US TOUR: WEEK SIX

Here we are, folks. There’s only one more diary after this one. I’m gonna be somewhat sad when it all finishes. But as the wise man once said – don’t start doing the time before the judge has sentenced you. Was that Big Bubba? Or was it Terry the Knife? Can’t remember…..either way, here we are in Chi-Town. The show is a theatre that is small and hot. This should be a good one. Having been on tour for a good part of the year now, the band is tight and doesn’t really soundcheck, but we show up individually and make sure everything sounds right. Everyone has a lot of gear out here with them and it takes some vigilance to keep it all sounding and playing correctly. For those of you that are interested in that side of things (those who aren’t can go check out Amazon.Com or Ebay and return shortly!!) – I run a pair of Marshall heads, one of which has had a little ‘special sauce’ poured in by a man who can, through Celestion Greenback loaded Marshall 4×12 cabs. The signal runs through an FX rack with a few pedals and a bit of rack gear, and its all controlled by the Rocktron All Access controller and a remote Dunlop Wah. Guitars… well as anyone who reads anything I write will know, its Gibson. 90% Les Pauls (mostly Standards, but with a Classic and a Custom in the rack for good measure) and a beautiful cherry 335. The acoustic side of things is handled by a Godin. OK, you can open your eyes now – that’s enough techie talk, even for me! The Chicago show goes by fast for me – its hot and intimate and before I know it, we are done. The audience at the end of the show are insanely loud when Billy introduces everyone. I always take my ears out so I can hear exactly just how loud you guys are – and Chicago…you made us proud!!

I’m fast asleep on the bus, rocking side to side with the movement and with my earplugs in. It’s a deep sleep – probably dreaming about some beach or other….sun shining, waves gently crashing onto the white sandy….”RIGHT EVERYONE OFF THE BUS!!” This is the gentle and loving way we wake up at the Canadian border. Our tour manager is hustling us all up and off the bus to go and wait in a glass room, with no apparent attention from anyone. Kinda like goldfish in a bowl. Curious looks and glances every 5 minutes but that’s about it. Then all of a sudden, we all get asked to go pick up our passports and that’s it. Back on the bus and off to Windsor, ON. The hotel is right by the border, so I stay awake a little longer, check in, and then crash out again once I am in my room. Waking up later in the afternoon, I go down to check out the venue and its huge! It looks like the biggest Imax movie theatre I’ve ever seen, with 80% of the seats on a long, shallow incline at the back, stretching almost into the the horizon, from floor to ceiling. The lighting rig is amazing and the sound system is beyond powerful. Looks like it might be a good one. And sonically, it’s a great show. We have a killer mix tonight, and play accordingly. But there is something about these all-seated venues that doesn’t quite translate the energy of Ready Steady Go, or King Rocker, or Rebel Yell. It’s fun, and we have a ton of room to perform, but the word ‘polite’ springs to mind during the show. And ‘polite’ should never be used in conjunction with Rock N Roll.

Another overnight drive and we arrive in Rama, ON. Today is a day off, so when I throw back my curtains in my room to reveal….um….nothing….I wonder what I’m going to do to fill the next 18 hours. I remember that ZZ Top are playing this same venue tonight, and make a call or two. Now we have a plan! Mr Gibbons is a friend, having jammed with him on more than a couple of occasions, so I gather the troops and after killing about nine hours on the computer (I’m watching a SciFi channel series called Eureka – and nailed most of season 2 in one day today!) we meet up in the lobby to go watch some Texas Blues, ZZ style. As always the band are great, with Gibbons pulling every lick outta the book. The venue is a very similar one to last nights ‘Imax’ vibe and it gives us a familiar feeling for our own show, which we play on the same stage the next night. Mucho thanks to the ZZ people for the hospitality and the fun night off.

