Richard Bennett
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Contrary Cocktail

Moderne Shellac, 2015

Contrary Cocktail

A hypnotic blend of rhythms, landscapes, tones, colors, styles and moods, with melodies leading the way to certain places that only songs without words can go.

-- Pieta Brown, 2015

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We've come to the end.  Tonight is the final show of a three night run in London and the wrap of our Autumn With Bob tour.  It's been relaxed, too much fun and the six weeks have flown by quick as anything, I can't believe it's over.  

We've loved being in Europe and the U.K. this fall, a different angle as we're normally touring in summertime.  For the most part the weather has cooperated and bent over backward to give us mild and sunny days.  Most of the warm, heavy clothes packed for this trip never came out of the suitcase. The long night bus rides were not bad and always musically educational thanks to Jim, Guy, John and Mike's vast and varied i-Pod holdings.  This tour was different in other ways too from the usual; as it was a double bill, our show time half of what it normally is and Bob liking to take a day off every two to three shows, the whole thing felt like a holiday, scarcely work at all. Of course, there's been tables full of remarkable food, cases of delicious wine with an occasional martini thrown in for good balance. Dylan's staff, crew and musicians are great and we've all enjoyed getting to know and work with them. Above all, every single show we've performed has been memorable and never less than a joy to play. Oddly, none of us, apart from Mark, ever encountered Bob.  He keeps very tightly to himself and I suppose after 50 years in the spotlight he's earned that right. 2011 finds Dylan still a man of mystery, an ever-touring charismatic performer and role model of what 70 years old can be.

It is usually with a touch of sadness that I sign off at the end of these tours, the wind coming out of the sails, however not so this time.  Following tonight's finale, we head straight into the studio tomorrow morning with Mark for another couple weeks recording, adding to the album we started last June. We've never come right from the stage to the studio before with everyone firing on all 12 cylinders. We're really looking forward to getting back under the headphones again and tackling some new tunes. It will be another two weeks of music, friends, dinners and beloved pub visits in London followed by a welcome return to Nashville and my family in December.  

As soon as I get back home I'll begin a new album with Iris DeMent.  My pal and great musician Bo Ramsey and I will be playing and co-producing.  It'll be good working with Bo again as well as Iris, having played on some of her recordings 20 years ago.  That project will take me right up to the holidays and tie a nice bow on the end of another very fortunate year.

And so I'll leave it here, the last posting of these road notes 'til the next tour, and will return to my regular/irregular 'Notes From Nashville' updates.  There are too many people to list and thank for making this tour happen night after night, but rest assured, everyone has my heartfelt appreciation. I would like to single out Tom Calcaterra, my guitar tech who keeps me in tune, turned on with the right instrument in hand and a nail file always on call...Tim Hook and Pete Mackay who make my life a sheer luxury while on tour...Paul Crockford for the endless stream of antagonistic affection and keeping at least 2 wheels of this car on the road at all times.  My love to the wonderful, talented, funny bunch of beautiful guys that make this a band, Glenn, Guy, Jim, John, Mike, Ian and to the finest cat and captain around, MK.  Here's to another one behind us and the next ahead.

Finally, my sincere thanks to you all for your readership and tagging along on tour with us through these note from the road.  
Until next time......

So long,

Richard

The 17th and 18th were days off having arrived in the early hours of the 17th after a flight from our last show on the Continent in Zurich.  I took advantage of these days off, sleeping, writing and taking in the incredible view from my room's wall of windows looking out on Hyde Park and panoramic sweep of London's skyline.  A couple of dinners with Glenn Worf, we revisited one of our longtime fave Indian restaurants, Malabar in Knotting Hill, and discovered the great Maggie J's tucked in an alley off Kennsington High Street.

The 19th was the first of a three show run, the final of this great tour, at Hammersmith Odeon. The legendary venue first opened in 1932 as the Gaumont Palace Cinema in the Hammersmith area of London, designed in art deco style.  It's named changed to Hammersmith Odeon in 1962 and was a venue for artists the likes of Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, The Beatles, Yardbirds, Johnny Cash, David Bowie, Slade, Frank Zappa, Queen and the list goes on right to the present.  Dire Straits recorded their Alchemy Live DVD in this theatre. Changing names again in 2002 to the Carling Apollo and finally in 2009 to HMV Apollo, it is still best know and referred to as Hammersmith Odeon.  The original 1932 Compton pipe organ has been restored and is in full working order, though we didn't make use of it.  Typical of older theatres, the back stage is very cramped and with a warren of narrow hallways and staircases leading to numerous small dressing rooms, ours up four flights.

After the usual abbreviated soundcheck, we had a delicious dinner of chicken curry, black lentils and saag paneer.  Back up the four flights to warm up the fingers and voices, change, then on stage at 7:30. The seats have been removed for this show and it was a stand up gig, a rocking London show and a great launch to this final run.

Following our turn, Mark played three tunes with Bob, I stood off in the wings watching most of Bob's show tonight.  There was a small reception hosted by MK after the gig for friends and guests then back to the Royal Garden, a drink with Glenn in the hotel bar and lights out by 1.

So long,

Richard​​

As expected, a top drawer gym at this resort hotel not to mention sauna, steam and a snow room! Don't ask, just go to Guy's diary, he'll no doubt have the photographic evidence.

Off to Hallenstadion, tonight's venue here in Zurich.  We've played here before, remembering it from the catering area.  A capacity 9,500 audience that was a 'listening' audience meaning they hung on every word and note until each song was finished before showing their very enthusiastic appreciation.  A grand way to end our last night on the Continent.

It was farewell to our great bus drivers Dirk Franke and Carl Mackenzie as they dropped us at the airport after the show and we flew to London.  We'll have two days off there then begin a three night run at the Hammersmith Odeon or the HMV Hammersmith Apollo as it's known now, the final shows of this tour.  It was great being on the Legacy again, healing gin and tonics on hand.

I have no plans over the next couple of days with the exception of doing some preparation for an album project I'll be working on with Bo Ramsey back in Nashville the early part of December for the wonderful Iris Dement.  Bo has sent some of the songs we'll be recording and I'll write charts as well as getting familiar with them.  It's good being back in London again.

By the way, I want to tell you about a great fansite my friends Henk and Nadia Quintelier have posted. They've put a great deal of effort into it and the site has all kinds of things that my own site doesn't.  If you're interested, check it out at: http://richardbennett-am012513.blogspot.com/

So long,

Richard​​

Up this morning after a just few hours sleep, I tried to get another hour but couldn't and the double espresso delivered to the room insured I'd officially abandoned the idea.  The caffeine didn't really clear the cobwebs today and I did little with the morning except update this journal.  

With an hour to spare prior to departing and my bags packed, I went out for a sandwich with Bob's longtime bass man Tony Garnier then walked the short distance to Lake Geneva in the crisp, sunshine. Seeing anything more of this peaceful city will have to wait 'til next time.

A general feeling of fatigue has swept us simultaneously, a combination of late hours on the bus, erratic sleeping, a winding down of the tour and several guys fighting a mild cold infection. That didn't stop us having a fantastic little jam session back in the dressing room.  Guy who has cracked the clawhammer banjo code, wrote a song on the instrument and has been practising away.  I can attest to that as I roomed next to him in Milan!  Out came the banjo and before long Mike had his whistle, John his fiddle, Ian a pair of brushes playing a piece of paper on the table, Jim the accordion and my acoustic guitar... all playing Guy's new tune.  The sound soon brought Donny Herron from Bob's band around with his fiddle and it really jump started the day.

We took the stage at the Geneva Arena for a stand up audience of 8,000 and every bit of tiredness melted away in the spotlights.  Ian and I commenting after the show the miracle of how stepping on a stage and playing music immediately erases any fatigue or sickness, at least for the moment.

We are back to an earlier show time now that we're no long in Italy, 8 o'clock tonight, meaning a quicker get away for the drive to Zurich, putting us there just after 1 a.m.  We arrived at the Dolder Grand Hotel, a luxurious resort on the lake and just outside the city.  It looked like something out of a Swiss fairytale.  I was escorted by one of the hotel staff to my room and gratefully given instructions how to work the somewhat complicated (for me) hand held video remote controller that operated the lights, TV, thermostat and everything else.  At this point all I need to know is which switch is the master and press it.       

In bed at 2, master switch pressed and gone to the world. 

So long,

Richard​​

The bus arrived in Milan just past 7 a.m. the morning of the 13th, a day off.  I'd not slept on the all-night journey and was beyond tired when I finally crawled into bed, the sun rising on the city. I woke feeling surprisingly good at 11, had a shower then walked out into gorgeous, warm and sunny Sunday. The streets of Milan were teaming with folks taking in the day.  Our hotel is just off the square of the Milan Cathedral and the centre of expensive shopping, restaurants and tourism.  I was looking for a cafe to fall in for my first cup of coffee and something to eat.  The prices around the hotel were astounding, one that charged 85 Euro for a piece of fish! Needless to say I'd not be taking my espresso and snack there.  I merged into a river of humanity and the further it took me from the Cathedral the more realistic the prices became.  Found a little outdoor cafe, ordered two espresso and a smoked ham, mozzarella and artichoke panini. Perfect. I continued walking, ran into Mike, Ian, our sound mixer Dave Dixon and joined them on the way to the Castle.

Storza Castle, begun in 1450, was the residency and seat of the Duchy of Milan.  Through the centuries it has been under rule of Italy, France, Spain, back again to Italy and is now home to several of Milan's museums and art collections including surviving ceiling paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo's final sculpture.  Beyond the Castle was a public park that we walked through.  At this point my lack of sleep took hold and it was time to turn back but not before a visit to the Milan Cathedral, the largest in Italy and fourth largest in the world.  The first stone was laid in 1386 and it took nearly six centuries to complete.  Inside a service was in progress, the music from the organ, smoke and incense filling the massive Cathedral.  

