Richard Bennett
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For the Newly Blue

Moderne Shellac, 2013

For the Newly Blue

Like the builders who'd etch a design, a gracing touch on the uppermost ledges of those first early 20th century skyscrapers, Richard puts something into his work that no one else may be able to extract or identify or even know exists. But something about its being there makes the end product complete, better, best. Yes, Richard Bennett is one lucky son of a gun but a spin of For The Newly Blue is all you'll need to know he's giving as good as he gets.

-- Rick Allen, Writer for Vintage Guitar Magazine

Listen Behind the Record Order
Shangri-La tour, 2005
Vancouver, British Columbia
31-Jul-2005

As you've no doubt noticed, the last few entries have been fairly short and to the point. The point being there's not been much to tell and the wind has been coming out of my sails for the last week. I did manage a good work out yesterday morning but that was about all. When I finally got to bed last night, 6 months' worth of memories came calling and I just couldn't shut my brain off. I drifted off for a couple of hours as the sun was coming up but not much more. And so this last tour day was spent cat napping, practicing and reorganizing my suitcase for tomorrow's departure. About midday I walked to Tim Hortons for a large cup of their great coffee and a muffin. Nothing fancy, just a plain old cuppa joe and like Harvey's burger chain, Hortons is everywhere here in Canada. Don't mess around, just go there.

Tonight's final show was at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for a capacity crowd of 2,900 wonderful fans. Of course it was a day of "lasts", last cup of Adrian Fitzpatrick's tea and Robert Collin's jibes at soundcheck, a last dinner together, and a last meet and greet with the Hawaiian group. Sorry we never did get round to making that record and I'll have to be content with those couple of sound clips Guy posted on his site as proof of it's existence. It was a blue day, nobody wanted to talk about folding up the tent and going home but it was on everyones mind. So many heartfelt goodbyes to the finest crew and fellows one will ever know. At the risk of being long winded I want to mention them all; David Wright-production manager, Colin Barton-stage manager, Robert Collins-front of house sound engineer, Kerry Lewis-monitor engineer, David Dixon-sound system engineer, Adrian Fitzpatrick-stage and mains, Matt Fitzgerald and Bob Windel-PA riggers, Simon Tutchener-lighting designer, Mike Humenuik-lighting crew chief, Mike Stehr and Dan Scher-lighting crew, John Ashton-rigger, Glen Saggers-Mark's guitar tech, Tim Myer-Glenn Worf's and my guitar tech, Lawrence Adams-keyboard tech, Lance Miles-drum tech, Darren Wey-caterer, Paul (Cod) Tallowin-merchandise, Chris Chester, Maurie Hutch Hutchens, TJ Locastro, Dennis White and Charlie Hudson-truck drivers. These guys are the real heros of this story, I can't begin to describe how hard they've worked, to the breaking point, often under appauling conditions so we can walk in at 5 o'clock every day and have a show that night. I must say it again, there is no show without these guys. Bless 'em all. To the management team, Paul Crockford-MK's manager, Stever Rayment and Tim Hook-tour managers, my sincerest thanks for making our lives easy for the last 6 months as we played 105 shows in 28 countries. And finally, to the greatest musicians I've ever had the honour of working with who just happen to be my best pals, Guy Fletcher, Glenn Worf, Danny Cummings, Matt Rollings and Chad Cromwell, a man in every corner. To Mark, the finest songwriter, guitar player and leader to come down the pike, any situation is only as good as the guy in charge and that's why this tour has been so brilliant. It's never anything short of a pleasure and honour to share a stage or studio floor with you and I'll be there, anytime, anyplace for you pallie. My thanks and love to you all.

It's been six months of the most fun I've had, going to places like India for the first time and returning to Australia and New Zealand after 29 years, all the great food from Lagana in Rome to Harvery's burgers in Canada. Meeting up with so many old friends again this trip has been rewarding. The late night hangs with Guy and Danny listening to music so diverse it would make your head spin with musical whiplash. I'll be missing those late night sessions and the healing vitamin G. The audiences around the world have given as much to us as we have to them and I can honestly say after 105 shows there was never a night that we weren't itching to get out on the boards and play as good as we possibly could. Thanks to all of you who came out to the shows, sometimes traveling long distances from other countries to attend. Like the crew, without you there is no show.

Regarding these 'notes from the road', I've always kept a daily journal while on tour but when I got my website going I thought it would be cool to post it and see if anyone would salute. The response has been overwhelming and I thank you for taking the time to read and keep up with our comings and goings. A couple of days ago Guy make me aware of a website that's been set up to thank us both for our on-line journals. We're touched by the comments that have been posted there. That site is www.efreeguestbooks.com.

And so we've come to the end. I'm heading to the Gulf of Mexico for a couple of weeks holiday with my family after which I'll return to session work in Nashville beginning with Vince Gill's new album that gets under way the end of August. Also, I'll start recording a new album of guitar instrumentals for myself, some of which I've written while on this tour. I don't know how long that will take as I tend to be very lazy about my own things, but whenever it's done I'll let you know through my website. Speaking of websites, sometime in the next couple of weeks I will move all six months of 'notes from the road' to a link at the top of the page, probably title it 'tour 2005' and go back to the usual updating method on the home page.

This has rattled on too long and I hate goodbyes so I'll simply thank you again for your readership and kind comments. Until the next time............

So long,

Richard

 
Woodinville, Washington
30-Jul-2005

We flew into Seattle then drove a half hour to the hill country and Woodinville. It's home to Columbia Winery, Red Hook Beer and Chateau St. Michelle where our gig was tonight. Beautiful Pacific northwest country and a grand evening for an outdoor show. A crowd of 4,300+ many sampling the Chateau's product and all out for a good time. Another warm, relaxed and rocking show. We're now down the the last show.

It's been a day of goodbyes: our Gulfstream G4 went back to Van Nuys for preparation to fly the Brit boys back to the UK after tomorrow's gig, and farewells to Laurie our hostess and William Topley and band.

Back at the hotel in Vancouver, Danny, Guy, Matt, Steve, Paul and I had a few farewell G&Ts and some farewell spins from djfletch including Beck, The Coral, Blind Willie Johnson and Groove Armada.

So long,

Richard

 
Portland, Oregon
29-Jul-2005

A great day for flying, we retraced part of yesterday's journey flying north from San Francisco into Oregon. Hearty, rugged and beautiful terrain with breathtaking views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Shasta, Mt. Jefferson, Crater Lake and more.

Portland has always been one of my favourite cities but sadly we are not staying tonight, only in for a few hours to play the Arlene Schnitzer Theatre and fly out to Vancouver. The venue was sold out and the audience was brilliant, warm, welcoming, loud and appreciative. MK and Co. played an exemplary show tonight if I must say so myself. This band has hit an amazing stride even though we're dog tired. Matt reminded me after the show that we only have two left. And so it's on to Vancouver to the last hotel of the tour and our final gigs.

So long,

Richard

 
Jacksonville, Oregon
28-Jul-2005

At this late stage of the game we have a winner for gym of the tour, maybe even the gym of the century. On the 4th floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco is Sports Club LA, an entire floor devoted to fitness. The gym looks to be a city block long with 40 treadmills, free weights as far as the eye can see, one room devoted to nothing but stationery bikes, and every imaginable machine often in triplicate. Simply walking from one end to the other will burn some calories. After an hour and a half in there I hope I did just that, though probably cancelled everything out with the large coffee and egg salad sandwich that followed.

We flew north from S.F. over the majestic mountains of northern California, passing Mount Shasta, into Medford, Oregon in the southern part of the state. It was a very warm 101 degrees as we drove to Jacksonville, about 15 minutes from the airport. Jacksonville was an old gold mining town back in the 1800's and is beautiful with it's Victorian homes and old downtown. There are several wineries in this area as well. We arrived at the venue Britt Pavilion, a small outdoor theatre with a capacity of 2,200 and it resembled a YMCA summer camp I went to as a youngster. Similar to last nights show in Saratoga with the low stage and the first couple of rows almost on it with you. Great people and these small outdoor shows are very relaxed. Because of the size most of the lighting is left behind and a smaller sound system is used, far more intimate than the normal venues we play. A good show in spite of Glenn Worf having come down with a serious case of stomach cramps just before taking the stage.

On the fight back to San Francisco, Guy began experiencing stomach pains as well. I hope it's short lived and not something we can look forward to sweeping the band. We arrived back at our hotel just past midnight and all turned in for an early evening.

The countdown is on and we have only three shows left of this tour. It will be difficult to say goodbye, but we'll be glad to get home to our families.

So long,

Richard

 
Saratoga, California
27-Jul-2005

We had two glorious and much needed days off on the beach in Santa Monica. I continued may daily ritual of a large latte with an extra shot of espresso at Peet's, walked the beach, spent a day with my brother and his wife, Jon and Leslie, went to a used vinyl shop and picked up some albums by Tony Mottola and Chet Atkins, and had fab Indian dinner. Monday night was the big end of tour party courtesy of MK. Cast, crew and friends came together to eat, drink and talk about what they'll be doing one week from now.

Today we decamped our beach front hotel after 6 days and flew into San Jose then were driven about a half hour to the town of Saratoga. Beautiful homes, shops and gardens in the hill country. As we climbed higher in the hills we began to see the vineyards of grapes leading to The Mountain Winery. A very small gig of 1,740 on a very small stage with very small lighting and a decibel limit of 91. As usual, all rose to the occasion and it was a fab gig, so intimate. The night was crisp and the audience was warm and enthusiastic, I could literally reach out and touch the front row, as the stage was no more than a step up.

We'd originally planned to drive to San Francisco after the gig, an hour and a half journey, but took the plane instead. A journey of 9 minutes!! Putting us in the hotel just past 11. Though we've had a couple of days off, everybody is tired as we approach the end of tour. Early to bed.

So long,

Richard

 
San Diego, California
24-Jul-2005

Began today with an hour and a half of sheer punishment in the gym. It never gets easier. A shower and then off to Peet's for a massive attack of caffeine. Well fortified, I walked a couple of blocks to my friend Dennis' place here in Santa Monica. He cooked us up a lunch of swordfish steaks on the BBQ, smoked with applewood, a ginger coleslaw and homegrown tomatoes with avocado and sweet onion. It was a meal fit for a king, followed by a short walk back to the hotel for a little practice then on to the airport and the G4 bound for San Diego.

We played Copley Symphony Hall, a beautiful theatre with a sold out capacity of 2,255. Before the show a couple of friends from Phoenix stopped backstage for a visit having come to San Diego to see the show. John Dixon, the dean of Arizona music history, an organizer of the Arizona Music Hall of Fame, renowned record collector/dealer and all round good chap. He arrived with Jack Miller in tow. Jack is the legendary recording engineer from Phoenix who recorded most of the Duane Eddy hits in the 1950's and 60's. He is still very active in the recording business and I was honored to have worked with him a couple of years ago on an album with my friend Al Casey. Phoenix was more of a recording centre than one would think in those years, and Jack was the man behind most of the record dates done in that city. The show was good, as was the audience. I wish we had a little more time in the city as San Diego was always one of my fave towns.

It was a no nonsense dash to the plane right from the stage as we had to have the wheels up no later than 11:15 or we would not be allowed to take off. No dallying around or after gig pee before hopping in the cars and dashing away. We made wheels up and Laurie had sushi as well as Chinese food ready to go. We also had a spectacular bundt cake courtesy of friends of Laurie Ann Fletcher. Pineapple-coconut-macademia nut slices of mouthwatering moist heaven. The whole lot washed down with a couple of refreshing G&T's and before we knew it we'd arrived at LAX, all before midnight.

So long,

Richard

 
Berkeley, California
23-Jul-2005

Walked the length of Main Street in Santa Monica this morning, stopping at Peet's for coffee. Beside being delicious, Peet's beans are reported to have the most caffeine of any coffee. One cup has more of the stuff than a six pack of Coke. Naturally I had the largest latte they serve, with an extra shot. A real jolt to get the day started. Got back to the hotel around 2 and practiced until it was time to shower and leave for the airport. A beautifully clear and hot day on the beach.

We flew into the Oakland airport and drove to Berkeley and tonight's venue, another Greek Theatre. The capacity is listed as 6,770 but to my eyes it looked like much more and not an empty seat in the whole place. A seriously rocking gig and audience, everything came together including the sound, for one of the best shows of the tour and we ended with a heavenly version of Shangri-La.

Prior to the show, my cousin Neal who lives in the Bay area came backstage for a quick visit, too quick. While we stay in touch via e-mail, we haven't seen each other in close to 15 years. Time's been good to him and it was great to catch up.

Some stunningly great sushi on the plane back to LA and we arrived sated and tired. A relatively early night, in bed at 1:30.

So long,

Richard

 
Los Angeles, California
22-Jul-2005

Up and at 'em early to meet my old buddy Dennis St. John for a walk on Santa Monica beach and breakfast. Dennis and I go way way back to the old L.A. days having played on hundreds of recording sessions together as well as working in Neil Diamond's band. A finer fellow would be hard to find and we've remained good friends for 36 years now.

Returned to the hotel for some phone calls and a nap and then it was time to sit in traffic for over an hour to arrive at Griffith Park and tonight's gig, The Greek Theatre. Speaking of old days, it was Dennis St. John and I on Hot August Night, a live double disc by Neil Diamond recorded here at the Greek back in 1972. Hard to believe it was 33 years ago and doesn't bear thinking about. As I looked out from the stage at sound check, a flood of memories hit me of that and previous performances. Apart from some additional seating that has been added along the sides, very little has changed from the first time I stood on this stage, which was actually back in 1971!! Even longer, yikes.

It was a sold out show with 6,165 Los Angelenos in attendance. My in ear monitors packed it in much to my distraction through the opening song but Adrian Fitzpatrick and Kerry Lewis of our crew came to my rescue with a new unit by the second song. It took me a few more tunes to focus my attention to the show at hand but was soon back to it. A well played and tight show that was well received by the crowd. Always a pleasure to play the Greek and a real homecoming for me.

There was an after show reception with hundreds of folks coming by to say hello including my brother Jon, his wife Leslie and her parents Pat and Richard. We arrived back at the hotel at 1:30 in time for a round of vitamin G and bed.

So long,

Richard

 
Las Vegas, Nevada
21-Jul-2005

It was an hour and a half of humiliation at the gym then out for a stroll down Main Street in Santa Monica with MK and Glenn. We ended up in a surf shop and I bought a pair of swim trunks which I'll make good use of this week in LA, not to mention the couple of weeks of holiday on the Gulf of Mexico coming up. Stopped in at Peet's Coffee shop for the largest and strongest latte they could manage and it was just what the doc ordered.

We flew to Las Vegas where we played the Hard Rock Cafe Hotel's "The Joint", basically a large club within the hotel with a capacity of about 1,500. The whole thing was so casual and at some point during Sultans of Swing I felt like we were playing in a Dire Straits cover band with the waitresses delivering drinks and the neon signs behind the bar. It was a terrific show, the sound was really great because the place was so small we could hear every single note and the audience was there to hear some music. A success on all fronts.

We flew back to LA where we play the Greek Theatre tomorrow.

So long,

Richard

 
Salt Lake City, Utah
20-Jul-2005

We left Denver this afternoon with the thermometer throbbing at 109 degrees and flew into Salt Lake City for a sold out show at Abravanel Hall. An ornate theatre with crystal chandeliers and shiny gold, very Moscow like. I sort of expected a polite and subdued audience given the surroundings, but they turned out to be quite the opposite. It was a deafening crowd of 2,800 wildly appreciative folks. Great sound, great show, great audience.

After the the gig, we flew in to Los Angeles where we will base for the next six days, arriving late and tired.

So long,

Richard

 
Denver, Colorado
19-Jul-2005

It was a day off yesterday in Chicago. As the tour is coming to a close it seems our internal clocks are winding down and after this run of six in a row, we were all desperate to have this day off. I did next to nothing except get out for a cup of coffee, stop at a Walgreen's pharmacy to pick up a couple of things, and back to the room for a good old three hours with my new guitar in hand.

I met up with MK, Guy and Danny for a sublime dinner at Panecaldo on East Walton Street just off Michigan Ave. Our waiter Michael Curtin steered us in all the right directions from lobster ravioli and rib eye steak to free range chicken layered with prosciutto, spinach and mozzerella cheese with an egg and bread crumb coating and baked. Wonderfully fresh seafood, cheeses, desserts, wines and coffee all superbly served and delicious. A warm, simple and easy atmosphere was just the thing to top off a great meal. When in Chicago, give Panecaldo a try.

An early afternoon flight today from Chicago to Denver with Laurie providing a Chicago hot dog extravaganza along with chicken wings and salad. I sat up in the cock pit of the G4 for a rocky approach, not unusual when coming into Denver. I was nicely surprised on checking in to the hotel with a call from Jack Conrad. Jack's an old pal going back to my early days in Los Angeles when we both worked in the same music store in Hollywood and launched our studio careers. He was a very busy bass player on sessions in those days as well as writing hit songs and touring and recording with The Doors and The Beachboys. Jack's originally from Denver and was in town for a couple of days while his mother was having a pacemaker installed.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is about 45 minutes outside the city centre, a beautiful, natural amphitheatre created by an uprising of massive red boulders. I first played here in 1972 with Neil Diamond and again in 2001 with Mark. This site has been used for musical performances going back to 1908 with presentations diverse as ballet, Indian performance troups, The Beatles, Nat King Cole and into the modern era. The audience's are always ready for a night of fun and last night was no exception with the crowd 8,700. Our pal William Topley is back with us for the remainder of the dates on this tour and he's very popular in the Denver area. The audience was thunderous after his 50 minute set. During our show I had all I could do to remain concentrating on my playing and not rubbernecking around at the beautiful view of the two main rock formations that you see from the stage. They create the amphitheatre with the seats between them.

Back to the hotel after the show for some sandwiches, drinks and music courtesy of Mark and djFletch.

So long,

Richard

 
Minneapolis, Minnesota
17-Jul-2005

We're still basing in Chicago and with twelve shows in two weeks left of the tour, the days go quickly now. I managed to get to the gym and out for a coffee and a slice of Chicago pizza, canceling whatever good I might have done myself in the gym. A short practice session back at the room and it was time to leave for Minneapolis.

I've always had a great time in Minneapolis/St.Paul and one of the drawbacks to basing out of a city for several days is there are places we play that I'd love to spend more time in. Sadly, it's not to be this time round for Minneapolis. The venue was the beautiful Orpheum Theatre. I looked out from the stage at the ornately painted ceiling, chandelier and gold leaf trim, thinking Lillie Langtree or Dame Nellie Melba might have graced this stage at one time. Maybe Fats Waller or Burns and Allen. Tonight it would have to make do with us treading her boards. It was one of those relaxed and swinging shows for MK and Co. and seemed like we could do no wrong; whatever we tried worked. The real stars of the evening however, was the capacity audience of 2.600 fantastic Minnesotans who were as big a part of the show as those of us on stage. They couldn't have been better. The sister cities of M/SP are progressive and smart and the people are wonderful. We salute you.

Coming this late in the game when we'd been there, done that and seen it all, there were a couple of milestones in the meet and greet depertment. Tonight's gathering wins the high attendance award with 50 fans, friends and contest winners gathering in catering thus disrupting the crew's dinner. The good folks of Minnesota turned up in droves to hear us play a few Hawaiian tunes and I suppose to meet MK as well. Not only did they give us a big round of applause after each number, but starting laying dollar bills at our feet. At the sight of folding green, manager Paul Crockford quickly sized up the stake and wondered aloud what his percentage of the $12 would be. Matt astutely piped up, "Twelve dollars". When Paul came swooping in to pick up the bills, Guy stood on his hand. Back in the dressing room we divided up, Glenn Worf being reticent about accepting his cut noting that it would make him a professional Hawaiian musician if he took the money. In the end, he came to his senses and we all came away $3 the richer, more money than any of us has ever made playing Hawaiian music. Only in Minnesota and again we salute you.

So long,

Richard

 
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
16-Jul-2005

Started this morning with a breakfast of note at the Tempo Cafe with Mark, Guy, Danny and road manager Steve. I had an Omni Omelette, three eggs, onion, green pepper, ham, swiss and cheddar cheeses, served in a skillet on a bed of hash brown potatoes. The coffee was good and the service great. Stopped at Marshall Field's on the way back for a box of Frango chocolate mints to bring home and then to the hotel for a little practicing.

We flew in to Milwaukee late, foregoing sound check and played in the Milwaukee Theatre, a 1920's theatre that has recently been re-done. It wasn't quite a full house with spotty attendance in the balcony. A somewhat subdued audience but still a good show. We are now down to our last 12 shows of the tour and we still go out on that stage ready to play and enthusiastic. It has been and is the best tour we've ever done.

An interesting combo of snacks on the plane ride back to Chicago, great sushi and Indian food. The winner of the Indian part was ribs in a stunning dark sweet and spicy sauce. Only 100 miles from Milwaukee to Chicago so a very quick flight and everyone pitched in and helped Laurie get the food out and picked up.

So long,

Richard

 
Chicago, Illinois
15-Jul-2005

I finally managed to get myself into the gym today after an absence of a week, tough going but glad I did it. That's about all I managed today, slept in and mopped up nearly three hours of e-mail's that needed tending to before leaving for tonight's show.

I was born in Chicago, lived here my first 8 years and on the way to the gig we passed many of the places I still remember from childhood, the Chicago Tribune building, Michigan Ave., the Water Towers, Buckingham Fountain, the elevated tracks and of course Lake Michigan. We played the beautiful Auditorium Theatre with its ornate interior of plush reds and gold and several balconies, the highest pitched so steeply that I'd have second thoughts about being up there. Happily, that didn't stop others from occupying that section as well as every other seat in the house, all 3,527 of them. Something about mid-west audiences, they are fantastic and Chicago's was one of the best. The band was loose, relaxed and rocking with so many high points it would be hard to list them all. Everything seemed to be firing on all 12 cylinders tonight.

Before the show, we had a super-sized meet and greet, loads of people. With so many to see there was little time left between that and getting dressed to take the stage. The bowels of this particular theatre are a warren of hallways, zig-zags and fire doors every couple hundred feet. After returning my Hawaiian guitar to the stage, I took a wrong turn going back to the dressing room, walked through one of the doors and as it slammed closed realized I was not where I was supposed to be. The door that just slammed had no handle on my side and was of course locked. Up one flight of stairs I was confronted with a selection of two doors, one with a handle but locked and the other leading out to Congress Parkway and people milling around waiting to get in to the auditoriums main entrance. Outside I went and then realized that I'd taken my backstage pass off before we'd begun the M&G. I walked all round the block and finally found the backstage entrance thinking all the time how I would have to talk my way back in with no pass or have them send for somebody to identify me, all the while the clock is ticking away and the rest of the boys are inside getting dressed for the show. Luckily, monitor man Kerry Lewis was sitting outside having a smoke and got me in. A serious Spinal Tap moment.

