Kill to Get Crimson tour, 2008
Miami Beach, Florida
Here we are, the final day and show of the tour. Down to breakfast again with Glenn, Dan and Mark, all of us drinking far too much coffee. I headed out to the beach for a few hours sun and surf then back to the room to a little pre-packing for tomorrow's early departure home, got a shower then off to the Fillmore Miami Beach and tonight's gig.
The Fillmore is the old Jackie Gleason Theatre the theatre that his early 60's Saturday night variety shows televised from...a real piece of history. It was a strange vibe as the end came upon us. I spent most of the evening seeking guys we've toured with for five months out, saying good-bye and thanks. Among the band it was very tender and awkward at the same time, nobody wanting to get too choked up but feeling that way. In the end it was loads of hugs and 'see you soon'. Not quite what you wanted to convey but everybody knew the message.
The show was great tonight, a real sense of the last night and loads of love on the stage. Funnily enough after all these shows we were still figuring things out and how to play them better...after 94 shows! The audience was great and we were all gawking around the stage knowing this was the last time we'd be together for a while. An outpouring of hugs backstage on the walk off, then out for the final three songs of the 2008 tour. After the final bows, the Brit boys doing a runner to London. Pete McKay will go off to tour with Rod Stewart tomorrow, Guy, Laurie, Max and Leon off to L.A. tomorrow then Hawaii and Matt, Glenn and I doing a runner to the hotel in Miami, Matt off to San Francisco to meet up with his wife and Glenn and I going back to Nashville where we both do some quick re-packing and head off to family holidays. The three of us meeting up at the hotel bar for the last night-cap after the gig. A bittersweet ending to the day and the tour.
When we began rehearsals for this tour the first week of March, it was impossible to imagine the end of the journey. Even a couple of weeks ago as it was looming, the idea of wrapping up was something nobody really wanted to look at too closely, we've had that much fun playing 94 shows in 30 countries in 125 days! There's no telling how many people we've played for or all the miles travelled but I've become a wiser person, a better musician and have loved every minute of it.
Here are a few high and low points of the past five months, my best/worst list....not a band vote, simply one reporters opinion.
Best hotel: Ciragan Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
Worst hotel: Grey Street Hotel, Newcastle, England
Most unusual hotel: Byblos Art Hotel, Verona, Italy
Best hotel gym: Four Seasons, San Francisco, California (again), Ritz Carlton, Boston, Massachusetts
Worst hotel gym: Wedgewood Hotel, Vancouver, B.C.
Best bar: Wedgewood Hotel, Vancouver B.C.
Worst bar: Is there such a thing?
Most memorable meals: Lagana...Roma, Italy. Allard...Paris, France. Casa Tua...Maimi Beach, Florida
Least memorable meals: The majority of American catering (again!)
Best newly discovered beer: Augustiner...Munich, Germany. Creemore Springs...Ontario, Canada
'Wow' museums and tourist attraction: The National Gallery, London, England. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art--Frida Kahlo exhibit. The Spice and Grand Markets of Istanbul, Turkey
Most listened to records: Wynn Stewart "California Country, The Challenge Years". Johnny Smith "Spring Is Here"
Coolest re-visited cities: Edinburgh, Scotland. Portland, Oregon
Most exotic newly visited city: Istanbul, Turkey
Best gig: Hard to single one out, they've all been very special for different reasons
Most memorable musical experience: Playing "Picture Of You" with Joe Brown at the Royal Albert Hall, three times!
....and Guy and I getting a uke lesson backstage from Joe.
As always, there are so many people to thank for making the show happen every night. They are the real heroes of this or any tour, the guys who turn up at the venue at 10 in the morning after having slept on a bus and work their tails off all day so we can stroll in at 5 in the afternoon, the stage and lights are set, the hums and buzzes eliminated, the instruments tuned and ready. We go on stage and play for a couple of hours, get all the applause then hop in cars that take us to the plane and fly off to a comfortable hotel, while the crew tears down what they'd spent all day setting up and get back in the bus to begin the process again the following morning. Often six and seven days in a row before a day off.
These are the people that made this tour happen:
Peter Hillier-production manager, Glenn Saggers-Mark's guitar tech, Dave Hall-Stage manager, Colin Barton-Glenn Worf's and John McCusker's instrument tech, Robbo Robertson-drum tech, Tom Calcaterra-my guitar tech, Laurence Adams-keyboard tech, Dave Dixon-front of house mixing, Simon Tutchener-lighting director, Kerry Lewis-monitor mixing, Ben Byford, Jason Vrobel, Guy Habosha and Stefan Krista-sound technicians, Mike Humeniuk, Ewan Cameron, Robert Colvin and Tom Crosbie-lighting techs, Johnny Ashton-rigging, Cod Tallowin-merchandising, Steve Ricalis, Chris Desmond and Angus McKinnon-European catering. Also the bus and equipment drivers who transport the crew and equipment hundreds of miles each day. Thanks to you all.
Our road managers, Peter McKay and Tim Hook have made these five months completely carefree and smooth as silk for us. One of the difficult things about ending these tours is having to be in charge of your own life again. Mark's personal manager, Paul Crockford also played a big part in this as well as looking after MK. A million thanks guys.
I can't begin to express my love and admiration for the boys I have the privilege to stand on stage with each night. It's a very special bond we share and I'll miss them all terribly until we get together again. Mark, Guy, Danny, Glenn, John and Matt...it's always my honour and pleasure to make music with you. The tone and vibe of a tour comes down from the top and we couldn't have a better leader than MK. I'm always tremendously flattered to share the stage or a studio floor with Mark and my unending thanks go to him.
By the time you read this, I'll be home strapping on the car-top carrier, loading up to leave the following morning for the Gulf of Mexico and a couple of weeks holiday with my family. Come autumn I'll be settling back to session work in Nashville, some producing as well as beginning a new album for myself.
To the many thousands who came out to see and hear the show, I especially thank you. Like those mentioned above, without you there's no show. Finally, to everyone who has kept up with our comings and goings via these notes from the road, I appreciate your time and readership. If you've followed these notes in the past you'll know that I don't like good-byes and there have been far too many over the last couple of days. Guy said yesterday that he couldn't think of tonight's gig as being the last and preferred to think about the next time we're all together. I agree. So this is not good-bye, simply....
So long 'til next time,
Down to breakfast at 10 with a few of the guys then the gym for me.
Left the hotel late afternoon for Clearwater and the penultimate show at the Ruth Eckard Hall. A good small theatre, no balcony, that held 2,120. A sell out crowd and a seriously well played show all round. We've begun saying our goodbyes to the crew, everyone on their last legs.
A runner back to Miami and the last flight on the Legacy for Matt, Glenn, Guy and I. The three yanks will head home on Friday, Guy and his family to L.A. then on to Hawaii. The Brits will do a runner after tomorrow night's final show straight in to London.
Back at the hotel for a couple of drinks and music with Guy then a relatively early night as we head into our last day and gig in Miami.
Yesterday was a day off in Miami. I got started late and never quite caught up. Guy rang the room about noon just as I was tumbling out of bed to say he and some of the band were down on the beach and I had to get out there. I agreed, but what I needed more was a cup of coffee and a hard swing at the gym. That behind me I suddenly remembered I'd set up a phone interview for an article in Vintage Guitar magazine at 2:30. I ended up talking for a couple of hours with the journalist about various points in my forty years of being in the business as well as my new Code Red album that's currently out. That, followed by a call to wish my wife a happy birthday and it was now 5 in the afternoon. Got myself out to the beach at last for the remaining hour of sun before the tall hotels and condos blocked the rays. The water of the Atlantic was clear and warm.
We all gathered in the hotel bar at 7:30 for a quick drink before heading off to what will be our final dinner together. We've so often gone out for a great meal on a night off over the course of the tour but it was unusual that all 10 of us, MK, the band and management, were in full attendance as we were tonight. One of the best dinners of the tour at an Italian restaurant called Casa Tua. I had a delicious crab salad on a bed of shaved cantaloupe garnished with bits of crispy prosciutto for starters followed by goat cheese raviolli with fennel puree and black truffle sauce. My entree was the most magnificent, juicy and delicious roasted pork chop I've ever had...thick and perfectly cooked with a mix of mushrooms, roasted shallots and apricot. The wine was soft and easy, the atmosphere in the outdoor, walled patio was unbeatable with it's planted palms, hanging lanterns and umbrellas. Of course the company was the best bunch of guys I've ever been around. Casa Tua is expensive but if you find yourself in Miami with a few extra bucks in you pocket and want a perfect evening and dinner...go. They're located at 1700 James Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida.
We got back to the hotel where Guy and his wife and boys, who have joined us here in Florida, opened their room for some music and drinks. I left reluctantly about 2:30 not wanting to give up the day.
It was a much earlier beginning today and a day off the gym so I was able to get out to the beach sometime round 11. Found my spot and a chaise lounge and immediately got in the Atlantic. The water was incredibly warm and crystal clear, nearly the temperature of a bath water. For the next three hours I was in and out of the sea and got a good bit of sun but it was grand. Got back to the room around 2, fixed myself an espresso (courtesy of the coffee maker in the room and some Illy coffee), got in the shower and off we went to the airport for an hour and a half flight to our gig in Atlanta tonight.
We arrived at Chastain Park where we've played several times before, an outdoor amphitheatre with picnic tables, candles and flowers at each setting. The venue holds 6,700 and I did not see any empty seats or tables. Good show, good audience and was our final outdoor show of the tour. Rain threatened during the gig but held off. I had a few friends in attendance from Nashville and an old friend who lives just outside the city.
A runner back to Miami and a very tired bunch of guys. No drinks or party tonight, everyone knackered and straight to bed.
Charlotte, North Carolina
We bid adieu to the big apple this afternoon as we move on to Charlotte for tonight's show, then fly to Miami, Florida to base for the final few days.
The show tonight was in Ovens Auditorium, with a capacity of 2,355. A brilliant audience that was there for the music and it was delivered in one of the best shows we've pulled off yet. Little more to say.
A runner to Miami where we will base for the final three shows. Wonderful Greek food on the plane. As we wind down, today was the last 'three cities and a show' in one day. Tomorrow, our last day off of the tour, on the beach in Florida.
I've been having lunch for the past three days at a wonderful Italian deli on 58th W. and 10th Ave called Strokos. About three blocks from the hotel, it serves great pizza, sandwiches, panninis....and for lunch today I had a huge plate of spaghetti and three meat balls with the most delicious tangy red sauce and a Greek salad with pepperoncini and stuffed grape leaves. A mountain of food that I could only get half-way through before I threw in the towel. Less than $11.00 including tax. Only in Manhattan.
An afternoon flight to Philadelphia and the Mann Centre for the Performing Arts, a good outdoor amphitheatre that we played in 2005. Our friend Dick Boak of Martin Guitars and his family were there to meet us. Dick's a great fellow, luthier and artist rep. for the company. Several of the crew and the band had expressed interest in purchasing a good acoustic guitar. Over the last several weeks the guys made their decisions about which model they would like and an order was placed. Dick turned up tonight with 7 or 8 guitars in tow for everyone. It was like Christmas, everybody taking their instrument and finding a little quiet corner to squirrel off in and strum their new treasure. It was really great to see. Both Mark and I suggest to most some sort of Triple 0 size as they are very versatile instruments...great finger picking and strummers. Everyone will be well kitted out now and are bursting with pride about their new Martin guitars.
The show was great as was the audience. As we head into the final gigs, I can say without bragging that Mark and the band are at the top of their games....seems like we've hit a whole new benchmark with the shows, one of the reasons we don't want to wrap it up. But the end's well in sight now...four more gigs.
The usual runner back to our last night in Manhattan. It was Philly cheese steak sandwiches, ribs and wings on the plane ride back...all good. Dan and I stopped off in MK's room for a couple of delicious night caps of Knob Creek Bourbon that hit the spot and tasted like butterscotch.
Newark, New Jersey
Yesterday was a day off in Manhattan. Got up early and knocked out the gym. The temp in the gym felt like 80 degrees and the girl at the desk said they'd shut down the AC due to the rain outside, apparently there's an odour that circulated when things are wet. Sheer hell of a work out, completely fatigued and drenched by the end, just kept drinking gallons of water. Got a shower and met up with my good friend Rocky who moved here from Nashville a couple of years ago. We had a quick Mexican lunch and made a bee line for Rudy's Music Stop. Great seeing Rudy again and drooling over all the brilliant guitars in his stock. I played a 1946 Martin 000-28 that I swear was the very best flat-top acoustic guitar I've every had my hands on...the very best. It is worth every penny he's asking, but is out of my price range. After Rudy's we went round the corner to Steve Maxwell's Manhattan drum shop. Steve is the Rudy of drums and has many vintage kits set up in his shop for sale. My credit card began vibrating like a pager in my back pocket and I don't even PLAY drums! Fortunately I walked out of both Rudy's and Steve's without having to take out a second mortgage.
Rocky and I grabbed a cab to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where there's a wonderful Turner exhibit on, both paintings and water colours. It is my second eyeful of Turner this tour as the Tate Britain holds the largest collection of his works. Indeed a great deal of the NY exhibit was from the Tate but also from other museums around the world. Stayed for about an hour then headed off to meet Rocky's wife, Alisa, for an early and wonderful Italian dinner. I decided to walk back to the hotel which ended up being a serious hike from 19th St. E. and 4th Ave. all the way to 60th W. and Columbus Circle. It was well over an hour and took me through Times Square which was teeming with humanity. Finally made it back and had a quiet night off reading and watching a bit of TV, a rarity for me.
Tonight's gig was the New Jersey Performing Arts Centre. We drove through the Lincoln Tunnel and arrived a couple of hours prior to the show. The Centre has four balconies and the tip top is really the nose bleed section. A full house with the exception of the very last rows of the upper tier. I suspect oxygen would be required at that altitude. A fabulous gig and audience. We were all very relaxed yet confident after the day off and are now cherishing every last show. The count down is on with only five shows remaining before we fold up the tent and say good-bye.
New York City, New York
Awake very early, rang Glenn about 8:30 to see if he wanted to come to breakfast at the Mew Morning Restaurant and met him downstairs. After breakfast he was off to a shoppe in town that deals exclusively in acoustic string basses and I went back to the room. As the tour is winding down the wind's beginning to come out of my sails. I spent nearly the entire day in the room either sleeping, reading or playing guitar...not much desire to pound the pavement even if it is Manhattan. I gave Danny a bell in the afternoon and we went to a little Italian deli for a couple of slices of very delicious pizza and coffee. Back, shower then off to our gig in Central Park at Rumsey Play Field.
I'm not sure what they play here, but it appeared to be little more than an open space, everything very make shift....lights, trailers for dressing rooms, port-a-johns and a couple of fast food stands. It has been overcast, hot and muggy all day and threatening rain tonight. We did a meet and greet to a large number of folks that included my friends, Rocky and Alisa, legendary guitar luthier John Monteleone, Isaac Shabtay the fellow who has attended every single performance of the North American tour and Rudy Pensa. There is a very strict 10 p.m. curfew at this gig so immediately following the m&g Jesca Hoop performed her set and we followed. Our itinerary says the venue holds 5,500 and I would say there were that many and more packed tightly shoulder to shoulder. It was shallow and wide sea of people that we played to, everybody having a good time.
A quick runner back to the hotel where I met up with Rocky, Alisa, Danny, John and Heidi at the bar for a couple of drinks. We decided to join a few of the others at a bar five or six blocks down the road. We hailed a taxi and were off. As soon as I stepped in I knew I wanted to leave, the bar itself was just fine and all our crew were piled in....but it was terribly noisy. I took a couple of pulls at the drink I'd ordered, put it down half full and walked back to the hotel. In bed at 2...a relatively early night.
It was a day off yesterday and I spent it with my good friend Rocky Schnaars and his wife Alisa. They moved to New York a couple of years ago after spending most of their lives in Nashville, Rocky as a successful recording engineer and Alisa working for Barnes and Noble. When a book buyer position opened up at the corporate headquarters in Manhattan, Alisa interviewed, got the job and away they went to their new lives. Had a late breakfast and sauntered through Central Park and the city for the afternoon then met Alisa at 5 o'clock for cocktails and an early dinner at Victor's Cafe. I've written before about Victor's, the brilliant Cuban restaurant on 52nd St. W. just off Broadway. The food is magnificent, the vibe is like a Cuban veranda and there's a cozy little bar just off the dining room. It was a hot, muggy day yesterday and after wandering around all afternoon I was pretty dehydrated when we hit Victor's bar, so I began with three glasses of ice cold water followed by a couple of Presidente beers from the Dominican Republic. For dinner it was braised ox tail, mashed plantain, black beans and rice. We all had a leisurely stroll back to my hotel and they caught the train back to their home in New Jersey. I was back in my room by 8 o'clock and feeling like a quiet early night was in order.
The problem with the early, quiet night is that I can never get to sleep due to the schedule we've been keeping until 2 or 3 in the morning. I often wake up around 5 or 6 after only a few hours sleep. So it was this morning, up at 5:30. After about an hour I realised my day had begun so I got dressed and fell out into the street. A couple of blocks from the hotel is a great little greasy spoon diner called New Morning Restaurant on 57th and Ninth. The windows were open and it was still mild so a nice breeze was blowing through the place, great breakfast, pancakes, eggs, coffee that scarcely came to $10. Back to the hotel and a swing in the gym then back to the room where I finally got back down for a couple more hours of sleep.
Tonight's gig was the ever popular Wolf Trap Performing Centre. We played here in 2005, loved it and were looking forward to being here again. It was a sold out crowd of over 7,000. Just a great gig, venue and audience...a relaxed show with great sounding acoustics.
A runner back to Teterboro, New Jersey airport and a short drive into Manhattan where we will play Central Park tomorrow.
Syracuse, New York
We left Boston midday after a tremendous rain and lightening storm blew through the city. Watching it from high above the street out my hotel room window was amazing, at times it was so thick you couldn't see across the street.
I think today will qualify as the latest we've arrived at a venue, barely had time to sit down before it was time to get changed and go on stage. The beautiful Landmark Theatre was opened in February of 1928 as the Lowe's State Theatre and was advertised as "the last word in theatrical ornateness and luxuriousness"...a mouthful but no exaggeration. The theatre holds 2,944 and was nearly a sell out, well played and well received.
A runner after the show to the plane and our tour manager Tim had the most brilliant idea of ribs and wings which he bought bagfuls of from a fabulous place in Syracuse called Dinosaur BBQ. We absolutely inhaled every morsel of it requiring reams of napkins and wet wipes to get it all off our hands. A short flight put us down in N.Y.C. where we'll base for a few days. A day off tomorrow.
Weird day...woke up at 5:30 this morning, not ready to take on the world but clearly not going back to sleep either. Got some coffee, took care of a few e-mail duties and read the NY Times which sadly told me just how bad the American economy is and that one of my favourite singers Jo Stafford had died. Right, enough of that..down to the gym. It was a Sports Club/LA gym rivalling the facility at the Four Seasons in San Francisco and similarly a separately operated fitness centre that happens to be in a hotel. Massive and lavishly stocked with endless rows of treadmills and various cardio machines, weight machines, free weights, cycling rooms, a full basketball court and so on, a real chamber of torture. The usual 90 minutes measure of humiliation then back to the room. Sat down for a minute and immediately fell asleep for two hours, bringing the grand total for the day to five hours, more than enough. There's an executive lounge on the floor I'm staying which we have access to though I cannot imagine why, but the room card allows entry, had a sandwich and coffee for lunch and cautiously cast a second glance at the Times to be informed that Citigroup's CEO characterised this quarters $2.5 billion loss as a sign of progress. Also cheery news as yesterday's oil was selling at $128 a barrel, down from $147 last week. It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world. I'm not cut out for this stuff. Back to the room to practise a little before heading to the gig and something that makes sense.
This is the third time returning to Bank of America Pavilion an outdoor amphitheatre on the harbour and a gig we look forward to. The seating area is covered with a sail and the sound can be a little tricky because of it, so we arrived early and ran through a couple of songs for Dave Dixon, our front of house sound engineer. We had many friends and guests tonight who came for the show including actress Glenn Close. Several of the wonderful friends we made from Boothbay, Maine drove down as well including Richard and Kristina Ford. All were in attendance at a very relaxed meet and greet that felt like a living room performance. Also my friends Kate and Mager Walker who live in Boston came by to say hello as well as Isaac Shabtay who has been to every single performance we've done in North America, driving great distances every day and posting a very interesting journal describing his travels and experiences for these five weeks.
We took the stage at 8:30 and played for nearly 5,000 roaring folks, it was a real party atmosphere and this audience couldn't have been better. We tore through the set, a great show from our point of view, loads of energy and very well played. The audience response at the end of the show was deafening
A runner back to the hotel with a police escort's flashing lights and siren all the way. The Boothbay bunch met us at the bar for a couple of rounds and very kindly brought a couple of pounds of fresh lobster mixed with mayo and hot dog rolls the three necessary ingredients for lobster rolls. We gathered up in Guy's room and devoured every morsel of it along with a few drinks and some great music courtesy of dj's Fletch and Crockford. It was dawn before we pulled the plug. Here's to Boston.
As today was our last time in Canada, my mission was to get a Harvey's burger. I'd been touting them up and John said he wanted to have one as well. We met down in the lobby at 1:30 only to find out that the Harvey's near the hotel had been closed and there wasn't another one in the vicinity. We decided to try to find some breakfast instead and wandered down the street to Flo's Diner for a great little omelette and coffee. Hard to believe, no Harvey's this trip, still I take consolation that we discovered White Spot hamburgers while in Vancouver.
Back to the hotel after Flo's to get the bags packed and ready for pick-up, leaving me an hour to get a shower and be down in the lobby. Just as I was closing up the bags I got a call from Tim Hook our road manager saying there was a problem with our flight departure slot. It had been moved up earlier than originally planned and could I please be down in the lobby ready to go in 10 minutes. Sure thing....no shower. I slathered on a fresh layer of deodorant and off I went. Without a shower I've felt like I never got a proper start to the day...kind of fuzzy. Nevertheless, it was on to Ottawa and tonight's show.
