and though I only heard a few of them, they were very generic. Still, I wondered what in the world we were doing there and how the song This Is Us was ever going to fit. Well, it doesn't matter. We took the stage when it was our turn, mimed the song while Mark and Emmy sang it live, got off the stage and back into the Mercedes fleet for another insane ride to the airport. All the while I'm thinking that when I get on that plane I am going to have the world's largest and coldest gin and tonic with loads of fresh squeezed lime. The stewardesses had failed to get any ice for the plane! No mixed drinks and even the bottled and canned beverages were warm. I know I go on a bit about the luxury aspect of this tour and I don't want to convey the impression that we throw tantrums, but c'mon, ice is a basic.
We arrived back at our hotel in Verona a little past midnight. It was a very late night last night and a long day today. Very tempting to finally get that large g&t here at the bar, but opted to have a quiet and early night of it. We fly to Zurich tomorrow afternoon for a real show in the evening and I'm really looking forward to getting in front of our audience again.
It was one of those three city, globe hopping, Bondian days that began leisurely enough in Stockholm with some breakfast up in the room and a good 90 minutes down in the gym. Back to the room to pack for a luxuriously late check out and flight to Oslo on the Legacy. That's when things began accelerating.
On arrival we were met by our fleet of Mercedes and drivers and taken to the town centre, some forty minutes from the airstrip. Tonight's gig was at The Spektrum. As soon as we walked on stage for sound check I remembered this venue and may have written about it last year. An unusual facility, looking out from the stage it is very shallow and wide, a rectangle. I also recalled it being a good gig. We had a long sound check to iron out some of the monitoring wrinkles from last night, followed by a dash to catering where among the many entrees, salads and desserts were red snapper, a fresh linguini with light cream sauce and roasted red peppers, Asian chicken salad, perfectly ripe tomatoes thinly sliced with mozzarella and balsamic vinegar, etc., etc., and.......OH etc. Our day is always better because of Darin Wey, Neil Smith and Michael Hurley our hard working five star catering crew. Thanks guys.
A meet and greet right after dinner and the Hawaiian group is beginning to sound good again. Stuart has been playing second uke and violin and is a welcome addition, not to mention Mark K. who plays the hell out of sock rhythm on the arch top guitar and usually joins us for a last tune or two after all have been greeted. Of course with this tour Emmy is part of the welcoming staff and I think I heard her vocalizing along last night to the strains of some long forgotten number. Guy and I began learning the old Hawaiian chestnut Farewell My Tane (pronounced, Tah-nay) and might trot that out at the next m&g. That finished, we only had a few minutes left to get dressed before taking the stage. As you can see, once we arrive at the venue for sound check there is very little spare time and is the reason we don't invite our guests backstage, there's seldom time to visit with them.
We played to a sold out audience of 6,611 wonderful people. From the first down beat to the last notes ringing off, it was a relaxed, confident, mightily rocking and softly swinging show. The monitors were much better tonight and not cutting out and it seemed we could do no wrong, the band in top form, Mark and Emmy singing and playing brilliantly and exchanging some good banter between them. Too many high points to list. Thanks Oslo for a great gig.
From the stage we dashed into the waiting Mercedes fleet and drove the forty minutes back to the airport. It was bright 10 p.m. as we pulled out of the Spektrum that gave way to a beautiful dusk and sunset during the drive. The Legacy was purring when we arrived and it was off to Verona, Italy a 2.5 hour flight that seemed shorter due to sushi, curry, gin and tonics, builders all. We arrived quite late at the hotel in Verona, but the staff was on hand to welcome and they had especially left the bar open for our arrival. It would have been terribly rude to refuse their hospitality so it was a very late night cap to this busy day. Except it wasn't quite over yet. The unstoppable Guy Fletcher invited us to his room for a few cool sounds and cups of tea. After all that I still managed to read a little before calling it a day and don't know what time I went to bed, but the sun was coming up on Italy.
Speaking of Guy, I have failed to mention his fantastic daily tour diary which is the inspiration for my own. He always has loads of good photos from the gigs that he's posted and words of wisdom. If you haven't been there already, you must check it out at: www.guyfletcher.co.uk
Tomorrow we are off to Naples for pizza and to play in front of 150,000 fans for a live TV broadcast.
Largely uneventful day. Woke at 5:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. Read, practised, packed and checked out for our flight to Stockholm.
On entering my hotel room I attempted to open the windows for some fresh air, managing to slit my finger on the latch. One of those stupidly conceived latches that is guaranteed to do harm. I knew as soon as I'd freed it and heard and felt the zip across my flesh. I stood there for a minute looking at my finger which didn't bleed immediately but took about 20 seconds before is came seeping to the surface. My first thought was to call our road manager and den mother Pete Mackay, but he'd probably suggest something unacceptable like going to an emergency room for a few stitches. No thanks. I got a wet wash cloth and put loads of pressure on the wound for about five minutes. To my relief when I took the cloth away and cast a sideways glance at it, the bleeding had stopped. The next order of business was to figure out how I was going to play the show tonight. On close examination I realised it could have been in a far worse place and that if I could keep it from opening up again I'd be able to play with no problem. As the afternoon went on, it hardened over and I put a very thin bandage across it once we got down to the venue. Crisis averted.