After the show we ended up in Mark's room with sandwiches from SubWay, a few drinks and DJfletch at the digital jukebox control board.

So long,

Richard

 
Indianapolis, Indiana
14-Jul-2005

Packed the bags again for the final departure from Nashville before the tour ends, and we flew into Indianapolis for the gig tonight at the Murat Theatre. It was a capacity crowd of 2,476 and a more appreciative audience would be hard to find, they were great.

Before the show, my friend Frank Dean came back to say hello. Frank has a band called Sindicato that works very regularly up this way, is a singer, guitar player, songwriter and partner in the Dean Taylor Guitar shop. He came bearing gifts of ancient guitar method books, Al Caiola record albums, Down Beat Magazines and a pair of size 12 black Bostonian loafers belonging to the late great bluesman Yank Rachell. Yank lived in Indianapolis for many years before his death and Frank knew and played with him. Yank of course was the brilliant blues mandolin player on the Sleepy John Estes recordings of the late 1920's and early 30's. A long forgotten figure to the world, but a real hero to me and Mark. Size 12, big shoes to fill indeed.

A runner tonight to Chicago, so we'll see nothing of Indy this time except the lovely Murat Theatre and a good visit with Frank.

All the best,

Richard

 
Nashville, Tennessee
13-Jul-2005

Tonight's show was in the renowned Ryman Auditorium. Built in the late 1800's by former steamboat captain turned evangelist Thomas Ryman, as a home for his ministry. Over the years it has served the Nashville area as a theatre to see everyone from Paul Whiteman's Orchestra, Nelson Eddy, W.C. Fields, Bing Crosby and a host of popular artists of the 20th century. Its most lasting claim to fame however, is that it was home to the Grand Ole Opry from the mid-40's to 1972 when the live radio show was moved to a more spacious and modern facility. For years it remained in decline, serving as a tourist destination where one could stand on it's stage with a Grand Ole Opry microphone and have a photo taken. It was restored and modernized in the 90's and is now one of the finest venues to perform in not only for it's historical significance, but simply because it sounds so great.

We played to a sold out house of 2,400, a benefit show for the Chet Atkins Music Education Fund. A couple of days ago Mark and I were given access to the Country Music Hall of Fame's vaults where we picked out a couple of Chet's guitars that we played tonight during Rudiger. Mark using one of Chet's Gibson models and I a gorgeous 1948 D'Angelico arch top guitar. Beautiful. By the end of the song I didn't want to let that guitar go, but of course back it went to the Hall where it belongs. The show was a huge success not only from our side of the stage and the audience's, but for the Fund as well, with all proceeds going to them. Tonight was an honour and a pleasure.

There was a reception in the foyer of the Ryman and so many friends, in and out of the music community, stayed to say hello.

For Glenn, Matt and I it will be one more night in our own beds then on to Indianapolis tomorrow afternoon as we begin the final home stretch of this unbelievable tour.

So long,

Richard

 
Atlanta, Georgia
12-Jul-2005

After spending the night at home in Nashville, we flew to Atlanta for a gig at Chastain Park. It is an amphitheatre within the park and the floor seating is made up of picnic tables and chairs. Ticket holders bring candles, tablecloths, wine and dinner and the whole thing is very relaxed. Along with the tiered seating, we had an audience of 7,000 tonight that was there to have a good summer evening's entertainment. I'd say we both held up our ends of the deal. I remember Chastain being a great gig in 2001 and it did not disappoint us tonight.

From the stage we were taken back to the G4 where G&T's were waiting along with steak, salad and mashed potatoes. A short flight back to Nashville where we will spend another night and play the Ryman Auditorium tomorrow night. We're all looking forward to that show which will benefit the Chet Atkins Foundation. The Country Music Hall of Fame here in Nashville, is graciously lending two of Chet's guitars for Mark and I to play on a couple songs tomorrow night!

So long,

Richard

 
Kettering, Ohio
09-Jul-2005

We decamp Birmingham, Michigan at 4:30 this afternoon arriving at the Fraze Pavilion in Kettering, Ohio just in time for a meet and greet and the show. The audience of nearly 4,000 were treated to a summer's evening of MK music while the sky turned from dusk to darkness. A wonderfully relaxed show on our part and an attentive, enthusiastic response on theirs. Bap Kennedy did a great opening set and our friend Mike McAdam played some great guitar with him.

After the show we boarded the G4 that was loaded with sushi. An hour long flight to Nashville, TN. where we'll have two days off before playing Atlanta, followed by a night at the famous Ryman Auditorium here in Music City. Glenn, Matt and I have the luxury of spending a few days at home with our families in our hometown.

I'll pick the notes back up with the Atlanta gig in a couple of days. 'Til then......

So long,

Richard

 
Rochester Hills, Michigan
08-Jul-2005

We're staying in a suburb of Detroit called Birmingham, a beautiful little town that I suspect is loaded with do-re-mi and almost too pretty to be real. Small town America--Norman Rockwell/Disney style, perfectly manicured. The kind of place that if you dropped your cookie on the sidewalk, you'd pick it up and eat. It's that clean. Loads of boutiques, restaurants, and a main street movie theatre complete with coloured lights and neon marquis. Back to the future anybody? Danny, Guy and I started the day on a mission to find the local IHOP, International House of Pancakes, which we were told was closed for renovation (probably a good de-ratting), so we ended up at a fab Greek coffee shop for a breakfast of flaming cheese--saganaki, Greek omlettes, pancakes and gallons of coffee. Why not?

Tonight's venue, MeadowBrook Amphitheatre, was another outdoor shed in Rochester Hills, a suburb about 20 minutes from Birmingham. On arriving we found our Nashville pal, Mike McAdam who has come out to play guitar with Bap Kennedy. Mike's a great guitar player who I've known and admired for almost twenty years and it will be good having him with us for a while. It was a very active audience in that there was always lots of non-stop traffic, people up and down the aisles, back and forth for beer, toilet, god knows what. Both Guy and I got in some serious audience watching and agreed after the show that there were so many little scenes going on. A beautiful girl just in front of us was rubbing up her boyfriend and talking all night. Some committed solo dancers, guitar guys blissed out while the girlfriend's wanted to boogie. It was great really, very unusual and made for a night of mutual observation.

My very good friends Heather and Bill Howitt came in tonight from Windsor, Ontario along with son and daughter-in-law John and Patty and their friends Lynn and Jeff. We all had a couple of drinks and loads of laughs back at the hotel after the show. I've known the Howitts nearly 30 years, going back to the old Neil Diamond days and there are few finer folks on the face of the planet. Here's to friendship.

So long,

Richard

 
London, Ontario, Canada
07-Jul-2005

After months of non-stop shows, the days off seem to be coming fast and furious with yesterday being another. The distances between gigs in America is greater than the European routing and simply takes that much longer for the equipment to arrive, affording us a little more leisurely pace. Over the years I've made many friends in Canada and was able to connect up with a great songwriting pal of mine, Cris Cuddy and his wife Heather for an afternoon adventure of vintage guitar hunting and bakery shop sampling. Last night I had dinner with Terry Tompkins and Lisa Boudreau of the group Lost and Profound. I'd produced a couple of albums with them in the '90's and it was great catching up again.

Today we flew to London, home of the University of Western Ontario, Fanshaw College, Ford and General Motors plants, Kellogg's cereal of Canada and Labatt's Beer. The outlying areas are agricultural with corn and soy beans being the big cash crops. A nice small town feel and neat as a pin with the population growing by 50,000 when school is in. We played in the John Labatt Centre to a small audience of maybe 2,000. A warm bunch of folks but it was strange with the stage set so close to the tiered seats with only 7 rows of floor seating. Still, a good show. Another friend, John P. Allen stopped by backstage before we took the boards to say howdy. John's a world class Canadian fiddler and an old pal going back to the days when I produced a record for his band Prairie Oyster. John's just released a wonderful CD of his own called The Canadian Fiddle. I'm proud to have played on a couple of cuts and I love everything about it. It's available on-line through CD Baby at cdbaby.com. I think you'll enjoy it as well.

An easy flight to a suburb of Detroit where we'll play tomorrow, Rochester Hills at the Meadowbrook. Fab Thai food on the plane conjured and served by our new hostess, Laurie. The flight was capped off by an unbelievably smooth landing, never knew the wheels had touched down. I know we'd had a few G&T's but far from feeling no pain, this was an award winning 10 point landing.

So long,

Richard

 
Toronto, Canada
05-Jul-2005

A good day off yesterday spent practicing and seeing my friend Joan Besan of the band Prairie Oyster who I produced an album on back in the 90s. We went to Danforth Street, Greek town, for a dinner at Pan. It's an unassuming little restaurant that's fab. For starters we had saganaki, flaming cheese brought to table and put out with the juice of a lemon. I had a braised lamb shank that fell off the bone, served on orzo with tomatoes, mushrooms and carrots. After dinner we ended up at her son Sunny's flat and he turned me on to a couple of groups that I will seek out, Depth Charge and Slowdive.

Today was an easy one, some coffee and a workout, back to the room for a bit of reading, practicing, a nap and get ready for the gig. A wonderful venue, Molson Amphitheatre, a recreation complex with an 8,750 capacity outdoor performance stage. The weather was mild and breezy and the audience was good. We've been enjoying the outdoor shed shows since being in America; they're very relaxed, the crowd is always in a party mood and it all says summertime. Tonight was no exception.

As we're staying the night in Toronto and another day off here tomorrow, we didn't do a runner but hung out at the gig for a couple of hours after the show, had a little reception and a few drinks with some fine folks. Toronto's a great city and the only thing it lacks is mild winters.

So long,

Richard

 
Ottawa, Canada
03-Jul-2005

The day began in Montreal with a visit to the hotel gym, a sad collection of a couple of tired treadmills, some free weights--max. of 25 lbs., and one machine that claimed to do everything. These universal machines usually do many things poorly and this particular contraption did nothing at all as it was in-op. Still, I managed to get around it all for a pretty good work out. After packing my suitcase, a shower, and with an hour to spare before lobby call, I couldn't resist the temptation to pay another visit to Harvey's. The #1 combo seems to be my downfall--a cheeseburger, fries, and Pepsi. They've begun a promo today, giving a free monster sized Oh Henry candy bar with every combo meal. Who am I to insult the Harvey's corporation? I graciously accepted their reckless generosity with no regret and no regard. It was a shocking meal, the stuff 14 year olds eat and now I remember why. It tastes good.

We flew to Ottawa, the capitol of Canada, late in the afternoon and arrived at the National Arts Centre in time for a soundcheck. N.A.C. has been home to hundreds of musicals, plays, rock, pop, country, jazz, classical and folk concerts. With aging 8X10 publicity photos lining the backstage hallways, it seems everybody from Count Basie to Count Dracula has graced her stage. A good sounding theatre with a capacity of 2,250 and sold out, the audience was there to listen and were warm in their response.

A runner to the airport from the stage and to an idling G4 where obscene amounts of world class sushi awaited us. Trays and trays of it, each with it's own ball of wasabi the size of an ice creme scoop. There wasn't a scrap left by the time we touched down in Toronto, though I did ask for a doggie bag for the wasabi. A couple of drinks with Guy and Danny at the hotel; the iTunes hit of the night award going to the group St. Germain.

It's a day off in Toronto tomorrow as well as my 29th wedding anniversary which I will sadly miss, one of the drawbacks of touring. I love you Tina.

So long,

Richard

 
Montreal, Canada
02-Jul-2005

We arrived in Montreal mid-afternoon. The day was warm, the sky bright blue, dotted with pillowy clouds, the air was sweet and my mission was to find a Harvey's. That will mean nothing to those who live outside Canada and everything to those within. Harvey's is a Canadian chain of burger restaurants; they're the best burgers going. They taste like you wish they did when you make them at home, thick, juicy, loads of fresh toppings. The french fries are perfection, seriously crisp on the outside, steamy and fluffy inside. I can't vouch for the health aspect of these things, but I don't think it's good. Still, one cannot come to the great white north and not eat at least once at Harvey's.

Tonight we played as part of the Montreal Jazz Festival, a 10 day event in the city embracing all kinds of music from rock, blues, world, Latin and of course jazz too. Shows are staged in various venues as well as outdoor stages and the area takes on a carnival atmosphere. We played in a theatre that held about 3,000 people and was very much a sit down gig complete with cushy upholstered chairs. The stage sounded good as did the theatre and the audience, while not as rambunctious as last night's, was with us all the way. One of many good things about playing a sit down theatre is we often do All That Matters as we did this evening. It's amazing the response that song gets when we do it, yet it wouldn't work in a less intimate setting.

After the show I met up with my friend Andrea DeMori, a guitar player with a fondness for many of the same kinds of music I like. We had a couple of healing G & T's and sung our praises to Gretsch guitars, instrumental records and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The streets of Montreal were a crush with young folks out for a summer Saturday night.

It was a day that makes you believe you're going to live for another 80 or 90 years.

So long,

Richard

 
Boston, Massachussets
01-Jul-2005

The mornings seem to start later all the time and I didn't hit the treadmill until noon today. An hour and a half later I hobbled out of the gym feeling virtuous and starved out. I met up with my friends Kate and Major Walker for lunch at Legal Seafood. Kate is a publicist here in Boston, a tireless supporter of all the right stuff and we have quite a few friends in common. It was a big bowl of creamy white Boston clam chowder, crab cake, gallons of ice tea and the good company of Major and Kate.

The Fleet Boston Pavilion is a 'shed' theatre on the harbour with no lawn seating. The capacity is listed as 4,700 but it looked more like 10,000 and sounded like 40,000. Sold out and then some, it was Friday night in Boston and these folks came to party. They were so loud it was painful and you couldn't ask for a better audience. Roaring approval and standing ovations in a great setting with the breeze coming off the harbour. MK and Co. all in good shape and some particularly good renditions of Sultans, Romeo, Speedway, Telegraph and Shangri-La. When we left the stage I realized that the house was so loud my ears were shut down. Way to go Boston, we love you and hope the Red Sox repeat their hat trick this year.

Back at the hotel for a couple of drinks with Guy, Danny, Bap Kennedy and a farewell toast to James Walbourne who plays fantastic guitar with Bap. James is off now to begin a tour with his own band in support of their record. An old friend of ours from Nashville, Mike McAdam will finish to the tour with Bap.

It's way up north tomorrow to Montreal.

So long,

Richard

 
Florence, Massachussets
30-Jun-2005

We played a great little gig for about 1900 folks in Look Park. Pines Theatre is a small amphitheatre nestled in the park and was like playing at a picnic. Florence is part of Northampton, Mass. which boasts 5 universities in a 15 mile radius. Smith, Amherst, U of M, Holyoke and um, um, well that's four out of five, sorry. It's a beautiful town of Victorian homes and gardens, lots of boutiques, a cool diner or two and looking very much like a Norman Rockwell painting. I'd love to see it in the autumn when the colours turn. There were a few dive bombing insects here and there but apart from that it was a good night of playing for good people. Probably the most intimate gig of the whole tour.

After the show we drove to the airport in Springfield for a very short flight into Boston where we spend the night and play tomorrow.

So long,

Richard

 
New York City
29-Jun-2005

I took a tip from a fan who'd noticed how much space I devote to food in this travelogue. He told me his favourite Cuban restaurant in the city was Victor's Cafe on 52nd St. W. and Broadway. I walked down there this morning with Danny, Guy and the newly arrived Chuck Ainlay in tow. We arrived at noon just as the place opened for business and it was like walking onto a Cuban veranda in mid-town Manhattan. Fresh fruit juices, Cuban espressos, and ropa vieja. Literally translated 'old clothes', it's beef that's been stewed for hours with garlic, onion, tomatoes and peppers until it falls apart into soft delicious strings. Served with rice, black beans and mashed plantain it was an eye opening way to start our day. The four espressos I had didn't hurt either. Chuck, by the way is the fellow who co-produces, engineers and mixes MK's records, is one of the world's great recording engineers and an old pal from Nashville. He's flown in this morning to hang with us at Radio City.

We got to RCMH about 4 o'clock for a sound check as the stage goes dark from 5 until 7:30 for union reasons. It was a quick spin through a tune and a long wait around. We had a meet and greet in which Guy's new ukulele was the star. Bap Kennedy opened again and we took the stage at 8:50. I've been in the music game a long time and played most of the big venues and theatres, but have to admit to getting a little scared through the first few tunes tonight at the sight of a full house at Radio City Music Hall. It is one of those legendary venues that somehow says "you've arrived" once you've played there and funnily enough I never had before tonight. Things settled down soon enough, the audience was tremendous and all on their feet by the end of the show. As there was a strict union rule about being off stage by 10:55, it was a slightly shorter show and we brought it in just under the wire. Backstage after the show I was pleased and honored to meet John and Catherine Sebastian. John of course is a wonderful songwriter and his wife a photographer. I was a big Lovin' Spoonful fan and still am.

There was a reception at the bar downstairs after the show and I got back to the hotel around 1 in the morning. I realized that I hadn't eaten since our early lunch this afternoon and the thought of getting out in the street looking for something at this hour is just a little more than I can deal with, so it's off to bed. Tomorrow we de-camp from the hotel after five days and head off to a gig in Florence, Mass.

So long,

Richard

 
Vienna, Virgina
26-Jun-2005

A short flight from N.Y.C. (Teterboro, N.J. airport) to Vienna, Virginia and a drive to Wolf Trap National Park. Wolf Trap is one of the better known American amphitheatre/sheds, is constructed of wood, looks like an enormous tree house landed in the middle of this beautiful setting and every square inch of it packed with people, the lawn, seats and balcony. The reception couldn't have been better and I think this would have to rate as one of the best shows of the tour so far. Mark and the band have come back from the break storming, really rocking yet wonderfully relaxed and sure footed. I see why so many artists enthuse about playing Wolf Trap, the staff, venue, sound, audience and vibe (forgive that word) are top drawer. In all my years of touring I'd never had occasion to play here and now can't wait to return.

A day off tomorrow in the big apple. I suspect a trip to Rudy's Music Stop will be on the menu.

So long,

Richard

 
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
25-Jun-2005

I hit the streets of Manhattan this morning with Guy, he in search of a new camera and I in search of a set of speakers for my iPod. A successful outing on both fronts. New York City's been transformed over the last decade from seedy and potentially dangerous to clean, welcoming and proud. Always one of the world's great cities, it's become the Manhattan everybody wished it could be. I never get that feeling of having to look over my shoulder and as always one can get anything you could dream of, at any time of the day here.

It was a short flight to Philadelphia to play the Mann Centre, another outdoor amphitheatre in a beautiful old park. The day was hot and humid and the crew had a steamer of a set up. As Philly's close to Nazareth, PA, home of Martin Guitars, there were a couple surprises for Matt and Guy courtesy of MK. If you've been following either Guy's or my journal you'll be familiar with the beleaguered, hopeless, eBay uke of Guy's. You know, the one that's dropped, scraped, kicked and verbally abused. Waiting in the dressing room was a brand new Martin soprano mahogany ukulele. A quick tune up and that first strum was heavenly. Mark, Guy and I played a few Hawaiian tunes and the little Martin uke sounds fantastic. Over the course of the tour Mark has been teaching Matt guitar and there was a Martin guitar waiting for him as well that sounded like a million bucks right out of the case. A couple of instruments that couldn't have better homes. With new ukulele in hand we happily trundled off for a meet and greet and suddenly the Hit It Assholes sounded like professional assholes. What a difference that uke makes.

Another gig much like last night's, relaxed and seriously well played, all firing on 12 cylinders. The only annoyance was a guy in the front row who kept waving at anybody who's eye he could catch on stage wanting us to give him a pick or a stick or a towel. This went on from the first tune through the final encore. What in the blue hell world are you thinking about pal? He's not the only one. People come up in the middle of a song with things they want signed. Do they really think we'll stop the show? No way folks. We're working up there, sit back and enjoy the show we're trying to put on. It was the topic of discussion on the flight back to N.Y. Still, we thought it was a great gig and had a ball playing.

Ended the day in Guy's room with Danny, gin and tonics, The Golden Gate Quartet, The Coral, Sol Hoopii, Engineers, Air and The Scissor Sisters among others on the hi-fi.

So long,

Richard

 
Portsmouth, Virginia
24-Jun-2005

It was a great week of catching up with family, friends and sleep. We whipped up a few BBQ dinners and enjoyed some beautiful late spring weather that was still lingering round Tennessee. By week's end the mercury had crossed the 90 degree mark and summer's humidity arrived. The hardest thing about getting home for a few days mid-tour, is the leaving. On the plus side, I managed to off load enough stuff I'd been dragging around with me reducing my luggage from plural to singular. Matt, Glenn and I flew to Teterboro, New Jersey on the plane that will take us through this final five week run in America. It's a Gulfstream G4 like we had in 2001 and it's the king of private jets. I haven't checked, but I'm certain Guy will have some pics on his website. Joining our pilots Loren and Bruce is hostess Tracy. In Teterboro we picked up the rest of the band who'd arrived the day before and were already staying in Manhattan. We all agreed that it was a well needed week off but now we couldn't wait to get back on stage again.

The venue was an outdoor amphitheatre next to a Naval marina with a huge ship docked and in full view. These venues are known in the States as 'sheds' and usually consist of a stage covered by some elaborate sail looking contraption, a few back stage dressing rooms and offices, several thousand seats out front and lawn seating. They're great summertime gigs to attend and play, sort of the venue equivalent of lemonade.

It's exciting to tour America again, though there are definitely drawbacks in the catering department. As the U.S. venues all have contracts with private catering companies, we cannot bring our own as we had for the last 10 weeks through Europe. The result is usually B- food. We have the advantage of having Darren Wey, head chef of our catering crew, who's come along to 'advise' the local caterers and ended up grilling some fab rib eye steaks for dinner. American produce pales in comparison with that which is not force grown for appearance and picked green. Salads tend to be tasteless and Kraft dressing doesn't do much to improve things. We are no doubt spoiled by European standards. And another thing, the tea. We're not in England anymore. It was a potpourri of exotic herbal, peppermint, decaf, Lipton and the prize winner, Caffeine Free Egyptian Licorice Yogi Tea. I think America is still defensive about the old colonial tea tax and manifests itself in her version of that particular beverage. C'mon folks we just want a cuppa tea.

The capacity of the venue was listed as 6,500 though there were many empty seats and the lawn empty as well. Promoter? Who knows, but in any case those who were there made up for those who weren't. It was a rested, relaxed, rocking, swinging and sure of itself show, MK and band in top summertime form and enjoying being together again. We were joined tonight by opener Bap Kennedy, a singer-songwriter from Ireland who will be with us for several of the U.S. shows. He and his electric guitar player (who I've yet to meet) were fantastic and the audience liked them as well. Looking forward to hearing more of them both.

It was the usual runner from stage to the G4, sushi, sandwiches, G&T's and arriving back at Teterboro, N.J. for a short drive into Manhattan where we will base for the next week. It's good being back on tour again, American style.