An overwhelming afternoon; the crowded streets, no sleep, several miles walking and so much to take in.  I made my way back to the hotel as the sun was getting low and laid down for an hour then met some of the guys down the bar for a cocktail before we ventured out for dinner.  A handful of Bob Dylan's musicians and touring company joined us as well for the evening.  We ended the night back at the hotel bar for a nightcap.  

The morning of the 14th I was awake by mid-morning, had my coffee, threw myself into the gym for the usual measure of humiliation then back to the room for a familiar routine; practice, shower, pack and check out.

A foggy drive from the hotel to Mediolanum Forum.  We all arrived with the same idea....food. As it was 5 in the afternoon, lunch of course had already been served and dinner still being prepared, but there's always a kettle of hot, fresh soup on so it was straight into catering, conveniently located right next to our dressing room.  Two steaming bowls of roasted pepper soup, several slices of bread and butter and a large mug of caffe latte.  Soundcheck and then.....dinner!  A feast of veal Milanese, salad and roasted vegetables.

Tonight is our last show in Italy on this tour with Dylan.  It was another remarkable crowd of 11,200+ and a fantastic show, one of the best of the tour for the band, fun from start to finish. It was followed by the usual 25 minute stage change to Bob's show with Mark joining again for the first few tunes. 

A 3.5 hour bus ride tonight to Geneva through heavy fog that eventually lifted an hour or so into the drive. We arrived at 3:30, checked in then straight to bed.

So long,

Richard

A record breaking day, the longest of this or any other tour.

It began at 10 o'clock in Firenze with a pot of coffee and another visit to the fab gym at The Four Seasons.  Apart from the coffee, I'd not eaten anything since dinner at last night's show and by the time I'd finished my work I was pretty hungry.  Still, there was only time to have a shower and get ready to leave. One thing you can count on when staying at a palatial hotel like this is an equally royal bill for incidentals.  Over the course of the two days, we'd all bought a round or two at the very comfortable and seductive lounge/bar.  My bill on check out came to just under $200.00! The only thing that made me feel better was knowing everybody had a tab that serious or more to settle.  It had been worth every penny. We bid fond arrivederci to this magnificent city of Florence and the Four Seasons hoping someday to return.

It was the train to Roma this afternoon as the tour buses were already there having gone directly from Padova.  Several cars delivered us to the Firenze train station with 20 minutes to spare before boarding and now I'm absolutely famished.  Mike and I spotted a stand selling freshly baked pizza and got a slice the size of a quarter pie each, sat down and inhaled it along with a caffe latte.  In Italy even food and coffee in the train station is delicious.  We boarded our train and settled down for a comfortable 90 minute journey south to Roma.  There we were met by one car and a large passenger van.  After much delay and some confusion between the drivers, we were off to the venue, the very funky PalaLottomatica... a real mouthful.  We played this venue at least once before on the 2008 tour.  After Bob's extended sound check we had less than 10 minutes to check our sound before the doors opened.  We had a quick dinner in catering, got dressed then stepped in front of a stand up crowd of Romans for tonight's show.  There is absolutely nothing like Italian audiences, appreciative and vocal to no end, and this crowd was no exception. Our tour itinerary says the venue holds a capacity of just under 8,000 but looking out on the sea of faces it could have been much more, though I certainly wasn't counting heads at that point.  As always our 70 minutes was over in a flash with loads of great playing all round. 25 minutes later, Mark was on stage for a few tunes with Bob after which we boarded the band buses for the lengthy and final part of this day, a seven hour drive back north to Milan.

As mentioned before, the Italian shows don't begin until 9 p.m. so it was nearly midnight before we were rolling.  A delicious snack of veal marsala, chicken picatta, lettuce, tomato and tuna salad, as well as sliced tomatoes with mozzarella and fresh basil got us on our way.  Jim gave us a further glimpse into his wondrously twisted and cool record collection for another couple hours.  By then everyone had drifted off to the bunks and gone to sleep.  I'm not one for crawling in those things, a little too claustrophobic, so opted to hang in the upstairs lounge and watch the Italian country side fly by in darkness.  I went downstairs for a while, riding shot gun with our great driver Carl Mackenzie, talking and drinking cups of tea.  I drifted off once or twice for twenty minutes, but that was all the sleep I got. As the sky began to show signs of light, we arrived in Milan, pulled up to the hotel and checked in.  It was just past 7 and had been a very long 21 hour day covering three cities, a train journey, a show and a 350 mile bus ride.  I walked into my room and before I could even complain about the sickening, sweet smell of so much room freshener that it gagged, I was in bed asleep.  

So long,

Richard

Firenze is wow!  We've played here before but never stayed, always leaving straight after the show, usually back to our Rome base.  

We arrived very early on the morning of the 10th and had that day off.  The Four Seasons hotel here is on the largest plot of privately owned land in Firenze (Florence) and is a monument to everything Italian, frescoed walls, marble and stone archways, cavernous lounges, polished marble floors and much more.  The outdoor gardens and walking pathways inviting and meticulously cared for, they occupy acres of land, the size of a park and boasts a beautiful outdoor Italian swimming pool and jacuzzi.  The gym is in it's own separate Italian stuccoed building, three stories with a cathedral ceiling with everything anyone could want for a great workout.  The service, the rooms and everything else about this hotel is top drawer... easily the best hotel of the tour.

After a late start and a visit to the fab gym, I stepped out of this walled enclave and took to the tiny, narrow streets.  I forgot about the thousands of scooters the Italians use to get around but soon became accustomed to them again as I made my way.  As I'd not had anything to eat since last night's bus ride, the first order of business was food.  The hardest decision is which cafe to fall into.  Hundreds of them as well as ristoranti, trattorias and tabac shops that serve snacks and espresso.  I opted for the first one I found, Michelangelo Cafe, had a ham and cheese baguette and two espresso, all delicious for a staggering sum of three and a half euro!  It was now late afternoon and the sun was going down, the day had been bright and 70 something degrees but was beginning to cool.  I came to a piazza with make shift stalls selling everything from old kitchen ware and books to used clothing, sort of a flea market.  Had a wander through and came across a stall selling records.  An incredible assortment of old jazz albums and 78s.  I could have spent a thousand there easily but opted for just a few great records for the princely sum of 15 euro.  I headed back to the hotel where we met in the lobby and went to a fabulous restaurant on the Arno river... Cammillo Trattoria.  Perfect, simple and staggeringly delicious.  I ordered a small pasta, tomato sauce with chilli starter and veal parmesan, the finest I've ever had. Several bottles of a soft Chianti accompanied our dinner.  If ever in Firenze, go to Cammillo located at Borgo S. Jacopo, 57 r.  

The morning of the 11th I got up and out again.  Having missed my original destination yesterday, I made my way to the Piazza del Duomo, the location of Cattedral di Santa Maria del Fiore.  I won't attempt to describe the size and opulence of this cathedral, only to say that I was overwhelmed.  I walked inside and sat quietly for a half hour and though there was the constant traffic of hundreds coming and going, the cathedral was so massive it hardly seemed anyone was there at all.  From there I stopped at an outdoor cafe for margarita pizza and draft Perroni bier followed by a couple of espresso, then back to the hotel to get ready for tonight's show.

A stand up gig at the Nelson Mandella Forum.  8,000+ fans crammed the floor shoulder to shoulder and gave us a thunderous welcome and response after each song.  A great gig then back to the sumptuous Four Seasons and a couple of night caps down in the lounge.

It has been a couple of days of luxury to the max, feeling very grateful and lucky enough to be along for the ride.  I hope to come back to Firenze and really explore it.  Tomorrow we train to Rome for a show.

So long,

Richard​​

Staying at a very strange hotel here in Padova called B4 in the middle of office parks in the industrial part of town.  A huge skyscraper of a building with the hotel occupying the first few floors.  I got a corner room with 2 sides of wall to wall, floor to ceiling windows that opened. Got up, threw the drapes and unlatched every window.  A sunny and mild day, it was like being outside without actually having to go there.  Feeling pretty tired from the last few night lack of sleep, I decided it was simply enough to let the outside come to me, stay in and get some rest.  I rang for a pot of coffee and what arrived was a small cup of espresso which I made quick work of then called again requesting a large pot of coffee.  What arrived next was a regular size cup of mediocre coffee.  I soon realised this was going nowhere and would cost an arm and a leg to continue any longer.  The shower was a free standing glass stall right in the middle of the room behind a large cylindrical, floor to ceiling support beam.  Both had to be walked around in order to get to the actual bathroom.  The entire hotel was a case of design and function except wasn't functional. Everybody seemed to have a problem with their rooms, from getting the faucets to work to accessing the soap and shampoo that was proudly displayed under glass on the bathroom counter but impossible to get in to.  As for that shower, mine had two temperatures... scalding hot or ice cold, apparently the mixer was in-op.  A few of the guys had gym equipment in their rooms, treadmills, weights, etc... in the rooms!  Unfortunately I did not and for all of B4's facade of modernity, it lacked a fitness centre.  By 4 o'clock in the afternoon my bags were packed and I was starving with an hour to go before bus call.  I went down to the hotel restaurant thinking I might get a small bowl of pasta and a better cup of coffee.  It was testimony to glass, chrome, black and white but sadly was not serving food with the exception of a toasted cheese and ham sandwich which I gladly ordered.  It arrived with a coffee that had chunks of gelatinous oily sludge at the bottom of the cup bringing to mind BP's little mishap last year down in the Gulf. We bid a hasty adieu to B4, ne'er to return, boarded the bus and off to the gig.

