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
Tracker tour, 2015
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 31 October, 2015
This is always the most difficult post to cobble together. No matter how many final shows we’ve done, the finish never gets easier. I’m looking forward to getting home but it’s hard saying goodbye to the guys and crew who have banded together to make this the best tour I’ve ever been on.
We left Palm Beach mid-afternoon and drove about an hour to the venue, Broward Centre for the Performing Arts, a beautiful theatre seating 2,658. A quick sound check and on to the hands-down winner of the North American catering. Freshly steamed Maine Lobster, pan grilled Filet Mignon, baked Sea Bass, roasted chicken, fresh pasta, salads and key lime pie, all made from scratch. Hold all calls, we have a winner. A fab last supper. There was the usual end of tour scurrying around, clearing out the wardrobe cases and the unfolding of spare duffle bags to accommodate all those pesky extras that have come into our lives over the last seven months and got chucked into wardrobe. The night of reckoning. Everyone finding guys in the crew, wishing good travels and hoping we all get together for another tour. Us, hanging out together in the dressing room for the usual pre-show routines and wishing it wasn’t the last night.
The show was sold-out, 2,600+ folks who were great to us. The band was as eager to hit the boards and play as it was for our very first shows back in April. I can’t speak for anyone else, but as we finished each song it was like folding it up and putting it away until the next time. The very last song, Piper To The End carried a lot of weight with it’s theme of farewell ’til we meet again. A last bow, then it was a wrap.
This is a small and amazing army of 38 people. The 9 of us on stage for two hours get the spotlight and applause but the other 29 men really make the show possible, the bus and truck drivers, lighting and sound crew, rigger, merchandiser, management and the instrument techs. There’s no show without them…. nothing. Thanks to everyone of you and a special hug to my wing-man and guitar tech Tom Calcaterra. He saved my ass every single night and kept all of my instruments ringing like bells. As for the 9 on stage, I don’t really know where to begin. The level of musicianship, friendship and camaraderie is so very high. As I’ve said many times in these notes, I’m humbled to share a stage and recording studio with them all. M.K. is the grand captain of this bunch and a better man would be hard to find. Thanks and loads of love to you Mark.
To those who’ve followed these notes this tour, I appreciate the time you’ve taken to read them. I’ve certainly enjoyed keeping this little diary going. As with past tours, I’ll keep the road notes up on the front page for a short while, then it will migrate to the links and I’ll resume my intermittent up-dates from Nashville.
As for me, I’ll be glad to be with my family again. Lots of friends to catch up with over lunch and dinners. I have a number of recording projects comfortably on deck and am hoping to get a start on a new record for myself before the year’s up. I never fail to marvel at my good luck in life.
So, there you have it, the 2015 tour and these notes done and dusted. I can’t wait for the next one. Until then….
St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Florida 30 October, 2015
We’ve settled into a great pattern while staying in Palm Beach; coffee on the balcony overlooking the beautifully blue seaside, breakfast, then down to the pool and/or beach. The service is ridiculous. Really. People come by to clean your sunglasses, others with aerosol canisters of Evian water to gently spray your face and cool you off. Sunscreen? No problem, they have industrial gallon sized pump bottles full of the stuff and someone will gladly bring a small cup filled for you. Of course the staff can miraculously intuit if you are even thinking about a drink or something to eat. A menu full of very beachy drinks, beers, Cuban sandwiches, hamburgers, salads, quesadillas and more. Yesterday afternoon after having devoured a sandwich at the pool, I realised I’d been signing tabs for several days and hadn’t really been keeping track of things, and panicked. I went straight to the front desk and settled up my incidentals… which were hefty. For the next couple of days it’s pay as you go.
It was the last night-off of the tour and Christina and I spent it with Mike, Anna and their daughter Cora having a great dinner at Charley’s Crab in Palm Beach. On the way to the restaurant, the taxi driver pointed out all the staggering mansions and informed us that they all had tunnels that ran from the house beneath the road and out to the beach. Nice work if you can get it.
A short flight today to Clearwater and tonight’s venue, Ruth Eckard Hall. We arrived in time for sound check followed by a group tour photo on stage, all 38 managed to squeeze in. Dinner and it was time to play the penultimate show.
It was a full house of 2,180, single floor seating, no balcony, no aisles. A warm and wonderful audience and a damn good show.
A runner to the Legacy for the final flight of the tour, back to Palm Beach. Debby had drinks waiting and arrange a Greek style snack for the short flight back. We landed and bid adieu to Debby, Blake our pilot and caught the cars back to the Four Seasons where we gathered in the bar with a full band attendance for drinks, laughs and further discussion about how to make the show better… even at this late stage of the game. Amazing.
We’re now down to it, the final show of the tour tomorrow in Ft. Lauderdale.
Melbourne, Florida 28 October, 2015
A rainy start to the day here in South Palm Beach then mostly cloudy but I managed about three hours on the beach and in true resort fashion had lunch there on my chaize lounge.
We had a mid-afternoon 30 minute flight north to Melbourne, Florida and tonight’s show was at the King Centre For The Performing Arts. Sort of a strange theatre layout, a shallow first floor and a large, deep balcony. No matter, it was a lovely audience, and another ‘first’, we’d never played here before. Three shows from the end of the tour and the band is still hitting on 12 cylinders and surprising itself. A wonderful show tonight.
It’s also heading into the ‘lasts’. Tomorrow is the last day off before quite a number of days off. I cleared out my side of the wardrobe trunk tonight. From here out I’ll bring what I need to the gig and take it back after. Two shows left.
It was a runner to the Legacy and the short flight back to South Palm Beach. Tomorrow looks like another day on the beach and dinner somewhere with my wife who has joined me for the final leg.
St. Augustine, Florida 27 October, 2015
Yesterday was off in Palm Beach where we are basing for the last few shows of the tour. A day of beach eating, walking and pool lounging. Lots of do-re-mi here in Palm Beach.
Tonight’s show was the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. The city of St. Augustine, Florida just celebrated it’s 450th anniversary as the oldest continuously occupied European established settlement in the continental United States, founded in 1565.
It was a capacity audience of 3,900+. What a crowd. We’re down to the end of all of this and still having another ‘first’. First time ever for St. Augustine. An outdoor venue with an awning covering the seated area, the audience was ready for the show. There was a strict 10 p.m. curfew so we went on promptly at 8. Wonderful people tonight.
A runner to the Legacy. Chicken wings and drinks at the ready courtesy of Debby. 45 minutes later we’d landed back in Palm Beach.
North Charleston, South Carolina 25 October 2015
A cloudy day down south as we left Atlanta for Charleston, South Carolina which was overcast as well.
We’re down to the final five shows of this tour and heading to our last hotel base in Florida after tonight’s show. Mixed feelings as always, really ready to get home and back to my work there yet very sorry to see this coming to an end. As I’ve mentioned before, this North American run in particular has been nothing but a joy all the way around. I’ve begun taking one or two things out of the wardrobe trunks each night and incorporating them back into my suitcase so I don’t have a load of things to clear out on the last night.
Tonight’s show was at the North Charleston Performing Arts Centre for a capacity audience of 2,340. What a crowd, standing for the first three songs. They couldn’t have been a better audience. The band in top form. It’s probably getting old reading these notes but for us it’s always a new attempt and we’re always ready to hit the boards even at this late stage of the game. We’re still talking about how to improve little bits of things even now. Amazing. It’s the most brilliant thing…. after seven months to still be so into it and improving things. A GREAT gig in Charleston tonight and…. the very first time we’ve played here. The Straits never played in Charleston. So, new firsts are still happening.
A runner to West Palm Beach, Florida. We’re down to the “lasts”. This is the last hotel of the tour. A week from tonight most of us will be in our homes. What a year it’s been.
Atlanta, Georgia 24 October, 2015
Yesterday the 23rd was a day off here in Atlanta…. breakfast, gym and shower. Glenn W. and I did some lampshade recording in the afternoon with John McCusker producing a Christmas song for Heidi Talbot. We both overdubbed on the basic track with Mike McGoldrick engineering. The reason I call it lampshade recording is that’s Mike’s method for position a microphone. Every hotel room has a free standing lamp and Mike loops the mic cord around the lampshade frame, positions it in front of the instrument and it’s a done deal. The song was beautiful and sounded even better when we’d finished.
About three in the afternoon I met Nigel, Ianto and Ian’s drum tech Gary Grimm for lunch and drinks at an Italian restaurant near the hotel. We weren’t exactly three sheets but definitely had a buzz after a long lunch.
Last night was the last night of the tour that the crew and band could get together and so we did in a big way at the bar of The Intercontinental Hotel. Hard to say how many drinks were consumed but I shudder at the thought of the bill. It was a grand few hours. As it drew on, Glenn Worf, my guitar tech and wing man Tom Calcaterra and I drifted to the same Italian place I’d had lunch several hours earlier, ordered dinner at the bar and continued there. A great and grand evening was had by all. A grander evening was had by some.
I woke early today reasonably undamaged, ordered up a pot of coffee to the room and spent the entire day ’til 4 o’clock in the afternoon playing guitar, taking care of a few e-mails and generally puttering around.
Tonight’s gig was our usual Atlanta venue, Chastain Park Amphitheatre. It holds 6,680 and was sold out. I’m certain it was the largest capacity gig since the shows we played in Europe. The catering was exceptional tonight and everyone dug in. The show was exceptional as well, so loose and fun to play in front of that sold out crowd. We’re heading into the final shows now, just five left.
It was a full band attendance at the bar across from the hotel for beers, chicken wings and flatbread pizza. It’ll be hard to see this tour end.
Durham, North Carolina 22 October, 2015
We de-camped Manhattan after nine days there and a fantastic second show at The Beacon last night. In nine days, the entire contents of my bag were strewn to the four corners of the room requiring a lengthy and confused re-pack this morning.
The flight down south to North Carolina was fortified by platters of sushi and grilled chicken teriyaki on skewers.
Tonight’s show was at the Durham Performing Arts Centre, a modern theatre that seats 2.700. Another in this North American run of great shows for great people… a particularly good evening tonight.
With the promise of barbecued ribs, North Carolina style, I passed on dinner at the show, laid heavily into the ribs on the plane and was not disappointed. Proper, southern style ribs that fall off the bone, knife and fork ribs and a fantastic bowl of beans to go along with them.
We’re in Atlanta now and will base her for the next few days.
New York City, New York 20 October 2015
Monday the 19th was a day off in Manhattan that I’d been looking forward to for a while. Glenn Worf and I took a cab to Soho and spent a splendid afternoon at Rudy’s Music Shop with Rudy Pensa, his daughter Stephanie and his great staff. Rudy has one of the most beautiful guitar stores anywhere in the world… the shop itself is a work of art. As for what’s in it, well it’s the best of the best. Glenn and I had our mitts on some of the finest guitars we’ve ever played. At one point there were several D’Angelico’s out as we played one then another, back and forth. Rudy has a breathtaking inventory of vintage acoustics, electrics, new instruments and amplifiers along with the usual accessories. If you’re in the city, don’t fail to stop in.
We made it back in time to meet our old friend from Nashville, Rocky Schnaars and his wife Alisa for drinks and dinner. Glenn and I worked many recording sessions with Rocky when he was a busy engineer in Nashville. When the record business began shifting several years ago, they moved to New York where Alisa is a book buyer for Barnes & Noble and Rocky is a successful builder and woodworker, serious artisan work. We found ourselves back at Victor’s Cuban Cafe for a grand dinner and awash in mojitos.
Tuesday the 20th was the first of two sold out shows here in Manhattan at The Beacon Theatre. Opened in 1929 as a movie theatre and vaudeville house, it shifted in the mid-70’s to live concerts and is a renowned venue with its three tiered seating and 30 foot golden Greek goddesses flanking the stage. As soon as we hit the boards we knew it was going to be a good show. The audience of 2,700+ was so enthusiastic and that’s not always the case for a New York audience. It was a great evening of music and a wonderfully appreciative crowd.
After the show many friends and guests gathered for a visit and drinks. One was Bette Midler who I was very pleased to meet along with Jann Wenner, co-founder and publisher of Rolling Stone magazine. Dick Boak from Martin Guitars, Mr. and Mrs. James D’Addario, master guitar builder John Monteleone, Rudy and Fran Pensa were among the guests all crammed into a small dressing room upstairs at The Beacon.
On the way out of the theatre there was a stack of four pizza boxes in the production office, I grabbed a slice of pepperoni, hopped in a car and was back at the hotel to be joined by Jim and Glenn for a night cap.
Washington, D.C. 18 October, 2015
It was an hour flight from Teterboro, New Jersey to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., On the way to the venue we passed the Lincoln Memorial and the White House.
Tonight’s show was in the Warner Theatre. It was built in 1924 as a movie and vaudeville house and originally called the Earle Theatre the later renamed in honour of Jack Warner of Warner Bros. renown.
Mark Bartel, the fellow who makes Tone King Amplifiers met us with a brand new prototype amp that sounds like a million bucks. He was pleased to see that there were three Tone Kings on stage tonight as every night. Mark, John and I use Tone King Imperials and love them. Also, there was a great picture in today’s New York Times as part of an article on performance artist Laurie Anderson in conjunction with an installation that includes a wall of Tone Kings that belonged to her husband and founding member of Velvet Underground, Lou Reed. Check it out here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/movies/laurie-anderson-is-telling-stories-hers-and-ours.html?emc=edit_th_20151018&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=65815463
A relatively small theatre seating just 1,690, it had the feeling of a club gig, very intimate. Another wonderful audience and another great show. It’s really hit home now that we’re on the last few shows of this fantastic tour. It hard to believe it all began last April, how far we’ve come and how much we’re still enjoying and refining the music.
A day off tomorrow that will be spent with Rudy Pensa at his brilliant guitar shop in Soho and visiting old friends from Nashville who are now relocated here in the city.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 17 October, 2015
It was a short mid-afternoon flight to Philadelphia, so short that no food was served, leaving Guy who’d been working out in the gym to devour a jar of cashews.
I was on a mission for a Philly cheesesteak. After we soundchecked Jim, Mike and I walked a few blocks to Steve’s Prince of Steaks, a funky walk-in with aluminium tables and stools. The griddle was greasy, the meat hand sliced and trimmed, plenty of provolone cheese, grilled onions and peppers. The roll it was served on was soft inside and chewy outside. I will no doubt get loads of suggestions as to where we should have gone, but this was in the neighbourhood and tasted pretty damn good to us.
Tonight’s venue, The Academy of Music is the oldest opera house in the U.S. still used for it’s original purpose. Built between 1855 and 1857 it’s home to Opera Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Ballet and from 1900 until 2001 to The Philadelphia Orchestra. Among the greats to have graced it’s stage are Caruso, Aaron Copland Gustav Mahler, Rachmaninoff, Artur Rubenstein, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky… you get the picture. The Academy has often been criticised for it dry sound and apparently after some remodelling in the mid-50s, Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia Orchestra’s leader refused to record there any longer. Regardless it is a remarkably beautiful theatre that holds a capacity audience of 2,825.
We walked out to a warm reception, people were glad to be there and so were we. It was a perfect storm of a gig with the band and audience in synch. There were a few minor technical glitches with Mark’s guitar and my own, but it didn’t matter. It was a wonderful evening of playing good music for good people.
The runner back to N.Y. again, too short for food. We got back to the hotel and I was ready for a slice of pizza. Glenn joined my for a quick walk down 7 Ave. to Ray’s for a slice and a beer. Got back to the hotel and the bar was so civilised for a Saturday that I just couldn’t not have a martini night cap.
It’s the gym in the morning and a gig in Washington D.C. tomorrow evening.
Red Bank, New Jersey 16 October, 2015
I don’t spent much time looking in the rear view mirror these days but it was a nostalgic day off yesterday in Manhattan.
It launched slowly, slept until 11 and by the time I’d had some coffee and got out the door it was 2 in the afternoon. I stopped in the nearest diner around the corner for a delicious bowl of chicken soup and a beer then made my way for a walk in Central Park. I found myself standing at the iron grating of the carousel… young couples and their children riding the wooden horses to the wheeze of the old pipe organ, thinking of my own grandson and wishing he was here with me. I walked past the old St. Moritz Hotel where I spent some time when filming a movie called the Jazz Singer back in 1979. Heading down 6th Ave. I found myself at the Warwick Hotel and took a sharp left into the Randolph Room Bar there. In October of 1972 I spent three weeks in that hotel playing a Broadway engagement at The Winter Garden Theatre with my old boss and pal Neil Diamond. I walked in the bar and ordered a rare afternoon martini, sat there drinking and remembering the 21 year old boy I was 43 years ago, the last time I set foot in the place. I always felt a tug when driving by the old hotel, also the home to a young Elvis Presley in 1956 when he came to play the Ed Sullivan show, but had never bothered to go back in. Back then I was completely unsure of myself but remember it now like it was yesterday and though it’s been re-modelled it still has that old Manhattan elegance about it. During that run we also played a fund raiser at the estate of Sargent Shriver, flying an official Air Force jet to Virginia when he was running for vice-president of the United States. Heady stuff for a young fellow and times long gone that scarcely bear thinking about. I hadn’t intended it, but it turned out to be a day of farewell to some old ghosts. Dinner was a small crew of MK, Jim, Glenn, Tim and me at the ever brilliant Victor’s Cafe on 52nd St. A great Cuban restaurant going back to 1963. Roasted pork, ropa vieja, cevice, plantain, Rioja wine and mojitos with strips of sugar cane. A real Cuban trio playing in the lounge, fantastic service and stunning food all in a setting of a Cuban veranda. What’s not to like? Five happy boys left Victor’s just off Broadway.
We piled into the vehicles early Friday afternoon for the drive to Red Bank, New Jersey and our gig tonight at The Count Basie Theatre. No telling about traffic and better safe than sorry so we left at 1:00 and arrived at 2:00 with six hours to hang out before the gig. I had a bit of spanikopita down in catering and took myself off for a walk around this beautiful town for an hour. I remember being taken with it five years ago when we played but I didn’t have a chance to walk around it then. A city of 12,000+, quaint, clean as a whistle, no franchised anything, great shops, record store, music emporiums, coffee houses, pubs and restaurants, a marina and on the Navesink River. I could live here. Winters? Not so sure.
We played this wonderful theatre named after Red Bank’s own Count Basie five years ago and I’ve always remembered it. It’s small with a capacity of just 1,530, but it was packed and they were ready for a night of music. We’re two weeks away from wrapping this tour up and the band just keeps getting better and tonight’s audience was with us from top to bottom. A great gig.
A runner back to Manhattan that took twice as long as it did to get to Red Bank. We arrived at the hotel just before midnight. I couldn’t get anyone to come down for a drink so I went on my own for a perfect martini, just one, then up to bed.
It’s Philadelphia tomorrow and I think a Philly Cheesesteak is in my future.
Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada 14 October, 2015
This will be the second time I’ve written these notes as this goddamn computer has devoured a very lengthy version and assigned it to the nether regions of wherever these things end up. My relationship with technology remains frayed. This will be an abridged version.
The room with a great view of Carnegie Hall turned out to be a nightmare. Garbage trucks, deliveries, motorcycles, sirens all night long that seemed to become amplified as it rose the twelve stories of the hotel and the double glazing did nothing for keeping it out. I finally got up at dawn after a couple of hours sleep, brewed some coffee and hit the gym… early. When I got back to my noise chamber I dropped our tour manager a note asking to change rooms. In all the years I’ve been touring I don’t think I’ve changed rooms three times in total but there’s no way I can deal with another week of this.