So long,

Richard

 
London, England
16-Jun-2005

Back in London for one last performance this evening. A special private 45 minute set for Deutsche Bank in the old Billingsgate Fish Market, now converted into an 'event' venue. After the gig the Nashville contingency will spend the night at the Heathrow Hilton close to Terminal 4 for the morning check in and flight back to America.

It's been an amazing 10 weeks. 62 shows in 70 days for thousands of fans covering many thousands of miles in the Legacy. A large part of this tour is now behind us with only 30 shows left in five weeks in the States. We'll begin again this coming Friday the 24th of June in Portsmouth, Virginia and continue on through the 31st of July ending in Vancouver, BC. I'll be spending time with my family, have some catch ups and cook outs during the break and will resume the 'notes from the road' again with the Portsmouth gig. Thanks for reading and until then......

So long,

Richard

 
Reggio Calabria, Italy
15-Jun-2005

The day began in Rome with a return to Lagana for lunch along with Guy, Danny, MK, the Caviglia's, a couple of our drivers and our friend from Croatia, Drago. Then back to the hotel to finish packing and off to the airport for our trip to Reggio Calabria and the last 'official' gig in Europe. We have one more show tomorrow night back in London, a private short set for Deutche Bank.

Reggio C. is the southern most tip of Italy and very different from the north, more rustic. The venue was hot and dirty, the dressing rooms filthy and the floors greasy. It had so many strikes against it including dreadful sound and yet it was one of the greatest and loudest audiences of the entire tour so far. Positively deafening. It was a great gig.

As today is the end of the European leg, it was also a day of many goodbyes. To our great German friends and drivers of the last ten weeks, Eike, Alex, Stefan, Bernie, Siggy and Alex, thanks for the many smooth miles and smiles. Over the last couple of days we said farewell to our pilots Taj, Rob, Keith and Anita and the Legacy dubbed Lambsy. So long to Adam Ireland and all the great folks from Eat Your Hearts Out, our caterers. Darren Wey, head chef, will be joining us in America. And finally, a sad goodbye to Susi our hostess on the Legacy for these ten weeks, she deserves the medal of honor for the way she looked after us and all she got was a bunch of tired hugs. Here's to you Susi, a tall, cool gin and tonic is hoisted your way. Bless you all and thank you.

We returned to London at 3 in the morning, it's been a very long day.

So long,

Richard

 
Naples, Italy
14-Jun-2005

A very late sleep in, making up for yesterday's lack of it and the late evening last night.

A short flight to Napoli and an open air gig on the site of what used to be an ancient amphitheatre and is now a new amphitheatre. A very strange gig as there was a huge, deep orchestra pit, actually more like a moat, between us and the audience. Also, quite a lot of unused stage in front of us before the pit, as they had to put the speaker columns on the sides of the stage and, because of feedback, we must remain behind them. Consequently, we were miles from the people and felt very disconnected. Still it was a well played gig and I think the audience enjoyed it, though it was difficult to tell with them being so far away.

On the flight back to Roma, Susi arranged 12 boxes of Naples' most famous food, pizza. I've never had pizza this good, incredibly delicious ingredients and chewy crust. One of those meals that shut everybody up for a while with only the sound of slurping and the occasional expletive due to sauce and cheese dripping onto pants and shirts. As we landed in Rome, all 12 boxes had been demolished. Wow.

So long,

Richard

 
Rome, Italy
13-Jun-2005

At precisely 5:45 this morning the heavy trash collection trucks began rumbling down the piazza and emptying dumpsters. Shortly after that work began dismantling yesterday's booths of festivity in the square. All this right outside my window, of course. We usually get rooms that face the inside of the hotel; often looking into a shaft between buildings - lousy views but wonderfully free of traffic and other noises. It didn't occur to me when we checked in and my room overlooked the picturesque piazza that it might be a signal to change dorms and now, with less than three hours sleep, it's the only thing I can think of. Well, I simply toughed it out, never did get back to sleep, practiced for a few hours until ordering some coffee, toast and jam and committing to the day which meant shower, pack and leave Florence for Roma.

I've spent a little time in Rome the last couple of years. Having taken part in the Pensa Day festivities, we usually end up here for the last couple of days and the city feels like home when I come to her now. The warm Italian sun and blue skies, the million Piaggio and Vespa scooters weaving in and out of traffic and the Roman ruins, not just the famous ones, but unexpected ancient buildings on the way in from the airport, all welcome us to Roma. What one conveniently forgets is the staggering and chaotic traffic with the drivers aggressive and audacious. It took about an hour to get to our hotel in the city centre from the airport, skillfully navigated by Ike. By then it was mid-afternoon and, with a couple of hours free before going to the venue, I thought I'd try to get the upper hand on sleep. No luck.

Tonight's coloseum is the Palalottomatica, a real mouthful and eyesore. Built in the swinging 60's it's a round, domed concrete thing - large, dirty, reverberant and the site of hundreds of rock shows over the years. A couple of generations of Romans have grown up coming to this place. The show is also being sent out live tonight on Italian radio. Leave it to our ace sound man and miracle worker Robert Collins to whip this sonic ship into shape. He's the best in the business. A couple of friends told me later that, being among those who had grown up seeing shows there, tonight's was hands down the best the old place has ever sounded. Hats off to Robert. The Palalottomatica looks much larger from the outside than from within and it was a capacity crowd of 5,500, floor standing, seated back and sides that exploded in a roar that was deafening from back stage as we came up to begin the show. It was a real rocker from top to bottom, MK and band on top form in spite of feeling a little ragged. DJfletch who doesn't play on Sultans, left the stage and went to one of our cars and listened to a bit of it on the radio, said it sounded fab. These are the performances you live for.

After the show Glenn W. and I joined Marco and Francesca Caviglia, Valerio and Letezia Barbantini, Rudy Pensa and Drago Vidakovic for a stunning dinner at Ristorante Lagana. Our host and owner Mimmo kept the place open especially for us as we didn't arrive until shortly after mid-night. A small, unassuming place quietly tucked away down a side street in downtown Rome. I've spent several brilliant evenings here in the same company and was pleased to introduce Glenn to Lagana as well. I could never begin to describe how good the food tastes, but a small sampling of what we ate follows: prosciutto, cantaloupe, creamy white, buffalo mozzarella, breaded and sauteed fresh sardines, bean salad, focaccia, sauteed baby zucchini, prawns marinated in lime and that was only the beginning. For the main course I had a beautiful pasta with porcino mushrooms and olive oil, all washed down with a delicious, soft, Italian, red wine. For dessert it was a whipped citrus sorbet served in champagne glasses and sipped! Fresh, small strawberries about the size of a bean and blackberries topped with vanilla ice creme, dessert wine and after dinner drinks followed. Ristorante Lagana at Via dell'Orso,44 is one of the great restaurants of the world, not loudly trumpeted but a quiet and treasured secret for those who know.

It was a day that began severely and ended sublimely.

So long,

Richard

 
Florence, Italy
12-Jun-2005

Another peel off the mattress morning. A very slow beginning, I'd already missed breakfast and too late for the gym. Shower and pack. Just as I finished closing the bags, our road manager Tim called to say there was an hour's delay in landing clearance at the Florence airport and we'd be leaving that much later than planned. It was my cue to get out for a coffee and some food. The problem was, everything was closed on Sunday. I ended up in the Italian equivalent to Pizza Hut and had a Margarita pizza and a couple of cups of espresso. Not a bad way to start the day especially at 2 in the afternoon! As promised, an hour later we made our way to the Milano airport for short hop south to Firenze (Florence) Italy.

Not to be confused with Florence, Alabama...Florence, Italy is in the northern reaches of Tuscany. We're staying in a hotel on a piazza, that's a plaza to us yanks and not to be confused with the pizza I had earlier. As Frank Zappa once said, it's all happening here. Hundreds of narrow side streets congested with scooters and beautiful people saying "ciao" with shops offering the latest fashions and fab food. I wandered onto the square with Danny for a coffee and there was a Turkish group playing music, a children's face painting booth playing ABBA, several stalls selling leather knock-off bags of famous designers and one of those artists who works in spray paints doing apocalyptic visions of outer space via some kind of Aztec slant. C'mon, you know what I'm talking about. They finish each painting by setting an aerosol blast on fire and drying the completed picture. These guys gotta be so whacked out on paint fumes it's not even funny. Absolutely brilliant to watch, but nothing you'd particularly want in your home.

We played tonight at the Nelson Mandela Palace. Not really a palace, just another venue for gigs. The promoter must have fallen down on the job as out of a capacity of 7,000 only about 3,500 were in attendance. However, those who were there really rocked the standing gig and they were so with us. A well played show tonight and a man in every corner, which would make it a six sided ring.

Back at the hotel, we opened a couple of bottles of great wine and our own DJfletch dazzled and educated us once again with Archibald, Helen Shapiro, Groove Armada, Astrid Gilberto and Sleepy John Estes just to name a few.

So long,

Richard

 
Stra, Italy
11-Jun-2005

There must be some phenomenon with touring, regarding endurance. I don't think the number of dates has much to do with it but rather an inner clock that is set for the duration. In our case the 10 week European run. As we head into the final few days, I can just about drag myself out of the bed and get on with the day. Really knackered. And that's how today has been, never left the room until it was time to go to the plane at 4:30. No food, no coffee, nada. So, by the time we did get to the plane I was ready for both.

It was a short hop and a bit of a drive to the little village of Stra. We played an open air show in the gardens of what appeared to be a government palace. I never bothered to find out what the hell it was and that's due in part to the above paragraph. It was a strange set up in that half the audience was seated and the other half standing, split right down the centre. I suppose that's one way of solving the problem of each point of view having their way, but it was too weird looking out at it. Guy and I were on the 'standing' side of the stage while Mark and Danny were up the middle and Glenn and Matt on the 'seated' side. It was a distracted show if I had to put a word to it, in part due to the seating/standing arrangement, partially because the sound never seemed to gel and finally because we're all very tired. Having said that, it was still a good show, the audience was wonderful and hopefully only we noticed the distraction.

All the Italian shows are beginning at 9 rather than 8 which put our return to Milan back an hour. Not much interest in nightcaps tonight, sleep is on the menu.

So long,

Richard

 
Milan, Italy
10-Jun-2005

After a day off yesterday where I scarcely got out of bed except for dinner, today I made it to the gym and followed that with a wander around Milan for a couple of hours. One posh designer's store after another, the finest clothes, handbags, shoes, swim wear, you name it. When it comes to the price tag, they name it and the tune that's called is mighty steep. I came across a tiny store front down a side street, the shop devoted to swim trunks and a very cool pair caught my eye. When I asked what it would cost to get me into them, the very cool reply was 120 Euros! Needless to say I'll be wearing last year's model again this summer. Still, it was great window shopping, The weather clear, beautiful and warm and everybody dresses well and seems so relaxed. I fell into a little cafe for a ham and cheese pannini (grilled sandwich) and a couple of creamy Italian cappucino. A good afternoon.

We arrived at Milan's Filaforum to find our friends Rudy Pensa and Marco Caviglia there. Rudy had made and brought a new guitar for Mark that is one of the best instruments he's ever made, a dream guitar in appearance, playability and tone. It was great catching up on things with the both of them and look forward to the next few days while they will be with us.

What a gig, a stand up with seating round the sides and back. Thousands of wonderfully mad Italian fans cheering so loud it hurt our ears. Mark played superbly tonight top to bottom and it was one of those nights that it almost didn't matter where you put your fingers, we could do no wrong. A brilliant evening.

We ended the night back at the hotel with a couple of glasses of Italian wine and music courtesy of DJfletch.

So long,

Richard

 
Leipzig, Germany
08-Jun-2005

Amanda and her boyfriend Mark picked me up at the hotel this morning at 9:30 with a gift of a large cuppa coffee and we made our way to the underground transport. Mark's mum, Cindy, graciously offered to prepare a breakfast for us in their apartment here in Berlin and that's the direction we headed. She'd really been busy whipping up some beautiful cinnamon scones, omelets, bacon and on the table was a bowl full of the most exquisite German strawberries. It turns out that today was the official beginning of strawberry season and I can't begin to describe the flavour of these deep red beauties. As opposed to America where everything is force grown, picked green and ripen in a plastic container, these berries are allowed to ripen fully on the vine before arriving at the market. Their rich crimson colour goes all the way through the fruit and in all my years of eating strawberries I've never had any that tasted this good. After exchanging goodbyes, Amanda and Mark brought me back to the hotel where I packed and prepared for the short flight to Leipzig and tonight's show.

It was a longer drive from the airport to the venue than the actual flight itself. Leipzig was part of the eastern block and still shows signs of it. It's hard to describe, but all of the former eastern block countries and cities have the same drab, gray and repressed look about them after all this time. The venue was sort of an aircraft hanger looking thing, think gigantic quonset hut. They managed to get over 7,000 fans in and they were very kind to us. We left right after the gig for the airport and the streets of Leipzig were desolate at 10 o'clock as we drove, nothing open, no people, no traffic. Weird.

Tonight was the 11th show in a row and the crew and band are really ready for a day off tomorrow in Milan.

So long,

Richard

 
Berlin, Germany
07-Jun-2005

This afternoon I had a wonderful lunch with my Amanda, who is visiting her boyfriend Mark, who is visiting his parents here in Berlin. They came to our hotel with Mark's mom Cindy and we took the train to Ka De We, Berlin's premier department store. One entire floor is dedicated to a food hall with the finest of everything from meats, fish and poultry, bakery, fruit, teas, cheeses, coffees, olives, doesn't matter, they've got the finest and it's displayed to perfection. To go along with the groceries there are a least a dozen little restaurants to sit down and eat a variety of different foods from sushi to traditional German fare. We opted for the latter, sitting at the counter and eating a Wiener Schnitzel the size of a small third world country, washed down with a Konig Pilsner on tap. There could not have been better food or company. I stopped in the men's department on the way down and found a fab black and white psychedelic print shirt that was a hit when I wore it tonight on the gig.

Waldbuhne is an outdoor amphitheatre that Hitler loved for listening to the works of his favorite composer, Wagner. It was said that he had the frog and newt population eradicated because their croaking interfered with his enjoyment of the music. They never came back and that is the reason why the mosquitoes are in abundance there. I can't verify the accuracy of that story but it's a good one. The weather today has been dreadful, blustery, cold and rainy. The crew were miserable setting up today and we had our fingers crossed the rain would hold off long enough to do the show. Late this afternoon the clouds parted and things began to clear, although the temperature remained brisk.

We had the largest meet and greet of the tour so far before the show, 12 people from Universal Records, 6 contest winners and my Amanda along with her Mark and his parents, Cindy and Hank. There was a tense moment or two when a photographer from the record company backed into us while we were playing. What are people thinking about. Nothing, that's what. We kept our cool, Guy didn't kick anyone and I didn't tell anyone to shove off but I'm ready for that roll of razor wire.

The gig was fantastic even though it was cold. Sometimes the nights when things are going against you make for the best shows and I would have to say that about this evening's show. 13,000 fans with plenty of bench seating up the sides and back and the front lawn was standing. We went on stage very much in the daylight and it never really got completely dark which gave us a chance to observe the audience watching us. They were a wonderful crowd and we gave them a wonderful show despite some stiff fingers due to the cold.

So long,

Richard

 
Koln, Germany
06-Jun-2005

I accidentally knocked over my desk lamp this morning, usually no cause for alarm but this lamp's shade was top heavy globe of frosted glass and when it hit the desk, the top of which was marble, the whole thing exploded into a million shards of glass, something I would have loved to see in slow motion at a distance. It was everywhere, some of it pulverized into a sort of glass dust. Of course I managed to cut myself cleaning it up. A crap start to the day when really all you want is a first cup of coffee which I eventually got round to. I also made it into the gym after taking a few days off and it was good to get back to it. Packed up, checked out and the girl at the desk said not to worry about the lamp and I told her not to worry about my wound. Then it was off to the Koln Arena.

It was a big one tonight about 13,500 fans. Somewhere in the middle of the show people started making their way up to the front of the stage, all pretty orderly. After several numbers, the security began seating everybody and at some point we looked up and they'd all disappeared. Mark stopped a song in progress and called down the security with my favourite expletive, much to the approval of the fans who rushed the stage and packed the aisles. We then finished the show with MK and band in top form tonight.

Brit comfort food for the flight, shepherd's pie, peas, Heinz beans, HP sauce and a couple of drinks. Before we knew it we'd been delivered to Berlin to spend the night and play tomorrow. My daughter in town visiting her boyfriend so I will spend the day with them.

So long,

Richard

 
Lille, France
05-Jun-2005

We decamped from our London digs after a great 10 days. Of course, the contents of my suitcases managed to find their way into every corner and onto every surface of the room. It was goodbye to the U.K. for a while but it was good to get back on our plane, see Susi again and enjoy some sushi 20,000 feet above ground.

Tonight's show was at the Zenith and we were back in the land of stand up gigs. It had been a while since we had one like that and was it ever a steamer, figuratively and literally. The audience was packed onto the floor with seating along the sides and back and were fantastic with enthusiasm, really rocking. Fueled by their response, we turned in a really rocking performance, if I have to say so myself. However, the temperature in that joint must have been over 90 degrees, absolutely no air and humid as a rain forest. It was difficult to get a lung full of oxygen and we all came off that stage saturated and into waiting cars.

The Legacy received our sweaty selves and we feasted on some delicious Thai food. It was rumored a martini or two might have been involved as well. We arrived in Koln (Cologne), Germany where we spend the night and play tomorrow. Just for good measure and nostalgia's sake, Danny, Guy and I paid a visit to the fab bar at the hotel for a night cap. It has been the scene of many a good night from past tours and we wanted to make certain the vibe was still happening. It most certainly was.

So long,

Richard

 
Birmingham, England
04-Jun-2005

A 6:00 a.m. wake up call as the kids leave for the airport and their respective flights this morning. Bleary eyed but everyone got on their way including Glenn Worf's family. It was suddenly quiet and deserted in the room, I went back to bed but never really got back to sleep. I spent most of the day adjusting to their absence and my lack of shut eye.

This afternoon we drove to Birmingham, about 1:45 minutes to the NEC Arena. I played here many years ago with Diamond and we met Prince Charles and Princess Diana that evening. She was pregnant with her second child and I have a photo in my kitchen of me with the both of them. Funnily enough, Neil and Co. are just up the road tonight performing at Woburn Abbey, which I also played with him back in the swinging 70's. So long ago it doesn't bear thinking about.

A full house of 10,000+ tonight. Understandably, the six of us are a little tired and disoriented with families departing and the return to 'regular' arena gigs after a week at RAH. It's not often that we're all behind the 8 ball at the same time, but it tends to make for a very relaxed show and in many ways shows a facet of the band not often seen. It's really quite good that way. It also took a few tunes to get used to arena sound again, big and echoey. This was our final U.K. gig. England is like a second home to me and I'm always excited to arrive and sorry to leave.

After the show it was into the waiting cars and the drive back to London where we'll spend our last night before decamping tomorrow, flying to France for a show in Lille and then on to Cologne, Germany for the night.

So long,

Richard

 
London, England
03-Jun-2005

We were up early and out for the last day of sight-seeing with the children. Took the tube to Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms, a warren of underground bunkers in the heart of London from which the prime minister conducted business and oversaw his country's military from 1939 until the end of WWII. Many, small rooms of concrete with a small kitchen and private bedrooms for the Churchills, a BBC radio room, map, strategy and conference rooms and state of the art (for the day) switchboards. Also, a tiny broom closet that housed the hot lines to President Roosevelt that was thought by all but the top rank to be Churchill's private toilet. The entire underground was reinforced with a poured concrete slab for the ceiling and massive timbers wedged after the fact for extra structural support. These headquarters were sealed after the fall of Berlin, maps still with pins in them, burnt out cigars in ashtrays, papers on desks, and not opened again until the 70's. All the furniture, office equipment, cots, cleaning supplies etc. just as they were and is like stepping back 60 years in time. From there it was a walk to the Tate Gallery, the leading museum of British art where we spent an hour or so taking in the Constable's and Turner's. If ever in London don't miss either of these attractions.

The last of our Albert shows was maybe the best. We were all a little tired tonight which made for a slightly relaxed performance which is not a bad thing at all. The audience was a brilliant Friday night crowd of 5,200 which is the Hall's capacity and has been filled each night. Another reception tonight seeing friends from Italy again as well as Chicago and North Carolina. It was a little sad leaving RAH this evening, it was a fabulous five show run and it really felt like home for the week, also saying goodbye to everybody's family members who came out for this week not to mention my own kids leaving very early tomorrow morning. We'll then play Birmingham and begin to resume our regular tour schedule and routines.

So long,

Richard

 
London, England
02-Jun-2005

Our fourth show tonight and the audiences just get better. Toward the end the whole house was on their feet, not typical of RAH houses. We've been performing a longer middle set with the inclusion of All That Matters and last night we brought back Shangri-La as one of the encores, a full show with everybody enjoying their heads off.

The big reception in London was tonight, held in the Sir Edward Elgar room of the Albert. Edward Elgar was a tremendously popular British conductor and composer in the early part of the 20th century, a regular figure at the Albert Hall whose most enduring work is Pomp and Circumstance, played at every high school graduation. I marched down the aisle and picked up my diploma to it's strain and you probably did as well. It was a fine gathering of folks, friends and fans and I was able to meet up with my Italian pals Marco and Francesca Caviglia, Valerio and Letezia Barbantini and Davide Splendore. They have all been instrumental in the organization of Pensa Day in Italy and have very graciously included me in their festivities, food and wine. It's a wonderful two days devoted to Rudy Pensa, his guitars and a live concert held each year in September. This year's event, like last year will be in Orvieto, Italy. It was also great to catch up with Terry Kilburn our friend who in his spare time from teaching school and playing guitar, organizes MK's official website, mark-knopfler-news.co.uk. Check it out.

Tomorrow is our fifth and final day in the wonderful Royal Albert Hall.

So long,

Richard

 
London, England
01-Jun-2005

I can't believe it's June, didn't think about it until I typed it. I left Nashville to begin rehearsals at the end of January and now we have only 8 weeks left of the tour!

This afternoon we were given a very special tour of Albert Hall not open to the general public, a tour not for the faint of heart or those nervous about heights. A wonderful chap named Adrian, who is the Albert Hall's house rigger, took us to the very upper structures of the dome some 130 feet from the floor! We were actually in between the aluminum sub roof which was installed in the 1920's and the original glass roof of the dome amongst all the steel roof supports. At one point we walked out onto a small circular steel mesh at the apex of the dome directly over the centre of the floor which as I said was 130 feet below us. Even the bravest walked gingerly on legs that felt like jelly. It was a great photo op for those brave enough to point a camera down, my son Nick being one! We also walked the perimeter of the roof for a great view of the city of London and an amazing look at the Albert Memorial just across the street. The tour ended with Adrian graciously allowing us in the Queen's Royal boxes where we sat not exactly rubbing shoulders with royalty but with each other. The tour gets the big wow award for today. Thanks Adrian.

