A hypnotic blend of rhythms, landscapes, tones, colors, styles and moods, with melodies leading the way to certain places that only songs without words can go.
-- Pieta Brown, 2015
Get Lucky tour, 2010
Hoyos del Espino, Spain...31 July, 2010
Sorry for the late posting of this last note from the road. I'm staring out at the Gulf of Mexico as I peck this out, three days after the fact.
The last day of the tour was spent quietly reshuffling my suitcase which has grown full and heavy over the last two and a half months, incorporating my stage clothes from the wardrobe trunk was a challenge.
We left Madrid for a two hour drive north and west to Gredos the site of our final outdoor show. As we climbed to higher elevations the landscape started to resemble the American southwest. Stately mountains and the vegetation becoming green and finally stands of pine trees as we approached Gredos.
We arrived to find Angus and Chris our catering stars in sombrerros and fake Pancho Villa style mustaches that continually fell half off.
Tonight Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey re-joined us to play a wonderful opening set. We enjoyed them so much through the first leg of the tour in the States and have missed them. It was appropriate they play this last show with us and we all had a good time seeing, hearing and visiting with them both again. Get some of their music, you will not be disappointed.
We took the stage for the final time at 10 o'clock, played a great show and I bid each tune farewell as it was completed through the final song, Piper To The End. It was a festival style gig with 14,000 folks in a beautiful setting and couldn't have been a better way to end this great tour.
A special shout out to Isaac Shabtay. In 2008 Isaac attended every show of our run in North America. This time he was present at every show of the entire Get Lucky tour overcoming some real challenges and obstacles in travel and culture. Through it all he's kept a great online journal of his travels, adventures, mis-adventures and photos. It's another look and opinion about the tour, well written, funny and from a completely different angle than either Guy's diary or my own. Check out Isaac's Get Lucky Tour Blog at http://gl.isaac.shabtay.com/
Over the last couple of days I've gone back to previous tours 'last day' postings. Today's feelings are the same, bittersweet. While very excited about seeing my family again, I'm sad to be leaving this musical family of friends and experiences. This tour has been the best one we've done and that is of course due to the crew, caterers, pilots and air hostess, drivers, etc. I won't go into listing them all but my sincerest thanks to everyone. Also, my thanks to our tour managers, Tim Hook, Peter MacKay and MK's personal manager Paul Crockford for making our lives so easy for these last five months.
To Danny, Guy, Glenn, Matt, Mike, John and of course Mark...my love and admiration. I miss you already. Love you mates.
That'll just about do it, don't want to drag it out any more. I'll get back to the regular, or irregular, front page posts and updates. Right now the Gulf water, a beach chair and umbrella are calling.
Bilbao, Spain...30 July, 2010
We flew this afternoon from Madrid to the seaport city of Bilbao on the northern coast of Spain. As we approached the ground below was green and lush, far different than the arid land we'd left. On landing the weather was wonderfully cool and breezy, a welcomed change from the searing heat. As we drove to the venue I remarked how the city had developed since first playing here in 1996. At the time it struck me as rough and seedy, but much development has taken place over the years with investments in new hotels, restaurants and tourism. The astonishing Guggenheim Museum with it's ultra modern architecture and wrap around metal panels is located here. Sadly, we'll not being seeing it apart from the freeway.
Tonight's gig was held at Plaza de Toros Vista Alegre. A bullring that we've played before including that 1996 tour when a torrential downpour soaked all of Guy Fletcher's keyboards and they had to be taken apart and dried with a hair dryer before the show could begin. Catering was appropriate, tapas, many small dishes of chicken, sausages, vegetables and various fried things. Great.
It's the penultimate show and people are beginning to say goodbye and wish each other well. The band making serious headway in cleaning out our wardrobe trunks of tour clothes as well as all those things acquired up along the way, couldn't be bothered to put in the suitcase and chucked them into wardrobe. The day of reckoning is here. My own included three pairs of pants, six shirts, chocolates from Germany and an album of 78 rpm records given to me by my cousin in San Fransisco that I'd failed to bring home in May! Such a long time ago now.
With the sun going down, we took the stage at 10 o'clock and the weather was perfect for an outdoor show...mild. The floor of the bullring was seated instead of standing and there were nearly 6,500 in attendance for a relaxed and well played show.
A runner to the Legacy for an hour flight back to Madrid. We departed from the airport in Vitoria as the Bilbao facility closed at 9. It was the final drive for part of our German ground transport crew and hugs to the wonderful Dominika Senktas, Bernie Klien and Fabian Schulze, thanks for your friendships and all the kilometers in comfort. On board the plane, Daniella had fab grilled sea bass,vegetables and red cabbage sprouts for dinner followed by a cake that I can only describe as Spanish tiramisu...only different and magically delicious. As I'll be departing Sunday morning from Madrid and not flying with everyone else to London, tonight was my last flight on the jet. It was goodbye to wonderful Daniella who has looked after us so well and graciously for the last couple of months and farewell to pilots Simon and Nick with thanks to all three for thousands of smooth miles and luxury.
It was nearly 3 in the morning when I wandered over to Guy's room for a drink and realised I was so overwhelmed with exhaustion and couldn't even manage a half a bottle of beer. Off to bed.
The 31st will be our last show of the Get Lucky tour. It will require a 2.5 hour drive there, a 10 o'clock show and of course the return to Madrid very late. As mentioned I depart Madrid early Sunday morning so it will be unlikely that I will post the final page until some time next week. Be patient, it will come.
Madrid, Spain...29 July, 2010
Another hot, airless gym in the hotel made for a torturous work out. It never fails to amaze me how an otherwise together hotel can get it so wrong when it comes to basic stuff. I suppose these fitness centres are an afterthought and they shoe horn them in wherever and however they can. A little ventilation would be nice though. I made my way back to the room exhausted and went back to bed.
Down to the last three shows now, tonight's venue was our usual in Madrid, Plaza de Toros de Ventas, a bullring dating from 1929. It was a blistering day and I thought we'd be in for another hot box show, but by early evening a breeze picked up and by the time we took the stage at 9:30 p.m. it was mercifully mild. Unlike the other bullring gigs, this one was a seated floor instead of standing and gave the show more of a concert vibe. It was one of the best played shows of the tour, everyone in top form with an audience to match. I'm really going to be missing all this in a few days.
A runner back to our hotel with drinks and sounds courtesy of DJFletch.
Santiago de Compostela, Spain...28 July, 2010
We said goodbye to Lisbon this afternoon and flew to Santiago de Compostela in north western Spain. What little we saw from the airport to the venue was beautiful. The bones of St. James the Apostle rest here and while it's been disputed for hundreds of years whether or not it is him, Santiago is a destination of pilgrimage.
Our own Mike McGoldrick and John McCusker have played here many times since they were teenagers as there's a strong tradition of Celtic culture, folk music and festivals in Santiago. Mike was telling us on the drive in about the different styles of playing of the Spanish pipes.
We arrived at tonight's venue, Multiusos Fontes de Sar, a modern circular venue, much like an enclosed bull ring, large floor area surrounded by seating, however it is not used for bull fighting. For all it's modernity, if there was air conditioning in the facility, it wasn't turned on. It was hot, muggy and definitely lacked oxygen. We spent a couple of sluggish hours backstage waiting to go on, the high point being a spectacular chicken burrito, guacamole and Spanish rice whipped up by our catering stars Chris and Angus...delicious and massive. We all asked half portions, more than enough even though we could have eaten more.
Hot as it was, we were in for a surprise when we took the stage, it was noticeably hotter and muggier than the dressing rooms. Absolutely soaked by the third song, but an incredible show, one of the best of the tour and the audience was brilliant as they've been throughout this run in Spain. Midway through the show the large loading doors around the back of the stage were opened as the sun had set and it wouldn't ruin the lighting and finally a slight movement of cooler air began to circulate making the second half vaguely more tolerable. We left the stage after the final encore to tumultuous applause and cheering.
A runner from north-western Spain to the centre of the country, Madrid. Daniella had the most delicious steaks waiting, perfectly cooked with a spectacular mushroom sauce and roasted potatos. The meat cut like butter and we were all going on about it being the best steaks we've ever eaten...that good.
We'll begin experiencing many 'lasts' as we enter the final three days of this wonderful tour, beginning with this, our last hotel and a very late check in at that. Shortly after I got to my room I heard the sound of The Engineers pouring in from the next room which could mean only one thing, Guy Fletcher. With his speakers hooked up in a flash, he and Danny were already in progress when I went in. We were soon joined by Mike, John, a bottle of gin, loads of tonic and ice. Another couple hours of laughs before turning in at 4:30.
Lisbon, Portugal...27 July, 2010
Yesterday, the 26th was a day off here in Lisbon. At this point in the tour everyone is conserving energy...heads on pillows and not much sight seeing. The gym at Four Seasons-Ritz is one of the best of the tour and second only to the San Fransisco Four Seasons. Located on the upper floor of the hotel it's new, spacious, clean, very well equipped and surrounded by floor to ceiling glass for a 360 degree view of Lisbon and the water. The remainder of the day was spent listening to music on the balcony of my room and laying low. A get together of the band and crew was enjoyed in the evening by all. We took over a tapas bar and the beer, wine and food kept coming. Best of all it was great seeing everyone together outside the normal gig setting. After three hours I couldn't hold any more beer and my legs were getting tired so along with Matt, I walked back to the hotel. I had hoped to get to sleep at a reasonable hour but am on this late night sched and couldn't fall asleep. I put the TV on for a couple of hours, watched BBC news...the longest the tele's been on for the entire tour.
Up this morning and down to breakfast. Danny, his wife Shelley and their boys William and Dominick had a table and I joined them. Beyond that I couldn't have done any less with the rest of the day...more balcony time, music and sleep.
Tonight's show was at Campo Pequeno, a venue we played two years ago, an enclosed bull ring in one of Lisbon's many town square. Very handsome from the outside but inside it lacks ventilation and is sweltering. Backstage is a warren of passways that can be very confusing and I'm no stranger to taking a wrong turn. Hot as it was, you can add another 10 degrees on top in catering where the stoves are working overtime. One of tonight's miracles were grilled shrimp. I've never seen shrimp this large, two would be a meal and they were tender, sweet and monstrously delicious.
I was sweating before we took the stage and it never let up, but the Lisbon audience of 6,000+ was electric and the show was fun and exciting to play...as always. As we head in to the final five gigs, everyone is still anxious to play and trying new things, always striving to do better.
I was soaked clear through by the time we took our runner back to the hotel. A quick change of clothes and down to the comfy hotel bar for a couple of perfectly mixed martinis.
Cordoba, Spain...25 July, 2010
Take a look at the date, I can't believe that we're beginning the final week of this fab tour. A bittersweet time for all as these final shows take on added meaning. I just realised that after all these months of carefully keeping my spiral bound tour itinerary in the front pouch of my roller bag, I have left it at the hotel in Barcelona. Tiredness no doubt.
We decamped Barcelona late this afternoon and flew to an airport an hour and a half from Cordoba. We were met there by Manfred and trusty crew of drives and settled in for the trip. Depending on who you spoke with, the temperature on landing was 46 to 52 c.! The only time I've felt anything close to those temps was Death Valley in the summertime.
We arrived in Cordoba, a beautiful modern metropolis and made our way to tonight's venue, another bullring. In these notes I normally name the venue but as mentioned I no longer have my itinerary and have forgotten. The heat was staggering and the fabricated dressing rooms were tremendously hot, a fan blowing in each did absolutely nothing. A museum of famous bullfighters was in an upstairs area of the ring and it was air conditioned. We all relocated up there among the stuffed and mounted heads of famous bulls that were defeated here and framed advertisements of fights going back to the 1860's, as well as an entire wall of photographs, sort of a hall of fame, of the well known toreadors from this area.
Tonight the world renown Flamenco guitarist, Vicente Amigo, was on hand to greet us. He's a fan of Mark's and was visibly honoured and humbled to meet him.
As we left the air conditioned comfort of the museum to take the stage, it felt like WE were going into the ring to face the bull. The audience was singing the universal football chant...oe...oe oe oe...oe...oe. Jam packed it was, standing floor and very steep grand stands surrounding. I'd say we have a winner for the hottest gig of the tour. I don't know what the temp was, even with the sun down, but I'll bet it was still in the mid to high 90's and not a whisper of a breeze. Right...here we go. By the end of the first song we were sweating and covered in large flying ants that were very distracting though mercifully they did not bite. Those wearing light colours attracted more of them and unfortunately Mark wore a brilliant white shirt and was covered with them...no doubt he ate a few as well. Between the insects and the heat it was very much a case of man against nature and all of a sudden the analogy with the bullfight became a little more real. Added to the evening were sticky guitar necks due to sweaty hands from the heat and stinging eyes from dripping perspiration. Add to that a potentially disastrous broken string on my little cavaquinho during the play off of Hill Farmer's Blues, which breaks down at the end to just John and me finishing the song alone. We were nearly at that point when the 3rd string expired and it would have been impossible to work around it. I very quickly made the decision to abandon the cavaquino, pick up the Start that was already tuned and waiting for the next song, and finished Hill Farmer's with that. Tricky as the cavaquinho is tuned differently from a regular guitar and frankly I'd never played it any other way...having played the cavaquinho on the record. I strapped on the Strat, quickly figured out what needed to be done and was ready for the wrap up which I barely made by the skin of my teeth. The bull just kept coming. By the end we succeeded and it was a well fought and fantastic show. These Spanish crowds are the loudest we've encountered, so much so that I lost track of where the beat was during the intro of Sailing To Philadelphia. It was all part of a show that we had to work hard to pull off...and did.
A sweaty runner to the waiting cars, an hour and a half drive to the airport and an hour flight to Lisbon. It was 1:30 in the morning when we finally got on the plane, Daniella waiting with wine, beer and once airborne, steak and grilled veg, a monstrously delicious late night 'snack'.
We arrived very late to check in, waited for the bags to arrive and it was off to bed.
Tomorrow's a much needed day off and the first 'last'... our last day off before the tour ends.
Murcia, Spain...24 July, 2010
I did a little recording today for our Mike MicGoldrick who is scoring a documentary for BBC television. One of the cues he'd written is a beautiful Irish melody that he played on whistle and wanted a gut string guitar to double. He first played me the piece a couple of weeks ago and I'd been practising it since, making sure I got all the inflections, trills and turns just right. Mike set up his computer and Pro Tools recording rig in his room at the hotel, hung a microphone from shade of a floor lamp and off we went. John McCusker soon came by to added his wonderful fiddle. To capture his violin we put the mic on a suit rack that was precariously balance on an upholstered foot rest...very wobbly, so I held the the rack while John recorded his part. It all sounds fantastic and I was very flattered to play on something of Mike's.
At this late stage of the tour we had another 'first'...our first bullring show of this outing. We flew from Barcelona to Murcia airport and drove into the city. The airport is on the coast and in a very open, agricultural area. Miles of orchards, hot houses and fields of crops...an arid, flat land surrounded by mountains. After nearly 40 minutes we turned a corner and the city of Murcia sprawled before us, a real metropolis sprung from nowhere. We wound our way through town finally arriving at Plaza de Torros La Condomina. The dressing rooms were hot and humid but I found an area that was air conditioned, pulled up a chair and practised there for an hour or so before the show.
Another late start, 10 o'clock, by then the sun had gone down, there was a faint cool breeze in the ring and a full moon rising above the stands. A crowd of 10,000, standing on the dirt floor of the ring and in the surrounding seats...more deafening than the night before. After nearly 90 shows, it amazes me how fresh it sounds every night and how eagre we are to get on the boards and play music with each other. We're all so lucky to be doing this.
A runner back to the Murcia airport from the gig and an hour flight back to Barcelona. Daniella had a seafood paella waiting and, courtesy of our friend Paul Cummins who joined us tonight, several bottles of a fabulous Ribella del Duero, a bold and delicious Spanish wine. It was very late by the time we arrived back at the hotel in Barcelona and straight to bed for me.
Barcelona, Spain...23 July, 2010
A late start this morning, had some coffee sent to the room and finally got pushing down in the gym around 1 this afternoon. The fitness centre in this hotel is one of the better ones, very well thought out and equipped. One small problem, seems that the air conditioning was not operating correctly. They had a couple of portable cooling units on the floor but it wasn't enough and it was very warm in there to begin with. By the time I finished my 90 minutes I was thoroughly drenched, exhausted...and starving. I bumped in to Danny in the lobby and we had lunch on the outdoor veranda of the hotel. A couple of strong caffe con leche followed by a plate of homemade tagliatelle with pomodoro sauce and I was set right again. After lunch we went to the pool and soaked up the sun for an hour.
As the shows in Spain are late starters, usually 10 o'clock, we didn't leave the hotel until 7:30 arriving at the Olympic Pavillion Badalon in time for dinner, a quick practise and then on stage. This is our usual venue in Barcelona and it was a capacity 7,000+ tonight. Another deafening crowd, fabulous show and great audience.
A runner back to the hotel and a couple of drinks with John and Mike at the bar and off to bed.
Nimes, France...22 July, 2010
The air traffic controllers strike ended today and we left Lyon late this afternoon for a short flight to Nimes. I happily spent the early part of this day in my room practising, reading and resting.
Today was also my birthday which I tried very hard to keep under wraps. At this point I'd just as soon forget them than make a fuss about it. I was greeted this afternoon by Manfred Frank the head of our German ground transportation company Stars and Cars. He gave me a big bear hug, wished me happy birthday and presented me with a raspberry torte. How did he find out? After that everyone started wishing me happy birthday and the cat was out of the bag. Ah well, that's that. I'm now 59...fuckin'ell when did that happen? Knock wood I am in pretty good shape, not too many complaints and honestly still feel like I'm in my 20's....probably no smarter either.