Shortly before we left for the day the phone rang from the front desk saying a bellman was coming up with a key to my new room and to help with the bags. Up another eight floors to the 20th and a room on the backside of the hotel with a view of Central Park. Now we’re talking… this is going to work.
It was a sushi fuelled flight to Buffalo, New York and drive over the Peace Bridge, clear customs and passport control then on to Niagara Falls. The venue was the Fallsview Casino located right on the Falls. We arrived and went straight to a room for the crew in the casino hotel on the 32nd floor with a spectacular view of Niagara Falls. A mighty display of nature with great clouds of mist rising above it.
I’d had so much sushi on the plane that I passed on dinner tonight and put some time in practising and getting ready for the show. The theatre is a small and modern room with a capacity of 1,560 of people. Talk about a quiet crowd. Casino audiences generally are there for reasons other than your show and are distracted but this was something else. By the end they were standing though. The high point of the evening was just before the final encore. There at the front of the stage were my friends Angela and Colin Bradley who live up here. Great seeing their beaming faces.
It was a runner back over the bridge, passports handy, Buffalo and back onto the Legacy. With drinks in hand we took to the sky. Having missed dinner I was really ready for a large slice of lasagne with my gin and tonic. I made quick work of it along with a second helping and drink.
It was nearly 1:30 when we arrived back at the hotel. I stood in my new room listening to the welcomed sound of silence and took it as a harbinger of a good night’s sleep.
Wish me luck as I try again to post this.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 13 October, 2015
Yesterday was Columbus Day here in America and a day off for us in Boston. The streets were teaming with people out for the holiday on a beautiful, warm, sunny day. Folks in the park, down by the water, out shopping and loads of people spilling out of the many drinking establishments that city has to offer. It was grand being out in it. A good turn out last night for a band dinner at Atlantic Fish on Boyleston. We ate there five years ago and it was every bit as good as I remembered and more. How can you go wrong with a Lobster Crab Louie for starters, hot crusty bread and a massive bowl of Cioppino with fresh halibut, lobster, shrimp, scallops, mussels and clams, all coaxed along with a couple of Tanqueray martinis. Unbelievably delicious all of it.
We de-camped Boston early this afternoon for a show in Pittsburgh at Heinz Hall, home of the Pittsburgh Symphony as well as theatre productions and various concerts. A beautiful theatre with a capacity seating of 2,740. Just before sound check both Mark and I were introduced to a new guitar line designed by John Page who worked for Fender for many years and started their custom shop back in the 1980s. After John left Fender he began building beautiful custom instruments and has recently partnered with Howard Swimmer to design and manufacture John Page Classics… a custom-production guitar. Howard brought two guitars that Mark and I played and we took to them straight away. The look, quality, feel and sound are all immediately evident. Check these instruments out, and by the way, you won’t believe how downright affordable they are: www.johnpageclassic.com
It was also great to see Glenn Worf’s family. His daughter Amanda and her husband have lived in Pittsburgh for the last nine years. Glenn’s other daughter Sarah and his sons Cody and Jessie flew up from Nashville for a little get together on the day off which Glenn spent in Pittsburgh yesterday.
It was a sold out show tonight, a wonderfully warm audience and the sound was superb in Heinz Hall. It all added up to a good show all the way around, well played and well received. As long as I’ve been working with Mark, over 20 years now, “firsts” are few and far between. But tonight was a “first”, it was the first time we played in Pittsburgh. Straits did it, but never has Mark played it in his solo career. All in all it was a great night for many reasons.
A runner after the show to the Legacy, Debby had drinks waiting and shortly after we’d taken off, platters of chicken wings were laid out and it was all elbows and greasy fingers after that. The only thing to go with wings is a couple of ice cold Leinenkugel Originals. Our plane landed an hour later in New Jersey and we were driven to our hotel in Manhattan where we will base for the next nine days. I have a very comfortable room with a view of Carnegie Hall directly across the street. I’m a lucky guy.
Albany, New York 11 October, 2015
Our short flight from Boston to Albany was happily spent munching delicious crab cakes from Legal Seafood. Legal has several restaurants in Boston and are known for these burger sized, lump crab beauties. Two and a salad are a full meal and in fact it was all I ate the rest of the day.
Our venue last night was The Palace Theatre built in 1930 by the RKO chain, was Albany’s largest movie house and still retains the RKO end caps on every aisle seat. The theatre has been sold and remodeled several times and is now owned by the city of Albany. A beautiful theatre that holds a capicity audience of 2,800 was sold out for the show. We love playing these old theatres for their intimacy, you really feel part of the audience.
A runner back to Boston and a quick nightcap at the hotel bar. Tomorrow’s a day off… gym, walking and a meal at Legal Seafood, conveniently located behind our hotel.
Mashantucket, Connecticut 10 October, 2015
Turned in early last night, no hi-jinx at the bar, so it was a 7 o’clock waking. Scrambled eggs and coffee sent to the room then off to the gym. I was back in the room by 10:30… now what? Always plenty of practicing to do, working on a couple of new tunes and on the home stretch of a book called The Burden Of Proof by Scott Turow. That was my day until we left for the Boston airport at 3.
A thirty minute flight to Groton, Connecticut and another 30 minute drive to Mashantucket. It’s beautiful country up here, particularly this time of the year with the foliage turning red and gold. We drove through several towns before arriving in Mashantucket and the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Casino. A massive complex that seemed grossly out of place in this New England rural community. Apparently we played here back in April of 2010. Guy’s diary proves it. I went back and my diary proves it as well, but I’ll be damned if I can remember one thing about being here before. It’s a beautiful, modern theatre that seats nearly 4,000. An Italian dinner was sent out for after sound check and one of the most delicious items was crispy veal meatballs in marinara sauce.
Our old pal Rudy Pensa came to the show tonight with his wife Fran and a friend. Rudy has a legendary guitar shop in Soho and is the man behind the fabulous Pensa Guitars. Great seeing him tonight and we look forward to seeing more of him when we get to New York.
It was a cool audience, a ‘casino’ audience that was polite and attentive but had to be won over. That’s fine, that’s our job and we did it. A cheering, standing house by the end. A particularly focussed show tonight. We really never have a bad show, but the difference between a good show and a great one is when everyone is completely focussed on the same night. That was us.
A runner back to the Groton airport. Since the flight back to Boston was so short, our top man Pete Mackay arranged hot dogs from Johnny Rocket’s for the half hour drive to the plane. Foot long and smothered in relish, onions and mustard they were devoured. Debby had drinks on hand when we boarded and before you knew it we’d landed back in Beantown.
Off to Albany for a show tomorrow. There’s a rumour of Legal Seafood crab cakes on the flight.
Boston, Massachusetts 9 October, 2015
We left Montreal where it was cool and rainy landing in Boston where it was cool and rainy. Getting to the airport in Montreal was strange. There are usually three vehicles always at the ready but only two were on hand. I stayed back with Jim, Paul and Tim for about 15 minutes until a long stretch limo arrived. About half way to the airport we were pulled over by the Montreal police for some infraction that I still don’t know what it was about, the whole thing was in French. I do know we weren’t speeding. Everyone had been on the plane for a while when we finally arrived. On landing in Boston passport control was fairly straight ahead of us Yanks however it was quite a delay getting the Brits through.
We did make it to The Orpheum Theatre a little after 5 for a quick soundcheck and dinner. It was a 7:30 show for a sold-out crowd of 2,755 people, a warmer and more appreciative audience would be hard to find. A great gig in the old Orpheum, one of the oldest theatres in the United States built in 1852 as the Boston Music Hall.
Montreal, Canada 7 October 2015
De-camped Toronto early this afternoon for Montreal. Arrived for soundcheck, dinner and the show at Salle Wolfreid-Pellietiier Theatre. Another remarkable show on this North American tour, relaxed, fun and heads up. The audience of 2, 860 plus was tuned in from the first song. What a band. How i ended up in all of this is beyond me but I’m not going to complain.
We piled into waiting cars and made it to our hotel, then down to the bar where food and drinks were waiting. Everyone piled in and with a day off tomorrow, we seriously piled in.
Gym in the morning and a walk around town is scheduled for tomorrow.
Toronto, Canada 6 October, 2015
We had a day off in Toronto yesterday that unfolded in a relaxed way beginning with an appearance in the gym. Had a late breakfast in one of my favourite diner’s, Flo’s. It’s a little walk-up that serves breakfast all day long. Spent a hour or so walking and gawking, happily buying nothing.
An Italian dinner last night with most of us gathered ‘round the table at the extraordinary Ristorante Sotto Sotto. The food, wine, service and atmosphere were all remarkable. It was a dinner that if it hadn’t been in Toronto, you’d have sworn it was Roma. I ordered grilled sea bream and a side of angel hair pasta pomodoro. Everybody seated at the table enthused about what they’d ordered. As with the best Italian food, they prepare it simply and let the food do the rest. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Check out Sotto Sotto here for location, hours and menu: www.sottosotto.ca
Tonight’s show was in Toronto’s legendary Massey Hall, home of countless performances since 1894. One of thousands of notable presentations was Jazz at Massey Hall in May 1953 with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Bud Powell and Charles Mingus who were among the architects of modern jazz. This recording has never been out of print since it’s release 62 years ago. Caruso, Geo. Gershwin, Vladimir Horowitz, Arturo Toscanini, Dylan and The Kinks are just a few of the varied artists that have graced this stage. We’ve played here in past and it’s always an honour to play music in this venue.
A sell-out 2,750 capacity crowd, it was a good showing by all… the audience, MK and band. We’re already looking forward to returning to Toronto. Our time here was short and sweet. Tomorrow we leave for a show in Montreal where we’ll base for the next few days.
Ann Arbor, Michigan 4 October, 2015
We de-camped Chicago and after six days there it took an hour to gather everything back into my bag. An early afternoon flight to Ann Arbor for a show at The Michigan Theatre to a sold out crowd of 1600 people. An old theatre with a tiny backstage area and small stage. It felt like a club gig. Loads of good play and fun. Before the show the good folks from Reverend Guitars came by to show off a few of their new guitars, always good to see them and have a play. Also a couple of good friends from Windsor, Ontario came by to visit. The backstage is so cramped that we ended up hanging out in the back alley for a visit.
After the show we got on the Legacy headed for Toronto. Debby had a Thai meal and gin and tonics on had for the short flight. Mike, John, Guy and I met down in the bar for a couple of beers before turning in.
It’s a day off in Toronto tomorrow. The gym and a wander around is on my calendar.
Indianapolis, Indiana 3 October, 2015
The little tavern we frequent in Chicago was absolutely steaming last night, a mad crush of people and the noise was beyond anything I will tolerate now. Even though the rest of the guys were braving it, I gave my apologies and made an abrupt about face. I was in need of food as much as the drink. I ended up at the same Italian restaurant I’d had dinner in the night before for Italian sausages grilled with onions and peppers in bowl with a thin sauce of garlic and wine, crusty bread and a couple of martinis. Now we’re talking.
Woke early this morning, coffee and up to the gym for the usual hour of humiliation. This afternoon we flew from Midway Airport in Chicago to Indianapolis for tonight’s show at The Murat Theatre that was built as part of the Murat Shrine Temple in 1910 and featured Broadway plays. Winston Churchill spoke here in the early 1930s. The Murat served as home to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and under the baton of Fabien Sevitzky the orchestra made records for RCA Victor in this theatre.
Another capacity sell out, 2,500 great folks. We were talking on the plane heading back to Chicago after tonight’s show, how much we’re all enjoying this North American run of theatres. It’s really been nothing short of a joy to walk out on these stages every night, play some music and have a hell of a good time while the audience does as well. We’re all too lucky.
Debby had b.b.q. ribs for the short trip back tonight. Tomorrow we de-camp Chicago after six days in this wonderful city. We play a show tomorrow night in Ann Arbor, Michigan then fly to Toronto where we’ll base for the next several days.
Chicago, Illinois 2 October, 2015
Yesterday, October 1st was a day off in the windy city which iived up to it’s name. Standing on any intersection that led to Lake Michigan you could really feel it’s force.
The gym at our hotel is on the top floor with a great view of the city and the lake and is by far the best we’ve encountered so far on this North American tour. It’s large and fully decked out with everything except a rowing machine, so Guy F. will no doubt knock off points in the ‘best of’ department.
Later in the afternoon Jim and I walked to a favourite haunt, The Jazz Record Mart on Illinois St. Located there since the early 1970s, it’s a world of jazz and blues vinyl, shellac and cd’s. Owned by the founder of Delmark Records, Bob Koester, this place will consume at least two hours of your time and put a dent in your credit card as well. Check them out at www.jazzmart.com
Before braving the record store, we stopped at Downtown Dog for a miraculous charred hot dog with everything including pickle relish that was a startling shade of green and some kind of nuclear orange cheese that ended up everywhere except in your mouth. A glorious and delicious mess.
I did some shopping along Michigan Avenue, the Miracle Mile and later in the evening took myself off for a splendid Italian dinner of Chicken Milanese, pasta and a couple of martinis.
Back at the hotel I was in bed with my book by 10. Very un-rock and roll.
The show tonight was in one of our favourite venues, The Chicago Theatre. This Chicago landmark was originally built in 1921as a movie theatre. It was renovated and restored in 1986 and is not on the National Register of Historic Places. It holds 3,500 and every seat was filled. I’m always proud to play in this theatre, in this town as it’s my hometown… born here in 1951. Tonight’s audience was terrific, I always say that about the audiences, but really we haven’t had anything less than that. Loads of fun playing tonight, lots of laughs, relaxed and on it at the same time. On Every Street sounding like we’ve been playing it for years.
A runner back to the hotel and a Friday night scramble for somewhere not too noisy for a drink.
Tomorrow we fly to Indianapolis for a show.
Chicago, Illinois 2 October, 2015
Yesterday, October 1st was a day off in the windy city which iived up to it’s name. Standing on any intersection that led to Lake Michigan you could really feel it’s force.
The gym at our hotel is on the top floor with a great view of the city and the lake and is by far the best we’ve encountered so far on this North American tour. It’s large and fully decked out with everything except a rowing machine, so Guy F. will no doubt knock off points in the ‘best of’ department.
Later in the afternoon Jim and I walked to a favourite haunt, The Jazz Record Mart on Illinois St. Located there since the early 1970s, it’s a world of jazz and blues vinyl, shellac and cd’s. Owned by the founder of Delmark Records, Bob Koester, this place is will consume at least two hours of your time and put a dent in your credit card as well. Check them out at www.jazzmart.com
Before braving the record store, we stopped at Downtown Dog for a miraculous charred hot dog with everything including pickle relish that was a startling shade of green and some kind of nuclear orange cheese that ended up everywhere except in your mouth. A glorious and delicious mess.
I did some shopping along Michigan Avenue, the Miracle Mile and later in the evening took myself off for a splendid Italian dinner of Chicken Milanese, pasta and a couple of martinis.
Back at the hotel I was in bed with my book by 10. Very un-rock and roll.
The show tonight was in one of our favourite venues, The Chicago Theatre. This Chicago landmark was originally built as a movie theatre. It was renovated and restored in 1986 and is not on the National Register of Historic Places. It holds 3,500 and every seat was filled. I’m always proud to play in this theatre, in this town as it’s my hometown… born here in 1951. Tonight’s audience was terrific, I always say that about the audiences, but really we haven’t had anything less than that. Loads of fun playing tonight, lots of laughs, relaxed and on it at the same time. On Every Street sounding like we’ve been playing it for years.
A runner back to the hotel and a Friday night scramble for somewhere not too noisy for a drink.
Tomorrow we fly to Indianapolis for a show.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 30 September, 2015
It was clear and crisp when we left Chicago for a 30 minute flight north to Milwaukee. As we rode through that city it struck me how much I always liked Milwaukee and not just the frozen custard. It’s a rock solid midwestern city, clean as a whistle. I could imagine myself living here if it weren’t for the winter.
As we arrived at The Riverside Theatre, I recognised a fellow with a long white beard and an armful of album covers. It was “Albumman” He’s collected so many obscure albums that have been signed not only by the artists, but all the musicians who’ve played on them. Several years ago he posted me a box of 40 or 50 album covers of things I’d played on to sign. Now he had another 20… some good, some real embarrassments, but I was happy to put pen to them. When I finished I asked him what his real name was. He pulled out his wallet, extracted his driver’s license and there it was… Albumman. Fantastic.
The Riverside gig is renown for it’s catering. After taking shots at U.S. caterers, this was a much welcomed exception. The 8th floor of the theatre is a dedicated kitchen, dining area looking more like a cool coffee shop hang out than anything else. Shelves full of books lined the walls, another wall was full of vinyl albums, a record player, speakers and a Marvin Gaye album playing on the turntable. Couches, pillows, posters… a great vibe. Dinner was sliced Hangar steak, Alaskan Halibut, pumpkin risotto, salads, cheese, smoked salmon, toasted corn soup and a variety of homemade desserts. It was the delicious and notable dinner worthy of our 5-star catering crew in Europe. And…. a proper coffee bar complete with a barista. Many thank to the chefs and crew at Riverside.
After dinner it was a quick warm up of the fingers, change clothes and on stage for a 7:30 show. It was a capacity crowd of 2,400. Another wonderful audience and the band all in top form. We played a song last night that was last performed 23 years ago, On Every Street. We’ve been working on it at soundchecks for the last few days and it got a good airing last night…went down like a storm, Nigel manning his soprano sax and me playing pedal steel then switching to Stratocaster for the play out at the end. However, it cost me ten bucks. I had a running bet with my guitar tech and wing man, Tom Calcaterra that even though we’d been rehearsing it, I didn’t think it would see the light of day in the show. As Tom brought out the pedal steel and put it in place, I plucked a tenner from my pocket and gladly handed it to him on stage.
A runner back to Chicago where we arrived shortly after 11. There’s a little tavern just around the corner from the hotel that we like to frequent and it was MK and a full band turnout for a few beers. Mike and I decided to take the boat out a little further with several orders of bourbon. A great way to wrap up a great day.
A night off in Chicago follows.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 29 September, 2015
We’ve been basing this series of midwestern dates from Chicago. What that typically means is we fly to the city we’re playing, arrive in time for a soundcheck before the doors open, grab whatever we can for dinner, change clothes and go on stage. After the final song, cars are waiting to take us back to the airport and we return to the base city often before midnight. This has many advantages like being able to unpack your bags and relax for a few days at a time. It also has some draw backs like not having time to visit with friends or stay in some good cities…Kansas City and Minneapolis for example.
So it was yesterday, arriving late to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, a venue we’ve played many times since 2001. It was another sold out capacity audience of 2,600+. What a crowd of great people, they were on their feet for the first three songs then up and down all night… unusual for a theatre audience. The people and the band feeding off each other, it was another terrific night of music. For us on stage the two hours plus go by so quickly, it honestly feels like about 15 minutes. This North American run has been nothing but a pleasure.
Some friends of Glenn Worf’s made a delivery last night of delicious aged cheddar and swiss cheese, summer and smoked sausages and a case of Original Leinenkugel beer. The “original” is hard to come by these days having been supplanted by their various craft beers. Still, the perfectly balanced, un-fussy, pedestrian Leinenkugel is by far the best. On the plane ride back to Chicago we made a serious dent in those deli items and Leinees. A hard combo to beat unless of course you add to that piping hot bowls of Shepherd’s Pie that Debby had for dinner. The only complaint was the flight was just an hour otherwise we’d still be eating and drinking.