Night three of five was another great one as much on the audience's performance as ours. Everybody is marveling at the reception the show is receiving. For me it's a marvel to be on that stage for over two hours a night in such a fab venue. I looked up at the dome a time or two tonight as well.

We passed on tonight's reception, the children and I spent a quiet evening back at the hotel watching Play Misty For Me on TV with gin and tonics. It was so tragically '70's. By the way, my children are of drinking age!

So long,

Richard

 
London, England
31-May-2005

We were up early but didn't get out until 11 this morning for a tube ride to Oxford Street and a little shopping. Oxford Street runs for several blocks and is loaded with shops, really anything you would want can be found on Oxford Street. I'd forgotten how busy it was, teeming with people. I quickly had my fill of the crush so I headed back to the hotel and let the kids fend for themselves, which they can do admirably. Had a quiet afternoon practicing. When everyone arrived back I was surprised they'd purchased as little as they had.

With the Albert so close we walked to the gig, again arriving in time for soundcheck and dinner. Backstage is alive with the usual business along with everybody's families for this week. It's great having the kids around as they're all so into music, playing guitars and drums and very opinionated about their likes and dislikes. William Topley opened the show again this evening as he will for the rest of the week. William, along with his guitar player Luke and singer/percussionist Dori, is fantastic and they make a great noise the three of them, very rocking, musical and all acoustic.

We were all commenting after the show how the audiences the last two nights were different from past RAH crowds which are usually a little reserved, in part I think due to the venue. They've been wildly enthusiastic even though it is a seated house, though by the end it is no longer seated. We were amazed. Could it really be us? Whatever it is we're really enjoying the run this time.

Another reception tonight in the Lanson Foyer bar and a midnight walk back up Kensington High Street to the hotel.

So long,

Richard

 
Manchester, England
26-May-2005

I've been battling my e-mail account for the last few days, it's not allowing my mail to come through, and spent a frustrating three hours this morning trying to figure out the problem and retrieving 60! accumulated messages from web mail. No luck finding a solution. It was time to get ready to leave for our flight to Manchester and that was the morning.

Sandwiches and chicken Caesar salad for lunch while we flew over the rolling green hills of England on a wonderfully clear day heading north to Manchester. When we arrived at the MEN (Manchester Evening News) Arena, Matt quickly sorted out my e-mail problem in about 30 seconds. So there you have it, I've always had a chilly relationship with technology and I swear these computers know and have it out for me. I still prefer a dial to any touch pad, listen to records that revolve at 78 rpm and have only recently learned to use a micro-wave oven.

We did a special meet and greet tonight for our stewardess Susi's parents Margaret and Derek, and some old friends of Danny's including the Seventrees family, all wonderful folks. With 10 minutes left until show time, it was a dash to get dressed and take the stage. An audience of 9,500+ tonight and what a crowd, very soulful. We've been playing All That Matters again the last few nights as we've been in theatres and decided to try it out in an arena for a seated audience. You could hear a pin drop followed by much applause. I always look forward to that song as I get to play my National Hawaiian steel guitar as I did on the record. Looks like we'll be adding it to the up-coming Albert Hall shows as well. The fellow who taught me to play guitar was also a great Hawaiian steel player and I have a deep love and regard for that music and style of playing. He'd be proud to know that I was playing Hawaiian guitar in the Albert Hall.

A sushi/sake flight back to London for three days off before we begin the five day run in the RAH. The Brit boys of course are all going home to be with their families and the Yanks are exporting their loved from America to Britain. So I close these notes for a few days and will pick back up again next week from the Albert.

So long,

Richard

 
Brighton, England
25-May-2005

Some much needed sleep and a workout. Just enough time left for a sandwich and a coffee down the Kensington High Street before an hour and a half drive to Brighton where we played this evening. The London traffic going out was horrendous and the 1½ hours was closer to 2 plus.

Brighton is a great seaside town with a fab pier, loads of hotels and chip shops. We played the Brighton Centre where we performed last time. A good show and another reception following the gig. What should have been a relatively quick return turned into another 2 hour journey due to road work, accidents and grass cutting all taking place after midnight. We didn't arrive back at our hotel until 1:30. Completely knackered.

So long,

Richard

 
Cardiff, Wales
24-May-2005

For some reason I woke up at 4 this morning and never got back to sleep, consequently running on low all day. I spent a couple of hours over breakfast with Neil Diamond & Co. who are in Newcastle for a show this evening. We all worked together for about 17 years through the 70's and 80's and they are still very much like family to me. We've both been touring many of the same places this year but this is the first time we actually ended up in the same city together. Great seeing them all and catching up. From there it was back to my hotel to pack and leave for tonight's show in Cardiff.

It's Guy's 45th birthday today and Susi had the most remarkable cake made, a perfect re-creation of a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin complete with label, cap, logo and the words "Healing Vitamin G". Absolutely brilliant. I'm sure Guy with have a picture of it on his site, www.guyfletcher.co.uk. A short sushi fueled flight to Cardiff and the International Arena for soundcheck and show. Guy's son Max joined us at the gig this evening along with his friend Peter, as did Mark's boys, Ben and Joe. The guys are very good musicians, Ben a great drummer, Max and Joe favouring guitar and they're all really coming on strong, along with Matt and Danny who are now playing guitar, not to mention the rest of us laying around the dressing rooms of Europe strumming away, it's become a real college of musical knowledge. Everybody's always got an instrument in their hands and figuring out something or another.

After the show there was another reception for a bus load of great teachers and students from the school that Mark's boys attend, wonderful meeting so many of them. Also at the reception was Zoe McCollugh a wonderful 18 year old guitar player, originally from Newcastle and now living in Wales. She has already recorded several albums and has played all over the world with some legendary guitarists. You'll be hearing of her someday.

It was late when we left Cardiff for London where we'll now base for the next 12 days. Exhausted after a very long and busy day.

So long,

Richard

 
Newcastle, England
23-May-2005

The long standing legacy of lethargy was broken today with a breezy, cloudy and cool march up and down Tyneside. The quay's loaded with a mix of pubs, shops, barge repairs, hotels, maritime lubricants and some curiously named eating establishments like Heartbreak Soup and The Slug and Lettuce. "Waiter! There's a slug in my lettuce!" "Not so loud sir, everybody will want one." I fell into one called The Pitcher & Piano for a cheap and cheerful breakfast of scrambled eggs on a toasted bagel and a couple of heart jolting espressos. Wired up and ready for action I continued the walk up river, not getting very far before it began raining with occasional gusts of umbrella folding wind, so it was back across the bridge and to the hotel. New, modern and everything works, with large rooms, no brown water, showers that don't flood the bathroom floor, great beds and quiet. I love old European hotels but every now and then it's really nice to stay in a mod American style hostelry.

Tonight we played the old City Hall, a sentimental fave of Mark's as he used to come and see bands here as a teen. It's the third time we've played the City Hall since 1996 and it's one our favourite gigs. The capacity is only about 1,900 and the balcony wraps around to the edges of the stage so you can just about reach up and touch somebody's outstretched hand. Last night's venue in Edinburgh was cramped but nothing compared to Newcastle City Hall, every bit of equipment had to be perfectly fit in like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I can't say it too many times, the people who make these shows happen are never given the spotlight or enough thanks. Here's to the best crew in the world.

They were a beautiful audience, there to see one of their own. Boom Like That was very interesting with MK accidentally leaving out a section and the band following along like nothing was out of the ordinary. If you didn't know, you'd have never found the seam. The sound was excellent, the show warm and relaxed. We brought back All That Matters, which we've not played in ages, to the middle section of the show. It's a tune that works so well in theatres and it got a big hand tonight. After the show there was reception at the bar in the City Hall with many of Mark's friends and family in attendance to say hello.

So long,

Richard

 
Edinburgh, Scotland
22-May-2005

We arrived late last night after our gig in Belfast and it became a later night still having a couple of nightcaps with Danny and Guy before retiring. This morning I made it down to the well stocked but very warm hotel gym for a hard 90 minutes which left me drenched and a little wiped out, due mainly to the heat. I'd fully intended to get out today, Edinburgh's a vibrant town, always something happening, wonderful people, but ended up going back to bed. I got up feeling so much better but with time to do little more than shower, pack and go down to the venue for tonight's show. So, another perfectly good tourist opportunity bites the dust and I'll hang on to past memories of Edinburgh until I can create some new ones.

We played a wonderful old theatre appropriately called The Playhouse, capacity 2,950. While we love playing in theatres, it's hell on the crew particularly these old and small houses. Everything was an inconvenience with few modern amenities and little room to maneuver. Added to this was the gear arriving late so by the time we turned up at 5:00 in the afternoon, things were still a long way from looking like a show would be happening any time soon. Our valiant crew came through as they always do and a 7:30 show commenced at 8. From my vantage point on stage it looked like every seat was sold, the Playhouse's two balconies filled as well as the floor. After so many arenas and stand-ups, it was a real pleasure to play a theatre again with it's smaller audience, permanent stage and good acoustics. We took advantage of the situation and extended the middle section of the show to 5 songs and played Shangri-La as the final song of the night. Hero Of The Day awards go to each and every member of our crew who made this show happen tonight. Trooper Of The Day award goes to Glenn Worf who informed us on the plane after the gig that his in-ear monitors were in-op monitors for the entire show, in effect making it nearly impossible to hear what everybody was playing and thus extremely difficult to play along with much accuracy. Glenn's so good that nobody knew there was a problem and we were amazed when he told us.

After the show we flew to Newcastle where we'll spend the night and play tomorrow. G&T's and shepherd's pie on the plane and before we knew it we'd lightly touched down and were whisked to our hotel Tyne side.

So long,

Richard

 
Belfast, Ireland
21-May-2005

An early departure from Dublin and a short flight to Belfast putting us at the venue earlier than usual for the viewing for the FA Cup final. It was a long afternoon for the the few that weren't interested in watching the match, which strangely seemed to be the Yanks, who busied themselves with on-line activities and the occasional stab at a musical instrument.

The show was sold out at about 4,000 and much like last nights show in Dublin, the security played a heavy hand with the audience until the last couple of songs when people were allowed to stand and come to the front. This was our first show in Belfast since 1996.

Another short flight to Edinburgh where we spend the night and play tomorrow. Guy brought along a martini shaker, Susi added the gin, vermouth, olives and ice and our airborne cocktail repertoire has been magically transformed.

So long,

Richard

 
Dublin, Ireland
20-May-2005

Back to work today, if you can call it that, really it's more of a holiday. Two days off and we were all missing it, I don't know what were going to do when the tour ends.

We flew into Dublin arriving mid-afternoon and it was decided to abandon soundcheck in favour of naps and get down to the venue in time for dinner and the gig. Among the dinner choices Darren offered tonight was steak and Guinness pie, chunks of lean beef stewed in Ireland's black brew with carrots, spices making a rich gravy and topped with a flakey crust. Served with chips, corn and peas, it was a meal fit for royalty and not one to be missed. Brilliant and well done Darren & Co.

We had a surprise visit from Brendon Galvin who was our assistant road manager on the 2001 Sailing To Philadelphia tour. Brendon is now the manager of a theatre in Cork and is very pleased about staying close to home. He's a good man and it was great seeing him again.

The Point is a well know venue in Dublin, THE place to play which we've done before and it's always an exciting gig. Tonight was no exception, a sold out house of 4,500 and we hit the stage after a couple of days off ready to take on the world. A very enthusiastic audience despite security playing a heavy hand. A big cheer went up during Donegan's Gone for the line, "nobody loves like an Irish man".

After the gig we quickly made our way back to the hotel bar for several rounds of Guinness or Smithwick's (a terrific Irish ale.) Tomorrow it's an early departure so we can get to the venue in Belfast in time to watch the FA Cup match between Arsenal and Manchester United. Priorities are in order.

So long,

Richard

 
Horsens, Denmark
17-May-2005

We flew from Copenhagen to Billund, roughly an hour's drive from Horsens. This part of Denmark is still very rural, farm land rubbing shoulders with industry. The big wow of the day was to encounter the world headquarters and manufacturing facility of LEGO just outside the airport in Billund. Of course there was a LEGOLAND nearby but it was really the factory that I wanted to take a tour of. With three kids, we've invested thousands of dollars in those sharp little red, blue and yellow suckers and there it was, so close I could almost smell the liquid styrene. But no, we had a drive and a gig ahead of us, models of professionalism, it was duty first and to hell with pleasure. A beautiful day, blue skies and big white clouds, clear as a bell and very picturesque as we made our way to Horsens.

Horsens is a town of about 60,000 that hosts a popular football team and a brand new performance facility. It's a forward thinking community that invests in bringing concerts and cultural events to it. It's also home to a number of museums of which I can tell you nothing. Anyway, it seems to be paying off for them in terms of tourism and prestige. Prior to that its greatest claim to fame was the prison.

On the subject of incarceration, we held about 4,000 fans captive for a couple of hours but nobody seemed to mind, they actually paid to get in and were quite happy to stay on. Out of 60,000 that's a very high percentage of the city's population that turned out for what was a well played show, with the exception of technical errors on my part and an electric guitar that was handed to me with one string tuned a half step out, creating the most hideous noise ever heard round these parts. So bad in fact, that it was reported many of the farm beasts in the surrounding area were seen behaving in an agitated manner precisely at that moment. An investigation is being launched.

We drove back to Billund where the Legacy was purring away on the airstrip and flew to London for a couple of days off before a week of dates in the British Isles. I'll resume these notes then.

So long,

Richard

 
Copenhagen, Denmark
16-May-2005

The Hotel D'Angleterre was a grand old palace in its day with Hans Christian Andersen being one of its celebrated, frequent guests; however, at the moment it's just a little moth eaten. Nonetheless, it has a top drawer gym and pool and that's where I spent this morning. Following that it was back to my room where I pecked away at a room service breakfast. The Scandinavian breads are fairly dense and dry and in the basket was some kind of whole grain roll that tasted like a piece of farmland. Today is a national holiday here in Denmark, so the streets were quiet, cool, breezy with showers and not particularly inviting to go out into, so it was another day of conservation, reading and finishing up the new Hawaiian thing I've been working on.

The Forum was a short drive from the hotel and it was the third time we've played this venue since 1996. Every seat in the house is a different, bright colour - blue, red, yellow, green, purple, aqua and in no particular pattern so it looks like a crazy quilt. I was told they did this because a lot of concerts were shot there for TV and if attendance was off it still looked like a full house on the tube. Either that or they got a great deal on odd lots. It was Paul Crockford's 47th birthday so a stripper was hired and dished up a well deserved measure of humiliation. The big item on tonight's dinner menu was a fab Beef Wellington, thank you Darren.

Everything came together tonight for a wonderful show, good sound, great audience, MK and band rested, relaxed and playing well. Back at the hotel I met up with my old friend Kalle Oldby, longtime radio personality on Radio Sweden in Malmo. He and his friend Jens, also with Radio Sweden in the news department, had been to the show and stopped in for a couple of drinks and to catch up. As I've written before, one of the best parts of traveling is getting together with friends I've made over the years in far away places.

So long,

Richard

 
Gothenberg, Sweden
15-May-2005

We've topped the hill and are working our way down the back side of this European tour. Goteberg was the 36th show and we now have 25 to go before tackling America. The only reason I bring it up is just before sitting down to peck this note I found myself thumbing through the itinerary and checking. It's not that I'm marking off the days, but just trying to get a measure of our progress and what we have left to do. There comes a point in every long tour that I begin to get numb. I deal with it in different ways, certainly the fitness is a must for maintaining any crumb of sanity. After that it alternates between the activity of getting out in each city and staying busy, and near total lethargy. I'm opting for the latter at the moment, practicing, writing another Hawaiian steel guitar instrumental that will be completely useless to anyone but me although if we ever get a meet and greet record going it'll end up on that. Currently devouring "The Last Train To Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley" by Peter Guralnick. It came out about 10 years ago and I'm probably the last person on earth not to have read it but am enjoying the book very much. On deck is the sequel "Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley".

All of which pretty well sums up what I did with the early part of my day, stayed in the room, played guitar and read, didn't even bother with food or coffee. In the afternoon we packed up and decamped The Hotel Continental in Oslo and flew into Gothenberg, Sweden for tonight's show.

Once given the opportunity, food seems to have been the highlight of my day. Among other things there was a rerun of shepherd's pie at the venue followed by an award winning apple and rhubarb crumble drowning in hot custard that easily qualifies as the true meaning of life. It was a Brit comfort food dinner courtesy of Darren Wey and company.

The gig was sold out, 7,500 it says in the itinerary and certainly looked it but I wasn't counting seats. A good show to a seated audience that remained seated but should not be mistaken for disinterested. It was simply a crowd that was there to listen and showed it's appreciation at the end of the songs rather than during them. By the end of the show they were on their feet and we were on our way to the Gothenberg airstrip.

A short flight into Copenhagen (Kobenhavn as it's spelled in Danish) with loads of fab sushi and saki that was inhaled but not quickly enough for the 35 minute flight. With a platter and then some left over, we gathered in the hotel lounge with drinks, chop sticks, wasabi and soy to polish off the rest the food and the evening. Not a bad way to call it a day for show 36.

So long,

Richard

 
Bergen, Norway
14-May-2005

A picture perfect day this morning in Oslo, sunny, clear blue skies and warm enough for shorts and t-shirts. After a workout, a few of us walked toward the water where the huge cruise ships come in and ended up for some tasty sandwiches and great coffee in a little place with outdoor seating. It was good to feel the warmth of the sun again, it's been a cool spring in Europe.

We flew west this afternoon to Bergen over beautiful scenes of fjords, snow capped hills and completely frozen lakes. Bergen is a town where off shore oil is the main industry and everywhere you turn looks like a postcard. Beautiful chalet type homes cover the hills, evergreens and lakes, a real outdoor paradise for fishing and water sports. The venue was the community sports hall, sort of a high school basketball gym with a total of 5,000 standing and a very low ceiling, so the sound was tricky and the lights over the stage much lower than usual making for a very hot performance. The crowd was wonderful and the show was another good one for us.

The short flight back to Oslo was all the better for mounds of piping hot shepherd's pie. Leave it to Susi to find that in Norway! Back at the hotel it was a quick nightcap with Guy and a relatively early evening. Tomorrow we check out of Oslo, flying to Gothenburg for a show and from there into Copenhagen for the night.

So long,

Richard

 
Oslo, Norway
13-May-2005

I think I've hit an energy crisis in the tour, having spent another day not leaving my hotel room. We checked in late last night and the hotel is not really up to the usual standard we've become spoiled to, so there were several rooms shifts with some moving rooms twice. There was also a hotel change threat issued for sometime this morning, but according to our tour manager this is about the best place the town has to offer so we've decided to stay put. The water out of the tap is brown, the food is mediocre and that's being generous, the maids intrusive and the whole place is generally crap. On the plus side there's free internet, allowing me to post these notes and catch up with my e-mail. Last night after a room shift, Guy rang me up and we decided that, having had a couple of nights off, it was time to have a juniper juice and tonic and a cuppa tea in his room which we did until 3:30 this morning.

Not much sleep, up at 9:30 but feeling good. Spent the day practicing, reading and a bit of computer-ing. Before long it was time for a shower then down to The Spectrum for what was probably the best gig of the tour so far. 7,400 Norwegian fans who had no problem making their way up to the front of the stage very quickly and energized us all into a 'do no wrong' show. It was rocking, focused, relaxed and in control, all in top form. By the end, the entire audience was on its feet and the evening was a complete success.

We decided that because the hotel was crap and we didn't have to catch the plane, we'd hang at the gig after the show, have a few drinks, some sandwiches and relax there. Paul C. was our DJ for the evening and it was wine and G&T's all round. Several rounds. Back at the hotel by midnight and one last nightcap backed with a cup of tea in Guy's room. It's an 11:00 meet in the lobby for Glenn, MK and myself to go off to the gym just round the corner as there's none on the premises. In the afternoon we fly to Bergen, Norway for a show tomorrow night.

So long,

Richard

 
Stockholm, Sweden
12-May-2005

A relaxing day off yesterday out and about in Helsinki, a beautiful city that's crisp and clean as a whistle with old world architecture. I've been told that Finland has the best public education system in Europe, that's quite a claim and it speaks volumes about the country. With Ike as a tour guide we rummaged through four or five old record stores and came away with a few things. The Scandinavian countries have always been very big on jazz so there's plenty of it around, but the good stuff's getting a little expensive, still there's always a hidden treasure at the right price. In between we managed an Indian lunch and a stop at the Kaffe Kafka for a coffee and beer. It was a good six hour march. Back to the hotel and a dinner out with the guys, nothing fancy and lots of laughs. A few wandered off to a sports bar to watch a football match and a few of us ended up back at the hotel bar for one last cleansing Finnish brew and an early night.

I only managed a couple of hours sleep and was wide awake at four this morning, read for three hours until the gym opened, put in my 90 minutes, showered and had breakfast. Back in the room by 9:30 and ready to make up a few hours of sleep which I did on and off until noon. Packed and decamped the grand Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, then it was on to Stockholm for tonight's show.

The airport was quite a way out of the city centre and combined with very heavy traffic made for a long hour's drive to get to The Globe Arena. It was the third time we've played this venue since the Golden Heart tour and it's like being inside a big red ball. The show went along fine but the security guards prevented anyone from enjoying themselves too much, taking it as a personal affront if anybody stood up and quickly getting them seated again. After two hours of it, Mark swatted the guard in front of the stage with a towel and told him to bugger off. A lot of happy fans came up hands extended and Mark obliged with a few shakes. A good ending.

The drive back to the airport after the show was equally congested due to the repaving of the freeway and it was another hour long slog to the plane. Once boarded we were treated to platters of fantastic Thai food courtesy of Susi and it was off to Oslo where we'll base from for the next few days. Taj, one of our pilots, returned today after a week off and set the Legacy down in Oslo so smoothly to cheers and applause cabin side.

So long,

Richard

 
Helsinki, Finland
10-May-2005

This hotel gets the grand award for the best gym so far. A seriously equipped fitness centre with plenty of treadmills, machines and free weights all clean and in good working condition. I had a sweaty 90 minutes in there this morning then promptly came back to the room for a rerun of yesterday's inactivity. Actually, I spent a good part of the afternoon listening to my new favorite band The Engineers on my iPod.

By the time we got to the venue it was nearly 5:30 in the afternoon and I realized I hadn't eaten a thing all day, not even a cup of coffee and was starved out. I went directly from the car to catering, not even stopping to throw my bag in the dressing room, and inhaled two bowls of soup, some pasta salad, a few buttered rolls and a huge cuppa tea with loads of milk and sugar in it. Once that was out of the way we had a very short sound check before it was time for dinner! No meet and greet tonight, sparing a few unsuspecting Fins a cranky Yank with an Hawaiian guitar.

