US TOUR: WEEK THREE

Santa Barbara. One of the wealthiest areas in SoCal and home of the amazing Four Seasons Biltmore hotel. Right on the ocean, the hotel is a wonderful maze of lush green grounds, palm trees, cottages, pathways and small nooks and crannies around every corner. We are lucky enough to have our day off here, and I enjoy my solitude after working out in the gym. Coffee, TV, internet, a walk through the grounds….. the thought of throwing a tv out of the window here, or having weird sexual encounters with a shark in the bathtub are furthest from my mind. It’s just not the vibe that encourages wild rock n roll behaviour. It’s days like this that I get to catch up on the tour diary, my emails, all the other stuff that I have going on – I feel like a juggler sometimes with all the balls in the air. I like to be busy, so I have a number of other things going that need attention and I sit on the porch of my cottage, enjoying the silence and the ability to focus on some work. The end of the day brings a nice meal with Vacarro and Jeremy and we enjoy the ocean at dusk as we consume the smallest portion of pasta from the biggest plate I’ve ever seen. They used to call this ‘nouveau cuisine’ but I just call it a rip off!! At the time of writing this, I have decided not to write about the ‘incident’ that occurred while we were there, so for now lets say that it was a lovely day off, and we all woke up rested and ready to make some noise.

The show at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez is officially the loudest audience so far on this tour. The deafening roar when we finished Mony Mony had BFI and myself looking at each other in wonder – a truly amazing noise, and one that sets the bar for the coming shows. The gig itself was a seated venue, nice size stage and one that our production could fit into, and everyone felt relaxed and ready to rock when we hit the stage. Personally, I have played better shows, with a few clams and a few ‘moments’ peppering my set. But I guess I am my harshest critic, because suddenly at the start of LA Woman, the crowd just seemed to get fed up with the ‘no people at the stage’ rule and simply all got up at the same time, rushed the front of the venue, and low and behold…. the seated venue had become a standing venue! The funniest thing was that one of the cops/security guys that saw it happening obviously figured he knew what to do to control the fast moving audience, and moved front and center as they came forward. But everyone just ignored him and as the people swarmed up to the stage, he became trapped in the throng of people and ended up right at the front, by himself, crammed in with all the fans. We played the second half of the set with him directly in front of us, surrounded by screaming, singing, cheering fans!! I just hope he liked the music!!

Casinos have their own, unique vibe. Entertainment is definitely the buzzword and all kinds of performers, bands, comedians and artists appear in them, and a huge cross section of the population frequent them. The casino floors are an interesting place. There is an all-pervading air of desperation, the smell of stale smoke, and the intangible feel of money. Lots of money. Its ALL about money in a casino. What you have, what you’ve lost, what you could win…..money. For a band, it’s a great place to go, because they give you nice suites, treat you well, and the venues are usually state-of-the-art places with huge stages, killer PA systems and luxury dressing rooms. Rancho Mirage is no exception and the gig is great. A packed, sold out house, and we put on the show. My favorite songs tonight are ‘Eyes Without A Face’ – something about that song tonight was really spot on – and ‘Love Is Strange’ – the twin guitar solo that Steve and I do in that song just seemed to be particularly strong and the choruses felt extra heavy and full. After the show, it’s immediately onto the bus and back out into the desert for another Casino – but this time it’s the world famous Las Vegas!

Some people love Vegas. The insane Sunday hangover pool parties, where thousands of still-stoned early 20’s roll around getting tanned, getting drunk, and getting laid. The ostentatious shows of wealth, with diamonds and platinum dripping from every surface and limo’s, private jets and $2000 cigars or bottles of wine. There is a sense that Hollywood, in its entirety, just moves here on the weekends. All the good LA club promoters have spots here, the LA celebs make appearances, and the LA ‘young and beautiful’ get wasted here. Me? Well, Vegas is kind to performers and Camp Freddy has done very well in LV. I also love a good meal (of which there are many every time) – we hit one of my faves on this trip, ‘Simons’ – owned by my friend Kerry Simon – and it doesn’t disappoint. Not to mention the Palms is one of the best places in town, and the people there always hook it up, so the stay is luxurious and memorable. And despite being a few hundred down from some pretty idiotic moves on the roulette table by Yours Truly, I have a great time on the Casino floor, playing the Wheel Of Fortune slots to no avail…..I think it means ‘the wheel of lose a fortune!’….It’s still a fun couple of hours gambling, and by the time I get down to the amazing venue, ‘The Pearl’ (inside the Palms Hotel and Casino) I feel excited to play. Las Vegas comes out for Billy Idol – we are sold out – and the audience is noisy, always a good sign!