Milwaukee is next. I predict another case of Leinenkugel will make an appearance.
Kansas City, Mo. 28 September, 2015
Yesterday the 27th was a day off in Austin. I spent a very low key day doing some writing, reading and took a long walk along the Colorado River. At dusk I got out on the Congress Street Bridge along with a crush of others to watch the emergence of the bats. A colony of 750,000 Mexican bats live on the underneath of the bridge and come out at sundown to begin the night’s feeding. I waited for an hour along with the rest. By 8 o’clock not a single bat had shown itself and I was starving. At that point it was getting so dark you wouldn’t have seen them anyway. Screw it… you’ve seen one bat you’ve seen ‘em all. I hoofed it back to the hotel in time to catch up with Guy and Jim and the three of us went to La Condesa a nuvo-Tex-Mex restaurant. The food was great and the tequila even better. Margaritas with side shots of lovely smokey agave and a great deal of it was put away. This morning Guy and I calculated we’d each had 9 shots of the stuff. The fact that we were able to calculate this the morning after is either a testimony to the quality of the tequila or the fortitude of our systems. A grand evening well spent.
We decamped Austin early this afternoon for a show tonight in Kansas City at The Midland Theatre. Built in 1927 at a cost of 4 million dollars it is a beautiful theatre that hosts all kinds of shows. It was another sold out night for us and a wonderful audience, very enthusiastic. We’re really loving playing the shows here in the States, they’ve all been exceptional and tonight was no different. Thanks Kansas City, Mo.
A runner for a flight to Chicago where we’ll base for the next several days. Debby had platters of chicken wings and cold beer and with U.S. catering being what it is, the food on the plane has been our life line. I’m looking forward to these next days here in Chicago and playing around the midwest. Tomorrow is Minneapolis.
Dallas, Texax 26 September, 2015
We flew into Dallas this afternoon on a sushi fuelled flight from Austin.
Tonight’s show was at the Majestic Theatre, a lovely old venue holding about 1,700. It was another night of “American” catering. I passed on dinner and spent the time between sound check an the show writing, practising and napping.
The gig tonight was as good as we’ve done, every mark hit, loose an relaxed. A great Dallas audience and a fantastic show, well played.
A runner back to Austin, with a great rack of b.b.q.’d ribs to help us along.
It’s a day off in Austin tomorrow. Mexican food is on my horizon.
Austin, Texas 25 September, 2015
We bid adieu to Denver early this afternoon having spent three good days in that very cool town. We always enjoy Denver and look forward to returning.
We arrived in Austin late this afternoon just in time for the skies to open up and give the ground a good soaking. Tonight’s venue was The Moody Theatre the new home of Austin City Limits. A combination theatre/television production facility, the Moody holds roughly 2,200 and has the feeling of a very intimate gig. We came out swinging and relaxed, simply having a good time playing in front of that receptive audience. Before we knew it, over 2 hours had flown by and we were back in the cars for a runner to the hotel.
We’ve been lucky with the food so far on this North American run but we definitely hit American catering tonight, everything cooked to death sitting in steamers. You know you’re going to be in trouble when you smell that high school cafeteria smell as you walk into the serving area. Tonight was typical of U.S. catering.
Tomorrow is a quick flight to Dallas for a gig there. I can’t remember the last time we played in Texas…if ever.
Denver, Colorado 22, 23 September 2015
Tuesday the 22nd was a day off here in Denver . One of the pitfalls of keeping these notes going tour after tour is that I tend to be a creature of habit, generally stopping at familiar places that satisfy. The upshot being, I write about the same things over and over like an elderly uncle repeating himself. Today’s no different. I made a return to the gym after a week away due to feeling so poorly. After being away from it for a week combined with Denver’s mile high altitude, I definitely was working hard to get through it. A slightly truncated treadmill session but managed through all the rest. Following that and a shower I made a bee line to…and here comes more redundancy part…. Sam’s No. 3 Diner and Bar. Established in 1927, Sam’s is a a fixture in Denver and has been featured on America’s Dives and Diners. An amazingly broad menu and full bar service. Maybe the only place in the world you can order pancakes and a martini for breakfast. One of Sam’s specialties is green chilli and pork. I’m quick to admit that I am a green chilli snob. You can’t get it everywhere which makes it even more special…only in Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Colorado. I grew up eating this green stew in Phoenix and have since learned how to make it myself in the foreign lands of Tennessee. I’ll stand up on anyone’s coffee table and announce Sam’s green chilli is great. A large bowl with two warmed flour tortillas and a draft Pabst Blue Ribbon cost me less than 7 bucks and could not have been a tastier or more satisfying lunch. So.. once again, here it is: Sam’s No. 3 Diner & Bar located on the corner of 15th and Curtis. I’m going back
I thought I’d take this opportunity to plug a few things my children are up to on the musical front. My youngest son Jeremy, writes and records music under the alias Saurus. He has an album ready for release and has posted several things here on Soundcloud. This is good stuff… brave stuff.
My other son, Nick, has a band with his better half called PANGS. They’re continually writing and recording. Their latest, Already Dead, can be found here www.pangsband.bandcamp.com This single snagged PANGS Band of the Week from New Musical Express in London a couple of months ago.
That great voice you hear on Already Dead, has just become studio manager and booker for a fantastic recording studio in Nashville called Welcome to 1979. A large facility dedicated to the fine art of analogue recording, from tube consoles, outboard gear, vintage microphones, tape machines, lacquer mastering to equipment repair and restoration…Welcome to 1979 has it all. Check out their website for a full tour, pics and client list. www.welcometo1979.com If you are interested in booking, rates or would like a little more information, you can reach Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, I love having and using my Benado Deluxe Black effects pedal on stage every night. I have my own signature model called the RB Deluxe and consists of a simple set up of Benado effects in one pedal, tremolo, delay and over-drive, the very same one that I use. They are simple, straight forward, no nonsense, built like tanks, hand assembled and wired and most important…. they sound deep, rich and analogue. When the effect is not in use, it is by-passed. Check out Benado Effects here: www.benadoeffects.com
That brings us to Wednesday the 23rd. A dear pal and genius musician John Hobbs and his mate Elizabeth spent the day here in Denver and I had lunch and a walk around town with them this afternoon. John and I go back to the old L.A. days doing session work together and we both ended up in Nashville doing more of it. John and Glenn Worf have logged thousands of hours in studios together as have John and Jim Cox before Hobbs moved to Nashville. John recently retired and moved to Elizabeth’s home in Taos, New Mexico and they’re happy as clams. It was great seeing them both in Denver today and at the show at Red Rocks tonight.
Red Rocks is one of the most beautiful of all outdoor amphitheatres, a natural towering of massive red rocks to either side of the audience seating. Presentations going back to 1908 have been staged here. My first time to play Red Rocks was with Neil Diamond in September of 1972. I never tire of coming back here. It’s an honour to perform at this venue. Everyone involved is top drawer from the staff to the caterers and we love playing here.
A capacity audience of 8,500 tonight and a wonderful show from the down beat of the first song to the final chord of the last. Mark & Co. fully on form, relaxed and having a great time playing to an audience that could not have been better. Thanks Red Rocks.
Tomorrow is another day off in Denver. Maybe another bowl of green chilli at Sam’s? Definitely a swing at the gym and a good long walk around town.
San Diego, California 21 September, 2015
We pulled up stakes this morning after six days basing from Los Angeles. It was my home for nearly 2 decades but that was a long time ago, I left in 1985. A lot of water’s run under the bridge as they say and it’s now a city of ghosts for the most part. Too many years, too many people gone, everything changes as it should. I always look forward to coming back but after a few days I’m ready to move along. This stay was particularly weird in that apart from getting to and from the shows and one night out for an early dinner, I never left my room, too knackered from whatever got hold of me. Good news is, as of this morning I feel like a new man, and the new man wants a drink. I’m back.
It was a short hop from the Van Nuys airport down to San Diego. Tonight’s gig is a tropical resort called Humphrey’s By The Bay, right on the water next to a marina chock-a-block with yachts and sail boats. A small stage set up right at the water’s edge with a seating capacity of 1,450. We arrived four hours ahead of the show and had one of the hotel rooms for all of us. I quickly staked out the patio over looking the tropical swimming pool, opened my book and that was my afternoon.
Tonight’s show was at 7:30 and the audience was not particularly enthusiastic, in fact one of the coolest crowds we’ve ever faced. That’s not their fault, it’s our job to give them something to be excited about. By the end of Romeo they were with us all the way. It was a great show, relaxed and on it’s toes all at the same time, terrific playing all around. We ended to a roaring standing ovation.
A runner for a 2 hour Mexican food fuelled flight to Denver. I’m feeling nearly 100% and back to my usual gin and tonic. It was a long day and we lost an hour travelling east, by the time I finally got to my hotel room, that bed was welcomed sight.
Day off tomorrow.
Santa Barbara, California 20 September, 2015
I think I’ve turned the corner on the crud scene. It was a slow jump-start this morning but I began feeling cautiously ‘normal’ by early afternoon.
We drove 90 miles north up the coast to Santa Barbara to one of our favourite venues, the S.B. Bowl. A beautiful setting that holds 4,600 people. It was hot and sunny when we arrived just past 4. I used the word ‘cautiously’ normal because I was ready to lay down again when we got there. The backstage facilities are great at the Bowl, lots of large, clean dressing rooms with couches… no trouble finding a quiet one and catching a nap.
It was a 7 o’clock show tonight and about 10 minutes before we went on stage our tour manager Pete McKay came into the dressing room where we’d all gathered to say Eric Burdon and his wife were backstage and wanted to say hello. It’s very rare that anyone is allowed backstage let alone that close to show time, but it was like welcoming royalty when they came in the dressing room. Pretty cool to meet Eric Burdon. It was a quick hello then we were on.
The warm night air and great crowd made for a wonderful evening and a fun show to play. It’s great having Nigel back in the band again and everything is smooth, loose and relaxed. A great gig and we’re already looking forward to returning to the Santa Barbara Bowl.
After the final song we piled back into the cars and headed back to LA for our final night in town. Tomorrow we check out, fly to San Diego (VERY short flight) for show then on to Denver tomorrow night.
Many thanks to all who have sent notes about my well being, much appreciated.
Hollywood, California 19 September, 2015
The Dolby Theatre tonight. It’s was built on the corner of Hollywood Blvd and Highland specifically as a television-theatre for the Acadamy Award presentation every year. Lots of gigs and other shows play there as well and was originally named the Kodak Theatre.
I won’t bore you with how nothing looks the same to me in Los Angeles anymore even though I lived and worked in LA and Hollywood for 17 years. It’s a town of memories now and the occasional ghost of a building that still resembles what it used to be. I’m not sure what used to be on the space that is now the Dolby… Grauman’s Chinese? Pickwick Books? Can’t remember.
It was a sold out house of 3,400 fans and I thought is was a great audience given that “industry” cities can be a little blase. A rocking crowd tonight who were definitely NOT too cool for school.
It was another shaky day on the wellness front. I can’t believe that apart from an early dinner a couple of nights ago and the gigs, I have not left this room. However as the day went on I began feeling better and felt nearly normal when we took the stage for what was a great show. Not until we got into the cars to go back to the hotel did I feel a bit knackered. I’m taking that as a very good sign this goddamn bug has had it’s day. I’m bored. I want my gin and tonic! Maybe tomorrow.
Berkeley, California 18 September, 2015
Yesterday was a day off in Santa Monica. I spent most of it in bed although my old friend Jim Silvers came over in the late afternoon. Jim was the very first guitar student I had when I moved to Los Angeles and he's also the first artist I ever produced a record on, two in fact. Both are still available having been reissued by Bear Family Records. It was great catching up and we ended up having a remarkable Cuban dinner at Versailles in Culver City, a fabulous restaurant. I was back at the hotel and in bed again before 8 o'clock. Whatever crud has got hold of me, it’s not fun and is in no hurry to let go. It’s settled in my chest which is good because that means it's on the way out. What’s really making things difficult is how washed out and tired I am.
I’ve been taking Lemsip several nights running and if you’ve ever tried to drink a Lemsip running you know how difficult that can be. I’m ready to offer up my assessment. Lemsip is a powdered potion that dissolves in boiling water and then drunk. The active ingredient is 1000 mgs. of Paracetamol (Yanks, think Tylenol) followed by a shit load of chemicals. There is no flavour in the natural world that tastes like Lemsip. I can best describe it as a hot, vulgar parody of lemonade that tastes like it’s been laced with iodine and riddled with aspartame the worst fake sweetener known to man. It leaves a foul taste in your mouth, feeling in your stomach and memory in your brain. It is like drinking hot chemical run off that has been made vaguely potable with imitation lemon flavouring and everything else. Now, here’s my theory on how Lemsip actually achieves it’s results, which it does. You drink a cup of it and go to bed. During the night your body goes into extreme overdrive to repair whatever it is that drove you to take a Lemsip in the first place…… just so it is not subjected to a second dose of it. My British wife howled with recognition when I told her our tour manager fished out a crumpled packet of Lemsip and told me to take it. Please don't think I'm ungrateful, Lemsip saved my ass after that show in Salt Lake and into the following days. You know? I'm just sayin......
It was an early afternoon flight to the Oakland airport with some delicious sushi for lunch. We arrived and drove to one of our favourite gigs, The Greek Theatre in Berkeley. Everybody involved with the Theatre is top drawer, friendly and helpful… the catering’s always good too.
Our friend and brilliant keyboard player John Barlow Jarvis and his girlfriend Linda were with us for dinner tonight at the venue. Glenn Worf and I did more recording sessions in Nashville with John than you could shake a stick at. A couple of years ago he made a change in his life, sold out of Nashville and relocated to Lake Tahoe where he and Linda seem happy as clams. If you’ve listened to a country record made in Nashville the last 25 years, there’s a good chance John is playing piano or organ on it. Great to see John again.
Nigel Hitchcock is back with us for the rest of the North American run. Great having him playing again with us.
It was a sold out 8,500+ show and you couldn’t ask for a better audience or setting. We had a ball playing and the crowd had a good time as well. At the end, even with the ear monitors securely in, the crowd was deafening. I could actually feel the air vibrating with the cheering. We love the Berkeley Greek.
A runner back to LA and we play LA tomorrow.
Las Vegas, Nevada 16 September, 2015
You either love Vegas or you don’t.
I felt remarkably better when I woke and I credit that to British cure all, Lemsip in hot water and a hot bath the night before. It feels good to be back among the living. Sick and freezing on that stage in Salt Lake the night before, I was beginning to wonder.
We left L.A. mid-afternoon for a short flight to Las Vegas where we played the world famous Caesar’s Palace. As documented more than once in previous road notes, I’m someone who doesn’t like Vegas, however having been raised in Phoenix, I do like the desert and when we stepped off the plane the warm, dry heat greeted me like an old friend.
Much to it’s credit, the dressing rooms at Caesar’s were spacious, clean and very comfortable. The polar opposite of that awful cramped trailer in Salt Lake. It was just what I needed, I was beginning to flag again by late afternoon. After soundcheck I made my way to a cool, dark and quiet room with couches and caught a nap before the show.
It was great to play again with feeling in my hands and steady legs to hold me up. Caesar’s Coliseum is a splendid, modern theatre, large stage, high ceiling with a capacity of 4,000+. The audience was slow to come in and slow to respond at first but that changed about midway through the show and by the end that crowd, which had grown from the beginning, was with us all the way. All in all it was a good night in Las Vegas.
A runner to the Legacy and a short flight to LA. In that time our hostess Debby, along with help from Pete McKay, served up a multi-course Indian feast. My appetite’s been off but I did taste of the Chicken Masala and it was really delicious. A plane full of discriminating foodies all concurred.
Back at the hotel I had a re-run of Lemsip and a hot bath, then to bed with my book. This is boring. When do I feel like gin again????
Salt Lake City, Utah 15 September, 2015
Monday the 14th was a day off in Portland. I have relatives up there and have visited that city since I was a kid, absolutely love it. I had lunch with those relatives at a great restaurant, The Chart House, overlooking the city and The Willamette River. Grand to see them all again, everyone in fine form. Over lunch and a couple of Bloody Marys I was able to put a few strands of family history together that were always a bit of a grey area.
Later in the afternoon I stopped in at the world famous Powell’s Books. My wife and I have ordered from them on-line but I’d never been in the store. Store is not an accurate word, the place is one full city block square, three or four stories high and contains 1.6 acres of new and used books. Overwhelming. It pleased me beyond words that on a Monday late afternoon there were hundreds of people in there browsing, reading and buying books. Check out Powell’s here: www.powells.com I purchased a book of Charles Bukowski poetry, one of the very few I don’t already have and made it to the door. A short walk from Powell’s was Penzeys Spice shop, another product we use around our house. It’s the sign of a civilised town that has both Powell’s and Penzey’s. A little further down the street was Case Study Coffee Shop for a great espresso and a read of Bukowski. I love my life. Here’s to Portland.
I’ve been fending off something for the last several days and whatever it is all came to a head during last night’s show in Salt Lake. We played the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre, a beautiful outdoor theatre in the hills of Salt Lake. It had been pouring rain all day and the crew had a miserable time getting set up. We pulled in around 4 and they’d just got the front of the stage unpacked as there was a lull in the weather. We were in a couple of very cramped trailers for dressing rooms, which normally is OK but I really needed to lay down and there was nowhere to do that. I was feeling pretty out of it and weak. Come show time the temps were in the low 60s, damp and breezy. By the third song my hands had completely gone numb, every finger dead and I was shaking so badly I could scarcely play a damn note. Add to that the general weakness I was feeling and I ended up sitting down for most of the show. Anyway, we all soldiered through a very difficult situation and the audience was so good to us out there in that cold and rain in their ponchos.
By the time the cars had arrived at the airport I’d thawed enough to stop shaking and the feeling had come back to my hands. We were flying into Los Angeles where we’ll base for the next several days. It was a couple of cups of hot water with lemon and honey for me. A far cry from the usual gin and tonic hi-jinx . Once landed in L.A., we were driven to the hotel and I was never so glad to end a day.
As I peck this out the following morning, I’m feeling much better and ready to fight another round. We tackle Caesar’s Palace tonight in Las Vegas.
Portland, Oregon 13 September, 2015
Woke up too early this morning with a scratchy throat and a kind of spaced out thing. I hope it goes no further than that though it hasn’t improved as the day went on. Ordered some coffee up to the room, got dressed and took myself out in the grey misty morning for a walk around the Farmer’s Market for about an hour. I’ve been walking around these Seattle streets since I first went on tour with Neil Diamond way back in 1971, I’ve always loved this town.
We left for a short plane ride to Portland this afternoon, flying over Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. This is humbling, fantastic and beautiful country up here in the Pacific north-west.
Tonight’s show was at the Keller Auditorium, a full house of nearly 3,000. Ruth Moody graciously joined us again for several songs and it’s always great to share a stage with Ruth. Good show, good people.
A runner to our Portland hotel where I met up with friends for a drink and a hamburger. Tomorrow’s a day of here and I’ll be having lunch with relatives, beyond that… who knows.