The gig tonight at the Hartwall Arena was exciting and focused, everybody playing well, a good sounding venue and another great audience. It was a seated gig but after the first couple of numbers people started coming up and standing in front of the stage and in the aisles. Mark's voice was getting a little tight before the show but some hot tea with honey and lemon seemed to do the trick and he got through it well. This show is our eighth in a row and we will all appreciate a day off tomorrow, none more than our crew who will spend their second night in a row in a hotel instead of a bus. I don't know how they do it day after day, but we're all very grateful they do.

I'm taking a night off the vitamin G and will turn in early, just feels like the right thing to do. As it's a day off, I plan to get out in the town tomorrow, haven't had the streets of Helsinki under my shoes yet and Ike and I will be on a vinyl/shellac mission in the afternoon as well.

Our next stop will be Stockholm the day after tomorrow where I'll be sending some more notes from the road.

So long,

Richard

 
Tallinn, Estonia
09-May-2005

I did absolutely nothing today, didn't get out of the room until it was time for lobby call. A quiet day was the thing and there's always e-mails and practicing to catch up on. I got a call from Ike, one of our drivers who very kindly scouted out a couple of record shops specializing in old vinyl and maybe 78s too. Ike's a great guy and a pal so when we have a day off here in Helsinki we're going to check them out.

It was a short flight over the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia just south of Helsinki. Guy had read somewhere that Estonia had 1500 islands, but looking at a map and flying over we couldn't imagine where they'd hidden them all. It's a mystery I'll leave for him to figure out. The drive from the airport to the venue was slow due to traffic and took us through areas that looked like Moscow, grey concrete apartment blocks. The driver assured us not all of Tallinn was this way. We arrived at the Saku Arena just in time for a bite to eat and a meet and greet.

On the meet and greet front, the Hit It Assholes are getting a little testy with people backing into them while angling to take pictures of MK. I had my brand new robin's egg blue perforated loafers trod upon by some buffoon with a camera the other night. A few weeks ago some guy insisted on shaking Glenn's hand while he was occupied playing the bass. I've suggested to middle management that the Hawaiian group be cordoned off but am now on a mission to get some razor wire round us. One Guy Fletcher has been seen kicking meeters and greeters who back up too close. We're beginning to bite, and I don't mean musically. Conveniently, there was a table in tonight's greet room and I climbed up there to play. Just a bunch of happy kamaainas spreading the aloha spirit in our own belligerent way.

It was a brilliant audience tonight, really into it and enthusiastic. A couple of young guys on the front rail pogo'd through most of the songs, fantastic. It was good to get back to an arena type venue as the last couple of shows have been in odd places with odd ceilings and odd sound. We all had a great show and a swell time playing for a bunch of fab Estonians.

The usual after show airport run and a quick flight back to Helsinki for a little listening bash at the hotel, The Golden Gate Quartette, Matt Monro, Supergrass, Memphis Minnie, Ziggy and the Spiders era Bowie, Pet Clark, Toots and the Maytals, Helen Shapiro, you name it and somebody in this group will probably have it in their iTunes.

So long,

Richard

 
Riga, Latvia
08-May-2005

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms across America. Also congratulations to my oldest son who graduated university this weekend with honours. One of the tolls of being on tour is missing this big event, I missed his high school graduation as well. Finally, I was a little fast and loose with the facts about Katowice. It is not the home of the former Pope, that honour goes to Wadowice and I've made the appropriate correction in that day's posting with my head hung in shame.

Decamping a hotel room where you've stayed for five days takes a bit of time and re-organization. Somehow the entire contents of two suitcases were everywhere except in those cases and I'm never quite sure how and when it happens, it's never an intentional unpacking but all managed to fit back in and just in time for a 1:00 p.m. luggage call. I thought about heading back to the Jewish cemetery as it was closed yesterday but opted for a workout in the gym and a little practice in the room before tackling those bags. That done it was off to the jet and on to Riga, Latvia. It was a beautifully clear and sunny day with big white clouds in the sky. As we taxied to a halt on the Riga runway we noticed an area off to the side full of old Soviet helicopters, migs and military vehicles. A reminder of Latvia's not so distant past.

The Kipsala Hall in Riga looks like a big gymnasium with a low curved ceiling like a quonset hut only made of wood. The crew and equipment had a very long drive the night before on typically bad roads and it was a late set up, no time for soundcheck. I can't begin to say how hard these people work and there would honestly be no stage, no lights, no sound, no show without them. They're the best in the business and we love them.

Our itinerary says the venue holds 10,000 so that is what I'm assuming was the attendance, hard to tell but all standing, no seating up the sides as the roof was so low. The sound was very tricky because of the roof and it was a show that we had to work hard in order to make it happen as opposed to most that have a great momentum and carry us along with it. An unusual audience in that it was standing but behaved like it was seated. By that I mean very attentive and quiet while the songs were in progress, holding their appreciation until the end of each. It was great seeing some young kids, maybe 10 or 12 years old, in the front and really into the music.

After a well fought gig we flew to Helsinki where we'll base for the next few days. Susi had the Zubrovka on ice and steaks on a platter for the flight.

So long,

Richard

 
Warsaw, Poland
07-May-2005

I went down for breakfast, found Glenn Worf up to his elbows in a plate full of Belgian waffles that looked so good I ordered the same. The real winner though was the chicken sausages, all washed down with a couple of cups of coffee. Fortified with carbs and caffein I fell out into the streets of Prague and over the bridge to the old town, but the crush of people made it tough going. Prague has long been a tourist destination though I don't remember it this crowded, too many souvenir shops all selling the same thing and more humanity than I'm comfortable with, so I fought my way back across the bridge and headed toward the old Jewish cemetery and synagogue. Dating from the 1500's the grave yards have been packed so tightly with headstones you can barely see soil, many leaning this way and that. Unfortunately as today is Saturday, the Jewish sabbath, the area was closed to tourists. I'll try again next time. The avenues of Prague are home to hundreds of sidewalk cafes with tables and umbrellas that invite you to sit down, take something to eat and have a Pilsner Urquell,Staropramen or Budvar beer, three of the many fine Czech brews that are really worth a try especially on draught. In fact the pilsner style of beer with it's characteristic clean, crisp, bold flavour, originated not far from Prague in the town of Pilzen.

An hour's flight landed us in Warsaw and a short drive delivered us to what will surely be the foulest smelling dressing room that we'll ever encounter. A card table and a couple of folding chairs was all that was provided and the stench was overpowering. I know I've gone on about this a few times in these postings and thought yesterday in Katowice was bad, but this joint takes the biscuit. Hard to describe really, I call them public lavs but that doesn't do this one justice. Understandably no one wanted to hang round there and with no internet access available it was catering, a meet and greet, breath through your mouth, get dressed and take the stage.

A standing floor of 4,200 welcoming fans and another enthusiastic show. Toward the end of the set I got snowed under with hearing problems, a guitar that shorted out and a couple of other things that converged to make the last few songs an uphill battle for me. Still, a great show for wonderful people.

At the airport in Warsaw prior to our flight back to Prague, I picked up a few bottles of Zubrovka Bison vodka that's distilled in Poland with a long blade of bison grass in the bottle, giving this vodka it's unique flavour. This was a fave of the band's back on the Golden Heart tour of 1996 and Susi our lady of the Legacy promises to have it in the freezer and ready for tomorrow night's flight. In the meantime it was tonic water laced with vitamin G and some seriously tasty goulash for the trip back to Prague.

Tomorrow we decamp the Four Seasons Prague where we've based for the last five days. It's a hotel that receives five stars for the most comfortable beds, three panes of glass separation from the outside world making sure the noise of that world stays outside, blackout curtains that do what they're supposed to, air conditioning that works in a big way, CD player and speakers in each room, great showers, good breakfasts, speedy lifts, maids that know what 'do not disturb' means and a helpful staff. Everything a hotel should be.

So long,

Richard

 
Katowice, Poland
06-May-2005

I managed to get to the gym this morning followed by a little time spent practicing guitar, but sadly not much else before our lobby call and flight to Katowice. There's so much to see while staying in Prague and I'd like to spend every free minute being a tourist but one of the unwritten rules of a tour this length is to budget one's energy. Sleep is one of the most important things followed by fitness, without those anybody would soon send up the white flag. Tourism will wait until tomorrow.

We arrived at Katowice and from the airport we drove through the country passing four or five different small villages with names I couldn't pronounce or remember before getting to the city centre. Tonight's venue was called Spodek and looked like a flying saucer, 1940's style, had landed there from outer space. I would guess it was built in the 70's, but that's only a guess. Anyway it would be a close tie with the venue in Antwerp for dirty, cold and smelling like a public lavatory. Our beloved crew were touchy due to another sleepless night on the bus going over roads that haven't been looked after since WWII and problems with the venue. So we retreated to the dressing room which was dirty, cold and smelling like a public lavatory. On the plus side is Matt's continuing guitar lessons from Mark. Matt's already learned 8 or 9 chords and is talking about buying a guitar once his fingers are healed enough to pull the credit card from his wallet. Our traveling wireless internet was in full force so we were all able to huddle up for warmth and catch up on e-mails and tonight's dinner courtesy of Darren, Adam and the Eat You Heart Out catering crew was smashing. Finally. the wardrobe lady gets an angel of the day award for ironing every one of our shirts hanging in the two traveling wardrobe trunks. Usually we each pick what we'll wear on stage that night and those are the items ironed but she made a clean sweep through the trunks and we'll be in good shape for a week! For photos of all the above go to Guy's site at guyfletcher.co.uk.

Every problem with the venue was overcome with a show and audience of 7,000 that was warm and joyous. The audiences in Eastern Europe have been so appreciative and we love to see their faces.

It was back to Prague after the gig and an early night. Tomorrow I will get out in the old town again before flying to Warsaw.

So long,

Richard

 
Prague, Czech Republic
05-May-2005

Prague is a crown jewel of Eastern Europe with it's castles, bridges, old town, river and parks, it's immediately welcoming and warm. Glenn, Danny, Mark and I set out for a hike through one of the parks that turned into a serious up hill march ending in a spectacular view of the city and an honorable number of calories spent. On the way back we stopped at a sidewalk cafe for toasted ham and cheese sandwiches and coffees in the sun. The bridge returning to the hotel was full of people selling sketches of the old town and trinkets along with a fellow playing a hand cranked calliope, a good trad jazz band and a blind girl singing opera to a backing cassette on a blaster. A carnival of humanity.

The show was at the T-Mobile Arena here in Prague, a standing crowd of 8000+. The last time we played the city was in 1996, the venue was a very sedate theatre, cushioned seats, drab grey and green, a real holdover from the iron curtain days. The audience polite to the point of repression. Not so tonight. Pandemonium in the best way. As I've said before when an audience gives you that much you cannot help but do a good show. Smiles all round.

A great little band hang at the hotel after the gig, listening to everything from Buckka White and Gerry Mulligan to the Louvin Brothers and Ray Conniff.

We continue to base out of Prague for another couple of days, tomorrow flying to Katowice, Poland for a show.

So long,

Richard

 
Budapest, Hungary
04-May-2005

Not much done today, a sleep in, a work out in the gym and that was that; time to get ready to go to Budapest for tonight's gig.

We played tonight in the Sport Arena to approximately 7,000 fans, a standing floor, wonderfully enthusiastic. It's amazing how much an audience like that gives to the band and inspires us to play. A good show all round.

After our last song we were driven to the airport by Ike, Stefan and Siggie, half of our driving staff, and once we cleared passport control in Budapest boarded the Legacy for the flight back to Prague where we are basing for the next couple of days. Susi had the healing gin and tonics and plates of top drawer Indian food that we attacked like vultures, all starving after the show.

Tomorrow we play in Prague. I'll get up and out into this wonderful city before we go to the venue.

So long,

Richard

 
Ljubljana, Slovenia
03-May-2005

We've had a well deserved 4 day break having completed 24 shows in 28 days. When we reunited this morning we all had the same story; I didn't know how tired I was until we stopped. Over the break in London I made my way to the Tate Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum as well as having some good dinners and doing a little shopping. It was a few blue days with the loss of our dog during this time and I appreciated the notes I received.

Before we checked out of the hotel this morning I had breakfast with our friend Blaine Chaney who owns Shangri-La Studio in Zuma Beach, California where we recorded the Shangri-La album. Blaine is in London for the week and we had a good visit, albeit brief. From there it was off to the RAF Northolt air field where we were reunited with the Legacy and Susi for the flight to Ljubljana. As we flew in, the contrast of the snow covered mountains and the lush green valleys, plains and forests was amazing. Unfortunately, we're not staying here tonight so all we saw of this beautiful city was the ride from the airport to the venue. The town is neat as a pin and is a place I would like to come back and explore.

The gig was just the thing we needed after four days off. A stand-up crowd of 6,500 wonderfully enthusiastic fans. Whatever we gave they returned to us ten fold and it didn't seem like we'd been off for four nights, everybody swinging right back into place with loads of energy and enthusiasm.

A flight after the show to Prague (Praha) where we'll spend the night and base from for the next four days.

So long,

Richard

 
London, England
30-Apr-2005

I hadn't planned on making an entry during this break but felt I had to put a few words down. At home in Nashville today, my wife and youngest son had our yellow Labrador put to sleep then brought her home for burial. We knew this was coming and perhaps it had been left a little too long at that. She'd been very unsteady on her feet the last few weeks and diagnosed with cancer, then finally not able to get up at all. We knew this was coming and a grave was dug in anticipation. I helped finish it off on our break before this European run and when I left to go back on tour I kissed her goodbye knowing I wouldn't see her again. It was the right thing to do and we knew it was coming and still as I sit here tonight in London it's come down very hard.

For nearly 14 years Heidi was a part of our home and lives, a constant companion to our children, always ready when called to go out, she brought the paper to my wife each morning from the end of the drive wagging her tail and proud as punch while we made the coffee. She was a pillow for our youngest son while he laid on the floor watching TV, a dutiful protector when the kids would camp out in a tent in the back yard. Heidi and I walked hundreds of miles together. She loved to swim, would wear you out playing catch and I suppose like most dogs she was continually on the wrong side of the door. She was a darn good dog and we're going to miss her.

Burying a dog

There are various places in which a dog may be buried. I am thinking now of a Setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as I am aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought. This Setter is buried beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam. And at its proper season, the cherry tree strews petals on the green lawn of his grave. Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any flowering shrub is an excellent place to bury a dog. Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavoursome bone, or lifted his head to challenge some strange intruder. These are good places in life or in death. Yet, it is a small matter, for if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps. On a hill where the wind is unrebuked, and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppy hood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture lane where most exhilarating cattle grazed, is all one to the dog, and all one to you. And nothing is gained, nothing is lost if memory lives. But, there is one place to bury a dog. If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call - come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again. And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel, they shall not growl at him nor resent his coming, for he belongs there. People may laugh at you who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall...who hear no whimper, people who never really had a dog. Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing. The one best place to bury a dog is in the heart of his master.
Anon

So long,

Richard

 
St. Petersburg, Russia
28-Apr-2005

Cold and raining. I left my room for a walk and bumped into Glenn and Mark in the hallway heading out for the same, off we went our umbrellas in hand. After one block a return to the hotel was made for warmer clothes. While they changed I ducked into the restaurant for a quick coffee then out again for a second try. We didn't get much further this time, not very enjoyable so back to the hotel again. I wanted to push ahead a little more and stayed out walking for an hour or so looking in shop windows and trying to figure out the language. While some characters in the Russian alphabet are different than ours, many sound just as they look in English. Others appear familiar but don't correspond, for instance the letter "P" in Russian sounds like our "R", their "H" is our "N", their "C" is our "S", at the end of a word "bI" is "ES". I think upper and lower case have something to do with the pronunciation of the letter as well. It wouldn't take long to figure out their alphabet and be able to pronounce words, however that doesn't take into account the actual language difference and would only work with words common or very similar to both the Russian and English language. I began to figure this out when I passed the golden arches of MacDonald's and saw it written in Russian. I stood there for a minute in the rain staring at the sign and people round me must have thought I was mad. Then I began looking at everything that way and quickly figured out the word restaurant is "PECTOPAH", literally restoran. "baHK" is bank. Of course there are many letters and symbols that this computer cannot make like reverse letters and others. Their reverse "R" is our "Z" and a "Φ" (Greek phi) sounds like "F" or "PH". All this translation was making me hungry, I figured that trying to negotiate a Russian cafe (K-A-Φ-E) would be a good experience but soon remembered that the currency is rubles and not euros. As we're leaving for London after tonight's show I didn't want to exchange any money so it was a pass, maybe next time.

As a child growing up in America during the cold war, the propaganda we got about the U.S.S.R. was the old 'red menace' line, their fingers hovering over the button that would blow us off the map, Nakita banging his shoe on the table threatening to bury us. Politics as usual but somehow knowing that the real people were not that much different from us. The images on television and photos in the newspapers were black and white, showing the streets around the Kremlin and people bundled up, the weather raining or overcast. I imagined Russia as a colorless place, variations of grey with the occasional wisp of pink across the sky. The last couple of days have been just that including the streak of pink in Moscow's sky.

Tonight we played for nearly 10,000 real people who were not very different from us. The gig was at the new arena in St. Petersburg appropriately named The New Arena and those real people were a great audience. We we're back at the front of the stage, in top form and the sound in the arena was beautiful thanks to Robert Collins our front of house mixer. Toward the end of the show a couple of kids climbed on stage for an autograph, a first. This is the Russia I'll remember.

After the show we flew into London where the Brit contingency will hug their families and the Yanks (Glenn, Matt and I) will have four days off to catch our breath. I plan to go to a few museums, eat some good meals, do a bit of practicing, exercise and rest. I'll pick this journal/travelogue back up in a few days when we play Ljubljana, Slovenia on the 3rd of May. Until then....

So long,

Richard

 
Moscow, Russia
27-Apr-2005

It was an 8 o'clock luggage call, a 9 o'clock lobby call and I'd only managed a couple of hours sleep before my 7 o'clock wake-up call. Everybody in the same boat, exhausted. Left Belgium at 10 for the flight to Moscow and with the time change we arrived late afternoon and went straight to the gig for sound check. The gig was The Kremlin!! I suppose it pays to look at the tour itinerary once in a while, no idea we were playing there. It was a first for all of us except Danny who'd played there with Bryan Adams.

The ride from the airport to The Kremlin was long and bleak, gray and depressing. Towering concrete apartment blocks, hundreds of them, thousands of them. We arrived and were held up by security for another 20 minutes before entering the grounds of the Palace. Communism may have fallen 15 years ago but bureaucracy is alive and well, the old Soviet feeling still lingers. We had to use the Kremlin catering which left much to be desired. Everything and everybody had an austere feeling about it. The theatre in the Kremlin Palace seats about 5,500, was full but felt like one of those "who you know" gigs, very formal suit and tie front rows. It didn't help that we were set back from the front of the stage by many feet making it difficult to get much going tonight with the audience. The people in the back were enthusiastic but it somehow it never reached us and the front sections were merely polite. No question the hardest show of the tour.

We went from the stage to the airport and flew to St. Petersburg where we'll spend the night and play tomorrow.

So long,

Richard

 
Brussels, Belgium
26-Apr-2005

A few more famous folks from Belgium thanks to some well informed Belgian fans: the inventor of the saxophone Adolphe Sax, cyclist Eddy Mercks, artist Paul Rubens and the muscles from Brussels Jean Claude VanDamme. The renown harmonica/guitarist Toots Thielemans is spelled thus and not as in yesterday's note. My wife and editor of these notes chided me on my laziness in not looking up the proper spelling of others listed yesterday. Sorry. Apologies are also extended to anyone I might have offended with my description of Antwerp and the venue we played. There's apparently a wonderful old town in Antwerp that rivals Brussels. As far as the concrete monstrosity that smelled like a public lavatory, I understand they have been working very hard to clean the place up and was told that I should have seen it a few years ago. Wow.

The day off in Brussels was a success on all fronts, fitness, shopping, gastronomic and beer. I accidentally broke one of Guy's uke strings last night and managed to find an instrument store just down the street from the hotel that had a set. Leave everything to me, I'll find ukulele strings on Neptune. I had lunch on the square, beef stewed in brown beer with chips and the world's largest Leffe Golden Bier. When I got back to the hotel the phone rang, it was Matt so off we went in the rain ducking into a cafe for soup, coffee and Belgian waffle. We came across a great used record shop and spent about an hour in there coming away with a few treasures. I stopped at a couple of albums and didn't even get into the 78's, a real pain traveling around with phonograph records. I was told about a bar/restaurant here that has over 100 types of Belgian beer called De Ultieme Hallucinatie, the ultimate hallucination. It's tempting but I think it will have to be another time.

A brilliant Italian dinner tonight in the hotel at the Bocconi Resaurant. The meats are from Tuscany and it was one of the finest and most authentic Italian meal I've had outside of Italy. A noteworthy dinner.

Early luggage/lobby call and a full day tomorrow, flying to and playing Moscow then flying out after the show to spend the night in St. Petersburg.

Tot ziens (see you,)

Richard

 
Antwerp, Belgium
25-Apr-2005

We're staying in the old part of Brussels with the town square just behind our hotel which until 60 years ago was a prison!! The old town hall and King's residence built in the 1400's along with buildings as new as the 1890's make up the ornate square catering to tourists with restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. The surrounding streets are more of the same, loads of gift shops selling Belgian lace, Belgian bier and statues of the famous urinating little boy. Well, I suppose with enough Belgian bier and we all become urinating boys. There are hundreds of restaurants and cafes and Belgium prides itself on being the European culinary capitol of the world. A lofty claim that I cannot comment on yet. Belgium is the centre of the European Union and the EU is governed from this country.

We played in Antwerp tonight, about an hour's drive form Brussels. On the drive Steve Rayment our road manager asked a pub trivia question; name three famous people from Belgium. We couldn't. Once we got to the gig Matt got on the computer and found Magrite, Heronynmous Bosch, Django Reinhardt, Toots Theilman, Herges (creator of Tin Tin,) Audrey Hepburn and more. Please do not hold me responsible for the spelling of these names.

Antwerp was industrial, grey, rainy and bleak, the venue a concrete monstrosity that smelled like a public toilet. The crowd of 11,000+ was brilliant. They'd been threatening to get up and come down front through the early part of the show. During Sultans people took the floor and started dancing and before long the entire front of the stage and all the aisles were standing for the remainder of the gig. Very exciting. After the show we drove back to Brussels and the ex-prison called The Hotel Amigo, sounding very much like a seedy flophouse in the wrong part of Albuquerque.

Tomorrow's a day off here in Brussels, gym, shopping, sampling the Belgian biers and examining evidence of culinary superiority.

So long,

Richard

 
Dortmund, Germany
24-Apr-2005

A Bondian day with four cities and a show in 8 hours!