Tonight it was the National Arts Centre which we've played before. A wonderful theatre that has the most amazing collection of 8X10 glossy black and white publicity pictures of everyone who has played lining the walls, hundreds of them. Everyone from Pavarotti to Patti Page, Larry Adler to Count Basie, Woody Herman to Andre Kostelonetz. Magicians, country, folk and pop singers, stars of opera and musical theatre. I enjoyed looking at them all and remembered the venue from the last time because of the pictures. We were in serious trouble with the catering tonight and because last nights was so good it made the mediocre, high school cafeteria style food all the less appealing. They did have some cheese cake that I randomly qualified as a vegetable and ate that for supper. After dinner I found a dimly lit, quiet spot in the basement near the props department, took my guitar down there, warmed up a little and had a short nap which went a long way toward shaking that fuzzy feeling.
The show itself was another joy for us all. 2,326 friendly Ottawa folks making us feel very welcome indeed. As we were taking our final bow Isaac Shabtay, who has seen every show we've done on the North American leg, nearly always from a front row seat, flashed what looked like a credit card in my direction. I stepped forward and took it and it turned out to be a gift cart to Harvey's! I had to laugh, what a great gift. Sadly, as I'd mentioned above I will not have a chance to use it this trip but will put it safely away for my next time in Canada. Thanks Isaac.
After the show it was a runner to the plane and an hour flight in to Boston where we play tomorrow.
Tonight's venue was the Molson Amphitheatre, an outdoor gig we always love to play. Of note this evening was the catering which was the best food we'd had at our North American gigs. Wonderfully fresh and well prepared salads, a brilliant pasta bar similar to an omelette bar in that you choose the ingredients from many options they offer and they whip it up for you. In addition was a full on Indian buffet. Apart from a cup of coffee and a sweet roll for breakfast, I hadn't had anything to eat all day and was really hungry when I got to the gig. Needless to say I took full advantage of the spread.
It was a beautiful night with a hint of a cool breeze now and again, a seriously well played show and a fabulous Toronto audience cheering it all on.
A mighty long day. Got home from the Ryman last night just past midnight, took the dog for a walk and realised I was very hungry. My son Nick and I ended up at a Waffle House around 1 in the morning. You see some strange folks in a Waffle House at that time and I'm sure they were thinking the same about us. I of course ordered a waffle, but the night cook was hopeless. The first waffle he brought looked like a larval waffle...wobbly, white and underdone. I sent it back asking for something a little more well done...more brown. I watched as he dumped another blob of batter onto the iron and closed it. Then I watched him plug a few quarters into the jukebox, go to the bathroom, tend to a few other orders and so on. When the second waffle came off the iron it was burnt. Now begins waffle #3. He's so upset about the first two that he's checking it every minute, opening and closing the jaws of the iron and asking me to give him the OK if it's done properly. A long ordeal. Finally got to bed, absolutely knackered around 2:30 this morning.
About 7:30 this morning, the yard guys turned up and began blowing off the patio just outside our bedroom. So my day began. Coffee, e-mail, repacking the suitcases etc. The car came to pick me up and it was off to the airport and on my way to Kettering, Ohio for our gig at the Fraze Pavilion. We played here in 2005, a pleasant town and nice outdoor amphitheatre that seats 4,100. It was still broad daylight when we took the stage at 8:30 but the sun quickly set making for a warm night. I think we were all tired from the last few days, that combined with it being a small outdoor venue actually made for a wonderfully relaxed show that was so well played and received.
A runner to Toronto where we arrived at 1:00, spend the night and play tomorrow. A long day indeed....
The good thing about playing in the city you live is the chance to get home for a day and sleep in your own bed, go to your own gym and run a few errands just like a normal person. That combined with a little gardening and the day was gone, it was time to get to the The Ryman Auditorium for tonight's show.
The Ryman first opened it's doors in 1892 as a religious tabernacle built by Thomas Ryman a steamboat captain who found religion. It also served as a venue for speeches and some of the world's leading orchestras and entertainers in all fields from Paul Whiteman's Orchestra to W. C. Fields. In 1943 the popular radio barn dance program, The Grand Ole Opry began using the Ryman for performances on Saturday nights as their audiences had become so large that a bigger facility to accommodate them was needed. The Ryman became the most famous home of the Opry and the show remained there until it was moved to a more modern theatre built in Opryland. The Ryman fell into disuse due to poor repair and not being able to cope with the needs of a modern production. It was used primarily as a tourist attraction for people to walk through and have their photos taken on the stage where Roy Acuff, Eddy Arnold, Hank Williams and so many other famous country stars had stood.
In the mid-1980's a comprehensive restoration took place to stabilise the balcony and modernise the facility which included building a new lobby, entrance and dressing rooms. It was a brilliant modernisation that still retained the sound, vibe and feel of the original. The Ryman is now a venue for everything from Coldplay to Eddie Izzard and blues to bluegrass. For a couple of months every year The Grand Ole Opry comes home to the Ryman for performances bringing it all full circle. It's an historic theatre, one we always look forward to playing and just a little bit humbling. I always get a little nervous when playing here.
We all have loads of friends who turned out and it was a great show with a crowd of good folks who hung on every note. Just when I though the evening couldn't have been any better, we came off stage to find 7 orders of Buffalo wings from our favourite local brewpub Blackstone's. Within three minutes of us leaving the stage, we were up to our elbows in tabasco coated, juicy chicken, bleu cheese dip and freshly brewed beer. If you're in Nashville, go to Blackstone's and try their Red Spring Ale, it's my fave.
A reception followed in the Ryman bar and it was great seeing so many friends and folks. A long day and a late night. Tomorrow we're off for a show in Kettering, Ohio.
Walked around downtown and Lake Michigan for a couple of hours this afternoon, a beautifully clear, sunny, warm day, low humidity, 80 degrees...perfect. Chicago's a great city that makes me feel good to be in...all the best of N.Y. but less intense. It's also the town where I was born so I might be a little biased.
Tonight's venue was The Chicago Theatre. It was called the "Wonder Theatre of the World" when it opened in 1921 and cost a whopping $4 million to build. The theatre is 7 stories high, a half city block wide and long, of French Baroque and one of the best sounding and gorgeous theatres we've played. A sold-out capacity crowd of 3,600 enthusiastic, energetic, open Chicagoans. A great gig, the perfect convergence of venue, show and audience and we can't wait to come back to Chicago, a terrific city we all love.
We had a couple of guests come to town to see the show, our pal the great guitarist-singer Sonny Landreth as well as country singing star LeeAnn Womack and her husband Frank Liddell who is a successful music publisher and record producer in Nashville. After the gig, rather than meeting up at the hotel bar we decided to go round the corner to a tavern named Pippin's. Nothing fancy, just a good old neighbourhood vibe with good beer. It was great fun visiting with our friends there in Pippin's and a perfect way to wrap the night and our stay in the windy city. Tomorrow we leave for a day off in Nashville then our show at The Ryman. It's not a day off however for Glenn and I who will immediately go from the airport to RCA Studio B for a double session! I don't know, it sounded like a good idea when we said yes a few weeks ago.
Up early, gym, shower. Met up with Mark and Danny around 1 in the afternoon and took a cab to a wonderful drum studio owned by Steve Maxwell. He is a grand fellow, a historian, collector and seller of vintage drum kits. Both Danny and Mark know him and have bought kits from him, but this is the first time to meet him for me. I don't play drums, although strangely enough it was my first instrument before taking up the guitar, but I felt my credit card vibrating in my back pocket. The old 50's kits of Rogers and Gretsch's were gorgeous and sounded just like what a set of drums ought to sound like. It made me want to buy a set. Fortunately, we got out of there before anyone was able to do much damage to their bank accounts.
It was an hour flight from Chicago to St. Paul airport and another 30 minute drive to the venue in Minneapolis. The Orpheum Theatre with a capacity of 2,600 was sold out. Another wonderful audience and good show. I wish we were staying here in Minneapolis, it's a grand city and one we all love particularly since having come here in 2004 to do Prairie Home Companion and seeing a little bit of the town, however this tour we are doing more base cities and flying in and out, so Chicago is our base for the mid-west and it was a runner to the plane after the show. Some old friends of Glenn Worf's very kindly brought a cooler of Leinenkugel Beer and the most fabulous summer sausage and cheese we'd ever had and that's what we ate on the plane ride back to Chicago.
It turns out that Lyle Lovett and crew are in Chicago doing a gig tonight. Matt played many years and on all of Lyle's records and we all have mutual friends in the band including our old band mate Jim Cox who now tours with Lovett. A phone call was made and we went directly from the plane to the hotel where they are staying to meet up in the bar for drinks and a bit of catching up. It was great to see Jim again as well as Ray Herndon and Russ Kunckel. I used to do record dates with Russ in Los Angeles back in the '70's and it's been at least 15 years since I saw him last.
About 2 in the morning the bar had closed and we bid our fellow musos goodnight and walked to our hotel on a very balmy, very early Sunday morning.
Yesterday was a day off in Chicago. I set a wake up call for 9:00 to have time for some coffee and a trip to the fab hotel gym. This doesn't beat the San Francisco Four Seasons, but it would be in a tight run-off for second place with the facility in Denver. A quick shower then down to the lobby to meet some of the boys for a trip to Wrigley Field and a 1 o'clock opening pitch with the Cincinnati Reds. A half dozen of us marched to the 'el' and made our way over to the Addison station just outside Wrigley. It was a warm day but overcast and a very active game fortified by hot dogs and beer with a final score, Cubs 7, Reds 12. There's no better way to spend a summer afternoon than at the ballpark. When the game ended the line to get back on the 'el' was staggering, but it moved along at an orderly and steady pace. Got back to the hotel station just in time for the skies to open up for the three block walk. I was thoroughly saturated when I got back to the room. Took off my clothes, put a bathrobe on and realised I wouldn't be joining the others for an evening meal that had been planned. I wasn't leaving the room for the rest of the night. Spent the night reading, watching a little TV and doing some computer work, bypassed dinner altogether. With today's early morning and only having had about three hours sleep, I finally put my head down and slept until 11:30 this morning!!
By the time I finally got myself up and about it was noon. I'd already missed breakfast and decided I'd pass on coffee and food as it was a mid-afternoon flight and I'd get some caffeine and nourishment on the plane. When we boarded I got some coffee and a granola bar straight away, but the afternoon meal was bits of cheese and crackers with little strips of ham and pepperoni. Crap. Arrived in Winnipeg and drove to the venue, made a bee-line for catering as I was now violently famished. More crap N. American catering. There were several options that were probably just fine when they'd been cooked a couple of hours ago, but were little more that high school cafeteria fare after being steamed to death. I had a slice of pork tenderloin and an awful grocery store purchased sweet, then bailed.
Tonight's show was at the Centennial Concert Hall to a capacity crowd of 2,205. We were all well rested and played what I would consider to be one of the very best shows of the entire tour. The audience was great, the theatre was great and so were the acoustics...or so it seemed to me. Another Canadian city that I'd never been to before and saw no more of than the ride from the airport to the venue. I'd like to come back again someday and get a better look.
A runner back to Chicago and a serious re-routing to skirt a massive line of severe thunder storms across the mid-west. I've never had a flight like this. We witnessed one of the most awesome displays of electric mother nature I've ever seen from the sky or the ground. Lightening striking everywhere non-stop. We shut off the lights in the cabin to get a better look. What a light show. Staggering! Our ace pilots remained about 10 miles from the edge of the storms and we only learned afterward that 30 miles is what's suggested!!! We experienced a couple of very serious bits of turbulence, the kind that threw people who weren't buckled down. After all was said and done, we arrived safely in Chicago through a torrent of rain that fell on Midway Airport. The drivers met us on the tarmac and ushered us to the cars with umbrellas. I put my stuff in the trunk of the car and ducked out from under the umbrella for five or six feet to the passenger door and in that short of a distance was completely soaked through. It was THAT heavy.
Next to no traffic at that hour so the ride to the hotel was quick putting us in at 2 a.m. I sat down at this computer, jotted down these notes and I'm now going to bed.
Quiet day, played a little guitar and read the paper before packing up, leaving Edmonton and winging our way to Regina. Like Kelowna and Saskatoon, I will see no more of Regina other than the ride from the airport to the venue. However, what I did see I liked very much, a clean city of around 200,000 Regina is the capital of Saskatchewan and like Saskatoon is rich in pot ash, oil, natural gas, wheat and barley. We rode through a wonderful neighbourhood with beautiful homes and park with a man-made lake before arriving at Conexus Centre of the Arts, a great sounding theatre that seats 1,944. A full house and although seated, concert audiences can sometimes behave accordingly, the folks here in Regina really let loose. They were warm, generous and loud!
A runner and 2:30 arrival at our hotel in Chicago where we will base for the next several days beginning with a day off tomorrow.
Down to the very well equipped hotel gym this morning for the usual on some very unusual machines. The resistance is regulated not by adding or subtracting weights, but by air compression. Every machine is hooked up to a main compressor and with the use of a button or foot pedal you control the amount of air that is fed into the thing, the more air the higher the resistance and vice versa. It's a little tricky to control very precisely but got the job done all the same.
Saskatoon, another Canadian city that I'd never been to before and sadly will see nothing more of it than the ride from the airport to the venue. A city of a quarter million people and looks flat and wide with the big sky beaming overhead. I kept recalling a song titled Girl In Saskatoon but couldn't remember who it was by. I asked all round the band and no-one had heard of it. I got thinking maybe I'd made the whole thing up. As soon as I got to the venue I took out my laptop and Googled it. Turns out it was on a Johnny Cash album in 1961, written by him and Johnny Horton. Cash sang it live in a concert given here in Saskatoon in 1961 to the local beauty queen who was murdered about six months later. To this day the murder is still unsolved and being re-opened for the third time.
Tonight's show was held in the Sid Buckwold Theatre to a capacity crowd of 1,900. We played a really good show last night I thought and the audience was VERY warm and responsive.
A runner back to Edmonton with some tasty Thai food on the plane. A couple of night-caps with Guy and Dan then off to bed.
A day off yesterday in Vancouver. Glenn, Mark, Guy and I rented bikes and cycled through the gorgeous Stanley Park along the sea wall of Coal Harbour and the Burrard Inlet. A perfect day, warm but not too and the sun breaking through the clouds. After the 10K ride we ended up at White Spot which I'd been touting up, for their "Famous" with cheese, beer, wine and it was a winner all round. Back in the hotel I put Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music on and marvelled at the scope of what used to be recorded in the 1920's by the major record labels before the depression put an end to a lot of it. An astounding variety of all sorts of native and ethnic music from string bands to hellfire and brimstone preachers. Brilliant. Later in the evening we went to a wonderful Italian fusion restaurant named Cin-Cin. Excellent...great food, wine, atmosphere and company. After dinner Glenn and I drifted off to O' Doul's, a bar/restaurant down the street that had jazz. It was a quiet Sunday night, not many patrons and a young lady playing solo piano who was very good, great tunes, imagination and drive. It takes a lot of moxie to play solo like that to an empty house. We had a drink and called it a night.
The only problem with having a civilised early night is waking up at 4 a.m....wide awake and ready to begin the day, but not really. I puttered around taking care of the morning's computer work, did some reading, got dressed went up the street for coffee and a croissant and was back at the hotel by 7:30. Picked the book back up and read for a while then started to feel tired enough to go back to bed and seized the opportunity for a few hours. Woke up to begin the day again at 11:30. A little practising then time to pack the bags and bid adieu to the great city of Vancouver. We've had a wonderful few days stay here and look forward to returning.
It was an hour and a half flight to Edmonton plus we lost an hour so we didn't arrive at the Northern Albert Jubilee Theatre until 6. The theatre is located on the campus of the University of Edmonton and has recently been remodelled to commemorate it's 50th anniversary. Tonight's audience of 2,330 were there to listen and by the end of the show they were on their feet. I'm looking forward to having a wander round town tomorrow as I have never been in Edmonton before. I just don't want to do it at 4 in the morning.
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Up early and thought I'd try out the coffee maker in my room. The pre-packaged coffee and filter read "finest Italian". It was neither fine nor Italian but complete rubbish made in America that was little more than hot, coloured water. Undrinkable. I tramped down to Tim Horton's and then back to the absolutely useless hotel gym. Four people already in there struggling to find a place for themselves and the treadmill taken by some clown scraping his trainers on the belt making a loud, squealing sound every four or five steps. I looked over thinking he must have headphones on and can't hear it, but he didn't. Staggeringly inconsiderate. I managed to started pushing some weights and as soon as Bozo got off the mill, I jumped on it. Things began looking up after that. I got out of the hotel for a bit of shopping and a stop at White Spot for a hamburger. I was tipped off to them by Isaac Shabtay, knowing my fondness for Harvery's he suggested I try these babies. White Spot is a chain of restaurants in British Columbia and Alberta famous for their hamburgers for 75 years. Started in June of 1928 by Nat Bailey, it boasts a brilliant burger and delivers. I ordered the "Famous" a single with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle, mayo and their special triple O sauce. I couldn't put my finger on exactly what was in the sauce except it complimented the burger beautifully. I opted out of the fries and slaw in lieu of a Caesar salad, deluding myself that I was having a healthy lunch, washing it all down with a pint of Nat Bailey's Pale Ale on draft. The namesake beer is brewed locally by the Granville Brewing Company, a mild beer served ice cold and a good afternoon brew as there doesn't seem to be much alcohol about it. You could have a couple over lunch and get back to the office without feeling the need for a nap. I haven't renounced my allegiance to Harvey's but simply added White Spot to my list of Canada faves. Don't get the impression that I make a diet of burgers, I don't, seldom order one anywhere, but for some reason must make the pilgrimage to Harvery's and now White Spot whenever I'm in Canada.
A mid-afternoon flight to Calgary where the yearly Stampede began yesterday. Loads of folks walking round in boots, jeans and cowboy hats. I don't remember playing here since working with Neil Diamond but have fond memories of the town. Tonight's show was in the Jack Singer Concert Hall, home to the Calgary Symphony Orchestra. A small 1,600 seater that sounded great...another loud and very appreciative audience.
The usual runner back to Vancouver, where we cannot resist falling into the wonderfully dark and inviting bar here at the hotel. Pop star George Michael and entourage have been staying here as well, George having a show in town last night. Our own Danny Cummings and George go back 25 years, Dan playing percussion on the Wham records as well as George's solo outings. Danny toured all last year with George, so it was old home week for them. We were a couple of drinks down when George came to the bar and sat down at our table for a round. Seems like a good guy, still, I remain more impressed having had a uke lesson from Joe Brown at Albert Hall.
Lazy day. Walked out of the hotel, turned left and fell in at the Caffe Artigiano for a spectacular, extra large latte with an extra dose of espresso. Beautiful coffee perfectly prepared by a lady who somehow managed to created the image of a leaf with the foam. An oatmeal-blueberry muffin completed the package and that was plenty until catering at the gig. Came back to the room and got tied into e-mail, practising and general laziness before it was time to get ready to fly to Kelowna.
Kelowna is located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia on Okanagan Lake. A big tourist destination in the summer months, it's name is derived from the native term for female grizzly bear. We arrived late, 6:30, no sound check and just time for a quick bit of food in catering, a little practising in a quiet room I found with a sign on the door that read "show disconnect". I have no idea, there were just a couple of push brooms and a chair in what was no larger a space than a walk in closet. Before long it was time for us to hit the boards. Prospera Place is a small arena and we played to nearly 4,000 tonight. The sound was a bit of a struggle, it seemed very loud but we turned in what we felt was a very good show and the audience seemed to agree. What little we saw of Kelowna looks to be a beautiful city and I'm sorry we didn't have a little more time to explore it.
A runner back to the Legacy and Vancouver for a quick drink before turning in.
Vancouver, British Columbia
I made a beeline to Tim Horton's this morning and drank about a gallon of their piping hot coffee to clear the cobwebs. It's not the fashionable espresso, dark roast brew that most places serve now, just a regular cup of joe, big, smooth and not a trace of bitterness, the kind of coffee you drink black and it tastes great. Old time stuff. Came back to the hotel and spent nearly three hours on this computer mopping up e-mail. That's too much time spent in front of a screen, especially with my attention span of about 10 minutes. Completely bleary eyed when I finished and shocked by the clock...2 in the afternoon! Straight down to the gym which I think might be a winner in the loser's category for worst hotel fitness centre. A tiny room, one treadmill and a couple other aerobic machines, a crap selection of free weights and one of those very dangerous 'universal' type weight machines, the kind that incorporates several different machines into one that doesn't do anything very well. These machines are seldom very stable and lack proper back or leg support. I try to avoid them at all costs. Over the course of my workout, Tim and Pete our tour managers arrived as did Mark. It's a closet of a space to begin with, so it was a full house of pain with the four of us in there. Following that, there was nothing left to do but wander back to Horton's for another coffee and egg salad sandwich. Time to shower and get ready to go to the gig.
As Matt appropriately said, today was a day off with a gig...meaning, we were already in town and didn't even drive to the venue as it was just a couple of blocks away, we all ambled down one at a time from the hotel to the theatre on foot. The Orpheum Theatre was built in 1927 as a vaudeville house and at that time was the largest theatre on the Pacific coast with a capacity of just under 3,000. The city of Vancouver purchased the Orpheum in 1974 and began a three year restoration project that returned the theatre to it's former opulence. The Orpheum is home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra as well as hosting music concerts and speakers. I suppose this is getting tiring to read every day about the show being well played and the audiences tremendous, but the theatre sounded fantastic, the stage felt warm and friendly, the audience couldn't have been better and it all added up to us having a helluva great time and show. Thank you Vancouver.
Another 'walker' back to the hotel, two in one week! Matt and I hoofed our way back and were stopped often by folks who'd been to the show and told how much they loved it. Back to the very inviting bar for another couple of burnt martinis and call it a day.
Went to a fantastic place for breakfast this morning, The Original Pancake House. Started in Portland in 1953 they have now expanded to 100 restaurants across the U.S. The one I ate at was the very first one, the original, Original Pancake House. Griddle cakes of every description and nationality, unbelievably good. One more reason to love Portland, seems like everyone in the band wants to move here...it's a great town. John went to a guitar shop close to the hotel where he spotted and purchased a beautiful Martin baritone ukulele from the 1940's, all mahogany, deep, rich and resonant.