We played our usual venue, The Globe Arena, a sphere that's like being inside a large red golf ball. Loads of problems tonight with our monitor systems cutting out and mixes that somehow left us feeling stranded. It was a warm audience and I think a good show from us on stage, but an up hill struggle all the way. Still, I had a good time and was able to properly play several things tonight that have been elusive since rehearsal. Largely uneventful day. Woke at 5:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. Read, practiced, packed and checked out for our flight to Stockholm.
One quick drink back at the hotel and off for an early night.
Day off today, up at noon. I did an interview for German Public Radio at 1 that lasted until 3:00 then went to the hotel gym, one of the better fitness centres I remember from last year's tour, well equipped and easy on the eyes. Red brick walls and duct work left exposed, dimly lit, complete with pool, sauna and an espresso machine which came in handy both before and after my workout.
I finally got out in the late afternoon, sun shining, loads of shopping, bustle and life. First stop was a walk-up wurst grille on the strasse for a spectacular grilled bockwurst, mustard and bread roll, served up on a tiny cardboard rectangle that proved to be a real balancing act but couldn't have tasted better. Fortified by the mystery sausage, I came across an H&M Store. I think the origin of this chain is British, but they're all around Europe. A cheap and cheerful clothes shoppe with cool threads for youngsters and oldsters alike. I always manage to get lucky with shirts for stage there and today was no exception, purchasing three shirts that share a common trait of extreme wrinkled-ness, intentionally balled up for maximum crease factor. It's SUPPOSED to look like that. All right then, I'll try it.
Back to the hotel to meet up at 7 for dinner. Turned out to be a split group with the majority going Thai and Danny, Guy and I opting for a little family operated Italian restaurant Danny'd been to just round the corner from the Rieperbahn. A splendid dinner of antipasto, prosciutto, melon and mozzarella followed with fresh pasta, washed down with a wonderfully smooth Chianti and followed by a surprisingly smooth Grappa. After dinner we had a walk through the Rieperbahn where the women are on display in windows and the working girls grab your arm and cajole. No business to be had from us, pretty depressing really.
In the taxi on the way back we saw Stuart D. wandering the streets in search of a bar so we piled out, paid up and wandered round with him until we found one, capping off the night with a pilsner. In bed by 12 with the Alec Guinness biography.
A 10:15 bag call tomorrow then it's off to Stockholm for a gig.
I quit carrying a travel clock when my last one gave up the ghost. Being technologically challenged, I don't buy watches with alarm settings and have no idea how to program modern devices to ring at a certain hour. If there is no clock in the hotel room, I am at the mercy of the hotel operator to convey or set a wake up call. Such was the case this morning in Copenhagen. Just before retiring at 3, I rang the switchboard requesting a 10:15 wake up call. You can sometimes tell by a person's voice that it's not going to happen. It didn't. As it turned out I woke up with about 10 minutes to spare before luggage call and it was a mad dash to throw things at my suitcase and get it out the door on time. I think I'll be shopping for a small and simple travel alarm clock tomorrow.
A short flight on the Legacy in to Hamburg where the winds were wailing and it made for an adventurous landing and a few well gripped arm rests. When we did touch down it was a perfect 3 point landing. Off to the hotel, then on to the Colorline Arena for soundcheck, a quick meal and show #3 for an enthusiastic crowd of 4,500. A few more set changes and the show is feeling great, always fun to play and seems like it's over before it's begun, always the sign of a good set. Emmy, Mark and band were up and rocking.
Back to the hotel to meet my Hamburg friend, songwriter and record producer Rudi Mussig and his son Peter who had attended the show. I might have mentioned in last year's notes that I met Rudi when he came to Nashville many years ago to record an album that I played on and we hit it off. Peter is a guitar player as well and is in two bands that play round Hamburg. Always good to catch up with friends. Finished the night with Guy, Danny and Stuart and a few late night night sounds courtesy of djFletch.
Tomorrow is a day off in Hamburg. I have a radio interview in the early afternoon and an appointment to be kept with the fantastic gym here in the hotel. If there's time, I'll get out for a walk, try to find that travel alarm and some sort of dinner this evening. It's on to Stockholm from here.
The only sensible antidote to a 10:15 a.m. luggage call is to wake up at 8:30, pack your bags, stuff them out the door and go back to bed until 11. Tallied up at the front desk of the friendly Amigo Hotel in Brussels and it was off to the airstrip where our Embraer Legacy 600 took us to Copenhagen. Stewardesses Mira and Barbara served a light lunch of cheeses, salads and espresso. Arrived Copenhagen in an hour and a half with a couple of hours to kill at the hotel before sound check. Cloudy and cool. Stayed in the room and caught up with computer stuff, e-mail, etc. as I've not been able to get on line the last couple of days.