The Hamburg marathon was on for a good part of the day, thousands of participants and many more thousand spectators along the routes. As a good part of the city was closed off to traffic, it was decided to stay in Hamburg until 4 this afternoon, fly straight in to Dortmund, no soundcheck and do the show. As the Dortmund airport was closed when our show was finished, we drove for an hour to Koln (Cologne), boarded the Legacy and flew to Brussels where we will base for the next few days, arriving just past midnight! MK and the band in very good form tonight.

Not much to write about Dortmund, I'd never been there before and apart from the drive to the venue and spending a few hours there, I know very little about it except it is an industrial centre. Maybe next time.

Even though the day was a blur, I managed a workout at the Hyatt in Hamburg which gets big point for a great fitness centre. I also finished writing a little Hawaiian tune that I'd begun the night before in the dressing room and I'm pretty pleased with it. If we do our meet and greet record it will make an appearance there and if not I'll just enjoy playing it round the house. Still untitled at this point.

All the best,

Richard

 
Hamburg, Germany
23-Apr-2005

Having played for Frankfurters last night we boarded the Legacy that delivered us to perform for Hamburgers this evening. It was a beautiful spring day on arrival, warm, bright and sunny and the trees coming into leaf. I went to the Color Line Arena early to get some practice in and work on a couple of new Hawaiian things I've been toying around with. My stint with the meet and greet beat group has really renewed my interest in playing Hawaiian steel guitar again, something that I'd let slide, pun intended, for many years. I keep remembering old things I used to play as well as writing a few new ones. Guy, plays great Hawaiian steel and has written several things that we've been learning. We're threatening to make an album while on the road of the beat group, Glenn on string bass, Danny with brushes on the tea tray, Guy and I alternating steel guitar duty with uke and rhythm guitar, maybe make it available on the website. We'll see.

11,400 was the official paid attendance tonight. Sort of a laid back show but well played and the audience was enthusiastic.

Back at the hotel after the show I met up with a good friend, songwriter and record producer Rudi Mussig. I met Rudi a number of years back when he came to Nashville to record a couple of albums on artists he was working with. I played on those records and we've been friends since. It's always nice to go to a faraway place and know someone and always great to catch up on things with Rudi. He told me about several shops in Hamburg that sell old records and while it's very tempting to set the alarm clock early, I'll show some restraint and pass on the record stores. So many Bert Kaempfert records and so little time.

So long,

Richard

 
Frankfurt, Germany
22-Apr-2005

A great gym around the corner from the hotel, the best work out in over a week.

The Festahalle, site of tonight's show, is just across the street from the hotel and by 2 o'clock everybody'd made their own way over to hang at the gig until showtime as the hotel's kind of a drag. What's to do 3 hours at the venue while the crew is getting ready for us? For starters, lunch in catering. It's an unspoken rule of the road, every entry into a venue begins there. Since we're carrying our own wireless high speed internet access at the gigs, out come the laptops. With no access service at the hotel there was loads of catching up to do. Finally, I can always get some practicing in, can't really do enough of it. The afternoon passed quickly and soundcheck was on us before you knew it.

An ace show tonight with a man in every corner, all seriously on their game. What could have been a nightmare sonically due to the staggering acoustics of the venue, ended up sounding very good thanks to Robert Collins' house mix and Kerry Lewis' band mix. The place was packed to the rafters with fans that came to hear some music and weren't shy in their appreciation of it.

After the gig rather than going back to the hotel we hung out in the dressing room, that's how desperate the digs are. There was loads of laughs, a few drinks with Paul Crockford shouldering DJ duty and blasting away The Who.

So long,

Richard

 
Erfurt, Germany
21-Apr-2005

Au revoir Paris. A little over an hour in the Legacy with a lunch of grilled chicken caesar salad, cold cuts and a gift Susi brought from London, two boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Most of the band are far too conscientious of their diets to take more than a look and a sniff. Danny and I on the other hand tore into a few of them and let me tell you, they were great. Our plane landed at the Erfurt Flughafen where we were met on the tarmac by Alex, Siggie and Ike, part of the team of drivers doing the European tour with us. While team one is meeting us in the city we've arrived, team two who we left in the city just departed, drives to meet us in the city we're going to the following day and so on. We went directly to the Erfurt Massehale where we soundchecked, practiced a few Hawaiian tunes, got dressed and played for 8,500 good Erfurters. Trouper of the day awards go to Matt who is suffering a cold and feels lousy and Dave Wright who was suffering a hangover and feels much the same.

Before the echo of the last notes of Shangri-La died away we were en route back to the flughafen and boarding the Legacy. Gin and tonics in place and another gift from Susi, shepherd's pie, beans and peas for a snack. Shepherd's pie is a casserole of ground beef, carrots, peas and gravy covered with a layer of mashed potatoes baked piping hot and slathered with HP sauce. As noted in an earlier entry, the best way to get this bunch to shut up is a good meal and it doesn't have to be fancy.

We checked in to the hotel in Frankfurt to find there was no internet access, high speed or otherwise, which caused a few muzoids and middle managerial types to develop nervous ticks and mild hypertension. A nightcap at the hotel bar calmed some frayed nerve endings. Danny and I ended up in Guy's room for a couple of cups of tea and a listen to a few cuts from a new album by The Engineers, a young Brit band with great melodies, playing and production. Very seductive stuff, just the thing I've been needing in my playlist and I'll pick up a copy when I'm in London next.

So long,

Richard

 
Paris, France
20-Apr-2005

Bonjour. It's a day off and the melody of April in Paris has been with me all day as I've walked the boulevards of the city. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, I simply fell out into the street and started walking, stopped at the first sidewalk brasserie I came to and managed to order breakfast in French. Omelette fromage et cafe creme. Well, I don't know how good my French was but I did get what I'd intended so it couldn't have been too bad. Sadly, my vocab is pathetically limited to; oui, no, un, du, troise, bonjour, merci and au revoir, my spelling of these words even worse. Amazing people watching at the cafe and the Parisian girls can't be beat. It seems like I walked for miles and probably spent 5,000 euros window shopping, the coolest clothes and shoes, the finest wines and cigar shops full of Havana beauties. In the end I only parted with a fraction of that for some jazz CDs and an Edith Piaf compilation which is playing as I peck this note out. Back at the hotel for about an hour but antsy to get out again so it was off in the opposite direction really just enjoying the sidewalks of Paris under my feet and the sky above. It's a city that makes you glad to be alive.

This just in from the foreign language department, I received a note from a German friend of mine with corrections to a couple of linguistic faux pas (there's that pesky French again) I'd committed several entries back. It's now official, EIN BIER VOM FASS, BITTE =one draft beer, please. Also, the trio of beautiful horns I heard in Amsterdam were ALPHORNS not Alpenhorns. Sorry.

We went en masse tonight to the Lipp Brasserie for a simple and delicious dinner. A crab salad, filet steak with bernaisse sauce, pomme frits and some house beer was on deck for me. After dinner Guy, Danny, Glenn and I ended up in a mahogany bar near the hotel for a nightcap and then to Guy's room for a cup of tea and a serious listen to Blind Willie Johnson.

So long,

Richard

 
Paris, France
19-Apr-2005

The largest indoor gig of the tour so far was tonight's show at the Bercy. A wonderfully enthusiastic audience of 16,000 with the floor standing and the band delivering. One of the many moments of cool was the end of Shangri-La, you could hear a pin drop for what seemed like an eternity followed by a thunderous storm of response.

After the show I met up with my friend Philippe Cohen-Solal, a club DJ, record producer and songwriter. He is currently enjoying great success with The GoTan Project that he conceived and produced. It's an album of tango music that has been slightly processed with house beats and some loops. It has young people out on the floor dancing to tango in a modern way. It's an album I highly recommend and it certainly gets loads of spins at my house. I met Philippe when I played on a project he did in Nashville last winter and we became good friends. It was great having a drink with him and catching up after the show.

Tomorrow's a day off here in Paris with no particular plan in mind but hoping for a sunny day to wander under Parisian skies.

So long,

Richard

 
Rotterdam, Holland
18-Apr-2005

I only managed a couple hours sleep last night so it was early in the gym, breakfast at Bredero's, the owner now greeting me as a regular and in a cab on the way to the Van Gogh Museum all by 10 in the morning. The museum houses the largest single collection of Van Gogh's work from the earliest portraits and still lifes done in Holland, typical of the old style, dark canvases, muted colors, little light---through his reinvention of style in Paris and the effect that impressionism and color had on him and finally his most renowned works toward the end of his life when he struggled with epilepsy, breakdowns, bouts of delusion and the mad house. He was very close to his brother Theo who was an art dealer in Paris and relied on him for emotional and financial support throughout his life, dying in his arms two days after a self inflicted bullet to the chest. While virtually unknown in his life, through Theo's efforts and later that of his widow's, Vincent Van Gogh's reputation slowly began to grow. All of Van Gogh's paintings went to Theo during and after his death, and much of it remained together finally having a permanent home with the building and dedication of this museum in the early 1970's. It is worth a trip to Amsterdam if only to see this collection.

Packed the suitcases and checked out of the Grand Hotel in Amsterdam for the drive to the Ahoy gig in Rotterdam. An accident on the road as well as rush hour traffic turned the journey into a 2 hour plus crawl. Soundcheck, a light dinner, meet and greet and on stage in front of 10,000 enthusiastic fans. A couple of song changes in tonight's set list and a well played show by a bunch of guys who really know what they're doing and I'm proud to be with them.

It was a dash to the airport from the stage, on the Legacy and in to Paris at midnight with Eiffel's tower lit up like a Christmas tree. Exhausted. Bed.

So long,

Richard

 
Rotterdam, Holland
17-Apr-2005

By the time I got out of the hotel today it would have been a rush to take in the Van Gogh Museum as planned. So much for culture. Instead I made a path for a re-run of yesterday's breakfast and just as I walked outside I heard the most beautiful sound of muted horns. I followed my ears to a bridge crossing the canal and there were three musicians playing Alpenhorns, a very long horn with an upturned bell that rests on the ground. The music arranged for the three Alpenhorns was warm and stately, truly beautiful. I dug deep in my pocket and gave them all my euro change and then some. Then it was on to Bredero's where upon close examination of the menu discovered that my Dutch word of the day, tosti, is not what I thought. Tosti means sandwich. Tost means toast. Well so much for my Dutch. I'll stick with tosti as it sounds better.

I had a couple of hours before our drive to Rotterdam, so I decided to continue my explorations this time heading off in the opposite direction and ending up in the University of Amsterdam area. Much less touristy, more book shops, clothes, records, bakeries and the ubiquitous head shops. Bob Marley is still king round here. The sun made a valiant effort at breaking through and it was warmer this afternoon. An easy Sunday in Amsterdam.

We drove to Rotterdam for tonight's gig, the first of two at The Ahoy. I first played this venue with Neil Diamond back in the 1970's and very little has changed about it since then. A standing crowd of 11,000 and a well played show on everybody's part. After the last song we all piled into the cars and drove back to Amsterdam, about an hour away, where we'll spend the night again. Tomorrow we pack up, drive back to Rotterdam for the second Ahoy gig then fly into Paris after the show where we'll take up residency for a few nights and a show.

So long,

Richard

 
Amsterdam, Holland
16-Apr-2005

Cold, drizzly and overcast, I tumbled out of bed into the street this morning. Just across the canal was a great little cafe serving full English breakfasts, pancakes, omelettes and coffee. I ducked into the crooked, warm and narrow Bredero's Cafe for a piping hot cheese and mushroom omelette, a couple of cups of kaffe latte and some tosti, our first pronounceable Dutch word and not too difficult to figure out it's meaning. The Dutch language has always been a little challenging so tosti might be the extent of my vocabulary and I plan to use it as greeting, gratitude and gotta go.

Warmed up and fortified with coffee and eggs, I walked the alleyways, streets and canals of this very open city. All the coffee shops and bars sell pot and hash at varying prices and potencies, loose or pre-rolled with tobacco or straight up, the smell of it's warmly familiar smoke pouring out of every other store front into the street. Loads of sex shops and of course the red light district where the girls are on display looking terribly bored but trying hard to be erotic standing behind glass in street front cubicles . Husband and wife tourists clinging to each other, gone down to the district for a little glance, something they can tell their friends about when they go home. Young guys waving at the whores as one would greet a fellow worker in the street and the whores waving back. Nothing too lurid or clandestine, it's all out in the open and has a good natured smirk about it. Fine with me. I went into a tattoo shop and admired some of Tattoo Peter's art, the walls full of design samples and newspaper articles about Pete, the whiz of his electric needle in the background. Hundreds of cafes and restaurants, Indonesian, middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese, pizza, donuts and all the rest. The whole thing is a sensational penny arcade of humanity. Maybe tomorrow I'll try to take in some culture but today I really enjoyed the jamboree.

A second show tonight at the Music Hall, much like last night's though a few set changes to keep things interesting. Tomorrow's the first of two shows in Rotterdam at the old stand-by Ahoy.

So long,

Richard

 
Amsterdam, Holland
15-Apr-2005

Another lame gym at the hotel, the best thing about it was the one treadmill and so it was an aerobic morning while watching the funeral of Prince Rainier of Monaco. On the plus side of the ledger the hotel gets points for free internet and good rooms.

I went down to the venue early this afternoon with Guy, Danny and Glenn to get some practicing in. Played a bit of guitar as well as continuing to work up a couple of new Hawaiian steel guitar things for the meet and greet beat group, one of the tunes having the unwieldy title of When Hilo Hattie Does The Hilo Hop. By the end of the tour we'll have a pretty good repertoire of obscure songs. Sadly one of Guy's and my Hawaiian guitar heroes Jerry Byrd died a few days ago in Honolulu and we've been thinking of him. For my money Jerry was the last of the old breed and there won't be any more like him. If you ever come across any of his 78's, albums or CDs don't fail to get them, you won't be disappointed.

Tonight's gig at the Music Hall was a sellout, 5500 standing floor fans. We love the stand-up shows, they're very exciting. The venue sounded good, the band in top form and the audience enjoying it. We all probably have a slightly different idea of what 'top form' is. Mine is confident, relaxed, swinging and being fully in control of the dynamics. It was that way at every turn tonight with the grand award of cool going to Guy Fletcher's restored and rennovated Hammond B-3 organ that arrived yesterday from the States and debuted on stage this evening. It is the most beautiful thing you've seen and sounds like the Rock Of Gibraltar. As Guy's on a riser just behind me, I get the full thrust of this mother of all keyboards. The wood has been perfectly refinished and every bit of brass polished while the electronics were entirely re-wired and restored to spec. Congrats on your organ Guy. I'm sure he'll have something to say about it and photos as well so check out his tour diary at guyfletcher.co.uk.

So long,

Richard

 
Hannover, Germany
14-Apr-2005

Travel-wise it was another day worthy of an Ian Fleming pulp or a U.S. presidential campaign, four cities in 12 hours.

Bags packed, showered and out the door with an hour to spare on a mission to find the world's best viennerschnitzel in Vienna. There was a beautiful bistro just across the street from the hotel with a menu in the window touting that very thing so it must be the place. Typically Viennese, old rich woods, ornate ceilings and mouldings accented with angels and gold leaf, dark inside, easy on the eyes, one of those places that had you been magically transported and woken there, you'd know immediately you were in Vienna. I had a spectacular viennerschnitzel the size of a small third world country with parsley'd new potatoes and a couple of Warsteiner's von dem fass, which literally means from the barrel. I've heard tell that a beer in the morning and the day is your friend. There just might be something to that. I couldn't have enjoyed my lunch more.

From Vienna we flew to Hannover and played a show working Shangri-La back into the set tonight. It was good to do it again, personally I'm lobbying for it every night. From the stage it was a runner to the waiting Legacy where our Susi had the healing gin and tonics and some fab Chinese food on hand. It was a quick flight to Rotterdam (the Amsterdam airport was closed) where we were met by the fleet of Mercedes and driven for an hour to Amsterdam, arriving very late and very tired.

Tomorrow we will play the first of two shows here in Amsterdam and will base out of the city for the next few days.

So long,

Richard

 
Vienna, Austria
13-Apr-2005

A day off, up early, gym togs on and off I go to the 2nd floor fitness centre. Total rubbish, useless, a few very tired machines stuffed into the space of a walk in closet. Really the only useable piece of equipment was the one treadmill that required 2 staff people to figure out how to make it go. Never mind.

After a shower I wandered round the area and fell into an Italian restaurant for a caffe latte, ein bier von dem fass bitte (one draft beer please) and a small pizza. For breakfast? I'm afraid so. From there I came across a cool book and record shop, loads of jazz and world music. I've been good about not buying CDs on the tour (don't want to haul loads of the things around like I did the last two tours) I couldn't resist a small purchase. A collection of Dizzy Gillespie's RCA big band recordings from 1947, stunning big band bebop loaded with Diz's good humour. A Charlie Parker live set from 1953 at Storyville in Boston and from the same year a Clifford Brown album. Clifford was the up and coming trumpet man of the day when in 1956 his car sped out of control and he was killed, as the liner notes say, outright.

This afternoon Glenn, Matt, our driver Alex and I went to the Sammlung Essl Museum for an exhibit of Mexican modern artists. Works on display spanning the 1920's through the 70's by Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Clemente Orozco, Fufino Tamayo and more, very earthy, very moving and often disturbing. After returning to the hotel we regrouped and everybody went to the Liechenstein Museum where we were given a brief guided tour of their art treasures, primarily Italian baroque. The museum houses the world's most expensive piece of furniture, a large cabinet and set of drawers that took umpteen artists 4 years to make, all ebony construction with many panels of scenes created by inlaying rare gems that had been sliced very thin and done mosaic style. The whole thing was frosted with solid gold and it sold last year for 27,000,000 euros. Not my bucket of blood but what do I know? On the grounds of the museum quietly tucked round the back is a restaurant called Ruben's where a table had been arranged and we lingered for a couple of hours over an exquisite dinner, many ordering fish and a few ordering steak. No point trying to explain, simply great food, wine, beer, dessert and a perfect end to a well spent day off in Vienna. "It was a hell of a Vienna."--Charles Bukowski.

So long,

Richard

 
Vienna, Austria
12-Apr-2005

As anticipated, a slow start to the morning and certainly no gym. Ah the mighty plans, workout, a trip to Ludwid Beck's Department Store and up to their third floor that houses one of the finest jazz CD departments known to man. No, nothing. Between continuing to digest the previous night's meal and receiving some very sad news about a good friend, it was a groggy morning with the bags leaving the hotel at 11:15 and bodies leaving at 12 something for a flight to Vienna, Austria.

We arrived in Vienna mid-afternoon, checked in to our hotel and left for the venue. It was a 7:30 show tonight so a quick soundcheck, meet and greet, dinner, then on stage. Because it was an early start it was also an early finish and we were back at the hotel around 10. We gathered in MK's room for a couple of bottles of wine with Guy, Danny and I deciding to participate in the healing gin and tonics. The other dangerous element in the equation was Guy with his computer taking musical requests and downloading them from iTunes. A great idea but potentially very expensive. Guy, I owe you many euros for Beat Girl and Lonnie Donegan down loads!

It's a day off tomorrow and I hope to get to one of this fine city's museums.

So long,

Richard

 
Munich, Germany
11-Apr-2005

Today's German lesson:

Guten morgen, guten tag, guten nacht (good morning, good day, good night)
Bitte (please) Danke (thanks)
Herr ober, ein bier bitte. Danke. (Waiter, one beer please. Thank you)

I realized that I've not made much of an effort in the way of communicating in a language other than my own. The fear of being perceived as an arrogant American made me want to learn at least a few words in the language of the country I'm visiting. So I've resolved to learn at least hello and thanks in the native tongue. We'll see how long this noble effort lasts.

We went to the Hugo Boss showroom in Stuttgart this morning. I had made myself a vow not to buy anything but succumbed to temptation leaving with a cool and whacky stage shirt and a classy and cool summer sport jacket. I got off pretty light compared to the winners of the shopping spree who have skid marks on their credit cards to prove it. Many posh suits were purchased along with shirts, shoes, t-shirts and undies! I wore my sport coat to the gig this afternoon and my new shirt on stage tonight as did everybody else including MK. From the Boss plant we went to the airport for a short flight to Munich, checked in the hotel and from there went to the venue for soundcheck, dinner, meet and greet and finally the show.

The crowd tonight was somewhat polite but won over in the end and standing right up to the front of the stage for the last few tunes. By the end of the show we felt we'd earned their appreciation. After the performance our German promoter Marek Leiberberg treated us all to a magnificent Italian dinner at Aquarello's. The finest Italian food this side of Italy. We had two different kinds of carpaccio, steak tartar, spaghetti, pasta with tomato cream sauce and lobster, and stunning desserts, all washed down with the finest of red wine, champagne and a few after dinner drinks. It was an epic meal in it's volume, preparation and taste. We all vowed to go to the gym in the morning, but it's another early luggage call and plane ride so realistically it will be a pass. The day after tomorrow is a day off and it will wait until then.

Guten nacht from Munchen.

So long,

Richard

 
Stuttgart, Germany
10-Apr-2005

I never made it to the musical instrument museum today and I got thinking about how lazy I occasionally become on tour. It's not really laziness though, more like prioritizing. Here I am in Europe and some of the greatest cities in the world and there are days I never get out to see anything. This morning, rather than getting a wake up call and creating enough time to get everything in, I opted to sleep in (very important when touring), go to the gym and have a leisurely lunch. Our time is our own here on the road with only two serious unspoken responsibilities, the first of course is playing the show to the best of your ability each day, in other words being professional and the other is turning up for lobby call on time. The latter is nothing more than common courtesy, not to keep other people waiting and creating late arrivals for the plane or gig. So with that in mind, after lunch I was left with a couple of hours before lobby call. I could have hurried over to the museum and dashed through it for a little while then get back to the hotel, but decided I didn't want to be racing around and chose to practice guitar for a while instead. The main thing everybody has to do is budget their time and energy each day and in their own way to be in top form for that evening's show. It is the reason we're out here.

I soon realized after waking up that I was back to my old self after a week of digestive warfare. After a work out I went to the hotel restaurant where they had a Sunday brunch buffet and indulged in more food that I'd eaten in the last six days combined. Freshly squeezed juices, fruits, salads, bread, eggs, bacon, sauerbraten, spinach and spaetzel, desserts and pots of hot coffee with real creme--a feast.

Good gig tonight, our first of many in Germany throughout the coming weeks. A capacity crowd of 8400+ at the Schleyerhalle. We're all finding new and different ways to play things within each song. By that I mean every song has a structure or form that remains static as well as certain elements within that frame work that must be the same each time it is played like chord structure and certain key lines or parts. Without these formalities it would be musical choas, but there are other areas that are open to interpretation such as solos and fills and this keeps things interesting for us and the audience. We took the stage at 8:00 p.m. sharp and were back at the hotel by 11 for a nightcap and an early evening.

So long,

Richard

 
Basel, Switzerland
09-Apr-2005

Three countries, two plane rides and a gig all in less than 12 hours! Bond's the name.