Being Italy, everything begins later and we took the stage at 9 tonight instead of the usual 7:30 for a stand up gig at the Palafabris Padova, a real steamer in terms of temperature and show and great to experience the Italian audience again.  6,000+ fans packed the place, so enthusiastic it sounded like 20,000.  

It was couple of hours drive after the show to Florence where we'll spend the night, have a day off tomorrow and play the following day.  Jim Cox regaled again us with a playlist from his encyclopedic record collection, dishing up severe musical whiplash... Sammy Davis Jr. to The Three Suns and the Vaughn Brothers in between.  Let me get this straight... I'm being paid to do this?  It's the best of times.

So long,

Richard

It was nearly dawn when I finally fell asleep and was up again before 10 this morning.  In spite of it I felt rested and opened the curtains to a most spectacular view of a quaint train station with rugged mountains behind it.  I had some coffee sent up, got dressed, out of the hotel and began walking. Bright clear blue skies and 70 degrees, this cannot be November in Europe.

Innsbruck, the capital city of Tyrol in western Austria is located in a broad valley surrounded by large, snow capped mountains and renown for skiing in the winter, mountaineering in the summer and having played host to the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics.  It's also a tourist mecca with a picture perfect 'altstadt'... old town, located just around the corner from where we were staying. It was like stepping in to a postcard with colourfully painted stucco buildings, endless streets of cafes, bakeries and shoppes selling everything from designer fashions to fresh fruit to traditional Tyrolean apparel.  I walked for a couple of hours and scarcely saw it all.  On such a beautiful day with the outdoor cafes beckoning, it was difficult not to have a couple of beers and a wiener schnitzel, which would have probably done me in.  I opted instead for a small bakery down a quiet and quaint street, took a table outside and had a slice of freshly baked, hot apple strudel and coffee.  The old town is busily dressing the streets and buildings for Christmas with decorations and lights, but today feels more like springtime than the approaching holiday season. If you've read these notes before you'll know that I always have a great time on these tours (the occasional rant about electronic hotels notwithstanding) but once or twice on every tour I find myself gobsmacked by my good fortune and thankful to be exactly where I am at this moment. This perfect afternoon in Innsbruck was it.

Too soon it was time to get back to the hotel, pack and leave for the gig.  We played Olympia Hall to a sold-out crowd of 7,000+ great folks, the first time Mark has played Innsbruck and tonight's audience couldn't have been better.

The show was followed by a three hour bus ride to Padova, Italy and more warm weather as we head south.

So long,

Richard​​

Running on less than 4 hours sleep today, finally drifting off sometime close to 6 this morning and up again just before 10.  Coffee/gym, both will get me through.  My thinking on these
after-show bus journeys and early morning arrivals has been to stay awake on the bus so I'd be ready to sleep when we hit the hotel.  Problem was, I drifted off for 20 minutes on the way into Nuremberg, a power nap.  Got to the hotel fully refreshed, wide awake, tossing and turning 'til dawn.  

I was glad to zip up the bags this afternoon and get to our gig, the Nurnberger Versicherung Arena. Several of us coping were with sleep deprivation today, we made a bee line for catering for a pre-sound-check bowl of mushroom soup, bread & butter and a cup of tea.  Feeling slightly better I listened Bob and Co. running some songs on stage then it was time for our very brief sound check, 10 minutes to be exact!  Dinner and back to the dressing room where I dropped into a chair and promptly fell asleep for a half hour.  Woke up feeling loads better and just in time to get changed for the show, our final in Germany on this tour.

Loads of energy on that stage tonight considering the lack of sleep.  Ian Thomas really blasting through with some fantastic drumming and all in top form.  The usual stage change then Dylan and band take the boards along with Mark who played the first four songs with him again tonight.

The bus ride to Innsbruck was shorter and delivered us to the hotel lobby around 1:30.  I was so knackered that I fell asleep a while on the bus so no telling what the rest of the night will bring. On arrival, tour manager Tim Hook warned me this was an "electronic hotel" meaning overly complicated gadgetry for operating the lights. He wasn't wrong. After entering the room and inserting the key card into a slot by the front door, one is confronted with a panel of unmarked buttons and I simply began pressing them all... lights coming and going, curtains opening and closing 'til I figured out which button did what.  That sorted, it was a real struggle getting and staying hooked up to the internet as my room is the last one down a long hall way, the wireless signal being weakest there.  In order to get signal I had to hang out near the lifts on my floor.  It was 3 when I made my way to the bed where I was faced with another touch panel.  At least this one had icons on the buttons.  Lights out.  Wide awake. 

So long,

Richard

November 5... 6:30 a.m.  I'm rocketed from sleep by a bright, blue/grey light and music... the sickly kind that calms psycho wards... filling my room.  After making certain I'm not having a heart attack I opened my eyes to find the goddamn television blaring away.  Throw the covers and begin a mad search for the TV remote control which turns out has been strategically hidden by the maids. Don't know what's worse, the sound or light, but it's a deadly combo for me. Remote in hand at last, it's a struggle with a hundred buttons and every option know to exist in this realm or future ones, I finally find the correct button to shut the TV down.  Heart pounding, climb back in bed, close my eyes and just at the point of drifting back to sleep, it happens again. Repeat. When it occurs the third time, I'm up like a shot ripping wires out of the wall.  So began what turned into a beautiful day.  Rant #1 over.

Now truly awake after only a few hours sleep, I rang room service who promptly delivered a Continental Breakfast the size of a small third world country.  It's really the coffee I want immediately but will peck away at it throughout the morning and the rest of the day.  The pot of coffee has got my world back on track and it's down to the gym.  In the case of this hotel, up to the gym.  A long narrow, cold room void of much except a couple of treadmills and stationary bikes, a rack of weights that aren't too heavy and a dreaded universal weight machine. These are machines with dozen of appendages hanging from them and claiming to be everything in one compact unit.  In reality they do nothing well and worse, are dangerous and to be avoided ... you will get hurt.  I understand hotels not having or wanting to devote the space to a fitness room and that's fine, you don't need loads of equipment to get the job done.  Another rack of weight going to the next level and a bench or two in place of the universal machine would have been perfect.  Rant #2 over.

Back to the room where I attacked the orange juice and bread basket, had a shower and headed outside on this day off. We are staying in a shopping district that is amazing, block after block including all the side streets have been turned into a pedestrian district with hundreds of stores. The sun is out and the temps mild, it's Saturday and the crush of people out for the afternoon shopping is remarkable.  If there's a recession, you'd never know it judging by the thousands of folks out shopping.  Just beyond this district is the 'old town' with narrow streets, beautiful buildings and churches that look like something from an 1800's post card.  I spent a couple of hours taking it all in and happily buying nothing.  I was beginning to flag a little so headed back to the hotel, put my feet up and was nearly asleep when I got a ring from Guy wanting to know how I felt about going out for a beer and sausage, after all we are back in Germany again.  The only answer is yes.  In the lobby we bumped in to Glenn Saggers, Mark's top-man guitar tech and he joined us as well as we headed back to the old town.  Along the way we met Stu Kimball, Bob's guitar player, who tagged along too.  We ended up in a little dark tavern where we ran into stage manager Colin Barton.  We pulled five stools together, ordered the first of several rounds of Guild Rattskeller pilsner, a couple plates of bockwurst and chips and whiled away what was left of the afternoon.  

Returned to the hotel for an hour sleep followed by a call to meet in the lobby if interested in something to eat.  Ten of us showed up and took to the street, again to old town in search of dinner.  A party of 10 on Saturday night didn't bring much luck for finding a place that could seat us all.  Having stopped at numerous restaurants, we were just about ready to split up and fend for ourselves when we came a across a Mexican restaurant that looked like it might be good and could take us all.  By the time they got the table together, a few of the guys splintered off to an Irish pub.  The rest of us piled in for beer and some very tasty, if not completely authentic, Mexican food. That finished me off and I was happy to get back to the hotel and in bed by 11. In spite of a rough beginning, this has been a great day off in Hannover.

6 November... 10:30 a.m.  I've slept for nearly 12 hours, unheard of for me.  The last few days of long, late night travel combined with little sleep yesterday had caught up with me.  Unlike yesterday, the sky this morning was grey, misty and cool.  I'm happy to have some coffee sent up, play my guitar and get the bags zipped up as we check out in a few hours.

TUI Arena tonight.  We arrived about the same time that Bob and band take the stage for sound check.  I went out to the sound desk and watched as they spun through several songs, starting, stopping and working things through.  This followed by our own very brief sound check, dinner and show.  We've hit a great slip stream of being very relaxed and rocking at the same time and tonight's show was just that. The Hannover audience of nearly 11,000 were wonderful.  MK took the stage again with Bob for a few tunes then it was on the buses for a 5.5 hour, 290 mile ride to Nuremberg, arriving just after 3 in the morning.

So long,

Richard

After last night's long bus ride and pre-dawn arrival in Stockholm, I got in bed at 6 this morning and slept 'til noon.  With the skies a solid grey and bag call in little over two hours, I ordered a pot of coffee up to the room and was happy to stay in.  That bag call rolled round quickly and before you know it we were being whisked away in cars to the venue.

The Globe Arena in Stockholm is a sphere, a giant golf ball with a crowd capacity of just over 10,000. The shape of the venue makes for some interesting and very steep balconies, prompting a vertigo discussion over dinner.  I think we've played the Globe every tour with the exception of 2010.  It's very echoey yet strangely bass shy and difficult to hear the bottom end.  No matter, it was one of the best shows of the tour, loads of energy yet very relaxed... a good combination and one that suits this group. It was a fantastic Stockholm crowd that truly loved tonight's show and made our 70 minutes fly by even quicker than usual.