We arrived at the Antigue Arena in Nimes another ancient Roman amphitheatre and one we've played a few times before. My guitar tech, wing man really, Tom Calcaterra had a very bad accident during last night's load out and tore the ligaments from the bone of his right forearm. This is incredibly painful and will require surgery to reattach and months of repair and physical therapy. It's the second time it's happened to him, the other being several years ago and his left arm. What a lousy way to end the tour and we all feel awful for him. With his guidance, our stage manager filled in and helped with tuning and the handing off of various instruments. Not quite sure if TC will head home early or stick it out the rest of the tour, it will depend on what his surgeon back in the States has to say about it.
Mike and John gave me a wonderful birthday gift of a couple of CDs, Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Arctic Monkeys as well as a beautiful little leather bound blank notebook How did they find out? Thanks mates.
Tonight's crowd was one of the largest and certainly noisiest audiences we've had all tour, simply incredible. When Mark introduced me, 10,000 French people began singing happy birthday in this ancient amphitheatre. I was taken aback to say the least. How did they find out?
It was a runner, of course, to the Legacy and a flight to our original destination from the night before...Barcelona. The wonderful Daniella had a dinner fit for kings on hand, a massively delicious braised lamb shank that fell from the bone and tasted exquisite along with some very inky black rice. All washed down with a delicious Chateau du Pape courtesy of Guy Fletcher. For my birthday Daniella rounded up the most dangerous chocolate cake in the world. To call it cake is underselling it. It was more like a dark chocolate ganauche (sp?) atop a light crispy bottom and iced with a dark chocolate frosting that was so shiny is looked like glass. No one could resist and as for me, I had a piece so large it filled most of a dinner plate. Incredible and not over yet, she and the crew bought me a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin, one of my weakness. How did they find out? Much appreciated.
We arrived in Barcelona at our usual hotel very happy to be here. The bags arrived in the room and a phone call from Danny saying that Guy, Mike, John and he were waiting for me and the music was on. We had loads of laughs, finished off the bottle of gin between us and a couple of cups of tea as well. It was a very late night and one of the best birthdays I can remember. So much for keeping it quiet.
Lyon, France...21 July, 2010
An uncertain check out time this afternoon as the air traffic controllers have gone on strike in France and we weren't sure when we'd be able to get away. So, it was a day of waiting. At 3:30 our road manager Tim rang to inform us we'd leave the hotel at 4:45 and drive to the Nice airport for a 6 p.m. departure. En route that departure was then delayed even further. We arrived at the airport and a discussion ensued about whether we should drive the 4.5 hours from Nice to Lyon. As tonight was a 10 o'clock show, we could still make it by car. It was decided to take our chances, board the plane, sit on it for 2 hours then take off. The situation was fluid and take off time was delayed further then reduced again. We finally took off at 7:30 and arrived at the venue shortly before 9 p.m.
Tonight's show was at the old Roman amphitheatre in Lyon, Theatres Romains de Fourviere. I remember this venue from 1996 and 2001, a wonderful gig and beautiful setting for a show. The great Kate Walsh opened for us tonight. It was already a long day when we took the stage, but the audience was deafening, amazing and it was the best antidote to striking traffic controllers as well as the last couple of nights playing in a supper club. Great getting back to a real gig. We sailed through the set and there was plenty of great playing all around the stage last night, the audience with us every step of the way.
Our original plan was to do a runner then fly to Barcelona after the gig, but given the uncertainty of a take off slot and the late hour, it was decided we'd stay in Lyon tonight...a welcomed call. So, rather than the usual mad dash to waiting cars, we leisurely hung at the amphitheatre where our catering stars had whipped up a BBQ of steaks, chicken and hamburgers. We all sat around a long picnic table outside in this ancient setting and food never tasted better. It was all washed down with many bottles of a local wine that appeared in thick clear glass bottles with no labels. An organically produced red with no preservatives that tasted like a million buck except it only cost 3 Euros a bottle, about $3.60. Everyone began scheming about purchasing more of it, then thought better as this tour is almost over and everybody's bags are already at the bursting point.
We arrived at our hotel in Lyon glad to be there. I stopped in for a quick cuppa with Guy and Danny then happily off to bed.
Monte Carlo, Monaco...20 July, 2010
A slow start this morning not helped by the weak, lukewarm coffee. Finally down to the gym. These 90 minutes get harder all the time and it doesn't help that this fitness centre is too hot to begin with. I suppose you can get on a scale after a good workout and see you've lost 5 pounds, but it's all water.
Went back to the small public beach next door to the hotel again for the afternoon. Nice to see the McGoldrick family having fun in the sun there and we were joined by Matt, followed by Glenn. The Med water is a healer. We decided we better get out of the sun before some real damage was done and headed back to the hotel for a late lunch joined by MK. A chicken club sandwich, a couple of Corona beers and a double strength caffe latte set me right. It was back to the room and a nap.
This tour is nearly over and we'll soon be faced with many "lasts". Still at this late stage we experienced a "first" today. The lobby call for the gig tonight was 9:30 p.m., the latest call ever as the show didn't begin until nearly 11.
We made our way over the Le Sporting Club for our second show in two days. It was a seriously well played show tonight, but still a very different environment for us. I don't know what some of these people are thinking...sitting there yelling at you like your an animal in a cage and then getting on their Blackberries or whatever they are and texting while you're playing. Incredibly rude.
So, that's that. For all of the excess in Monte Carlo, I've enjoyed every minute of being here. It's been nice trying it on for size even if it's been a very ill fit. The sun and Mediterranian are magnificent and what not to like about the topless girls on the beach? Tomorrow we decamp Babylon and go to Lyon, France to play a Roman amphitheatre.
Monte Carlo, Monaco...19 July,2010
A re-run of lukewarm coffee and stale croissant on the veranda but the view cannot be beat...another picture perfect sea and sky lays before me. Picked up the trusty guitar and put a couple of finishing touches on a new song I'd been kicking around for the last few days, a little shambling piece of exotica that will no doubt have Monte Carlo in it's title.
There's a small public beach just next to the hotel. The beaches of the French Riviera are not sand but rounded stones. It sounds very uncomfortable, but really isn't after you lay a towel or two down. I spent a couple of hours there this afternoon in the hot sun and beautiful Mediterranean water...crystal clear and warm. The women are not modest about going topless so all in all it was a splendid way to spend the afternoon. Got out of there just in the nick of time before getting sunburned.
The venue is part of the resort we're staying in and only a few hundred yards from the lobby. Since the show doesn't begin until 10:45 tonight we had a 5 o'clock lobby call for a quick soundcheck and a bite to eat then returned to the hotel for a few hours before heading back to the theatre. It's a supper club called Le Sporting Club and holds 900. I'll do my best to explain but suggest you check Guy Fletcher's website as he'll have pics. The structure is round, mirrored, retractable ceiling and windows. Two stages, both retractable depending on who's currently playing. There was a small show combo playing prior to us on one of the stages. When they were finished that stage pulled in and the one with our gear extended out. We've played a few casino gigs but never for a supper crowd...tables, plates, silverware, etc. This was no average Joe supper crowd, this was the very well heeled, jeweled and jacketed...there to be seen more than to see us. I saw folks on cell phones, people wandering in and out. I don't know how much the price of admission and dinner was, but you can imagine if only 900 seats at the tables are available it wouldn't be a bargain. In the end I think we won them over.
A few thoughts about casino/dinner/lounge entertainment. It's a very valid endeavour and reached it's pinnacle in the 1950's and early 60's in Las Vegas. Great artists like Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Sinatra, Dino, etc. tailored there act to the work at hand; catering to well heeled folks who wanted to be entertained while eating and drinking. There's a real art to it and not as easy as you might think even though it's easy to pillory and parody. The other very important part of the equation was the repertoire, the greatest from the American songbook, written by brilliant, sophisticated and witty songwriters ala Cole Porter, arranged and swinging like a well oiled gate. The whole package was appropriate to the occasion. Fast forward 50 or 60 years. The dinner clientele really hasn't changed in what they want from the experience, they're sophisticated or trying very hard to be, monied, there to see, be seen and entertained. What has changed is the style of music that now plays in these venues. It's from the world of rock music for the most part and frankly it is a misfit with the surroundings. Rock music is everything that these places are not. Looking at the line up to follows us, some artists will fare better than others, Charles Aznavour and Julio Iglesias, but they are throw backs to the old Vegas model. Even Elton John who is doing several nights here, while he'll be received wildly, somehow the music doesn't fit the mirrors, table cloths and spangled patrons. Anyway, that's how I see it.
We came off stage and back to the hotel. Danny, Mike, John and I wandered next door to a bar for a drink but as Dan and I had shorts on we were not allowed in. It's fine, I perfectly understand. We came back to the hotel to find every bar closed. Ended up in Danny's room for a quick gin and tonic from his mini bar followed by a beer with William and Rebeca Topley who came from England to see the show, then off to bed.
It seemed like a very early evening when I turned in, but I looked at the clock before shutting the lights off and it was 3 in the morning. Enough.
Monte Carlo, Monaco...18 July, 2010...Day Off Edition
Woke late after an exhausting day of travel the yesterday. My day off in Monte Carlo began with breakfast on the veranda of my hotel room overlooking this resorts three swimming pools and the deep azure Mediterranean...the sky bright blue and the sun ablaze. After a very mediocre pot of coffee and a few stale croissant, I put my togs on, moseyed down to the fitness centre and took a good 90 minute beating. Came back to the room and finished what was left in the stale bread basket and set out for the pool. I found a grand little area around one of the lagoons...heaven, nobody around. Unfurled my towel across the chaise lounge, removed my shirt, shoes and sunglasses then laid back. No sooner had I sunk in, a lady very haughtily informed me "This space is for rent!" Well shit, no wonder it was deserted. Picked up all my stuff and found the only other spot round the pool, near the out door service kitchen and a sound system pumping loads of crap disco music. Why do people think this creates a happening vibe? Still, it was good soaking up some Med rays for an hour.
What can I say about Monte Carlo? Think Las Vegas on the Mediterranean except with boat loads more money and sophistication, or pseudo-sophistication. Looking out of my veranda and up the coast line, it's so highly civilized that it's somehow the downfall of civilization, sort of a builder and a destroyer. Don't know how to explain it. There are so many Ferrari's, Rolls' and Bentley's here that a Porsche Carrara is like a Toyota Camry in the States.
At 7 in the evening Guy rang the room to see if I cared to join he and his wife Laurie and Danny for a drink followed by dinner somewhere out of the hotel that we could afford. We met in one of the posh bars downstairs, The Blue Gin Bar to be exact. My idea of heaven, wonderfully cool and dark inside, leading to a large outdoor patio overlooking the sea. Think of it, a bar specialising in Vitamin G...gin! The waiter brought drink menus full of every kind of frilly concoction, tiramisu drinks, bubble gum drinks, coffee flavoured drinks, rum drinks, drinks the colour of primary crayolas. They couldn't make a straight up gin martini, didn't know what that was...got it confused with Martini Rossi vermouth. We ended up ordering several gin and tonics, very good by the way and very expensive...Guyus and I splitting the tab.
Off we headed into the sunset, following the same course as the Monte Carlo Grand Prix and through the tunnel those cars tear through at 170+ miles per hour. Walking through it last night with cars going a normal speed, I cannot imagine what the decibel level would be with racing engines in there. We walked along the marina where the private yachts are tied and on display. These are things like I've never seen before, gleaming mini cruise ships all kitted out with lavish furnishings and staff to maintain it all...folks having parties on the backs of them. Nice work if you can swing it.
We finally reached our destination, a simple Mediterranean restaurant on the harbour. We had great dinner, delicious pizzas, wine, beer, salads and soups. Got out of there a few pounds heavier and a few Euros lighter and worth every bit of it. Stopped at a gelato stand on the way back.
For all Monte Carlo is or isn't, I don't mean to sound ungrateful. It was a grand day to be alive, one I'll never forget and loved every second of it...even being thrown out of the private lounge area of the pool. Face it, this luxury game is tough sledding but it must be done.
Wurzburg, Germany...17 July, 2010
A sensible night last night, in bed, lights off, asleep at 1:30. The phone rang at 4 something...some fucking idiot in the hotel with the wrong room. After my adrenaline subsided I finally drifted back asleep, until 8:30 when another moron rings...again with the wrong room. I couldn't have been happier to check out of the Bulgari, spelled Bvlgari, in Milan this afternoon. A more pretentious hotel I've not encountered.
In all the years of touring I've never had a day like this, hold on to your hats. We left Milan...flew to Nurnberg, Germany...drove an hour to Wurzburg...played a show, drove an hour back to Nurnberg...flew into Nice, France...drove an hour to Monte Carlo, Monaco. Let's recap; that's 5 cities, 4 countries, 3 one hour car rides, 2 flights and 1 show in 12 hours!!! Still, I'm sitting here in my hotel room feeling better than I have any right and pecking this out at 3 in the morning.
Tonight's show was at the Festung Marienberg, an open air castle in Wurzburg...10,000 in attendence. A wonderfully relaxed show and fab audinece, we all had a grand time playing and loved the gig.
On the plane ride to Nice, Daniella had breaded veal chops that were spectacular, wine and a delicious chocolate cake affair that was like none I'd ever had.
So, we're here in Monte Carlo with a day off tomorrow. There is a gym and pool in my future. Beyond that...who knows, but I can guarantee I will NOT be in the casino.
Locarno, Switzerland...16 July, 2010
A late night in DJFletch's room last night, he kicked us out at 4 this morning. I slept in 'til 11, got up made some coffee in the room then ventured out for my mission of the day...the purchase of deodorant. As mentioned, we're staying a posh part of Milan and the only pharmacy close sold it for an astounding 10 Euro!!! An outrage, but when you've run out, you're over a barrel. Methinks it's a tax deduction. Business expenses? Maybe. Back to the hotel to lick my wounded credit card and practise before leaving for the pleasant hour and half car journey to Locarno.
We had an extra car today so nobody had to sit uncomfortably in the way back for the long ride. Our road manager Tim Hook drove the extra car while our German drivers manned the original three Mercedes. When it came time to leave I piled in Tim's car with Mark's personal manager Paul Crockford. We were a little slow getting out of the hotel drive way and were not together with the other cars, still, the sat-nav (satellite navigator) was set for Locarno and off we went. Got stuck in local traffic and finally onto the motorway. After an hour or so the GPS directed us to get off and we ended up on local roads with outlet malls and home improvement super stores. Tim got suspicious, pulled off and realised the sat-nav had been set for Locarno, Italy not Locarno, Switzerland. After much back and forth and ribbing from PC and I, he re-set the sat-nav and drove another hour and a half to the intended destination. I suspect Tim will be many years living this down and I have realised my place in the car chain...stay with the musicians. We arrived at 7 and I was absolutely starving. Tore in to catering and ate the world, I don't even know what I ate except that I devoured loads of it.
Tonight's show was one of the most beautiful settings I've ever played. A large town square in Locarno, surrounded by old apartment buildings painted, peach, blue, yellow, brown...all lit, and down the winding street a beautiful old clock tower. The square was jam packed as far as the eye could see...shoulder to shoulder, people standing on the balconies of their apartments drinking and watching the show and even people standing in the arches of the clock tower. By mid-show a crescent moon began rising over the horizon. Our itinerary says the capacity was 10,000 but judging from the sea of people it would have been more like 15,000+. Another hot, steaming gig but one of the best we've played of the tour and the audience was fantastic. The show flew by and before I knew it we were playing the last encore. I didn't want it to end. I hope to come back here and play the Moon and Stars Festival again, it was magic.
The last song finished and we were back in the cars for the trip back to Milan. This time I got in my usual car with Mike and John driven by Fabian Schulze and it's a miracle how much quicker the journey home was compared to this afternoon...just kidding Tim. We had sandwiches, a grand bottle of red wine and beers to speed the journey.
Montreux, Switzerland...15 July, 2010
While basing in Milan, we're staying at one of those very fussy hotels that looks fantastic in a photo, but you can't quite figure out where the light switches are. Everything is too tweaked out and a couple of rounds of drinks at the bar comes to 300 Euros!! Got up this morning and went to the gym...same thing. Walked into a scene from a magazine, but completely useless. For starters it was hot and airless with a rack of designer looking weights only going up to 10 kgs., about 22 pounds. One treadmill, one bike and one of those awful universal weight machines that can be dangerous. Against the wall was some sort of cable/resistance contraption...chromed and mirrored and useless. I put in half my usual time, was gasping for fresh air and threw in the towel. A fitness room doesn't have to be large or fully stocked in order to be efficient...a few of the right things will do.
We flew from Milan to Geneva passing over the most gorgeous snow capped mountains before the lake came into view. It's the first time I've been to this beautiful city and it's breathtaking. From the airport we drove an hour to Montreux located at the opposite side of the lake, the rolling landscape covered in vineyards and stately homes and Lake Geneva ever to our right.
The show tonight was the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival, Europe's premier festival and now in it's 44th year. The venue was a great, modern theatre with combined seating and standing for 4,000+. We walked in and the theatre was nice and cool, a welcomed change from the last series of sweaty outdoor gigs. A quick soundcheck, bite to eat and we were on stage for an early show...7:45. Between soundcheck and walking on stage, the cool air had become hot and stagnant even though we were indoors, making for another steamer. Still, we were all proud as punch to be playing the MJF to such a wonderful reception. A real high point.
Back in the cars, an hour drive to the Geneva airport and an hour flight back to Milan where a few of us gathered in Guy's room for drinks, sounds and tea. Among the music listened to was the new Teenage Fanclub record which John played on and a group called Mumford and Son which I must get, folk-rock done right.