The crew had a late load in, and consequently set up, due to the drive from Brussels. So it was a late sound-check and the show scheduled to begin at 9. We played a capacity crowd at the Forum of 6,500. All in confident and fine form, a few set list changes and mass confusion when we arrived at those changes, but it's kind of nice to see professionals stumble now and again, then recover. At one point we were diving for instruments. It was a good night and a wonderful audience. We are all enjoying our heads off having Emmy along.
Back to the hotel for some sounds; Big Joe Turner, Chet Baker, The Louvin Bros., Celia Cruz, Everly Bros., Beny More, Beatles, etc., etc.
On to Hamburg tomorrow (10:45 luggage call!) for a show followed by a day off in that wonderful city.
Rainy, cloudy and cool in Brussels all day. Got a full 8 hours sleep, some coffee sent up to the room then off to the gym which is conveniently located on my floor. A short stumble out of my room and into a Euro gym complete with MTV blaring on the telly. Emmy was already hard at work pumping iron when I staggered in on my white legs.
Back to the room for a quiet day of practice. More than a few things in this new show that I've not quite got a hold of yet, also wrote charts for some of the Hawaiian tunes that we'll be playing during this tour's meet and greet. Got down to the gig about 5 o'clock and it felt like we'd never left the road, just a continuation of last year's tour. There wasn't much time to dwell on first night jitters as we had a long sound check immediately followed by a meet and greet that was entertained by a very rusty Hawaiian outfit, namely Guy, Danny, Glenn, newcomer Stuart on 2nd uke and yours truly on Hawaiian steel guitar. We'd not played the Hawaiian tunes since last July. I expect we'll get better as we go and I've worked up a couple of new numbers since last year. Again Paul Crockford introduced followed by "hit it assholes".
Usual opening night routine, everybody dressed and pacing around an hour before show time. When we finally took the stage, it was magic. Loads of nervous energy and a grin from ear to ear. Emmy is a joy to have with us, her dignity, grace, energy and singing aside, she certainly dilutes a lot of the ugly on that stage. The capacity audience of 6,500 were with us from the first note to the last and it was a wonderful night. We will technically improve over the course of the next few weeks, but I doubt the show will be any better than it was tonight.
Back to the hotel, Mark and band up in Guy's room for some swinging music, room service and a crazy video of the greatest steel guitar players ever, Buddy Emmons, Jerry Byrd, Jimmy Day, Buddy Charelton, Don Helms, Speedy West, Sonny Burnette and many more. The problem is, whoever put this thing together only took the steel solos from various live performances. Hence, just about the time you get start to get in to something, it's whipped out from under you and on to the next thing. Nonetheless, we had a great time and pulled the plug on ourselves at the reasonable hour of 2:00 a.m.
Welcome to this year's All The Roadrunning Tour and notes from the road. If this is your first visit, I hope you will find something in these ramblings of interest and will check back often. The notes will be an on-going series of entries while on tour with Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, its contents revolving around my observations of events ranging from the spectacular to mundane, great restaurants, musty record shops, tourist traps, tattoo parlours and godknowswhat. Now and again I might even write about the shows. Having kept a private tour diary since 1996, I took the plunge last year and posted an online, six month version of our comings and goings and was encouraged to do so again. This tour will be much shorter, just 24 shows over 5 weeks, 15 in Europe and 9 in the States. The entries will appear on show days and generally not on days off. Let's get started.
Last week we completed a short and intense period of rehearsals in London. There will be loads of new music for this tour, material from the new album as well as many other surprises from Emmylou and Mark. Just about the time I'd adjusted my inner clock to shake hands with this first round of jet lag, I returned home to Nashville for two days to attend my son's graduation from high school then turned right around and flew into Brussels today for a full production rehearsal at the venue! I no longer know what day it is and jet lag has given way to global shock. I expect to be keeping some very strange hours this coming week, odder than normal.
Many of our beloved crew on last years Shangri-La tour have returned for more punishment, including our five star caterer Darin Wey. On arrival at the venue, old habits fell right into place; dump your bag in the dressing room and beat a path to catering. One of the three entrees on tonight's menu was bangers and mash (grilled sausages with dark brown gravy over mashed potatoes). Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Various salads were available to counterbalance the damage done by the b&m. Dessert was a stunning caramelised apple upside down cake with a pitcher of hot custard nearby, various fresh fruits were presented to counterbalance the damage of the cake. All things in moderation. Or not.
We're all very excited about this little outing, can't wait to take the boards tomorrow night for our first show and I think there'll be some good nervous energy crackling in the air. In addition to Emmylou gracing our stage, we have a new band member for this tour, our friend Stuart Duncan. Stuart's a brilliant fiddle and mandolin player and has been on several of Mark's recordings including the current duet album with Emmy. He's one of the busiest musician's around Nashville and has appeared on thousands of records. He's also congenitally late, but that's another story.
More to follow, 'til then,