This tour has been different in several ways, one in particular is that we have been getting from city to city by tour buses instead of our usual Embrear Legacy jet.  The reason for this is the relatively short distances between gigs... last night being an exception.  It just doesn't make sense to fly two or three hundred miles or warrant the expense of keeping the jet for such short hops.  Tonight however is a different story.  Our next stop is back to Germany, Hannover to be exact, nearly 700 miles from Stockholm so it was decided to fly after the show.  It wasn't exactly a runner from the stage like we used to do as Mark has been playing a few tunes with Dylan each night.  While Mark did his turn with Bob, we got changed, packed our bags, boarded the bus and got a head start on the cocktails.  A serious dent was made in the gin but enough left to shake a martini and hand it to MK as he got on the bus.  It was a 30 minute drive to the airport and there in front of us was the wonderful Legacy. Normally vehicles other than official transport are not allowed on the tarmac, let alone a huge tour bus, but tonight the bus was allowed on the tarmac and delivered us right to the door of the plane, a first for this tour or any other.

It was great being on that plane again and while nobody's complaining about the ground travel, it has really made us appreciate the luxury of the private jet.  With two attendants on board and drinks in hand, we took to the sky.  A dinner of poached salmon, salad and beef wraps was devoured by a bunch of very grateful and happy musicians.  As Guy commented, it's a shame we don't have any fun.  90 minutes later we arrived in Hannover.  Waiting on the tarmac were several Mercedes along with Bernie and Manfred, our friends and great drivers from previous tours.  By one o'clock I was in my room with the bags delivered, turned down the bed and closed my eyes thinking how lucky we all are.

So long,

Richard

Another first, Malmo.  We usually play Copenhagen, 30-35 minutes from this is beautiful city of 350,000, Sweden's third largest.  I have a friend named Kalle Oldby who lives in Malmo and hosts two long-running shows for Radio Sweden.  One, a daily news/talk programme and the other a weekly music show.  I met Kalle 20 years ago in Nashville, where he'd come to meet and interview artists, musicians, writers and record producers for his music programme, and we've been friends since.  Kalle and I arranged to get together for an early lunch today just around the corner from our hotel, a perfect little Malmo bistro called Sture.  Waiting for us there was Kalle's wife, MajLis, a psychologist with her own practice.  It was a great catching up with Kalle again as well as meeting MajLis for the first time.  I had a splendid dish of beef that had been braised in beer 'til tender, the liquid being reduced to a rich, deep brown gravy, served over thinly sliced potatoes and a green leafy vegetable that resembled baby bok choy, though I couldn't be sure.  In any case it was monstrously delicious.  We had just an hour or so as MajLis had to return to work and Kalle was headed to the radio station to do his show.  Kalle's weekly music programme is streamed and can be accessed here:  sverigesradio.se/p4/country.

Didn't get much sleep last night and feeling a little hazy today, though that great lunch helped. We checked out of the hotel, drove a short distance to the venue and arrived at Malmo Arena for our usual routine... a bit of guitar noodling while Bob and band do their sound check, spin through our own sound check, dinner and the show.  A great Malmo audience of 8,500+ filled the arena and we had as good a time as they did.  We keep to a strict 70 minutes, followed by a 25 minute stage change from our gear to Bob's, then Bob takes the stage for a 90 minute show.  While the set lists will vary from night to night the time frame does not, it always runs like clockwork. Mark played the opening 4 songs with Bob then we boarded our two band buses for an all-night haul to Stockholm. The 375 mile/8 hour journey began with a cocktail, Indian food and red wine. It was a short listening session tonight as one by one folks headed to their bunks for a few hours shut eye. Jim Cox and I being the last hold outs, and finally only me left in the upstairs lounge. I'm not a big fan of crawling in a bus bunk so stretched out on the couch watching the road, which became progressively rougher as we headed into Stockholm and stayed awake until we arrived.  We pulled into Stockholm a little after 5 in the morning, checked in our hotel. Exhausted as I was, I still had a hard time getting to sleep. Finally managed it sometime before 7 and slept 'til noon.

So long,

Richard

One day, three countries by ground and a show.

We de-camped Hamburg and boarded our tour bus at 10:30.  It was chilly and solid gray.  As we left the city fog set in and remained for the entire five hour journey to Herning, the day growing darker as we headed north to Denmark.  Pete had a great assortment of cheese and more sausage from Germany, the last we'll have for a while.  We're all big fans of German food and have eaten more than our share of it over the last week or so.  A quiet ride all the way, the dark fog damping the mood.  

We arrived in Herning at 3:30, the venue having been erected in the middle of nowhere, or so it seems.  Herning is in the middle of the country and slightly to the west, appears to be an agricultural centre. The venue itself, Jyske Bank Boxen, is modern and held a capacity 11,000+ for tonight's show. I'm not sure where all those good folks came from but we were given a great reception and they were fantastic throughout.  Our portion seems to fly by each night and we were soon back in the dressing room commenting on how good it was tonight.  Mark then returned to the stage to play four songs with Bob, then it was into the buses for a 4.5 hour journey to Malmo, Sweden.  The trip began with martinis made in a proper shaker and served in sparkling, chilled glasses courtesy of Pete Mackay, followed by generous portions of sushi.  Off to the upstairs lounge, loads of music and before we knew it, we'd arrived.  Sleep.

So long,

Richard​

Arrived Hamburg late afternoon Sunday the 30th, it was another day off.  After we checked in I headed immediately to the spa/fitness floor.  A little too late for a full session, but I shed 300 calories on the treadmill prior to a shower and fab band dinner.  Martinis to begin and much wine to follow, I had a perfectly prepared salmon steak and steamed spinach, more wine and dessert. What's 2000 calories minus 300?  That can't be correct.

Our Halloween gig was at the O2 Arena here in Hamburg.  We arrived at the venue with loads of time to spare but somehow only got a 10 minute soundcheck as Bob's soundcheck ran well over time.  The O2 was a cavernous sounding arena with the sound system hung exceptionally high... which washed the sound out further...and it was difficult playing at times even with our in-ear monitors.  Not only does each venue present it's own unique sonic challenges, but every stage has it's own personality and different frequencies it accentuates or diminishes.  This particular stage absorbed so much bottom end that it was a struggle hearing the bass all night.  None of these things stop this band from having a great time playing and in the end that is what comes across. Back at the hotel after the show our German promoter Marek hosted one last get together in the bar, great wine and many plates of edibles.  Mike and I ended up closing down the world after closing down the bar.  Went up to his room for one last drink courtesy of Mike's mini bar and some mod folk sounds. Bed.... 4:30 in the morning?!! Aahhhh, no way, I've got to be up in a few hours to meet a friend for lunch.  Set the alarm.

Six hours later the alarm clock fired off a heart stopping salvo and my world was hazy like looking through a couple of layers of gauze.  Absolutely amazing what two cups of coffee and a shower will do.  In less than an hour I was on top form again and happy to start the day. My friend, record producer and song writer Rudi Mussig picked me up and drove us to a fabulous restaurant and hotel in Bendestorf about 25 minutes from downtown Hamburg, called Meinsbur.  A beautiful country inn with thatched roof and quiet German elegance inside.  A grand light lunch of the best mushroom soup I've had and an exquisite pasta, the colour of which was dark, dark green and tossed with a butter, blue cheese, onion and chopped sauteed tomato.  Now I am back to life.  Following lunch we dropped in at Rudi's home in the next village of Hittfeld having driven through beautiful forest aflame with autumn colour.  An easy, relaxed afternoon with my friend and always good to catch up with him.

Rudi dropped me back at the hotel in the late afternoon, I managed to find a place to get these acrylic nails tended to as well as walking through the bustling shopping district.  The clocks have fallen back an hour here in Europe and dusk comes early.  With a real chill in the air, this is the first time in the tour that I can feel winter around the corner.

Tomorrow will be a very busy day.  We leave Hamburg at 10:30 for a five hour bus ride to Herning, Denmark and a show followed by another four or five hour bus ride to Malmo, Sweden. It will be a quiet evening tonight and early to sleep.

So long,

Richard​

Friday was a day off in Berlin.  Straight down to the gym for the usual 90 minutes.  A couple of our guys were down there doing pilates with tour manager Tim Hook leading the exercise session. Very impressive.  Back to the room and put out an e-mail to see if anyone might be interested in joining me for lunch at the Augustiner restaurant just down the street from our hotel.  I'd had a great meal there last year and they have Augustiner beer on draft.  This is one of several the Augustiner brewery restaurants around the country, specialising in traditional German cuisine; roast pork, various wursts, wienerschnitzel, goulash, roast chicken, pig knuckles, dumplings... etc. Jim Cox rang to say he was in, so off we went for a mid afternoon lunch of sausages, wienerschnitzel, warm potato salad and sauerkraut washed down with massively delicious Augustiner bier.

After lunch we both thought walking some of it off might be a very good idea so we headed east to Checkpoint Charlie, the old crossing between west and east.  On the way we bumped in to John McCusker and the three of us arrived at our destination which is now an empty lot that has been filled with sand, deck chairs, tapas bar and general beachy stuff.  Very strange.  It is called Charlie's Beach.

Made our way back to the hotel around 5 in the afternoon and got an e-mail from Glenn wondering if anyone was interested in dinner, if so, 7 in the lobby.  We met down there and ended up going back to the Augustiner Restaurant for another serious meal just on the heels of lunch.  Jim and I ended up sharing a meat platter, a heart attack waiting to happen.  Slabs of roast pork, ham, an assortment of wurst, veal meatballs, dumplings the size of a baseball, all on a bed of warm sauerkraut.  Steins of beer arrived that were so large and heavy you could scarcely hoist them when full.  An unbelievable amount of food and beer was consumed, all of it delicious.  By 10 o'clock we had nothing left to do but go back to the hotel and crash.