Woodinville, Washington 12 September, 2015 show #2
Our second show tonight at Chateau Ste. Michelle. Everybody involved with the shows here and the winery itself are terrific and can’t do enough for you. We pulled in to the Manor House late afternoon and headed straight down to the dining room for dinner. A beautiful soy-ginger glazed half salmon as well as mushroom chicken breasts, fresh vegetables, creamed cauliflower and more. The kitchen is right there off the dining room so it is all made freshly courtesy of Smith Bros. Catering Co. and as I maybe mentioned in yesterday’s post, it is worthy of Chris and David’s catering in Europe. On the cioppino front, I got a couple of very nice recipes from some kind folks who read yesterday’s post and I managed to get the actual recipe of last night’s cioppino from the man who made it. I plan to try them all when I return at the end of this tour and get back into my own kitchen. Mix ‘em, match ‘em, make ‘em my own. I’m on a mission.
Another great gig tonight, relaxed, fun and Mark in particular playing brilliantly. Wonderful audience… a perfect gig.
We did a runner again back to Seattle and ended up at the Pike Street Pub and Brewery for pitchers of beer and platters of Buffalo wings, nachos and pita & hummus which were completely devoured in a matter of minutes. Happy and ready to end the day, we wandered back to our hotel and as I peck this out, it’s not yet midnight. Ah, the joys of a 7 o’clock show.
It’s off to Portland tomorrow.
Woodinville, Washington 11 September, 2015
Everyone still buzzing over last night’s show. I forgot to mention in my notes that our pal Ruth Moody joined us last night on stage for three or four songs making the evening all the better.
It was our first flight of the N. Am. tour today, a Legacy of course. Our hostess Debby had a lunch of sushi that was fresh as it gets and delicious. A quick 25 minutes and we were down in Seattle followed by a 20 minute drive to Woodinville and the Ste. Michelle Winery. The last time we played this wonderful outdoor venue was in 2005. I guess that it’s true, time flies when you’re having fun, because it honestly seems like only a few years ago that we were here last. It must have made a big impression because I remember it so clearly, yet I couldn’t even tell you what I had for breakfast this morning. It’s a great gig, with all kinds of food concession stands and of course the delicious Ste. Michelle wine is available for purchase all around the grounds. The official capacity is listed at 4,300. I dunno, all I can tell you is I saw a bunch of very happy people for as far as my eye could see. Another smashing gig, tonight’s show was actually an added on show. Tomorrow’s was the booked show and it sold out in 5 minutes. A great place to see anybody I would think. The audience was ear shattering and deliriously happy. The music? The wine? A bit of both I suspect.
The dinner at the winery, served in the Manor House was exceptional as it was cooked right there in the house kitchen, steaks wrapped in bacon, fresh vegetables and a cioppino that was one of the finest things I’ve ever eaten. Cioppino is a fish stew originating from the late 1800’s in San Francisco, a dark red tomatoey based, tangy, rich stew with shrimp, clams, chunks of white fish, scallops. It was so good I had three bowls of it and just writing about it makes me wish I had some right now. I never made it to any of the other dishes but was assured they were equally remarkable. I really must find a good recipe for cioppino and get cracking with it when the tour ends. It’s a perfect autumn and winter dinner with some crusty sourdough bread and an ice cold glass of white Bourdeaux.
A runner back to Seattle where we’ll spend the next couple of nights and head back to Woodinville tomorrow afternoon for our second show.
Vancouver, B.C. 10 September, 2015
If you’re reading this first post of the North American tour, it means that I was successful in remembering how to up-load onto my site. Welcome back.
The British boys arrived in Vancouver a few days ago in hopes of diminishing the jet lag. The three Yanks, Jim, Glenn and I, flew in yesterday. Jet lag aside, everyone to a man looked healthy, rested and ready to take on this next adventure. We had a run through a few things Wednesday evening and again today at sound check. It’s staggering how much you can forget in five weeks off and, how quickly it all comes back. It feels good being with the boys, our crew and back on tour.
After soundcheck today we piled in to catering. Unfortunately due to American venues and various contracts with them, we don’t have our own chefs in North America. What that means is, food that is cooked somewhere other than at the venue then brought in and kept warm in steam servers. It’s fine but it’s not what it was in Europe. On the bright side, we all manage to drop a few pounds when touring America. One of the angels from our UK catering crew, Steve Bond, is along with us to keep an eye on things but it simply cannot be the same.
The Brits were in various stages of jet lag before the show but when we hit the stage it was another story altogether. With five weeks off the show was as fresh as ever and I have to say right here… tonight’s show was one of the very best this band has ever played. A combination of the time off and the jet lag, but it was SO great on stage tonight. And the audience…. before we ever played a note they were with us. A fantastic Thursday night at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Thanks Vancouver.
We leave tomorrow for a couple of shows at the St. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, Washington. What a great way to launch the North American tour, the kind of nights you live for.
Barcelona, Spain 30, 31, July 2015
Thursday the 30th was a day off in Barcelona. The day before that was another day of hard, long travel and we didn’t arrive at the hotel in Barcelona ’til 3:00 in the morning. I got up very late, ordered a pot of coffee and finally got down to the gym around 1. My energy and spirit have been high for all these weeks. Maybe because I know this is the wrap, I’m beginning to feel the entire length of the tour. I spent the day back in my room re-organising my bags and getting ready to go home on Saturday.
A bit of sad news came this morning from Nashville with the passing of steel guitar titan Buddy Emmons. His career was too long and note worthy to begin covering here except to say that Buddy was one of the earliest and without question the greatest architect of the pedal steel guitar, he wrote the book. Buddy was and remains the musician everyone who plays that instrument looks up to and emulates. I had the good fortune and honour to have made records with him over the years. Many a-glass will be raised to Buddy over the coming days and years: mine included. He was a humble and self-effacing guy who disliked being idolised. Although he would disagree, a couple of his greatest early showings on pedal steel is this terrific Faron Young recording of Sweet Dreams from 1956 https://youtu.be/zRkN_vLhXME and Ernest Tubb from 1958…. Half A Mind, written by Roger Miller. https://youtu.be/47xX9NDpxJo. Also, from one of his mid-60s solo albums, a beautiful tune he wrote called Blue Jade https://youtu.be/aQKY2BVTgO8. His playing crossed lines from straight country, pop, jazz, rock and Mancini movie scores he participated on. Buddy Emmons never stood still and remained active as a player and an innovator until he retired in 2007. He made a lot of solo records as well as playing on other artists sessions. Do yourself a favour and get into Emmons.
Thursday night was a band soiree with all the crew at a brew pub-tapas bar where they brew the delicious Moritz beer. The company and camaraderie were top drawer as we get ready to part for five weeks.
Friday morning I was awake at 7:30 with what sounded like a family packing up and moving out of the room next door. More goddamn banging around and noise than you’d think possible. I laid there fuming for about 15 minutes then got up, ordered some coffee and scrambled eggs and resigned myself to that being the start of the day. Shortly after, more banging and commotion out in the hallway. I threw open the door to find the hotel bellman heaving mountains of bags onto a rolling cartage rack. Good riddance. The blackout curtains in this hotel are remarkable for shutting out every chink of light. About 10 o’clock I was feeling tired even though I’d had a couple of cups of coffee. I dropped the shade and managed to get back to sleep for another three hours. This final day of this European tour was spent quietly, doing some writing, practising and looking ahead to going home tomorrow. The parting will be easier knowing it’s really just an extended break and we’ll pick up again mid-September for a six week run of dates in North America.
Tonight’s last show was outdoors in the town square of Poble Epanyol a destination in Barcelona that is a recreation of an old Spanish village, complete with streets, restaurants and shoppes, old style buildings and of course a town square. All built to give the impression of age but relatively new. Even the interiors of the building are heavy, dark, carved wood with arches and high ceilings. Everything was going along just fine heading toward at 9:30 start when an hour before show time the sky opened up and it poured for all it was worth. The tarps that made a roof over the stage began leaking oceans of water at both sides of the stage onto the monitor desk, all the instruments were on the ends as well. Our fantastic crew leapt into action corralling gear and covering equipment with plastic, then mopping up after the rain abated. Most of the 5,000 strong audience were already in the ‘town square’ and they were soaked as well. An announcement was made that the show would begin at 10 while the crew continued scrambling and re-organising the ends of the stage, essentially moving all the gear closer to the middle where the water wasn’t coming in. My wing man Tom Calcaterra told me just before we took the stage, “It’s going to be a very interesting night.” When we got on stage I understood what he meant, he was practically standing right next to me on stage along with instrument racks and his work station. It made for very quick instrument changes for sure. I could almost stand in one spot and hand him a guitar while he fed me the next. The weather held off while we were on stage for the entire show, a beautiful audience and a well played gig to end the tour on a high note.
As the dressing rooms were comfortable, rather than running back to the hotel we stayed at the venue for an hour or so after and had a few drinks there. Several of the truck drives who won’t be with us in the U.S. came around to say what a wonderful tour this one has been. Chris Desmond our lead caterer did as well. About the time we were leaving the venue the rain and lightening began again and once more the crew got soaked in the load out. Not a good last night for them.
Back at the hotel we weren’t quite ready to let it go and ended up in the bar downstairs for a few more. I finally threw myself out at 3 in the morning as I would be getting up in 4 hours to get to the Barcelona airport and catch my flight home.
So that’s it for another European tour. I don’t know how it happens, but each tour is better than the one before and this has been no exception. As always there are so many people who make these tours happen. Not just happen, but happen with an abundance of pride, excellence and great spirit. To our crew; the electricians, the lighting crew, sound crew, our personal techs who keep us tuned up and with the correct instrument in hand, the truck and bus drivers, the band’s driving crew, our pilots and our hostess on the Legacy… thank you very much. Tim Hook and Peter Mackay our tour managers make our lives a holiday out here on tour, thank you. Paul Crockford, MK’s personal manager is always there if you need a punching bag. He takes as good as he gives and let me tell you he can dish it with the best of them. I don’t know how I got this lucky to share a stage with the likes of Mark, Glenn, Guy, Jim, John, Mike, Ianto and Nigel. The level of musicianship from any one of these guys is staggering. Combined it’s moved grown men to tears and has touched so many thousands of people.
Here’s R.B.’s Top Ten plus One list from the last three months in Europe:
1) HOTEL: We’ve stayed in many memorable ones from the Beaumont in London to the Dolder Grand in Zurich but I have a fondness for the Hotel Nendaz 4 Vallees in Sion, Switzerland with it rustic pine panelled rooms and ski lodge chalet atmosphere.
2) GYM: Several great ones along the way and the Dolder Grand is certainly worth a mention, however the trophy goes to the Four Seasons in Lisbon with it’s spacious rooftop facility and 360 degree view of the city and the harbours. Well decked out with everything anyone would need and enough visual distraction to make a workout enjoyable.
3) DINNER: Again too many high points. For starters, every single dinner in catering was a 5-star event and that’s no exaggeration. We’ve had great band dinners on the nights off as well. However, my vote goes to an Augustiner Haus dinner in Munich. It was a night off and the rest of the band went elsewhere that evening but I had my heart set on a traditional German dinner. Augustiner is the place to get it… sauerbraten in rich, dark brown gravy, sweet cooked red cabbage and dumplings, chased with a couple of litres of golden Augustiner helles beer. The winner.
4) HOTTEST SHOW: No question, Padova, Italy. 37c.-98f. No relief in the dressing rooms and the exhibition hall where dinner was served was hotter still. No fun, but a great gig.
5) COLDEST SHOW: I think that honour goes to Bergen, Norway in early June with a cold breeze coming off the water that never stopped. All hands were numb mid-way through the show.
6) WINDIEST SHOW: Oeiras, Portugal near Lisbon.
7) RECORD SHOP: It’s a tie: Ludwig Beck’s department store in Munich whose entire top floor is still dedicated to jazz, classical, blues and opera. Also, Concerto in Amsterdam, covering several consecutive store fronts with loads of new and used vinyl, CDs and books.
8) MUSICAL DISCOVERY: In Ludwig Beck’s I found a reissued CD of an album by the Art Van Damme Quintette from 1962 called A Perfect Match featuring Johnny Smith on guitar. Van Damme was a great jazz accordionist and made many albums in the ‘50s with the same line-up, bass, drums, vibes and electric guitar. For this album his regular guitar player was replaced with Smith. I never knew this record existed and it’s absolutely fantastic.
9) MUSEUM: Rjikes in Amsterdam
10) MOMENT TO BE ALIVE: Rooftop bar in Paris, 1 a.m. watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle like a Roman candle with friends, with martinis in hand.
11) FAVOURITE NEW PART OF THE WORLD PREVIOUSLY NOT VISITED: The Pyrenees Mountains.
Thanks for tagging along with these notes and they will pick up again when we begin the North American tour. See you in September.
Santiago de Compostela, Spain 29 July, 2015
Before I get started on today, I think I forgot to mention we had a sold-out crowd of 12,000 at last night’s show in Lisbon who braved the wind and were a fantastic audience. A grand gig despite the wind.
A long day today, the 29th. We checked out of the Lisbon hotel at 3, made our way to the airport for an hour and fifteen minute flight to Santiago de Compostela loosing an hour on the way. Arrived at the venue and half the band piled in the small lift up to the second floor and the dressing rooms. After a several minutes those of us waiting for the elevator gave up and took the stairs. Turns out those guys were stuck in the lift for about 10 minutes as the doors wouldn’t open. They were finally released and we all made a dash to catering for dinner. As we were not playing until 10:30, there was a massive amount of time to kill after dinner. A few of us went into the “quiet” dressing room, opened the windows for some cross breeze and promptly dozed off in the low lights and comfy couches. Abruptly, a couple of workers from the venue walked in with a ladder and static blasting walkie talkies and proceeded to climb up to the two ceiling fixtures and screw the bulbs in… lighting the place up like a Christmas tree. I asked if there was a switch to shut the lights off and the response was “Que?” In the end we had them go back up the ladder and unscrew the lights. Strike two against the venue. Finally, after a four and half hour hang out we took the stage to a sold-out standing crowd of 10,000 plus. What an audience…. so loud. it was a great show playing for them although the sound of Glenn’s bass was absolutely howling on our side of the stage. This wasn’t a volume thing, simply how the bass reacted to both the venue and the stage itself. Funnily, where Glenn was standing he could hardly hear the bass at all. All in all, it was a crap venue and a brilliant show. Often goes that way.
A runner to the Legacy for a 1:15 a.m. departure to Barcelona landing at 2:50. As I peck this out it is just past 4 in the morning and I've been awake since 9 yesterday morning.
I pulled as much stuff out of the wardrobe trunk tonight as I could carry and will begin re-shuffling my bags tomorrow for going home. This tour has flown by quick and smoother than any of the previous ones we’ve done. I’ve very glad we’ll all be heading into the North America run in September otherwise I’d be very sad right now that it’s nearly over.
Tomorrow’s a day off in Barcelona.
Lisbon, Portugal 28 July, 2015
Yesterday the 27th was a day off in Lisbon. Not having been in a gym since Rome, I made it up to the roof top fitness centre in our hotel, a top drawer facility with floor to ceiling windows and a 360 degree view of Lisbon and the water. I followed that with a walk on the cobblestone sidewalks of the city that were somehow always uphill. I woke up this morning and my legs were sore as hell and spent the whole day luxuriating on the large balcony of my room practicing my charango. Mid-afternoon I ordered lunch up to the room, something I never do. A club sandwich that I devoured out on that balcony. A complete indulgence.
Tonights show was an outdoor gig in Oeiras, a suburb 15 minutes from Lisbon. We were alerted before we arrived that the wind was whipping. The top covering of the stage had to be removed to prevent it becoming a sail. When we got there it was blowing like crazy. Glenn couldn’t use his string bass as there was no place to lay it down that it didn’t start spinning from the wind. By 9:30 when we took the stage the wind had died down a little but blew steadily throughout the entire show. It was cool evening and with the wind it bordered on cold. Hard to believe it’s July.
We had another great show tonight for 12,000 wildly enthusiastic folks then did a runner back to the hotel for a couple of night caps down in the bar.
Very near the end now with just two shows to go. Saturday night we’ll all be sleeping in our own beds again. This European tour had sped by.
Seville, Spain 26 July, 2015
For all of the travel and hours yesterday, having been awake for over 18 hours by the time I got back to my room, I still wasn’t ready to call it a day and found myself puttering around until 4 in the morning. Why I’d wake up a 9 is beyond me but there you have it. This hotel is gym-less so I spent a very leisurely morning and early afternoon doing as little a possible.
I have been practicing my charrango, the Peruvian instrument that was given to me by Brazilian guitarist Sergio Diab while we were in Rome. It’s a wonderful sounding instrument and I’m beginning to make a little headway with it. By the way, Sergio has his own album of instrumental guitar music. You can find out more about Sergio and his music here: www.sergiodiab.com.br
We departed Salamanca late in the afternoon for a one hour flight to Seville where the temperatures are no longer mild but what you’d expect in Spain in July… hot. We’ve had a reprieve the last couple of days with very mild weather back in the Pyrenees and yesterdays show in Avila when most wore t-shirts beneath their stage shirts. That’s now behind us. Seville was in the 90s today.
It was a 10:30 show tonight and we arrived around 6. A long time to kill at the venue. It’s known as a “power hang”. Mercifully the dressing rooms were air conditioned and on this tour we now have the luxury of a “Quiet Room”. Self explanatory. I went into the quiet room which was massively air conditioned and promptly laid down for a nap on the couch. Followed by dinner at 7:30, a meet and greet at 9 and by golly we STILL had an hour and 15 minutes before we took the stage.
We finally got in the wings ready to go on and i realised the right side of my in ear monitors had packed it in. So the first couple of songs were soldiered through on my part. Before the third song I was able to switch ear pieces to my old set from the previous tour which took quite a bit of getting used to. Anyway it was a bit of a struggle for the first half of the show on my part but nothing too bad. We played to 5,000+ vocal Sevilla fans and it’s great to see this band, on the last week of the tour, playing as if it was the very first show. Mark playing great again tonight.
A runner to the Legacy and an hour flight in to Lisbon where we’ll base for the next few days. It will be nice to stay in one place for this next couple of shows.
Avila, Spain 25 April, 2015
Last night’s show in Lanuza was very unusual in that the stage was erected at the edge of the lake in Huesca, Sallent de Gallego, the vast lake behind the structure and yards of water between the front of the stage and the people. It was a gorgeous setting although the wind coming off the water proved chilly, John and Mark receiving the brunt of the cold. For those of us a few feet back and protected from the wind, it was cool and pleasant. For Guy who is suffering with the flu, he was sweating and had to change mid-show out of wet clothes into dry ones. Something for everybody. For those of us on stage who were less than comfortable, I would have never guessed it from their performances. To a man everybody stepped up and put on a great gig for 5,000 people who were singing along.
As the show didn’t begin until 10 o’clock, we arrived back at our chalet-hotel past midnight, gathered down in the bar for a nightcap then called it a day.
Saturday. 25 July, 2015. A hard day’s travel. These tours are always set up for maximum comfort and minimum travel hardship. Every once in a while logistics demand otherwise. Today was one of those days and it looked like this:
9:30 Bag pick up
10:45 Depart hotel for Pau Airport, (2:15 drive)
1:00 Wheels up to Salamance Airport, (1:05 flight)
2:05 Land in Salamance and drive to the hotel
7:30 Depart hotel for venue, (1:30 drive)
9:00 Arrive at venue in Avila
1:05 A runner back to the hotel in Salamanca, (1:30 drive)
2:35 Arrive at hotel
We arrived on sched this afternoon at our hotel. Salamanca is located in the northwestern midlands and is home to a large university. With a lot of travelling already done I think most folks were off to a siesta. I thought I might try to get my head down as well but wasn’t very tired. I continued mopping up old e-mail from my days offline and decided to get out for a walk and a coffee. Just a block from the hotel is the Church of St. Stephens, it’s convent and cloisters dating back to the 1500s. I enjoy going in the old cathedrals even though I’m a devout non-believer. They’re usually dark, cool and quiet and I always light a candle for those gone. Who can it hurt?