As much as we'd like to hang around a little longer it is time to move on. A short flight to Seattle then a bit of a drive to Woodinville, Washington home of the Chateau Ste. Michelle winery. The gig is on the grounds of the estate, we played here in 2005 and loved it. Another one of those 'picnic gigs'...outdoors, food, drink and good vibes all round. These shows are so much fun for us and the audience alike, everyone completely relaxed and taking the event in. The audience might have a slight advantage as they've been drinking...in this case the wine that was produced just a couple of hundred yards away from where they're sitting. The skies opened up for a quick bit of rain then things cleared and we took the stage. It was a mild evening and light through most of the show until the last couple of tunes, great people watching.
A runner back to the Seattle airport and another short flight to Vancouver where we will base for the next few days and play tomorrow night. We arrived at the hotel and couldn't resist falling in to their very inviting bar. The bartender made one of the best martinis we've ever had, Hendricks Gin (distilled in Scotland) and instead of vermouth he used a few drops of J&B scotch to dry things up, a slice of cucumber topped it off.....voila...a burnt martini!
It was a day off yesterday in San Francisco that began early with a massive attack of Peet's coffee and a cherry danish. One of my missions was to find a place that will repair my finger nails, sounds awfully vain but it's really a necessity. I use my fingers to play as much, if not more than a guitar pick and my nails have always been thin and splintery. About 10 years ago I discovered the acrylics and they've been a miracle, that is until one breaks or comes off which is what happened before the show last night in Jacksonville. At that point it was a race against the start of the show with a bottle of Krazy Glue building up layers in hope of getting through the gig. I made it, but a new set of acrylics was in order. Found a little walk in nail salon and my index, middle and ring were soon good as new. Bored yet? I am. Next.
Wandered round the city and fell into a soup and salad place for lunch then made my way to the San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art which is currently hosting a staggeringly great exhibit of Frida Kahlo. Roomfuls of her most important paintings gathered from all over the world and several more rooms of personal photographs from a collection of over 400 that she gave to a physician friend. She and her husband Diego Rivera spent a good deal of time here in San Francisco while he was commissioned to paint a mural. I won't go into her story here, but her work is tremendously moving. The exhibit runs through September 2008 and I can't recommend it enough.
I spent the evening with my dear first cousin Neal Winchell who has lived in the city and its suburbs for decades. While we've stayed in touch via e-mail and the occasional backstage visit, we hadn't sat down to a meal together in over 30 years. That was remedied last night when we met here at the hotel for a couple of martinis before heading off to John's Grill, an old San Francisco bar and grill dating back to 1908 and hangout of writer Dashiell Hammett. Perfectly grilled steaks, seafood, fresh vegetables and baked potatoes with loads of sour cream. It was good sitting down and catching up with you Neal. As for martinis, the late San Francisco journalist/humourist Herb Caen had this to say, "Martinis are like breasts. One is not enough and three's too many." Agreed. We each had two.
Up early today, wandered round the corner to Mel's Diner for breakfast, a little too hard core neo-retro for me, but the food was great and how can you argue with a place that has Shopping For Clothes by The Coasters on the juke box? Back to the hotel, packed up and bid adieu to San Francisco for a quick flight to Portland.
Tonight's show was at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, a small, wonderful theatre seating 2,800. We've played here several time before and always look forward to returning. No muss or fuss just a well played gig and a grand audience that became a deafening audience by the end of the show! Portland is a beautiful city, one that takes great pride in itself and rightly so. We love Portland.
Rather than our usual runner after the show, we were booked in to the old Heathman Hotel right next door to the theatre, so we took a few secret passageways after the gig and somehow ended up in the kitchen of the Heathman then up the service lift to our floors. I think this might be the first "walker" we've done. The Heathman bar was kept open for us and there I spent a great couple hours with my dad's cousin and his wife, Itz and Maureen Horenstein and their daughter Lori...the Portland side of my family who I'd not seen in at least 25 years. We each had two!
There are benefits to waking up early, such as leisurely sauntering through the day before having to get ready for the gig.
And so it was this Sunday morning beginning with some coffee, toast and a NY Times sent up to the room, followed by a visit to the all-time best gym that just happens to be on the 4th floor of our hotel...no competition when it comes to gym of the tour award. A staggering area the size of a square city block of aerobic machines, free weights, machines to work every body part, spinning rooms, pilates rooms and yoga rooms, an emporium of every imaginable device of torture. Another great feature is the ceiling to floor windows that look out onto Market Street. Across these windows dozens of aerobic machines are lined up. No sooner had I revved up my treadmill when I heard the rev of motorcycle engines coming from outside. I looked out to see the beginning of the gay pride parade! Hundreds of cycles bearing rainbow flags and driven by guys and girls in various states of outrageous and normal dress and undress, followed by what seemed like thousands of people walking, carrying banners in celebration of same-sex marriage or drumming up the vote for sympathetic political candidates. Folks dressed in full-body balloon suits and people riding on floats in penis costumes, San Francisco Police Department cops in uniform walking down the street hand-in-hand with their partners followed by a brace of SFPD cars, fire fighters and military veterans all represented....and on it went for a full three hours. Great stuff, it was good watching the raucous and colourful pageant, certainly made a nice distraction checking things out now and again.
With the workout behind me I was desperate for a good cup of coffee and some food and both were just round the corner from the hotel. Peet's Coffee is just about the best thing going, a small American chain that started as a single shoppe in Berkeley, California in 1966. The guys who started Starbuck's used Peet's coffee shop as a model and it was Peet's that supplied and roasted Starbuck's coffee in the very early set-up stages of that franchise. Starbuck's of course expanded and took over the world and began employing cheaper methods and beans while Peet's expanded very slowly and only to the point where they could keep the quality intact. Sadly, we don't have Peet's Coffee in the south although they do sell their beans on-line. One block away, much to my pleasure was a Peet's Coffee Shop. I made straight for it and a large latte with an extra shot of espresso. A beautifully warm and sunny day, I took my coffee and sat at at table outside enjoying everything including the people-watching as the parade had just broken up and folks were wandering away. So much for coffee, now food. Just up the street from Peet's was a California Pizza Kitchen, a west-coast chain of exotic and traditional wood-fired pizzas in a great atmosphere. Wandered in, sat at the counter and had a brilliant thin-crust, crushed tomato, mozzella and fresh basil pizza and a majestically delicious Anchor Steam beer on draught, all the while the Germany vs. Spain football match was on the big screen. This is the stuff Sundays are made of, at least in San Francisco they are. A perfect afternoon.
Time to head to the Oakland airport for our flight to Medford, Oregon. We flew over the fires that are currently smoldering in Northern California and the sky was choked with brown haze and smoke. Also flew over Mount Shasta before landing. A short 15 minute drive through the most quaint town and neighbourhoods delivered us to the Britt Pavillion, a small outdoor theatre with a capacity of roughly 2,200. No seats, just lawn seating, blankets on the ground and picnics are the order of the day. It was a very hot and dry day and the crew had a difficult one as this gig is not easy to load in, but as always we never heard a word about it and they were all smiles when we arrived. We love these very intimate outdoor shows, it's almost like playing at a summer camp. Audience and band very relaxed and enjoying the evening together. Because of the small venue and stage the lights and production were cut down and everything was left to a minimum, Simon our lighting director using the venues stage lights as opposed to rigging up all of our usual concert stuff. It all made for a wonderfully casual evening and a grand time for all.
A runner back to San Francisco, a few drinks with Dan, Guy, John and Pete then off to bed and a day off tomorrow.
I keep waking up at 6 in the morning unable to get back to sleep so it was downstairs today for an early breakfast accompanied by the LA Times and a beach view. Spent the remainder of the morning mopping up e-mails, practising, finishing the newspaper. Before I knew it, it was time to check out of the hotel and make our way northward. It was a short hop from the Van Nuys to the Oakland airport and being Saturday, the traffic wasn't bad to Berkeley.
Over the last several days we've become accustomed to the hot, dry summer temperatures of the south-west and forgot how chilly the bay area can be this time of year. We arrived at the venue in t-shirts and shorts and immediately began rummaging through the wardrobe trunks for anything with a bit of warmth to wear.
The William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre was built in 1903 and financed by the American newspaper titan for the University of California. Now simply known as The Greek Theatre, it was constructed on a site already in use as an amphitheatre since 1894 known as Ben Weed's Amphitheatre. Over the last century it's stage has been graced by American presidents, movie, theatre, rock and jazz stars. It's a gorgeous setting, a bowl surrounded by towering ancient eucalyptus trees, it's become one of our favourite venues since first playing here in 2005. The staff is warm and helpful, the catering is good and...only in Berkeley...they have a vitamin bar along side the coffee urns in the catering area. Rows of bottled vitamins, minerals, food supplements and antioxidants of every stripe, just in case you forgot your daily dose! Brilliant.
We took the stage looking like we'd been caught up in a tornado at a thrift shoppe. As if our usual stage attire isn't motley enough, on top of it was piled anything warm we could get our hands on...from a golf game wind breaker to a shark skin sport jacket and everything in between. No matter, this band's not exactly known for it's fashion sensibilities. Off we trundled to play a show for 8,000 great fans, more than a few of them smoking pot...great wafts of it floating up on stage throughout the night. Because of the chill we didn't crack a sweat last night even though we played hard and heavy and left the stage after the last encore to ear splitting response. Thanks again Berkeley.
Into the cars and over the Bay Bridge, we arrived at our hotel in San Francisco by 11:30. We'll base from this great city for the next couple of days.
Los Angeles, California
Up early and out for breakfast with my friend Jim Silvers who I've known since 1969. He was the first guy who wandered through the door at the music store I worked in when I first moved to Los Angeles. He wanted some guitar lessons and we've been friends since. Over the years I produced two of his record albums. After breakfast I stopped in to see another old pal of mine, Dennis St. John. Dennis was the drummer and band leader for many years with Neil Diamond and he's the reason I got that job. Great seeing them both again.
Mid-afternoon we fought the L.A. freeway, Friday style, up to the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park. I won't bore you with all the memories that Hollywood and this particular venue hold for me. These days Hollywood is unrecognisable to me, but the Greek is still very much the same as when I first played there in 1971 with Neil Diamond. It was the following year that the Hot August Night album was recorded there and I was on board for that as well. Wait a minute, I'm probably boring you. Anyway, it is a wonderful venue surrounded by giant old trees and always feels good to play there. Plus, our very own John McCusker made a spectacular return to the band tonight just minutes before we took the stage. His visa was granted and he tumbled off the plane after a 12 hour journey, ready to play the hell out of the show....and so he did and so did we all. Welcome back Johnny boy.
We've consistently found audiences that were previously 'polite' to be very enthusiastic this tour and L.A. was no exception. A great Friday night crowd, ready for a good time. It was a wonderful show and standing on the stage of that theatre looking out at the folks and the trees beyond made, me glad to be alive. A couple of us stayed after the show to greet friends who came and it was good seeing every one of them. I always feel like I've come home when we play the Greek.
Finally made it back to the hotel around 12:30 too tired for a night-cap, straight to bed. THAT'S boring.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Maybe I'm still on Euro time, after nearly two weeks I'm still waking up very early. So, it was downstairs to breakfast where I found Glenn and road manager Pete McKay already seated at a table overlooking the Santa Monica Pier, beach and ocean. A couple of cups of strong coffee and a plate of pancakes were demolished, then off the gym to either get my heart started or finish it off once and for all. Happily it was the former.
A short mid-afternoon flight brought us to Las Vegas and the strip. I never know what to say about Vegas, you either love or hate it and I'm afraid I fall into the negative category. I have absolutely no interest in the gaming aspect and it has been turned into a Disney-like caricature of....what? I don't know. Models of other cities, a miniature Eiffel Tower, a smaller Sphinx, a seriously abbreviated version of Manhattan complete with Chrysler and Empire State buildings. Nothing about the place has any draw for me, except the desert surrounding the city and the blast furnace of heat that greeted us as we stepped off the plane.
It was our usual venue here, The Hard Rock Hotel's rock club, The Joint. It's appropriately named, just a big bar with a patron capacity of 1,510 and an opportunity for the very well heeled to see their fave rock bands or singers in a "club" atmosphere. It too is as contrived as the town.
Just for the hell of it, I went out in the casino and changed a 20 into singles to throw away in the slots. These are now electronic things that you go through the motion of pulling the lever but can't really get any spin going, it does it for you electronically. The tumblers turn and a digital led read-out tells you if you've won any credits for further pulls. If you like you can hit the "cash out" button and a thermal piece of paper with a bar code is issued from the slot machine which enables you to use that in any other slot or take it to the cashier and actually cash out. The whole thing is completely absurd. After a half hour of winning, losing, winning, losing....I was so bloody bored that I couldn't take any more and left with 5 of my original 20 buck still in my pocket. Ridiculous. Still I have several friends, intelligent, talented, perfectly reasonable people who think Vegas is the cat's ass. Like I said, you love it or hate it.
The gig was good, people drinking and waitresses carrying trays but the whole thing was so surreal that you kind of get into how strange it all is. A couple of drunk guys right on the front row reliving their youths to the point of being escorted out. The only thing missing was a fist fight.
A runner back to LA and everyone to a man was off to their rooms for an early night. THAT'S rock and roll.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Denver to Salt Lake City this afternoon. Stepped off the plane into at least high 90s temperature, hot and dry. Another city basin surrounded by mountains....I love the west. It was a short drive to Abravenel Hall, tonight's venue. We've played here before, a proper concert theatre that feels a little "proper" and while past audiences have been very good, we were not prepared for the reception and response to tonight's show. Thunderous! The acoustics were great and the little 6 piece group came to play. A memorable night in Salt Lake City for those of us at Abravenel Hall.
A runner to the US version of the Legacy and a quick flight to LA where we will base for the next several days.
It was good to be home this past week. The seven days seemed to fly by catching up on 10 weeks of mail, phone calls and errands. We had a couple of bbq's, some dinners out, some dinners in, a little gardening and an evening at The Ryman Auditorium with Eddie Izzard who was brilliant. We also saw our daughter and her boyfriend off to Memphis where he will be attending pharmacy college for the next few years. It was bittersweet watching their moving truck roll out the driveway as we waved good-bye, but they have a great apartment in a very cool part of Memphis to begin the next chapter of their lives. It has always been one of my favourite cities, good food, museums, record stores and now an excuse to pop over now and again for a weekend as it's only 200 miles west from our door to theirs. The last couple of days I succumbed to a head and chest cold that I'd held at arms length all week, one of those that leaves you feeling very spaced out. In preparation for yesterday's flight to Denver I began loading up on decongestant which did the trick, no problem with the ears on the plane and woke this morning feeling like I might just live after all.
I was raised in the west, Phoenix, Arizona as a youngster then nearly two decades in Los Angeles before moving to Nashville. There's something about the western states that makes everything line up for me; a drier atmosphere, the high jagged mountains surrounding the city basin, the pioneer spirit of the people is still present...open minded like the open skies. It was great stepping off the plane last night and feeling the geographic pull again.
After an early breakfast and a couple of hours in what will be a finalist for the best hotel gym, I bumped into our tour manager Tim. He asked if I'd heard the news about John McCusker our fab new member of the band. No, I hadn't, what the hell happened to John? Well....John was denied his visa for America and more than likely will sit out the remainder of the tour in Edinburgh!! Something to do with a previous misdemeanour and there is nothing anyone can do about it, it's in the hands of the embassy and that is that. I suppose this kind of thing happens frequently. Just last week Martha Stewart was denied entry to the U.K. It's a tremendous comfort knowing our governments are protecting us from terrorism, feather dusters and penny whistles. So, for the moment or perhaps the duration, we're a six-piece again.
We arrived at Red Rocks far earlier this afternoon than usual to do a little re-arranging of the songs, everybody picking up various bits of slack due to John's absence. This is where real professionalism saves the day. Many lesser or inexperienced groups would have been in disarray faced with the same problem, but we calmly went about the task in fairly short order and not a feather ruffled.
The venue is about 25 miles outside Denver, a gorgeous natural amphitheatre surrounded by the most awe inspiring red coloured boulders. I first played here in 1972 with Neil Diamond and always look forward to coming back. It was a hot, clear day, then later in the afternoon the clouds came in and the wind whipped up, cooling things down nicely. We took the stage for our first show of the North American tour minus a key member and having not played in over a week. The band was unflappable and I am very proud of us all, cool as cucumbers and delivered one of the best shows ever, a man in every corner at the top of their game, not only filling the gap that John's left but adding a couple of new songs to the set as well! The audience of 8,700+ was loud, enthusiastic and brilliant. A fantastic launch to the final third of the tour.
A runner back to Denver and a quick gathering in MK's room for a glass of wine, quick being the operative word. The Brit boys are jet lagged and exhausted and the Yanks were not far behind. The end of a well saved day. Onward and westward-ho tomorrow.
It is actually the 17th of June as I type this sitting at my kitchen table, back in Nashville and after the fact. The show in Athens was our last of the European leg of the tour. We've completed 63 shows in 79 days, an amazing feat for any group.
The morning of the 15th began as we've become accustomed for the last week in Istanbul; throwing open the drapes to gaze upon the Bosphorus and across to Asia, with the call to prayer wafting over the waters and the sunshine pouring in, then downstairs to the most lavish of breakfasts. Today we leave Istanbul, so it was back to the room to pack the bags for our flight to Athens. As I was about to leave the room I turned back and stepped out on the balcony for one last eyeful and a farewell to Istanbul, this ancient metropolis that we all hope to return to again.
It has been several days of good-byes as we've come to the close of this part of the tour. At the Istanbul airport it was a very fond farewell to the last team of our drivers, Bernie, Dominika and Fabian. Bernie and Dom are planning a visit with us in the States and we hope they stick to their plans. After we touched down in Athens, it was adieu to Christian our pilot of the Legacy and Linda who headed the attendant crew over the last 10 weeks....then on to the venue for the show.
It was a long and winding ride through the city and up to the Lycabettus Theatre, high on a hilltop with a 360 degree view of Athens. The theatre is open air, audience standing with a small grand stand behind and accommodating 6,000....a beautiful spot for a gig. There was a meet and greet tonight followed by a traditional Greek buffet dinner then more good-byes, this time to our equipment truck drivers/follow spot boys who will not be coming to America. Thanks for all the miles and never missing a cue with those bright lights.
We said our farewells to each other when we came off stage after Telegraph Road. With the exception of Glenn and I, the band took a runner to the Legacy and a late night flight to Luton, the Brits heading home and Matt going to Heathrow for his flight to L.A. the following day. Glenn and I had a runner to the Athens Sofitel airport hotel arriving just before midnight and convening down at the bar for a night cap. Unlike the Heathrow airport hotel, the Sofitel is spacious, very clean and as well appointed as many of hotels we've stayed on this tour. We sat at an outdoor table on this beautifully clear and balmy night and talked about the last ten weeks and the five to come.
The trip home was long, twelve hours from Athens to Atlanta with a three hour layover before the commuter flight to Nashville, but as we were flying with the sun all the way it didn't seem quite so difficult.
We have one week off before teaming up again in Denver to kick off the final third of this wonderful tour. I'll be re-packing my suitcases with summertime clothes and leaving the heavy jackets at home, having a few BBQ's, errands and generally trying to catch up as much as I can, not to mention re-adjusting to the North American time zone. I'll pick these notes up again with our first show next week in Colorado. Until then..........
It was the most normal start to the day I've had since being here in Turkey, got up at 10:30 and quickly got myself together to go down to breakfast before they pulled the plug at 11. The breakfast buffet in this hotel is absolutey the most amazing and extensive I've ever seen. A yoghurt station, sushi, bakery items, fresh fruit tables, smoothies, eggs, olives, cold cuts, cheeses, cereals and the list goes on. In the end, or in this case the beginning, all I really want is a couple of strong cups of coffee and that's served as well.
After breakfast I killed a couple of hours in the room with computer stuff and practising then finally got down to the pool around 1:30 to find Dan and Guy camped out. I ended up spending a couple of hours pool-side then realised I was on the verge of being cooked to well done. Made it out of the sun in the nick of time, no serious damage done. Time for a shower and meet down in the lobby to go to the show.
The venue was an open air called the Kurucesme Arena on the shores of the Bosphorus. There was magic in the air, Friday night in Istanbul and a live concert by Mark Knopfler who's never played here before. It was a stand up gig and there were a minimum of 10,000 people crowded in the place. We were all feeling rested from the day before and really ready to do this gig. We took the stage to thunderous applause and the whole night felt like a special event. It was difficult concentrating, I kept getting side-tracked looking at the people and the Bosphorus with it's colour changing bridge, palaces, yachts, lights and fireworks. It was one hell of a buzz.
A runner back to our hotel on the water and the party tonight was in my room as my new digs are large and party friendly. Guy and I co-DJ'd and it was a fitting close to the day we played in Istanbul. It's another day off tomorrow!!!!
An excursion was planned for 10:30 this morning, a van and guides would meet us in the lobby and take us to the old city for a few hours. When I first heard about it the night before, my initial reaction was to give it a pass, I was completely knackered and all I wanted to do with the day off was sleep or lay out at the pool. After a little thought, I realised what a wasted opportunity it would be not to take advantage of, after all it is Istanbul and all I'd have to do is turn up at the appointed time, who knows when or if I'll be back here again. I'd left a wake up call for 9 before going to sleep last night at 2, an early evening these days. The problem was, I couldn't get to sleep and the last time I looked at the clock it was 5 in the morning, a half hour after the first call to prayer echoed through the city. The wake-up came on time and my first thought was to go back to sleep and leave the excursion for another trip, but I peeled myself out of bed, went down for some breakfast and coffee and was in the lobby at 10:30. Our group was: Paul and Ellen Crockford, Pete and Tina McKay, Shelly Cummings, Paloma Rollings and myself joined by the driver and two lovely girls who would be our guides. We ended up spending our couple of hours at the old Spice Bazaar and Grand Market. These are both indoor malls of the ancient kind, built in the 1500's and still attracting thousands of buyers, sellers, traders, hawkers and tourists every day. The sights and smells that greeted us were probably no different than those of 500 years ago...anise, coffee, saffron, peppers, chillies, paprika, cardamom, salami, cheeses and cooking meats. The crush of people was endless as were the merchants calling out to you to come look at their wares. Everything from wedding costumes and clothes to musical instruments, gold jewelry and shovels were available to buy. The market is a series of hundreds of stalls and shoppes all beckoning for your attention and Turkish liras. Through the sprawl, with the vigilant herding of our guides, we managed to stay together as a group, nobody separated or lost. Wonderfully overwhelming, an assault on the senses and very difficult to convey in words. I'm very glad I got myself out of bed and went.