I woke this morning feeling like I'd just walked away from the table, absolutely stuffed.  Got some coffee and spent the rest of the day playing guitar and taking care of some e-mail.  We left for the gig at 3:30 and arrived at O2 World Arena having passed several blocks of what was "the wall" which now sports artwork of every kind painted on it.

Guy's wonderful wife Laurie is here visiting him in Berlin and very kindly brought Guy's banjo along so he and I could get our first lesson from Donny Herron.  Donny was very patient with us and showed us the basics of the clawhammer style.  Ass backwards to playing guitar.  This will be an ongoing tuition for the rest of the tour much to the chagrin of the rest of the band.  Problem is we have nowhere to practice as we daren't do so in the dressing room!  I suppose we'll be found wandering the hallways of European venues from here out.

By the time dinner was served I was ready to eat again after yesterday's gluttony.  A halibut steak, some peas and a slice of hazelnut torte.  Great.  Change clothes and spin through another fine gig with a wonderful audience that hung on every note.  Love this tour.

Back to the hotel early after the gig and several of us went back to the Augustiner Restaurant for some beer and a light after show snack.  Right.  More wienerschnitzels, bratwursts, veal meatballs, french fries, kraut, warm potato salad and gallons of bier.  I don't think any of us would stand up to a blood cholesterol check right now, but it was an absolute miracle of tastes.

We decamp Berlin and our fabulous Hotel de Rome early tomorrow for a four hour bus ride to Hamburg where we have.... wait for it.... another day off.  The pace is killing us.

So long,

Richard​

A very late start to the day, nearly noon, maybe the latest I've ever slept in.  Coffee was the first order of business followed by updating this site and a bit of guitar playing.  I looked at the clock and was shocked to see it was already time to shower, zip up the bags and get ready to leave. One thing I am never late for is lobby/bus call.  40 years of of touring and more than that doing recording sessions has taught me, if nothing else, punctuality and I can be counted on for that. Ten minutes prior to the appointed departure I got a call from tour manager Tim Hook politely saying he wasn't hurrying me but, everyone had come down early, was already on the bus and they were ready to go.  I quickly pitched the last few things in my roller bag, packed up my guitar and got down there in 5 minutes.  I was met in the lobby by our tour co-manager and all round saint, Peter Mackay, who informed me everyone was antsy to leave so the bus was on it's way to the gig, he and I would take a taxi and meet the others there.  I was slightly annoyed at being left behind especially as I was not late.  We waited about 5 minutes for the taxi to arrive, left the hotel for the venue and pulled around the backstage entrance.  It turns out, due to it's size, the band bus had to make a round the block maneuver getting out of the hotel and into the flow of traffic.  Pete and I beat the band to the gig with enough time to spare that I was able to make a cup of tea, get my guitar out and greet the band as they ambled into the dressing room.  "What took you guys so long?"

Tonight's show was at The Arena with a capacity crowd of nearly 10,000.  Our usual pre-show stuff; MK routine-ing a couple of songs he'll play with Bob tonight, our own soundcheck then dinner. The catering crew had a delicious chicken korma masala among other things tonight. Korma usually indicates a mild tomato and cream based sauce, but this version registered serious heat index points and also spectacularly delicious.  As it was the first thing I'd eaten all day, I inhaled it and went back for more just to make certain it was as good as I thought, and it was.

No doubt this is getting a little old about the show being great so I won't bang on about it except to say I'm very proud to be part of this stellar line-up, top sausages all.  Mark played several tunes with Dylan then it was off to the buses for a 120 mile hop to Berlin.  We have two band buses with 11 of us spread between them.  I think the idea was for us to flow back and forth between the two buses, but it's very easy to become attached to whichever vehicle you've ridden for a while and we haven't done that.  The last two nights I've busted the mold and taken the other bus with Mike, John, Ian and Tim Hook.  John McCusker was in charge of DJ-ing tonight and for a couple of hours played the most amazing things. Modern folk records are simply staggering, the singing, songs, playing, production and sound, the past two evenings listening has bowled me over.  Strategically placed like land mines among the acoustic play lists were tracks from Teenage Fanclub, Blur and Elbow.  It all went down great along with the Chinese food and Augustiner beer.  Before long we were pulling up to the hotel in Berlin.  It's a day off tomorrow and we play here the following.

So long,

Richard​

I managed to get my head down around 4 this morning so it was a bit of a sleep in.  
First, coffee--- next, gym.  The hotel here in Munchen is part of the international chain of Rocco-Forte hotels, all remarkably good.  One can count on a well planned fitness centre and today's was no exception.  It looked onto the indoor swimming pool, had a good selection of machines and a rack of free weights, floor mats, exercise ball, treads, bikes and ellipticals.  Not a soul in the place for the 90 minutes I was there.  I really had to drag myself in this morning but was happy I had after the fact.

Shower, pack, check-out and a short drive to Munich's Olympiahalle, a huge, modern arena. We've played this venue many times and it never fails to raise an eyebrow about how echo-ey it is during soundcheck.  But, as with most of these large arenas, they dry up when filled with people.  Nearly 14,000 folks provided the sound absorption tonight, a full house and a great audience.  A couple of changes in our setlist and a good show from all, though the end of Speedway was up on two wheels due to hearing problems.  Drummer Ian Thomas fought it through and brought us in for a safe landing in spite of pending derailment.

Mark joined Dylan for three songs, then we were away for a 5 hour bus ride to Leipzig.  Our Mike McGoldrick DJ'd and it was great mix of world and folk sounds that went down as well as the umpteen bottles of Augustiner Helles Bier, a favourite Bavarian brau.

Arrived in Leipzig sometime after 3 a.m. where we will play on Thursday.

So long,

Richard

Monday the 24th was a day off, one of many on this tour.  Anyone who's followed these notes in past knows M.K. and Co. put their collective noses to the grind stone when we tour.  Six or more consecutive shows are not uncommon before a day off.  However, this is Bob's tour and he doesn't like to do more than three shows before taking a breather.  

Everyone had the same idea as how to spend the day, doing little as possible.  The Villa Kennedy in Frankfurt is such a comfortable hotel, it's easy to luxuriate indoors.  The full size, indoor, heated swimming pool and lounge areas plus a great gym saw use from many of the Knopfler camp. I think the only souls who made it outdoors were Glenn and Mike.  I spent some time exploring the wonderful Yamaha amplifier, THR 10.  This is the amp I'd mentioned that is literally the size of a loaf of bread, weighs a couple of pounds and delivers a wide variety of sounds, tones, effects and... surprisingly... volume!  From the spanking clean sound of a Fender, the warm nosey crunch of a Vox to modern high wattage rock, this amp covers loads of ground. As for effects, it has built-in chorus, flange, tremolo, delay, spring reverb, hall echo, reverb+delay. When you find a sound you particularly want to go back to, there is a 'save' program.  It looks like a practice amp but is much more.  Check out this link: http://www.yamaha.com/thr/

That evening was our traditional Italian dinner with German promoter Marek Lieberberg, but first a meeting of the minds at the fantastic Villa Kennedy bar.  Guy, John, Mike and I perched for martinis and beer to whet our appetites, then it was off to the restaurant.  I won't begin to describe the food here except to say it was heavenly, course followed course... too many to keep track of, the wine superb and nobody's glass ever empty thanks to the top drawer staff looking after us.  All this followed by grappa and desserts.  Thank you Marek.  The only thing to do after severe gluttony it return to the hotel bar for a night cap, and a few of us did.  Sleep.

Tuesday the 25th was a day spent shaking cobwebs of the previous night, de-camping one of our fave hotels and a short ride to Mannheim where we played the SAP Arena.  We arrived while Bob and band we sound checking.  While the stage was being re-set for check, Donnie Herron from Bob's group and his 5-string banjo joined our Mike McGoldrick on pipes, John McCusker on fiddle and me on guitar for an impromptu backstage play.  Donnie's a brilliant multi-instrumentalist, steel guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, etc. and has played with Bob for seven years.  Prior to that he was one of the founding members of the group BR 549.  He plays a style of banjo that I'm particularly fond of called clawhammer.  Very different than the Earl Scruggs bluegrass, clawhammer and it's closely related cousin drop thumb, is played without finger picks and was the predecessor to Scruggs style.  It drives in a very different way.  Donnie's a master at it and we've all decided to do some more playing together while we're out here.  Loads of fun and great music.  We've pressed Donnie to give us some lessons as well.

More fun and great music when we took the stage, a particularly great Sailing, Speedway and one of the new tunes, Haul Away For Home. As usual our 70 minutes were finished before we were ready to quit playing.  The crew turned the stage, always professional and lightening quick.  25 minutes late Bob, band and MK took the boards, Mark playing the first few numbers with Dylan, a particular high point was the song John Brown.  Fantastic.

A four hour bus ride followed tonight's show.  We went a little easier on the wine, cheese and bread having eaten so much the night before. DJ Fletch took over the upstairs lounge, Jim, Glenn and I being happy to hear one great record after another.  At 2 a.m. the bus pulled up to our hotel in Munchen where we stay tonight and play tomorrow.