Milan, Italy...14 July, 2010
We decamped Rome today after 5 days in that wonderful city. The sky was blue and blazing, the temps red hot, just how I want to remember it. One final trip to Ciampino Airport where our driver Bob Miller hit the same pot hole for the umpteenth time. Well done Bob.
It was an hour flight to Milan. I was very much looking forward to whatever was being served on the plane as food hadn't passed my lips in nearly 24 hours after yesterday's sumptuous and bountiful lunch at Lagana. Honestly, I didn't eat before last night's show and apart from coffee this morning I had nothing. Absolutely starving now. Daniella who's been looking after us on the plane is the best and seldom misses in the food department, but today's lunch was slices of raw salmon, squid salad, a couple of prawns and a few other things of uncertain origin. I fully admit I'm in the minority in this group when it comes to raw fish, sashimi, etc. It's not that I mind the idea, I simply don't like it. Needless to say I tucked in to the bread basket and stayed there.
We arrived in Milan to steaming hot and humid weather for the Milan Jazz Festival, another outdoor gig. It had become overcast and muggy as hell with no escape. The backstage dressing rooms were narrow and airless with a fan in each that somehow failed to move air. The catering area, which at this point I was in desperate need of, was worse. I managed to choke down a hamburger before I was completely soaked through with sweat. Did I mention the mosquitos?...by the droves. It made for a very uncomfortable couple of hours prior to the gig. We were all milling around from one backstage room to another thinking one might be slightly cooler. None were.
We finally walked out to the stage hoping it would be a little fresher outdoors. It wasn't. However, we were greated by 7,000 great folks and had a terrific show, though not without some dive bombing mosquitos. By the end I was thoroughly soaked through...shirt, pants, socks...everything.
Staying in Milan tonight so it was a runner to the hotel a quick shower then drinks at the bar with John, Mike, Danny and Guy followed by healing cups of tea and sounds in DJFletch's room.
Rome, Italy...13 July, 2010
Anyone who has followed this little diary in past will know of our devotion to Ristorante Lagana here in Rome. This afternoon we made our return. With our friends Marco Caviglia and Valerio Barbantini we arrived at 44 Via dell' Orso around 1:30 this afternoon. As always our hosts, Mimmo and his wife Cinzia were on hand to welcome us with open arms. As soon as we sat down the dishes began arriving. I'll list only some of them, but it is impossible to put in writing how exquisite this food tasted; cantaloupe, prosciutto, mozzarella, focaccia, figs, fried calamari with zucchini, grilled aubergine, diced celery with cheese, sliced Roma tomatoes with red chili and olive oil, spaghetti with fried pancetta and parmesan, fettuccine in a peccorino, cream and black pepper sauce, cannolli stuffed with sweetened creamed ricotta cheese, fresh fruits, wine, beer, desert wine. It was a meal that we'd waited two years for and tasted better than we remembered from last time. Check Lagana out on the internet at www.ristorantelagana.it If you are ever in Rome, do not pass up the chance to have lunch or dinner at Lagana and tell them I sent you.
We were so full that everyone went back to the hotel and had a nap before the gig. It was a late car call today, 7 p.m., as we played in Rome and the venue, Auditorium Parco della Musica was only 10 minutes from the hotel. A great oval open air amphitheater, modern and very intimate. It seats about 3,000 and it was full of wonderful Romans. We loved playing tonight though it was a little tricky as it was hot and humid which makes for sticky guitar and bass necks. Still it was a grand gig.
A quick hop back to the hotel, drink at the bar and a relatively early night for me.
Perugia, Italy...12 July, 2010
Yesterday was a day off in Roma. I walked for three hours in the blazing sunshine and made a return trip to the cafe from the previous day for one more pizza and a couple of cold, creamy Moretti bierra. Came back for a little siesta on the veranda then we all met downstairs to watch the final game of the World Cup aided by many glasses of beer. A few of us went for a very late dinner of pasta after the game and I followed that with a night cap with Anna and Mike McGoldrick and Heidi and John McCusker.
Wide awake this morning at 6 and by 7:30 hadn't gone back to sleep. Still, I was determined to catch a few more winks and difted back off at last until 10:30. I'm glad I did as it would have been a very long day without those extra few hours sleep. When I did wake up I was still full of last night's dinner and beer so bypassed breakfast including the coffee, put my togs on and took my measure of humiliation down the gym for 90 minutes. Back to the room and STILL not hungry, I parked out on the veranda, read and drank up the Roma sunshine. There was a bowl of beautiful, large nectarines in the room and I was finally beginning to feel peckish....it was incredible. Italy has the best fruit I've ever tasted, perfectly delicious, loaded with flavour, juicy and sweet. Drifted off for a siesta then time to get ready for the gig. With a few minutes to spare before departing the hotel, Dan, Mike and I went next door for a double espresso latte. Another miracle of Italy.
We flew to Perugia, a beautiful city with outlying agriculture. Perugia is known of balsamic vinegar, produce, salamis, porcini mushrooms and black truffles. The local catering served, along with other things, a pasta with black truffles and mushrooms that was one of the best things I've every tasted.
Tonight's show was part of the Umbria Jazz Festival, a long standing festival that has stages and venues all around the area and some top drawer artists this year includine, Sonny Rollins, Tony Bennett, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Marcus Miller and many more...including Mark Knopfler. A beautiful outdoor setting with a gorgeous church spire in the background. A wonderfully played show and the audience was fab. A great gig all round.
A runner back to Roma, fueled by veal scallopini, rosemary sauteed potatoes, red wine and tiramisu.
Tomorrow is a return to the magical restaurant, Lagana for lunch. Stay tuned.
Lucca, Italy...10 July, 2010
Up at 10 this morning after only 4 hours sleep but feeling great. Had some coffee sent to the room then went down for a pounding in the gym, followed by a walk in Roma. I don't know how hot it was, but it was blazing...kind of like Phoenix, Arizona. There are no shortage of outdoor cafes everywhere and you can fall into any one of them and the food will be wonderful. I picked a spot several blocks from the hotel that had a table in the shade, ordered a fantastic pizza and pint of ice cold draft beer which I devoured while enjoying the parade of Romans and tourists. Made my way back to the hotel and sat on the veranda of my room and read in the sun for about 40 minutes 'til I could no longer take the intense heat.
We left for the airport at 5 this afternoon and arrived just outside Lucca around 6:30. Tonight's show was the Lucca Summer Festival in the Piazza Napoleone, a gig we played in 2001, maybe in 2005 as well but can't be sure about that one. An open air town square show with nearly 5,000 in attendance. A great audience but very different and more typical than last night's in that there was a lot of milling for the first few songs and then things settled down. A great gig, one of those that reminds you how lucky we all are to be doing this for a living.
A runner back to Roma leaving Lucca near midnight. It's been a long day with little sleep last night and will turn in early. A day off tomorrow in one of the greatest cities of the world, Rome.
Padova, Italy...9 July, 2010
It's been a good four days off in London. I saw friends, had a couple of great dinners, went to the National Gallery...but mainly got caught up on rest. One dinner of note was a little Chinese place in Soho, not fancy but incredibly great food, Mr Kong at 21 Lisle Street.
We all met at Northolt Air Force Base early this afternoon and flew to Verona then drove an hour to Padova. The sun was definitely switched on and it's great to be back in Italy. It was an outdoor gig tonight and when we arrived at the venue, the crew were tired and drenched having been working in the scorching heat all day. The catering area had been set up in an exhibition hall just behind the stage and it must have been 90 degrees in there, a few of us walked into the kitchen where Chris, Angus and Mike had been toiling since morning and you could add another 15 degrees to that. A challenging day for all, yet everything done perfectly and not one complaint.
Now that we're in the home stretch of the tour, these Italian and Spanish shows begin later and we didn't take the stage tonight until close to 10. As I said it was open air but all seated...7,300 in attendence. The band played so well and relaxed tonight after the break and the audience was there to hear the music. Usually in outdoor shows there's a lot of people getting up and down to the concession stands for beer, but hardly any tonight...everyone sat, listened, then exploded in appreciation. It couldn't have been a better first show in Italy.
A runner back to Verona and an hour flight to Roma where we will base for the next several days. We arrived at 3 in the morning but still managed a cup of tea with Guy and Dan and finally drifted off to sleep as the sun was coming up.
Budapest, Hungary...4 July, 2010
I typed yesterday's notes this morning, still in a bit of a fog before the coffee arrived. I erroneously wrote Germany defeated Venezuela. Scratch that. It was of course, Argentina. Sorry, it was a late night last night.
I didn't wake 'til noon and by the time I had coffee, took care of some e-mail, packed my bag and got a shower, it was time to go to the venue for tonight's show at Sport Arena. In honour of the Yanks, our catering crew made an Independence Day roast turkey and all the trimmings. While I felt obliged, I opted instead for Hungarian goulash which was staggeringly great. Still hungry, I also had a small bowl of tonight's vegetarian dinner, green curry...also exquisite. I couldn't pass up a great bread pudding with hot custard for dessert. Nothing like a light snack before a show.
It was a stand up gig, just over 6,000 wonderful folks who couldn't be more appreciative, as we were for them.
A runner to the plane for a 2 hour flight back to London tonight. It was another light snack in flight, a large shepherd's pie slathered in HP Sauce. I think a serious look at the gym is in order tomorrow.
So, we're here in London and we'll have four consecutive days off, much needed to recharge the batteries and set us right for the final three weeks of this Get Lucky tour. I can't believe how quickly it's all going by.
Stay tuned, I'll pick up these notes again at the end of the week from our next stop, Italia.
Vienna, Austria...3 July, 2010
A short flight this afternoon to Vienna and our usual venue, Stadthalle. As I've mentioned before, we know some of these places like the back of our hand having played them so often...the layout of the backstage, where the dressing rooms are, what they look like, how they smell, where the catering is set up, etc. None of it particularly useful knowledge, but so it was today. It's very hot in Europe at the moment and the venue was sweltering, on stage, backstage, everywhere. There was a large TV monitor set up when we arrived, the World Cup game in progress and all gathered round to watch Germany dispatch Argentina 4-0.
Being in Vienna, I was hoping our catering wizards would conjure up wiener schnitzel for dinner tonight and sure enough they had. They were absolutely massive, served with a fried egg on top, all sitting on a bed of mashed potatoes. It was a 7:30 show tonight and much as I wanted that schnitzel, I couldn't eat one that close to going on stage. I opted instead for a more sensible salad and small dish of pasta with marinara sauce.
It was a steamer of a show, temperature, playing and audience...a great gig here in Vienna, followed by a runner to the Legacy, everybody in great spirits from the gig. Airborne, Daniella served dinner...wiener schnitzel, mustard potato salad and to my delight, Augustiner beer from Munich! Augustiner is the oldest brewery in Bavaria and one of my favourite beers. There will be many that disagree, but for my taste Bavarian beer wins hands down. A perfect blend of malt and hops nothing is out of balance. A problem I have with so many craft or microbrewery beers is so many are overly hopped or malted, sort of showing off. All would do well to taste a great Bavarian lager as a good starting model.
We arrived back in Budapest, still early and all wandered round the corner to an open air bar and a few more rounds of beer while watching all the good looking youngsters of the city out in their finest for a Saturday night. It's good to be alive and in Europe right now and I can't tell you how lucky we all feel feel.
We will play a show here in Budapest tomorrow night, then fly to London for four consecutive days off.
Wroclaw, Poland...2 July, 2010
It was a great day off yesterday, the 1st, in Amsterdam. Woke late, did my time on a treadmill then tumbled out onto the street where I met up with road managers Tim and Paul, Paul's wife Ellen and two of our drivers Bernie and Dominika. I tagged along with them to Our Lord In The Attic. 350 years ago when Catholicism was not allowed to be practised openly, authorities turned a blind eye to private practise. Three stories of an apartment were turned into a church complete with pews, alter, confessional, bedrooms, kitchens etc. An amazing secret find in Amsterdam that is being restored to it's original colours and construction. From there we found a little cafe on a canal for sandwiches and beer and after that I continued walking for another hour. We all met up later at an Indonesian restaurant for dinner. So many trays of food arrived I lost track...all delicious. One dish we were told to save for the last as it was very hot. Very hot doesn't even begin to tell the story. It was ridiculous, took your face off, set you hair on fire. From there it was a stop at the great bar just round the corner from the hotel for a few beers. It's been a grand stay in Amsterdam.
This morning we decamped and flew to Wroclaw which I won't even attempt to pronounce pheonetically here, but I will say that it is not Warsaw, this is another city altogether and we'd never played here. The Hala Stulecia is an arena holding 5,000+ and every seat filled. The people were so great to us. A wonderful show and we hope to return again.
A runner to the Legacy. There was a problem with the flaps on the plane so we ate dinner parked on the tarmac...a spectacular Persian feast of spinach and beef, aubergine, rice, chicken, yoghurt and spinach and more....washed down with loads of wine and beer. The problem taken care of and the plates cleared, we took off for a short flight to Budapest where we'll base from for the next couple of days.
Amsterdam, Holland...30 June, 2010
A late beginning this morning...past noon to be exact. A couple of espressos courtesy of the Krupps machine in room, then off to the gym. Not exactly, as the gym in the hotel is being re-done and not yet open, so for now it is room 250 consisting of a treadmill, stationery bike and two sets of hand weights, 3 and 5 kgs. Fairly useless, but I hopped on the mill and at least got my heart going for the day.
I'd missed breakfast but remembered a great little omelette and pancake cafe just across the canal when we stayed at this hotel in 2005. I walked over and there it was, Badero's Cafe. By now the sun had come out after a cloudy morning and I took a table outside at the canal's edge. It was nearly 2 o'clock and they'd already stopped serving hot drinks, beer or soda only. No argument from me, I ordered a cold, tall Amstel and kaas & champignons omelette (cheese and mushroom). I remember the omelettes being incredible and when it arrived I was not disappointed. Nothing fancy, just perfectly cooked, crispy edges, wonderful cheese...nothing could have been better. I've gone on about the fab meals we've had on this tour, but I don't think I've enjoyed any as much as that omelette. I sat there for an hour at the tree lined canal, across the street a building dating back to 1663 of brick so brown, it looked black with white marble trim and carved angels atop. On the ground floor of that building was the City Hall 'coffee shop', one of hundreds selling beer, hash and weed. A cat wandered in and out of the doorway of Badero's unfazed by the bikes and tourists that passed. A better hour whiled away I cannot recall. It reminded me of a line in an old song...I'm glad that I'm living and lucky to be.
Back to Music Hall tonight for the final show of our three day run. It was packed again with a wonderful audience and it's been a great residency in Amsterdam.
A runner back to the hotel followed by a few beers with Dan, Guy, tour managers Pete, Tim, Paul and his wife Ellen and one of our drivers Bernie at a bar not far from the hotel.
A day off tomorrow here in Amsterdam, I already hear Badero's calling.
Amsterdam, Holland...29 June, 2010
For starters, the name of the great restaurant in Prague we ate in Sunday night was, U Morde Kachnicky located at Nebovidska 6. It scored high in my book and everyone else seemed to love it as well.
I threw myself out of the hotel and into the street for a walk this afternoon. The city is loaded with tourists at the moment...so many people. Still, it was great walking along the canals, restaurants and coffee shops with the smell of hashish and pot lingering round the door ways.
The second of three shows tonight at Music Hall. It's basically a large open floor with tiered seating in the rear only. They cram as many as possible in standing and fill the seats as well. The place holds 5,500, but whose to say how many were in there. It was jam packed and you couldn't have slid an envelope in. Great show, great crowd. I never take this for granted, none of us do. We all go out there and play like it was the first night of the tour, always striving to do better.
A quick drink back at the hotel and an early night.
Amsterdam, Holland...28 June, 2010
Yesterday, the 27th, was a day off in Prague. In the very wonderful Augustine Hotel they serve breakfast until 2 on the weekends and I went down for a late one with some of guys. It was sunny and hot and after breakfast put on my walking shoes and hit the streets of the old town. I made my way across the Charles Bridge with all the stands catering to tourists with everything from jewelry to paintings. The great jazz band that has played on the Charles Bridge for decades was there and in fine form complete with a fantastic washboard player. Brilliant! I stopped in a little cafe for a great pizza and ice cold, creamy Budweiser/Budvar. This is the orginal stuff, not anything to do with or related to the American version. Budvar has been brewed in Prague long before Anhauser-Bucsh was ever in existence. From there I sat on a bench in the sun by the river watching the excursion boats go up and down the river and made it back to the hotel in time to go to the bar where the England vs. Germany World Cup game was playing. Needless to say the Brits were not pleased with either the bollocks-ed goal call in the first half or the performance of the England team. Our normally mild mannered tour manager Pete McKay went very vocal during the game. At some point a table of elderly American tourists came in and sat next to our group for a late lunch. I'm sure it's not really what they expected of their experience.
We all met up for dinner at a traditional Prague restaurant and it was delicious. Among the dishes ordered were wild boar, duck, chicken, roast pork, goulash, caramelised red cabbage, delicious purple tomatoes, dumplings and whole heads of roasted garlic. All washed down with many bottles of wonderful red wine. Dessert and coffee followed...a heavy dinner to say the least. I made a point to get a card from the restaurant so I could name it here, but for the life of me can't find it as I peck this out. I'll come across it in the next day or so and will make note of it then.
This morning we decamped the fab Augustine Hotel. Guy rated it 9, but only because it didn't have a pool. Apart from that there were no complaints. We flew to Amsterdam and went straight to the venue, Music Hall. A stand up gig of 5,500 and our usual place to play in Amsterdam. It was the first of three shows here and will be nice to settle in for a short residency, the crew will have a breather as well since they don't have to tear down and set up for the next few nights.