Back to the hotel mid-afternoon, I went down to the gym to find MK, Glenn and Matt already working away. I found an empty treadmill and joined them for my usual 90 minutes of humiliation. A shower, then back out of the hotel. For the last several days I'd been noticing an instrument shoppe several blocks away and I took myself off to see what it was about. A tiny store with about 60 sazes and ouds, traditional Turkish string instruments, hanging inside. The idea of purchasing a saz while in Turkey is very appealing. I walked in to the tiny space and nodded at the man and woman who I assumed were the owners. I quickly realised that communication was out of the question, neither of us could speak the other's language. I did manage to get a general price range, but began thinking about how I would get it home if I did purchase one. My equipment trunk that contains all my guitars for the show is completely full. I might be able to squeeze something small in, but certainly not a saz which has a very long neck and a large bowl shaped back. With one more nod, I left the shoppe empty handed and headed back to the hotel to get ready for tonight's planned excursion.
The promoter of the show in Istanbul arranged a dinner cruise down the Bosphorus Straits toward the Black Sea. We met at the pool bar for a drink then all boarded a beautiful wooden yacht for a most memorable evening. The sun was beginning to lower in the sky but the air was still warm, the wine flowed as we slowly headed out admiring the great homes along the shore of the Bosphorus. In about an hour we anchored in a cove and a miraculous spread of food was laid out buffet style. The tables laid with white linen cloths and a brilliant dinner was underway as the sun set. Several times through the evening I took myself off to a quiet part of the deck and stared out at the water, shoreline and sunset, thinking how fortunate I am. After dinner and dessert, Turkish coffee was served, the anchor hoisted and we slowly made our way back up the straits, admiring the lights of the city and bridges over the Bosphorus, returning to the hotel jetty around 10. What a day off!
Today, again, began with much activity though happily not quite as early as yesterday. The room had been muggy all night even though the air conditioner read-out/thermostat said the temp was set to 16 C and the fan was blowing like a hurricane. I called the desk to ask that maintenance come have a look at it. They arrived shortly and I went out in the hall to send some e-mails as the internet signal in my room was too weak, another problem altogether. A few minutes later he came to where I was sitting with my laptop and handed me his cell phone. On the other end was a very nice lady's voice who informed me my AC was in-op. Yeah, I'm hip. She told me they were changing my room. Wellllll......wait just a minute there. I like the room I'm in, even though it may be a little close and internet is crap. It's got a balcony that overlooks the Olympic size pool, palm trees and beyond that, the Bosphorus. She assured me I would be moving into a 'deluxe' room with balcony and view. It's 11 in the morning and I've had no coffee of breakfast but now find myself packing my bags to change rooms. About ten minutes later a bellman came round to collect my stuff and show me to the new digs. A large deluxe room indeed with foyer, sitting room, bed and bathrooms and large balcony with a view for days. Right. Unpack...again.
At last I made it to the grand pool where Danny and Guy had already taken up residence, staked out my claim on a lounge chair with thoughts of finally ordering a pool-side coffee, took off my shirt and shoes, shut my eyes and laid back. No sooner than I did, I remembered I'd left a shirt on the balcony of the room I'd just vacated. Shit. Shirt and shoes on, back to reception to explain that I needed to get back in my old room. "Certainly, sir. My colleague will take you right up." The same fellow who moved me out escorted me back upstairs and we retrieved the shirt. At this point it was so close to the time to leave I simply got in the shower and made it to the lobby with seconds to spare.
A long drive to the Istanbul airport, aggravated by the usual traffic congestion. In a city of 15 million, you can imagine what the traffic's like. Made it to the airport at 3:30 and had to clear passport control, then wait. We finally got on the plane around 4. I hadn't had anything to eat since the night before, not even a coffee today. Alex our hostess had wonderfully hot and creamy cafe lattes waiting, deep crimson strawberries and the ever present basket of candy were also on hand. Dive in. Once we took off she had arranged some typical Turkish bits and bobs, little spinach and cheese filled pastry triangles, stuffed peppers, vegetables and yoghurt dip that was monstrously delicious and madly devoured.
We arrived in Sofia and were driven to the National Palace of Culture. The place felt like a serious hold over from the eastern bloc. Large, concrete and loads of chrome, glass chandeliers and orange, velvet-like arm chairs that were so tired and grimy that one didn't want to sit down. More problems with the equipment trucks arriving late and the stage was barely set up when we'd arrived. The rigging of the lights was still going on and it was getting very late indeed. We did a meet and greet for Minister of Culture and various people who seemed to appreciate what we were up to. A decision was made to hold the show until nearly 9 due to the lateness of the crew and the audience coming in slowly.
The NPoC is a theatre with proper seating and several balcony tiers. It was filled to capacity of 3,800 when we took the stage. A wonderful audience and good show then a runner back to Istanbul. Tonight's show was the sixth in a row, very common for us, and as we wind down the last few days of the European leg, we're VERY tired. I can't imagine how our wonderful crew must feel. It was another series of good-bye's and tonight we bid farewell to our wonderful Legacy air hostess Alex who anticipated every wish and served up fab food. Also, fond adieu to three more of our drivers and pals, Manfred, Thomas and Bob. We hope to see you all again in a couple of years.
Tomorrow is a day off and it can't come soon enough.
Wide awake at 8 this morning after only 3 hours sleep. Tried to get my head back down for another hour but could not. Room service arrived 10 minutes later and the fellow who was rolling a very large cart containing little more than toast and coffee, hit the edge of the bed and it all came tumbling to the ground. He was very apologetic but it ended with maid and vacuum in my room and a scuttle for more breakfast. All I really wanted was a cup of coffee and now at 9-something I had a bit of a scene in and out of the room. The mess was finally cleared and a new tray of coffee sent. Down to the gym for the usual, then out to the fabulous pool that looks out on the shores of the Bosphorus and the ancient city of Istanbul. A magnificent view. A few minutes later Guy came down and we decided to ring Danny and drag him in as well. The sun shone brilliantly and I had the feeling of being on a large cruise ship, laying at the pool with the ocean just the other side of the rail. The smell of seasoned, grilled meat kept wafting over from the outdoor restaurant and we decided it was time for lunch...pool side. Platters of food arrived, club sandwiches, hamburgers, cokes, fizzy bottled water, orange juice, coffee and freshly sliced watermelon with mint foam! All dispatched in minutes and every morsel magically delicious. We hung round for another hour, then it was time to get ready for our flight to Belgrade.
On board the Legacy for an hour and forty minute flight, still full from lunch and armed with only 3 hours sleep, I skipped the meal served and napped for most of the flight. It was a short drive from the airport to the Arena. We arrived very late today, 7 p.m. The latest arrival for a gig ever was in part due to an accident with one of the equipment trucks. Early this morning, about an hour and a half out of Belgrade, one of the trucks ran off the road. Fortunately the driver was all right and the truck stayed upright. Still, another vehicle and driver had to be dispatched, the old truck unloaded to the new and then on to Belgrade. This of course set things back as far as the load in. When we arrived you would have never known anything had happened, everything ready to go for a 9 o'clock show.
After yesterday's less than ideal venue, the Belgrade Arena seemed like heaven, modern and the dressing rooms clean with plenty of places to sit or stretch out. We did a quick meet and greet and then that smell of raw sewage began seeping in and got worse over the next half hour. Oh well. As for the gig, it might have even topped the previous night, absolutely storming. The audience was one of the very best of the tour so far and it was an unbeatable gig with 9,000 thunderous fans on their feet for the encores. Hats off to Belgrade.
Back on the Legacy, our hostess Alex had dishes of perfectly prepared lamb kebabs with roasted veg and the most delicious flat cheese bread I've ever tasted. One short martini (too tired these days for much more than that) and we landed back in Istanbul tired and ready for bed.
It was ciao con amore to Italy this afternoon as we left for our show in Zagreb. I came down a few minutes early for a final hit of espresso prior to departing for the airport and got it at the cafe/bar next to the hotel. What a hit, two double espressos like rocket fuel. Now we're ready.
Not only was it farewell to old Italia, but a fond farewell to three of our pals and drivers, Eike, Gunther and Alex, great guys every one of them. Sadly the quality of transportation and driving skill drops dramatically when we go to North America and we will sorely miss our German driving buddies.
A short hop to Zagreb and a drive through the city to the venue, Dom Sportova. The route we took was a little bleak, old style Russian grey and utilitarian buildings while the modern ones differed only slightly in that they were covered in grey mirrored glass. As for the Dom Sportova, it was downright horrible, hands down the winner of the worst venue. The backstage area reeked of raw sewage but at least it was warm and airless. As for the audience seating, it consisted of those moulded, white plastic chairs you see on the decks of summer rental cottages and are sold in every grocery, drug and discount shoppe. Very odd. Apparently a squad of bomb sniffing dogs had gone through the place as well. If there had been any explosives in the joint the dogs would never get a whiff of them above the putrid air. Horribly rank. We sat backstage and reminisced about all the shit gigs we've played in our day. Seems we'd come full circle. That is, until.........
We hit the stage at something past nine and all was forgiven. A full house of nearly 7,000 brilliant fans gave as much to us as we did to them. From the worst venue emerged one of the best gigs all the way around. Mark was playing his brains out, the band never sounded better and the overall sound was brilliant.
A runner to the Legacy, and in an hour and forty-five minute, plus an hour jump in time, we landed in Istanbul where we will base over the next few days. 5 a.m. before head hit the pillow
Another late morning. Dragged myself out of bed at noon, threw myself in the shower and ventured outside. I didn't get far as I ran in to Eike Jorne, one of our trusted drivers, and we decided to have a coffee in the restaurant facing the Piazza Del Popolo, just next to the hotel. Several coffees and a bowl of pasta later, it was time to get ready to leave for our gig in Codroipo.
Codroipo is about 300 miles north of Rome located in the north eastern part of the country. The show tonight was held on the vast and beautiful grounds of Villa Manin. Once the residence of Ludovica Manin, the last doge of the Venetian Republic and dating back to the 1700's. It is currently in use as an art museum. A wonderful setting for an outdoor show and while it has been raining quite steadily for three weeks, today the clouds parted and it was dry. 6,300 people filled the lawn and it was a comfortably cool evening show, getting underway at 9:30. There were a few sprinkles throughout the night but not enough to dampen everyone's enthusiasm. A splendid audience and a well played show.
A 40 minute drive to the Legacy after the show and an hour flight put us back in Roma around 1 in the morning. Not much of a party mood, everyone too tired, so it was a relatively early night.
A late sleep-in then coffee and gym. Spent an hour or so with a guitar in hand before departing Rome for Pesaro. Tonight's show was held at the Adriatic Arena. As with all the Italian and Spanish dates, the shows begin at least an hour later than elsewhere and tonight's was postponed beyond that, not taking the stage until 9:30 or later. With no Meet and Greet tonight, that meant loads of time hanging around a dingy, warm, airless dressing room that only added to the general sense of exhaustion and band members stretched out on couches either sleeping or playing guitars. Still, come show time we were up and ready to play for a great audience of nearly 8,000 and the consistency of the shows never fails to amaze me.
A runner back to Rome arriving at 1:30. One of those nights that we couldn't muster the energy to drink a cup of tea. Everyone called it a night.
A quiet day spent in and alone. As the European leg of the tour enters the homestretch we're all feeling the effects of the many shows, miles and very late nights. The later than usual lobby call was well appreciated today as we don't have to fly and the gig didn't start until 9:00.
Tonight we returned to PalaLottomatica arena to a crowd of very enthusiastic Roman fans, 6,874 of them to be exact. We've been looking forward to the Italian audiences and shows as they're passionate and loud and we were not disappointed. It is great being back in Italy. Thanks Roma for a great gig.
After the show I met with my good friends Marco Caviglia and Letizia and Valerio Barbantini. I met them several years ago when they organised the Pensa Day Music Festival and kindly invited me to come and play. They were very good to my wife and I and we remain in touch as friends. It was with the Barbantini's and Caviglia's that I first went to Ristorante Lagana and have had the pleasure of dining there with them several times. And so it was again tonight, the door was kept open late and a table set for the four of us. Another spectacular spread, although smaller than last nights...a little pasta e pomodorro with crayfish and shrimp, prosciutto, focaccia, marinated fish...all of it remarkable. Followed up by fresh mixed berries and ice creme. How lucky can one guy be? Here's to Roma, friends and Lagana.
Richard and I thought that today's diary entry should be a combined effort since it's inevitable our entries would be similar for our day off in Rome.
SPECIAL EDITION, Return to Lagana
by Richard Bennett and Guy Fletcher
A day off in Rome. I was awake at the unholy hour of 7:30 unable to get back to sleep, a half hour later a full pot of espresso ensured I wouldn't. Down to the gym for the usual 90 minutes of agony. Back to the room for a bit of guitar practising then tumbled out in the street. In this wonderful city full of attractions, I had none in mind and simply put one foot in front of the other. Just outside our hotel, the filming of a new Tom Hanks movie had streets blocked and motorists fuming. I walked for a couple miles past the Spanish steps through a crush of humanity and an endless string of designer clothes, handbags and sunglasses shoppes...all seriously over priced. Turned down a side street and stopped at a cafe with tables and umbrellas on the curb for a pizza and ice cold Italian beer.
Every tour has it's memories, an event or place that is recalled often and talked about with reverence and great affection. Tonight, after three years, we returned to Lagana for a dinner that will only further its legendary status with us. Our host Mimmo made certain we wanted for nothing. Platters of the most brilliant food arrived, one after the other, for a couple of hours along with many bottles of soft, red chianti. Focaccia bread, prosciutto, cantaloupe, white bean salad, fried octopus, balls of buffalo mozzerella , tomatoes with string beans, marinated endive, a stunning potato pancake the size of a large pizza, strips of seared steak, heavenly fish, veal meat balls in gravy and more. Fresh, tiny, wild strawberries with ice creme and a sublime Italian cake followed. Every dish was a miracle of freshness, preparation and taste. The atmosphere, food and company could not have been better. Ristorante Lagana, Via del' Orso, 44 is not to be missed.
A day off in Rome. I crawled out of bed at the ungodly hour of midday and realized immediately that I'd missed breakfast, so on went the kettle as usual and tea was soon reviving me in the way only 'builders' tea can. The lateness of my waking caused by the fact that we rarely go to bed before 4 am these days because of late shows and travel etc. Unlike Richard, I chose to stay in the hotel as my room has a delightful balcony and the sun was threatening to come out! After an hour or so attending the website duties, I called DC and asked if he fancied a room service lunch. We ordered Caprese and Nicoise salads and loads of coffee and San Pellegrino. We listened to the three Sergio Mendes album that I have in the collection, with volume. Brasiliero, Timeless and Best of Sergio Mendes and Brasil '65. Before we knew it it was nearing the time that we'd arranged to depart the hotel for our return to what has become our favourite restaurant. Lagana.
There was quite an entourage as we left the hotel in our fleet of cars as no-one wanted to miss out. This outing is 3 years in waiting since even though Richard has been back, my one and only visit was on the 2005 tour, and that was on a show day so we didn't have wine or a main course.. it still left quite an impression. As Richard mentions, Lagana is owned by Mimmo who was extremely accommodating and managed to seat us all in what is a very busy family restaurant. Without a menu in sight the food came, and came and kept coming. My particlar favourite was the very simple rocket and pomadoro salad with seared steak, balsamic and parmagiano since I've been serving that up at home for years. As the evening wore on, I noticed that even though I seemed to have eaten more food than on the rest of the tour combined, I felt in no way full! The wine was a delicious chianti classico, once again, simple and perfect. Still to come were fresh wild strawberries with ice cream, limoncello and perfect coffee.
Left Brussels for a very short flight to Luxembourg, the first time I've been to the country. Our gig was at the Rockhal and it was built midst an ancient steel refinery that is no longer in service and is being demolished. In the middle of nowhere, it looks like a scene from an apocalypse movie after the earth had been scorched and people no longer lived on the planet. What a music venue is doing in the middle of this is beyond me. The very strange thing about this venue is it's nothing more than a large square concrete and steel space, BUT the walls inside are acoustically treated so this huge space is nearly echo free! Completely dead. Weird. 6,200 folks crammed in shoulder to shoulder so tight you couldn't slip an envelope between them and once again it was a memorable gig and audience. Thanks Luxembourg.
A quick correction to the Cologne notes. The venue we played was the Koln Arena which is located on Willy Brandt Platz.
After yesterday's marathon sleep in, I decided to leave a 10 a.m. wake up call and make a proper day of it. Coffee and toast courtesy of room service then down to the hotel gym, one of the better of the tour, for a 90 minute measure of humiliation. A quick shower and out the door for a wander round the old town. Our hotel is just behind the beautiful town square and it's many cobblestone side streets. Hundreds of small cafes, bars, tourist trinkets, lace shoppes and nods to Herge's Tin Tin and Snowy, not to mention the famous piss-boy fountain surrounded by holiday makers having their photos taken. I vaguely recalled a used record shop, almost certain it was here in Brussels but not quite sure. I'll be darned if I didn't stumble across it just near the urinating boy. A brilliant array of jazz, old film soundtracks, rock and roll, lounge and exotica vinyl, all of it right up my street. I couldn't resist buying a couple of early albums by The Shadows, Chris Barber with Lonnie Donegan playing banjo, George Barnes, Red Norvo Trio with Charlie Mingus and Tal Farlow and two Ben Webster albums. All this and it was only 14:30 (2:30) in the afternoon. It pays to get up.
Our gig tonight was the Forest (Vorst) National Arena, our usual venue in Brussels. I've played here on every tour with MK since 1996 and have a wonderful picture of my son in the loading docks from that year. Over the years the docks have been decorated with spray painted graffiti from a thousand different bands that have played here. Nick was with me for a week or two on that trip and was young teenager then. As I recall we found the Aerosmith tagging and had a pic made with loads of road cases all around.
Hard to say how many were in there tonight, it was a standing floor with tiered seating round the perimeter. Many thousands I would say...8, 10?? Whatever it was, you couldn't have squeezed another person in the place....jam packed to the rafters, every seat taken and every bit of floor space occupied. Hot as hell, certainly the hottest gig of the tour so far. By the third song in the set I was saturated, had to peel the guitars off me after that. What a great gig and what an amazing audience....maybe the best of the tour this far. I've been doing these tours with Mark since '96 and we've always had great audience turnout and reception, but crowds and response on this tour is something else all together and we're playing better than ever and enjoying every minute of it.
Back to the hotel bar for drinks and sandwiches then a quick stop in Guy's luxurious lounge for tea and sympathy. What a day.
Opened my eyes this morning thinking that I must get some coffee and put an hour or so in at the gym before lobby call. I rolled over, looked at the clock and it said 13:30, 1:30! Lobby call was an hour away! I did get a pot of coffee sent up and a shower and that was that. Lobby, Legacy and Koln, our final date in Germany.
Tonight's gig was the Willy Brandt Arena and we packed over 11,00 people in, it felt like an old time rock gig. Even though it was a seated audience it had the feel of a stand-up. An unbelievable audience...fabulous. It was a great show from our side of the stage as well. A farewell to Germany as this is our last gig in that country. At this point in the tour we're beginning to experience firsts and lasts, wrapping up some countries while beginning others. Germany has been particularly warm and enthusiastic this time and we'll not forget it.
A runner back to Brussels after the show, a couple of drinks in the the fab bar downstairs then a cuppa tea in Guy's room.
A fond farewell to the U.K. for this tour and back aboard the Legacy to Sonderborg, Denmark. Located in the south just above Germany, Sonderborg is home to the Augustenborg Castle, residence of the royals who ruled on this Danish island. The castle has been converted to a hospital and it was on the green in the rear of the palace that our show took place. A very warm day for the crew, all in various states of undress, many wearing hats and sunscreen to block the rays and some having a refreshing swim in the lake.
We arrived in time for a quick sound check, dinner, meet and greet then the show. By the time we took the stage it had cooled and was a beautiful evening for a show...our first outdoor gig of this tour. We were all still feeling the strain of doing 20 shows in 23 days, but when we got the first song started and saw that crowd of 14,000 folks having a good time, we weren't tired anymore. Great audience, great show.
A runner back to the Legacy for a short hop to Brussels where we will base for the next few nights.
The sixth and final day at the RAH. It's been a terrific week at this historic and beautiful concert hall and while we've settled into a comfortable routine, it never becomes blase when you step out on the stage and realise where you're playing.
My good friend Derek Lawrence and I spent a few hours this afternoon catching up with each other and re-telling the old stories. Derek is a legendary record producer from the late 60's through the 90's and looked after making records by groups like Deep Purple, Heads Hands and Feet, Wishbone Ash, Quiet Riot and hundreds more. I met Derek in 1971 on my first trip to London with Neil Diamond, I was scarcely out of my teens but Derek and I hit it off famously. It was great seeing him and marvelling that we're both above ground and still in the music business.
My wife and children have been with me for the past week in London and it's been a whirlwind, mostly for them as I've opted out of several outings to get some rest for the shows each evening. They've managed to go to the Tate Britain and Modern, Churchill's War Cabinet, The British Library, The British Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, St. Paul's Cathedral, a boat trip to Greenwich and The Royal Observatory, The Natural History Museum, a football match (U.K. vs. U.S.....2-nil, U.K.), shopping, Soho and more AND attend the shows each night. I'm exhausted having just typed it all! I'm going to miss them very much when they leave tomorrow.