So long,

Richard

The bus rolled up to the hotel sometime after 2 in the morning of the 22nd.  The first thing I was greeted with on entering my room was perfumed room freshener so strong and sickly sweet it must have been pumped in by the gallon.  Where the hell is the fan and temp control to get some air moving in here?  Then I remembered the last time we stayed here, everything functions from several touch pads, from the curtains to lights to the do not disturb request.  Sounds straight forward, but these tricked out rooms never are, at least not for me.  For starters I couldn't get on the internet via the code that was assigned, after several attempts I received another code that worked but the signal was fluctuating so badly I couldn't stay on line long enough to complete a phone conversation home. Now 3 in the morning and with little patience left I began a frustrating treasure hunt trying to get the room lights shut down to go to sleep.  Eventually, I managed to get every light out save for one blinding little halogen number over the mini bar.  I went as far as pulling a chair over, clambering up to the ceiling to see if I could unscrew the goddamn thing.  No.  Another stab at the touch pad eventually revealed a master icon that killed everything.  Sorry, technology's not always your friend, there's absolutely no reason for things to be this complicated.  As for the internet, one had to re-log in every time you wanted to use the thing.  I reckon somebody had to sign off on this system when the hotel was deciding what carrier to go with.  How can anyone think that's convenient?  Rant over, once I'd sorted how to deal with things, the hotel was fine and the room comfortable.  As for the internet I found sitting in the bathroom yielded the best signal.

Got a few hours sleep, some coffee then headed down to check out the gym, a well equipped room, TV off, no music, good assortment of machines and free weights, etc.  Got a great 90 minutes down there.  Things are looking up.

Another day off today, the sun shining and the temps mild.  Out the door and to the right of the hotel are large department stores and an indoor mall, to the left of the hotel is the old town, altstadt.  Dusseldorf is Germany's seventh largest city, a financial, business and fashion centre located on the Rhine River.  The old town was bustling with folks shopping and enjoying a sunny Saturday out.  So many cafes, shoppes, restaurants and bars to fall into.  Every type of food you could imagine most with outdoor seating and area heaters for the cool weather.  Dusseldorf is known for it's altbier, old style beer.  It's similar to an ale, though served colder than in Britain and has more carbonation.  It also tastes distinctly German due the malt and hops that are used.  An ale differs from a lager in the way it's fermented and the length and temperature it does so.  Ales ferment quickly at room temperature and is then bottled or kegged.  Lager is a German word meaning, to store.  Lager beers are fermented that way for many weeks in cold temperatures.  The lager-ed beer tends to be lighter and crisper tasting.  Sorry this all terribly boring and a hold over from my days of brewing beer many years ago.  The upshot being, altbier is delicious and Dusseldorf has no shortage of altbier breweries and places that serve the wonderful brew.

I spent several hours wandering round the altstadt, stopping for a curry wurst, a sliced sausage sprinkled with curry powder and doused in tomato sauce, Germany's original fast food.  Back to the hotel for a couple of hours before meeting up with the boys a trip back to the old town in search of a wienerschnitzel and beer.  We ended up in a very crowded restaurant/bar, great atmosphere and beer, but couldn't get a food order in to save our lives.  After a couple of rounds we left and wandered into a little sausage bar, gathered round a counter with stools and devoured baskets of wurst slathered in German mustard, chips and beer. The feeding frenzy over, we spilled out into the street for another couple altbier then back to the hotel for an early night.

The 23rd was a show day in Oberhausen at the Konig-Pilsner Arena.  A sold out 12,000, our first show this tour in Germany and a great one.  Our 70 minutes on stage seems like 10.  Mark returned to play several songs with Bob and Co. including, Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat, It Ain't Me Babe and Willie McTell which was fantastic with Donnie Herron on banjo.

We piled into the bus for a short trip to Frankfurt where we'll spend the night, have another day off then play the following day.  

So long,

Richard

I love hotel rooms equipped with coffee makers, better still, espresso machines. I seldom eat a large breakfast but often order a room service Continental simply for the coffee. No need today. Krups makes a machine to be used with Nespresso coffee cartridges that conjures a quick and very drinkable cup of espresso, so drinkable I had three.  

A quiet day of practice and reading before getting the bags zipped and ready for pick-up, followed by our daily drive through the town centre in peak hour to the venue.  Tonight, Rockhal Centre du Musiques located at 5 Avenue du Rock and Roll.  This is the very strange place I've written about in past, located in the middle of an old abandoned foundry the size of a small town.  I don't know how long it's been inactive, but from the look of it, a long time. It's hard to describe, Guy will be posting pics no doubt, but it appears to be something from a movie, a destroyed civilisation or planet, just the grey, crumbling, deserted reminders of once thriving commerce.  There in the midst of it all is a large square building that has been turned into a music venue. Not much to look at from the outside or in, it is actually a great place to play. Painted completely black inside with no seating and just cat walks around the upper perimeter, it has been acoustically treated and sounds nothing at all like what it looks like.  In fact, it's very dead, no bounce back from the walls and a great gig to play.  As we drove through the war zone to the entrance of Rockhal, new band members gaped out the window of the bus but for us it was just another day at the office.... we've been here before.

A hurried soundcheck, light dinner, change clothes and play.  5,800+ folks standing, packed in like sardines gave us a great reception and the band never fails to play well... every night.  Mark ended up playing guitar on three songs with Bob at the top of his portion of the show to great response.  

We boarded the two tour buses for a three and a half hour drive to Dusseldorf, Germany where we'll spend the night and have a day off tomorrow. Pete Mackay our hero and unflappable tour manager arranged mountains of the most delicious sushi for the bus ride, all quickly inhaled.  There's good reason why he's known as St. Peter.  We rolled up to the hotel at 2:30 wanting for nothing more than a pillow and bed.

So long,

Richard

As I'd put hung the room-service breakfast menu on the knob when last night, I was jolted awake by a loud knock at my door this morning.  No telling how long the server had been trying to get a response.  Duly delivered and signed for, it took the whole pot of coffee to tear through the cobwebs.  Opened the curtains... greeted with a cool, grey drizzle. Down to the gym, the first bright spot of the morning, plenty of elbow room and most everything you'd need for self-inflicted punishment.  I had the place to myself and immediately began looking for the media controls which are seldom left out for guests as was the case, but mercifully the TV and music were low. Best hotel gym of the tour so far.

The trip to the venue was in peak hour and traffic was a crawl.  We've all noticed over these many tours how much more road congestion there is everywhere.  We arrived at last to another old standby venue, Ahoy.  That's not a greeting to the place but the name of it.  I've played here so many times going back to the old days with Neil Diamond.  Just enough time to make a cup of tea, get on stage for a very rushed sound check, quick bite of something in catering, change and play the show.  

It was 4 hours of cheese, wine, chat and music into Luxembourg after the gig.  Poured out of the bus at 2 in the morning into a freezing fog and the hotel.  Sleep.

So long,

Richard​​

A very lazy first part of the day spent with a pot of coffee, newspaper and guitar followed by a late check out of the Amigo Hotel. We drove to Antwerp arriving at Sportpaleis just in time for a quick dinner, soundcheck, change clothes and play our portion of the show.  Another full house of nearly 12,000 fans who gave us a standing ovation at the end of our set.  Especially fine versions tonight of Sailing, Brothers, Privateering and more.

We finished, got out of our stage clothes and hit the buses just as Bob's portion of the show had begun.  It was a 90 minute drive to Rotterdam, Holland where we'll spend the night and play tomorrow.

Music alert!  Guy played me four sides of a new band he's found and we love them, Cats Eyes is the name of the group. We don't know much about them and will investigate further.  Meantime, I can't hear enough of them.

So long,

Richard​

That great record shoppe I'd mentioned yesterday is called Sounds Of The Universe, located at
7 Broadwick Street in Soho.... so, go.

No doubt Guy will post pics of our hotel in Paris as I don't think I can convey it in words but will take a short stab.  Mirrors is a good place to begin.... everywhere, like a carny fun-house.  The cabinets were mirrored, the bathroom that Guy posted on arrival is covered every inch in the stuff.  As for the room it is a well organised collection of casual clutter.  Massive heavily framed pictures and mirrors requiring at least 2 people to maneuver, sitting on the floor and leaned against the walls, not hung.  What little furniture there was, was crammed in around the luxurious king-size bed, it being the best thing about the room but taking up nearly all the floor space. Back to the bathroom, two sinks but no table or counter to put things requiring the use of one of the sinks for toiletries.  Enough, completely over the top. Still, that bed made it a comfortable night and the gym was OK if you don't mind facing yourself on the treadmill in yet another wall of mirrors.

It was a late afternoon drive through this wonderous city to another venue we've played so often... Bercy.  With the usual pre-show routines completed we took the stage and played a great set to a capacity house of 11,000.  We didn't stay long after our part of the show with a 4 hour bus ride ahead of us.  Carl wields that monster of a vehicle beautifully, if you weren't watching the road go by you'd never know the bus was moving. The journey passed quickly with wine, cheese and music courtesy of Jim Cox's i-pod, the play lists so good I didn't want to leave for fear of missing whatever came up next.

We arrived in Brussels, Carl reversing down a narrow pass-way and delivering us safely to the hotel. Another day off tomorrow.

So long,

Richard​​

Saturday was a day off in London, up early, down The Underground to Gloucester Road for an acrylic fix.  An addiction many guitar players claim, acrylic nails on the fingers of the picking hand.  Of course you have to continually get them re-done every three weeks and I have a little spot I fall in just off Gloucester.  That done and no other agenda, it was back to the hotel and into the gym.  Met with Jim Cox later in the afternoon for a trip to Soho to a record store he knew about that specialised in world music as well as hip hop ,dance, jazz and folk.  It was a small place a tight, crowded upstairs and a steep staircase leading down to a claustrophobic basement. Fantastic stuff, loads of vinyl new and used and headquarters for a label called Soul Jazz Records, which I think may be the owners of this shoppe.  I came away with two volumes of the history of Bossa Nova, it's earliest recordings by various Brazilian artists.  I've momentarily forgotten the name of the store but will post it in the next diary, it's a must go for music lovers.  After, we stopped in for a curry at the Delhi Brasserie next door to Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club on Firth Street, then back to the hotel, a couple of night cap pints of London Pride and an early night.

