WEEK SEVEN: BELGRADE TO PRAGUE

Now THAT sounds like the title of a James Bond movie….”From Belgrade To Prague”….all Eastern Bloc, Fedora hats, martinis in sidewalk cafes and surreptitious meetings in dark, twisting cobblestone alleys. OK, then…. Morrison is officially losing it!! The reality of the journey from Belgrade to Prague is grey and rainy… high-rises and graffiti with different currency at every turn (non EU countries) and strange salad combinations. Interesting, but stark and ultimately a little bleak. But the weird thing is actually the dichotomy between the muted, weighty overtones of the countries, and the actual gigs. AMAZING shows on this run – with audiences that truly are vocal about their passion for music, and that are just there to have a good time. No ‘too-cool-for-school’ LA/NYC types leaning against the wall, and saying…”I’m friends with Steven Tyler’s cousin’s gardener…impress me”. They come to sing, shout, punch the air, dance, jump around and lose themselves in songs that make them feel something. Music that turns them on in some way. And we fucking LOVE it!

Belgrade, in Serbia. I spend the morning chasing down a jacket that I left in Greece (yep – there’s always one!!) and I want to say a huge thank you to Dimitri at Athina Diving, who not only found it, but mailed it to Prague for me – we are reunited with each other, and living happily together again! A quick private flight from Skopje to Belgrade and we walk out of the airport terminal and onto….our bus. SO happy to finally have our home away from home, we all claim our spaces (the bunk positioning is key – not near the bathroom, away from any potential snorers) and unpack a few personal things. I set up a keyboard, some AD/DA and mic stuff, and a laptop in the upstairs front lounge – a mini demo station – and now we have the facilities to write, create, and get a few new song ideas down that have been knocking about. The show that night in Belgrade is threatened heavily by rain, and it’s a 50% chance that we will even play at all. The decision is made to hit the stage a little early in order to beat the oncoming storm, and we manage to just slip the hour and a half set in before the Heavens open up. Like I said, the audience in Serbia is nothing short of deafening, and we obviously play to that – running around the stage and giving it our all. Another great show and we collapse onto our bus after the show and set off overnight for Zagreb in Croatia.

Now lets just discuss the concept of being bitten by a spider. Not once, but twice. And no, I am not just randomly switching subjects, or watching the Discovery channel. I am, as I type this paragraph, looking at my right wrist, which resembles a tennis ball. And I am twisting my neck around, trying to see the golf-ball-sized protruberance that is sticking out of the back of my neck. Yep – bitten by spiders. Obviously not “Black Widow/Death Giver/Oh-Shit-we-gotta-suck-the-poison-out” type things. At least, I really hope not!!! But I have a pretty killer allergic reaction to the bites, and last night at the show in Zagreb, the medics were called before I went onstage and they shot me up with…..well, actually I’m not exactly sure what they shot me up with! I did manage to communicate with them that I was not to have any narcotics or similar, but whatever they gave me (an antihistamine, maybe? There were two separate shots) had me feeling decidedly spacey and ‘other-worldly’ by the time we hit the stage. Oh, that’s just GREAT!!!

So you can imagine what my show was like – definitely a few clangers dropped by yours truly, although nothing devastating. And I am sure that most of the clangers that I played were not even noticed. At least I hope so – it’s horrible making mistakes up there and then trying to shake off the feeling that the dude in the sixth row there is now looking at me thinking….”fucking hell, that was bad!!” Another loud, enthusiastic audience and another good set from the band. Billy Idol commanding the show from the front like the consummate ‘real-deal’’ frontman that he is…he gets ‘em from the first song and doesn’t let go. Steve Stevens tonight was unreal. He steps out and just plays – stuff even we haven’t heard him play – and nails it. Inspirational. When I get off the stage, my hand is pretty swollen and sore and the bite is still nasty, but the spacey feeling has worn off. Back to the bus, back to the hotel, and chill. Another show down, another few paragraphs written for this weeks diary, and time to rest. Tomorrow is a full day off in Zagreb, and I hear the art museum here is stunning. So……