Tonight’s show in Avila is an hour and half drive from Salamanca. We met for dinner tonight in the hotel dining room rather than eating at the venue then left Salamanca at 7:30 on schedule, for the venue. This where things began getting interesting, about an hour into the journey we began going up little narrow streets in small villages that wound upward and finally became barren mountains with hairpin turns. There was nothing for miles around let alone a gig. After nearly 2 hours of driving it was clear that the wrong road had been taken. A tense confab with our road manager and the lead driver finally set us in the right direction. By the time we arrived in the vicinity of the venue we were caught up in audience traffic. A police car was sent for and with lights ablaze we were escorted up the wrong side of the road to bypass the traffic in. There were more than a few cars coming at us and it was nerve wracking as to who would pull over. Spinal Tap in Spain. We finally arrived at the venue, Festival Musicos en la Naturaleza. Turns out the is was the final gig of the 2010 tour an outdoor festival with 14,000 in attendance. A very popular band in Spain opened the show, Fito & Fitipaldis from Madrid. A well loved group and they had the audience with them all the way. We took the stage at 11 o’clock and two hours later were back in the vehicles heading back to Salamanca. This time the right roads were taken and it was exactly a 90 minute drive putting us at the hotel at 2:30 in the morning.
A very long day.
Back on line in Lanuza, Spain 24 July, 2015
Welcome back. I’ve been out of pocket and off line for several days due to leaving my computer in a dressing room back in Barolo, Italy. One of our drivers graciously made a side trip back to retrieve it, which was appreciated more than I can say. I got it back yesterday but the internet in our hotel is nearly non-functional. As you can imagine the backlog of e-mails is staggering and I’ll try to catch up with them over the next few days. It took several hours, really, to download them given the poor internet service here.
In 50 words or less, here’s a summary of the last three gigs: we’ve played shows in the wine country of Barolo on the 20th to a record attendance for that venue of 9,600, Rome on the 21st and Lucca on the 22nd. I won’t go into detail about those days except to say they were all outdoor, hot and wonderful gigs.
We decamped Roma the morning of the 23rd and flew to Pau in the French Pyrenees. From there it was a spectacular 2 hour plus drive through dozens of villages and hamlets around, through and over the gorgeous Pyrenees mountains arriving at last in Tramacastilla De Tena, Spain. Apart from the aforementioned internet, this chalet-hotel we’re staying in is delightful.
In a nutshell that brings us to our show in Lanuza on the 24th. I threw open the curtains to the towering peaks of the mountains, ordered a cafe con leche and tried unsuccessfully to get online. Nada. I went downstairs to the lobby-lounge thinking it might be better there. Nope. Strange thing is, it shows you being online but you’re not. Everyone’s in the same boat. What I realised over the last four or five days being without this computer is how tethered I’ve become to it, all the time thinking of myself as not being one of those people. It’s been greatly liberating not being tied to e-mail or anything else. That said I have a whole load of stuff to deal with now, most of which will be taken care of with the delete button.
My phone rang around noon, Tim asking if I’d be interested in a car ride and a walk. With Tim at the wheel, Peter, Mark, Glenn and I rode through the switchback hairpin turns of the rugged, shear mountains to a hamlet called Panticosa, with a cascading waterfall, lake and hiking trails. The air was cool and clean and the water was the same. I cupped my hands and drank from spill down of the falls…pure and delicious. After wandering awhile we made our way to an outdoor cafe for coffees and tortillas, that tasty Spanish pie of potatoes and eggs. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at an overlook and watched a hawk ride the thermals for 20 minutes. With the exception of Tim who has hiked the Pyrenees with his son Sam, this is the first time for most of us in these spectacular mountains and it is one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places I’ve ever been.
Just arrived at the gig where the internet is stable so I think I’ll post this while I can with more to follow, hopefully, tomorrow.
Padova, Italy 18 July, 2015
A quick correction to yesterday’s notes. Attendance at the show in Sion was closer to 6,000 and not 16,000 as stated. Sometimes the itinerary capacity, especially with outdoor venues are based on other factors and this was one of those times. Still, I stand by my observation that you couldn’t slip an envelope between all the people jammed in there last night.
A lazy morning on the balcony of our chateau hotel, misty and mild. In the light I can see how tall and rugged those mountains really are. Breathtaking. I walked down to the little village below just past noon for a pizza. We checked out at three for the drive down the mountain to the Sion airport and a flight to Venice.
The heat in Venice was staggering, 37c.-98f. We drove nearly an hour to get to Padova. It was decided to forego sound check as the crew had arrived late this morning, fans were milling around everywhere and the heat. This is another gig I remember from a couple of years ago… hot then too. As usual with these outdoor shows, the backstage area is a series of makeshift cubicles, usually with inadequate cooling. Catering was a block away in an exhibition hall and the temperature in there was beyond belief. I can’t imagine what it was like for Chris, David and Steve in the kitchen! I turned around and left. There’s no way I could have sat in there for the time it took to eat dinner. The shows are getting later now as we head into the last leg of the tour..Italy and Spain. On stage at 9:45 tonight. After spending 3+ hours in the backstage heat or airless dressing rooms, we all felt drained. We hit the boards and by the second song I was soaked through. Between the heat, humidity and fatigue it was a difficult show for everyone, but this band rises above any obstacles and it was a beauty of a gig. Apparently, a record attendance for a show there, 8,000 and that figure is correct. The real heroes of today and every day, are the crew. They spent all day outside getting the show together, the first ones there and the last to leave long after we’ve split. Also, our catering team mentioned above. These are men’s men and they make it happen…. every time and not one complaint. Our gratitude is always with them.
A well earned day off Sunday the 19th, then on to Barolo.
Sion, Switzerland 17 July, 2015
We flew east from Geneva to Sion through thunderstorms and lightening, our pilots artfully dodging and weaving them like the threading of a needle. Laetesia our hostess had salads out as we boarded due to the fact that it was a steep take off, the pending storms and an equally steep decent, she would have to remain seated for most of the short flight. Buckle up.
Given what we’d come through, there was relatively little turbulence thanks again to our pilots. We landed in the town of Sion situated in a narrow valley in south-western Switzerland, the site of our outdoor show tonight. The weather was overcast and wonderfully mild compared to the day before in Saint Julien just to the west. The dressing rooms however were hot and airless. Many of us spent the hours before the show either outside or in a sitting area where there was a bit of a cross breeze.
It remained cloudy all afternoon and into the evening but apart from a few sprinkles, the rain held off. Our friend Sonny Landreth opened again tonight. If you’re not familiar with him, his latest record, Bound By The Blues is a good place to jump in. We took the stage at 9:30. Our itinerary says the capacity of the venue is 16,000 and from what I could tell, you couldn’t slip an envelope between any two people in the vast sea of folks out there. I can only assume we were at capacity. It was one of those evenings that we all had one tech problem or another and yet none of it ever got in the way of a stellar show, lots of fun and a terrific crowd. Great gig.
We jumped in the vehicles for a long and winding ride to our chateau-hotel in the mountains. Hotel Nendaz Allees is certainly unlike any we’ve stayed before. Rough pine panelled rooms give it the feel of a cabin in the Alps. In reality it is roughing it 5 star style. We all made a bee line down to the bar which is simply part of the reception area. Drinks and platters of sliced meats and cheese kept coming. What had been a very quiet lounge quickly became a party. From my balcony I look out at the rugged, snow capped peaks of this perfect Alpine setting. Love this hotel.
Saint Julien en Genevois, France 16 July 2015
Wednesday the 15th was a day off in Wien, a well deserved and needed day for most of the band who continue recovering from a vicious little stomach virus.
A sane and early night in bed after our show in Saint Margaethen paved the way for an early wake up. A couple of shots of espressos, a hard push in the gym, shower then out for the day….sunny, warm and gorgeous.
By the time I hit the streets it was noon and the first order of biz was a Wiener Schnitzel and a beer. Like Rome, there’s no shortage of outdoor, umbrella’d cafes. No problem finding a schnitzel, they all have ‘em and they’re probably all good. Really, it’s more a case of finding an empty table in a location you’d care to stay for a while. It didn’t take long to find one and I was not disappointed in either the food or the people watching. Following lunch I walked with all the other tourists past the endless high end designer shoppes. No interest. I stopped in at the Kunsthistorisches Museum for their Musical Instrument exhibit. Guitars and lutes, various keyboards and ancient horns going back to the 1500’s on display. Lots of them. I also, stopped at St. Stephans Cathedral to rest my legs and lit a candle for everyone gone. From there it was more and more walking ending finally at Audio Center, a jazz record shoppe that I accidentally stumble upon. Old and new vinyl as well as compact discs. On the way back to the hotel I ran into Jim who told me he’d already discovered the place. Like John and Mike finding an Irish pub within walking distance of any hotel, Jim and I can always catch the whiff of the vinyl.
Dinner was Italian with a few of the boys then back to the hotel for a night cap and another early night, book in hand.
Thursday…. bags packed and collected at noon. We checked out of the hotel in Vienna at 1:30, boarded the Legacy for an hour and forty minute flight to Geneva, France and drove to our venue, the Guitares en Scene Festival. Apparently it is the hottest day of the year here, nearly 100 f., 36 c. As soon as I stepped off the plane I realised that that would be as comfortable as I’d be until after the show. Of course it’s an outdoor gig and in a tent at that, where the heat further builds up and there is no moving air. I remember this gig from a couple years ago. HOT. Our friend and great slide guitarist Sonny Landreth opened the show tonight and it was good seeing Sonny again. He’ll be with us tomorrow as well.
We took the stage at 9:15. The gigs from here out will be later and later… Italy and Spain. The temps had cooled just slightly from when we sound checked at 4:30 but still hot. A sold-out crowd of 5,000, a fantastic audience. It’s hard not to have a great show with that kind of participation.
A 15 minute drive from the gig to our hotel and I think it’s going to be another early night. Don’t know what’s got into me but I’m enjoying a few quite evenings with a book. I just completed Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow and have begun Fever the bio of r&b singer Little Willie John.
Meantime, it’s hard to believe that in 15 days we will play our last show of this European tour. It really seems like we’ve just begun. I can’t recall a tour that has gone this smoothly or quickly. The good news is we’ll all have a good break with the month of August off and come back together in September for a great 6-week run in North America. Autumn is a wonderful time to tour the States, the weather is turning just a little cooler but still very mild.
Saint Margarethen, Austria 14 July, 2015
A day of complete luxury. I woke at 9 and made an executive decision to do absolutely nothing until lobby call. It wasn’t exactly nothing… I read for a few hours, practiced and had a few espressos courtesy of the Illy machine in my room.
We all met down the lobby at 3:30, everyone enquiring how everyone else was regarding the stomach virus that swept the band. Happily things are much brighter today than yesterday, all the boys have turned the corner and on the mend. Also, the fortunate few, myself included, who didn’t get ill remained healthy. Lots of chatter again and, if not a full compliment around the catering table, it was a better showing.
Tonight’s show was an open air venue called Romersteinbruch in the town of Saint Margarethen about 45 minutes from Vienna. It’s a man-made amphitheatre blasted out of a small mountain and used to present opera as well as pop shows. Sort of strange-sort of cool. So much stone was removed to make the venue that it looks as though it operates as quarry as well. It reminded me a little of Red Rocks outside of Denver, Colorado.
Anyway, it was a sold out show of nearly 5,000. It’s one of those stages that has a huge proscenium between the band and the front row. It felt like the first row of people we a block away. Still, it was good seeing the band feeling better and happy to be on that stage.
Folks a little fragile still and tomorrow is a most welcome day off. I plan to hit the gym early, get out in the town and find a Vienna Schnitzel the size of a small third world country.
Krakow, Poland 13 July, 2015
I was awake earlier than I’d hoped but feeling good. The hotel has an espresso maker with Illy coffee. A couple of cups got me inspired to head down to the gym for a good hour and a half push. Back to the room for a shower and some practise then a 1:30 lobby call for the airport for an hour flight to Krakow.
Six of the nine in the band are sick, mostly some kind of stomach virus that is going around. It was a sombre crew on the flight and at the gig. Most went to see a doctor that was arranged at the show. It’s a testimony to this bunch of men and their profession that it didn’t affect the show in any way even though most other people would have thrown in the towel. Consequently, it was a short list at dinner tonight. That said, I had a beautiful poached salmon in lemon broth with vegetables for supper and for the first time on this tour gave in to dessert… freshly baked apple strudel.
Tonight’s gig was the Tauron Arena, a newly built arena that we’ve not played before. It was the first ‘sold out’ show of the venue… 12,500 people. Though most of the band were walking wounded, it was a fantastic performance tonight, a tremendous show. What a show it was.
A runner to the Krakow airport and a very subdued flight back to Vienna. Mike and I being among the fortunate few though we’re waiting for our turn. In the meantime, he and I had a couple of quick nightcaps down the bar when we got back.
Hopefully everyone will be on the mend tomorrow for an open air show near Vienna.
Saxen, Austria 12 July, 2015
We de-camped the old Bayerischer Hof Hotel early in the afternoon after several days of far too much fun and no lack of excess. A great stay in Munchen.
Air time to Linz, Austria was all of 21 minutes, followed by a half hour drive to the town of Saxen where we played an outdoor show on the grounds of the Castle Clam for 7,500. When we arrived the sun was blazing away but as the day moved on the temps dropped to make it a comfortable show.
A runner for a drive to Vienna, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. We’ll be basing from here for the next few days.
Munchen, Germany 11 July, 2015
Friday July 10, a day off in Munich. Except…..
I woke at 7:45 a.m. to my telephone ringing with a wake-up call that I didn’t request. I was probably rude to the operator although after I’d hung up I was wide awake and ready to go. Fine and thanks. I ordered a pot of coffee, orange juice, a basket of croissant and worked away at that while fiddling e-mail. I got my gym togs on and made my way UP to the rooftop fitness centre. This is a very old hotel we’re in. I stayed here back in 1971 when playing with Neil Diamond and it was a very old hotel then. Well, the old girl’s somewhat in step with the times now though not without a few eccentricities that it always had. Back in the dark ages of the ‘70s I doubt seriously there was any type of exercise room or equipment. I can’t say for sure because I was in my 20’s back then and thought I was bullet proof. Work out? Why? Anyway, people didn’t come to a hotel to exercise, they came to luxuriate. Happily the world’s come around to a different way of thinking and so have I. The rooftop gym was brand new, cool aesthetically and temp-wise and equipped for business.
After a shower and some practising I threw myself out onto the streets of this wonderful city. It was always a little touristy around this part of Munchen but don’t remember it being this bustling. A real crush of people down around the Marienplatz where the famous Rathaus und Glockenspiel are located. Check it out here, https://youtu.be/T1x3GrJFoyA Still, it was a beautiful day to be out and around.
Glenn and I were talking a few days ago about the big department store here that had a very impressive record and CD selection. Neither of us could recall the name. I thought it was named after a man and finally, I came up with Louis Beck. After a few more hours it came to me…Ludwig Beck. I told Glenn even if it was still there I doubted seriously that they would have such an expansive CD section if they had one at all. As I was meandering around the Marienplatz, I looked up and there was Ludwig Beck’s! I went in and took the escalator up the stationary dept. thinking if there were any records left they might be there. No… although I did purchase a few cards. I decided before I left and since I’d actually purchased something, I’d use the men’s room on the 5th floor. When the moving stairs arrived at floor five my eyes took in a wonderful sight and my credit card began to quiver in my wallet. The entire 5th floor of Ludwig Beck’s is STILL devoted to CD’s and vinyl. Pause to think about that a moment, an entire floor of a modern department store devoted to music. I sprinted off the escalator and tore in. There’s an unspoken snobbery about it that I recalled from visits years ago. Not in any way from the staff, but in the music offered for sale. A full half and then some is classical and opera, followed closely by jazz, blues and some children’s music. I like that. As things have turned out they are very smart for sticking to it…. no pop, rock or other things. The music they carry appeals to people who still purchase music rather than streaming or downloading it, legally or illegally. Clearly business is thriving. I hit that jazz section like a train. As I was looking through I heard a couple of familiar voices coming up the escalator… Jim and Ianto, who’d heard me mention the place to Glenn and had stumbled across it just as I did. This was musical Nirvana even if Ludwig Beck didn’t actually stock them. I got out of there relatively unscathed with 7 CDs. Jim and Ianto were pushing wheel barrows full when I bid them adieu and finally found the men’s room. Here’s to Ludwig Beck.
I left the store and found myself in the Rindermarkt, a large outdoor marketplace with stalls of fresh fruits, vegetables, fleicsh and wurst shoppes, baked goods, souvenirs, beer and grilled sausage stalls. I stopped in for a half litre of Munich helles and a grilled bratwurst then back to the hotel to listen to one of my purchases… the great tenor sax player Flip Phillips.
It was a big dinner thrown by our longtime promoter here in Germany, Marek Lieberberg. These are always lavish affairs at the finest restaurants Germany has to offer… remarkable dinners. If you’ve checked in to this diary before you know my devotion to great food. However, for the last several weeks I’ve had my heart set on a traditional Bavarian dinner and Munchen is the place for that. It was a tough toss up but I opted out of the band dinner for sauerbraten in gingerbread sauce, dumplings, sweet boiled red cabbage and a couple of litres of helles bier. The apple strudel was winking at me but I simply couldn’t get anything more in after that. Munich is the home of Augustiner beer and there are at least three Augustiner Restaurants in the area. Fortunately, they all have the same menu and they’re all great. If you’re fortunate to come across one, don’t pass it by.
Saturday 11, July 2015
A day of practise and rest before departing for tonight’s show at Olympiahalle. Nigel Hitchcock is back with us and we’re all happy to have him back in the bubble. Soundcheck was spent working up some old faves with Nige then on to catering. I ordered a chicken pie that was beyond belief. Massively delicious. Great show, fully confident still up on two wheels occasionally for 9,000+ great Munchen fans. Back to the hotel then on to Augustiner for beer, sausages, pretzels and mustard. We were graced by Joan Baez at our table who played a show tonight in Munich along with Dirk Powell and met up with us at the restaurant. I’d played on a couple of her records many years ago and it was an honour having her join us.
Back to the hotel and a last trip down to Trader Vic’s for a mai tai.
We de-camp tomorrow and move on to Linz then Vienna.
Leipzig, Germany 9 July 2015
It ended up very late last night. After closing down the Augustiner Haus, John and I went up in Mike’s room listening to music and polishing off a bottle of cold white wine. Slightly fuzzy this morning when I got up and the hotel coffee won the award for the worst coffee of the tour. The kind of coffee that no matter how much milk you put in, it was still dark grey. I managed to choke down one cup, poured myself a second but couldn’t bring myself to drink it. Still, a shower and packing the bag quickly brought me to the surface.