Sunday, late morning, we gathered at King's Cross/St. Pancras station and took the Eurostar to Lille.  A great way to go to France, smooth, clean, quiet, efficient and the seats comfortable. Lunch was served and before you know it 90 minutes had passed and the train pulled into the station in Lille where we were met by Dirk and the band bus.

Tonight's gig was at Le Zenith, another old favourite we've played many times, what's known as a stand up gig as there is no seating on the floor, just around the perimeter in the balconies. There's a different kind of energy to these stand up shows, not better or worse, but we always love playing them.  It's great being back in Europe as well, the audience gave us a great reception.  

We finished our portion of the bill, got changed and left the venue to meet our new second bus.... two decks of luxury on wheels.  It was the plan to get by with one bus through the UK then pick up a second for the European leg.  With 10 people now split between the two buses there's plenty of elbow room as the single bus was always slightly cramped.  A terrific upstairs lounge and huge wind screen looking forward to the road on the upper deck along with a master suite that I doubt will ever be used.  Large bunks, kitchen area and lounge downstairs.  This new bus also sports a jump seat in front if anybody wants to take in the big picture which is exactly what I did around midnight as Carl our driver wheeled us in to Paris and around the Arc du Triomphe and delivered us to the hotel.

So long,

Richard​

We arrived in the wee hours after the show in Cardiff and spent the night in Chritchurch, Dorset, located in the south west on the English Channel.  After several nights spent in rooms the size of closets, I was ready for this modern and smart hotel.  What I wasn't prepared for the the room I walked in to.  It was neither a room or suite but a full blown two bedroom apartment complete with large kitchen, dining area, living room, two baths, 3 TVs, hallway and floor to ceiling windows that opened onto the water.  Now we're talking.  Pure and comprehensive luxury.  I hung the room service breakfast card on the knob, took a few laps around my digs then went to bed, windows open, the cool Dorset air filling my room.

Up with the sun, I fixed a cup of coffee while I waited for breakfast and more coffee to be delivered.  Beyond that, at least for the first part of the day, I couldn't have done less.... didn't even get out in the beautiful sunshine preferring to watch the boats and swans drift by my window.  Most of the day was spent parked on the couch with a guitar, working on a new tune that's happily presented itself.

All good things end and we checked out promptly at 4, boarded our bus... expertly maneuvered by Dirk, and drove about 40 minutes to the Bournemouth International Centre, the same venue we've played since my first tour with MK in 1996.  It was our usual routine with one exception which I'll mention shortly.  Another stand up audience, jam packed and great to play Night In Summer again along with some of the new songs we've been doing...everything really.  Guy's wife Laurie Ann and son Leon were there tonight and it's always good seeing them.  Also, a friend of Guy's that works for Yamaha sent a brand new amp they're making for us to try.  Literally the size of a bread box, the THR 10/5 holds a lot of promise and I'm looking forward to giving it a spin. Thanks Laurie Ann for bringing it to Bournemouth.

Tonight's exception was instead of changing after our show and getting on the bus, Mark played a tune with Bob on his part of the show, a brilliant rendition of Beyond This There Is Nothing.  A massive response at the end of it and then we got on the band bus bound for London where we'll spend the night and have the following day off.

It's a lucky life and I'm glad to be doing this.

So long,

Richard

Wednesday the 12th was a day off, staying in Penarth, a Victorian seaside town on the Bristol Channel.  Penarth was a bustling port for the coal industry and located on the southern coast of Wales, west of Cardiff.  In the Victorian era Penarth was a popular holiday destination and remains so today, though in far lower numbers since affordable holiday packages to Europe were introduced in the 1960s.  When coal was still king, people of wealth built stately homes that looked out on the Channel with rolling gardens. 

It's in these estates our little boutique hotel is located, formerly a large home that has been converted.  Another case of my room being so small, if I stood in the middle I could nearly touch both walls at once.  Still, it was quiet, clean and certainly cozy.  By the time I surfaced, I'd missed breakfast so fuelled by a cup of coffee brewed in the room, I set out to find something to eat and get my legs moving.  I walked along the coast to the small village not far from the hotel, the weather dismally damp, grey, cool and breezy.  The village itself is small consisting of a couple hotels, a few restaurants and Penarth Pier with it's wrought iron railings painted cream, pink and green and built in 1894.  I did stumble across an RNLI shoppe, the letters stand for Royal National Lifeboat Institution. The RNLI is a charity that saves lives at sea all around the coasts of England, Ireland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and established in 1824.  One of the ways it raises funds is by the sale of goods.... greeting and Christmas cards, food items, kitchen ware, clothing items, etc., all designed specially for RNLI.  They have on-line shopping and that is where my wife and I have purchased items over the years, however I didn't realise they had actual brick and mortar stores as well.  I thought I'd made an incredible discovery coming across it here in Penarth and stocked up on Christmas cards.  I later found out there are many of these shoppes located all around the U.K. coastline.  It's so seldom we stay on the coast, I'd failed to see on before yesterday.  Check them out on-line, all proceeds go directly to RNLI and their good work.

I stopped on the pier at a small coffee bar for a latte and fried egg bap.  A bap is similar to an American hamburger roll, though slightly thinner, more body and chewy.  That sandwich, fresh off the grill tasted fantastic and I devoured it sitting on the pier watching the Channel at low tide.  Far from tourist season, it was awfully quiet, scarcely anybody anywhere save for a few older folks bundled up against the weather and eating ice cream cones.  It all combined to have a turn-down feeling, bittersweet.  Came back to the hotel where later I met up with some of the guys for a wonderful dinner and drinks downstairs.  A great, warm, dark and inviting bar where we began, adjourning to an equally comfortable dining room for a steak dinner, English cheeses and another drink or two.  The four of us had the entire place to ourselves.  After dinner, Jim and I wandered back down the coastline to a pub for a pint Boddington's, but when we arrived, they'd already closed.  So it was back to the hotel for a final night cap.  The end of a relaxed, quiet and restful day.

Late afternoon Thursday the 13th we checked out and arrived at Motorpoint Arean for the show. It was the first stand up crowd of the tour and really was a great one for us.  There's an amazing energy having folks standing right up to the front of the stage when your doing a gig.  Loads of great playing tonight and a real joy.  We left quickly after our part of the show, driving to our hotel in Dorset by the sea where I peck this out and feel the pull of the pillow.  Tomorrow we play Bournemouth.

So long,

Richard​​

The ballads and legend of Robin Hood aside, here are a few arcane facts about Nottingham:
a)  Originally called Snotingham when c. 600 a.d. the area came undr the rule of a Saxon chieftain named... Snot.
b)  the citizens of Nottingham revolted in 1100 due to poverty and squalid conditions and burned Nottingham Castle.
c)  during the Industrial Revolution of the mid 1800's Nottingham was the textile centre of England, particularly known for their fine lace but after World War II could no longer compete with Asia and the Far East.
d)  Nottingham is the 7th largest city in England.

Still with me?  Haven't dosed off yet?  We pulled in to our mod boutique hotel shortly after midnight and adjourned to very small rooms.  How small?  When I put my key in my door to open it, the window broke.  So small I couldn't even change my mind.  So small the mice were hunchbacked.  If you haven't heard those before on a black and white TV variety show, you've heard 'em now.  No place to put anything, the suitcases remaining on the floor had to be stepped over and around.  That said, the staff was accommodating, the rooms were clean and wonderfully quiet even with the window open.  

Woke, rolled over, picked up the phone (not the one on the nightstand, but the one across the room on the desk... it was THAT small) and the pot of French press coffee that arrived quickly had my neurons firing again.  Shot full of caffeine I realised I couldn't spend the day in such confined quarters even though outside it was grey and damp.  Got dressed... went for a walk.  It turns out the hotel is very close to Nottingham Castle in a posh spot known as Park Estate, a 150 acre private residential area that was once a deer park of Nottingham Castle.  I stopped at the Castle and thought about taking the tour, but you know.... you've seen one castle, you've seen 'em all. Really it would have been the thing to do, but I didn't feel like a tour just then.  So, continued walking down to the very busy town centre, wandered round the shopping district, was looking for nothing in particular and quickly tired of the crush.  Feeling better for the fresh air, I was back at the hotel for the usual bits of practise and reading prior to leaving for tonight's show.

It was the Capital FM Arena tonight, capacity 7,300.  Full.  We all felt it was our best show of the run so far, everyone in top form.  A nice surprise in the song Done With Bonaparte when MK decided to play a great verse and chorus guitar solo where the third verse normally goes. Nobody flinched and on we went finally arriving at that third sung verse.  After the show we hung around long enough to catch a couple of tunes at the beginning of Bob's set and they sounded great tonight.  Then a three hour bus ride to Cardiff for a day off and a show the following.

So long,

Richard

Wide awake at 7:30 a.m., threw the curtains open and was greeted by a grey, drizzly Manchester morning.  Not exactly motivation for bounding out and taking a walk, but the very inspiration to ring room service and have a pot of coffee, toast and The Guardian sent up.  That devoured, I hauled myself down to the hotel's gym, a small but efficient facility especially when no one else is in it which was the case.  The best part of the solitude was being able to shut the ever present television off and have 90 minutes of quiet exercise.  I realise folks like different things and many prefer distraction, I am not one.  This was the antidote to my Pure Gym experience and subsequent rant the other day.