Prague, Czech Republic...26 June, 2010
We're very fortunate when on tour to stay in the finest hotels in the world, the occasional dud notwithstanding, this tour has been no exception. The Penninsula in Chicago and Hotel de Rome in Berlin to name just two, but The Augustine here in Prague is by far my favourite and rates 10 Lux'm. It is a 13th century Augustinian Monastery remade by Rocco Forte hotels. It has retained much of the feel of it's past life in the stone work, court yards, walkways, wide halls, arch ways, catacombs, etc. Even the furnishsings, while very comfortable, have the simplicity of dark oak missionary style, combined with earth tones of brown, creme, burnt orange and light sage colours. While tucked away off the main road in the old part of town, it is central to the shoppes, cafes, bars and bridges. The Augustine is a miracle of a make over with thought to every detail, particularly the decor and furnishing which clearly retains the peacefulness of it's former self.
Tonight's show was yet another O2 Arena. O2 is a European mobile telephone company sort of like Verizon in American or Orange in Britain. They seem to have the arena naming rights sewn up as well. It's a brand new venue and last night's audience was just over 7,000. Some exceptional playing last night from every man on stage. Mike McGoldrick over came a rocky beginning when his in ear monitors packed it in during the first song, causing him to have to use a spare set that are inferior and missing part of the song while changing over. I know it doesn't sound like a big deal, but things like that completely destroy your focus when on stage. He told me after the show that he was so put off, this being the second time it's happened on the tour with his monitors, that once he finally got going with the spares he had to really force himself not to let it get him down. He certainly bounced back with some of the best playing I've ever heard from him.
Back at the hotel, we all gathered in the quiet bar, one of two in the hotel, with high vaulted, hand stenciled ceiling and heavy doors leading to outdoor garden seating. More than a few large, golden, Czech drafts were put away before adjourning to Guy's room for tea and sounds. The band Low Anthem is getting lots of spins. My wife turned me onto them several months ago and it turns out to be a favourite with several in the band as well.
A day off tomorrow in Prague and some walking will be done.
Munich, Germany...25 June, 2010
From Stuttgart to Munich by train, which was delayed by an hour. The journey required getting off half an hour prior to our destination and boarding a second train to take us into the Munich station. There we were met by drivers, Bernie, Dominika and Fabian and a short five minute drive to the venue.
A big outdoor show tonight at Konigsplatz, an open air, town square surrounded by large Roman style museums. Once used as a rallying place for Hitler in the years leading up to and including the war, every trace of those dark days have long been done away with including the large granite squares that surfaced the walkways around the museums where soldiers paraded. Those walkways are now gravel. It is a beautiful location for an outdoor show.
In keeping with the summer theme, our catering staff prepared a barbecue for dinner, bratwurst, chicken, steaks, sea bream, corn on the cob and salads. Top drawer as always.
Nearly 12,000 people were in attendance when we took the stage at 8 o'clock, still daylight here in Europe. An incredibly relaxed show as the outdoor gigs tend to be, loads of smiling folks in the audience and on stage. Toward the end of the show a chilly wind whipped up, cloud gathered and lightening flashed. I thought the skies would open any minutes, but for all the bluster, there was no rain and we played the encores to a standing, wonderful crowd in Munich.
A runner to a small landing strip about 40 minutes outside the city, fueled by freshly grilled German sausages and Augustiner beer in each car. We were driven onto the landing field and right up to the steps of the Legacy. We've been driving and travelling by train for the last week and it was good to get back on the plane for a very short flight to Prague where we'll spend the night and play tomorrow.
A long day with loads of travel, good food, good music and more than a few laughs.
Stuttgart, Germany...24 June,2010
A good night's sleep and I felt much better than I have in the last few days. A pot of coffee and some stale bread sent to the room. This hotel receives 0 Lux'm, the measurement of luxury on the ITLO Scale (In The Lap Of). It's a tired old 60s place, the operative word being tired. Once more I whittled away about three hours playing guitar, on a serious practicing jag and have made some good headway and a couple of big discoveries. I've not been this anxious to have a guitar in my hands since I was first learning. Second childhood I suppose.
I did venture out for a walk about 2 o'clock, but the hotel is located in an odd area, no shoppes to speak of, so it was back to the room, pack, shower and down to the gig.
Schleyerhalle was tonight's venue, capacity nearly 10,000 and our usual venue in Stuttgart. Another fab German audience and a great show from MK and Co.
A runner back to the hotel. Tomorrow it's on to Munich.
Mannheim, Germany...23 June, 2010
5:30 a.m....awake, wide awake. Right, let's just confirm that with 2 espressos. Yep, really wide awake now. I was in the gym by 6:30 this morning working up a storm and back in the room by 8, drenched and ravenous. I ordered up eggs, toast, coffee and juice and devoured it all, read the paper, played guitar and packed my bag for a pre-noon pick up. Cleaned up and checked out, bidding a fond farewell to Dusseldorf, a great city.
We took the train today to Mannheim, don't know why we didn't drive, but it was a comfortable, efficient and smooth 2 hour journey. At one point I looked out the window and thought, we're really clipping along. About that time Matt returned from the WC where there was a screen with the speed posted, we were going 300 kilometers or nearly 200 miles per hour.
We arrived at the venue just past 4 in the afternoon and everything had stopped to watch England vs. Slovenia in the World Cup. All the crew and now the band were in catering watching the big screen. At half time everyone scurried back to the stage and we did a VERY quick sound check, then back to catering to watch the second half. England won 1-0 and a huge cheer went up.
Meantime, due to my early rising, I was beginning to flag...very tired. Never got a nap and was completely knackered for tonight's show. I tried a strong espresso, but that didn't do much. Still, once I got on stage with the band I felt fine again. The SAP Arena was sold out, nearly 10,000 great people and another well played show.
We piled in the cars at the end of the gig and drove about an hour to Stuttgart where we will stay tonight and play tomorrow.
Oberhausen, Germany...22 June, 2010
Yesterday, the 21st, was a day off in Dusseldorf and it was spent wandering the old town with it's narrow streets and warrens of shoppes, cafes, bars and bakeries. Located on the Rhine River, I walked it's edge and sat in the sun as well as doing some shopping.
Last night was our dinner with the promoter of the German shows, Marek Lieberberg. As in past years he treated us to a magnificent Italian dinner, this time at Amici Ristorante in Dusseldorf. Platters of lobster, scallops and calamari, followed by more platter of pasta with marinara sauce and mushroom sauce and gnocchi. I had a beef fillet perfectly cooked with wilted spinach. This was followed by still more platters of dessert; caramel custard, gelato, fresh fruit, zaglioni (sp?) which is a warm wine and egg white based concoction whisked into a beautiful froth and more and more. From the moment we sat down a very posh red wine was poured and continued to flow all night. This stuff went down like liquid velvet and never stopped coming until you said 'uncle'. A magnificent dinner, fit for a king, yet was never pretensious. I arrived back in my hotel room around 11 in a food and wine coma. Straight to bed.
Woke this morning at 4:30...wide awake and feeling like I'd just eaten. Read for a while and finally got back to sleep at 7. Slept 'til 11, got some coffee and commenced to read the paper and practice until lobby call at 4:30.
We drove to Oberhausen and played the Konig-Pilsnesr Arena to 10,000 wonderful fans. All the German dates have been extraordinary and we still have more to go.
A runner back to Dusseldorf, a couple of martinis in the bar, peck these notes out, then bed.
Koln, Germany...20 June, 2010
I didn't fully fall asleep until 6 this morning, consequently slept most of the morning away 'til just past 11. My hotel room has Nespresso automatic espresso maker, you simply drop in a coffee cartridge, place a cup beneath the spigot, press a button and it makes a very acceptable cup of coffee. I jump-started my heart with three of them and sat down on the couch with my guitar and practised all afternoon. As you can tell from these notes, I'm doing a great deal of that this trip and really enjoying the time spent playing. I was so caught up in it that I looked up at the clock and I had exactly 10 minutes to get dressed, pack my bag for the gig and be down in the lobby. I made it but, just barely.
We drove about 40 minutes to Lanxess Arena in Koln. This venue seats over 10,000 and weve played it before. A quick sound check and dinner followed by the show. I didn't see an empty seat in the house and it was another great German audience and show. As we walked off the stage for the final time, the roar of the crowd was almost too much to take, absolutely deafening.
A runner back to Dusseldorf and a couple of beers, cups of tea and sounds in Guy's room. Hopefully a good night's sleep tonight and tomorrow is a day off.
Leipzig, Germany...19 June, 2010
Having an early night to bed has it's drawbacks. I was up, wide awake and ready to go at 5:30 this morning. Had a continental breakfast sent up, drank the coffee and puttered 'til 8 when I went to the gym. By 9:30 I was back in the room, knackered. Finished what was left on my breakfast tray and went back to bed for a couple of hours. Got up, packed the bag for pick up, had a shower, checked out and started the drive to our flight.
As we were approaching the airport in Berlin, road manager Tim Hook received a call from our pilot saying there had been an airplane crash and all flights, arriving and departing, had been temporarily suspended. A DC-3 excursion flight had taken off, had engine problems and two miles out turned back around to land. It never made the runway and crashed on the perimeter of the airport. A discussion was held about driving to our show in Leipzig which would take 2 hours and put us there in plenty of time, but shortly we got word that flights were resuming and we had a take off slot. We sat on the plane waiting to leave in a sombre mood. On take off we could see the downed plane, one wing snapped off on impact and loads of emergency vehicles around it.
We arrived at the arena in Leipzigs in time for a full soundcheck and shortly after heard the good news that all passengers and the crew survived the DC-3 accident, several were in hospital but no serious injuries. It was a great relief knowing there was no fatalities.
Over 7,000 wonderful fans and another remarkable show in Leipzig followed by a runner to the Legacy, a flight to Dusseldorf and check in at the hotel where we'll base for the next three days. When I walked in my room the phone rang, it was Guy F. on the other end saying the music and kettle were both on. Three cups of tea later and some great music by Iron and Wine, Speedy West and Jimmy Bryant, Lonnie Johnson and Andrew Byrd, I went back to my room at the still respectable hour of 2.
Berlin, Germany...18 June, 2010
A few blocks from our hotel in Berlin is an Augustiner Restaurant serving traditional German food and the miraculous Augustiner-Brau on tap. The beer is great in the bottle and better on draft and better yet when accompanying a very large Wiener Schnitzel and even better still before noon sitting at an outside table. It was a dream meal followed by a walk around the city with Mike. A perfect day, clear blue skies and felt like 80 degrees. We stopped for a coffee and sat outside on the square taking in the day and marveling at just how lucky we are.
Tonight's gig was the O2 World Arena and it was packed with close to 11,000 Berliners who were on their feet through the last several songs. A wonderful crowd and it's hard to believe, but this band just gets better every night, we have loads of fun playing and find new things to play every show. It's the way music should be made but seldom is.
A runner back to the hotel, bypassing the bar in lieu of bed.
Hannover, Germany...17 June, 2010
A grand turn out in the gym today, road manager Tim Hook, keyboard extraordinaire Guy Fletcher, power house Danny Cummings made a guest appearance, bass master Glenn Worf and yours truly. Sweat poured and heart rates were dangerously highs. We're so healthy.
Driving through Berlin to the airport was an ordeal of traffic and the drive from the airport in Hannover to the venue was an adventure of stalled cars and diversions. We arrived, at last at the TUI Arena, just in time for a sound check before the doors opened. A big hit on tonight's menu was Massaman Curry and rice pudding. A staggering meal that should not have been eaten prior to the the gig.....but was.
It was a grand gig, the band in top form, free and easy and fabulous. The audience was the same.
A runner after the show back to Berlin. I spied an Augustiner Biergarten near our hotel and plan to pursue it tomorrow for lunch. I've been lusting after the world's largest wiener-schnitzel and a draft Ausgustiner beer since arriving here in Germany.
Down to the hotel bar for a couple drinks with Guy and John before turning in.
Hamburg, Germany...16 June, 2010
Back in London yesterday for a day off. For some reason I was wide awake after a couple of hours sleep...at 4:30 in the morning! I managed to stay in bed for another two hours then decided that was all the sleep I'd get. A call to room service had coffee and toast sent to the room, went down to the gym for a good pounding then back up for a shower. This was all before 10 o'clock in the morning. A short walk to the Piccadilly tube station and it was off for a haircut. I recall having a very expensive experience with hair the last tour and wasn't too interested in dropping 90 quid for a trim. There's a great little Thai place that cuts hair, does massage and manicures just around the corner from the Tate Britain that I've always been pleased with in past. No muss or fuss just a fab haircut for 10 pounds...what a haircut should cost. From there to a nail place off Gloucester Road to have some new acrylics stuck on that will carry me through the next three weeks. A sandwich for lunch and back to the hotel...read and nap, followed by a wander up Regent Street and a quick pass through Carnaby. A Lebanese dinner out and a couple of martinis back at the mahogany bar in the hotel. In bed before midnight, a good day off.
This afternoon we flew to Hamburg for a show at the Colorline Arena with a capacity crowd of nearly 11,000, the first of nine shows in Germany. I met with my friend, songwriter and record producer Rudi Mussig for a few minutes just prior to the show and it was great catching up, albeit very briefly.
A runner after the gig to Berlin where we will spend the night and base for the next several days. A drink downstairs with Dan and Guy followed by some sounds and a cup of tea in djFletch's room.
Bergen, Norway...14 June, 2010
The flight to Bergen was gorgeous with the fjords,islands and mountains below us. We arrived and were faced with the usual traffic getting to the venue...nearly an hour's drive.
The show was in the same hanger as last time, Vestlandshallen. Basically a "space" for 7 to 8,000 standing fans. An incredibly relaxed and confident show and another wonderful audience.
A runner to London where we will have a day off tomorrow. A gym and haircut are in my future.
Oslo, Norway...13 June, 2010
I slept in 'til nearly 11 this morning then spent a good part of the day playing guitar and listening to what has become my new favourite album and band, The Seldom Seen Kid by Elbow. They're from Manchester and this record is so musical and rewarding on every level. From the songwriting, playing, sound and production to the use stings and brass...it is worth seeking out. A record so rich you are constantly discovering new things with every listen.
We played the Norwegian Wood Festival here in Oslo tonight. The weather threatened all day...cloudy, cool, rainy etc. but the sun broke through as we left the hotel only to cloud up and give one more down pour before the clouds moved out and we played. Our normal catering boys didn't have a facility to work in today at the outdoor venue so it was local catering tonight...a barbecue! It really couldn't have been better, hamburgers and ribs and they guy cooking them knew what he was doing. We all gorged ourselves at dinner then again after the show when more freshly cooked meat arrived in our dressing room along with platters of salmon, cheeses, breads and spreads. A serious meat night.
8,000+ wonderful fans crowded the park for the show and they were such a great audience, very musical. You can watch people pointing things out as something cool is happening and you know they're really into it. It was grand playing to people like that and an honour to do so.
As mentioned above, we didn't run back to the hotel but hung out backstage for an hour or so after the show enjoying the food, wine and camaraderie.
We decamp Oslo tomorrow.
Helsingborg, Sweden...12 June, 2010
Our second outdoor gig in a row tonight in Helsingborg located in southern Sweden just across the strait from Denmark. No telling how many people braved the cold, rain and wind...certainly in excess of 7,000 and all hearty souls to stand on line then shoulder to shoulder through our two hour show. Once again our crew gets the highest marks for working outside all day long then breaking it down and loading out after we'd left. They were all looking raw but as always still managed a good word and smiles. They get top points in my book.
After last night's cold, windy, wet show, we took the stage tonight in various states of dress to stay warm. Basically, whatever we had with us or in the wardrobe trunks put on in as many layers as possible. This made for some interesting get ups but nobody seemed to mind and it was a well played and well received show.
A runner back to Oslo where John, Mike and I went to an Irish pub to see some mates of Mike's play a set and hoist a couple of pints. It was 3:30 in the morning when we walked back to our hotel and the sky was already light having only been dark for a couple hours.
Middlefart, Denmark...11 June, 2010
Yesterday was day off which I spent in sidewalk cafes and walking the streets of Paris. This is a city that certainly has no identity crisis. It knows exactly what it is and lives up to it's reputation of great restaurants, high fashion, high prices, a haughty arrogance and romance. We had dinner at a wonderful restaurant named Chez Andre then walked it off for 40 minutes on the way back to our hotel.
Paris has come and gone. Checked out of our gold plated hotel at 2 for an hour and a half flight to Denmark. En route was wonderful platters of meats, pate, quail eggs and French cheeses.
Tonight's gig was an outdoor festival and we arrived to find it had been raining, windy and cold for the last two days. It was a sea of mud below and dark clouds above. We all piled into a small portable trailer/dressing rooms and hunkered down until show time. The site was also on a lake which didn't help the wind and chill factor. We all bundled up in whatever warm gear we had ranging from layers of t-shirts and wind breakers to suit jackets and out we went.
There was a sea of fans standing for as far as the eye could see and heaven only knows how long they'd been standing in the cold and rain. Mercifully, the rain stopped for most of the show picking up again the last 20 minutes. That audience couldn't have been better and we put on a good show for them. Toward the end it was so cold that I couldn't feel my fingers.
My hat's off not only to the audience, but to our crew and caterers who suffered the elements and mud in makeshift tents, stages and office trailers. I've said in these notes before that they are the true heroes of this story and days like today only deepens that truth.
A runner to Oslo where we will base for the next few days.
Paris, France...9 June,2010
Gray and raining in Paris this morning. I took my guitar out of it's case and spent most of the morning finishing a song I've been working on, drinking coffee and putting off going to the gym. I'd convinced myself that I would blow it off and do it tomorrow but by the early afternoon I pulled myself up by the bootstraps, dragged in there and took a good pummeling. Back to the room, finished what was left of my breakfast, got a shower and off to the gig.