Tonight's show was a fitting end to our RAH residency, the hall was packed, including the standing room only balcony that encircles the high reaches of The Albert. The audience was on their feet for the last four songs of the show and MK & Co. were in top form, a show with passion, dignity, loads of fun and precision....tremendously well played. Following the show was an especially large reception with what seemed like several hundred in attendance. My wife and I made our way through the crowd stopping to visit with friends and fans. When it was over I made one last trip to the dressing room to pick up my stuff and bid farewell to the Albert Hall until next time.
A day off tomorrow to catch our breath and say good-bye to our families. It's hard to believe how quickly it is going and we've now completed all the U.K. dates. On Sunday we'll board the Legacy again and begin the final homestretch of the European leg of the tour, 12 more shows then on to North America. What a tour.
Once again we share the stage for a couple of songs with Joe Brown. We're thrilled he keeps coming back, he seems to be having a great time as well. Unfortunately for us he's got a gig up in Liverpool tomorrow night and will miss the closing night's show. We've become very proficient playing his Picture Of You! Another good show and audience, RAH feels like home. Notable apart from that was the spectacular spread caterers Angus McKinnon, Chris Desmond and Steve Ricalis laid out. Three entrees that were so good I could not decide among them and sampled all! Skewers of monkfish and prawns in a spicy Thai marinade, sliced pork loin in a spicy Asian sauce and mouth watering grilled lamb cutlets, all cooked to perfection. As for dessert, it was a tough choice between fresh strawberries and cream, hot rice pudding and banoffee pie. The later is a stunning concoction of fresh sliced bananas, in a rich toffee and cream custard atop a thick, baked, buttered graham cracker crumb crust. Indecision reigned again so I had them all. It's a very good thing I don't eat this way all the time but could sure get used to it.
Night four we were surprised and so pleased to have Joe Brown return and join us on stage to play a couple more tunes. Joe is the missing link between Lonnie Donegan and the Beatles, a show business legend here in the U.K. I've been practising my 'scissors' stroke that he showed Guy and I the other night on ukulele and am now determined to master it. Very tricky, one of those things that takes quite a lot of concentration to get yet sounds best when not thought about. In short, loads of practice until it becomes mindless. Our tour ends July 31st and I hope to have it together by then. It's a device that was used extensively by another U.K. legend of the 30's and 40's, George Formby who was a master of the banjo uke. I've never been able to figure out how it was accomplished until Joe showed us the other night. Cheers Joe.
The third night at the RAH has settled comfortably into a relaxed groove. Tuesday night's show was a storming gig, well played by everyone and packed to the heights of the hall which in the case of the Albert are VERY high indeed. Relaxed? If things got any more relaxed they might begin falling apart! The great Nils Lofgren and his wife Amy attended the show and I had a visit with them both afterward. Nils is in England on tour with Bruce Springsteen with whom he's played for many years. I've been a fan of his for a long time and was flattered that he was so complimentary about tonight's show.
Night two at the Albert Hall was a dream come true for me. We were joined on stage by the legendary Joe Brown, one of England's early rockers and still going strong. While he never had success in America, their loss, he's a national treasure in Britain. Many of you may know him from the Concert For George DVD. Joe closed the show with just his ukulele singing I'll See You In My Dreams and brought the house down. One of his big hits from the early 60's was A Picture Of You which we played tonight with him on stage. I've met Joe several times before but had never played with him and to do that song, which I love, in the Albert Hall with him was a highlight for me. To top it off, before the show Guy and I went to Joe's dressing room and he gave us a ukulele lesson. We were like a couple of kids and immediately started practising what he'd shown us. Brilliant.
The show itself was so much fun, relaxed and really well played, though Mark was having a bit of trouble with sticky feeling guitar necks due to the warm and humid atmosphere in the Albert. Still he played like a hero as did the band and the audience was as good as they come.
The day began at 5:30 this morning, wide awake, did some reading and catching up on the writing of the last few instalments of these notes that I've neglected. At noon I had a return engagement at the Harvey Nichols hair salon (see May 1st notes) for another dramatic lowering of the ears. I went back to the same guy who'd cut my hair so well a few weeks ago. He remembered me and said my hair had kept it's shape, then shook his head in contradiction. Again he managed to leave more of my hair on the floor than on my head and somehow make it appear I hadn't had a hair cut. Genius.
This is a bank holiday weekend in London meaning a long weekend and general day off on Monday. There are so many road, rail and underground "improvements" going on this weekend and getting round is tricky. Underground lines are inconveniently closed while being worked on, hopefully to be re-opened by Tuesday. The lines that are open have absorbed all the overflow and are packed. Getting to Harvey Nichols was like having a massive anxiety attack. The next part of my day was a welcomed reunion with my wife's brother and family and ours, the very first time all nine of us have been together in one gathering ever. Amazing. A lunch was arranged at a restaurant just next to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on the Thames. Getting there from Harvey Nicks was another nightmare and a long walk but we had a good visit and decided we will return next year for our niece's wedding.
Oh yeah, it's opening night at the Royal Albert as well. I arranged for one of our cars to pick me up at the restaurant and arrived at RAH happy but exhausted. As soon as I walked on stage for sound check I felt completely alive and ready to take on the night. Albert Hall does that to you, never fails to inspire and scare you a little. It was John McCusker's first time in the place and as soon as he arrived this afternoon, walked into the hall and had to make a hasty retreat to the dressing room to calm himself a bit. I felt the same way the first time I played here well over thirty years ago. We'd all arrived in various states of readiness and tiredness but came together when we took the stage for a smashing opening night. After the show there was a reception for friends and family who'd attended and we spent a little time making the rounds before returning to our apartment on the South Bank of the Thames completely knackered.
My family arrived yesterday from Nashville to spend this coming week in London with me. We've taken a two bedroom apartment that sleeps six overlooking the River Thames complete with kitchen. A little strange, has a bit of business man's disco vibe about it, loads of smoked glass, white marble and shiny chrome. The restaurant in the place is called The Chino Latino Lounge, which speaks volumes. Still, the apartment itself is fine and will be home for the next nine or ten days we'll be in London. We spent the day warding off jet lag and the desire to fall asleep by taking a sight seeing bus tour round the city then last night venturing back to beloved Soho for a family dinner at the New Delhi Brasserie. Glenn Worf and I ate there about a week ago and they remembered me when we came in. The food didn't disappoint on return and we devoured every spot of it. Soho on Friday night was swinging hard, loads of young folks spilled out onto the narrow streets smoking, drinking, talking and laughing.
Today we ventured to the seaside town of Brighton for our gig, my family took the train and joined us there as well. It is our usual at The Brighton Centre, always a good gig and also Guy's birthday so his family was there as well. The acoustics in the venue are surprisingly good and we had an energetic evening despite some general exhaustion and Mark's wrist bothering him not to mention the sniffles. The audience was fab and witnessed a couple of unusual events. After our encores we all gathered front of stage to take bows, Mark accidentally swung the neck of his guitar around just as Dan was leaning to say something to him and took the headstock of a Stratocaster right in the mouth. After a quick check to see that no teeth were missing and that he was all right, we decided to do a couple more songs to wrap up the evening. The next unusual moment occurred when we'd completed the final song and Mark took his red Strat off and handed it to Guy on stage as a birthday gift. Guy was figuratively gob smacked while Dan was literally so.
There was a large reception following the show in Guy's honour. We stayed for a quick drink then back in the car for an hour and a half ride back to London. Tomorrow begins our six day run at The Royal Albert Hall!
Up, bags packed and out earlier than last night's frolics should allow. The Newcastle hotel is so comprehensively lame that the only thing I need to get is out. Breakfast or simply coffee is out of the question so, I wandered down the block to a great,little cafe called Blake's for a large plate of fresh scrambled eggs atop four pieces of thickly-sliced and buttered white toast. A large cup of very strong espresso with milk and a section of The Guardian to wash it all down. Heaven for the princely sum of 5 quid. Back to said hotel in time to check out. Everyone down in the lobby extra early to make a hasty exit from our dog-friendly boutique hotel.
Legacy to Cardiff and a pleasant ride as always with Eike to the venue. Our catering heroes outdid themselves with tonight's dinner entrees; succulent lamb chops, Chicken Kiev and a staggeringly delicious fish pie plus the usual assortment of several vegetables. I didn't eat on the plane and that plate of eggs from this morning had long ago served it's purpose. I couldn't decide what I wanted for dinner so had some of each. To top it off Angus prepared a stunning treacle sponge that I hereby enter as a finalist for the best dessert of the tour. Golden, buttery, hot, high and drizzled with thinned treacle....it was the kind of cake one reads about. Even those who generally avoid dessert nailed this one. No meet and greet so after a meal like that it was a pre-show power nap.
Tonight's show was our seventh in a row and we're all a little tired, but once we took to the boards the set took on a wonderful life of it's own and we had a great gig. The Cardiff audience was grand but I cannot say the same for the venue security who absolutely stifled the vibe. They did not allow anyone to come to the front during encores even though they are instructed otherwise. Sadly, it had a bit of a repressed vibe in the end.
We flew immediately back to London for a day off tomorrow, much needed.
We arrived in Newcastle last night after our show in Belfast and pulled up to a little boutique hotel where we are staying. I'm sure it must be an old, converted office building that has been given a new, ill-fitting incarnation. Look, I'm not a spoiled type, it takes a lot for me to complain about a hotel or a room. As long as it's clean, has a shower and a half-way decent bed, it'll do. I once knew a guy who would change hotels if he didn't like the chocolates left on the pillow. Not me. That said, this hotel is amazingly weird, inefficient, tiny, dirty, fixtures broken, stinks of fish and there's not even a clock in my room. I had to call down to reception this morning to find out what time it was, but there was nobody on duty so no answer! The kind of place that makes you wish for a Holiday Inn. Let's put it this way, you don't want to walk around bare-footed on the carpet, not in my room anyway. The description in our itinerary of the place was'...If you've ever searched for a dog-friendly boutique hotel in Newcastle.' Right.
Of course the concept of a gym is far too abstract for this joint so I was directed to a very good one just a few blocks away and put in a couple of hours there. After that I was completely starving and headed straight to the nearest Pret-A-Manger. For those outside the U.K., Pret is a chain of sandwich stores that is second to none in my book, incredibly fresh, delicious and interesting sandwiches. My latest fave is their sliced chicken breast with avocado and rocket...genius. The fact that you can also get a darn good latte there is a bonus not to mention desserts. Seems like there's a Pret every two or three block in England's main cities, I sure wish we had them in the States. Actually, there is one in Manhattan but that's a far cry from Nashville.
Tonight's show is one of those that we look forward to, Newcastle City Hall. Similar in inconvenience to the Edinburgh Playhouse for the crew, except smaller. The capacity is less than 2,000. The far ends of the upper balcony wrap around to the edges of the stage and you can nearly touch somebody sitting there. Because of the size and difficulty loading in, it becomes a very stripped-down evening in terms of production but is more than made up for in excitement and performance and tonight's show and audience was no exception. Mark made mention that the first rock and roll show he attended was here and he sat in the balcony. The Newcastle crowd always gives Mark a brilliant welcome home.
After the show we had the usual party in the City Hall bar at the front of the venue, seeing old friends and acquaintances we look forward to visiting with. Loads of great hors d'orves courtesy of our caterers, Angus, Chris and Steve and drinks a-plenty. When all the shouting was over it was back to the absolute crappest hotel ever where we, en masse, took over the little bar downstairs and continued the party. The bar tender invited me to mix my own martinis, a very dangerous invitation that I readily took him up on. Behind the bar I went, deftly wielding the shaker, ice, gin and vermouth! We most certainly have a hands down winner for the worst hotel of the tour, but the little bar downstairs ended up being very cool indeed.
The Odyssey Arena tonight in Belfast for just under 4,000 good fans. A seriously well played show, one of the best from a musical and technical standpoint. The security, although briefed before the show, was intimidating and would not let people up to the front of the stage for the final encores. Sort of a repressed vibe, but the audience was marvellous in spite of this.
A runner to the Legacy for a short flight to Newcastle with some Irish stew for late night snacks.
Tomorrow is Mark's home town gig, the Newcastle City Hall which is always a great one.
I awoke this morning with only a few hours of sleep behind me, threw on some clothes and tumbled out into another glorious, sun-drenched, Edinburgh morning. Stopped in the first cafe and had a soup-bowl sized cup of coffee then found a great record store called Fopp. Never felt better with three hours sleep. We are moving along this afternoon and everybody wishes we had a few extra days in this great city.
A short hop on the Legacy to Dublin where us Yanks were treated to a real Irish airport adventure as we had to clear passport inspection. A special car and driver picked us up on the tarmac and drove for what seemed like miles around and through runways to a special back entrance of the incoming passengers building. We were then escorted through another mile or two of winding corridors arriving at last at the window where our passports were stamped. Out the front door we went, by then the rest of the guys were already at the gig.
We're not playing our usual venue, The Point, as it is being renovated. As we drove by it, we saw they've retained the outer stone walls of the place, using it as a shell, and are building upward. I suppose it will be an arena when completed. Tonight's show was at the RDS, an exhibition centre of several complexes. We were in the main hall which was nothing more than a long, large, flat area that was enclosed. No seating. It says the capacity is 4,500 but it looked like many more folks were crammed in than that. Regardless of the count, the audience was nothing less than what we've come to expect in Dublin....fantastic. A great up-beat show. Our road manager, St. Peter McKay arranged freshly pulled, pints of Guinness for us all when we came off stage for our first encore and another round when we came off at the end of the show. St. Pete is my shepherd, I shall not want.
We're staying in Dublin tonight so it was a quick runner to the hotel, juggling our pints, and a full band showing down in the bar where the Guinness continued to flow freely 'til the wee hours of another morning.
Edinburgh is a cracking city we all look forward to, the people are good and there's always a real buzz about the town. Seems everybody was out on this beauty of a Sunday, sun shining and warm. Mark and Glenn walked up to the castle, Matt went for one of his runs of biblical proportions. I simply tumbled out onto Princes Street and wandered my way up, returning down Rose Street with it's many shoppes, cafes and pubs. John McCusker who lives here in Edinburgh stayed home, had tea & toast and opened all the mail that has been stacking up since he's been away on tour!
There are always a couple of very special venues that we anticipate playing, usually smaller theatres or auditoriums -- The Ryman in Nashville, City Hall in Newcastle, Albert Hall of course and ... the Playhouse in Edinburgh, the scene of tonight's show. Built for theatrical productions, it seats just under 3000 with a steep, third floor balcony, is warm, intimate and sounds wonderful, though a logistical nightmare for the crew to load in. The backstage is four floors of narrow stairwells and small hallways and one never really gets a sense of the layout or where you are, but we adore the place.
A very large meet and greet tonight, some friends of Mark's and of course John had many friends and family there as well. As for the show, we all agreed it was one the best we'd done so far, in large part due to how well we could hear each other with the great acoustics of the theatre. Of course it was a seated audience, sold out to the rafters and they were tremendously good to us. Musicians live for nights like this, everything coming together perfectly, audience and performers totally connected.
Back at the hotel we took over a couple of tables in the bar, drifting back and forth to visit with John's parents and friends who were delightful, then ended up in Guy's room for a final night-cap and cuppa tea. I came back to my room and listened to some music before calling it a night, the day already dawning.
Cool and rainy, lazy day. I did get down to the gym as well as a bit of practising in before it was time to head to the gig. Tonight's took place in the M.E.N. (Manchester Evening News) Arena and it was a pleasure after the low end problems of the night before. A few of the guys were struggling now and again with their in-ear mixes, but we all enjoyed the show as did a receptive and enthusiastic audience.
A runner to the plane and another grand surprise in the car. Our road manager Pete McKay, who we've re-christened St. Peter, arranged a case of the monstrously delicious Augustiner Edelstoff beer that I'd mentioned several entries ago. One perfectly chilled bottle was waiting in my cup holder and it was most welcomed. Hmm, I wonder if there's an importer in the Nashville area? Aboard the Legacy, Linda has replaced Alex as hostess for the next several trips. She served a spicy chilli and rice dish for the short trip to Edinburgh where we stay tonight and will play tomorrow.
At the hotel it was a quick drink and cuppa tea with Danny, Guy, Matt and his wife Paloma then off to bed.
It was a well needed and well used day off in London yesterday, swinging Soho to be precise. A lazy start to the day then down to the gym for a couple of hours. After a quick shower I poured out into the street for a prowl round Soho. Loads of great cafes, Italian, Indian, Asian, Vegetarian, espresso joints, book shoppes, music stores, jazz clubs, clothes stores etc. On my walk I passed the De Lane Lea Studios, a large recording complex where I'd done some sessions 35 years ago for an artist named Earl Jordon. It was the first time I've been back in Soho in all this time. For me there's nothing better than a day off rummaging round books, records and musical instruments. Also did a little shopping down Oxford Street which is one of the main thoroughfares that border the Soho area and later met up with Glenn Worf for a brilliant Indian dinner at The Delhi Brasserie located next door to Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. Between the two of us it got four thumbs up and is highly recommended.
This morning we checked out of the fabulous Soho Hotel wishing we had another day off and drove about two and a half hours to Birmingham and the N.E.C. where we played tonight. I probably mentioned in my notes from 2005 that I'd met Prince Charles and Princess Diana in this venue while playing with Neil Diamond many years ago and I will always associate the N.E.C. with them. Tonight we had a royal visit of our own, Robert Collins our long time and beloved front of house sound mixer popped in to say hello. Robert lost his wife to cancer a couple of weeks prior to the start of rehearsals and understandably passed on this tour. We think of him every day, it was good to catch up and give him a hug.
Tonight was our first show of a two week run in the U.K. The N.E.C. has a wicked, low end build up and things seemed just a little unfocused sonically on stage due to that, but it was a fun and relaxed show nonetheless and frankly I think Brothers In Arms was as good as we have ever played it. The 7,000+ fans seemed to be enjoying it as much as we were and when it's said and done, that's what this whole thing should be about.
Back in the cars after the final encore for another push northward to Manchester where we stay tonight and play tomorrow.
We bid adieu to the fair city of Prague this afternoon. The sun warm and shining as it has been for the last several days and it's a unanimous thumbs up for Praha with hopes of returning before too long.
Our usual mid-afternoon hour in the air and we arrived in Munich. It's a half hour drive to Olympiahalle, another of our usual haunts. Sound check, a spot of dinner and a meet & greet. Over dinner the band discussion turned to Kylie Minogue's bum and if it really was that great after seeing her the day before. Weren't we having the same conversations 40 years ago in our high school cafeterias.....though we were probably talking about Nancy Sinatra's hind quarters then. There's an old joke about a father asking his son what he wants to be when he grows up. The son replies, "When I grow up I want to be a musician." His father tells him, "I'm sorry son, you can't do both." We happily prove the wisdom of this every day on tour.
A sell out crowd of nearly 10,000. It was a seated audience and you could absolutely hear a pin drop until we finished each song, then deafening approval. Another stellar German audience and show.
The usual runner to the Legacy except waiting for me in the car was a very special gift from Michael who works with our promoter in Germany. Several nights ago over drinks in Frankfurt, he and I were comparing our favourite beers. We both agreed that Munich was the region, but my choice was Andech's, a brew made by the monks in a monastery just outside Munich. Michael said Augustiner was his fave. I had to admit never having tasted Augustiner but would love to try it one day. Waiting for me in the car was a large, ice cold bottle of Augustiner Beer and a litre stein from which to drink it. I must hand it to Mike, even though I still adore Andech's, Augustiner was brilliant and the winner...like a liquid loaf of bread. It certainly made the ride to the airport very pleasant. Speaking of which, we flew out from a different airport than the one in Munich where we landed this afternoon. Tonight's departure was from a little airstrip out in the country with little else around it. I forget the name of the town, but it is where BMWs are manufactured though you'd never know it from the desolate area we drove through to arrive at the tiny airport in the middle of nowhere.
Aboard the Legacy, drinks in hand, we flew to London and a day off tomorrow. Our great hostess Alex served up platefuls of piping hot chilli and rice followed by an unbelievable Imperial Torte from Vienna! Wheels down in London and the Brits are off to sleep in their own beds tonight while the Yanks will cool their heels in a cool hotel in Soho.
It was 4 cities in 1 day plus a show! The sheets will feel good tonight and the day off tomorrow welcomed.
Went out for a little march around Prague with Dan and Guy, our mission was to find the trad jazz band that plays on the bridge. One of the guys in the group is ace on a washboard played with kitchen whisks and we were hoping to get a bit of them on video. On the way there we passed a rope store, completely dedicated to everything from sisal twine up to massive nautical looking stuff made from a variety of materials and proudly displayed in the shoppe window. Guy said with great reverence, "I love rope." Well, it takes all kinds and we're nothing if not a strange and eclectic group. After a long and circuitous route we came to the bridge and made our way through the crush of people, vendors and construction workers doing some serious repair work. It was a slightly different group playing today than the one we'd come to see but fantastic...three clarinets, tenor banjo, guitar, string bass and a compact, three valved, instrument with a curved bell. I have no idea what it is called but it sounded wonderfully mellow and in the mid-trombone range. We stayed for a couple of tunes and they did a bang up job of Up A Lazy River and we bought one of their CDs. The sun was out in full force and it was another beautiful day in this fabulous city of Prague.
It was a mid-afternoon flight to Vienna for tonight's show at Stadthalle. As I've said before, we've played most of these venues many times before and you begin to know the cold and impersonal concrete arenas from the inside out - where the dressing rooms are, the feel of the backstage, the lay of the arena area and what they sound like. Our routine is fairly set and comfortable when we arrive at the various venues. Drop the bags in the band dressing room, go to catering to say hi to the chefs and try to cajole them into saying what's for dinner, maybe a quick bowl of soup and a cup of tea before going on stage for sound check. After that it is often a meet and greet followed by a quick dinner, or vice versa, then the show. Tonight nearly 10,000 MK fans filled Stadthalle. Both band and audience were in top form.
Several of us didn't eat dinner at the venue tonight for one reason or another so on the flight back to Prague we really tore into the steaks in red wine sauce, mashed potatoes and veg that were served. A light meal to go to sleep on.
When we arrived in the lobby this afternoon to depart for the airport, there were throngs of fans and tabloid types all crowded round the driveway entrance. Turns out Kylie Minogue is playing in Prague tonight and was leaving the hotel just as we were getting in our own vehicles. She very assuredly and graciously walked up the drive to sign autographs and greet the people. My hat's off to her.
