WEEK FOUR: RUSSIA
Travel. An interesting phenomenon. It can seem so glamorous when it’s not actually happening. The thought of visiting some far-flung clime is a romantic and exciting one. But when you are actually standing in the middle of a long line that hasn’t moved in 20 minutes, just to show someone your ID, before joining the next line, lit by harsh fluorescent tubes, and shuffling along trying to hold on to your passport, ticket, jacket, shoes (cos God forbid we attack someone with our Nikes) etc, all at once, it can seem less than appealing. Fortunately our experience was easy and swift and we were boarding the plane bound for Moscow with little incident. I’ll brush over the inappropriate interest in my Vivienne Westwood “Tom Of Finland” design tee shirt by security and just choose less antagonistic apparel next time!
Our first night in Moscow will be one that we remember for a very long time. Russia’s biggest motorcycle club, the Night Wolves MC, had turned out in force to welcome Billy Idol and the band, and outside the hotel was packed with bikers. Tons of ‘em!! All just parked up, wearing their colors, hanging out and waiting to hand over four bikes to Billy, myself, McGrath and our manager, Robert. They were loaning us their OWN $40,000 fully custom Saxons to ride through the streets of Moscow to a VIP party that they were throwing for the band at their clubhouse. This is an offer that one doesn’t turn down, and so the four of us fired these amazing motorcycles up and rode with the club. The MC were shutting junctions down, riding up to cars and just literally stopping in front of them, holding their hands up and shaking their heads to stop the cars from moving, while we just rode on through – a rock n roll presidential motorcade on the loudest two wheeled machines I have ever ridden. Quite an experience – thank you, Night Wolves MC!!
The first show in Moscow was pretty much a jaw-dropping two and a half hours of Billy Fucking Idol. Every single song that we rehearsed in Los Angeles was played, much to the joy of the packed arena. The first night of a tour is always sketchy because no matter how much you rehearse and plan things out, nothing is quite like the real thing and stuff changes, things sound different, and there is the small addition of 6000 people going crazy in front of you! And this ‘first night’ was no different. The set list was huge, spanning the whole of Billy’s career. Highlights for me included Dancing With Myself (which has always been an example to me of a perfect hit song), LA Woman (which is just SO much fun for a guitar player!) and King Rocker (the Generation X classic sounds just as strong and vital as it did 30 years ago!).
There were moments for me when everything just clicked, the eye contact with the band was perfect, we were smiling, I was playing twin guitar lines with Steve, and it just felt right. Felt perfect. Felt like the reason why I play music at all….. to stir that light and that spirit that lives inside me and to share it with the room. There is simply nothing like that feeling anywhere (and trust me, I have searched high and low for the same feeling in other things!!). Other moments were chaotic and unexpected. But the vibe between the band after the show was fantastic. The first one was out of the way, we all felt that we had delivered the goods, and most importantly, we felt like a band. A band that’s gonna be coming to a city near you very soon!!
After Moscow, we had a travel day and we were scheduled to take the train from Moscow to St Petersburg. A great way to see the Russian countryside, and a nice WiFi connection on the train made the time pass nice and quickly. At the other end, a group of Idol fans met us on the platform holding a “Welcome To St Petersburg” banner (which was actually really fucking cool)…..and Billy said hello and signed everything before we jumped in the cars and headed to the hotel. That night a few of us went down to the venue to see Guns N Roses do their thing – Axl and co running around and rockin’ out with pyro/smoke/flames going off everywhere is definitely a sight to see. Thanks to the GnR camp for the hospitality.
And that was that. Travel day done. The next day was show day – the second and final Russian gig – and we took some time in soundcheck to iron out a few things that needed working on. The gig itself was cool – the fans creating a mosh pit for some of the heavier songs, and every arm in the place punching the air for “more, more, more” in Rebel Yell. Russia is a trip, and I am honored to have been able to visit, see some sights, experience some culture, eat a shitload of caviar and watch the sun setting in the sky at 1.00am in the morning!!!! But alas, all good things must end. And so, with the band headed out to grab a plane to Helsinki, Finland, I draw this entry of the tour diary to a close. The next entry will include my homeland and the enormity of the Download Festival at Donnington. So until then, have a great week, be nice, play safe and thanks for reading.