It was our largest audience so far, 11,400+. Like every audience of the tour, Paris gave us a grand reception and response throughout and due to the sheer numbers it was a deafening one. The venue was Bercy, we've played there before, but won't soon forget our show here tonight.
A runner back to the hotel and like the night before, several of us ended up in a little Irish pup just round the corner. The Guinness is fresh and more than a few pints were hoisted followed by some music and wine with John McCusker and his fiancee Heidi Talbot in Mike McGoldrick's room.
A welcomed day off tomorrow in Paris. A sidewalk cafe is in my future.
Esch/Alzette, Luxembourg...8 June, 2010
This posting is a little late not due to laziness but being unable to get on the internet in the hotel 'til now.
We checked out of our very comfy digs in Frankfurt, picked up the Legacy for a short flight to Luxembourg. I probably wrote about this venue and surrounding area last time, but it is as close to a Mad Max movie set as you'll ever see. Once an area of industrial steel mills, it has been abandoned for what look like decades and now stands in dark decay. A perfect place for a goth band vid shoot. In the midst of it a concrete structure was built for shows. Little more than a giant square space where they cram in as many people shoulder to shoulder as possible. It's dank, dark, airless, bleak and called Rockhal, Centre de Musicques. It's a place that has signs posted all around forbidding stage diving. The dressing rooms reeked of garlic and raw sewage, but we had a great gig and the 7 or 8 thousand (who knows?) fans were mighty.
A runner onto Paris where we spent the night and will play tonight.
Frankfurt, Germany...7 June, 2010
The great thing about an after show runner and flight to the city we play the following day is a relaxed day of the show. So it was having arrived last night in Frankfurt. Slept in 'til 9:30, coffee in the room then down to the gym followed by sun at the pool.
Our first German date was memorable. The usual venue here in Frankfurt, Festhalle was a total sell out of close to 8,000. If tonight's audience is any indication the shows in Germany are going to be incredible. A perfect example of performer/audience connection, both feeding off the other. MK and Co. in stellar form and the roar of appreciation was deafening. Festhalle, which can be very echoey, was well in control tonight thanks to ace front of house sound man Dave Dixon. Another factor is how quietly we play on stage which helps Dave with the control and clarity of the house sound. Well done all.
Back to the hotel for drinks and loads of laughs. A good night to be alive in Frankfurt.
Antwerp, Belgium...6 June, 2010
Decamped our London hotel after 11 nights. Everything in my bag managed to find it's way out...hung on door knobs, thrown over chair backs, some in closets, some in piles on the floor. It took forever to gather it all up again, fold it and pack the suitcase for an 11 o'clock pick up this morning. Miraculously, I got out of there with less than a $100 incidental tab for the entire stay.
We boarded our Legacy at Northolt Air Field and flew to Brussels then drove to Antwerp and the Sportpaleis. We are finally in Europe for our first show. It was a stand up gig with approximately 7,000 folks. We've been gigging since April but tonight really felt like we're on tour. A loud crowd and a hot sweaty gig.
A runner back to Brussels, the Legacy and into Frankfurt where we'll base for the next couple of days and play here tomorrow night. Checked into the hotel, Danny, Guy, John, Mike and I headed down to the very friendly bar for a couple of nightcaps then off to bed.
London, England #6...4 June, 2010
I met with a friend early this morning and we went down to Denmark Street in Soho. Denmark only runs for a very short block and is where all the music stores and vintage guitar shoppes in London are located. Some wonderful guitars that I enjoyed looking at and playing, but am not in a buying mood right now. Stopped in at the wonderful Fopp Record Store and found a copy of the album by Elbow that I mentioned a few postings ago, The Seldom Seen Kid. Can't wait to sink into that one. We had lunch then back to the hotel.
It was a fitting final show at the Albert. As with our previous engagements we've come to know her like the back of our hand and feel very at home there. It was our sixth sold out night, not an empty seat in the galleries, boxes, choir or on the floor. As noted all week, the London audiences have been extraordinary and tonight was no exception, a thunderous response. As we were playing the final song of the evening I was already beginning to miss this amazing venue and am looking forward to when we return next.
And so...that is the U.K. tour completed. We'll have a day off tomorrow then it's on to the European leg beginning Sunday in Antwerp.
London, England #4...2 June, 2010
A walk to Pret A Manger for a sandwich, coffee then on to Hyde Park to have my lunch, read the paper and walk for an hour. A grand day of gorgeous weather in London town.
We officially have hot water in our hotel and I took advantage of it before going to RAH for tonight's gig.
Great show, great audience. I know, it's boring to read the same thing every day. We are blessed.
Off tomorrow to help a friend find an acoustic guitar on Denmark Street.
London, England #4...2 June, 2010
The weather was perfect in London, sunny, bright blue skies and warm. Got the gym out of the way early and was out of the hotel by 10 for breakfast as well as a quick nail patch up. For years I've benefited from acrylic nails on the first three fingers of my right hand. My own nails are paper thin and I use these fingers so much in my playing, if they weren't reinforced would simply be worn down to nothing. Of course every two or three weeks they must be renewed. It was so nice that I stayed out walking until midday when I returned to the hotel.
On the hot water front, I'm happy to say it is back. I wouldn't exactly call it hot, lukewarm better describes the shower I had. Still, a vast improvement from the last two days. In the grand scheme our water temperature problem is trivial, but I'm hoping the tanks will be fully heated by tomorrow.
I walked to the Albert arriving a little earlier than usual, had a bowl of magnificent smoked fish soup, a cup of tea and did a some practising as I'd not brought my guitar back to the hotel the previous night. Sound check, dinner then on stage for show number four. Again, the audience was so enthusiastic, we all come off stage and back to the dressing room remarking on great they've been.
Back to the hotel for an early night.
London, England #3... 1 June, 2010
Day 2, no hot water. Various band members are going to other hotels or down to the Albert and having a shower there. Not me...I toughed it out only due of laziness, putting off the event until the last possible minute this afternoon.
We're into a comfortable routine in our residency and tonight's show, the third of the run, was another sold out night and another great audience.
Back at the hotel, run the hot tap and stick my finger under it in hopes of feeling some warmth. The note under the door this evening begins..."Dear Guest,
I regret to inform that we are still facing difficulties receiving replacement parts from the North of England. Consequently the hot water will be restored and back to function no sooner than 10:00 p.m. tonight"....and so on. It is nearly 1 in the morning as I peck this out. No hot water. Stay tuned for day 3.
London, England #2...31 May, 2010
After a rousing opening night at RAH, I was up bright and early this morning, knocked back a couple of shots of espresso courtesy of the in-room machine then suffered the hotel gym. It was better than a couple of days ago as I had the place (really just a space) to myself. Done. I was absolutely starving so threw on some clothes and walked up Glouscester Road to a Meditteranian Cafe for a huge plate of scrambled eggs, toast and bacon and a little more caffiene for good measure. Wandered round the shops for a while then back to the hotel for a shower and get ready for tonight's show. As I was walking down the hall to my room I saw one of the staff slipping letters under each door. I approached my room and he handed mine to me then quickly disappeared. Once inside I read the following: "Dear Guests, We are currently experiencing a technical problem with the hot water throughout the hotel which we are investigating. Unfortunately we are unable to guarantee that this will be in working order by the end of the day."....and so on. Not having a shower after the gym this morning wasn't an option so I gritted my teeth and edged various parts of myself in the icy spray being too cowardly to actually stand fully in it. The only good thing I can say is it saves water as you don't linger around too long, apart from that I don't recommend it.
A short hop over to the Albert and we all compared cold shower stories. A quick soundcheck, another superb dinner of roast lamb and several other entrees, salads and desserts thanks to our five star travelling caterers...then on stage for night two.
The Royal Albert Hall seats 5,200 and every possible seat in the house, balconies and boxes were filled as they were last night. In fact, it's a sold out six night run.
What an audience. London audiences can be reserved but judging from the last couple of nights we're in for something else. MK and Co. in top form. It was a quick glass of wine back in the dressing room and I walked back to the hotel with John.
I ran the hot tap to see if the hotel's 'investigation' had led to repair. Cold water.
I rang downstairs and was informed they were waiting on a part and the hot water would flow again, perhaps by midday tomorrow. Stay tuned.
London, England...30 May, 2010
Saturday was a day off and I was up early for the usual pummelling in the gym. A tiny space with a few machines and weights but if you're creative you can get the job done. The problem is if another person is in the room, you end up stepping over each other. Anyway, it'll do. A shower and a walk up the high street for lunch, a delicious plate of fried noodles and veg at Wagamama, followed by a stop at H&M clothes store. Spent a good chunk of the afternoon with a guitar in hand and in the early evening met up with an good friend for an Italian meal and drinks.
Today was wonderfully clear and mild in London which I took as a directive to get a sandwich and coffee then find a bench in Hyde Park and devour it...the food not the bench. Back to the hotel for a little more practise, pack my bag and off to Albert Hall for the first of our six night residency there.
I've played there so many times now that I know my way around her pretty well and feel right at home there. That's not to say I am complacent about it in any way. There are certain venues that are tremendously special and always keep you on your toes, Royal Albert Hall is one of them. I first played there in the 1970's with Neil Diamond and have returned numerous times with MK and it never fails to take my breath away. Tonight's show was an absolute joy...top to bottom. Everyone in full control of their game, nice and relaxed and enjoying every minute of the two hours on stage. It was a great audience...with us every step of the way.
Now that the first night jitters are behind, we'll settle very comfortably into the next five shows at the Albert and its already begun to feel like old home week.
Bournemouth, England...28 May, 2010
To Bournemouth in cars this afternoon. Getting out of London took forever and there seemed be traffic everywhere...it took nearly three hours to get there. I rode with John McCusker and Mike McGoldrick and we listened to Heidi Talbot's new album that John produced and Mike played on. Heidi's a brilliant singers and this new album is her best, the playing and arrangements are so good and it will be available in the autumn.
At last, we arrived at the Bournemouth International Centre where we've played a couple of time in the past. I specifically remember it from my first tour with MK in 1996. The capacity crowd of 4,200 was a great audience, all standing by the end.
Show over, it was into the cars for the drive back to London. Mike played dj for the trip and we listened to an amazing array of music including a couple of cuts from the new album by Elbow, a Manchester band who now happen to be my new favourite band. The ride back faster and we arrived at the hotel around midnight.
Tomorrow's a day off before we commence our Albert Hall shows. I will drag myself off to the gym, do a bit of shopping and plan to have dinner with an friend.
Brighton, England...27 May, 2010
I spent the morning mopping up many days of e-mail I'd left unattended and fooling around with a new tune that happily popped into my head. I cannot account for where these melodies come from, I've never been good at sitting down to specifically write. Instead, a piece of something drifts by when I'm least expecting it and my radar happens to be up. At that point I'll roll up my sleeves and begin crafting and so it was this morning. All was fueled by several cups of espresso courtesy of a machine in the room and Illy coffee.
I've had a few folks ask what guitar I use to practise with when on tour. It's a Fender Stratocaster that I play in the show. At the end of each night Tom Calcaterra my guitar tech zips it up in a gig bag and hands it to me as I walk off stage and into the waiting cars. From that point on it stays with me until I hand it back to him the following day at sound check. I don't have an amp in the room, simply play unplugged and there's enough sound comes off it to practise and write.
We left London mid-day for a drive to the seaside city of Brighton, complete with famous pier, hotels and fish and chips shops. Our usual gig, Brighton Centre was packed, the show relaxed and confident.
It was a swift drive back to London made all the better by a bottle of red wine and chicken salad sandwiches courtesy of catering. We arrived at the hotel where John, Mike and I decided to have a nightcap. We opted out of our hotel bar as a half dozen drinks was equal to a mortgage payment the previous night. Stopped in a couple of clubs up the street, all too noisy, then took a chance on the Royal Garden Hotel bar where the drinks were fine and the prices easier on the pocket book. There we bumped into a few musicians who work with John Maher who played Wembley Arena this evening, Robbie McIntosh being one. I've admired Robbie's playing for years as a studio musician and journeyman guitarist to best. Turns out the feeling was mutual and we had loads of experiences to talk about. By the time things began to wind down it was 3 in the morning and they'd shuttered the bar. A short walk back to our hotel and a bed never felt better.
Cardiff, Wales...26 May, 2010
Another tough slog in the gym this morning. This stuff doesn't get any easier and I suppose that's the point. Got through it though and was glad I did as today ended up being a heavy food day beginning with a staggering meal on the plane from Manchester to Cardiff. Platters of steamed whole lobsters, crab salad, crayfish and shrimp...a feast from Harrod's. Daniella our air hostess got this together and it was fabulous...elbows flying everywhere.
Arrived at the Cardiff International Arena in time for a sound check after which we wandered into catering, not particularly hungry, but just to see what was on. Another sumptuous feast of smoked portabello mushroom salad, pasta salad, crispy pork belly, chanamasala, grilled fresh tuna, apple strudel with ice creme and on and on. All right, we'll eat again.
Another relaxed show (maybe it's the food) for a great audience. We love playing every night. Our old touring pal Adrian Fitzpatrick came to see us tonight. Ada toured with the Straits and well into the era that I've been involved with, retiring several years ago. He's a good man and we miss him not to mention his wonderful cups of stout tea. Great to see him again.
A runner to the Legacy after the gig for a flight to London where we will base for the next ten days. We couldn't possibly eat any more but Daniella had the most fantastic chicken tikka masala, shrimp dansak, potatoes and peas with pomegranate and naan. Every morsel consumed. I'm glad I put that gym time in this morning.
We arrived, checked into our comfy hotel and a few of us met down at the bar for a night cap just to ensure a few more carbs and calories.
Manchester, England...25 May, 2010
A day off yesterday and I was up reasonably early, had some room service sent up, downed the coffee, toast and left the rest. Got my togs on and made a bee line for the gym. A fairly well stocked facility for it's size and it certainly kicked my ass having not done any exercise in two weeks. A combination of having to rest between sets and sorting the American pounds to kilograms conversion, it took me nearly 2 hours to get through it. Back at the room I was starving and piled into the muesli, yogurt, fresh fruit and whatever else was left from breakfast. It was eventually all eaten.
Our pal Bob, one of our drivers, kindly took me to the University of Manchester in the afternoon. My son went to school there for a semester and never got a sweat shirt or T. So after all these years, I picked up a sweat for him with the U of M emblem. Later that evening I met with Danny and Glenn, took a cab to the Curry Mile, not far from the university, and had a fabulous Indian meal. On the way back we stopped at the Malmaison Hotel for a drink in their bar. The bar at our hotel is as sanitary as they come and really doesn't make one want to drink. It was an early evening and a much needed day off.
Today wasn't much different. I stayed in, read, slept and practiced until it was time to go the the gig. Another old standby, the M.E.M Arena. I remember playing here decades ago with Neil Diamond. We did our first meet and greet tonight since the 2008 tour. We're simply not doing them this time, but this was for charity and we happily obliged. It was great fun dusting off the old Hawaiian and Celtic tunes and didn't take long for them to come right back. We sounded pretty darn good if I have to say so myself.
That done it was a very quick dinner, change and on stage. An incredibly relaxed show that was tight as a drum and a terrific audience that gave us a stand up gig at the end. Great.
Staying again tonight in Manchester so it was a short ride back to the hotel and a couple of glasses of wine in the sanitary bar with a few of the boys. Tomorrow we fly to Cardiff for a show then run to London after.
Birmingham, England...23 May, 2010
We flew to Birmingham this afternoon from Newcastle, arriving just in time for a quick sound check and dinner...a massively delicious Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings courtesy of Chris, Angus and Mike our travelling 5 star caterers.
Tonight's venue was the old familiar N.E.C., now rechristened LG Arena, a case of highest bidder wins. If there was an empty seat in the house, I didn't see it and the show was tight and relaxed all at the same time...so confident and so comfortable.
The runner was not to the usual Legacy but into the able hands of our driving team. Glenn and I shared a car expertly driven by Bob Miller, a bottle of red wine between us...uh, none for Bob...and sandwiches from our catering heroes. Bob whisked us back north in luxury to Manchester where we'll spend the night, have a day off tomorrow then play on Tuesday.
We have not been in a hotel with anything resembling a gym all week and our digs in Manchester promises a good one. I plan to be there at some point tomorrow. Our own Guy Fletcher will be celebrating his 50th birthday on his day off. Get a good hold of that cane when you blow out all those candles mate.
Newcastle, England...22 May 2010
What a day! The weather in the U.K. has been perfect since we arrived last week, sunny and unseasonably warm...even in Scotland. Today in Newcastle was no exception. A bright blue sky and temps in the 80s. The sun came beaming in the window early and after a jump start cup of coffee and toast I turned myself out into the day. Walked for ages along the Tyne River dotted with hotels and cafes...it seemed like the entire city was out in various stages of undress taking in the Quayside sunshine. No doubt there are plenty of folks in shades of pink tonight.
I was nearly back at our hotel when I bumped into Mike McGoldrick who was heading to the city centre where I'd just been. So, it was off again for another hour of sun, a brouse through Fenwick's clothing store and a cup of coffee with Mike. We got back to the hotel with just enough time for a quick shower then off to the gig.
Since 1996 we have always played the City Hall here in Newcastle, a very intimate theatre, but tonight's venue was the Arena. 6,500 Geordie's to see their hometown hero..the largest audience we've played to so far on this tour. I think loads of folks had been wanting to see MK over the years but couldn't get tickets to the City Hall shows due to the size. They all came out tonight for a great gig, MK and Co. in grand form. The band just keeps getting better and better, year after year, night after night. It's an honour to share the stage with musicians of this caliber.
It was the first night we didn't do a runner after the show, opting instead for a large reception at the venue for family and friends of Mark's who, over the years, have become friends of ours as well and it was good seeing them all again.