After that bit of excitement we made our way to the airport and a short flight in to Budapest for a standing gig of 7000+ at the Arena tonight. A wonderful audience except for several folks who insisted on using their video cameras throughout the show, something that is now discouraged as it is disruptive to other fans and very distracting to us all on stage. Apart from that we all loved the gig and the great folks who came out for the show.
Prague, Czech Republic
Sunday in Prague AND the Prague Marathon! Loads of folks in the streets of this beautiful city and I never got out in it. Opted for a couple of hours in the gym then back to the room for some reading and practising. I will get out tomorrow if for nothing else than a coffee and lunch at one of the cafes that line the streets.
Our call today was delayed by an hour and a half. The trucks and crew were a couple of hours late in arriving due to a traffic accident that blocked all traffic. When we arrived at 5:30 the lights were still being focused and instruments being checked to see that they were all going down their proper lines. Everything was set back by two hours with the exception of the show somehow. A miracle! The Hala Sportovni is a shallow venue as far as the depth with a low ceiling but the venue sounded fantastic and the show was tremendous if I do say so myself. Another exceptional audience. The tour has been so well received and we all are aware of it. Loads of love coming from over 7,000 people tonight. Hat off to Prague.
A runner back to the hotel and a couple drinks and the usual brilliant music in Guy"s pad. We got on a serious Junior Parker and his Blue Flames jag, Sun Records era.
Behaved myself last night, no gin and tonics, straight to the room and in bed with my guitar. I've got a new little tune I've been chasing down that I'm very pleased with but not quite finished and woke this morning with the guitar slung across my chest. I ordered room service and continued playing. I've got it sorted now and will put it on the pile of new things already completed. I'll get round to doing some recording later this autumn and begin a new album.
We checked out of our fab Frankfurt hotel and flew to Oberhausen for tonight's gig. Acturally, we flew to Koln (Cologne) and drove 60 minutes to Oberhausen. With the way the tour is set up, we don't stay or get to see much of many of the cities and towns we play, simply fly in, do the show and fly out. The best part of it all is the show which we always look forward to, can't wait to get on stage and play and tonight was no exception at the Konig-Pilsener Arena for 9,000 plus wonderful fans. It was a grand show, at times a fly by the seat of our pants show, a few missed cues and interesting chord changes but loads of fun and more than a few smiles on stage. The audience was with us all the way and rewarded us with a full standing house for the encores.
The usual runner back to Koln and the Legacy where Alex our hostess had a cocktail shaker, ice, Plymouth Gin, exceptionally dry vermouth, olives and a steaming paella waiting. Before we knew what hit us we were in Prague where we will base for the next few days and play here tomorrow night. What a tour!
A day off yesterday in Frankfurt was spent in a couple of record stores, a sauerbraten lunch at a bier garden and a fabulous Italian dinner courtesy of our German promoter Marek Lieberberg. Many cocktails, much food and wine. As an antidote this morning, I dragged myself off to the gym followed by an hour luxuriating in the sun. While laying there I began to feel my left forearm tightening, apparently I'd pulled something while working out. Went back to the room, picked up my guitar and realised the fingers of my left hand weren't working so well. Definitely a concern, but after a couple of ibuprofen the swelling began to ease and the hand began to come back. Whew.
It was a mid-afternoon flight to Hannover for tonight's sold out show at the TUI Arena. We've been spoiled by the great German audiences this past week and Hannover did not disappoint us. I've played Germany many times with MK but must say that the audiences for this tour have been the best ever.
A runner to the Legacy and back to Frankfurt for our last night in the hotel that everybody loves. After six nights I'll have a lot of packing to do tomorrow morning as I've managed to get the contents of my bags strewn everywhere. We'll fly to Oberhaussen for a show tomorrow.
The tour keeps rolling and tonight was our 31st show in 40 days! With a total of 93 shows booked, we're exactly a third of the way through and have hit a comfortable stride. Everything running like clockwork and everyone enjoying themselves.
As mentioned in the last few entries, we've been basing in Frankfurt and flying to the show dates each day. Today's city of Stuttgart was so close that we took the train there, a pleasant journey of an hour and twenty minutes. About half the band had the traditional visit to the Hugo Boss factory just outside Stuttgart which required them to take an early train in. Several who had decided to pass, took the afternoon excursion. The rail systems of Europe and the U.K. are alive and well, in good shape, affordable and a very civilised way to travel. No telling how many billions of dollars it would take to get the passenger train business back in shape in the United States, not to mention the time involved. While the airline industry struggles with the high cost of fuel, rampant inefficiency and the shoddy treatment of passengers, rail travel is a smart alternative.
We arrived at Schleyerhalle to find the rest of the band already there having left many Euros with Hugo, and sleeping on couches in various dressing rooms. It'd been an early start for them and their credit cards were no doubt exhausted as well. Schleyerhalle is an old indoor skating track that I'd played back in the 70's with Diamond. In many of these venues the wooden tracks have been removed and replaced with seating though you can still make out the slope of track particularly on the far ends. After sound check we headed to catering. For the last week it's been rumoured that a special dinner of wild boar would be served and it was tonight. Brilliantly prepared, rolled with pistachio nuts, various undisclosed spices (I did detect juniper berries) and served with a rich, deep brown fruity/tangy gravy. Miraculous. Roasted potatoes, red cabbage and broccoli were the perfect foils to the meat. The only thing that could possibly follow this German meal was the most delicious, freshly baked apple strudel known to mankind. We doff our hats again to our heroes of catering.
A sold out show of just under 10,000. The acoustics were amazingly good for the size of the hall and we took the stage relaxed and confident to do a show that I felt was exceptional as was it's reception. Fans of all ages including children of 5 or 6 years hoisted up on their parents shoulders right up to the front of the stage during the encores and the roar of the crowd nearly deafening as we took the last bow.
Our team of drivers were waiting as we came off stage and we were driven back to Frankfurt arriving just past midnight with plenty of time for a drink with Danny and John in the hotel bar.
Tomorrow is a day off then it's on to Hannover where we commence the next two thirds of the tour.
It was the Leipzig Arena tonight and a full house of 8,050. As with all the audiences in Germany, they came to listen to music and weren't shy about showing their appreciation.
A runner to the Legacy, then back to Frankfurt. It will be an early night for all. Tomorrow half the band will take an early train to the Hugo Boss shop just outside Stuttgart. Those who decided pass, because the Euro to U.S.D wasn't so hot - the Yanks unanimously - will take later train directly in to Stuttgart for tomorrow's show. Regardless, it will be heads down tonight.
Up early and feeling good. Some coffee and porridge sent up to the room then down to the gym for a good 90 minutes of humiliation. The hotel we are basing from in Frankfurt is stellar in every way, great rooms, service and facilities. There's a fab indoor pool and just the other side, on the outside is a Zen garden with chaises longues. The sun was out and the temps were warm so it was straight from the gym to lay in the sun for an hour. After a bout of stomach troubles, it felt good to get some warmth and vitamin D on my skin.
It was a mid-afternoon flight on the Legacy to Hamburg and the Colorline Arena. The usual routine, throw the bags in the dressing room, make a bee line for catering, back to the dressing room to fiddle round on the computer for awhile, then sound check. No meet and greet tonight so it was straight to dinner after sound check. Tonight's entrees, roast beef, roast chicken and fresh red snapper. Fruit salad, rhubarb and apple crumble with hot custard for dessert. We are so spoiled.
Tonight was the third largest audience of the tour so far, 10,700 Hamburgers. Last night it was Frankfurters. There's always a food angle in this journal. The gig was great and tonight's audience was as well. We've been very fortunate so far with how brilliant the audiences have been and how much they're digging the new show. As for me, I look forward every night to getting on that stage and playing music with MK and the best band in the world.
A runner to the Legacy where we were greeted by our hostess Alex, drinks ready and a very tasty chicken curry with wild rice for snacks. We arrived in Frankfurt in about 40 minutes and short drive to the hotel. Met up with Danny, Pete, John, Heidi and Paul at the bar for a beer then it was on to Guy's room for a last nightcap and cup of tea, Paul C. acting as guest DJ and doing a brilliant job of it.
This morning arrived smartly after last night's soiree. There was an earlier than usual luggage call today which I nearly missed. We could only get an early time slot for the flight from Berlin to Frankfurt, hence the bag call. I remember going to bed last night thinking maybe I should get a wake up but decided against it, a mistake as I woke up with 10 minutes to spare before the luggage was to be collected and it was a bit of a scramble.
Needless to say we arrived very early at the Festhalle in Frankfurt, 2:30 in the afternoon to be exact, with loads of time on our hands. The crew wasn't ready for us to sound check until later in the day, so everybody busied themselves with personal practising, computer stuff and napping. There wasn't even a meet and greet tonight, just a load of hanging around. What there WAS, was a brilliant couple of items served for dinner tonight courtesy of our beloved caterers Chris Desmond, Angus McKinnon and Steve Ricalis. Braised lamb shanks in a rich brown gravy and freshly prepared mint sauce. The lamb had been cooking for hours and the tender meat simply fell off the bone, a knife was unnecessary. However, a serving of mashed potatoes WAS necessary to mop up all that fine gravy and some steamed broccoli just to say I'd eaten something marginally healthy. Brilliant as it was, the crowning glory was dessert, a most magically delicious, fresh from the oven, chocolate bread pudding served with a pitcher, I'm not joking.....a pitcher, of steaming hot chocolate custard. It was everything you could ever imagine and far beyond this. I am now convinced that chocolate bread pudding is the way ahead.
Sound check and dinner behind us, it was still only 6:30 with an hour and a half to go before show time. After a meal like that and no m&g, there's not much left to do but have a luxurious pre-show nap. Finally it's time for the gig.
Frankfurt's Festhalle opened in 1909 and was a milestone in European architectural history as the largest domed structure in Europe, 40 meters high. The acoustics leave much to be desired, the sonic equivalent of a pistol whipping, but our ace sound man Dave Dixon wrestled it to the ground. After the place filled with 7000 plus Frankfurters, we took the stage and found it was slightly less scary than sound check indicated. One of the longest ovations I can recall after Sultans tonight and a tremendously appreciative audience all around.
A runner back to our hotel here in Frankfurt where we will base for the next five days. An early night is in my future.
A great gig at the Velodrom. With somewhat limited seating round the perimeter of the venue, it was mainly a standing audience of 9,000 plus, packed in shoulder to shoulder. By the end of the show it was amazing seeing the sea of raised arms all swaying to the last song of the night.
A quick runner back to our hotel and a full-attendance, session of luxury, in Guy's room; loads of great music, gin, oceans of tonic, glaciers of ice, groves of fresh lime and gallons of tea. At some point we decided that some food might be a good idea so room service was called. A couple of trays of various things arrived but the hands down winner was a large bowl of chips that were voted the best we've ever had, and so said all of us.
After four days of luxuriating in London we were all chomping at the bit to get back to work. An early bag call and departure from the hotel to meet up with the rest of the boys at Northolt Air Field where our trusty Legacy was waiting. Everyone looking well rested and all agreed it was a much needed break. The English sky was something out of a John Constable painting, bright blue with great formations of clouds, white, grey, shades of pink and yellow, as only an English sky can be. A great day for a flight.
With an hour time change, we arrived in Warsaw at the Fryderyk Chopin Airport. Chopin was born in the village of Zelazowa Wola, in the Duchy of Warsaw and is Poland's greatest composer. I love the nocturnes. A short drive to the venue, Torwar. This was the site of our show in 2005. We all remembered the venue because of a sewage problem they seemed to have last time that reeked throughout the back stage area and dressing rooms. We also remembered the fabulous audience we had here. They seem to have cleared up that funky smell, but it is a very strange back stage. A warren of concrete tunnels, stairs, twists and turns, the floors covered in a very slippery grey tile. Maybe it was the shoes I was wearing, I suppose if I had rubber soles it might be alright but I nearly went down a sharp flight of stairs with both arms full of instruments taking them to the meet and greet room. I'm happy to report that didn't happen. As for the m&g it was another snappy affair, better all the time.
As for the gig, I might be going out on a limb but think this was the best show yet and the audience was just as we'd remembered, wildly appreciative. From the very first downbeat of the set to the last note, singing, clapping and going absolutely mad for what seemed like minutes after each tune. What an audience, what a gig. Here's to Warsaw, we can't wait to come back.
Immediately following the final bow we were straight into the waiting cars and heading back to Chopin airport. On board the Legacy and after 40 minutes, a couple of martinis and some very delicious wild rice and chicken stroganoff, we landed in Berlin where we sleep tonight and play tomorrow.
London, England 2008-04-28 - 2008-05-01
We arrived in London with the small hours of Monday morning having flown directly from our show in Moscow three hours earlier. With four days off, the emphasis is on recharging the battery and I didn't feel the need to be an overactive tourist or take on the town. Still, here are a few highlights of those days.
1. The worst/best/most expensive haircut. The one thing I HAD to do was to get a haircut. I asked the concierge at the hotel if she had any ideas about a good, not too expensive or fussy place to get a bit of a trim. I was directed to the salon in the well established department store Harvey Nichols. Not a bad idea as these great stores all have good salons with experienced cutters. Alright, I'm in. How much? 45 pounds?!?!! Alright, alright...I know it's London and that's still half of what an unnamed band member paid to get his hair cut. I dunno, I don't consider myself cheap or even thrifty for that matter, but there are certain things that I just find ethically wrong and spending that much for a haircut is one of them. Forget it. I turn up at the appointed time to the very posh salon on the 4th floor of Harvey Nichols to find customers waiting to be styled sipping freshly made lattes, espressos, fruit smoothies and munching finger cakes. "May I get you something sir?" "Uhm, no thanks, I'm just here for a haircut." I am teamed up with a cutter who takes one look at my mop and throws his hands up in horror. "Now look," I said " here's what I want. Just a bit of a trim, a shape up, see? I know it might be a little tricky to find the shape in there, but trust me it's there. Not too much off the top and I don't want it to look like I've just come out of boot camp. Got it?" He pokes around at my hair for a few seconds, pulling bits of it this way and that, all the while frowning in the mirror. I can feel my blood pressure beginning to rocket. I am banished to the other room to have my hair shampooed by the shampoo girl who asks, "Are we having a single or double shampoo?" "Jesus, I dunno. I've already washed my hair once today, better just make it a single and throw some conditioner in for good measure." Then it's back to the cutting chair. My cutter is pale and shaken but composed enough to quietly tell me, "You've got a lot of hair and I think it needs to come off." Now, he's got a point there because I haven't been able to do anything with this mess for a couple of weeks now, longer than that if the truth be told. I figure he's the expert and this is London. I've been watching the other customers and everyone's hair is looking pretty good. So, with some apprehension I agree and away he goes. I hear the first big slice of the sheers and feel great hunks of hair hitting my shoulder. After that first cut there's no turning back and a commitment has been made to his vision. Sometimes this can be a good thing I keep telling myself, but about midway through I felt I'd made an awful mistake and couldn't bring myself to open my eyes. All the while I'm trying to cook up an alternate plan, like some kind of hat I can wear for a few weeks. After loads of mussing, fussing, primping, snipping and the working in of at least four different hair enhancing products, he announced he was finished and I cocked an eye open. "Hey, it's not bad," I told him and opened the other eye, "it looks really cool. Yeah, I think it's great, thanks" And it is. What I can't figure out is how he lobbed off so much hair and made it look like I didn't just get a haircut. Brilliant, and ONLY 45 POUNDS!!! I think I might go back and next time I'll have a triple latte and croissant. Harvey Nichols hair salon, don't miss it.
2. Apricot and Lavender Leaf Preserves. Room service is something I seldom indulge in except for breakfast. It's really just the hit of coffee I'm after so I can face walking out the door and what usually comes with that is some very expensive toast, juice and an assortment of tiny jars of marmalade, jams, honey, etc. The hotel we were staying in is so exclusive they have their own home-made individually numbered jars of these things. One, No. 16, was Apricot and Lavender preserves. Aw c'mon, sounds like one of the products that was worked into my hair the day before. So, I open it up and sure enough apricots, syrup and lavender leaves. Smelled pretty good and tasted like the best combination of two things I've ever had in my life. After I'd finished the jar there were still a couple of pieces of very expensive toast left so I rang down for another jar of old No. 16. I'll have to find a recipe for that somewhere.
3. Shepherd's Market. Our hotel for the last four days is just next door to another hotel that I logged several weeks in exactly 30 years ago when I was playing with Neil Diamond. We'd finished a European tour here in London and stayed for a number of weeks thereafter to record an album. Just behind the hotel is a handful of tiny streets and narrow alleyways known as Shepherd's Market, loads of shops and boutiques, clothes, hand painted lead soldiers and figurines, jewellery, fruit stands, pubs etc. and a dozen or more great little restaurants to fall into for a snack or dinner. My wife was with me 30 years ago and we'd explored the warren of shops and eating establishments then. I've always recalled it fondly but hadn't been back since 1978. Well, I've had a several great dinners the last few evenings in Shepherd's Market and the vibe is exactly as I remembered it being all those years ago. One of the best steak and mushroom pies ever with a crackling suet crust that arrived piping from the oven. It was so hot when I broke open the top it was still bubbling, probably close to the temperature on the surface of the sun, the kind of heat you read about. I stupidly dove straight in knowing it was hotter than hell, searing the inside of my mouth. Glorious, the best thing I've ever tasted, right up there with apricot and lavender. A couple of glasses of wine, some freshly steamed and buttered spinach, warm crusty bread...a monstrously delicious meal. The following night along with Matt, his wife Paloma and Glenn, we fell into the Indian Tandoori just next door and followed it with a couple of pints of Bombardier Ale in the pub across the alleyway and the night after that was Italian and the night after that was Continental. For the adventurous there's a Polish-Mexican restaurant with a pretty attractive dish of stewed lamb with chilies. How about French and Lebonese? It's all there. Another 30 years will not get by before I return to Shepherd's Market.
4. Tate Britain. I try to get to the Tate every time I'm in London even if it's just for an hour. It is home to the works of the great British artists from the 1500's to present. I never tire of the landscapes of Constable or Turner's water colours. First was a viewing of a 27 minute film by Derek Jarman from 1984 called Imagining October. Jarman, regarded as an icon of experimental film, shot this in Moscow in the final years of the Cold War with a hand held Super-8 mm camera. Very grainy, dark and moody. I'm not quite sure what it was all about, but let it wash over me and it was timely having just come from Moscow. Taking the dark mood into the gallery I got the knock out punch in an astonishing exhibit of William Blake's paintings, drawings and etchings. I also revisited the work of modernist Christopher Nevinson. I remember seeing his paintings over the years but they really had an impact this time. Completely overloaded, I could take nothing else in and joined the crush of late afternoon commuters smashed into the trains of the London Underground which would have made a good subject for Nevinson. 5. The National Gallery. It's difficult to begin describing this treasure. The National Gallery houses one of the finest collections of Western European paintings in the world. From 1250 through the 20th century, every important artist is very well represented here. In no particular order, here's a small sample of the artists I viewed: da Vinci, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Rembrandt, El Greco, Goya, Rubens, Monet, Vermeer, Canaletto, Van Dyck, Gaugin and on and on. Staggering, humbling, inspiring. It never fails to amaze me how close you come to these famous works, you can get right up to it and see every brush stroke. Another case of severe overload, but like the Tate it will be here the next time to rediscover and enjoy.
This just up! A swinging version of the song Caravan from our meet and greet in Helsinki a few nights ago has just been posted on YouTube. You'll see our own Guy Fletcher juggling three onions (don't ask) at the beginning before this unbelievable display of musical talent unfolds. Here's the link.
We arrived very late last night in Moscow and I was completely knackered, went to bed and didn't get up until after one in the afternoon. It wasn't long before luggage call followed by departure to the gig. Needless to say, I never made it out of hotel for a wander round Red Square though I've been before. Rest was a higher priority as we head in to the last gig before the up-coming break.
We arrived at Olympiisky Arena to find we were sharing the exhibition floor with a knife and weapons show. Nice. Actually the arena floor was divided in two sections so while the gun show was in full swing our crew was setting up tonight's show on the other side of the partition. There were quite a lot of electrical problems but leave it to our ace guys to sort everything....always. A swinging meet and greet followed by a show that was loads of fun even though we all had some technical problems at one point or another throughout the evening. None of that seemed to matter to the fabulous Moscow audience nor did it phase any of us in the least. We're all enjoying every minute of these shows and even the occasional difficult moments roll off our backs. Here's to Moscow.
It was our usual runner to the Legacy for a three hour plane ride back to London and a much needed four days off before beginning the second half of the European leg in Warsaw on the 2nd of May. As for my time in London I'm planning a trip to the Tate Gallery, a haircut, The British Museum, Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club and an Indian dinner. What happens between that is up for grabs.
I'll pick this journal up again on the 2nd, until then...
St. Petersburg, Russia
We left Helsinki with a clear blue sky and the weather was perfect. An hour flight to St. Petersburg and a long drive from the airport to the venue through miles and miles of road construction and thousands of apartment blocks. Sound check and a large meet and greet then on stage for an early show. Over 7000 beaming faces came out to sing along with every song, they were a great audience. We had a few difficulties with the in-ears tonight but sailed right through due to the enthusiasm of the audience.
A runner back to the Legacy and another hour flight in to Moscow where we spend tonight and play tomorrow.
