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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Wednesday July 31st, our last show and there's nothing like going out with a bang-up day of travelling.  We checked out of the hotel in San Sebastian late in the afternoon for the airport where we bid the first of many farewells today to one team of drivers; Eike, Gunter, Bob and Mario.  Then an hour plus flight east to Girona where we were met by the other team drivers for an one hour drive to Cap Roig on the north eastern coast of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea.  A beautiful spot of a small out door show.  Catering for one last brilliant dinner courtesy of Dave, Chris and Georgiana.  Tonight's entrees: whole lobster with drawn butter, roasted chicken and grilled beef steak.  Take my word, the lobster was sublime, a dinner to remember them by.  More adieus to our brilliant catering chefs and pals, we're all going to miss them.  With another hour or so before the show, one by one we made our way around thanking and bidding the crew adios.  Everybody feeling the same way, tired and looking forward to getting back to their homes but sad this tour has come to the finish line.

It was a relatively small audience, the amphitheatre capacity less than 2,000.  We took the stage at 10 with as much enthusiasm as our first gig back in Bucharest last April.  Some technical problems tonight.  One particular annoyance was a blast of feedback in our in-ear monitors that was so loud we all had to pull the things out of our ears.  A gig where a lot of little things went wrong all on the same night, in equal parts technical and human error due to tiredness.  That said, we still enjoyed our socks off and played a final great show.  It was good to revisit Shangri La again for an encore especially given the outdoor, seaside setting.

It was midnight when we piled in the Rovers for the hour drive back to Girona airport then more farewells to drivers Bernie, Fabian, Michael and Phillip.  Both A and B team drivers are great guys who have made our lives so much easier because of their friendship and driving skills.  Thanks for all the miles fellas.

We boarded the Legacy for the last time around 1:30 for the two hour flight to London's Stansted Airport.  Ilza our attendant had bottles of iced champagne as we toasted the wrap of the Privateering tour.  She also had plates of steaming shepherd's pie and green peas.... Brit comfort food if ever there was.  We landed then came the part that nobody looks forward to, saying goodbye to each other.  Heartfelt hugs and love all around and it was done.  All the Brit boys being driven to their homes, Mike opting to drive himself back to Manchester and John going to Luton Airport where he'll catch a flight first thing in the morning home to Scotland.  The Yanks, Glenn, Jim and I, piled in a van with all our luggage and headed to the Sofitel Hotel at Heathrow.  Stansted airport is far on the north-east side of London probably no longer London at that point and in the middle of nowhere.  It took an hour to drive to Heathrow where we checked in.  As all three of us are leaving on different flights in a few hours, we said our farewell in the hallway and adjourned to our rooms.  I looked at my watch when I got in my room, it was 4:30 a.m. although we gained an hour flying to London so it was really only 3:30 which made me feel a little better.  As tired as I was it was hard falling asleep and got a fitful few hours until my wake up call at 7:30.  Shower, a last re-shuffle of the bags and straight in to Terminal 5 for another full day of travel; London-New York-Nashville.

I scarcely believe it's the end of the road.  I'm thinking back now to last March when I began to gather the instruments I'd be using on the tour, making sure everything was ship shape, compiling lists of strings sets and various bits of equipment that I anticipated needing over the four months.  I began to brush up on some of the tunes we'd be playing, both the old ones that I've not had my fingers across since the last tour with Dylan or earlier, as well as the songs from the Privateering album that I'd not played since we recorded them.  That month prior to the London rehearsals was like standing at the foot of Kilimanjaro with all your gear, looking up at the peak knowing not only you have to climb it but also make your way safely back down the other side.

This tour, my 9th with Mark since 1996, has been the most enjoyable in every way possible, really the best one we've ever done.  The personnel, all hand picked over the years, are now so experienced and fine tuned in what each man and woman does, the tour unfolded beautifully and operated like clockwork.  Our catering team, the truck and bus drivers, the band's team of drivers, the pilots and crew of the Legacy, our technical crew, lights, electricians, riggers, sound crew, instrument technicians.... everybody has made these four months an absolute pleasure, more like a holiday than work.  These are the people that get the show to each city and make it happen, on time, come hell or high water, every night.  They physically work their asses off, often in lousy circumstances and seldom if ever with enough sleep.  They are the heroes of this and every tour.  My love and thanks to every one.  To Paul Crockford, Pete Mackay and Tim Hook who manage the tour, my sincerest gratitude for every detail seen to, crisis averted and day sheet handed.  I must now re-learn how to manage my own life again beginning on Thursday.  Also, a loud grazie to TC, Tom Calcaterra who has been my guitar tech on most of these tours since 1996.  I'd be curled up in a puddle were it not for his anticipating every guitar change, tuning and equipment malfunction.  At the end of each tune he hands me the correct instrument for the next, perfectly tuned, guitar cables untangled and pushes me back into the spotlight.  Here's to another one Tom, cheers.

Over these many years MK has assembled and groomed one of the finest band of musicians and friends to ever take the boards.  I'm immensely proud to be part of this great, funny and massively talented bunch of guys.  We all come from very different backgrounds personally, geographically and musically and always pull together to weave a rich fabric.  So here's to you all with much love and equal admiration, Mark, Ianto, Glenn, Jim, John, Mike and Guy.  I'm already missing you all and look forward to the next time we share a studio floor or stage together again.

A big thanks to the wonderful folks who came to see us over these months of touring.  An audience is large and can seem impersonal if you're in the middle of one, but it is always made up of individuals and we've appreciated every single one of you.  There were many that made it to numerous shows and a couple of good guys, Isaac Shabtay and Jeroen Gerrits who have gone to the greatest extremes of planning and travel to attend every single show we played on this tour... all 70 of them.  Check out Isaac's tour blog at http://p.isaac.shabtay.com.  As I've said before these shows are a two-way street, a give and take between the performers and the audience.  Thank you for giving so much to us.

I'm pecking these final tour notes out on the airplane heading back to Nashville from London and will up-load it in my kitchen back home.  No sooner than I hit the send button I'll be sipping martinis and having a steak with my wonderful wife in a quiet little bar & grill we frequent, wondering what the hell just happened these last four months.

I already have a few projects to tackle in August, one being a new record with country artist Miranda Lambert.  My long time studio and band mate Glenn Worf will be co-producing that album along with Chuck Ainlay who engineers Mark's albums.  My family will be taking our usual Gulf of Mexico holiday a little later this summer and we're looking forward to gathering the entire bunch together, soaking in the sun, cooking up beach faire feasts and swimming in the warm Gulf waters.  Over these months of touring I've written a handful of new tunes for myself and I plan begin recording this autumn for what will eventually be my own new album.  That combined with work that comes in and a couple of projects looming early next year, I'll be keeping myself occupied... guitar in hand.

As usual, this final note from the road will remain here on the front page for a few days then be archived at which point I'll return to my lazy and infrequent notes from home format.  Many thanks to you who've read this travelogue and tour journal, I always appreciate your time, interest and occasional notes of approval.

Finally, my fondest love to Mark Knopfler for making this all possible and including me in on the fun for all the years.  We did our first recording together back in 1994 and I continue to be challenged, enriched and honoured working with you.

Until next time.....

So long,

Richard