Instead of simply writing that ‘the show was rockin’ or ‘we rocked it tonight’, I want to take you on a trip inside my head throughout the Las Vegas show. So…..”….ok here we go…fuck they’re noisy….here’s the 1 minute mark on the intro tape….warm up those fingers Billy, try and play one for the team….keep it tight, don’t fuck up….shit, here we go….up on the platform….it’s dark up here, keep yer eye on Steve, watch for the cue….’Ready Steady Go’…..and….now….play the opening chords aaaaannnnnd NOW …..lights….walk down the stairs…..there’s Billy behind up on the platform, I can tell by the cheers…..who’s that guy staring at me in the second row?…can’t hear the keyboards….MATT!….turn the keys up please….better…..Fuck I’m starving….Scream, love playing this song….shit, my shoes are slipping on this stage, shall I get Jimbo to get me a pair of sneaks? Fuck it keep going…..’Scarred For Life’….try and remember the words….sounds good, this one is a winner….chorus, sing it exactly with Billy, watch him and match his vocals…..ok, whats Steve doing? Is he gonna make the meet up the top? YES! Shit, fell over that stair….made it, up top with Steve, feels cool…..its really high up here and I can see the back of the balcony….was that wireless dropout? Hope nobody noticed….here we go, Steves solo….fuck he’s amazing….hold on, shit! Time to go back on, King Rocker love it, and…..JUMP!…..in the air…..remember buying this when it came out, what a crazy life…..oh God, its Boss Sound solo, just relax…..nailed it! Fucking Hell that went down great…..Really? Mony Mony already? But we just got started…..can’t wait to eat something…..what an amazing audience…..I can’t believe I get to do this every night…..thank you….”

Steve, Jeremy and myself decided to take the bus across country to Dallas, as opposed to flying, so after the Vegas show, we jumped on the bus, and set off into the night, ready for 1200 miles of driving. The rest of the guys flew the next day, and as always, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!! There’s a certain literary charm about rolling through the night on such a long journey. The huge expanse of the United States rolls by, mile after mile, and we stare out of the window, thoughts our own – especially on the first morning when we wake up moving through New Mexico. The terrain is pure John Wayne a la The Searchers, and the sky is a gorgeous baby blue, stretching for miles. I tune out the sound of the bus and imagine myself alone, traveling on horseback, though undiscovered desert. I’m sure the romantic fantasy is far better than the hot, dusty, dangerous reality and I snap out of it and make myself a nice cup of coffee and watch some tv – a luxury the cowboys definitely would have loved! We split the journey with a stay in Albuquerque and its as we roll in that my computer dies. Not dies as in ‘oh the battery ran out’ or ‘oh dear, I’ll just restart it’. Dies, as in ‘oh fuck, it wont start, wont transfer data, SHIT, try this, try that, FUCK! Its DEAD!!’. I freak. Of course I freak – my whole life is on there (and no, Mr Clever, its not backed up!!) A trip to Best Buy, an emergency Mac session in the room with Steve Stevens and Josie (both no slouches with the technology) and a few crazed phone calls later and….. nothing. It feels somewhat similar to the death of a close friend. Don’t talk to me, don’t try and tell me it’ll be alright. I fall asleep back on the bus wondering what the next day will bring.

Over coffee the next morning, as we roll into Dallas, I call a very special friend of mine back in LA, who knows a guy who knows a guy. A few calls are made and to cut a long story short, the ‘special people’ at the Mac Store in Dallas (Todd and Annabell – you KNOW you rule!!) whip it apart, perform emergency surgery (new drive and some hardcore data transfer) and I’m back up and running. Sad that a grown man can fall apart when a piece of technology fails, but true, nevertheless. The moral of the story – BACK YER SHIT UP!! Anyway – on to the rock n roll. Dallas is loud. Very loud! The stage is big and wide, so everything fits nicely and we have a ton of room to run around. Jeremy is killing it behind the kit and both Steve and Billy are obviously having fun tonight. Some extra special snippets in Steves solo ….some fantastic vocals from BFI…..when its cooking like this, I cannot help but play well and feel the music. I very much play off the rest of the band. Always have. I am a true band member, wanting everyone to have a good show, and feeding off my band mates and the energy. Tonight is awesome, and I feel connected. All too soon, Mony Mony climaxes and we are done. The heat is oppressive and leather pants may not have been the wisest choice, but a quick change into the touring uniform (shorts and a tee shirt) and we are back on the bus headed to Houston. Texas loves rock n roll, and tomorrows gig should be another hot one. See ya next week kids!!