A day off yesterday here in Helsinki and I managed to get many of my favourite activities crammed in to a single day beginning with a hard 90 minute work out in the hotel gym. Not a large one, but incredibly well equipped with more than enough of everything to humble the socks off anybody. A slight complaint was the temperature which was warm and by the end of 90 minutes I could ring my clothes out. A quick shower then it was off to meet up with one of our great drivers and friend Eike who put a list of fab used record stores together and we set off on a mission of vinyl. The very first place we hit the bonanza gold, one of the finest shops devoted to jazz vinyl I've ever seen. The owner was very nice and extremely knowledgeable about jazz. Eike and I ended up browsing for a couple of hours and I wanted to buy every record in the place. In the end I exerted supreme control and only bought 7 albums, one of which The Essential Jo Jones, was a gift for our own drum hero Danny Cummings. Other purchases were Clifford Brown/Max Roach from 1955, a double set of very early and extremely rare Stan Getz 78 reissues, Tadd Dameron Orch. from the mid-50s, a 1958 Johnny Hodges LP on Verve and a few others. Jazz has always been huge in this neck of the woods and I was in heaven. We went to another record store after that but we'd already been to the best and decided it was time for lunch. Eike and I found a quiet restaurant down by the water and had a great meal of fried fish and rose pepper steak topped off with a local brew. After that I went off to do some shopping on my own. The hotel is smack dab in the middle of a great shopping area, clothes, shoes, department stores, you name it. Ended up looking but no purchases. On the way back to the hotel stopped in a wonderful old world pastry/sweet shop, everything elegantly presented but I opted for a cafe latte and it was one of the best cups of coffee I've had in a while. Back to the hotel for a little nap then met Guy and Danny down in the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail followed by a meal with the three of us joined by Mark and Paul Crockford. After far too much saki and sushi, we adjourned to Guy's room for cups of tea and music. About midnight we decided it was time to go back to the bar where we met up with John McCusker and his girl Heidi Talbot who's a brilliant singer and artist from Ireland. We ended up closing the bar down at 2 and I think they were glad to see us go. All in all it was a fantastic and memorable day off in Helsinki.
As for today, I took it slow and quietly beginning with a little room service to clear the cobwebs, a little practising from a Johnny Smith instructional book, a little writing, reading and catching up with e-mail. Before long it was time to get a shower and go to the gig.
I t was our usual Hartwall Arena where we've played every time we've come to Helsinki and our usual pre-soundcheck routine, drop the bags and make a bee line for catering. A large cauldron of steaming hot fresh cream of mushroom and garlic soup was waiting along with various salads, cold cuts and espresso. Fortified, we did soundcheck and then it was time for dinner! Our caterers are the best in the world, there isn't one night when they don't present something magical, and not just one thing, a choice of three entrees all of which are award winning....loads of fab salads, fresh cheeses, loaves of delicious bread and always a couple of seriously tempting desserts. I used the excuse that I'd been sick for the last couple of weeks to load my plate up with a brilliantly prepared steak, spinach and egg noodles with gravy, followed by a dish of freshly baked hot peach crumble with warm custard. This stuff's a builder!
It was now time for a meet and greet. These affairs have taken on a level of entertainment that is hard to imagine. We've been breaking new ground with the addition of John McCusker and his Celtic fiddle in addition to my usual Hawaiian guitar stylings, all the while Mark playing and occasionally singing a tune as well. Lately we've added the song Caravan to the musical whiplash with Danny playing the bongos, and he's a true, pro bongo man. Tonight also included a bit of juggling by our own Guy Fletcher. This is variety entertainment as it used to be and a side of the group that very few get to see. The kind of stuff our grandparents would've liked and now we like it too. The m&g went on for half an hour and we love doing them. After that it was time to get ready for the show. There's so much to do in the three hours at the venue prior to taking the stage that it's a miracle we get round to doing a show at all! Tonight's was for 9,000 great fans, another warm and wonderful audience, as they have all been, and another good showing from MK and troop.
Back to the hotel and a smorgasbord of flat bread, brown bread, stunning cheeses, salamis and a couple of bottles of the brilliant Amarone from the Montecariano winery in Italy. Today is road manager Pete McKay's birthday, he is 50. We all signed a card, gave him a load of good old fashioned ribbing, sang happy birthday and all had a drink of the red stuff. Amazingly the party broke up about midnight as it's an early bag call for tomorrows journey to St. Petersburg, a show there and an after show flight to Moscow where we'll sleep and do a show the following day.
It has been a tremendous run of shows in the Nordic and Scandinavian countries. I love this part of the world and it's people and look forward to when I return.
For the first morning in over two weeks I woke up feeling normal. Good health is a true miracle, let's see if everything holds through the day.
We checked out of Oslo heading to Stockholm for a show tonight. That is nearly everyone checked out of Oslo. Our beloved tour manager Tim Hook became violently ill with some variation of the stomach virus that Matt and I had, only his seems to be worse. The up-shot being, he could not even think about getting on an airplane. So, he is staying in Oslo for a day or two until he's able to join us again.
We landed in Stockholm and proceeded to spend the next two hours in stop & go traffic getting to the gig at The Globen. 6,500 folks and one of the warmest audiences we've had, with us all the way. Tomorrow will be Helsinki and that will wrap our Scandinavian run which has been one of the most enjoyable bunch of shows I can remember.
It was a runner from the stage to our waiting Legacy, sushi, pasta and drinks. Before long we'd arrived in Helsinki for a day off tomorrow and a show the following day. As for the day off, my plan is to get to the gym first thing in the morning and after that get out in Helsinki.
The hotel where we've been basing in Oslo is one from another era and carries forward that old world charm into the modern day very nicely and with good grace. However, there are some things that very old hotels commonly have trouble with and ours is no exception.
1) SHOWERS AND THEIR ENCLOSURES. Installed as an afterthought, the shower stall is tiny and the shower itself is a hand held nozzle thing that's up on a bracket while the enclosure is two glass doors both opening out but do not close very well. The result after a 5 minute shower is the floor of the bathroom has become a fjord. It is usually a good indicator when there is a drain in the bathroom floor that things are going to get messy with the shower. Maid? Another dozen towels please.
2) INTERNET SERVICE. They try very hard, it is wireless. To begin with, we were issued a card for each 24 hour periods that we were staying with a user code. In theory, you call up your browser and the hotel internet instructions will come up. Simply follow and agree to everything, the final request is to enter your password and code. I don't know what these people are thinking about, I suppose they are terribly concerned with somebody conjuring up the code and getting free internet service for a day. The codes are something out of a Sherlock Holmes movie or perhaps a secret code to some old Soviet missile secrets. Here's an example of one of the codes: Q353809-QWJ2QB4. C'mon, the days of Emma Peale and the cold war are over. How's this for a code? Last name and room number!
3) GYM. The concept of a gym in the hotel is still fairly progressive and if they have one it usually consists of one, maybe two, treadmills of dubious worth and a few hand held weights. It will be a stretch if they have anything heavier than 10 kgs. And so it is with our hotel. After a number of days of withering away, our very considerate and fit road manager Tim Hook organised a sortie to a great two story gym here in Oslo. Rooms and rooms of everything imaginable not to mention squash and badminton courts, spinning theatres, and a room with hanging punching bags for training. Tim, Glenn and I got there shortly before 11 and stayed for a couple of hours. We all agreed it was a well needed workout. The drawback: comprehensive shite, loud dance music pounding away in every corner of the joint. Does this motivate people? I suppose it does as it made me want to finish and flee quickly as possible.
Back to the room for another refreshing shower and lake experience then off to the Legacy for a 15 minute hop to Karlstad, Sweden. Karlstad is a beautiful city of 60,000 and is built on the river delta where Sweden's longest river runs into Sweden's largest lake. Karlstad is also reputed to be Sweden's sunniest city. Tonight's venue was the Lofbergs Lila Arena and over 5000 good citizens turned out to see us play. They were a listening audience that was very appreciative at the end of each song. We had a wonderfully relaxed show again tonight, everything sounds friendly and effortless. This tour is a real joy.
Back to Oslo and another early night for me, still trying to shake this stomach thing.
Woke early. Too early. 6:00 after going to bed at 3! Put the TV on (a very unusual move for me at any time) as our own Guy Fletcher was doing a live performance of a couple of songs from his new album Inamorata on the early morning live TV program. Well I searched and searched and couldn't find him, finally giving up about 6:45 and mercifully went back to sleep for another few hours.
A spectacularly beautiful afternoon flight to Bergen, flying over rugged mountains covered in snow, then opening to breathtaking fjords and forests. We arrived at 4 and spent an hour in stop & go traffic to the gig. We all somehow remembered Bergen as a quaint, sleepy little resort town from the last time we were here in '05. We'd played in a funny little wooden sports facility then, scarcely larger than a high school basketball auditorium. Turns out that Bergen is the second largest city in Norway! Tonight's gig was at a much larger venue called Vestlandshallen, an indoor football arena. They packed the place to the maximum of 8,000. A bit of an echoey old barn, but our ace sound man Dave Dixon wrestled it into something manageable and it was a good night for all. My stomach's been giving me hell all day but magically when you get on stage, it's the best medicine in the world and you forget whatever's bothering you and get into what you've come to do.
Another runner to the Legacy for the short hop back to Oslo where we are basing. Linda, our hostess, had mountains of sushi and sashimi that arrived on platters the size of small third world countries. With the stomach still letting me know this virus is still very much enjoying it's residency, I decided to eat very little and spare (swear?) off the after show gin and tonics. Well, there's always tomorrow, but for tonight it was back at the hotel around midnight and off to bed.
A brilliantly clear and warm Sunday in Oslo. It was a short drive from our hotel to the Spectrum for tonight's show.
Attending tonight's meet and greet was Oivin Fjeld, creator of the G-Sharp Guitar. We met Oivin a couple of years ago when he presented Mark with one of these wonderful instruments and this evening I was very pleased to accept one he'd brought for me. The G-Sharp is a solid body instrument that is about half the size of a traditional guitar, manufactured and finished to the highest standard, has a very special sounding pick up and plays beautifully. It is tuned higher than standard, from high to low is: G#-D#-B-F#-C#-G# hence it's name "G-Sharp". The body has an amazing resonance and I plan to make some good use of this instrument when I get back to my recording work. Funnily enough, over the last couple of years I've been listening to a wonderful record album by the brilliant George Barnes, recorded in 1959 called Guitar In Velvet. On that album he uses an instrument not dissimilar, only tuned up another half step to A. This instrument eventually went into limited production by Guild Guitars as one of two George Barnes models, it too having a small body. To learn more about the G-Sharp Guitar go to: www.g-sharpguitar.com Thanks Oivin.
The Spectrum is our usual place to play in Oslo and it's all very familiar when we come to these venues time and again. Tonight's show began at 7:30, the audience was 6,600 plus, absolutely stellar and the gig got a thumbs up all round from the band, loads of fun and great playing at every turn. Another night to remember in Oslo. Our usual runner from the stage but because the show began so early, we found ourselves back at the hotel before 10 o'clock! So it was a relaxed evening in MK's room where we killed several bottles of wine over a couple of hours and had more than a few laughs.
We always look forward to days off like yesterday and generally try to do the right thing with them, make something of the day, have an early dinner and an early night....recharge. The problem is, my clock is now set to show mode and getting to bed at 2 or 3 in the morning. I had no problem going to sleep early it's just that I woke up a little past midnight ready to take on the world. Tossed, turned and read 'til 4 something then finally got a few more hours sleep. Still, I feel very rested and ready to move along to Copenhagen for tonight's show.
We all checked out of our sublimely strange hotel in Verona with mixed feelings about the experience. It was one of the most accommodating places we've been, fab service, but the over the top decor at every turn, nook and cranny is just not up my alley. As mentioned earlier, even the rooms were completely tricked out, not a restful place to be. Still, it left a serious impression on us all, one we won't forget. As for me, I'm going out on a limb and announcing a winner for my end of tour best/worst list. Although in neither category, I declare the Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amista the STRANGEST hostelry, nothing could come close.
We board the Legacy to begin a 3-in-1, Verona-Copenhagen-Oslo. Tonight's show is at our old standby venue the Forum, memorable for it's patchwork of brightly coloured seats; yellow, red, blue, green, randomly thrown together.... like the hotel we just left. The reason being the venue was used for taping rock shows and very often the place was not full, but because of the mixed colours of the empty seats, on camera it gave the illusion of a full house. Empty seats was not an issue last night, a full house of 6,500 turned out for what I though was a great show. The Danish audiences are different than those of Spain and Italy, every bit as appreciative but more reserved and it was a seated house. It was an odd front row, all middle age blokes, only about three women. There's no telling how much beer was consumed by that front row and they all seemed to know each other, but there was an endless procession in and out for more of the golden stuff, oceans of it. Funny what one takes note of while playing in front of thousands of people.
At the end of the show we all took our bows to a thunderous ovation and quickly drove away in our fleet of Mercedes to re-board the Legacy and arrive in Oslo before midnight. John, Dan and I were graciously hosted by our luminescence of luxury, Guy for sounds and drinks in his room followed by a cuppa tea. I took myself off to bed at the comfortable hour of 3. That's more like it.
All right, maybe I was a tad hasty with my rant other the day about the hotel. It's' not exactly the kind of thing one finds welcoming at 2 in the morning after a long day, a show, two hour drive and a stomach virus. Granted the decor ain't my bucket of blood, but the bar is wonderful and the staff fabulous, everyone is there to accommodate whatever request.
Today's a day off and here's what I did. Slept until 11 then got up and went to the gym for a work out. The stomach isn't 100% yet but certainly better than a week ago this time. Danny rang saying he had Philip one of our drivers, a car and we should go into Verona. We'd both been talking about getting haircuts, so met down at the concierge to try to arrange something. It all got a bit complicated so we simply decided to get in the car, go to Verona and see what happened. The traffic into town was a snail's pace and took forever to get there, then parking was a nightmare. Philip finally found a place to park and by this time I was absolutely famished as I'd not had anything to eat since last night. The first order of business was to get a bowl of pasta and some pomodoro sauce then maybe find a place to get a couple of haircuts. We'd only walked a block or so when Dan's cell phone rang. It was Guy saying he, Paul Crockford and Pete McKay were at an amazing winery and the chef from our hotel had popped in and wanted to prepare an amarone risotto. At this point a snap decision was made, we turned round back to the car and hightailed it to the winery.
In the heart of the beautiful countryside of Valpolicella, Italy is a small family owned winery. For the last couple of nights in the hotel bar we've been enjoying a delicious locally produced wine that turns out is made just a few miles away from grapes grown on the same land that has been in the family for four generations, it's name, Montecariano. It was arranged for a tour of the winery which led to the hotel chef's offer to come to the winery and prepare the special risotto. Amarone is one variation of wine made there, a robust, large and complex wine with a high alcohol content.
Danny and I arrived just in time to be greeted by the Gini/Galtarossa family and began the wine tasting, the second or third tasting for Guy, Paul and Pete, followed by massive bowls of the most exquisite light purple risotto I've ever tasted. This is where the words fail but a few that come to mind are, steaming, creamy, chewy, buttery, cheesy, mildly sweet, perfectly salty and majestically delicious, all served of course with bottles of Montecarino wine. A serious adventure and one more example of something I experience every time I am in Italia, the generosity of the Italian people, they cannot do enough for you. Please visit their web-site at: www.montecariano.it and if you come across a bottle of Montecariano don't fail to buy one. But, be patient, as with all wine it must be opened an hour or two before drinking to allow the full flavour to grow and mellow. Squisito!!!
After the purchase of many cases of wine, thanks and goodbyes....we came back to the hotel around 6 and off to our rooms for siestas. Dan and I never did get those haircuts, but decided our hair looked all right as it was.
I slept like a top, got up feeling rested and well. Ordered a pot of coffee and a bowl of porridge then went to the gym and for the first time in a while I didn't have to throw in the towel. Today's the first day I feel like part of the living again. Wandered down to the pool and laid round there reading for 90 minutes or so before cleaning up and leaving the hotel for our 75 mile journey north to Bolzana and our gig tonight.
Bolzano is at the northern most part of Italy bordering on Austria. One of many points of interest in Bolzano is the Museum of Archaeology home of Otzi the ice mummy who was discovered frozen in 1991 and is a very well preserved man from about 3300 BC. Needless to say, we didn't get to see him. It was straight in to the venue, Palaonda, which sort of had a very old eastern block vibe about it. The crew has had better days getting the gig set up, but it wasn't as awful as some. The thing that struck us all was how cold the place was, must have been 55 degrees in there. Sound-check, then catering.
I've felt very good today and couldn't wait to get some food in me, salad, bread, soup, turkey, dessert, whatever I could stuff down tasted like a million bucks. I think I'll live. Had a little play through the new song with John McCusker and he's been very patient and forgiving, signing me off and say 'that's great, Richard." Bless him. The two of us then played it for Mark who though it was great as well, so the next meet and greet will introduce the new instrumental sensation playing Frank's Reel! Let me tell you it's a fistful.
It was a great gig tonight, another brilliant capacity crowd of 7,500 brilliant fans and the band sounded great including an actual train wreck. The only reason I mention it is that we never had full blown cock ups, sure there's the occasional duff note here and there from person to person, but this was a full on miscue, screw up and it still sounded fine. The great thing about this wonderful band is that nothing can shake it. We simply pulled it back together and frankly I doubt that many if any knew there'd been a problem. As for me, it was a miracle playing a show with some food in my stomach. I'd been operating on nothing but fumes for the last week and have to admit my focus wasn't so hot, found myself drifting and not paying attention. Not so tonight and very pleased to be part of the band again.
Back to the hotel in Verona after the show and a grand glass of wine at the bar with Paul Crockford, Guy and Danny.
A day off tomorrow.
Early Wednesday morning. The hotel. I haven't run into any of the other boys yet so this account will be first hand and uncoloured by other opinions. Don't get me wrong, I'm a good guy, very easy going, quiet and seldom complain about anything....but this place is so comprehensively wrong it's staggering and I can only attempt to describe it here.
We arrived by car last night after a two hour drive from the show in Milan. The idea of basing in Verona for the next few days was brilliant, it's one of the Italy's most beautiful cities, one that we've held in our hearts and memories from a couple of years ago on the 2006 Emmy and Mark tour. Turns out this hotel isn't actually IN Verona but just outside the city. We pulled up a long narrow drive with overflowing urns on either side leading up to a large fountain and stately mansion looking affair lit up like a Christmas tree at 2 in the morning. We all piled out into the lobby and here is where it begins to go terribly, terribly wrong. The Byblos luxury corporation has poured a great deal of time, thought, and god knows how many million euros into the creation of a palace and decor that I can only describe as grotesque-moderne-comique. The Yanks who read this will understand when I reference Pee Wee Herman's Playhouse. Folks, I kid you not. Everything's a cartoon, affected and stylised, absolutely inconvenient and useless. The hallways are painted comic book/graffiti style and the colour scheme in my room is: violent red-orange, turquoise, bright yellow, powder blue, black and white swirl and silver leaf. To complete the nightmare is a canopied 4 poster orange bed, yellow cone shaped floor lamps and two dark blue felt chairs that are minuscule and hard as rocks (think American Airlines commuter, coach and bolt upright). The readers of this journal are aware of my ongoing stomach virus and the sight of this did little to calm things. This is the visual equivalent of eating three corn dogs, a large orange drink, snow cone and cotton candy then riding the roller coaster at the world's most hideous carnival. The beamed ceiling has been stencilled in pink and powder blue patterns and fluer de lis and the bathroom is lighted to such a high wattage that I had to wear my bloody sunglasses to go in there and have a pee at 4 in the morning. What in the goddamn blue hell world are people thinking about? Oh yeah, pity the outdoor pool's closed. They do offer wireless internet service in the rooms, but my signal's not too hot so I sit on the marble floor in the hall outside my door to get enough bars to actually make use of if. I have high hopes that a plan will be hatched to spring us, I suppose it depends how the others take to the place. Definitely not folkshag. Look I can't begin to do the joint justice, check out their web-site www.byblosarthotel.com and really that doesn't tell the full story. Maybe Guy will be posting some colourful pics with his diary entry for today. More later.....
Later.......the consensus is it's weird but I guess we're staying. I'll change rooms after the gig and see what that brings. On to gig via the fleet of Mercedes and our drives Gunter, Eike and Philip. About 35 k to Mantova and our venue Palabam. I was really looking forward to a bit of food when we got to catering and had a little salad and sliced turkey as soon as we got there. That's a good sign and the stomach is holding out a little better today, improving slowly. After sound check John McCusker showed me a brilliant song he'd written called Frank's Reel which he plays on fiddle and I'm learning on the Irish bouzouki. After I practice it a little more, we can play it together at the folkshag meet and greets. And finally, the gig! a sold out 5,200 listening and appreciative fans and a very good showing all round then a short runner back to the hotel.
I changed rooms to something different but equally unsettling but at least this room is up out of the basement and has a bit of a view and daylight out the window. Guy informs me that even though the pool is officially closed, he and Dan spent the afternoon down there swimming and lounging round. They both look like they've returned from a week down in the Bahamas. So it will be a bit gym and swim for me tomorrow. Anyone seen my 3-D glasses?
Woke up feeling like a new man. Problem being it was 2:30 in the morning and I couldn't get back to sleep until 5. Up again at 9 still feeling reasonably well and decided to drag myself off to the gym for a little treadmill work. Managed about 20 minutes before it ran me ragged and I threw in the towel. Without having taken in much fuel this past week, I'm fairly low on energy. Back to the room and slept another couple of hours until it was time to get the bags packed and leave for our show in Milan.
It was a gorgeous view out of the Legacy windows as we flew over the snow capped Swiss/Italian Alps on our way in. Everyone oooing and aahing like a bunch of school boys. Decided to bypass the salmon salad served on the flight, the old stomach's a long way from handling anything that ambitious yet and there's the promise of more chicken soup when we get to the venue.
We played the Datchforum with a capacity of 8,500 warm Italian fans. It all felt like a good show, but I have to admit it's getting a bit strange as I stand on that stage with nothing more than a bowl of soup and Imodium in me for the day. I feel like I'm making progress, but far from 100 per cent yet.
A runner to our hotel in Verona, 110 miles away. I'll write more about that tomorrow.
Yesterday was a much needed day off having done a run of 6 shows. It's not all that difficult for the band, but that many in a row begins to wear on the crew as they do all the hard work. I spent the whole day off in bed completely wiped out from this stomach bug, never left the room. Woke this morning feeling worse than ever. I'm certain it's due in equal part to the fact that today is the sixth day of eating next to nothing and probably dehydration as well. I rang down room service and had them bring a couple of jars of apricot yoghurt which tasted delicious but did nothing to calm my stomach. Spent the first half of today in bed as well.