A short drive to the Berlin train station and a stop at the take-away sushi then boarded the train to Leipzig. Apart from the crap coffee I’d not had anything to eat since the night before at Augustiner and that was only grazing. Once we got rolling I opened my box of mixed sushi and John, who was sitting next to me, apologetically opened his bag of McDonald’s. He made a few excuses about not remembering when the last time it was that he’d eaten McD’s. It occurred to me that his food choice was far more predictable and safer than mine…. fast food sushi from a place called "Tokio" in the train station in Berlin. I had visions of getting violently ill but I was completely starving so ate it anyway. It was crap sushi but at least I didn’t get sick and it filled me up.
Leipzig Arena tonight for 7,000+ great folks. The Arena was very echoey and made for a tough gig even with the in-ear monitors. The amazing thing with this band is that nothing is a problem, everyone just gets on with it and it always ends up a great gig. Tonight’s show was no exception. They're always fun shows.
A runner to the Legacy, a short hop to Munich (Munchen) where we’ll stay tonight, have a day off tomorrow and play here on Saturday.
Berlin, Germany 8 July, 2015
Decamped Wolfsburg (Autostadt) midday and took the train to Berlin. European trains; fast, quiet, clean and efficient. America lags far behind in this mode of transportation.
O2 Arena tonight. Soundcheck, meet and greet, a bit of warm up then on stage for a crowd of 9,000. Don’t know what else to say… we’re all enjoying every one of these shows and the audiences that come to see them.
Staying in Berlin tonight so a runner to the hotel. We threw our bags in the rooms then met in the lobby for a short walk to an old haunt, Augustiner House. Full band attendance for what I think is the best beer anywhere, Augustiner Helles. Heavy litre glasses arrived in no time and wurst was ordered. We ended up closing the place down… couldn’t have been a better way to end the day.
I’ve had a number of queries about the picture of my pedal board that appeared in Guy’s tour diary from Hannover a couple of days ago. I don’t usually get into gear talk in these postings, but just to answer the questions…the main section of the board is a “Deluxe Black” made by Benado Effects. Toward the end of the last tour my guitar tech, wing man and life saver Tom Calcattera and I decided the old stomp boxes had seen better days. Loved them and they sounded great but they were almost 20 years old and draining a lot of guitar to amp signal. I’d begun talking with Sage Benado several years ago about a very simple set up and I contacted him as this tour was approaching. The pedal consists of: tremolo, delay and over-drive. These effects are in by-pass mode when not being used, thus allowing the full signal of the instrument to pass through and hit the amplifiers when an effect is not used. Wonderful analogue sound, built like a tank and bullet proof. Benado makes a large range of pedals and will custom design anything you might want. Check them out at: www.benadoeffects.com
Hannover, Germany 7 July, 2015
We’ve stayed the last couple of days in the town of Wolfsburg, Germany. It wasn’t a city until 1938 and was created for the sole purpose of manufacturing Volkswagens and housing the employees. At that time it was known as Stadt des KdF-Wagens bei Fallersieben (City of the KdF Car at Fallersieben). A real mouthful and it was re-christened Wolfsburg in 1945. Wolfsburg’s primary industry and employer is still Volkswagen. It is the richest city in Germany with a per capita income of $128,000. Everyone works for and drives Volkswagens. In the middle of all this industry is a Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Volkswagen convinced them to build here and promised a 75% occupancy year round. This would be from people coming to pick up their VW’s from the factory then driving it to wherever home is in Europe or the U.K. With the hotel and auto museum it becomes a family holiday for many.
So, here we’ve been. After the initial strangeness we all kind of got into it. The hotel itself is comfortable, the food is great, the gym is fantastic and so is the outdoor swimming pool with it’s view of the VW power station. Yesterday’s day off was spent in that auto museum, gym and pool. Last night we walked from the hotel into the “town” on a series of moving sidewalks and ended up at a tapas bar called, wait for it, Cafe and Bar Celona. I don’t make this stuff up, I just report it.
It was poolside again this morning before jumping in our own fleet of VW’s for the hour drive to Hannover and tonight’s show at the TUI Arena. A full house of 10,000 tonight and another cracking show from MK & Co. We’re all just loving playing these performances and the show seems to fly by each night.
A runner back to Autostadt (Auto City) which is what this immediate area of Wolfsburg is called.
We pull up stakes tomorrow and head to Berlin.
Stuttgart, Germany 5 July, 2015
Back in the Euro time zone again, I’ve been wrestling with a little jet lag the last couple of days. Wide awake with just three hours sleep, I ordered some coffee and scrambled eggs that arrived with a basket of freshly baked rolls, a plate of cheese and orange juice. I don’t usually go in for large breakfasts but devoured it all. I finally managed to get back down to sleep for an hour before it was time to pack up, check out and shove off to the gig.
We arrived a couple of hours earlier than usual at the venue, Schleyerhalle. Germany is still in the grip of an historic heat wave, another day in the very high 90’s. Schleyerhalle, an arena from the 1960s has never been up-dated to have air conditioning. After several near 100 degree days, the place was like an oven and apart from the band’s dressing room the heat was inescapable and relentless. Once more our crew and the catering boys worked through miserable conditions, never complained and no doubt dropped 10 pounds in water weight a man.
It was a full house of 10,000. As I stood backstage just before the house lights went down, I noticed a fluttering through the entire audience. 10,000 people all fanning themselves at the same time. House to black and on we go. Another steamer of a show in all ways. Crisp, edgy, at time up on two wheels and definitely sweaty. The hard thing is trying to keep it out of your eyes which is just about impossible. It also managed to seep into the in-ear monitors which in effect made things sound under water, which I suppose they were. Somehow it all added up to a great gig. It’s good to be back on the second half of the tour.
A runner and it was great to board the Legacy again and see Laetisia with gin and tonics in hand. A short but tricky flight into Wolfsburg. With heavy thunderstorms all around like land mines, our crack pilots managed to dart and weave around most of them though not without some turbulence. I don’t think I’ve ever flown through rain that heavy. The wing lights were on and the sheets of water were nearly solid. Hold onto those drinks boys. A television screen in the cabin showed our intended route in one colour and the circuitous one we took in another. Zig, zag and round about. Hat’s off to our pilots. We landed safe and sound and drove through this very strange industrial town, the home of Volkswagen. Wolfsburg seems to have been built around the motor works with a hotel plopped right in the middle of it all. Too weird.
Neither Mike, John or I were ready to give up the day and headed down to the hotel bar that was full of very drunk screeching girls and loud guys who had participated in some kind of long boat race and had come in first. It really was impossible to be in there. We ordered drinks and found a quiet lounge just off the lobby to drink and talk there and continued to do so until 3:30 in the morning.
Day off on Monday. It’ll be the gym and visit to the hotel pool if the weather is clear.
Bad Kissingen, Germany 4 July, 2015
Back again for the second half of the European tour. It was very good being home in Nashville for 10 days, lots of time with my family, good dinners and putting a fresh charge on my battery.
I arrived back in Frankfurt Friday morning. What’s going on with the weather? It was 36C./97F.! Since I had the day off to centre myself back in Euro time-zone, I hit the hotel gym right after checking in and followed it soaking up a ray or two on the patio. It was a short stay on the chaise lounge…scorching in that sun. An hour’s nap in the afternoon seemed to put me right with the time change. Both Jim and Glenn arrived today as well from L.A. and Wisconsin respectively. It was a reunion for three at the hotel bar, post time: 6:30 for dinner, drinks… three orders of the same.. Vienna schnitzle and damn good it was.
Saturday the 4th of July the three Yanks met in the lobby of the Villa Kennedy and piled in with Alex our driver for a pleasant 1.5 hour drive to Bad Kissingen. A spa town since the 800’s A.D. when the medicinal value of the baths were discovered, it has thrived as a resort and spa destination since. Another scorcher of a day, we arrived in Bad Kissingen to 98 F. Blistering. It was good seeing the the guys again and catching up with everyone’s break. With few exceptions, everyone did fuck all and looked all the better and rested for it.
After a very quick soundcheck we adjourned to catering which was also an inferno. Hats off to Steve, Dave and Chris who’d been cooking all day in that heat. Here’s what they whipped up tonight:
White Bean and Barley Soup
Roast Chicken with mash greens and gravy
Beef and Mushroom Goulash with rice and shredded beetroot
Teriyaki Salmon with egg noodles in a light lemon broth
Fresh strawberries and cream
Every dish is made to order, not sitting on a steam table. I opted for the salmon and it was honestly one of the best things I’ve ever tasted in my life.
The dressing rooms are scarcely cooled, just a bunch of floor fans. It was a meet and greet and between sitting outside for dinner and the m&g I was already soaked. We took the stage at 8 in front of 12,000 wonderful folks. It was a great show. Not having played for a couple of weeks the show was nice and edgy, really fresh, audience and band was great…clothes completely drenched. After the final encore we piled into the vehicles, soaking wet, for another 1.5 hour drive to Stuttgart where we’ll spend the night an play tomorrow. A couple of quick ones at the hotel bar and heading toward the bed.
Finally, the link below turned up a few days ago and I thought I’d post it here. It’s a short 2-minute film about the making of Iris DeMent’s new album, Trackless Woods that I helped produce. The album was recorded in the living room of her home in Iowa City, Iowa and this footage was shot while we were recording last year. Trackless Woods will be released August 1.
Koln, Germany 21 June, 2015
It’s 6 something in the morning as I peck out the last of these notes before a 12 day break. I’m heading home to Nashville today and looking forward to being with my family for a little breather before returning to Europe for another month of dates beginning the 4th of July.
Sunday the 21st we took another train journey from Frankfurt to Koln, all cautious to step onto the correct train this time. Our usual venue in that city, Lanxess Arena. Straight into catering for two piping hot bowls of creme of chestnut and mushroom soup with a cuppa tea. Soundcheck, where believe it or not, after 6 weeks of gigs we still work on details within some of the songs. That might be musically, sonically, something to do with the mix or lighting…. always trying to improve things.
Dinner was a proper send-off Sunday roast of either roast beef or herb roasted chicken with Yorkshire pudding, roasted potatos and carrots, green beans and gravy, salads, cheese board and apple pie. There was only one thing to do, over eat, and we all did. Mike, John, and I then lumbered in for a meet and greet with instruments in hand followed by MK with pen in hand for signing autographs.
We took the stage at just past 8 and from my vantage point I couldn’t see an empty seat. 12,000+ people, another great audience, MK and Co. in top form. We’ve really got a head of steam up now and this little break in the tour will put a fresh charge on everyone’s batteries.
The notes will resume on July 4th with our first show in Bad Kissingen when we return to Europe. Meantime I’ll be firing up the b.b.q. and shaking up a few martinis at home and hope you’ll be doing the same.
Mannheim, Germany 20 June, 2015
Probably the shortest post of all. SAP Arena tonight for 9,000 in Mannheim. After last nights deluge the crew was worn and especially glad for an indoor show. We arrived at the venue for the usual bowl of soup, cuppa tea, soundcheck, dinner, meet and greet then Glenn and I did interviews for a German guitar magazine, leaving just enough time to change and take the boards. The band is firing hard… great gig.
One more show tomorrow night in Koln then we go our separate ways for a couple of weeks break. Everybody looking forward to a breather before returning to Germany on the 4th of July for another month of European shows.
Mainz, Germany 19 June, 2015
Thursday the 18th was a day off and it couldn’t have been a better one.
I pitched myself out into the street around 1 in the afternoon and didn’t get back to the hotel until 6…shopped, walked, and stopped for a beer now and again. I had lunch at Heinemann, dating back to the 1930’s Heinemann is a confectioner, bakery and also has a great cafe upstairs. The food and service were both top drawer and the waitress explained that the older people feel comfortable there. I suppose I might qualify myself as I felt comfortable as well. It was the first thing I’d eaten all day and I opted for two fried eggs with bright orange yolks on top of fresh, bright green creamed spinach and potatoes fried with bacon. Washed down with a Bitburger Beer, it made a perfect brunch. It was a real temptation to dive into the beautiful baked desserts but I opted for a caffe latte and left it at that. It was a beautiful day, windy but mild and I must have walked for miles. At 5 o’clock in the afternoon I still wasn’t ready to give it up so I turned the other direction and headed down to The Rhine River. The wind was whipping down by the water and I pulled into one of the many outdoor bistros that was somewhat protected by large umbrellas and lots of propane space heaters. Sat down right next to one of them, ordered a stein of Warsteiner and watched the river go by.
Later that evening MK & Co. made our way to one of the open air bar/cafes near the river for sausages, sauerkraut, potato salad, pig knuckles and the alt beer this city is known for. A mighty dent in Dusseldorf’s supply of all the above occurred. Back at the hotel we continued on a little longer at the bar with Cliff Williams and Brian Johnson of the band AC/DC. Lots of laughs and stories… great stuff.
Friday afternoon the 19th we pulled up stakes and headed to the Dusseldorf train station. Somewhere along the way on every European tour we manage a train ride to the next town if it’s not too far. The trains are fantastic, clean and smooth as silk… love them. Herding this group of guys together is sometimes like trying to lasso a cloud. We all made it to the same platform and began spreading out from there. When the first train pulled up and opened it’s doors a few of the boys started boarding. Problem is it was the wrong train. Tim our tour manager was bringing up the rear flailing his arms and shouting “NO”. Crisis averted and the correct train eventually arrived, was duly boarded and we all managed to get off in Mainz.
The weather was threatening all day and tonight’s show was outdoors. We arrived at the venue to find it and the stage covered in standing water. Sometime around 4 o’clock a massive storm cell opened up bringing with it straight line winds, blowing open the covering at the back of the stage. The deluge was blowing straight through the entire stage. Everything was soaked from the hanging sound system at the front of the stage right through to the lights at the rear and everything in between. A real nightmare. We were told to stay off the stage and the crew went into emergency mode mopping up, making sure the electrical system was safe, drying instruments and gingerly testing every piece of equipment. Water was being emptied from Guy’s keyboards then the insides dried with a hair dryer. At showtime they crew was still replacing a Leslie speaker for one of the organs.
We managed to take the stage shortly after 8 and good luck was with us. Another storm was predicted but bypassed us and there was even a glimmer of sunshine cracking through now and again. The air was cool but not too bad and the wind died down a little. It turned out to be a cracking show for an audience of over 10,000 hearty folks who braved the elements and turned up to see us. What they didn’t see or know about was how hard our crew worked leading up to that show to make it happen. Every single person on our crew dug in hard and all deserve medals of honour. This show was for them.
We came off stage and waiting in the vehicles were grilled Brautwurst and mustard courtesy of our Alfie Barton who wears too many hats on this tour to mention. As if he didn’t have his hands full with the days crisis.. he still managed to get this together for the drive to Frankfurt. Thanks Alfie.
It was a half hour from Mainz to one of our fave hotels here in Frankfurt. It felt like coming home…. almost. It was just half past 10 when we got there. Full attendance at the hotel’s fabulous bar for a perfect ending to an eventful day. Toasts all around to our mighty crew.
Dortmund, Germany 17 June, 2015
We arrived at our Dusseldorf hotel in the wee hours of Wednesday morning and immediately remembered it as where we’d stayed during our tour with Bob Dylan. John McC. recalled his encounter with Ramblin’ Bob in the lift here… John nodding in his direction, Dylan grunting and that was that. Got up to my room and on the table was a massive Carmen Miranda memorial fruit platter. It was the kind of thing you might see at a large banquet as a centre piece. Grapes spilling over the edges, tangerines, kumquats, cherries, apricots, apples, figs, several pieces of fruit I couldn’t identify all mounding upward to the grand finale… a whole pineapple. My, my. I guess I’ll have a cherry.
Tuesday the 16th had been a busy day, 4 cities and a gig… beginning in Copenhagen, flying to Hamburg for the show, flying into Koln then a drive to Dusseldorf. I was knackered and ready to cut the lights and go to bed. Not so fast there. How do the goddamn lights in this room work? Another case of over-engineering. Several of the lamps had switches that did nothing and apart from one switch in the hallway that put the bathroom lights out there was no obvious way to make it dark. When I called, the chap at the front desk told me to pull out the top drawer of my nightstand and I would find the master controls there. How stupid of me, of course the drawer of the nightstand should have been the first place I thought of to shut off the lights. There it was, a glowing pale blue touch screen that was nerve central for everything in the room. I began pushing icons until the room went mercifully dark and I put my head down.
I’ve been a little slack with the gym attendance the last few days so got myself up after a good night’s sleep, made a couple of cups of espresso with the machine in the room, stared balefully at the mountain of fruit and dragged myself off for a good push in the gym. I was glad to have some of that fruit when I got back to the room and puttered away the next couple of hours before leaving for a drive to the gig in Dortmund.
What was promised as a 1-hour drive ended up as 2 with traffic blocking us in at every turn and each alternate route that was taken. We finally arrived at the venue, Westfalenhalle and climbed over each other getting into catering. Two steaming bowls of the best chicken noodle soup I’ve ever had, bread and butter and a cup of tea. Fortified, we made it up on stage for a quick soundcheck and then onto a meet and greet. Mike on flute, John on fiddle and I on bouzouki played a couple of tunes while Mark met some contest winners, took pics and signed stuff. After was another dash to catering for dinner. It was pie night.. steak and kidney, chicken and a seafood. Platters of beautifully ripe, delicious tomatoes and salads, fresh baked breads and rolls.. another feast. I ordered a chicken pie that had just come out of the oven. Unbelievably great with a thick flaky pastry topping and big chuncks of white meat in a rich creamy gravy with a side of green peas.
Just to top it off was an 8 o’clock show for 8,000 good folks. It was the kind of performance you wish happens every night, perfectly in control but loose and relaxed all at the same time. All kinds of great moments from a stage full of guys who really know what the hell they’re doing. A wonderful audience full of enthusiasm and a terrific gig all around.
We piled into the vehicles from the stage and the return to Dusseldorf was indeed about an hour. Ianto, John and I ended up in the hotel bar for a few then went up to my room. I took a final glance at the pile of fruit, pulled out the top drawer of my nightstand and touched the master terminal switch.
Thursday the 18th is a day off in Dusseldorf.
Hamburg, Germany 16 June, 2015
We decamped Copenhagen this afternoon for a short flight to tonight’s show at the Hamburg O2 Arena. Arrived in time for a bowl of split pea soup in catering then onto the stage for soundcheck.
My friends Richard and Birgit Weize and their granddaughter Lina came tonight and we had a good visit backstage before the show. Richard is Bear Family Records, THE leading re-issue label. Quality has always been the hallmark of Bear Family, the music and the packaging and this year they are celebrating 40 years in the business. If you’re not familiar with their catalogue, check it out here: www.bear-family.de
This was also Lina’s first big concert and we’re honoured it was ours.
A near capacity crowd of 10,000, it was a show with a lot of muscle and a lot of heart and it was good to be back indoors again.
It was a real runner tonight as there’s a very strict 11:00 p.m. curfew on flights in Hamburg. Even if you are in line and cleared for take off, if the wheels aren’t off the ground at 11 sharp, the flight isn’t taking off. Thanks to our tour manager Tim Hook we made it just in time for another short hop to the Koln airport followed by a 40 minute drive to Dusseldorf where we’ll base for the next few days.
Copenhagen, Denmark 14 June, 2015
I opened my eyes amazed it was 11:30 in the morning and I’d slept straight through. I slowly made my way to the surface helped along with a couple of cups of coffee and a shower. Made it out to the streets of Copenhagen around 1. Walked all up and down the Nyhavn (New Port) along the canal with it’s rows of restaurants, bars and tourist boats. It was established in the 1670’s and was the centre of the trade, shipping industry as well as the where the fisherman would unload their daily catch. It now clearly caters to the tourist trade. Kept walking and walking and found a quite back street with an outdoor cafe-bar that still served omelettes and coffee at 2 in the afternoon. A ham and cheese omelette with a cafe au lait, salad and bread, a perfect way to begin any day even if it is at 2 o’clock.