We de-camped from The Hotel Arts in Barcelona where after a week I managed to have the entire contents of two large suitcases strewn everywhere, a real challenge getting it all packed up again and it didn't help that I was up half the night finishing off a little tune that I'd begun earlier in the day. Bags packed at last and it was off to the plane where Susi had a paella and chicken Caesar salad waiting. I'm still off my kibble so it was a nap for me, waking on landing in Basel, Switzerland.

A slightly smaller gig tonight in St. Jakobshalle, about 7000 and sold out. It was a seated audience so more of a listening crowd than the stand up's we've become accustomed to this past week. I had a little difficulty staying focused after the day off, maybe the break in the momentum, still tired, under the weather and not eating much, who knows about these things. Anyway, there were a few monumental blunders from yours truly tonight and it was one of those gigs where everything I played went clunk instead of zing. Well maybe not quite as bad as all that, but still there are nights when you have to work very hard to get anything happening. I proudly accept the drag of the day award for standing on my volume pedal while I was in the middle of playing Boom Like That and turning my guitar off. And just how long have you been doing this? It was one of those nights.

With the aid of polizie escort we performed our usual runner after the gig back to the Legacy and a quick half hour flight to Stuttgart, Germany where we'll spend the night and play tomorrow. Our tour manager Tim Hook says there's a wonderful musical instrument museum here and I'm going to make an effort to see it. Stuttgart is also the city where Mercedes-Benz and Porcshe autos are manufactured and if that's not enough it's the home of Hugo Boss clothing. We've been invited to go to the factory on Monday morning for a little shopping spree. Gentlemen, start your MasterCards. I've made this pilgrimage the last couple of times I've been in the city coming away completely overwhelmed by acres of warehouses full of every imaginable suit, coats, shirts, shoes, pants, cuff links and cologne and can't wait to go again. Guten nacht from Stuttgart.

So long,

Richard

 
Barcelona, Spain
08-Apr-2005

A day off and this will be a short one. For all my good intentions to get going early, I didn't set foot out until nearly 4 in the afternoon after having been to the gym and gone back to bed, still very tired from the gastric wars. I did manage to get about and hour of practice on the guitar and then called Glenn Worf who had a yen to do a bit of rambling down the Ramblas. The Ramblas is a long street that goes down to the harbour, with a wide promenade mostly closed off to traffic and loaded with stands, stalls, outdoor restaurants with tables and umbrellas where you can spend all afternoon over a paella and a few pitchers of sangria watching the people. It was cloudy and cool all day but Glenn and I spent about three hours down there, mostly camped out at one of the above tables nursing a couple of the world's largest beers. In the end we never finished them and that's saying something.

We returned to the hotel in time to meet up with Matt, Paul C., and Susi our stewardess for a meal at the oldest restaurant in Barcelona, The 7 Portes (7 Doors) that has been serving the city since 1836. The locals eat dinner quite late so we had no problem walking in and getting a table for 5 at 8:30. Paellas all round except for me and I went for the lamb cutlets with a prawn salad. All perfectly prepared and I highly recommend this legendary restaurant if you're ever in Barcelona.

Back to the hotel for an early evening and tomorrow we de-camp and play a show in Basel.

So long,

Richard

 
Barcelona, Spain
07-Apr-2005

Regarding yesterday's note about the gear, I received a comment from a person saying what she gave a rat's ass about was the food, tunes and hotel rooms. Yeah, I'm with you on that. I'll keep the tech talk to a minimum though at some point I will write about the acoustic instruments that make up about half of what I'm playing on stage.

On the virus front, it seems like the ugly bug's come back around for a second swipe at the crew with the truck and bus drives taking another hit and my main man Tim Myer down for the fourth day running. According to a doctor who saw a few people, it's an air borne virus and goes without saying is very contagious. I'm still not feeling 100% and haven't taken the plunge back to eating for America, still needing plenty of sleep, consequently not seeing much of Barcelona this trip even though we've based from the city for a week now. Tomorrow however is a day off and I plan to get down to the Ramblas and ramble. I'll write a little about that later providing I make good on my intentions.

A new addition to the meet and greet beat-group is Danny Cummings playing brushes tonight on the back of a wooden tea tray and shuffling like a black jack dealer in Vegas. Between Danny, Guy on his uke, Glenn on string bass, Roy Rogers on Trigger and the National Hawaiian steel guitar, all hellzapoppin' and I think I'm going to have to begin using finger picks again to keep the intensity up on my part. There seems to be a movement afloat to re-name the group which is fine with me, Maui Boys sounds a little touristy. One suggestion was The Hawaiian Noises. Hmmmm, I dunno, kinda sounds like Don Ho's back up group, though I still think "What's That? Hawaiian Noises?" would be a good title for the record that we'll never get round to making. I suggested The Kalua Serenaders or Sunset Serenaders. I don't care, but we really should do something because at the moment we're still Hit It Assholes to a certain managerial type whose initials match 'politically correct'.

Tonight's show at the Palau Sant Jordi was our 7th in a row and a 13,000 standing floor sell out. I don't know what to say, I'm running out of adjectives and getting a little bored saying it was another great rocking gig. Maybe I'll just write about it if we do a crap gig. No. The fan's were explosive and the moment of cool was Done With Bonaparte, a mighty skiffling rendition. It was a swell gig to wrap up the Spanish-French run, although we are playing Paris in a couple of weeks.

It's a day off tomorrow followed by a series of 4 shows in Basel Switzerland, Stuttgart and Munich Germany and Vienna Austria. Stand by.

So long,

Richard

 
Marseille, France
06-Apr-2005

I've had requests about what instruments I'm playing and my guitar set up. Not being a very technical type (let's be honest, I can turn on an amplifier and that's about all) I've never used much in the way of effects or anything too complicated in the set up. There are two reasons for this, 1) I simply cannot cope with the technology, and 2) I've always been a recording musician and have found through experience as well as listening to thousands of records that my favourite, best and biggest guitar sounds are the simplest and not too processed before hitting a microphone. What you do with the signal after that is quite another thing, but instruments with loads of effects through the amp before it hits a mic sound small and thin on a recording. End of rant. With that in mind my set up is a very simple pedal board consisting of and in series; amp boost, delay, vibrato and volume pedal. I rarely use any two effects at the same time and when I do it will be delay and volume pedal. On "Boom Like That" I use delay and kick in the amp boost only for a lead figure that comes up a few times in the song. For most of the tunes that I play electric on I use nothing at all. I alternate between two amplifiers, a Vox AC-30 and a Fender Vibroverb with a single 15" speaker, depending on which amp suits the tune best. For this tour the electric guitars I'm using are a 1954 Fender Stratocaster re-issue, 1954 Fender Telecaster, 1957 Gretsch 6120, 1958 Gibson Les Paul and a red Mark Knopfler signature Fender Stratocaster. I'm playing with my fingers for the most part as does Mark and it works well with his style. For fear of train spotting I'll leave the acoustic instruments for another 'notes' entry.

For those who couldn't give a rat's ass about gear, I apologize for the previous paragraph. I will tell you that the pink has returned to many nauseous faces and those faces were returning to the catering tables experimenting with solid food again and bragging that their jeans were feeling a little big. It's good to have them all back among the living. We played to a sold out house of 9000 tonight at Le Dome in Marseille. After the gig we were all talking about how great the audience was, how they were with you all the way, but really listening intently and then exploding in ear splitting appreciation when the song was finished. Another shoulder to shoulder standing floor in an odd building, very shallow but wide. A real steamer, completely soaked by the end of the show. Rocking, rocking, rocking, everybody playing like lives depended on it.

So long,

Richard

 
Lyon, France
05-Apr-2005

I was finally able to get some sleep about 8 this morning for a few hours and while the worst part of this stomach virus is over (I hope) it's left me tired and a little wobbly. We flew in to Lyon late as most of the crew and drivers were down with the bug and not ready for the normal soundcheck due to a slow set up. Some very pale faces. Pail faces. I stuck with a dinner of weak tea and toast with a bit of strawberry jam for some energy and glad I did, still picking up a few waves of nausea across the radar. Sort of a lost day.

On the plus side, we saw our old pal William Topley who opened the show for us tonight. William's a wonderful singer and songwriter from England, has a number of albums out and traveled a little with us on the 2001 Sailing To Philadelphia tour. He did an acoustic set with his great guitar player Luke and singer/percussionist Dori. William will be with us at some of the gigs, the Albert Hall being one.

Tonight's show is the fifth in a row with two more following and unlike the first part of the tour where we had loads of time off, we're really hitting our stride now. This is normally how we work, five to seven in a row and sometimes more. It sounds like a tough schedule but really it's not once you've got your legs under you. A good argument for staying fit. The crew however have a much tougher time, they're the first one's in, the last one's out and their hotel is the bus. They work the hardest, receive the least credit and without them there IS no show. I raise a toast of some stomach settling potion to you all. Despite the chuck ups and green pallor it was another great show, another great stand-up audience and one more day to consider my good fortune to be hanging round with this top drawer bunch.

So long,

Richard

 
Bordeaux, France
04-Apr-2005

Yes, I did wake early and get in that gym this morning. A splendid facility here in the hotel with really good treadmills, free weights and machines. All the guys in the band either work out or run and the benefits are many, a sense of routine from home, staying healthy and strong while touring and of course it allows one a free pass to eat chocolate bread and butter pudding now and again.

Bordeaux is one of those cities that I wish we'd stayed overnight, I enjoyed it so much when we played here in 1996 on the Golden Heart tour. Instead we'll see the airport and the route to the venue. The gig is another standing floor, meaning there's only seating up the sides and back of the hall. Everybody crams in shoulder to shoulder and stands for the length of the show and the audiences are so full of energy. Still, I think I'd find it too hot and close though nobody else seems to mind, occasionally someone will be overcome by the heat and have to be lifted over the front barrier and taken back stage for a little cool water and air, as was the case tonight. Me? I'll take an air cooled arena and an assigned seat every time. Getting old I suppose.

Drag of the day is awarded to the stomach virus that's swept the crew, is making it's way through the managerial staff and yours truly. It's seldom that I get sick but this is a vicious little bug that reduces grown men to moaning puddles. The great Tim Myer who looks after all of Glenn's and my instruments, took several leaves of absence during the show and was covered by Colin Barton another top drawer man in a crew that is second to none. The show itself was probably the best one yet, so many high points. Boom Like That is rocking like nobody's business and Romeo has been consistently great with Matt's piano and Guy's soundscape intro that is worthy of a Hollywood movie date. Mark playing in top form and we're sounding pretty damn good if I have to say so myself. How can you go wrong with the level of musicianship on the stage and MK at the helm?

On the plane going back to Barcelona after the gig, I began feeling a little gnawing in my stomach and by the time we landed about 40 minutes later I knew I was sick. Not a pretty sight and I'll spare you the details, but after being up most of the night in limbo between bed and bathroom, the sun's coming up and I'm thinking about some coffee and toast so maybe the worst is over. In any case I'll take it real easy in the food department.

So long,

Richard

 
Zaragosa, Spain
03-Apr-2005

I woke up at 2:00 this afternoon, an hour before lobby call, due in part to an efficient black out shade in the hotel room and the gin and tonic party the night before in Guy's room, fell into a shower and headed straight downstairs for a ride to the airport and a short flight to Zaragosa.

We arrived at the gig and spent a lazy late afternoon waiting for the crew to sort a few things. We travel with our own wireless internet access rig, so at the venue we simply open up the laptops and are immediately on line. This afternoon the dressing room resembled an internet cafe, everybody had their computers out and pecking away. The gig had some serious electrical problems that the crew had been fighting all day and when we finally got round to soundcheck the power blew several times. Something about the house power breakers being set too sensitively. We finally got through a soundcheck and had a dinner of seared monk fish on mashed potatoes with a tomato and garlic redux and fresh fennel courtesy of Darren Wey and company. As glorious as that was, the high point of the meal was dessert, chocolate bread and butter pudding with hot custard. I'll be spending a little more time in the gym tomorrow.

A meet and greet tonight. I haven't mentioned these for a while but they occur every night and Guy has now joined us playing uke, a welcome addition. We've added some new tunes to our set, one being an old chestnut called Don't Sing Aloha When I Go. I've been trying to re-learn a song I used to play years ago dating back to the 1930's called Naughty Hula Eyes, I might be able to trot that one out in a couple of days. The meet and greets are swinging little affairs now with the Maui Boys getting a bit of applause and the occasional Kodak moment. I'm pretty sure we could pull some spare change as well but feel strongly that the managerial staff would want a cut!

A completely packed out arena with the floor standing, tonight's gig was steaming right along until we got to Rudiger and there was a loud noise, sharp and dull at the same time that heralded nothing short of an electrical melt down. The power was re-booted and we kicked off Rudiger again. Another power failure. In the meantime, Mark and I sat centre stage happily sipping cups of tea. Finally the juice was back on and for a third time we began Rudiger getting as far as the first few notes before the power blew. We left the stage for about 20 minutes while they sorted it and came back to finish the show. We dropped Boom Like That from the set due to the delay, but the momentum had been broken so it was kind of a relaxed second half. The audience was nothing short of what one expects in Spain, lovely, loud, enthusiastic and happy to wait out any inconvenience. Bless 'em.

After the last song our fleet of Mercedes sped us to the Zaragosa airport and we boarded the Legacy where Susi had the healing gin and tonics ready as well as some delicious sandwiches and kebabs. Then back to our hotel in Barcelona and another night in Guy's room with Mark, Danny and I listening to the most fantastic Indian music courtesy of G. Fletcher and accompanied by just one more g&t and a freshly brewed cuppa Glengettie tea.

I'll set the alarm early tomorrow to get that extra gym time, breakfast and shower, then we'll board the Legacy for Bordeaux, France. I expect there'll be a bottle or two of some liquid velvety Bordeaux waiting in the dressing room to be brought back to the hotel in Barcelona and enjoyed after the show.

So long,

Richard

 
Madrid, Spain
02-Apr-2005

It was a mid-day check out in Lisbon and off to the airport to meet our new best friend, the sexy Embraer Legacy. She's our private tour jet and will be taking us to and fro for the next 10 weeks with a crew of two pilots and hostess Susi who pours a mean gin and tonic. She (the plane, not Susi) is fitted out with 12 soft, wide and comfy leather seats that beg you to fall into them, tastefully appointed and best of all she's ours for the European run. Where possible, we will base out of one city for a few days and do a short flight to the gig, play the show and then immediately fly back to the base city after the gig. The advantage of this is being able to settle in one place and unpack the bags, even if it's a hotel it begins feeling like home. The disadvantage is not seeing anything of the town we're playing except the ride from the airport to the venue.

This morning we were in Lisbon, played in Madrid then flew to Barcelona where we'll base for the next week in the span of about 12 hours! Really incredible, I feel like James Bond.

Tonight's gig at the Palacia Deportes was another barn burner, about 10,000 good folks hollering their heads off. Danny Cummings settling in for a rocking show and the moment of cool award going to MK for some really great Danelectro slide guitar playing on Donegan's Gone. It was straight off stage and whisked away to the airport and the Legacy freshly stocked with hot kebabs and an endless supply of Bombay Sapphire. We hardly knew we'd taken off before we were landing in Barcelona where we continued the party in Guy's room with Danny and Guy handling DJ duties.

So long,

Richard

 
Lisbon, Portugal
01-Apr-2005

Back for more? So are we, rested and ready to go having had a great spring break and hoping you've had as well.

The number of hours spent on airplanes getting home from Christchurch, NZ was epic, 18+ for the Nashville contingency and much longer for the Brit boys. Our tour manager Steve Rayment said it was 30 hours by the time he walked through his door. A good part of the break was spent falling asleep in the middle of the day then being wide awake until 5 in the morning, some serious jet lagging but wonderful to be home. We had a full house with our older children home from school, it was a loose limbed week that ended too soon. I managed to shoehorn a day of recording session work in as well, then before we could catch our breath the kids went back to their lives and I was throwing clothes at my suitcase saying goodbye again, this time for a 10 week stretch that will take us through Europe. This leg of the tour is far more intensive than the earlier three weeks. We'll be playing loads of shows, 6 to 10 in a row before a night off and this is where we really hit our stride.

As you probably know, Chad Cromwell is taking a few weeks away from the tour. He's planning to return in a month but in the meantime, keeping some mean time and the drum stool warm is Danny Cummings. Danny's no stranger, he was percussionist with the Straits and has filled that role on Mark's solo records as well. We had a little run through last night and he was chomping at the bit to get to tonight's show. He tore into it this evening and got everybody's thumbs up and hugs for taking on such a monumental task on short notice, sliding into the driver's seat with confidence and good humour. The Pavilhoa Atlantic arena was packed with nearly 10,000 roaring fans, much of the time louder than we were. It had a first night feel as we came back from the break with a new band member and it was a very heads up show. I don't know if it was an exceptionally loud gig or simply that we hadn't played for a week, but as I write this my ears are still ringing! Maybe we were playing so aggressively as we all had a fab grilled steak dinner prepared by our tour caterer Darren Wey. Darren heads up a team of chefs that travel with the tour and keep the crew and band in a culinary coma with stunning food that's well prepared and good for you. No matter how hard I try I cannot pass up the apple and rhubarb crumble with hot custard, a serious weakness of mine requiring extra gym time the following day. Whoever said "an army travels on it's stomach" knew what they were talking about.

Tomorrow it's Madrid, notes to follow.

So long,

Richard

 
Christchurch, New Zealand
21-Mar-2005

A warm and wonderful show tonight at the Westpac Centre. One of those evenings where nobody could do wrong even if they wanted to, confident and relaxed, it's really the best professional way to play music. It's certainly how the old timers swung, with confidence and cool. There were so many high points tonight that I couldn't list them all and the entire show receives the moment of cool award.

This is the last show of this first leg of the tour. Tomorrow we all go to our families for about 10 days and catch our breath. Guy reckons we've travelled 21,000 miles in the last three weeks and as I write this, I'm 18 hours ahead of Nashville time! We resume the tour in Lisbon, Portugal on the 1st of April, so I'll sign off here and pick this journal/travelogue back up in about 10 days.

Thanks to all of you who have been following our travels.

So long,

Richard

 
New Plymouth, New Zealand
19-Mar-2005

7:00 a.m. The most obnoxious sounding telephone I've ever heard rocketed me into the day. It was my good friend Phil Lee who'd probably miscalculated the time change from Nashville to New Plymouth, calling to say hello. We talked for a while and when we'd finished the adrenalin was still pounding away and so began the day. Coffee. They have different names here for various types and strengths of java. My fave is a 'flat white' which is a cafe latte with little to no froth, hence the flat and the white. I ordered a double strength but what they brought was just twice as much coffee in a soup bowl size mug. How ever you get it is OK. So, I'm humming along now on a cocktail of caffeine and adrenalin, nothing left to do but go to the gym. A great one just round the corner from the hotel, up a couple of flights of stairs and into a scene from a movie. A real no nonsense, no frills, Rocky Grazziano, sweaty gym with well worn weights, stationery bikes that looked like they'd survived the second world war and a punching bag that'd been hit more times than Joe Louis. The kind of gym where you'd imagine prize fighters training, medicine balls and that kind of thing. It wasn't all B-movie, there were plenty of mod things as well and it made for a great work out.

Took a walk around the city centre for a couple of hours, maybe only a square mile or so of downtown but it's the best little city right on the Tasman Sea, population 100,000. A beautiful sea side town with people out enjoying a Saturday afternoon. I stopped in a second hand store looking for 78 rpm records (one of many weaknesses) and the guy who owned the shop told me he was born here, had travelled all over the world and came back to New Plymouth because, "...it has it all" and I'm inclined to agree. The Mayor, who greeted us at the airport last night, has done a great job of making this beautiful town available for pop concerts as well as the film industry. Tom Cruise's film Last Summer was shot here. I stopped for a sandwich and a couple of New Zealand brewed Steinlager's in a restaurant with a view of the sea, sat outside in the sun while I ate taking it all in, the warmth, the water, people riding bikes on the promenade, dozens of sail boats making good use of the breeze. It's a day that makes you glad to have your feet on the planet.

An outdoor gig tonight in a wonderful wooded setting with an audience of nearly 8000, festival style seating and a small lagoon between the stage and the house. The evening cooled when we took the stage and launched into Why Aye Man with Guy changing away on Telecaster. The audience couldn't have been more appreciative. It was a smooth sailing show and the addition of Our Shangri-La was perfect for this night in this town.

Thanks New Plymouth for a day I'll always remember.

So long,

Richard

 
New Plymouth, New Zealand
18-Mar-2005

Today was a day off and here is how we spent it:

9:00 Luggage call
9:15 Check out and pay incidentals
10:10 Arrive at airport
12:05 Departure time in Brisbane
18:00 Arrive in Auckland (lose 3 hours)
19:10 Departure time in Auckland
19:55 Arrive in New Plymouth

The flight from Auckland to New Plymouth was in a very small commuter jet-prop job. Between the band and the crew we'd taken over the whole flight along with our staggering mountain of luggage which by the time it was loaded caused a delay in take off. The luggage bay was so full that you couldn't have slipped an envelope in and so heavy that a request from the captain was made to move people toward the front of the aircraft for balance. This is not an encouraging message. Tim Hook, our tour manager and not a big guy, was asked if he'd sit in the cockpit with the pilots to help offset the load, unheard of in commercial aviation these days. I barely tolerate flying at the best of times and was on high alert for the 45 minutes it took to get from Auckland to New Plymouth. On the plus side, the plane took off, gained altitude with no problem and it was a smooth flight until the landing which involved a junior pilot, cross winds and a seriously heavy payload. I wouldn't exactly call it rough, but it was the kind of landing you read about.

Once inside the tiny terminal we were greeted by the Mayor and about a dozen Maori women and men performing a traditional welcome that resembled something closer to a 'don't tread on me' ceremony than a welcoming party. They followed with a song that was very Polynesian in sound and structure and made Guy and I want to get out our Hawaiian steel guitars and play along. Wisely, Guy got his camera instead and captured their souls in action. If you go to guyfletcher.co.uk you'll be treated to all the visual details along with his wonderful commentary that accompanies.

The good folks at the hotel kept the dining facility open for us and we indulged in a late dinner and wine that was very tasty and well appreciated.

The show's tomorrow with notes to follow.

So long,

Richard

 
Brisbane, Australia
17-Mar-2005

A late arrival in Brisbane, flights were delayed due to weather and one of the equipment trucks broke down getting to the gig late so sound check was scuttled and we went straight from the hotel into a meet and greet. Then suddenly we were dressed and on stage, Matt having the presence of mind to wear something green for St. Paddy's day.

