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.