This is a little strange. Every other tour diary I have written has been composed with the knowledge of ‘the next run’ being in the back of my mind. But I don’t have that in my head right now. We don’t actually know when the next run will be. And as I sit in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton hotel, taking in the huge Christmas tree in the center, the families walking around with the kids excited and the parents slightly worn out, jaded and resigned…… (there’s even some geezer dressed head to toe in green lycra, with a red Elf hat on and tinsel tied around his waist, singing ‘Frosty The Snowman’ at a piano – not a word of a lie!!!) …… I reflect back on the past week of shows. In fact I am starting to reflect on the whole year….. which is somewhat difficult as Elf Man launches into a spirited, but slightly flat rendition of ‘Let It Snow’ with all the enthusiasm of a homeless man stumbling across an empty three bedroom house with the door unlocked. What a year it’s been, and how fucking quickly it’s gone.
We started in Moscow (after a couple of one off shows in California and Switzerland), and found ourselves here in December, in San Diego, beginning the last set of dates, before we could blink. The rehearsals had gone well – it’s interesting just how ingrained music can become, and all of the songs we have been playing this year are now forever implanted in my fingers and my brain. Mistakes only happen now when I literally drift off on stage and start thinking about the burger I’m going to eat after the show. And so the San Diego show ran smoothly. The energy in the room was great, and it felt good to be on stage again. Ready Steady Go and Dancing With Myself opened the show as usual and we ran through the 90 minute set sounding tight, loud, powerful and confident. With only a few shows in this short holiday run, I was determined to play well, enjoy it all, and take it all in. I have to say that the new songs, ‘Love Is Strange’, ‘Kings and Queens’ and ‘Scarred For Life’ feel completely at home among the rest of Billy’s hits. I can’t wait to record them for real. And we have more writing planned, so hopefully the new record will come together nicely.
I love touring….the constant movement, the hotels, planes, trains and automobiles, and it’s easy once you find your groove. Your routine. It’s a little harder when, as we are doing with these California dates, you go home each night. Other than the two San Francisco dates, we don’t have hotels. The gigs are all close enough to home to drive – and after the San Diego show, we jump in a van, throw ‘Magnum Force’ on the entertainment system (go ahead punk, make my day!!!) and we get home about 3.00am. A few hours sleep and its time to get up and do it all again. This time it’s the home town show – the KLOS Mark And Brian Xmas Party at Nokia Live – a nice sized indoor venue – with a killer All-Star band also playing (Joe Perry, Michael Anthony, Paul Rogers, Jason Bonham, Peter Frampton and guests). We are closing the show with a shorter hour and fifteen set, and its nice to have a few friends down backstage before the show. My friend Billy Duffy shows up and we hang out a bit before its time to play. And tonight’s show is another good one. The trimmed down set works well for the nature of the show, and it’s a testament to the strength of Billy Idol’s material. Apart from two of the new songs, EVERY single song is a hit. To be able to play a full live set that consists pretty much of nothing but successful, well known, bona-fide hit songs….. well, that’s Hall Of Fame stuff right there.
The day after the Los Angeles show, my side project band, Camp Freddy, is scheduled to play the last of three shows at the Roxy in West Hollywood. And we have a surprise in store for the few hundred people that will be in the building. Billy Idol has agreed to play three songs at the end of our set, and will hit the stage with not only Steve Stevens, but Jeremy and Evil McG as well!! My day is spent (as usual on Camp Freddy show days) running around like a crazy person. Long 3 hour soundcheck, a guest list that could fill the club on its own and a whole host of other guest performers. About an hour into the performance, we bring Billy, the two Steves and Jeremy out for the finale and the club erupts! The noise is amazing as Billy launches first into Ready Steady Go, then into Dancing With Myself (joined onstage by Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols – this makes FOUR guitars on that song, as Dave Navarro is also up with me and Steve Stevens!!) and finally into Rebel Yell. Camp Freddy shows are quite chaotic, and certainly not the smoothly organized, slick-wheeled machine of a show that the BFI shows have become – but they have a ‘fun’ level that’s second to none. And everyone at the show, as well as all the performers, have a great time. Billy and Steve are on fire and enjoy the spontaneous vibe and the club energy levels. A huge thank you to them for closing out the Residency with an almighty bang!
Ventura. A beautiful theatre with some slight plumbing problems! The storm hitting the Los Angeles area is in full effect. Road closures, flood warnings and loads of shitty driving everywhere. We arrive at the venue and make our way to the dressing rooms….. and I notice that it’s still raining. Inside the gig. In the fucking dressing rooms!! I mean, it’s leaking!! Wow. This should be interesting. Steve and I run through guitar sounds quickly and all is good, so I swim back up to get changed. I look out of the window and the line is round the block, despite the rain lashing everyone without mercy. So with a wet stage (extremely slippery!) and a house full of noisy fans, we rip through a vibrant set and it’s over quickly. Before I can think, we’re standing together at the front of the stage, playing the final chords of Mony Mony and I’m wondering where the time went. It’s a peculiar dichotomy (to quote Derek Sherinian) that when a band (or at least me) is touring, a lot of time is spent longing for your own bed, or some favorite food, or trying to overcome some extreme tiredness….. and at the exact same time wishing it would keep going, more gigs, more travel, more dodgy backstage food. I’m feeling the same way when we finish this show. Tired, looking forward to relaxing over the holidays, and yet wanting it to continue and trying not to think about the fact that there are just two gigs left.
We leave the absolutely torrential rain that’s drenching Los Angeles for the relatively calm, balmy San Franciscan weather and prepare for the final hurrah. Two sold out nights at the city’s famous Filmore venue. The room has a really distinct vibe, steeped in tradition and holding the sounds of a thousand cool gigs within its walls. And we get to come back here for the second time this year and repeat the experience that we had a few months ago. The crew is in a good mood because once its all set up, they can leave it up because of the two shows back to back in the same room. Both nights are fantastic – there’s something special about the San Fran audience. Uninhibited, open and enthusiastic, we are greeted by a wall of noise both nights. For me the second night was better than the first, just because of the slight technical issues I was having on the first. I also think that flying on the day of the show affects my ears. Something was just out of balance for me on that first gig. But last nights final show of the tour was a killer gig. A special night for everyone. We had made it around the world together, played a ton of shows on all kinds of stages, and we were here to say goodbye to 2010. I’m not gonna do the emotional, “it’s been real” speech here. No need – I’m sure we’ll be doing it all again at some point. I will say thank you to everyone, band and crew alike, for giving me a memorable year (be seeing you all soon I hope) and thank you to all you lot for accepting the new blood and making my Freshman Year at Idol School a successful one. Finally, thanks to Billy and Steve, for making it all happen in the first place, for writing ‘those’ songs, and for continuing to be a musical force to be reckoned with. Fucking loved it.
Happy Holidays Everyone.