Got to the gig to find out that both Matt and Mark are exhibiting symptoms of the same. Mercifully, our two road managers Tim Hook and Peter McKay had the good sense to have a doctor there at the venue waiting for us. The doc said it was a bug that's been going round and lasts 7-10 days. The good news is, tomorrow's my 7th day. I don't know how many more I can take, I'm totally knackered. Chris Desmond, one of our master caterers came to the rescue very quickly with some fresh chicken soup that he whipped up in no time and it tasted like it had been cooking all day. It was the most I'd eaten in six days. A couple of Imodium tabs and it's show time.
The Hallenstadion was near filled with a brilliant audience. I'm sure you're all getting sick of reading the same thing every night about the audiences being so great...but THEY ARE. Both Matt and I were feeling pretty wobbly but it ended up being a wonderful show all round. Thank you Zurich, chicken soup and Gatorade.
It was a quick runner back to the hotel and we all had chicken sandwiches to take with us. It's the first solid thing I've eaten for a while and let me tell you, it was the best thing I'd ever tasted. Here's to tomorrow.
Bright and beautiful in Frankfurt this morning, but I will not get out, still feeling awfully ragged. Ordered up some scrambled eggs, toast and coffee and cross my fingers it will stay down.
Packed and vacated Frankfurt this afternoon and our Embraer Legacy, affectionately christened Lambsy, delivered us to Erfurt. Erfurt, the city we always play and never stay. Everyone says what a beautiful town it is. We wouldn't know. The airport is just a few short miles to the venue, then it's back and fly to the next town after the show. Tonight that will be Zurich. A few Erfurt facts; it's first mention appears in 742 AD, has preserved an intact medieval city centre and is symbolised by two churches..Mariendom and Severikirche that stand side by side towering above the old city. Maybe some day we will get to see Erfurt.
Mark and the band were in top form tonight from beginning to end and the audience was right there with us all the way...listening intently then coming completely unglued at the end of each song. Another great crowd.
Also another serious runner to beat take off restrictions in Erfurt. It was a short flight to Zurich and we were in the hotel before midnight! That's efficiency. I'm afraid it will be another early night for me until I can shake whatever has taken up residence in my stomach.
Slept 'til noon and really needed it. Whatever intestinal irritation I have has zapped my energy and the rest was welcome. Ordered up some scrambled eggs and coffee and we'll see how that sits on my stomach.
We left Frankfurt mid-afternoon for a 50 mile drive to Mannheim where we play tonight at the SAP Arena, a near 10,000 capacity and another full house. Great audience, great show. After the final song we piled in to the cars for the return to Frankfurt and were back at the hotel before midnight. Still feeling ragged so took myself off to bed for another early night sans post show festivities.
My son Nick makes his way back to the States this morning, an early flight from De Gaulle that sees us getting up at 5:30 a.m. Once I got him safely on his way, I went to the gym then back to the room for a couple hours extra sleep. I've got some kind of intestinal bug, feeling tired and out of sorts as they used to say.
We check out of our terribly fussy hotel in Paris, a real Chateau Chic, and we're all ready to move on to Strasbourg. This will be the first time I've been to the capital city of the Alsace region in north-east France close to the border of Germany. Unfortunately, there will be no time to see anything of it as we fly in, drive to the venue, play the show then do a runner to spend the night in Frankfurt.
The Zenith Strasbourg is a round, orange, corrugated building, very strange and is only a year old. The crew love these new venues because they're efficient, smartly constructed and laid out with truck access to the arena for convenient load in, smooth floors for rolling the hundreds of road cases that carry everything from instruments, sound equipment, lights, staging.....everything. It makes their job so much easier. Inside is oval, wide and relatively shallow, floor standing, seating back and sides with a capacity of 6,000. As far as I could tell there were no empty seats and the floor was jam packed. The audience was another remarkable one, a listening audience that erupted into ear splitting appreciation at the end of each song.
A real runner tonight probably due to take off restriction, a short hop to Frankfurt and a hotel that we all enjoyed very much last time we were here. Whatever bug has crawled inside me is still enjoying it's stay, so it will be an early night for some rest, bypassing the usual night-caps and tea.
As I mentioned in earlier notes, my son Nick has been spending a few days with me while we've been basing out of Paris. He'll be going home tomorrow and we'll be moving on as well, so we fell out onto the boulevard for a late morning walk and ducked into a cafe for some coffee and lunch. I've enjoyed having his company very much and I'm tremendously proud that he's been doing some touring of his own.
There's always an air of anticipation when we play in Paris and tonight was no different. The venue, Bercy, is a large 11,000 seat arena with grass growing up the outside walls of the place. Don't ask. They suspend lawn mowers from steel supports that encircle the building, lowering them down on the turf when the grass needs a cut. I dunno. I'd like to have been present at the meeting when that idea was brought to the table. Maybe Guy will have a snap of the Bercy and it's grass walls in his diary entry for today.
It was a sold out show, all seated which made a difference from all the gigs we've played so far that have been standing. The Paris audience was brilliant and the new show is going down unanimously well.
We decided not to do a runner back to the hotel and hang at the gig for an hour or so to unwind. After a number of late nights, I was perfectly happy with a cuppa tea instead of the usual gin and tonic. When the traffic had cleared, we were taken back to the hotel where Nick and I joined Danny and Guy for few sounds before calling it an early night.
Left Paris for a short flight to Nantes and tonight's venue, another Zenith. A great 6000+ audience, floor standing, seated all round the perimeter. Everything is such a joy to play and we simply amble on stage to partake and participate in each night's adventure in music. I've been a professional musician for over 40 years and must say this is the most joyful and stress free playing I've ever been involved in. The audience hung on every word and note, then exploded in appreciation at the end of each song.
A runner back to Paris with strong tail winds cutting the one hour journey by half. With little time for the meal to be laid properly, steward Guy and stewardess Alex served up Thai chicken curry and beef in wine straight out of the restaurant containers. The food was fab and all the better for the lack of presentation and watching Guy and Alex scuttle up and down the cabin.
Back at the hotel and a quick night-cap with Danny and Guy along with some Lightnin' Slim, Guitar Gable, Beatles and Dock Boggs on the hi-fi.
The Olympic torch came through Paris this afternoon and it was wisely decided to leave earlier than planned for the airport to avoid traffic and street closure. The torch would pass just by our hotel and I would have loved to see runner and flame but not this time. As it happened my son Nick simply walked round the corner and saw it.
We arrived in Toulouse after a short flight and were driven to tonight's gig, Zenith. The crew was all smiles, pleased by a venue that didn't present the challenges of the last couple shows. Our friends Bap Kennedy and James Walbourne will be opening tonight and it was good to catch up with them. Bap's a wonderful songwriter and singer who's opened previously and James is a star guitar player who always finds just the right thing to play behind Bap and never fails to knock our socks off.
Another sold out show, standing on the floor seating all round. A listening audience while each song was performed then erupting in appreciation. This venue sounds very good and our in-ear mix was like listening to a record, courtesy of monitor mixer Kerry Lewis. I know these are still early days of the tour, but I would have to nominate tonight's performance as the best yet, everybody playing at the top of their game, thoroughly relaxed from the first song to the last. An amazing bunch of musicians that I'm honoured to play with.
A runner to the plane where Alex had platters of brilliant Lebanese food for the flight back to Paris then a quick night-cap back at the hotel to end the day.
A day off in Paris. My son Nick is spending a few days with me here in this fabulous city as he has just completed the first leg of his own bit of touring. Nick's been playing guitar with club DJ Philippe Cohen Solal and his latest record, The Moonshine Sessions. They've finished up three weeks of promotion touring in France, Switzerland, Rome and returned to Paris last night. As we are basing out of Paris for the next few days I thought it would be great for him to bunk in with me while we're here and hang out a little. He's completely knackered from his touring and of course we didn't arrive until 5 o'clock in the morning, so we both slept in until 2 this afternoon. We immediately staggered out onto the boulevard in search of espresso and breakfast. It didn't take long to find a nice little cafe that had the most incredible omelettes, toasted sandwiches, baguettes, pomme frittes and cafe au lait and it was just the meal to make one feel very glad to be alive. Nick and I walked along the Champs Elysees staring in shop windows filled with amazing clothes, sidewalk crepes chefs and enjoying the smell of vendors roasting chestnuts. Unlike Granada, Paris was blustery, cold and overcast with a burst of sleet now and again. We found a brilliant Virgin Megastore on the boulevard and wandered in to get lost among the records...still one of my favourite ways to spend an hour or two.
Back at the hotel we had a couple of glasses of wine courtesy of Guy, our guiding light to all things luxurious. From there it was off to what was the best dinner of the tour so far and I'll predict it will be at least in the top 3 by the end of the tour. A very simple, off the main street Parisian restaurant called Allard. Food critics have books filled with adjectives to describe a meal and a flare for bringing an experience to life. I'm no critic and will have to do my best, but heavenly is the word that comes to mind. This place was so unpretentious, quietly tucked away and the food was prepared perfectly, not in a fussy way just very simply. We had an assortment of starters from green salad and cucumber salad to foix gras, white asparagus, escargot and string beans. We all tried each others choices and every one was better than the other. For the main meal Nick and I ordered filet of beef with mushroom sauce and sliced potatoes in a creme and cheese sauce. This food was so good that it never made you uncomfortably full even though we all ate quite a lot. Guy and Danny split what appeared to be an entire side of beef that was expertly grilled then sliced at the table. Every morsel of food including the bread simply melted in your mouth. Oh yeah, then there was dessert which I won't even attempt to set it down in print. The name of the restaurant is Allard and it is located at 1, rue de l'Eperon-75006 Paris. Call for reservations and directions at 01 43 26 48 23. You may remember me writing about a stunning restaurant in Rome called Lagana, Allard is the Lagana of Paris!
Back to the hotel and a drink in the very exclusive, pretentious and fabulously expensive bar there. Really crap music that aspired to be hip when really Ella Fitzgerald would have been just the thing. It was the polar opposite experience of Allard so we made a hasty exit for a cup of tea in Guy's luxuriatti lounge. It has begun to snow quite heavily now and as I look out my window I see the Eiffel Tower through a thick flurry of snow that is clinging to the awnings and trees. April in Paris.
Another tour first, FOUR cities, two flights, one show! We checked out of Lisbon this afternoon, flew to Granada for the gig, from the gig drove to Malaga airport then flew in to Paris. Somewhere in the middle of that run on sentence, you'll notice we did a gig....an amazing gig at the Coliseo Atarfe. The venue sits in the foothills of Granada and is a modern bull ring with retractable ceiling. The weather in Granada was sunny and warm and we arrived at the venue at 6:00 not expecting to do a sound check, but things were running slower than expected and the last truck had only just got there as we did! For those familiar with these journals will remember, we hold our crew in the highest of esteem, without them there is no show. They are selfless, tireless and a great bunch of people. What we usually do not see is the actual set up of the stage, rigging of lights and testing of equipment, that is usually completed when we arrive at the venues. All of us watched this amazing crew get the entire show ready to go in a very short amount of time. My hat is off to every single one of those guys, now more than ever. Go to Guy's tour diaries for photos, www.guyfletcher.co.uk.
We began the show at 10:00 (don't forget it's Spain and everything starts late). As always with the bull rings, the arena's dirt floor was standing and seating all round the inside wall of the ring. I believe I heard a figure in excess of 8 or 9 thousand fans came out to see us and show their appreciation. It was an amazing audience and gig and I can honestly say I've not heard a louder crowd ever. Even with the in-ears which tends to block out exterior sound while delivering what we are playing on stage, it was painful in the best possible way. We're really hitting our stride now and very relaxed but still right on top of every tune. We won't soon forget Granada.
Although we landed in Granada several hours earlier, the plane was moved to the airport in Malaga about an hour away for what I assume was take off restrictions after midnight in Granada. So it was off to Malaga by car arriving at the Legacy to be greeted by our hostess Alex. A few drinks, loads of laughs and we'd arrived in Paris where we were met by our travelling team of drivers and whisked away to our hotel on the Champs Elysees, arriving there at 5 in the morning. Sleep.
We're only one week into the tour, but already have a serious contender for best gym. The hotel we're in is a grand old Ritz that had seen better days when were here in 2005 but has been freshened up a bit since then including the installation of a large rooftop gym and outdoor track overlooking this beautiful city and the ocean. The most up to date equipment in a sleek atmosphere with the sun streaming in the 360 degree picture window walls. A winner. From the treadmill to my veranda and a couple of hours reading in the sun then onto the gig.
Tonight's venue was Campo Pequeno, a beautiful Moorish style bullring built in 1892 with four small cupolas atop it's four towers. After being closed many years for renovation the building reopened in 2006 with a retractable ceiling and shopping mall, restaurants and cinemas. Once inside, it was a series of warrens, cubby-holes and stairs, one wrong turn and you're lost and I'm very prone to taking the wrong turn. Shows begin later in Spain and Portugal and we took the stage at 9:30. It was a sold out, capacity crowd with the large arena floor standing and high, steep seating all round. Yet another thunderous passionate audience and the show was really ace tonight, everybody playing well and enjoying themselves on stage.
Back to the hotel for an after show, full band attendance gathering hosted by Lieutenant of Luxury, Guy Fletcher. Guy always has his fab sound system with him, a seemingly endless supply of great music, libations, ice and mixers along with a kettle, teapot, cups and tea for a night-cap. That's luxury.
Today will be our first official 3-2-1, three cities and two flights in one day. It sounds tough but it's not at all, due in large part to the private jet and the tireless combo of Pete, Tim and Paul who manage to keep this mob moving in the same direction.
We checked out of our well loved hotel in Barcelona this afternoon jetting off on the Embrear Legacy to Madrid for a sold to capacity show in the Palacio de Portes. Another enthusiastic, thunderous Spanish audience of 10,000 plus. If a crowd like that doesn't make you feel very good on stage then you're in the wrong business pal and we appreciate them as much as they do us.
Off after the last song directly into the cars and back aboard the Legacy. A couple of laughs, drinks, dinner and before you knew it we'd landed in Lisbon where we gained 1 hour and arrived at the hotel just like that, none the worse for wear.
A warm and breezy day off yesterday on the beach capped by a great dinner at 7 Portes Restaurant, serving spectacular Catalan cuisine for over 170 years in Barcelona. Platters of fresh seafood, spinach fritters, pan tomate (bread rubbed with fresh tomatoes, garlic and olive oil), beans in olive oil and mint, sausages and more arrived at our table for starters with bottles of inky red Spanish wine that was soft and delicious. That followed by a perfect paella with shellfish, chicken and sausage. Check their website, www.7puertas.com. If you ever find yourself in Barcelona have a meal there, you won't be disappointed.
The show tonight was the Palau Sant Jordi arena built for the Barcelona Olympics and a crowd of 10,000 plus great fans. The acoustics were very echoey and even with the new in-ear monitors it was challenging to keep together at times but I think it was a good night and you can't go wrong with a Spanish audience cheering you on.
Up, bags packed and ready for a train ride to Rotterdam. The traffic is legendary, the kind of stuff you read about, so it was decided rather than cars the train would make a nice excursion and shave a couple of hours off the journey. Platform 1, Amsterdam rail station....all on board the commuter to Rotterdam where we were met and driven to the ever popular Ahoy venue. I've played here every tour I've done with MK and ions ago..the 70's..with Neil Diamond. After so many years you get to know the back stages of these places before you get there...where the dressing rooms are, what they look like are and how to find the stage. Absolutely ravenous when we arrived at Ahoy and our incredible travelling caterers, Eat Your Hearts Out, had an afternoon spread of four salads, loaves of fresh bread, roast squash soup and the most exquisite roasted chicken legs with honey and soy glaze cooked so well the meat simply fell off the bone. All piled in, plates piled high. A quick soundcheck then time for our first meet and greet of the tour. The m&g band, The Kamana'wana'lei'a Boys, is currently under reconstruction, improvement and probable name change. Matt's joined us on piano and accordion, John McCusker with his fab folk fiddle and Mark is singing and playing several with us as well...a loose little warm up before the show. Oh yeah, the gig. It's only the third show of the tour and it sounded so good in our in-ear monitors, almost too good. Hard to describe but the detail and sound of every instrument is like recording a record in the studio. The end result is that everybody's so tuned in to each other, very relaxed and playing better than ever. I don't think the band's ever sounded this good and we're enjoying our heads off. The 9000+ crowd at Ahoy seemed to agree.
A runner after the show to our plane, a magically painless flight to Barcelona and a day off tomorrow. I'll get down to the gym and if the weather's good, spend the day at the beach soakin' up some sol and wouldn't be surprised if a tapas bar is in my future. I'll pick this journal up again on the 2nd.
Summer time change arrived at 2 this morning, the clocks moving ahead one hour. The only reason I mention it is I thought I'd taken myself off to bed at a reasonable time last night until I looked at my watch and it was 4 a.m. I did manage to get down to the gym and sweat out some of last night's first-show festivities. The toilet seats in our hotel are worth noting, not only are they heated they're also equipped with built in front and rear oscillating water jets and dryer...Japanese apparently. I've been around the block a few times now but must admit that's a new one on me. All kinds of wires and hoses hooked up to it and a control panel on the wall next to the commode. I suppose one should remain seated when trying it out but the whole thing made me a little nervous, seated or not, and I'll leave it to others. I haven't checked Guy's journal yet, maybe he's got a photo of it.
The second show in Amsterdam was loads of fun, very relaxed, everyone having such a good time playing and the two hours on stage go by in a flash. We've all been fitted with new in-ear monitors that sound great making it all the more enjoyable. Back to the hotel for a few drinks and loads of great music courtesy of djMK.
After a grand week at home in Nashville it was time to pack the bags again and leave for Amsterdam for our first show of the Kill To Get Crimson Tour. Thursday the 27th was departure day for Glenn Worf and myself, an early afternoon departure flight to Atlanta then through to Amsterdam arriving early Friday morning. The plan was to meet the rest of the band there that afternoon and have a nice leisurely run through of the show Friday evening before the real thing on Saturday. Glenn and I arrived at the gate to find our flight had been slightly delayed, then continued to be delayed to the point of missing our connection to Amsterdam. We came to find out that the FAA had cracked down on several airlines due to maintenance schedule violations, grounding several hundred planes round the country, in effect hobbling the airline industry. People laying around everywhere in the airports of America, hundreds and hundreds of bags lined up like soldiers in the luggage collection area. You were lucky if your bag was among them as so many ended up on flights going elsewhere without their owners. We were rescheduled to fly out the following day after wasting five hours at the Nashville airport and another hour in the luggage claim area while Glenn tried to sort out what the hell happened to his bags. The best answer he could get was that it had been sent on to Atlanta on a different flight and would, with a bit of luck, turn up in Amsterdam whenever we got there. I was one of the lucky and found my bag among the piles. My wife Tina graciously came to collected us and delivered Glenn home. By the time we got back to the house it was 6 in the evening. This mis- adventure had begun six hours earlier and got us no further to beginning the tour. The airline industry, once strong, successful and proud has been reduced to little more than Greyhound Bus transportation and the passenger takes the lumps.
With our one day cushion for error now gone, Glenn and I arrived back at the Nashville airport early Friday morning to try again. Try is the wrong word. We HAD to get to Atlanta/Amsterdam and we HAD to do it today. Fortunately, things were running again and we caught a flight to Atlanta with plenty of time to make the Amsterdam connection. Did I say plenty of time? How about a 5 hour layover?! Fortunately we were escorted to the business class lounge that was at least quiet, warmly lit and the bar had magically delicious, golden Warsteiner brau on draft....from Germany to my lips....well, from Germany to Atlanta...with probably less confusion and delay than our flight.
Arrive Amsterdam 6:50 a.m. Met at the airport by our pal and driver Eike who whisked us to the hotel and a few hours of sleep before going to the gig for our first show of the tour. We ran through things one last time and trusted that the rest would be lingering round the old memory.
Later that night.....
Our first gig was a joy. It seemed odd that there were no first show jitters, but after a couple of weeks rehearsal and the musicianship of the band we got right back up on the bike and rode through a great first show of the tour. All commented on how it felt like we'd just done a show last night. Over the next few nights the show will continue to get legs and gain confidence. All in all things were great on stage and off (lights and sound) and it's just the beginning. Stay tuned.
Hello again. It's that time again and we're ramping up for another tour with Mark which means dusting off the old typewriter and a third edition of Notes From The Road. For those who are new to these notes, it's simply a little bit of writing I do at the end of each, or most, days. Sort of a summary of my day, reflections of the city we're in and highlights of some outstanding food and drink. Once in a while I might even write about the show! For this outing, I've been encouraged to write about my instruments that are with me on tour and that I play during performances. That will be a monumental task as my eyes begin to glaze over when the talk turns tech, but I will at some point over the next few months have an entry or two devoted to gear. Also, my friend and band-mate Guy Fletcher does a brilliant daily tour diary on his website with loads of photos, contests and more. Our entries occasionally overlap but generally we cover different things, so check out Guy's site as well for another angle on things, http://www.guyfletcher.co.uk/index.php.
After 10 days of rehearsals in London, we have adjourned to the Berkshire countryside and an old film soundstage for production rehearsals. What that means is full stage set up, lights rigged and sound just as it will be in a concert performance. This gives the crew, lighting director and front of house sound man a chance to rehearse the show at the same time we are. Without giving anything away I can tell you the lights are seriously tremendous and the whole show is very fresh. It's the usual band with the addition of John McCusker, a brilliant musician from Scotland. He's fit in so well it seems like he's always been in the band.
Getting back to the rehearsal facility, many movies have been made on this soundstage, most notably the Hammer horror movies with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing of the late 50s and early 60s. We're staying in the old manor turned hotel just next door to the studio. The manor figured heavily in those movies as well whenever a haunted castle, a large oak door with black iron hardware or a creaking staircase was called for, the Hammer crew brought the cameras over and rolled film. It's a beautiful setting, my room overlooks the River Thames in the peaceful, picturesque village of Bray.
We have two more days here then it's a break for Easter holidays. I'll be going home to Nashville for the break then will fly to our first gig in Amsterdam at the end of the month. I will officially begin Notes From The Road as a daily entry at that time, so stay tuned, come back often and tag along with us on tour.
Until then. so long,