We made it back to our hotel and the splendid bar downstairs and gathered around for a night cap or two. What a day!
The hotel in Glasgow wanted us out at noon today. The powers that be negotiated a 2 o'clock departure and so it was. We arrived at the venue much earlier than usual. We arrived at the venue at 3 an it was a bee line to catering for lunch and a couple of cups of tea then I found an unused dressing room to practise out of my Johnny Smith Guitar Method book. Shortly after John and Heidi McCusker arrived with their new baby Molly Mae. Soon everyone was gathered around cooing and making faces at Molly.
Before long it was time for sound check and run a few tunes with our special guest, Phil Cunningham the great Scot accordion player. Phil played on MK's new record and was in town for tonight's show.
Back to catering for a great dinner of lamb curry, a little more practise then time to take the stage.
Tonight's venue was the SECC with a capacity crowd of nearly 6,000. The band only gets better as do the shows and having Phil along for a few of the tunes was a real treat. What a show, what an audience.
A runner to Newcastle where we'll spend the next couple of nights. The rest of the driving crew met us there, Eike, Gunther and Bob. Most of us gatherd in the bar downstairs after check in for several drinks and loads of laughs.
Belfast, Ireland 20 May, 2010
Everyone up early as the hotel fire alarm system was tripped and took what seemed like forever getting it re-set. I went down for a bowl of Irish porridge and coffee then back to the room for another couple of hours sleep.
Tonights venue was Odyssey Arena with a capacity attendence of 4,000 fans. It was a seriously well played show and we're really enjoying playing to larger audiences again.
A runner to Glasgow after the gig. Our buddy Tim O'Brien, who did the US leg with us, was in town playing a show tonight. After we checked into our hotel, Mike McGoldrick, John McCusker and I met up with him and some mates at a fantastic bar and music club that was formerly a church....many pints of Guinness.
I arrived in London yesterday morning after a very busy week home that included reorganising all the things that were brought up from our flooded basement into a spare bedroom. We also moved my youngest son back home for summer break from Knoxville where he finished his junior year at university. We did manage some family time, a couple of great dinners as well as a grill out on Sunday. Nashville has lived up to it's name, the Volunteer State, with neighbours helping neighbours and complete strangers pitching in to lend a hand to those in need. The flood will have a massive impact on the people and the city for many years to come, but Nashville is pulling through and will be stronger than ever.
We all met up at Northolt Air Field early this afternoon and compared haircuts. The Legacy jet that was scheduled to be our magic carpet for the remainder of the tour had starter problems and another had to arrive from Luton Airport thus delaying our departure by 90 minutes. The time was filled with egg and bacon baguettes and stories of everyone's week off. You'd think we'd not seen each other for years. The new plane arrived and off we went to Dublin. Jet lag overcame me and I slept for most of the hour flight.
We arrived at the O2 arena which was formerly known as The Point, a gig we've played many times. Several years ago The Point was closed, remodeled, greatly enlarged and re-named. This is our first time in the new facility. We met up with Mike McGoldrick and John McCusker who had flown in yesterday and were waiting there for us. They were a sight for sore eyes as was our trusty catering crew, Eat You Heart Out, specifically Chris Desmond, Angus McKinnon and Mike Hurley. It's grand to see them again and great to savour their remarkably delicious food once more. Another small luxury while in the UK and Europe is arriving at the venue and having a proper cup of tea. It somehow never translates in America.
We did a long soundcheck today for John and Mike to sort out a couple of things as well as a brush up for us all. When we hit the stage tonight it was as if we'd never had a break, just right back up on the horse and into full stride. The audience was great and the venue much larger than the theatres we were playing in the States, so it felt very exciting. Not that the shows in America weren't, but this is a completely different experience. We all had a great time playing tonight. Mark's pinched nerve is much better but it was still a sit down as he didn't want to push it. Sitting or standing makes no difference to the shows. This tour is a special one and if you've attended one I think you will agree.
Albany, New York
A late one last night after the gig, Tim O'Brien, Mike McGoldrick and I went to Cassidy's Pub just down the street, didn't get in there 'til one in the morning. There had been a traditional Irish session, music until ?? When we got there the guys had already quit and packed their instruments. Mike McGoldrick knew the fellow who played Uilleann pipes since he was a kid back home in Manchester, England. Out came the pints and out came the instruments for some of the most fabulous traditional Irish music I've ever heard. I didn't get back to the hotel until well past 3 o'clock this morning.
This being the last day of the U.S. leg of the tour, I laid very low, slept, practised and slept some more until it was time to take the cars to meet the Legacy and fly north to Albany.
Tonight's venue, The Palace Theatre, opened it's doors in 1931 and was indeed a palace. An RKO theatre, they spared no expense on this vaudeville/movie house. It did good business in spite of the depression and indeed through the second world war, however after the war it began a slow decline. It was sold to a private owner in the 1970's and was restored to it's former glory including it's original art and sculpted walls in 2002-2003. It was a nice way to play the final show, I'm glad we didn't end it last night in the casino. MK in great form, ditto the band, ditto the fantastic audience who really wanted to be there.
We bid farewell to Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey tonight, they will not be with us in the U.K. and Europe. We've all grown so fond of them, both professionally and as friends. It's worth your time to check out their CDs.
Also, it was Tim O'Brien's last show. He will be returning to his own solo career in a couple of weeks which will include a performance at Bonnaroo with his long time band, Hot Rize. Tim has brought a load of great new information to the band, not the least of which is his keening banjo that we'll all miss. Seek out Tim's music as well.
A goodbye to Steve Ricalis who normally tours with us through Europe as part of the travelling catering maestros. He came on the US leg to oversee the American catering and we all noticed a huge difference. Steve also took on a hundred other tasks and will be sorely missed as he's going back on tour with Green Day in a couple of weeks. Thank you Steve and safe travels.
It was adios to our very best air hostess ever, Dianne. She anticipated every wish and was never frazzled and always came up with great food and drinks. Wish we could take her to Europe. Finally, a goodbye to our pilots Steve and Brian who flew the many miles and always kissed down perfectly on the runway.
I'll be home for a week helping put our house back in order after the flood of the basement last weekend as well as picking up our youngest son from Knoxville, where he's finishing his junior year at university, and moving him back home for summer break. I will pick these notes up again when the tour resumes in Dublin in a little over a week.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
The wind was blowing 40 knots when the Legacy took off today from Teterboro airport in New Jersey. It was a bumpy, short hop to Atlantic City for tonight's show at Caesar's Palace Hotel and Casino.
Prior to the gaming business popping up on Native American reservations, Atlantic City was the only other option for gambling apart from Las Vegas. Like Vegas it's splashy, flashy and over the top. We've played a couple other casinos this trip as well and it's not really MK's crowd. Of course, there are a number of people who are there to see him, but it feels like just as many were comped by the house or their tickets were included as some kind of weekend package deal. Folks coming and going with drinks in hand and last night there was a guy had a cooler round his neck selling ice cold beer up and down the isles. As for me, I'd be perfectly happy never to play another casino.
The theatre itself was very nice, modern and an easy load in/out for the crew. All in all, tonight's show was another example of how a great leader and band can overcome almost anything, and by the end, the folks were cheering wildly on their feet.
Tomorrow will be our final show in the U.S. for this tour, then on to the U.K.
Upper Darby, Philadelphia, PA
To begin, I received an e-mail saying I HAD been in Connecticut before with MK, then got another from my old buddy Tom Hensley. Tom and I did loads of record dates in L.A. together, he's a genius piano player/musician and we spent many years touring together with Neil Diamond. He too reminded me we had played Hartford with Neil three times together before I left the band. I stand corrected but still don't remember it.
Piled into an SUV this morning with Glenn W., David Conrad, MK and Pete McKay for a little field trip to SoHo and Rudy Pensa's new shop on Broome St. Rudy was expecting us, standing outside waiting to slap our backs and welcome us inside. His new store is absolutely beautiful, magnificent and a place of worship for the finest guitars ever made. A staggering collection of old D'Angelico's, D'Aquisto's and Monteleone arch top guitars. I've never seen this many in one place. We all sat around on stools while Rudy and Gordon, who works at the store, brought one amazing guitar after another for us to try. Sighs of extacy and exclamations of wonder were heard with each one...grown men wept. One guitar received unanimous high marks, a 1937 D'Angelico "Excel", a sunburst 16" masterpiece that had it all and hands down the finest arch top I've ever played. You don't have to be a guitar player to appreciate these works of art and if you are in N.Y. you should make time to go to Rudy's in SoHo.
I got a nice note this morning from the master himself, John Monteleone, saying how much he enjoyed last night's show and how moved he was to hear the song about him played live. John has taken arch top guitar building and design to an new level and his work is nothing short of breathtaking...art for the ear and eye. He's truly the Stradivarius of our time.
Back from Rudy's in time to catch the short flight to Upper Darby and off to the Tower Theatre to play a great gig for nearly 3,000 good folks. The roar at the end of the show was deafening. A runner after back to Gotham. Everyone really knackered and off to bed straight away.
New York City, N.Y.
I had lunch with my dear friends Rocky and Alisa Schnaars here at the hotel this afternoon. Alisa is a book buyer for Barnes and Noble in Manhattan and Rocky coordinates and oversees big home renovations and additions for a well know architect in the city. In his former life when Rocky lived in Nashville, he was one of the busiest recording engineers going. I used him for most of the projects I was producing at that time and we became very good friends. They moved to the city about four years ago when Alisa was offered the job at B and N. It's always great being with them and my wife and I miss them like crazy.
Tonight's show was at The United Palace Theatre, an old vaudeville and movie house I'm guessing from the 1920's. Incredibly ornate plaster walls with gold leaf and stenciling. In it's later life, it was the home of Reverend Ike and his ministry still uses it as a place of worship. About three years ago they began having concerts there as well. Mark still sitting, but seems to be getting better and in less pain, that's good. The show itself was grand and always seems to evolve a little differently every night catching us all up in the event as it progresses.
More great friends were in attendene tonight, David Conrad from Nashville, Dick Boak of Martin Guitars from Nazareth, PA., the great Rudy Pensa and legendary luthier John Monteleone for whom the song was written. We've been playing that song in our sound checks for weeks and debuted it live tonight for John. I suspect they're all waiting down at the bar right now, so I'm off.
Red Bank, New Jersey
It was an hour and a half car ride from Manhattan to Red Bank, New Jersey this afternoon. Red Bank stuck in my mind as the birthplace of the great Count Basie. Red Bank is a commuter community to N.Y.C. and seems like a grand place to live if one is working in the city. Beautiful homes on tree lined streets. loads of great stores and boutiques and an inlet from the Atlantic that offers fishing and boating. My first time here and would love to explore it more.
Tonight's venue was opened in Novemeber of 1926 under then, the Carlton Theatre. In 1984 the theatre's name was chaneged to The Count Basie Theatre in honour of it's native son. A major renovation was done in the summer of 2004 which included 1,543 brand new historically accurate theatre seats, improved sight lines, new house lighting and decorative plaster and paint restoration. A wonderful example of an old theatre made modern while still keeping it's original feel.
Another fab gig, the band is sounding miraculous and MK better than ever, still doing the sit down gigs. The audience was vocal and appreciative. This is another spot that I wish we'd stayed, but it was a runner back to Manhattan after.
We arrived at the hotel starving, Dan took a one of the cars to the Carnegie Deli for a platter of chopped liver and mahtzoh ball soup, Tim O'Brien, Mike McGoldrick and I opting for an Irish pub just down the street. It was a four pint meal for us, then back to our rooms for some much needed rest.
I did little with my day off yesterday, a measure of humiliation in the gym and a spectacular dinner at the Atlantic Fish Company on Boylston Street...fresh shellfish on ice, broiled sea bass, lobster raviolli and sauteed spinach washed down with a delicious Savingnon Blanc.
We played tonight at the old Orpheum Theatre in Boston. I'm not sure when it was built but my guess would be the early 1900's. Unlike many of the theatres we've performed in for the last month, the Orpheum is tired, faded and in bad need of a "friends of" campaign. The paint is coming off the ceiling and the electrical wiring is archaic and a nightmare of noise when it comes to electric guitars. Mark used different instruments on few songs due to the obnoxious buzz on stage. I made certain my electric guitars were shut off or down during quiet passages. There's no air conditioning or ventilation, in bad need of repair and should be restored to it's former glory. As for the audience, that's another story all together...thunderous and enthusiastic, couldn't have asked for a better crowd. The show was a steamer, figuratively and literally, great playing...hot and humid conditions.
Before the show tonight, Glenn Worf and I met up with our old pals from Boothbay, Maine..Mark and Bonnie Stover, Steve Malcolm, Bob and their friend Harvey. We all became friendly when we played the Boothbay Opera House as a fund raiser to save the place. We were there for three days in September 2006 and made life long friends...they adopted us and we adopted them. The Orpheum backstage was so cramped that we all went to a bar 'round the corner for a visit there. They brought several pounds of Maine lobster salad and hotdog rolls, they call 'em lobster rolls up there and every morsel of it absolutely devoured on the plane to N.Y. after tonight's show. To top it off, Mark Stover gave me an incredibly kind gift of a 1920's Hawaiian ukulele that he's had for many years. I'd admired it back 2006 and he so graciously presented me with it tonight. Thanks to Mark and all the Mainers, it's always great being with them.
Fianlly, special hugs and kisses to my wife and son who for days now have been dealing with our flooded basement in Nashville, moving the entire contents of my music room up to higher ground, mopping up and drying thing out. Like thousands of others in Nashville this past weekend, our basement took on a great deal of water with what is now being called a 1000 year flood, but we are far better off than so many. My family is the real heros of this story and I love them. Thanks to those who have sent notes of concern, they're much appreciated.
The Warner Theatre was tonight's venue, a beautiful place and an audience to match. Another grand showing by our fearless leader MK and the band followed.
The flight back was made enjoyable with Chinese food and a thunder storm that we flew around but enjoyed the lightening show from a distance complete with a low riding red moon.
A much needed day off tomorrow, no plans and will keep it that way.
Woke very early, ordered coffee and went down to the gym for a hard push. Came back to the room and ate the granola, fruit and yoghurt I'd ordered with the coffee and a wave of exhaustion came over me. Crawled back in bed and slept 'til 1. Time to get a shower and leave for tonight's gig. Diane had the most delicious crab cakes from Legal Seafood to be devoured on the short flight.
In all the years I've been touring I'd never been in Connecticut before. The show tonight is at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, a beautiful new theatre seating nearly 4,000 and part of a casino/hotel. MK's still sitting, but it was another tremendous show. The usual runner, back to Boston and off again tomorrow to play Washington, D.C.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
We played in this venue during the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2005 for the Shangri-La tour. The Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier is a beautiful modern theatre seating close to 3,000 and striking in white, red and black with three balconies. Another sit down for MK who's in great spirits but not yet out of the woods with the pinched nerve. You'd never know anything was up by the quality of these shows....absolutely steaming great performances and another warm enthusiastic audience. Sorry we're not spending the night in Montreal but it's a runner and on to Boston following tonight's show.
Diane had an feast of chicken tikka masala, sag paneer (creamed spinach with cheese), vegetable biryani and naan. Magically, monstrously, maniacally delicious. Platefuls consumed, washed down with creamy Lienenkugle Amber.
We landed in Boston and an American passport agent met and cleared the Yanks on the tarmac. Perhaps recalling the Boston Tea Party, the Brits were taken by van to an undisclosed location for identity verification!
We'll base from Boston for the next several days and fly tomorrow to our gig at MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Connecticut.
Tonight's venue, Massey Hall, opened in June of 1894 and was a gift to the city from Hart A. Massey in memory of his son Charles to "foster an interest in music, education, temperance, industry, good citizenship, patriotism, philanthropy and religion." It originally seated 4,000 but with various renovations the seating capacity is now 2, 591 with one wrap around balcony and another above that. Of particular interest to me was a concert held here in May of 1953 by The Quintet consisting of the architects of bebop, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Mel Powell, Max Roach and Charles Mingus. It's said that there were so few people in attendance that all the performers checks bounced except Parker's. The concert was recorded to mono quarter inch tape and Mingus took the reel back to New York where he and Max Roach owned a record label, Debut Records. The level of both drums and bass were under-recorded on the original tape so Mingus and Roach overdubbed bass and drums and an album was released from these recordings. It has remained in print in one version or another since then and is now considered a legendary concert.
Another sit down for MK but nonetheless a rocking show top to bottom and an audience to match. The acoustics of Massey were superb though being an old theatre it was a difficult load in and out for the crew. Everything had to come in from the street, cases unloaded and taken out before the next lot of equipment could be brought in.
As we're staying in Toronto, tonight's runner led back to the hotel and an early night for me.
Buffalo, New York
It was one of those days that was squandered by never leaving the hotel room in Toronto until it was time to depart for the airport at 2 o'clock. Didn't wake up 'til 11, made a wretched cup of coffee with the auto maker in the room, got caught up with too much e-mail and deftly managed to avoid going to the gym. Turns out everyone did the same thing today.
A 30 minute flight to Buffalo then a short ride to the Centre For The Arts theatre on the university campus. The crew was in a good mood as there was loads of room at the venue for load in and out as opposed to the last couple of shows we've done. Glenn Saggers, MK's guitar guru was in a particularly good mood as he just received a Gretsch 6120 Eddie Cochran model that he'd ordered. We all had a play of it and gave it our blessing as a great guitar. Also, Colin Barton stage manager/keyboard tech took shipment on a beautiful new Fender Strat that he'd arranged for a friend. It was a winner as well.