Tonight’s show was another outdoor at the famous Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. It’s an amusement park that opened in August of 1842 and is the second oldest amusement park in the world with roller coasters, ferris wheels and other devices of torture along with restaurants and a hotel. Because of the unusual set up we again didn’t have our own catering and relied on the hotel at the Tivoli for dinner. It was very good. I had a lobster and steak with loads of side dishes, vegetables and chips and dessert. One of the best steaks I’ve had.
The dressing rooms were underneath the stage. By the time we’d had dinner and arrived under the stage it was only an hour before show time… really just enough to warm up, change and hit the boards.
Another chilly evening but not as bad as some of the others. Some of the guys had technical problems as well as fighting the chill but it was a good show over all and I had a great time as did all the people who were attending.
A quick hop back to the hotel bar for a nightcap. Tomorrow is a day off here in Copenhagen and I plan to get back out in it.
Uppsala, Sweden 13 June, 2015
We flew north from Copenhagen to Stockholm, Sweden and drove 20 minutes further north to Uppsala, home of the university, for our gig tonight. Another outdoor show in the botanical gardens belonging to that university, Botaniska Tradgarden. It was a milder day than yesterday in Trondheim but still breezy and chilly.
As the crew arrived late today due to routing we didn’t have a soundcheck. Catering was local, again due to distance and not our usual Eat Your Hearts Out crew. I took myself off to practice thinking it was a 9 o’clock show and realising it was 8:30 only when Kerry found me and said “10 minutes”. I raced for those 10 to get ready, get changed, re-pack my carry on and get my in-ear monitors in before hitting the stage feeling more than a little rattled.
It was completely packed with people tonight. The capacity was listed as 8,000 but I heard after the show there were more than 10,000 admissions. The threatening clouds that arrived with the late afternoon cooperated, there was no rain and that large gathering of people were grand to us.
Back to Copenhagen after the show. Our hostess, Laetitia had drinks ready, pasta and spinach for dinner and a fab cheese plate for dessert making it another delightful flight.
A long day today… I woke at 7 this morning and never got back to sleep. Finally back at the hotel from Uppsala at 2, the bed looked awfully good.
Trondheim, Norway 12 June, 2015
Thursday the 11th was a day off in Oslo and a late start. I dragged myself up to the dreaded rooftop dungeon the hotel claims is a gym. If you disliked exercise before you’ll really hate it now.
It was nearly 3 in the afternoon before I finally got out into the warm Oslo sunshine. Walked, shopped and stopped at an Italian restaurant with outdoor seating for a pizza and a couple of beers. The difference between great pizza and just so-so is large, but even OK pizza is… well, OK. It’s pretty hard to fuck up a pizza but this place managed at every level beginning with the crust and succeeding all the way up through to toppings. Didn’t matter, the sun was shining, I was starving and the local draft beer, Ringner, was light, fresh and filled the bill. I settled up and took myself down to the harbour. The sun was warm and there was a fresh breeze blowing off the water. I found a bench and sat there for an hour watching the boats come and go and a massive Holland America cruise ship lumber it’s way through. The thing was long as two city blocks and I don’t know how many levels high. I have absolutely no desire to be on one of those things.
Later in the evening we went to a remarkable little restaurant for dinner away from the bustle of the city called hos Thea located in a nearby residential neighbourhood. From the minute we walked in and were seated by our waitress until we left it was a wonderful evening and the food that was nothing short of spectacular. I had a starter of pan fried scallops with creamy almond gazpacho was followed by Chilean seabass with fried sticky rice and a lime curry sauce. The evening had begun with a bottle of cold, dry Champagne and continued with a white Bordeaux, a delicious red Ripasso and ended with a sweet Sauternes that accompanied dessert. If you check out Guy’s entry, he’ll have a proper review with photos but also check hos Thea’s website for full menu and more information:
www.hosthea.no If you find yourself in Oslo, don’t mess around, just make a reservation go to hos Thea for a superb dinner.
Friday the 12th, wheels up at 2:30 due north to Trondheim for another outdoor show. It was cool/cold and drizzling when we arrived and remained that way through soundcheck and the show. We all layered up with whatever we had and hit the stage for a 2 hour plus show for over 10,000 great folks. They were dressed for the weather, which is more than I can say for us. Still, numb fingers and all, we played a good one and had a great time. The house was with us all the way and that helped push us through. A great gig in Trondheim.
A runner back to the plane for a flight to Copenhagen where we’ll base for the next few days. Martinis and shepherd’s pie for dinner en route.
Hoping and looking forward to a good gym in the hotel here in Copenhagen.
Oslo, Norway 10 June, 2015
The high point of everyone’s day, apart from the couple of hours we’re playing the show, is arriving at the gig, dumping our bags in the dressing room and steaming straight in to catering for a cup of tea, bowl of soup and generally making pests of ourselves asking what’s on for dinner. Star chefs, Chris Desmond, David Eskinazi and Steve Bond are the guys who keep this army fed like kings. It all adds up to some very tough decision making. Here was tonight’s dinner menu:
Vegetable Pea Soup
Tiger Prawn Thai Fish Cakes with sweet chilli and peanut dressing and Thai vegetable salad
Fresh Corn Beef Hash topped with a poached egg and hollandaise
Roast Turkey Breast with jalapeno corn bread, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet corn and greens
Swiss Plum Cake
Fresh Fruit Platter
Fresh Breads Basket
The second in a string of outdoor shows, tonight’s Norwegian Wood Festival was a great gig a couple of years ago and was so again. Happily the weather was warmer than the night before and since we could actually feel our fingers it was a well played and fun show for 9,000.
As we’re staying in Oslo, we skipped the usual runner and hung back in the comfortable dressing rooms, devoured a few platters of sushi and savoured the two magnums of Belgium brewed Duvel beer that was a gift from our friends Henk and Nadia in Antwerp. Long after the crowd had left the venue we finally made our way back to the hotel. Thursday the 11th is a day off in Oslo.
Bergen, Norway 9 June 2015
We're basing from Oslo for a few days. I made my way up to the small, airless, rooftop gym here in the hotel, it had to be 80 f. in there. As far as perspiration goes, you get a lot of bang for you exercise buck. You could simply stand there for an hour and loose 10 lbs. in water. As it is, there isn’t enough equipment in the place to warrant staying that long.
We set off to the airport mid-afternoon and quickly hit gridlock traffic apparently due to an accident and ended up leaving the motorway for a local back route to the airport and a late departure to Bergen.
It was an outdoor show tonight at the Bergenhus Festning. Before the show we had a visit from Jackson Browne and his band who are in Bergen to play the same festival in a couple of nights. I happily made the acquaintance of multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz who I’ve been a fan of for many years and the great bass player Bob Glaub.
We took the stage at 9 o’clock in broad daylight. It was cold with a breeze coming in off the water and continued to be for the 2+ hours of the show. By the end we all no feeling left in our hands, very difficult playing. Still, it was well fought on our part and well received by the nearly 7,000 standing fans.
We piled in to heated vehicles and onto the Legacy for the short hop back to Oslo. Arrived back at the hotel around 1:30 and very happy to hit the hay.
Stavanger, Norway 8 June, 2015
Sunday the 7th was a day off in Amsterdam. I’ve been coming here since the very early ‘70s and am ashamed to say I’d never been to the Rijks Museum, the national museum of Holland. I can happily say that I went today. It was a perfect day, warm but not hot and the sky was cloudless and blue. The museum was only a half mile walk from the hotel. I can’t begin to describe the depth and scope of the the Rijkes but can tell you that I stood in front of Vermeer, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and every other Dutch master and more. Humbling stuff. I’d stayed for three hours when they were closing and didn’t scratch the surface. Check it out here: www.rijksmuseum.nl
From there I stopped at fantastic record shoppe called Concerto… a very large selection of CDs and old vinyl. I’d just begun trawling through the jazz vinyl when they too closed. It’s a good thing too, it could have been ugly with so much good stuff there. I left happily/unhappily empty handed. A pint of draft Grolsh by the canal before heading back to the hotel.
Monday the 8th up early and did some practising, packed the bags and made it back to the Concerto Record Store all before checking out of the hotel and heading to Stavanger, Norway for tonight’s gig. With Ruth and Nigel gone, we’ve changed the setlist a little and had an early soundcheck to work through a few tunes we’ve not done for a while. Dinner, meet and greet, warm up and get ready to hit the boards.
It was the DNB Arena to 5,500 great fans… a standing gig with seating around the perimeter. Great seeing some young fans who were taking it all in. A great gig tonight, one of those on the ball but relaxed shows.
We did a runner at the end of the show, about 9:45, and it was broad daylight… you needed sunglasses! The Legacy took us to Oslo in the bright sunlight. Ribs, gin and tonics and an great feeling all around.
Arrived at the hotel and a few of us made a bee line to the roof-top bar for a night cap. At 1 in the morning it was still twilight. Way up north now.
Amsterdam, Holland 6 June, 2015
Up early, down to the gym then out for a walk along the canals of Amsterdam.
Tonight’s show at the Ziggo Arena was sold out… 12,0000. We made some mix changes at sound check and the new in-ear monitors are coming along and will still be a work in progress over the next handful of shows, but vastly improved already and a great show.
Sadly, it was our last with Ruth Moody and Nigel Hitchcock for a while. They’ve brought so much to the band both musically and as friends. It’s been a pleasure being on and off stage with Nige and Ruth. Safe travels and hope to see you again soon.
Sunday the 7th is a day off in Amsterdam.
Antwerp, Belgium 5 June, 2015
Yesterday the 4th was a day off in Paris. It’s a city where you can throw a glance in any direction and spot a dozen cafes, bistros, brasseries and bars. Before food, the first order of business was a hole in the wall cash cow. I asked the hotel concierge where the nearest automatic teller was located and he very kindly walked me out the front of the hotel, pointed left, pointed right and said if I didn’t see it in 3 minutes it was my fault and I’d taken the wrong route. The French attitude is alive and well. I indeed hit the ATM and was happy for his directions. That little withdrawal will be a down payment for the martini at the roof-top bar the other night.
One of America’s great downfalls is restaurants not posting their menu outside the door. It’s common practise in the U.K. and Europe and helps greatly in making the decision where to eat. I found a small Patisserie just down the street, checked the menu and found exactly what I wanted. I sat down at one of the sidewalk tables in the warm sunshine and thought sonofabitch, I love my life. One of many things the French do better than anyone else is prepare an omelette. Very simple and mightily delicious, browned on the outside, piping hot and creamy on the inside with jambon and fromage…ham and cheese, a side of leafy greens with a delicate dressing that only the French seem to make, a basket of sliced baguettes and a couple of large cafe au lait. Ole! ….arrow hits target dead centre. I sat there nearly an hour enjoying my breakfast and the people passing by.
Another thing the French do very well is smoking with elegance and class. Apart from occasionally filching a cigarette, that particular avenue of pleasure is one I no longer travel. Still, I love seeing others indulge and Parisians can smoke them better than anyone I’ve ever seen.
From there it was an afternoon of walking, hours of it, up and down the avenues, around the Arc de Triomphe and a good length of the Champs Elysees. Lots of gawking and no shopping. By late afternoon I needed fortification. I fell in to a quiet dark bar just off the main street and had an ice cold pint of creamy pilsner. I couldn’t have enjoyed that beer more and once again thought of my good fortune; to play music all these years for my keep and have it take me to places like this. There are far more rewarding things to do and see in Paris but I was very happy pounding the pavement.
I had dinner with a friend at the wonderfull Boucheri Rouliere. They raise their own beef and lamb. Fantastic, simple, well prepared food, great wines, desserts and coffee. The first thing that appeared on the table was a small glass of very cold, dry white wine to get the meal started. I ordered a baby spinach salad with goat cheese, followed by a delicious steak filet done to a perfect medium with frites. Dessert was a caramel glace and cafe au lait. All remarkably good in a casual and comfortable setting with no muss or fuss. Bouchri Rouliere 24, Rue des Canettes - 75006 Paris. Tel. 01 43 26 25 70. A walk past Notre Dam and a cab back to the hotel. A grand day off in Paris.
Thursday the 5th, back to work, if you can call it that. We left Paris early this afternoon and arrived in Antwerp after an hour flight. Soundcheck, dinner, meet and greet, change clothes and on stage. It was the first show with everyone using their new set of in-ear monitors. Moulds were taken when were in production rehearsals and they’ve just arrived. I guess we all got used to the old ones being a bit leaky… letting in sound from the stage as well as front of house. The new ones fit very snug and really block everything out giving the effect of a slightly different mix. It was a well played show but a struggle as well. Over the next few gigs we’ll resolve any mix issues.
A runner from stage to the waiting vehicles and a two hour drive to Amsterdam where we’ll spend the night, play tomorrow and have a day off the next.
The score for today: one show and three countries in 12 hours.
Finally a special thanks to Henk and Nadia for the two magnums of delicious Belgium brewed Duvel beer. They will be served ice cold on our next after-show plane trip.
Paris, France 3 June, 2015 Show #2
The second show at le Zenith was another sweltering rocker, fuelled enthusiastically by a great audience and a packed house.
Back at the hotel we gathered on the outdoor roof-top bar. In the cool breeze we braced ourselves with martinis as we took in a spectacular view of the lighted Eiffel Tower and a bright full moon. The lights of the Tower go out at 1:00 a.m. but just prior they begin flashing wildly, randomly, thousands of lights, turning the Tower into a giant sparkler top to bottom. It’s one of those experiences in which you occasionally find yourself that will be remembered the rest of your life and makes you glad to be on this planet. Paris at 1 in the morning, martini in hand watching the Eiffel Tower going off like a sparkling bottle of Champagne. Not just another day at the office.
The foyer in my hotel room and it's adjoining off shoots is so large that i've sublet it to two families. I continue to discover new things the longer I'm here. For instance, the walk-in closet-dressing room there at the large vanity table is a nail dryer...a discreetly hidden indentation at the back of the mirrored table that with the touch of a button a fan gently blows air on freshly painted finger nails. Voila! Who knew such a thing existed?
Thursday the 4th is a day off. An open-air brasserie awaits me as does dinner with a friend this evening. Whatever else happens between is icing on the eclair.
Paris, France 2 June, 2015
A slightly sluggish beginning to the day, no doubt due to that swell little gathering last night in Guy’s room. Ah well, nothing a pot of strong coffee didn’t clear up. A gorgeous morning sipping my coffee on the balcony of the Dolder Grand Hotel overlooking Zurich Lake. At 1 o’clock the bags were picked up and by mid-afternoon it was wheels up to Paris. The lobster salad for lunch on the plane tasted like a million.
It’s the first of two shows here Paris and a return to a venue we’ve played a couple of times before, Zenith. The gig holds the distinction of being one of the hottest venues going and I mean temperature-wise. We played here in ’96 and again in 2001… real sweat box in the spring and summertime. It can get so bad that the humidity condensation begins to drip from the ceiling. We usually play a venue called Bercy but it is in the process of being renovated and we find ourselves back at Zenith again.
Ruth Moody and here great band opened again tonight. Ruth speaks flawless French and had that audience straight away, speaking their language and with her singing and playing. They loved her set and gave her a thunderous ovation at the end of her part of the show.
Zenith my be a crap venue but it was a tremendously rocking gig and audience tonight. It’s not a large venue, around 5,700 but about a third of the way into the show people simply stood up and rushed the stage and it was a stand-up gig for the rest of the night. I think it was the best show of the tour so far as Mark and band really playing at top form. A Paris gig to remember.
It was a runner from the stage to an impossibly posh hotel. I opened the door to my suite and there was a block and a half of hallway before I actually hit the room. Down that hallway at various places is a walk-in closet/dressing room with vanity, a bathroom that a family of four could live in and an espresso bar with a fridge. Finally there is a bedroom where a plate of sweets, a bowl of fruit and a bottle of French red wine was waiting. I’m drinking that bottle of red as I peck this out so I’m relying heavily on this computer’s spell-check.
I see an outdoor cafe in my future, tables with umbrellas, surly waiters, lots of strong French cafe au llait, an omelette au fromage and ogling the beautiful women in their spring fashions. And… another show awaits tomorrow night at Zenith followed by a day off here in Paris. You know, I’m actually getting paid to do this???
Zurich, Switerland 1 June, 2015
The great Dolder Grand Hotel originally opened in the late 1890s… the staff, the view, the gym, the rooms… top drawer.
Coffee on the balcony overlooking the lake then a good 90 minute push down in the fully decked gym. Practise then off to the tonight’s show at Hallenstadion to a capacity crowd of 9,500+. Great gig all around and another fun, relaxed show.
A runner back to the hotel and full band attendance in Guy’s room… music, wine, gin and tonics and loads of laughs. It reminds me of the Duke Ellington/ Billy Strayhorn song Lush Life. Very lucky for sure.
Salem, Germany 31 May, 2015
Saturday the 30th was a day off in Milan. A top drawer gym in the hotel and I made it in for a full 90- minute measure of humiliation that was fuelled by 2 double espresso an hour earlier.
A beautiful day in Milan and I took to the streets after the gym. It became clear that I must get some sunglasses and set out to do so. I am certain there are department stores in areas of Milan but not where we’re staying… all designer stores and boutiques. Here we go. The first place I passed was the Armani store. Sunglasses. Cool sunglasses. I walked in and tried a couple on and asked in my most disinterested voice how much. Well over 100 Euro each. I took them off very carefully and nonchalantly offered a grazie. I walked the streets and shoppes of Milan for a couple of hours. Plenty of sunglasses…. great ones…. 185, 245, 295. 350 Euros. It became clear that the best price was at the Armani store. I slunk back in there and against everything that’s in me bought a pair of goddamn Armani sunglasses for 130 Euro. The guy in front of me at the cashier had a tally of of over 1,000 Euro. Whatever the hell he bought fit in one small bag. It’s that kind of place. So there you have it, my head bowed but at least I’m able to face the daylight again. Did I mention they are very cool shades?
Most of us gathered last night for a return to one of our favourite restaurants, Rovello 18. In a city that can be over the top, Rovello is down to earth, no pretence, simply delicious well prepared food and good wine. I had a starter of tagliatelli with ragu sauce and for the entree a small pressed and grilled chicken with the bones in. It could not have tasted better and accompanied by local red and white wines. Perfection.
We packed the bags and left Milan midday on Sunday and flew to Germany for our first outdoor show of this tour at the Salem Castle, once home to Prinz Wilhelm von Baden. The setting was beautiful and the show was loose and relaxed… 7,200 attending.
An hour and a half runner tonight as we drove to Zurich after the show, will spend the night and play there tomorrow.
Nice, France 29 May, 2015
This site has just been migrated to an updated server by my friend Isaac. For the past several months the older platform decided it no longer wanted to be friends with my Mac. Maybe it was the other way around, I dunno. The result was a rogue icon that would appear after every punctuation mark or in between paragraphs requiring my friend to scour them out before it could be published. In short a real pain in the ass. Today is the first posting in many a-month that I’m back on my own and with great hope I’ll hit the ‘publish’ icon and no longer have to bother Isaac.
