WEEK FIVE: FROM FINLAND TO UK
We take off from St. Petersburg in Russia at 16.25pm. We land in Helsinki, Finland at 16.15pm. I am officially 10 minutes younger than I was an hour ago. WHAT!?!? This drug-addled old brain of mine has trouble coping with the math of it all, and I decide to roll with the concept and move on. It’s the clean, fresh vibe of Finland and we are here to rock the Ice Hall in Helsinki. But first…..Green Day are playing a huge festival in town, so it seems only fitting that we go watch Billy-Jo and the guys tear it up. And they do …. In a MAJOR way!
Pyro for days, audience participation that would make Springsteen proud, and songs. SO many songs. With choruses that demand a singalong. The people oblige and it really is the ‘big rock show’. Thank you Green Day for the hospitality and the amazing show. The show in the Ice Hall in Helsinki was another indoor arena show – with a great crowd, packed in and singing along to every word. I have to say that watching thousands of people sing along to White Wedding, or Blue Highway, or Rebel Yell….. all punching the air and making shitloads of noise….well, it’s pretty fucking cool to be standing where I’m standing!! The show was a two hour set, with all the Gen X songs again, and all the new ones as well. The upcoming festival sets are shorter so if you came to one of those arena shows, you really did get the full BFI experience. Finland down, and on to Sweden.
Sweden Rocks Festival was obviously a great idea on paper. Lets have a three day big full on rock festival with an eclectic line up and make it an annual event in Sweden. In practise, it is about as far away from civilization as it’s possible to be, in a muddy field in the middle of nowhere, 3 hours drive from…… anywhere!! So by the time we arrive from our hotel at the site, I feel like it’s time for a nap! But it’s raining, Cinderella are onstage, and the vibe really isn’t conducive to charging up the batteries. So I kinda get ready early, wander about and feel a little out of sorts until it’s time to hit the stage.
THEN shit got really real, really quickly!! What a huge audience….. and noisy too! From the opening chords of Ready Steady Go, to the closing noise of LA Woman, I personally played the best show so far. I was in the zone, my monitors were accurate and clean and I was just feeling it. Steve and Billy killed it, and we all felt pretty good about it as we sat in the van, traveling BACK the 3 hours to our hotel at the end of the day. Thank you Sweden.
OK – so Donnington Park is probably one of the most famous rock festival sites in the world. About 80,000 people and just about every rock band from anywhere attend this thing. Today, we will walk onto the main stage after Slash has played with his new solo band, and just before Motorhead, STP and Aerosmith. This is blowing my mind and it’s absolutely no wonder that I got about 2 hours sleep last night. I’m in my 40’s, a grown man….. and I still get ridiculously excited to play rock n roll, especially these big, prestigious events. I have been lucky to do quite a few in the last 10 or so years – Madison Square Gardens, on a roof at Times Square, the Reading Festival etc…. but this one today takes the cake. Playing guitar with Billy and Steve, playing those iconic songs, at this Download Festival is more of a buzz to me than any hit of smack, crack or jack I have ever had. And let’s not forget that I will also get my own personal rocks off later in the day, playing an acoustic set of Wildhearts songs with Ginger in the acoustic tent. Throw in a certain special and specific anniversary of mine and today could be described as a VERY good day.
Rain. Not spotty, showery, summertime showers. Huge black torrential downpours. Welcome to Download Festival at Donnington Park! As we walked on to the huge stage and set eyes on an incredible audience, the heavens opened and from the opening chords of Ready Steady Go, to the end of Rebel Yell, it was like playing a gig while having a shower. Literally soaked through to the skin, we had a fucking blast and the crowd were with us the whole way……soaked through and just not caring, singing along and making us feel welcome. There is nothing like seeing an audience this size singing back to you. What an incredible gig it was – we played a tight hour long set, with two new songs, three Gen X tracks, and a bunch of hits. Punk has always been an attitude, not a sound, and Billy was on fire at Download, pacing the gigantic stage and walkways and jumping down into the pit and the audience regularly, connecting with the drowned crowd. Steve and I would walk out onto the ramp that split the crowd deep, and play as much as we could before the guitars were soaked and we had to run back, wipe them off or change them….. and then back out we’d go for more of the same. It was just an insane show and one that will stay in my memory for a long time. Thank you everyone for making this second week of the tour a full-on success. Now we head into Germany, so get ready for Week number 3.