Still bleak and raining I spent the rest of the afternoon playing guitar and reading 'til it was time to zip the bags and go to the M.E.N. Arena for tonight's gig.  It's our usual spot to play while in Manchester, it's initials standing for Manchester Evening News, one of the cities newspapers. The largest of the shows we've played so far on this tour with Dylan, it was filled to capacity...10,500 people.

As we are guests on Bob's tour, there were a number of question marks about the different crews loading in and setting up, how two soundchecks would work and the set change over between Mark's portion and Dylan's.  It took a couple of shows to get things worked through and everything has found it's routine.  Our is to arrive at 5, Bob and Co. have their soundcheck while we settle in and have dinner, followed by our soundcheck around 6.  The house opens at 6:30 and we go on promptly at 7:30.  Mark's 70 minute set is followed by a 25 minute set change over and Dylan goes on from there.

So it went last night, with a different set list and everyone playing well, none better than Mike McGoldrick who did himself proud in his home town.

A two hour journey on our bus expertly driven by Dirk, delivered us to Nottingham for the next show.


So long,

Richard​​

Cool and drizzly today in Glasgow, spent it mostly reading.  

Our second night at Braehead Arena was relaxed, MK & Co. having a good time playing as well as debuting a new song we'd never tried live before.

I'd mentioned yesterday we'd be travelling by coach for a large portion of this tour and our first journey was after the show, three hours to our next stop, Manchester.  Lots of laughs.

So long,

Richard​

We arrived in Glasgow Friday afternoon the 7th after a short flight from Dublin on the Legacy 500, the same type of jet we've used for the last couple of tours.  We won't be doing as much flying on this jaunt with Bob, taking a couple of band buses instead.  This is due to the relatively short distance between shows, seldom more than 2 or 3 hours, just enough time to have a few pints, listen to some music.  By the time we arrive and check in, the night will have wound down.  

I got out Friday afternoon for a walk, the unseasonably hot days in London are behind and autumn is upon us.  I came across a thrift shop, a charity shop as they're called in the UK, and came away with a nice little stack of early '60s, 45 rpm British singles.... Cilla Black, Shirley Bassey, The Seekers, Acker Bilk and more.  A lot of good music for 5 quid. It was an early dinner with the guys at a great Indian restaurant recommended by John McCusker called Mother India which got a thumbs up from us all, in equal part for the delicious food and the Kingfisher beer on draft.  After, we stopped in a pub for a pint of local ale, didn't stay long.  As you can imagine a Glasgow pub on a Friday night with football on the tele, was a real crush.  Back to the hotel and an early night.

Up Saturday morning and as I was told that the hotel gym wasn't really up to snuff, I walked a couple of blocks to an establishment called Pure Gym, a three story chrome and glass torture chamber with a day rate.  I walked in to find two computer terminal kiosks, a locked turnstile and no human.  A customer arrived and began pecking at the key pad to enter and I asked if he would send somebody down that I could speak with.  When that person arrived I was informed they did not accept cash and I would have to fill out an application on one of the computers which would then take my credit card.  Of course I didn't bring my credit card, thinking cash would do.  Back to the hotel to get my credit card and returned to Pure Gym.  Now faced with a computer screen and roller ball mouse that didn't work too well, I proceeded to answer a 6 or 7 page interrogation that took about 15 minutes before finally being presented with a pin number consisting of 8 or 9 digits.  How foolish of me not knowing to bring pen and paper to the gym! Right, so I memorised the pin number long enough to get from the kiosk to the touch pad at the turnstile and gained access to the castle.  The very next order of business was to find somebody who worked there, borrow a pen and write the pin number down on a piece of paper so I wouldn't forget it as you also needed the number to get into the changing room as well as getting out of the gym itself.  I found a young kid who worked there and made my request which put him out terribly.  "You can get your pin number on your cell phone" he informs me.  No asshole, I didn't bring a cell phone either.  I followed him around for 10 minutes while he tried to find anything in the place to write with....nothing, not a pen, not a pencil, not a piece of paper. Nothing.  Meantime, I'm mentally going over the pin number so I will not forget it when he at last finds a felt marker and tears a page from a magazine to scrawl it down.  I'd also failed to bring a towel or my own water which I was informed were available for sale on the lower floor.  All this to the soundtrack of the most idiotic hip hop and crap pop music piped through every level at high volume.  I found the locker room, choosing locker number 100 so I wouldn't forget it, changed and started my work out which at best of times is not something I look forward to and was now unbearable.  To it's credit, the facility had three floors of everything one could want but it was a miserable 90 minutes in there, hardly worth the trouble.  I returned to the hotel and got on the phone to Glenn Worf who'd expressed some interest in going too.  I gave him a rundown of what to expect as well as my pin number so he wouldn't spend a cent of his own money on the place.  He told me later, in addition to the music already blaring through the gym, some ape with a blaster came in, set it up and proceeded to broadcast his own competing soundtrack.  Unbelievable.  What the fuck are people thinking about?  If I had purchased more than a day, I would gladly post my pin number here for anyone to go in and experience it....on me.  Unfortunately/fortunately, my time there has expired.  If you decide to try it, here's a little check list of things to bring: credit card, cell phone, pencil or pen, paper, towel, water, lock for your locker and ear plugs.  The chain is called Pure Gym.  It's pure shit, don't go.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with a sandwich courtesy of Marks and Spencer, a cup of coffee courtesy of Costa and my nose buried in The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan.

We arrived for our show tonight at Braehead Arena, had a quick soundcheck, something from catering then on stage sharp at 7:30 for a smart and spirited set followed by a couple of glasses of wine back in the dressing room and a wander round the side of the stage for a few tune from Bob Dylan and Co.

So long,

Richard​​

It's was a great last week of rehearsals and a few days off in London that included a visit to the Imperial War Museum and The Tate Britain.  The Tate currently has an exhibit of modern 20th Century British artists including an in depth look at the work of John Craxton, which I really loved. Several notable dinners, one being Poppie's of Spitalfields, the best fish, chips and mushy peas I've had in a great long while.  Another high point of our days off was an in-store performance at Rough Trade Records of The Real Tuesday Weld accompanying Glen Duncan reading from his new novel, The Last Werewolf.  Dark, smart and funny.  If you're not familiar with Weld, go to You Tube and check out The Show Must Go On and Bath Time In Clerkenwell.  There are loads more of vids after that.  The Real Tuesday Weld is a real fave of mine.

We arrived in Dublin yesterday, did a little sound check at the O 2 Arena then beat a hasty path back to the bar for a few rounds of Guinness.

Tonight was our first show of this little jaunt round Europe and the UK.  Unusual in that it is not our tour, but rather Bob Dylan's and Mark is the opening artist.  What that means is we do 70 minutes then Bob does 70 minutes.  Strange because it is so short from our usual set and I suppose the same holds for Bob as well.  It was all very relaxed tonight and a great kick off to this tour.  It felt like we'd never taken a break from the last tour, everything simply fell into place and sounded fantastic... even on this first night.  The other cool thing about our shortened set is that we're doing a few new tunes that have yet to be released.  We were all smiles on stage tonight and all smiles when we returned to the dressing room to find that our tour manager hero Pete McKay, had installed a barrel and tap of Guinness which was christened the Guinness Cow and made quick work of.  Fortified with the creamy stuff we wandered out to see some of Bob's show catching Tangled Up In Blue, Don't Think Twice and a few others.  Bob at 70 years old is a role model.. still rocking.

Tomorrow's another day off that we'll use to travel to Glasgow where we play the day after.

So long,

Richard

Hello again from London.  I arrived early last Sunday morning, bleary eyed and not so bushy of tail but have made a quick transition to Greenwich Meantime.  Along the way I've had a remarkable Bangladeshi dinner in Brick Lane and been keeping up with my quota of ale at the pub. Oh yeah, we've been rehearsing as well for the upcoming autumn tour with Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan. Things have been clipping along brilliantly, everyone sounding great as always.  I don't want to sound boastful, but honestly we could do a show tonight just after this week of playing together again.  The greatest band going without a doubt.

By far the best time-off was last night after rehearsal when keyboard hero Jim Cox and I took the train to Blackheath to see The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.  I've been a fan of the group for many years and have enjoyed their many clips on You Tube, but to attend a concert was something else and great luck that we happened to be in the city when they were doing a show.  The Uke Orch is quintessentially British with a resounding sense of humour and are monstrously talented musicians and singers.  Their repertoire runs the length of punk-rock, old blues, 1920s jazz, movie themes, legit classical pieces and an acapella/sea chantey version of Pinball Wizard that has to be heard to appreciate it's greatness. All done without drums, pianos, guitars, etc.... just ukuleles.  Soprano ukes, concert ukes, tenor ukes, baritone ukes and a bass uke!  Along the way they pulled out several miniature ukuleles, one smaller than the other, and proceeded to play great music on each.  The last instrument fitting in the palm of the hand and used as a plectrum for one of the other ukuleles!  If they're remotely close to your area and are giving a show.... go!  Until then, you can enjoy them on You Tube.

If memory serves me correctly, Pieta Brown's new album "Mercury" is being released this coming week on Red House Records.  Pieta and her husband Bo Ramsey opened the U.S. leg of the 2010 tour with us and we all think the world of them.  When it came time to make this new record, Bo enlisted Glenn Worf and I along with Chad Cromwell and the five of us made what I think is a great record, all recorded live over the span of three days.  I'm very proud to be part of this music with them.

Our first show of the tour is in Dublin on the 6th of October and we're on our way from there.  I plan to get these Notes going regularly again once we've begun, so please come back and check in often.

So long,

Richard​​