I’d forgotten about Italy and Spain and the iron curtains that block the sunlight from entering a room. A perfectly designed piece of kit. Not really iron, aluminium no doubt, the blinds when down comprehensively shut out every chink of light. I’d hung a breakfast room service card out on the door knob the night before with a 9:30 delivery request before retiring. I was woken by the bells of St. Mary in pitch darkness. Fumbling around for the light switch and a robe I made my way to the door and an overflowing cart of espresso, fresh fruit, juice and bakery basket. I thought it was still the middle of the night, that’s when I remembered how well those rolling blinds work.
An early afternoon drive to the Milan airport for a flight to our show in Nice tonight. Before leaving the room I frantically searched every inch of my carry on and sport jacket to arrive at the sinking realisation that I’d left my sunglasses in the dressing room the night before. In the process of that search I also learned I’d left the book I was in the middle of reading at the hotel in London. This is what happens when someone approaching senior citizenship goes on tour. It’s not a big deal but I will hold off buying another pair of shades until I leave Milan. With the price of a drink at 30 Euro, sunglasses would set me back 100 bucks! However, they’d be very cool shades. Mmm… maybe.
An hour flight down to Nice and a short ride from the airport to the venue, Palais Nikaia. With the shows beginning at 9 o’clock it makes for a long day at the gig… 5 hours before we actually get on stage. The high point always being dinner. Eggplant Parmesan, prosciutto wrapped roasted monkfish, green Thai chicken curry among tonight’s entrees, salads galore and board full of French cheeses.
Ruth and band opened again tonight and at last it was time for us to hit the boards. A full house of just under 6,000. Lots of good playing tonight to a fantastic audience and we all came off feeling like it was a great gig. A quick flight back to Italy with just enough time for a plate of poached salmon and a couple of glasses of cold white wine en route.
Back in Milan it was nearly 2 in the morning when I hit the close button on my iron curtain and put my head down. Saturday the 30th is a day off here and I may have to squint at some sunglasses. In any case, wish me luck as I hit ‘publish’ on this rambling post.
Milan, Italy 28 May, 2015
The bags were collected early and we de-camped the luxurious Beaumont Hotel in Mayfair. In fact it’s adieu to the U.K. having completed all our shows and we’re off to the Continent, first stop Milano, a fabulous city as long as your credit card is well lubed and oiled. I remember our last visit, nothing in the shoppes was priced. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.
We took off from Northolt RAF Base, arrived in Milan midday stepping off the plane into the warmest sunshine I’ve felt this year and went straight to the venue, Mediolanum Forum. Following soundcheck it was off to catering for another 5-star meal at the gig. Among tonight’s entrees, grilled sea bass and steaks with accompanying salads, focaccia breads and white bean & vegetable soup. Tables were set outside and we enjoyed this feast in the warm Milano air.
Our shows in the U.K. generally began at 7:30 but things move at a different pace here in Italy and tonight’s start is 9:00. Plenty of time to find a quiet room and practise before the gig. Italian audiences… what can I say? It was a full capacity house of nearly 9,000, the show began with a standing ovation then escalated from there. It’s great to be back in Italy.
From the stage we jumped into the waiting fleet of vehicles and wound our way through the city to the hotel and gathered in the bar for a glass of wine. This might take the prize for the most expensive bar with cocktails costing as much as 50 Euro! However I did manage to find a real bargain on the menu, a single shot of a tequila called 50 Dollars for 20 Euro. A pretty good exchange rate.
London, England 24-25-26-27 May, 2015
Sunday was a day off in London. The weather’s wonderfully spring, bright, clear and mild. I had lunch with a friend and wandered around the Kensington area for a while before heading back Mayfair way and joining Glenn and Jim in search of a pub with London Pride. It wasn’t as easy as we thought and had resigned ourselves to heading back to the hotel bar when we decided to give one last pub a try. The ale gods were with us and there on draught was our beer of choice. Funnily enough it was the first pint of Pride in all the time we’d spent here. Never could find it while in rehearsals either. We made up for lost time with a couple of pints each in short order. We’d have stayed for more but hunger was quickly gaining. At that point we did go back to the very inviting hotel bar for dinner. A good day off and an early night in.
Monday the 25 was our first of two shows at Royal Albert Hall. For many tours we’ve performed a six night residency there. This tour it is only two at RAH having already done a night at O2 Arena. The Albert is like coming home for us, always comfortable and we’ve come to know every nook and cranny of the place. We had an early sound check to make way for a full soundcheck for Ruth Moody and her band who will open with their own show here tonight and tomorrow. While they were checking we headed down to catering. One of the three entrees tonight was tempura prawns in a thin mushroom broth with udon noodles, It was a miracle in a bowl and maybe one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. My hat is humbly off to chef David Eskinazi at all times but particularly tonight.
I watched from the wings while Ruth & Co. played brilliantly, so much music from the four of them, great playing and singing all around. Soon it was our turn for a full house of 3,100 and a scrappy, rocking show it was. London audiences can sometimes be a little staid but tonight’s couldn’t have been warmer. The post-show reception was jam packed, difficult to make your way through the crowd. I’d invited my friend Justin Sandercoe and finally found him at the far end of the crowd where he and his friend wisely were hanging out in a quiet spot. I’ve written about him before in these notes. Justin’s a great guitar player and also happens to have the very best guitar instruction videos on the web. From beginning to intermediate to highly advance lessons, it’s all there at justinguitar.com. I can’t recommend him highly enough.
Tuesday the 26. Another perfect spring day here in London. I made my way across from the hotel to the little outdoor Euro Coffee Shoppe for a couple of scrambled eggs on toast and an extra strong latte. Back to do a little practising and met the aforementioned Justin for lunch where we could actually hear each other talking.
Tonight was the second of our two shows at RAH and it was a grand gig… a man in every corner and all 12 cylinders firing. Can’t say much more than that except that Ruth Moody and her band were wonderful again tonight. Also, I had the honour and pleasure of meeting and visiting with legendary engineer and producer Glyn Johns tonight. I won’t even begin to tell you about him here. If you are not familiar with Glyn, simply go to www.glynjohns.com and click on discography. You will amazed.
For the last couple of days I’ve been enjoying a fantastic 3-way speaker system called Spaced 360, www.spaced360.com. It’s compact, lightweight and turns any room into a party… literally fills the room with great fidelity and enough volume to warrant an eviction notice. It’s Bluetooth ready and all you need is your computer or pad and you’re set. You really have to hear it to believe how good it sounds. Check out their site and if you have a chance to hear one..do so.
It’s a day off in London tomorrow, the 27th. On my sched is a visit to the gym of which I’ve been very negligent of late followed by a trip to Sounds Of The Universe record shoppe in Soho then dinner at one of our fave Indian restaurants… Malabar in Notting Hill. Thursday we decamp for Milan and the Continent. We’ll officially be on the road at that point but I will be a little sad to leave the U.K., my home away from home.
Birmingham, England 23 May, 2015
A 1:30 lobby call for the drive north to Birmingham. 120 miles and 2.5 hours on the M1 and M6 motorways made for a vehicle full of nodding heads. Threading through London traffic on Saturday afternoon just to get to the M1 took nearly an hour.
When we arrived at N.E.C… National Exhibition Centre… it was a beeline to catering for a bowl of steaming hot butternut squash and bean soup and a cup of tea followed by soundcheck, dinner and a 7:30 show.
Still very early days and this only our 7th show but tonight’s performance in Birmingham had all the hallmarks of a seasoned tour performance… fully in control but remarkably relaxed. The audience of nearly 7,000 felt intimate compared to last night’s O2 show in London and it no doubt added to the loose surety of Mark and band. We always enjoy playing Birmingham and tonight was no exception.
From the stage to the cars and a runner back to London. One of the cars was designated the gin vehicle and was fully stocked, courtesy of our St. Peter McKay, with glasses, ice, quartered limes, tonic and Bombay Sapphire. Nigel, Guy and I luxuriated with a couple of g&t’s, were back in the hotel at midnight and a final nightcap was in order. With the main bar closing at 12, we were directed to a discreet “residence bar” on the far side of the lobby. You’d never know it was there… unless you knew. A miracle… small, polished dark wood panelled with jazz playing low. Open until 1 o’clock, it was just a few of us and the bartender, a perfect end to a perfect day.
Sunday is a off and we’re looking ahead to two nights at Albert Hall.
London, England 21-22 May, 2015
We’re back in London for a week of shows and a few days off as well. Staying in a splendid art deco inspired hotel that’s a big hit all around… my favourite hotel since first coming to London 1971. Luxurious, quiet and comfortable without a hint of attitude sometimes associated with this kind of quality. Tucked away in Mayfair it’s a short walk to Grosvenor Square, Oxford Street, Hyde Park and Soho. The hotel has a wonderfully inviting bar just off the lobby. With low lighting, panelled in dark mahogany and a softly lit, mirrored wall full of bottles behind the bar that shine like jewels…. it’s a welcome spot to while away an hour. We’re in great digs for this week.
Thursday the 21st was a day off and I took the opportunity to do some shopping along Oxford Street. It’s really the first chance as we were staying outside the city during rehearsals. I’ve been a little under the weather the past week and arranged an appointment with a doc in the afternoon as well. I was delivered to his doorstep courtesy of the hotel’s car… an old Bentley that belonged to the Queen Mother. Talk about leg room. I could have run a few laps in the back of that beauty. After filling a prescription I made my way back to the hotel, gathered Glenn and Jim and we took up residency at a table in the mahogany bar which also offers a menu of burgers, eggs, salads, etc. The decision was a simple one, we were already there having a drink, we’ll just stay for dinner as well. It was a gruyere filled omelette with salad and a martini for me. Top stuff.
Friday the 22nd started a little earlier than I’d hoped for. 4 a.m. After puttering around for a couple of hours I managed to get back down to sleep until 8. A block from the hotel is a small European deli-coffee shoppe with outdoor seating. I stopped there and had a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast and a large strong latte then walked to the Bond Street tube station and took it to the Kensington area where I spent the morning walking and gawking. I spent a whopping 99 pence in a charity shoppe for an old Lonnie Donegan 45 then back to Mayfair.
It was wisely decided that rather than sitting in mid-afternoon London traffic for an hour and a half to get to our gig at O2 Arena, we’d simply get on the tube to North Greenwich which delivers you directly to the Arena. The underground transport in London is a miracle and generally an efficient alternate to the staggering road congestion.
This is the first time we’ve played the O2 in London, a large gig of 12,000 plus. We’ll have the best of both world’s with this London run, the big gig as well as a couple of intimates next week at Albert Hall. A short soundcheck, meet and greet, dinner and before you know it we’re all standing up there on stage in front of thousands of people. A wonderful gig and the audience was fantastic.
Following the show was a reception of friends and guests in a large and very noisy room in O2. It was far louder than anything we could have conjured up on stage. While it was great seeing old friends, it was also a relief to get back to the quiet of the dressing room after it was over. Everyone’s ears were shattered.
We all eventually piled in to cars and made our way back to central London and the dark, quiet warmth of these lovely digs.
Newcastle, England 20 May, 2015
Spent last night in Newcastle. I kicked myself out of the room around half eleven this morning for a walk quayside along the Tyne River. A beautiful morning, sunny, clear and mild, the kind of day one should spend outside. After walking awhile I bumped in to Glenn, Pete and Mark on their way back from their walk and we fell in for a coffee at a shoppe humbly called Great Coffee…. and it WAS. We took a table outside on the quay and watched the river and the world drift by while becoming fully caffeinated.
We arrived at Metro Radio Arena for an early soundcheck and generally moved everything up a little to make time for tonight’s meet and greet. Loads of fun and always a hit with everyone. Mark & Co. did his hometown proud at tonight’s gig and it’s always good to play Newcastle. Brilliant playing tonight, a man in every corner and having Ruth and Nigel along is the icing.
A runner and short flight south to London…. gin tonic X 2 and shepherd’s pie. Day off tomorrow then it’s the London O2 on Friday night.
Glasgow, Scotland 19 May, 2015
The Meet and Greet made a triumphant return in Glasgow. While not quite the extravaganza it was back in 2008 we played a scrappy mini-set of songs for contest winners prior to the gig. John, Mike, Ruth and I were ushered into a roomful of folks, including John’s parents, and played a few tunes before Mark came in, said hello, signed autographs and took pictures. It sounds like the M&G’s will be an ongoing event again having been absent the last few tours. We’ll no doubt continue adding songs and antics as we go. A great way to get warmed up before the main event.
Glasgow’s main event commenced at 7:30 at the Hydro Arena to a full house of 6,000+. A well played and well received show, everyone happy.
A runner for a short, two gin and tonic flight south to Newcastle where we play on the 20th.
Sheffield, England 17 May, 2015
With the bags packed and collected we took a leisurely road trip from Manchester south to Sheffield through lush country side, rolling hills, villages and pastures.
We arrived at the Motorpoint Arena an hour in advance of soundcheck. An en-masse stampede to catering took place for bowls of piping hot smokey bacon and sweet potato soup and cups of tea. Just the thing for a cloudy and cool Sunday afternoon.
Playing Sheffield with Mark is a first in my 20 years or so with the band. However, I did play a club here (The Lead Mine?) back in 2003 with Cerys Matthews. It came about on the heals of the aborted 2003 Ragpicker’s Dream Tour when Mark had a serious motorcycle accident breaking several ribs and his collarbone prior to the start of rehearsals. I had played on an album of Cerys’s called Cockahoop that had just been released on Reprise. Cerys had called prior to me leaving for Mark’s tour to ask if I would be available to do a short tour of the U.K. with her in support of the record. I explained that was about to embark on a long tour with Mark and thanked her, but I couldn’t. We all arrived for our first day of Ragpicker rehearsals and about an hour later heard of Mark’s accident that morning. Clearly there was no going on with the tour and we all turned around and went home. About a week later, with my bags still packed back in Nashville, Cerys called again saying how sorry she was to hear of MK’s accident but as his tour had been cancelled might I still be interested in the U.K. tour with her. It was a case of being all dressed up with nowhere to go and I said yes. Within a few weeks I was back in London and in rehearsals with Cerys. We had a great little three week tour of small theatres, churches, clubs as well a playing Glastonbury. Anyway, that’s how I ended up playing that club here in Sheffield. Apologies for that long backward glance.
Back to the present. Everyone was feeling good after last night’s show in Manchester and we breezed through a few things at soundcheck then followed it up with a second mad dash to catering for supper.. miso marinated salmon… baked chicken with roasted vegetables and brown gravy…. beef wellington. Difficult decisions had to be made. It was a child’s portion of the chicken for me that was simply delicious, falling off the bone. Still, I was experiencing salmon envy of those who ordered that entree.
7:30 on stage tonight so not much time to linger after dinner. As for the show, things are right back on stride, loose and confident, everyone playing so well and it’s still very early days of the tour. Sheffield received us warmly and Romeo in particular.
A runner for a short hop back north to Glasgow where we’ll base for the next two days. Just enough time for a couple of drinks then wheels down. It’s a day off in Glasgow tomorrow and in lieu of the non-existent hotel gym or the horror of the neighbourhood tie-in (see Glasgow posting from the 2011 tour) I will get myself out for a walk about.
Nothing like a second show to work out a lot of bugs.
We arrived at 5 at the M.E.N. Arena here in Manchester. Everyone had a laundry list of changes to make for their in-ear monitors. Kerry Lewis, a man of remarkable patience and our long-time monitor mixer, tended to everybody’s wish list and we proceeded with soundcheck, dinner, warm up the hands and change in to what we loosely call show clothes.
Tonight’s show ran about the same length as last night’s, well over the usual 2 hours of the last tours. There’s lots of new music and we’re all having a great time playing. The show here in Manchester felt like we’d been on tour for a couple of months, together and relaxed. The in-ears sound was miles better so consequently we were all playing well together. The few mechanical and logistical gaffes of the previous night were absent and it all made for a terrific gig to packed house of nearly 6,000 great folks, at least a quarter of them Mike McGoldrick’s family and friends. Mike can sleep well knowing he did his home town proud.
Below is a link to a few of the paintings of L.S. Lowry. Lowry lived his life around the Manchester area and only began to receive renown for his art very late in his life having worked until the age of 65 as a rent collector. Through it all he painted prolifically and is known for his industrial settings and “matchstick men” though his land and seascapes are absolutely beautiful.
15 May 2015
We decamped the north London countryside of St. Albans late morning for RAF Northolt Air Base where after security we boarded our Embraer jet and headed to our first show of the Tracker tour. It was a sushi fuelled flight and since I’d not had breakfast I staked a generous claim to the platter.
After landing we were taken to our usual venue formerly known as The Point, a wonderful old fortress of a place that was redesigned and expanded several years ago. Along with it’s larger capacity it also picked up an identity crisis of names. Depending on which number you prefer it’s either 3 Arena or O2 Arena.
We ran over a few things in soundcheck then ran off to catering. I’ve made a loose resolution for this tour to not eat when I’m not hungry. Not as easy or logical as it sounds when every meal served is remarkable. But between the sushi lunch and a pocketful of first show jitters I passed on dinner and found a quiet room to practise for a couple of hours before the show.
We’re very lucky to have both Ruth Moody and Nigel Hitchcock with us for the next three weeks of shows. Ruth’s beautiful singing and Nige’s soulful sax grace many of the songs.
There’s nothing quite like the first show of a tour, lots of good nervous energy, new and old songs to remember and the inevitable technical glitches were all present and accounted for. This is a great band of musicians and friends and none of it phased us a bit. Over the next few days we’ll iron out the wrinkles. Meantime it was great to be on the boards again and of the 6000 seats I didn’t see one of them empty.
A runner back to the plane for the quick flight to Manchester where we’ll stay the next couple of days. There was just enough time for a quick Thai green curry and birthday cake. Happy b’day Johnny Trem McCusker.
Before closing, I want to remember B.B. King who died a couple of days ago. There are too many high points in his career to count and he taught us all something. I can highly recommend that you check out his earliest recordings that appeared originally on the RPM label and of course the life changing Live At The Regal album. Here’s a wonderful BBC clip from 1972 where King talks about his life and music. http://www.jazzonthetube.com/page/28352.html
Welcome to the first note from the road.
The last two weeks have absolutely flown. Rehearsals began 10 a.m. sharp on the 27th of April, the Yanks in the grips of jet lag and everyone happy to see each other again. It didn’t take very long for things to start sounding very good again, a testament to band and crew alike, both the best in the biz. The saying goes that every army travels on it’s stomach and to that end our heroes of catering are back with us for this tour as well, Chris and David. With lunch the first day we started wondering how to make it to the end of the tour in our current pants sizes. Those guys never fail to serve up a 5-star meal. Three entrees a setting, salads, soups, desserts? No problem. Gourmet, gastro grub… always.
We rehearsed for nine days then pulled up stakes and moved to a film soundstage north of London for full production rehearsals on stage with lights and sound. Everything is feeling fresh, relaxed and ready to go. I’ll not tip anything off but will say that there’ll be more than a few surprises this tour and we’re all feeling great about it. The first show is in Dublin in five days.
In past I’ve posted these road notes on a daily basis. I think with this tour I’m going to take it at a more leisurely pace but only slightly. Looking back on some of the past postings I found myself blathering on about not very much and I don’t want to take anyones time with that including my own. However it works out, these road notes will be frequent if not daily.
Finally, I want to say thanks for the overwhelmingly good response to my new record, Contrary Cocktail. You've all been very kind.
All right, here we go… Tracker Tour 2015.