On the meet and greet front, I've had more than a few requests from folks curious to know what songs The Maui Boys play at these dark, secret society gatherings held deep within the bowels of aging arenas. The music that springs forth from deep within the bowels of aging musicians is a broad spectrum of tunes from the arcane to the absurd, none of which anybody would know or care about except for Glenn and I, and I'm not so sure about Glenn. A sampling of titles are: In The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Moonland, Red Sails In The Sunset, Spanish Fandango, Roll Along Kentucky Moon, Hair Brain Hop (a Bennett original) and more. We are whipped into a tropical frenzy by Paul Crockford, a managerial type with a weakness for loud shirts who herds us together at the appointed hour in front of total strangers and yells, "Hit it, assholes!" Taking the subtle cue we play merrily along until every last person is met and gret, uh, greeted. We're just a couple of happy kamaainas* playing instruments without frets, blithely in search of a pitch centre.

I was reminded today of the last time I played in Brisbane with Neil Diamond in 1976. Media guy David Frost invited us on a 42-foot motorboat to Tangalooma Island off the coast of Brisbane. On board there was much 70's style merry making and some unveiling of flesh in hopes of getting a bit of color. The concept of sun block was still a long way off. I got a bit of color alright, in a very short time I managed to cook myself to the shade of a rare roast beef. We returned late in the day to play the show at the now demolished Festival Hall where the temperature indoors was probably 100 and 10 degrees. Feeling a little woozy from the heat and sunburn but wanting to carry on the party and being 24 years old and bullet proof, I made the fatal mistake of indulging in an alcoholic beverage or two during the show. During the most hushed moments of I Am I Said I felt like my body had been plugged into a wall socket and my legs went out from under me. There was a thunderous crash of R. Bennett and the open strings of his guitar hitting the ground and the next thing I remember was coming around back stage with a cold cloth to my head. It was a lesson well learned, I no longer drink during a show making certain that kind of thing is done prior to taking the boards!

And so with tonight's sold out gig at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre we bid farewell to old Australia and hello to New Zealand. I'll lob a few kiwis your way in the next day or so.

So long,

Richard

* Kamaaina; an Hawaiian term of endearment meaning old-timer or dead but won't lie down.

 
Sydney, Australia
16-Mar-2005

Sun pouring through the balcony windows, the breeze, harbour and the opera house; it's another great day in Oz. After 90 minutes of humiliation in the gym, I had a little wander round the area with Chad and we finally made our way out to the Opera House itself. It's design still so modern and fresh, looks as though the thing could break away from it's foundations and happily sail away. I remember seeing Roy Orbison play there about this time back in 1976, fantastic, still hitting all the scary notes in those wonderful songs, in that wonderful place. Well, Roy's long gone but the SOH stands graceful and proud. Hats off to them both.

We ended up at Doyle's Seafood Restaurant for lunch on the harbour. I don't think there's a bad piece of fish in this country, but Doyle's is famous for some of the best. On that trip to Oz in 1976 I met a girl in Melbourne who would become my wife and along with seeing Roy, we had a meal or two at Doyle's here in Sydney. They say you can't go back, but every now and again you can. I wish she was here with me now.

I met a guy and his girl in the lift this afternoon who came to Sydney from Hong Kong just to see the show. That's so flattering and it's good to know that music still affects people that way. I wonder sometimes if the kids are as moved by music as we were, there seems to be so many other things pulling at their sleeves, not to mention their dollars, and music is only a small part of it now. To us it was everything.

The Sydney Entertainment Centre is the site of a 28-day run of shows Mark and Guy had done as Dire Straits. We returned tonight to a sold out house for a show that sounded great and was fully in control round every corner at all times. We moved Trawlerman's Song to the middle part of the show tonight for a change and brought back Rudiger which works beautifully in a big house. Matt Rollings sounds like he was born to play the accordion, gets better every night even though it's a new instrument for him. Look at it this way Matt, if it all went to hell tomorrow you'd be assured a future in busking. Brothers In Arms was particularly moving tonight and that's in no small part due to Matt's bellows and reeds.

It's been a good few days here in Sydney and I won't let another 29 years get by before I return again. I'll bring that girl from Melbourne back with me and take a table for two at Doyle's.

So long,

Richard

 
Sydney, Australia
15-Mar-2005

So let me get this straight. Our first show tonight in Sydney was booked as an overflow for the second show which is sold out but nobody really knew about the second gig (which is really our first) so the overflow didn't exactly flow over. Right.

We played a wonderful gig tonight at the Enmore, an art deco theatre with a capacity of 2,200 that was little more than two thirds full. All I can say is a load of people missed the boat on this one. The chance to see MK in an intimate situation is so rare and I have to think this over flow show simply wasn't advertised, it should have been packed to the rafters. Never mind, it was a great gig, Mark playing brilliantly and is feeling good again, the band reveling in a small setting and the 1,300+ who were there were enthusiastic and ready for the show. They were rewarded with that and more, the bragging rights to say they saw Mark Knopfler in an intimate setting.

Tomorrow we play that second gig (which was really the first) at Sydney Entertainment and back to the big concert stage.

So long,

Richard

 
Sydney, Australia
14-Mar-2005

It's a day off in Sydney, how often does that happen? Our hotel is on the harbour and I can nearly touch the Opera House from my balcony. Chad, Guy and I took a walk this afternoon, setting off without direction and ended up in the downtown district, sort of a Manhattan down under. We made our way back to the harbour and decided it was sushi for dinner tonight. Primed and ready we landed at Yukis just a short walk from the hotel where we devoured eel, octopus, tempura, salmon, tuna, chicken terriaki and saki with the Sydney Opera House as a backdrop. On our way back Guy spotted an emporium specializing in draft German beers and kindly bought us a round.

As I write this my balcony door is open with the smell of the harbour and the glow of the Opera House in the room. Part of the reason I continue to tour after all these years is to make certain the world is still out there and put myself in it. It's a good night to be in Sydney.

So long,

Richard

 
Adelaide, Australia
13-Mar-2005

Arrived in Adelaide town mid-afternoon, not really enough time to do any sight seeing before sound check. Matt wins the ambitious award for doing a 4 mile run. Guy and I tied for a lethargy grant by laying out at the pool. I believe we actually did move a muscle or two slathering on some 30 weight sun block but apart from that we couldn't even be bothered to ring for drinks. And suddenly it's a sound check.

We played to some 6,000 Adelaidians? What are folks from Adelaide known as? It doesn't matter, they were a wonderful audience and were gathered round the front of the stage by the end, a grand sight for the band, loads of energy in those people. We extended the skiffle set by playing All That Matters again giving Matt another opportunity to practice his bellow shifts and me an attempt at finding a pitch centre on the Hawaiian steel guitar. Mark continues his march to wellness and played like a god tonight.

Tomorrow is a fly/day off to Sydney so stay tuned for more notes from the road Oz style.

So long,

Richard

 
Melbourne, Australia
12-Mar-2005

Let's get it out of the way right now, I adore Melbourne, met my wife here and it's home to two of our closest friends. A big city that always feels warm and welcoming, a smart city with great emphasis on important things, parks, beautiful architecture, cultural events, the arts, education and a lifestyle second to none. I spent a wonderful evening last night with that couple in a grand little bistro catching up on things. It's difficult when good friends live half way round the world but a real friendship is as comfortable as an old couch that you fall back into. And so it was.

Tonight's gig was that way as well with a full house of great people at the Rod Laver Arena. Mark's turned the corner with his throat problems after seeing an ears, nose and throat specialist here in Melbourne. I'll spare you the details of the procedure but let's just say it's not dinner conversation. He's back on form and it was a relaxed and smiling show tonight. Glenn scoured the city this afternoon turning up a swell string bass, admirably suited to skiffle, that he'll use for the rest of our gigs down under. Not much more to say, a cool rocking gig in a city with class. I raise a glass to Melbourne.

So long,

Richard

 
Perth, Australia
10-Mar-2005

With a couple of days off in Perth the band boosted Western Australia's gross national economy with purchases ranging from gallons of sun block, aqua peg pants, R.M Williams boots and boomerangs that will end up on their neighbor's roofs. Several of Perth's fine dining establishments reciprocated by boosting the band's gross national waistline. Several band, crew and management types could be found in various forms of exercise from milling to jogging around the Swan River that runs through the town. A favorite hangout on the water was Halo, the great restaurant I wrote about earlier located next to The Lucky Shag, a tavern also frequented by those with delusions of a name becoming an event.

Perth, the beacon of cleanliness also proved to be the Mecca of manners. We played to a 6,000+ audience of wonderful folks who made sure that every last note had been wrung from each song before showing their appreciation and not before. It makes for a slightly different show as the vibe is so attentive, the band really focuses deeply into each song, almost like playing in the studio. The 'drag of the day' award goes to Glenn Worf's string bass which was heavily damaged between India and Australia and was discovered by the crew when they removed it from the case. Some very expensive toothpicks could have been harvested from it's top, but cool heads prevailed before catering got wind of things and Glenn's big instrument will more than likely be spending the tour break in some luthier's surgery in London instead of out cavorting with a bunch of young cellos. The 'moment of cool' also goes to Glenn who rose to the occasion by playing the Fender Precision on those songs he usually performs with string bass. Seamless as always, he looked unflappably dap in those aqua pegs and has succeeded in matching the stool he sits on.

Tomorrow, a fly/day off to Melbourne with a show the following night.

So long,

Richard

 
Perth, Australia
08-Mar-2005

Continuing our culture bending march across the hemispheres, say hello to Perth. As noted in the last entry, we went directly from the stage to the airport for a midnight flight from Bangalore to Singapore and another installment of time zone whiplash. The Singapore airport's a high tech shopping mall that screams 'buy me' from it's rafters to the kiosks and even an old reformed shopper like myself sensed my credit card vibrating. You've not really lived until you find yourself in an airport lounge blinking at the gray dawn, but a cooperative Qantas espresso machine and some raisin toast gave me reason to carry on another day.

Fully caffeinated we boarded a Qantas jumbo what-not with fab seats that really aim to please. Not just your run of the mill up and back seats, these things bent, pushed, pulled, prodded, supported your lumbar, abandoned your lumbar, stretched, constricted, massaged and fully reclined until you'd achieved position nirvana, by which time you've got to get up and use the bathroom. It's a brave new world affording all some much needed sleep before being deposited in Perth.

Perth, a beacon of cleanliness in Western Australia. You can eat off the streets here if you're prone to that kind of thing but no need as it's a city of fine dining as we experienced last night. A stunning little restaurant on the river specializing in seafood and a dandy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that Chad said tasted like somebody's garden. This was meant to be a compliment. Musician's are generally brought up in a nervous state of anxiety about where the next meal's coming from so it's no wonder we never miss an opportunity to eat.

No show tonight and another day off tomorrow.

So long,

Richard

 
Bangalore, India
07-Mar-2005

An early departure yesterday from Mumbai put us into Bangalore around noon for a relaxing day off around the Taj Hotel located on 20 acres of lush tropical foliage and home to some very exotic and vocal birds. The buildings and grounds have an old British colonial feel about them, as you'd imagine things might have been when India was under English control, or how it might have been for some anyway. Again we were greeted with great ceremony, music, the draping of flowers around necks and the smudge of vermillion on the forehead. It was a day of workouts, either at the gym, the dinner table, the open air bamboo bar that if you were old enough conjured up "Hawaiian Eye" , or all three. Me? A triple crown winner.

With 6 million people, Bangalore's more laid back than Mumbai with it's crushing population. The city is home base for India's air force as well as being the information technology centre of the country. It's known as the Silicon Valley of India and quite possibly when we make those tech calls that are so now famously outsourced, it might be somebody in Bangalore that we're talking with.

I spent today pool side, a study in abject laziness. It was a tropical paradise of a pool side at that, complete with full service restaurant. Sun, book, a dip now and again, curry for lunch and the spectacular Kingfisher beer, India's national brew and one of my faves. I'm no stranger to this brand, it's what I usually order in Indian restaurants, but of course the homegrown version is always so much better than it's imported cousin. Certainly by the time it gets to Nashville, Tennessee where I live god only knows what it's become.

A 7:30 show tonight, Mark with a sore throat soldiered on like a trooper and the Bangalore audience was every bit as enthusiastic and vocal as Mumbai's. A beautiful sunset and cool breeze for the show, a welcome relief for the crew who had a hot dusty day of it getting everything ready for us to play. These are the guys who work tirelessly and get none of the applause. Without a doubt, no crew no show. Salute and thanks. Tonight's moment of cool goes to Guy's B-3 solo in Brother's, very Animals. Don't forget to check Guy's site for his tour diary and fab photos.

The last chord of the final encore had scarcely rung off before we were on our way back to the hotel for showers and off to the airport for a late night flight from Bangalore to Singapore and there onto Perth. We'll have a couple of days off before our first show in Oz, time to catch our breath. Stay tuned for more notes from the road....Australia style.

So long,

Richard

 
Mumbai, India
05-Mar-2005

This afternoon Chad and I were taken for a ride around the Bandra area of the city where we're staying and playing. A real work out for the senses; the good, the bad and the ugly from a side street village of fishing shanties to the stately heritage mansions that have been passed down within families for generations. The occasional bull drawn wooden cart and ubiquitous rickshaws, little two-stroke engine jobs on three wheels with canvas tops painted shiny black, thousands of them. Of course the traffic is staggering. We turned up one street directly into three lanes of on-coming cars. The driver cooly stopped while they all went round us and we continued on. I can't tell you how glad I am not to be the person driving.

The site of the gig was simply a plot of land that I assume is used for all large outdoor concerts. The promoter did a great job of setting up a covered backstage area with dressing rooms, catering etc., all air conditioned and some indoor/outdoor stuff for ground cover. No time for soundcheck, so it was a quick meet and greet performance, a spray up of mosquito repellent and on stage. The venue was slightly smaller than the 25K original estimate but it was a jam packed 17,000+ gig, people who have waited a very long time for Mark Knopfler to come to their country and weren't reserved in showing it. A rocking show and one of it's many highlights was a jazz/blues B-3 solo from Matt in Baloney Again. After the final encore we hopped into the cars for a quick getaway to beat the traffic and back for another fab dinner at Masala Bay in the Taj Lands End Hotel where the chef encored his performance of the previous night with an Asian twist. A big wow.

So, it's on to Bangalore tomorrow morning with notes to follow.

So long,

Richard

 
Mumbai, India
04-Mar-2005

No show this evening but I'll try to set down a few impressions of my first night in Mumbai while it's still fresh. Nothing could have prepared me for this. I'd mentioned in an earlier posting that the Dubai airport was teaming. Well that was merely a coming attraction for Mumbai, a city of 20,000,000+ people. The baggage carousel was shoulder to shoulder, outside trying to get to our cars was shoulder shoulder, the people in the streets and the cars on the road....all shoulder to shoulder. The ride from the airport to our hotel is one that I'll not soon forget. The drivers are continually pushing and they have to or else nobody would let them in. The tactic is that of dodge 'em car, horn honking and some serious flashing of your brights on and off, racing ahead then slamming on the brakes. It's a city of seeming chaos yet not aggressive, but the poverty is heart breaking. So many people, families living on the sides of the road, dogs roaming, thousands of tiny broken store front shops selling everything from jewelry and crafts to cigarettes, food, mobile phones, coffins and who knows what else, that double as residence as well. People driving motorcycles with no helmets, riding two and three on a bike, long flowing dresses just waiting to be caught up in the spokes of a wheel or the cogs of a gear. An overload of sight, sounds and smells. My circuit board was fairly well blown in the 40 minutes it took to reach our hotel from the airport.

When we walked through the door into the lobby we were met by women in beautiful red costumes who greeted us with India's equivalent of Hawaii's lei, fresh flowers stung on silver threads, followed by the traditional smudge of red on the forehead. "This is a special ceremony for you." A group of young girls all dressed in matching red costume began dancing a program that had obviously been planned and well rehearsed to music. It was very moving to us all. Overload achieved. When they'd finished we thanked them, were led to the lift and taken to our floor where a uniformed host was waiting in front of each of our rooms with the door open, all holding trays bearing a glass of fresh watermelon juice and another of citrus-y sweet iced tea. Once in my room, I closed the door, sipped my watermelon juice and tried to make sense of what had taken place over the last hour and a half.

As difficult as it has been to describe all of this, what was to follow defies putting words to. Mercifully we had about an hour to collect ourselves before we all met for the finest Indian dinner I've had in my life. Not maybe, not great, but hold-all-calls-we-have-a-winner, the best. I'll not waste my time or yours trying to describe how it looked, tasted and smelled but some of what we had was tandoori salmon, tandoori chicken, sag, dal. lamb shank curry, prawn curry, a variety of Indian breads including a naan with green onions and cheese in it, rice pudding with a leaf of silver paper, apricot pudding and still more, all washed down with cold Kingfisher beers, one of the local brews. There's very little that will get this band to shut up, but tonight's meal put an end to the talk, a real testimony to the chef. If you are ever in Mumbai you must stop at the Masala Bay restaurant.

So long,

Richard

 
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
03-Mar-2005

Arrived in Dubai this morning just past midnight. The airport was absolutely teaming, people going every which way and jumbo jets still coming in like it was noon. It took a while to sort out people, passports and baggage. One of Matt's bags ended up missing. I know he's the new guy but I promise we didn't have anything to do with it. We finally got to the hotel around 2 in the morning. I'm getting much better at these 7 and 8 hour flights than I used to be, I simply get myself into some kind of alpha zone and just turn up on the other end with a bit of help from a good book and my brand new iPod. I'm currently reading The Devil In White City by Erik Larson (from the Glenn Worf lending library) and among other things listening to This Is Reggae 1960-1975 box set.

I had a slight finger nail crisis during the second show in Johannesburg. I play with my fingers quite a lot and I have acrylics applied to strengthen the nails. One of them began chipping about midway through the show and I felt like a dog on three legs. Conveniently in our hotel was a nail salon so that was my first stop of the morning. Actually, more like noon. Then a band breakfast with the boys and out for a walk. Dubai is the place with a manmade island built in the shape of a palm tree, complete with a hotel that looks like a huge boat sail. That same hotel is the only 7 star hotel in the world and I'm not sure how much better it could be than a 5 star. Might be an arbitrary number, anyhow the scale is now inflated. Kind of like an amp that goes to 11. They've begun work on a second palm island as well as a series of islands in the shape of a globe of the world with every continent up for sale! Anybody for Great Britain? Business is booming here in Dubai and I'd say that every square inch of sand will be snapped up and built upon in the next few years. Apparently the casinos are on the way and it's destine to become the Las Vegas of Europe and the middle East.

At last, the gig, but not before another meet and greet, so out came the trusty National steel and string bass. Glenn and I have been dubbed The Maui Twins by Guy. I think we should do an album and call it What's That? Hawaiian Noises? Tonight was our first outdoor show of the tour with about 9,000 fans. I forgot how enthusiastic and loud outdoor/stand-up gigs are, everybody singing along to all the songs. One guy was actually whistling the guitar licks to Song For Sonny Liston as Mark played them! We also played Donegan's Gone for the first time live and that went down very well. Boom Like That caught fire tonight like it never has before. Another cool thing, while we were playing Why Aye Man huge lighted building cranes were on the job and in action, Dubai booming. A gig loaded with confidence, and that after only two shows. This has all the signs of a great tour.

We're on our way Mumbai (formerly Bombay) India tomorrow afternoon, Bangalore the next day and then it's off to Oz, the land down under. Our first city in Australia will be Perth. I'll post a few notes from the road about the India gigs, both 25,000 capacity gigs, and sold out, in a couple of days.

So long,

Richard

 
Johannesburg
01-Mar-2005

Last night was our first show of the tour. What can I say about first shows? They can often be an exercise in terror no matter how long you've rehearsed, but last night was fantastic, one big grin from start to finish. We played in a very strange venue called Carnival City, a sprawling casino about 40 minutes outside of the town centre and made up of many buildings all decorated like circus big tops. Loads of swirling colored neon lights and a carnival mid-way atmosphere. It's really hard to describe but if you go to guyfletcher.co.uk you'll see a couple of great photos. As soon as we arrived for soundcheck the three years since our last tour somehow evaporated and we all fell into the usual routine which begins with the throwing of bags into the dressing room and a headlong dash for catering. Being professional means having one's priorities in order. With that out of the way we played for about an hour on stage to work out some of the technical problems with the room, buzzes and an aging sound system that came with the gig. That sorted and we're ready to go.

After soundcheck Mark did a 'meet and greet', a phrase used to describe the welcoming of record company people and maybe some contest winners who have been invited backstage before the show. Glenn Worf and I played some Hawaiian music in the background while this was going on, Glenn on the string bass and me on my 1929 National tri-cone Hawaiian guitar. A little music makes the meet and greet feel less stiff. This will be an ongoing event through the tour and already Guy and Matt are going to join in. We're thinking of working up a version of "That's Amore" with Matt on accordion.

You can always spot the first show because everybody's dressed and pacing around an hour before show time, as was the case last night. Plenty of time to summon up those first gig jitters. Chad and I have both quit smoking since our last tour in 2001 and climbed a wall or two during this hour where normally we'd fire up a few cigs. But we both held (mainly because nobody else smokes or carries any!) and did just fine. At last we took the stage and sailed through one of most enjoyable shows I can remember, grinning like monkeys at each other all night. Still a few bugs to work out, but overall a warm, relaxed and rocking show. After the last encore it was straight back to our hotel and the fab Polo Lounge for drinks, sandwiches and chips with mayo. Yes that's French fries dipped in mayonnaise, something I learned from the Brit boys and it's completely addictive. Deep fried carbs dipped in fat. How in the world can you go wrong?

Another show here in Jo'burg tonight then it's on to Dubai where I'll post another note from the road.

So long,

Richard

 
London-Windsor-Johannesburg
28-Feb-2005

To begin with, our rehearsals have been great, loads of fun, and we have a new member of the band, Matt Rollings who is filling in for Jim Cox. Jim's ongoing inner ear problem prevents his flying and with the continent hopping nature of this tour it became impossible for him to go without air travel. Matt is playing piano and B-3, he's a friend and a brilliant studio musician from Nashville. In fact, it was Matt who played piano on 'Vic and Ray' and 'Rudiger' on the Golden Heart album. Matt and Jim are old friends so it's a natural fit for him to come on board for the tour. We spent the first couple of weeks of February in London revisiting many songs then took a few days off and returned for a week of full production rehearsals complete with lights and PA at Bray Film Studios in Windsor, U.K. Bray was the studio where all the Hammer horror films of the late 50's and 60's were shot. I was always a big fan of these movies with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, so it was a thrill to be there. We stayed nearby at Oakley Court Castle which was also used in the filming of these Hammer movies whenever a haunted castle was needed! Getting back to production rehearsals, I can tell you that the sound and lights for this tour are top drawer, elegant, warm and wonderful.

From Windsor it was off to Johannesburg, South Africa where the tour begins. The weather here is absolute perfection and upon arriving all us sun deprived Yanks and Brits met down at the pool exposing yards of white flesh, enjoying a fab South African Sauvignon Blanc, eating hamburgers and trying not to get too sun burnt, Now we're rested, relaxed and ready to do a bit of rocking. I'll leave it here and post some more notes from the road after these first gigs.

So long for now,

Richard