The vibe on this tour has been pretty amazing really – considering 8 guys are forced into a tin can on wheels and driven about all over the country. We live and work in constant close proximity to each other, and the little things matter. Being considerate of people sleeping, what others are watching on TV, leaving a mess. All these things that we kind of take for granted in our own homes are magnified by 1000 when you travel like this. There is almost no in-house bickering with this one – a rarity on such an extensive tour. I think it takes a certain type of person to be able to do this at this level. The actual playing of shows is just one small 2 hour part of a 24 hour day. What’s needed the other 22 hours is kindness, awareness, a sense of achieving the same goals and working as part of a team to reach them. As the tour starts to reach the final week, obviously we are tired and thinking of our own beds….but it’s still the same vibe as when we began. Something to be grateful for as we show up to the venue for the second Canadian show. The place looks the same as Windsor, as I said. And the show itself is great – the audience make the appropriate noises and we rock out for the whole set. By the end, everyone is on their feet and the show is a success. Moving on, and into Montreal.

Jeremy and I set out around lunchtime to explore ‘old’ Montreal – looking for a decent coffee and some croissants. It’s impossible to find any pastry that isn’t soaked through with Maple Syrup! Now as it happens, I love maple! But it does feel a little like eating a huge slab of cake for breakfast! Wash it down with a double espresso and we are good to go. The rain is threatening so we hop into a cab and head back to the hotel. An interesting place. We normally stay at well known hotels that are appointed well, and somewhat familiar in feel. But occasionally we get what’s known as a ‘boutique’ hotel. This usually means so completely modern and streamlined that you can’t find the lightswitch, it takes 20 minutes to figure out how to turn the tap on, and the lights are so hidden and ‘ultra-hip’ that when you eventually do turn them on…..nothing seems to happen! Dark, moody, sleak, trendy….and completely fucking impractical! Checking out involves a complaint or two, a King Charles spaniel encounter of the cutest kind, and a homeless crackhead telling us why he should be given $20. Fun times!! Off to the venue and it’s a proper theatre, and once its full of people, it looks amazing! Balconies and a standing floor that are into the show from note one. The last Canadian show is awesome, and I know when I leave the stage drenched in sweat and breathing heavily that we did good. Thanks for a fun night, Montreal.

Back in the States and we have a day off in Boston. One of my favorite cities in America, it has a feel,… a vibe. Full of history, and with a climate and ambience similar to my birthplace of London, and maybe New York, Boston is laid back and chill. Without the crowds of those other places. There are nice parks, with statues of the founders all over the place. Men who fought for freedom and created the country. In too many places we are quick to tear down the old to make way for the new – a kind of arrogance that ignores the concept of the city itself being our inheritance. Not to be squandered and paved over, but to be protected and preserved. Of course there are still monuments to consumerism and luxury stores – Newbury Street is a tree-lined retail therapy zone that does damage to my wallet but makes me feel good for….well, about 20 minutes – but they are balanced by historical churches and areas of architectural beauty that keep things just right. I like Boston. A killer seafood meal at the end of the day, followed by a movie in the hotel, and I feel rested and recharged.

Coming out of the hotel today, there are swarms of photographers and autograph hunters everywhere – apparently there is a movie premier happening and the actors are in the same hotel. So as well as the usual respectful fans and Idol devotees, there are dozens of shady looking professional guys with long lenses and badly reproduced headshots trying to get a signature so it can be on Ebay by the afternoon. Not my favorite scene. We worm our way through the people and onto the bus and head over to the Boston House Of Blues – scene of todays rock n roll extravaganza. Gotta love the HOB – catfish nuggets and sweet potato fries, consistant sound systems, and a real vibe with the audiences. Always a great venue to play, or to watch someone play. I tweak a bit of eq on my amps and make sure my wireless systems are not cutting out and all seems ok ….. right then, only 3 hours till we go onstage! There is a LOT of hanging about on a tour! Tonights show is one of my favorites – a killer vibe, hot and sweaty, and we play great. I love seeing the front rows jumping and pumping their arms in the air and singing every word. Nights like these stay in the memory for a long time. And now – New York City, and all that entails….including Central Park, Pizza and a whole bunch of shenanigans! Just one more diary to go, people.