Sound check, dinner and the usual routine leading up to show time...choosing what to wear, having it pressed, e-mail, phone calls home, naps, practise, vocal warm ups for the singers, Matt's brewing of ginger/lemon/ mint tea, re-packing the roller bags to be whisked away after the gig, in-ear monitor securely in place and on we go. Tonight was the second show that Mark did sitting down. He's pinched a nerve in his back and is having lot of pain down his left leg when he stands, much less so when he sits. It's done nothing to dampen the excitement or quality of the show and we had an absolute great one tonight, the best we've played many of these tunes and the audience was just fantastic. Thanks for a great gig Buffalo.
Back to the Legacy for the half hour back to Toronto fuelled by cold cuts, sandwiches and Leinenkugle Amber Ale.
A reasonably early night and in bed by 1.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Yesterday, the 26th, was a day off in Chicago....gym and a walk down Michigan Avenue...the Miracle Mile. There was a Cubs game on, Chicago vs. Washington Nationals, and our Matt Rollings, who has a good inside source, arranged for us to attend batting practice. Paul Crockford, Pete McKay, Glenn Worf and I took the El to Addison and at 4:30 were met by Cubs public relations person Sam Moore at Wrigley Field...that's Sam as in Samantha. She ushered us in a half hour prior to the gates opening and straight down onto the field where the Cubs were already warming up. We actually stood on the outside track of Wrigley Field watching the batters lob balls out to various fielders. It was organised chaos as there were several parts of the field where this was going on at the same time in order to get everyone warmed up. What struck me was seeing how fast the ball was coming and going at eye level, very different then seeing it sitting above in the bleachers, and they weren't even up to game speed, just lobs and flukes. We couldn't believe how lucky we were to be standing there and particularly exciting for me. Being born in Chicago, I used to go to Wrigley Field in the 1950's as a kid, my father and his brothers went there when they were kids....and here I was on that ground....actually standing on the Cubs 'on deck' disc. Incredible. A big thanks goes to Matt R. for putting it together and Sam Moore of the Cubs. Even though it was a clear, sunny day, it was windy and chilly and after standing on the field for 90 minutes watching both teams warm up, we were all freezing. We retired to the Sheffield Lounge at Wrigley's for hot dogs and beer before the game began at 7. We watched the first three innings before leaving to meet Guy, Dan, MK and Tim Hook for dinner. The final score, Cubs 4--Nationals 3.
As for dinner, this was a Guy Fletcher researched choice. The Capital Grille with rich dark mahogany panelling, welcoming staff and crisp white linen table cloths, was immediately inviting. It's a place you walk in to and know a spectacular meal is in store. From the salad, bread and vegetables to the dry aged, hand cut steaks, perfectly roasted chicken, wine selection through dessert...this was a monstrously delicious dinner. It couldn't have been shared with a better bunch of guys and has set a new tradition when we're in Chicago. The Capital Grille is located at 633 N. St. Claire Street just off Michigan Avenue. Go there.
Today, we decamped to begin our trek north. After 6 days basing from Chicago, most of the contents of my luggage were strewn 'round the room. Gathering it all up and re-packing took a little time. Where'd all this stuff come from? Bags collected, incidentals paid and we're on our way to tonight's show in Ann Arbor.
Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, a big college, and much of the town revolves around it. This is the first time I've ever been to Ann Arbor and it looks like a nice place ...cool shops and restaurants. We arrived at the Michigan Theatre a little earlier than usual for MK to work on some strap lengths before sound check. Guy Fletcher had posted a photo in his diary of Bo Ramsey playing a Reverend guitar on stage and that raised the interest of the Reverend folks who are based not far from Ann Arbor. Ken, Joe and Steve from Reverend met us at the theatre with three of their latest guitars. Guy, Mark and I visited with them and played the guitars in a very cramped room due to the fact the backstage area wins the award for the smallest of the tour and Pieta and Bo were already on stage doing their sound check. We all played each of the guitars and were nicely surprised with how far these instruments have come in the last five years in design, use of Korina wood (similar to mahogany but lighter) for the bodies, finish, playability and over all sound within the guitar. Since we didn't have an amp in that tiny room, we simply played the electric guitars unplugged. You might wonder how you can tell much about a solid body guitar that's not plugged in as they make a very quiet sound without amplification. Most guitar players with some experience under their belts will tell you that's the BEST way to try an electric guitar out initially. You can tell a whole lot about body resonance, sustain before it's plugged in. If it has good tone and body resonance to begin with, it will most likely be a good sounding guitar when amplified. The guys from Reverend left all three guitars with us to continue playing and I'm looking forward to spending some time with these instruments. You can see the entire Reverend line of guitars at www.reverendguitars.com. Thanks Matt, Joe and Steve.
As soon as the Reverend boys left to take their seats for the show, my dear friends Heather and Bill Howitt from Windsor, Ontario, their son John, his wife Patty and some friends turned up to say hi. It had been a couple of years since seeing them last, though we keep in touch by phone and e-mail. Again, due to the extremely cramped space backstage, we all gathered outside by the stage door. It was great catching up with them for a half hour.
By the time I'd said good-bye to the my friends I was running a little late to get changed for the show and, once more, because of the small space backstage the wardrobe trunks were in the semi trucks that move the equipment from city to city and they were parked down the block. Our catering genius and all round ombudsman, Steve Ricalis, came to the rescue and we retrieved my stage clothes. A quick dash up to the miniscule dressing room, threw on some clothes and before I knew it was on stage.
It was a capacity audience and a well played show for a seriously enthusiastic crowd followed by a runner to the Legacy and a 45 minute flight to Toronto where we'll be for the next couple of nights. As I'd completely missed dinner tonight visiting with the guitar guys and friends, I was really hungry and Diane served buckets of Buffalo chicken wings with creamy blue cheese and hot tabasco sauces for dipping. Elbows and chicken bones were flying in every seat and at least 6 barrels of these wonders were devoured. Everybody's hands were covered in neon orange grease and tabasco requiring rolls of paper towels and wet wash rags. With a bit of help, Diane managed to get it all cleared up just as we landed in Toronto. From there it was a short drive to the hotel and from there a short trip down the lift to the hotel bar for a night cap with the boys.
6:30 a.m., awake...wide awake. Right. I'll get up, go to the gym and knock it out before anyone else is down there. Hang on...coffee first, actually breakfast. Tempo Coffee Shop is just 'round the corner, it's great and I haven't been since we've based out of Chicago. Get dressed, pick up a paper and out the door. By 7:30 I was sitting in a Chicago coffee shop, breakfast ordered, coffee in hand and reading an article about an old Chi town mob boss's social club and three rival henchmen in their 70s who are in jail for trying to rob it. A perfect early Sunday morning in the windy city. I ordered scrambled eggs and they are served in a skillet with Canadian bacon and fried potatoes. It tastes like a slice of heaven.
Back to the hotel, can't go to the gym on a full stomach. Right. I'll take care of some e-mails and practice a bit, which I did both. About 10 o'clock an incredible wave of exhaustion hit me and I crawled back in bed and slept for 3 hours. So much for today's workout, it's time to begin thinking about getting ready to leave and fly to tonight's gig in Minneapolis.
The State Theatre is another in a line of wonderful theatres from the 1920s we've been playing. With a capacity of nearly 2,000, it was full and the audience was so enthusiastic, as all the midwestern shows have been.
It was another runner after the show, our sixth in a row, back to Chicago for a day off tomorrow. We're all looking forward to recharging the batteries.
As we were approaching Midway airport for the flight to Milwaukee this afternoon, we got word that the Milwaukee airport was completely fogged in and we would have to be diverted to another landing strip or go by cars to Milwaukee. After much discussion on the tarmac, it was decided that we would fly to the Waukesha airport and drive 40 minutes to Milwaukee. The flight itself was about 25 minutes and Diane managed to serve a sushi lunch and collect it all before touch down. Waukesha was pretty socked in as well; by the time we broke through the fog, we were nearly on the landing strip. We piled into cars and off we went. I'm sure Waukesha is known for many things, but the thing that immediately comes to mind is it's the birthplace of guitar great Les Paul.
We arrived at the Riverside Theatre just after 5 o'clock and walked on stage for sound check. The Riverside is another one of those great old theatres from the jazz age. I'm enjoying playing these places so much, even the larger ones are intimate and the sound is so good. The catering so far on the entire U.S. tour has been remarkably better than in previous years and tonight was no exception, freshly grilled steaks, shrimp etoufee, vegetables in risotto and an espresso bar with barrista preparing fab lattes to order. After dinner I wandered up to the VIP lounge that was completely deserted and practised for an hour, then time to get ready for the show.
Tonight's show was really great all the way 'round. I don't know what else there is to say and it probably gets boring to read the same thing day after day, but MK and band were firing on all 12 cylinders tonight, as was the audience. We really love these midwest show, the people are so great to us and the house couldn't have been better...a fantastic gig. Hats off to Guy who an hour before the show was suffering with a migraine headache, you would never have known it, he was his usual brilliant self.
A drive back to the Waukesha airport and a short, turbulent flight back to Chicago. Diane had plenty of ice cold Lienenkugel beer, spring rolls and chicken satay. Back in Chicago and arrived in my room at 1. A relatively early night, can't wait to hit the sack.
Could not sleep beyond 7:30...tried and tried. After an hour I got up opened the curtains and started the day. This hotel does not have a coffee maker in the room and there's nothing as grand as Peet's nearby. That first cup of coffee is everything and I wasn't prepared to go outside for it. Room service. A small pot of coffee was $10 with a $5 delivery charge and an 18% gratuity. By my calculations that's nearly 17 bucks for a couple of cups of caffeine. Screw that, I'll do without. Togs on, down to the gym. The usual slog. Back to the room. I'd promised Mike McGoldrick I'd ring him at noon and, if he was still interested, take him to Downtown Dogs for a serious hot dog. So off we went but first both of us desperately needed a cup of coffee and opted for the first spot we fell into. That done we walked a block around the corner and ordered a couple of Char Dogs, hot dogs that have been WELL grilled on the outside but the inside is still juicy and delicious. Neon green relish, onions and mustard...a work of art. Mike went on for a walk down the shore of Lake Michigan and I went to my fave clothes store, H & M. A new shirt in hand I made it back to the hotel and listened twice to Bo Ramsey's album "Stranger Blues". This guy's got it going on in a big way.
Tonight's gig was the Chicago Theatre, the home of one of our best gigs of the last tour. Another old palace, domed, angelic scenes painted and sense of what the real old show business of the '20s used to be. Our friends Paul Kennerley and Chuck Ainlay came in from Nashville for the show and it was great seeing them. The gig was grand and even with a couple of screw ups was one of the best. The audience the same.
A runner back to the hotel and a little private room off the main bar was the site of a gathering of friends and band.
It's off to Milwaukee tomorrow.
St. Louis, Missouri
Didn't wake up 'til 11:30 this morning, completely knackered. Last night rib fest was still making it's presence known and no desire for breakfast, so dozed on and off until it was time to meet to go to Midway Airport. A real traffic snarl getting there. By the time we finally got to the plane I was ready for something to eat and Diane had a massive platter of sushi ready....tastes great, not too filling.
The gig in St. Louis tonight was at the Fox Theatre, built in 1929 and another monument to theatre palaces from another time. Larger than last night's Midland, the Fox has a domed ceiling and intricately carved walls, more gold leaf and red velvet and what appears to be a massive Tiffany stained glass chandelier hanging from the peak of the dome. These audiences in the midwest are some of our favourites, really appreciative and not afraid to show it. The show was one of the best so far. I suggest going to Guy's website for some pix of the Fox which he will no doubt have posted.
The usual runner to cars, the airport and the Legacy. Diane is always on hand with drinks waiting and tonight's fare was Greek ... stuffed grape leaves, spanikopita, pita and hummus. A very quick flight and we were back at Midway before we knew it, our Pete McKay helping with the clearing of the plates for landing.
Kansas City, Missouri
The fitness facility at the Denver Ritz-Carlton is one I remembered from 2008 and is a tie with the San Francisco Four Seasons facility for best gym. I left an 8 o'clock wake up call in order to do a good 90 minute push in there and still get breakfast before they quit serving at 10. Bags out the door at noon and we departed for the airport at 1 for an 90 minute flight to Kansas City, Missouri.
Tonight's venue, The Midland Theatre, was built in 1927 and is a jewel with a domed, ornate ceiling, crystal chandeliers, yards of gold leaf, red velvet and white marble. It was a full house with 2,200 capacity in attendance. Like Denver, K.C. was a wildly enthusiastic audience and MK and band delivered by the truck load. The thing I find remarkable is that the 2+ hours go by in what feels like 20 minutes, the sign of a well paced show and everyone loving what they're doing.
And so, we were in the cars and heading for the Kansas City executive airport feeling like we'd only got warmed up. It was a good thing that we were warmed up as air hostess Diane had our work cut out for us with dinner. Massive slabs of the most spectacular ribs in history from a little joint called Oklahoma Joe's. Serious Kansas City barbecue, beautifully smoked, dry rub, tender and massively delicious accompanied by red beans, rice and cool creamy coleslaw. Cries of ecstasy came from every table in the plane and pictures were taken. There was so much meat on each of these slabs that I filled my flesh quota for the decade in one sitting. I'm proud to say the only thing left on everyone's plate were the bones. About the time dinner was cleared we were landing in Chicago where we'll base for the next 6 days.
Decamped Santa Monica this morning and bid farewell to the west coast that we've loved so much from north to south and flew east to Denver. We played at the Buell Theatre, capacity seating 2,551 and I didn't spot an empty seat in the house. The audience was astounding tonight, really with us all the way and so enthusiastic. The show was great, everyone fully on their game, relaxed, confident and having a great time. Denver has always been one of my favourite cities.
I met up after the show with still another cousin, Steve Weiner for a drink at the hotel. We figured out it has been about 40 years give or take a year since we saw each other last and it was good catching up with him. Tim O'Brien lived here in Denver for 20+ years. As you can imagine he had one hell of a gathering down at the bar and it turns out some of his friends knew my cousin Steve. I kept it down to a glass of wine then it was off to bed for a relatively early night.
Santa Monica, California
A welcomed day off today. Met up with my great pal Dennis St. John around 11; he lives about 5 blocks from where we're staying at the beach. We hung out at his place for a while and he rang up two old pals of ours that I hadn't spoken with in many years. The Mighty Hannibal is a legendary r&b singer that used to sing with Dennis' band in Atlanta in the 60s. I ended up playing on a number of Hannibal's records in the early 70s with Dennis. He's a serious soul singer and a deep catalogue legend. Check him out on Google. I hadn't spoken Han in close to 40 years and he sounded fantastic, still working and said he was going to die on stage. I told him I've died on stage a number of times since we'd seen each other last. The other old pal was Ken Fritz who managed Neil Diamond in the very early 1970s. Ken still sounds like he's 20 years old, full of optimism and enthusiasm.
We ended up down Main Street in Santa Monica for a very late breakfast at an omelette shop, fantastic. I came back to the hotel and exposed a couple of yards of white flesh to the sun on the sand at the shoreline. There's nothing like a southern California beach in the spring.
My brother Jon and his wife Leslie picked me up just past 7 then went on to get Dennis and drove to a stunning Cuban restaurant in Culver City called Versailles. How one comes about naming a Cuban joint Versailles is beyond me but that doesn't matter. What does matter is the food was majestically delicious. Their speciality is garlic roasted chicken, which three of the four of us had. I opted out for the roast pork. Unbelievably brilliant. If you are in the L.A. area don't miss it, there are several locations throughout the city but the one we went to was 10319 Venice Blvd. Just go there.
Back to the hotel and we piled in for a night cap at the bar. The problem is that various members of the band kept turning up and we had to order another drink until...lo and behold, we closed the bar down again. I felt like a stroll so walked Dennis back to his place then back again to our hotel.
A grand and restful day off.
Arrived in Phoenix late afternoon, it was a quick drive from Sky Harbor Airport to the Dodge Theatre. Phoenix was my home from 1960 until I left for Los Angeles in June of 1969. Although I wasn't born there I consider it my hometown and those years spent growing up are the inspiration for my own new record, Valley Of The Sun. Our illustrious keyboard man, Matt Rollings, spent some formative years in Phoenix as well through the 1970's. As you can imagine between the two of us we were able to pack a fair sized room with guests that we'd invited to the show.
Tonight was the sixth consecutive show of the tour with many more ahead. We're officially on the road now. A good solid show, not without a few stray notes, but overall, no problem. I've never played in Phoenix with Mark and can't remember the last time I played it with Neil Diamond, maybe the late 70s or very early 80s, but it was great to be on the stage of the Dodge tonight in my hometown.
Unfortunately, we're not spending the night so it was a runner back to the Legacy where Diane served a fantastic Indian dinner of chicken tikka masala, saag paneer (spinach and cheese), vegetable biryani and loads of naan (bread) to soak up all the sauce. Not exactly a light meal to end the day but that didn't stop me from eating every bit of it. An hour flight back to the Van Nuys airport, motored west to Santa Monica and back to the hotel just before 1 in the morning. Stopped up at Tim O'Brien's room for a glass of wine and a few sounds, then off to bed.
It's a day off tomorrow that we are all looking forward to.
Breakfast this morning with my old friend Jim Silvers at a small deli here in Santa Monica, then back to the hotel and down to the beach where I drank up the sunshine for an hour before getting ready to leave for tonight's gig.
We had a serious wanker of a driver. The guy was like a jack rabbit off the line, slamming on the brakes at the next light or upcoming auto. We call that "wah-wah" driving. Let me tell you it's crap to be a passenger with a guy like that at the wheel. Don't know what they're trying to prove. Finally got to the Pantages and thrilled to get the hell outta the car.
My brother Jon Schwartz and his wife Leslie came to the show tonight and I got to visit with them backstage just prior. Another great gig tonight, seriously solid and the audience was fab. A runner back to the hotel for a couple of drinks at the bar and a relatively early night.
There's a coffee maker in my room and it's a welcome way to begin the morning. I was certainly mindful of what happened the last time I made a cup in a hotel room and very carefully got a jump start on the day. Went down to a small but well equipped gym here at the hotel and pounded it out for the usual 90 minutes after which I was absolutely ravenous. Walked outside and followed my nose to the first place I saw on the corner of Pico and Ocean: an outdoor restaurant with corrugated metal siding, tables and awning and a Cuban/Caribbean menu called Cha Cha Chicken. I ordered Ropa Vieja, beef that's been stewed with onions, tomatoes and peppers until it falls apart, served over rice and beans with fried plantain washed down with a guava/mango drink. It was a miracle on a plate, monstrously delicious, enough food to feed a small army for the princely sum of $14. From there it was a stroll up Main Street to Peet's Coffee with my old buddy Dennis St. John. Dennis and I used to do loads of record dates together in the early 1970s here in L.A. and played together in Neil Diamond's band for nearly ten years.
The midday trip from Santa Monica to Hollywood took an hour; the traffic's ridiculous. Hollywood itself is scarcely recognisable as the town I spent so many years working in. Apart from a few landmarks, the entire face of it has changed. The musician's union building, Capitol Records tower and Pantages Theatre (tonight's venue) have remained the same. The last time I was in the Pantages was for the filming of the final scene of The Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond in 1979. So many years ago it doesn't bear thinking about and could have been terribly depressing if it wasn't for our old pal Jim Cox being there to greet us. Jim is an exceptional keyboard player, a veteran of the Los Angeles studios and one of the grandest guys to walk the planet. Jim did the 1996 Golden Heart tour with us and has played on the Sailing To Philadelphia, Ragpicker's Dream, Wag The Dog, Shangri-La and All The Roadrunning albums. Always a joy to see him and we all had loads of catching up to do.
The stage of the Pantages felt great and the theatre sounds wonderful. The show was so confident, we've really hit our stride and the audience was outstanding. I'm still having a bit of trouble with the right hand having to make small adjustments how I play certain things but all in all I'm getting on just fine. I felt tremendously proud being on the stage of that legendary Hollywood theatre playing music.
We checked out of the great and grand San Francisco Four Seasons, home to luxury, the best gym of the tour and a Peet's Coffee just round the corner, and flew south to Temecula. I'd lived in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years and had heard of Temecula but never had been there. The city is just north of San Diego and our show was at the Pechanga Resort and Casino on the Indian reservation. The room held 1,200 and set a new standard for intimate. It reminded me of the couple of shows we've done in past years at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, though not as large. The audience was warm and our show was it's usual high standard of musicianship. Prior to the show, Matt and I wandered out to walk through the casino. Neither of us gamble so we made a bee line to the gift shop where we each found a cool Tommy Bahama shirt in anticipation for the week in Santa Monica.
Pieta and Bo did their brilliant opening set - we've developed a mutual admiration society. If you have a chance to pick up one of her records, don't fail to do so.
After the show we did a runner to the Legacy for a very short hop north to the Van Nuys airport, then a quick drive west to Santa Monica. Getting out of the car I was greeted by the smell of sea air and was immediately switched in to tranquility mode. Good to be back in Los Angeles again.
Tomorrow begins a two day run at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.
Santa Rosa, California
2 in the morning before I retired last night, had a couple of glasses of wine with friends back here at the hotel after our show in Oakland. Up around 8 and down to Peet's for the usual, then back for 90 minutes of punishment at the world's greatest gym. It's only one week into the tour, but we already have the winner in the best gym category. Back to the room to mop up some e-mail and shower...the sum of my day prior to our drive to Santa Rosa.
We piled into a couple of SUVs for the 60 mile drive to Santa Rose that took us over the Golden Gate Bridge and through Marin and Sanoma counties. It's been at least 30 years since I've been this far north of San Francisco by car and this is beautiful country. I remember playing at a club in Cotati about 20 miles south of Santa Rosa in 1980 with Rodney Crowell and the Cherry Bombs. That was the last time I've been up this way. We arrived at the Wells Fargo Center for the Performing Arts and I was surprised at how small the venue was, just under 1,600. Everyone connected with the venue was great, from the wardrobe mistress to the catering staff and made us feel very welcomed. The audience was outstanding and due to the size it was a very intimate gig. I had a bit of a struggle all night with the old right hand, but was able to overcome most of the problems. It's funny that as it heals and changes day by day, I find that I'm having to alter the way I physically play things to accommodate.
After the show it was back in the vehicles for the return to San Francisco. Seeing the city across the Bay and coming over the Golden Gate Bridge at night was beautiful. Back in the room about 1 a.m....exhausted....sleep.
EPILOGUE: THE CHINESE RESTAURANT. A few days ago I mentioned going to a restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown with my cousin for dinner. The view of Signal Hill, Coit Tower and the Bay from 6 stories up was great, the food, just OK. The Empress of China was clearly tired and faded when we walked in and I felt that I'd slipped through a time warp of 4 or 5 decades. The wall of photos of famous folks who have dined there would've been impressive if any of them were still living. I think most current 8 X 10 glossy was Carol Channing. As my cousin and I were leaving Chinatown after the meal we bumped into Mark's manager Paul Crockford, tour manager Pete McKay and his wife Tina who were looking for a place to eat and asked where we'd dined. When I saw Pete yesterday he relayed their experience that night. They'd eaten, enjoyed the view and after their meal a check dutifully arrived. When he glanced down at it, to his horror, Pete noticed a giant rat scamper across the floor by their table. Women began screaming and several waiters were running through the restaurant chasing after the thing with meat cleavers. It was a scene straight from a Three Stooges two-reeler titled "Moo Shu Rat" and a meal one doesn't soon forget, but would like to.
A day off yesterday, slept in 'til 10 then out 'round the corner for a serious hit of Peet's coffee. The caffeine managed to tear through enough cobwebs for me to get down to the gym. If you've read these notes in the past you'll remember the facility at the San Francisco hotel to be the finest anywhere and certainly the largest. It seems like a city block square of every treadmill, free weight, machine and exercise hell imaginable. It was already mid-afternoon by the time I had a shower and tumbled out on the street with Danny C. for a wander. We talked about going to the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art, but decided a cold beer and something to eat was in order first and ducked into the nearest bar we saw for a couple of cold ones, nachos and chilli. The sunshine outside contrasting with the cool dark of the bar, a couple of baseball games on the tele. We never made it to the SFMOMA, instead opting to pick up some stuff at Walgreen's then back to the hotel.
My cousin Neal Winchell has lived in the Bay Area for many years now and early in the evening he met me for dinner and drinks. We got caught up on the couple of years that elapsed since seeing each other last and walked to Chinatown for a great dinner at The Empress of China. Several stories above ground level, the restaurant boasts a grand view of the Bay and Signal Hill. Knowing my passion for 78 rpm records, Neal gave me a 4 record set of Xavier Cugat's called Conga with Cugat as well as a mint copy of a single sided Enrico Caruso record dating back to the mid-teens of the last century. If that wasn't enough, we also share a love of crap horror movies, the worse the better, and he included four DVDs worth of gems like The Monster Walks, The Last Woman On Earth, Vampire Happening...you get the picture. I know what I'll be doing with spells of insomnia this tour. Thanks Neal.
Up early this morning and a bee line for Peet's. I'm getting spoiled, Peet's has a high profile on the west coast but when we begin heading east we'll lose the chain. For the time being I plan to enjoy every cup. From there it was off to the wonderful Jews On Vinyl exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. A large, walk in 1950s/60s decor living room complete with couch, chairs, area rug and hi-fi console with Jewish music playing...all from the golden era of vinyl albums. I sat in there for nearly 90 minutes taking it all in. Being a record collector, I have a number of these records in my own collection and I couldn't pass up the purchase of the book that accompanies the exhibit, "And You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Our Vinyl".
A quick hop by car this afternoon over the Bay Bridge to Oakland and the Paramount Theatre of the Arts, an art deco theatre seating 2,850. The stage was comfortable, the sound great and the show was a joy. Mike and Tim are really coming on like mad with the band is really firing. Tonight was not without it's mistakes, but everyone is so confident that they cover for any screw ups. I certainly had a huge one at the beginning of Remembrance Day. It is a tricky change over with instruments, chairs, stools and loads of traffic. My job at that point is to change the settings on my amp, pull a stool over into position and make certain it is on it's lighting mark, make sure that the volume and tone knobs are set correctly on my guitar and put a capo on the second fret. I managed all of it except the capo. Tim and I begin the song together and it was a train wreck, him playing in one key and me in another. Of course, Tim was correct. I handed it off to him while I reached round for the capo and sheepishly continued once it was clamped into it's proper position. He saved my ass.
A quick runner back to the hotel and the wonderful bar awaited us for a couple of Syrah night caps.
Another beautiful day in Portland, up and out for a short walk to Peet's Coffee for full caffeineation, a non-word according to my spell check. I can't remember where or when I first got on to Peet's, but it gets the Bennett seal of approval. Back to the hotel for a little practice, pack the bags then off to the Legacy 600 and a short trip down to Eugene.
The Hult Centre for the Performing Arts is a beautiful theatre with capacity of nearly 2,500. Hard to describe, but it's a domed auditorium with a large basket weave design ceiling and two balconies that sweep around the sides. We were all taken with it's look and once again the crew was pleased with the facility's relative ease of set up. I imagine that Guy will have some great shots of this outstanding theatre posted on his diary page, it's worth a look.
Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey continue to delight me with their music and I always enjoy visiting with them both, they go down so well with the audiences too. Time to take the stage for what turned out to be a seriously solid and confident show, everyone playing great and our new members, Mike and Tim, coming on strong and the Brit boys having turned the corner with the jet lag. Tonight was the first show of the tour that I felt I had some control over my right hand...it felt like my own hand and not a prosthetic. The subtlety and touch coming back nicely, no one could be more pleased about that than I. While still very stiff and not exactly a pretty sight, it's a miracle how much progress is made every day in healing.
After the final encore it was a runner to the Legacy which was delayed due to weather, so we sat on the tarmac (in the plane of course) and enjoyed a delicious meal of Asian noodle salad with prawn, spring rolls and chicken sat-ay. We finally took off for an hour long flight to San Francisco that was mildly choppy at times but not too bad, the Legacy's sturdy power coming through. When I walked in my room at the hotel it was 2 in the morning knowing tomorrow's a day off. Good day, good show, good night.
The day got off to a slow and lazy beginning but after several cups of coffee and a toasted bagel, I summoned up my resolve, threw on my work out togs and dragged myself off to the fine gym at this hotel for 90 minutes of punishment. This stuff is never easy, not supposed to be, but not having done it now for a couple of weeks due to my hand, it's become an uphill slog. Still, I soldiered through, in part thanks to the great pair of weight lifting gloves, and was glad for having done so. In fact I felt so much better for it that I threw myself out of the hotel and onto the streets of Portland for a walk. Gorgeous sunny Saturday afternoon, mild and breezy. I had no idea where I was going, just out for a stroll. I stumbled across The Portland Outdoor shop, a very old Mecca for western attire. Being raised in Phoenix, I have a soft spot for western clothing, the problem is, and always has been, that I don't look very good in it...but I'll never pass up a chance to go in a store like this and admire the jackets and shirts. Just up the block to my delight was Cameron's Used Books. I've purchased books from them online over the years and here it was in the flesh...well, brick and mortar. I found a wonderful book on jazz photography as well as an advert for Esterbrook Pens from the 1940s. One of my very best friends is a fellow named Mike Noble, a fellow guitar player and a damn good one. Along with our easy friendship we share a passion for jazz and fountain pens. Mike collects, restores and repairs them. He's very kindly given a couple to my wife and I that he restored. That magazine advert's for him. I finally ended up for a mid-afternoon breakfast at the Morning Star Cafe...good coffee, good food. Back to the hotel for a little practice then a shower and off to the gig.
Tonight's venue, Keller Auditorium with a capacity of nearly 3,000, is usually the site of plays and opera. This evening it got a good dose of MK music. The sound of the theatre is warm, musical and inviting and we had a ball playing tonight for a fabulous audience (again!). We changed the set list and debuted the title song of the new album and the namesake of the tour...went down great. We love Portland, it's a beautiful, friendly city full of good people.
Back at the hotel I met up with my cousin Lori and her daughter Jennifer for a couple of drinks and a little catching up on the last couple of years.
Vancouver, British Columbia
This afternoon we boarded a handsome Embraer Legacy, our touring jet through North America. This plane will wing us from the upper Pacific to the Atlantic coast and all stops between. The power and surety of these executive planes never fails to impress me every time we take off, I've never felt safer. Dianne will be looking after us onboard and proved herself with this first hop to Vancouver from Seattle. In just 20 minutes she set up, served and cleared a delicious lunch of sushi that had probably been swimming in the Pacific water earlier that morning. We are officially in tour mode now.
We arrived in beautiful Vancouver on a picture perfect day, clear skies, billowy white clouds and rugged mountains capped with snow, It was a half hour drive to Queen Elizabeth Theatre bringing back memories of when we were here 2 years ago, the various eateries, watering holes and bike rides through Stanley Park. In '08 we based from the city for several days but this time we simply flew in for the show and left immediately after.
Queen Elizabeth Theatre was the site of our final show of the 2005 Shangri-La Tour and now five years later is the spot for the second show of this tour. It has capacity seating of 2,900, modern, clean and comfortable. The crew loves theatres like this due to the ease of load in/out and there's plenty of room for the equipment cases so they can remain backstage during the show and don't have to be reloaded back in the trucks once they've been unpacked. We ran through several things during sound check, continuing to make minor adjustments to our ear monitor mixes as well as various technical issues. The set was changed from the night before to try out a few new songs then it was time to clear the stage and open the house. I watched Pieta Brown and Bo Ramsey's opening set, enjoying them both very much then time to get changed and do our turn. The Vancouver audience, as always, was fantastic, hanging on every word then responding with great enthusiasm ... a performer couldn't ask for a better crowd.
Our first runner of the tour, a wild dash off stage to waiting cars that returned us to the Legacy for a 50 minute, Chinese food flight to Portland where we'll spend the night and play tomorrow, The one thing I always forget about the beginning of these tours is getting used to standing up on stage for 2 hours every night. It usually takes a few shows to get the stage legs back and I got to the room tonight completely knackered .... straight to bed.
Q: How can you tell it's the first show of a tour?
A: Everyone on stage has a fresh hair cut.
And so it was, eight blokes looking like freshly shorn sheep and playing our first show of the Get Lucky tour. It may not have been the most perfect show, but it surely was a most joyful noise. I've played big, live shows for four decades now but can't remember an opening night when I was so relaxed and for that matter so was the band. Even Tim O'Brien and Mike McGoldrick, the new guys who had a plateful of information to remember, were taking it all in stride. Beginning with tomorrow night's show, everyone will be making slight changes from the crew, lighting director and sound guys to us on stage, but the crackling energy and enthusiasm on the stage of Moore Theatre tonight was tremendous.
On the personal injury front, I was very pleased that my mangled right hand made it through the show. I must admit it looked pretty ragged after it was all over, bits of it falling off everywhere, but all in all it's progressing daily and will only continue improving if I can avoid spilling anymore coffee. So many thanks go out to Dr. Bryan Oslin, plastic surgeon supreme at Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville along with nurse Joella Avery as well as Dr. Ciaran Healy in London who treated me initially. Without their expertise and good humour my right hand would probably have fallen off on the sidewalk of Liverpool Street.
I did manage a good hard work out in the gym this morning, the first in over two weeks since the hand incident. My wife bought me a grand pair of heavy duty weight lifting gloves and they're a miracle. If nothing else, they make me look like I know what I'm doing while throwing the weights around.
Alright, it feels like we're on our way now. Tomorrow, Vancouver.
Welcome back to the Notes and for those who are new, c'mon in and make yourselves at home. This will be a daily (more or less) posting while on tour with Mark Knopfler through July 31st. There'll be bits about the shows, food, drink, tourist attractions...what have you. Let's get going here.
The first show of the tour is tomorrow night, but we all arrived at The Moore Theatre here in Seattle at 5 this afternoon for a couple hours of full production rehearsal. We'd rehearsed in London for three weeks in March, but tonight was about getting the lights and front of house sound set. It was especially important for me as I had a very bad scalding accident the final three days in London. Exactly two weeks ago today I spilt a boiling cup of coffee all over my right hand. I ran it under cold water and thought it would be fine, but within a half hour it felt like it was cooking from the inside out and indeed it was. By midday it had blown up like a water balloon and off I went to a plastic surgeon. I won't go into the details, this is not a topic for teatime, but I returned home to Nashville and continued seeing a burn doctor who assured me I would be able to play the first show. A real race against time as even a week ago it still looked like a hunk of raw meat and unusable as a hand, but in the last few days much healing has occurred. Still, I wasn't sure if I could actually play and tonight's production rehearsal would tell the tale. I was very nervous about it but pulled it off better than I could've hoped for and am feeling so confident about tomorrow's first show...can't wait to get out on the boards again.
We have a couple of wonderful new musicians joining us for this part of the tour, Mike McGoldrick the brilliant U.K. pipes, whistle and Irish flute player and Tim O'Brien a star of the folk world both in America and the U.K. They have both brought a new dimension to the usual line up. Our pal John McCusker will be joining us again for the European part of the tour in June and July. John and soon-to-be Mrs. McCusker, Heidi Talbot, have just had their first baby and John is sitting things out for a few weeks while he learns to change nappies and walk the floor all hours of the night.
We're all rested and excited to be out touring again. If you can't make one of the shows, you can still tag along with us through these notes as well as Guy Fletcher's great daily tour diary. Thanks for reading and come back often.