The concept of art is an interesting and extremely personal one. Creative expression through paint on canvas (or indeed through mixed media) is timeless and powerful. Yet what moves one person would leave the next person cold. My own small, personal art collection is a great example. Modern pop-art, street art – Banksy/Fairey/Insect/Reid – political/social subject matter and controversial methods and execution leave a lot of people staring at me, wondering how I could have such a thing on my wall. Framed. And yet I can sit and look at my art for long periods of time, and it draws me into a place in my mind that doesn’t get stimulated often – thought-provoking, and ultimately reflective. Very relaxing. And I say all this because today, I visited the Mimara Art Museum in Zagreb. Renoir, Constable, Turner….there were some nice heavy hitters inside, and it was a beautifully quiet way to spend a couple of hours before leaving on the bus to go play the show in Slovinia. The gig is in Ljubljana and I believe the place is famous for white show horses that perform on their hind legs. Don’t ask my how or why I know this (or even if my facts are correct!!) – it’s just one of those things that I think I know.

The show is a weird one for me. The Arena is sold out – people everywhere from the moment the bus arrives, screaming and going crazy even when we just walk from the bus to the dressing room. It’s the big rock and roll tour, but I’m just not feeling it. I hate it when I get inside my head and I do WAY too much thinking. Someone once said to me I should never go too far inside my own head because it’s a bad neighborhood! I think he was right. For no apparent reason, I play a perfectly adequate show – almost note perfect, but with a fucking committee in session inside my head the whole time. I write this to illustrate that we are all human and we all get days that are just…. not right. It’s no big deal, and the next morning I think back to the show and realize just how amazing the audience were – they seem to be getting noisier and more animated as each gig goes by, and last nights show was no exception. Thank you Slovenia. Moving on to ….

Oooooh, Vienna. Immortalised in song by Midge Ure and his band, Ultravox, the city is just, plain drop-dead gorgeous. Architecture and history that will keep you enthralled from the moment you arrive. And for Jeremy and I, ‘enthralled’ meant getting inked! The people at Rattlesnake Tattoo in Vienna (big up to Coco, Dan and the gang!!!) just happen to be good friends with Jeremy, so we ride over to the amazing shop they have there (tons of band merch, tee’s hats, sneakers etc, some killer rock memorabillia…. AND a full, state of the art tattoo shop downstairs) and we get ourselves inked up. Jeremy gets an amazing ‘Animal’ from the Muppets on his calf, and I add to my leg piece with an amazing red and pink Peony and some Japanese wind bars on my leg by my shin. I have to say that Dan who did the work is just about the fastest, killer tattooist I have come across….. I was done in an hour and a half – and it’s beautiful as you can see. Honestly, if you are into tattoos and hitting Vienna, go see Coco and the guys at Rattlesnake – you will not be disappointed. So of course, with the two of us freshly inked and nicely swollen, it made the show interesting! I was limping around the stage, trying to pretend that nothing hurt, hahaha! The adrenaline helped of course, and it wasn’t until I actually climbed into my bunk on the bus that my lower leg developed it’s own heartbeat – pulsing and burning like a bastard!! But the gig was HUGE – 100,000 people as far as the eye could see, on the banks of the Danube….. amazing. “Running With The Boss Sound” just clicked and we nailed it – hard and fast. And Steve Stevens solo in “Blue Highway” just fucking took off in a whole new direction – amazing creative guitar work that always floors me. Another show under our belts and the tour moves on.

Prague: Possibly one of the most beautiful and scenic cities in Europe. For me, it beats a lot of more traditional ‘must sees’ in Europe – tiny alleyways meandering in and out of the city, with spires, churches, monuments, statues etc, and a gorgeous river running through it all. I spent our entire day off running around the city like the tourist that I am, with a huge map, a camera in one hand and my jaw on the floor. All I needed was a fanny pack….. (yeah, I don’t think so!!) And any city that has the ‘Museum Of Medieval Torture Instruments’ is ok by me! I walked for miles, through the old town, the art district, across Charles Bridge – I drank in the total experience. A mate of mine and his son showed up for the show in Prague, so not only was the actual gig a huge success, with the venue absolutely packed with the usual noisy, vocal European Idol fans, it was also nice to see my friend, hang out, get a nice meal and catch up. I fell in love with Prague, and had a fantastic experience onstage as well. For now, it’s time to chill in my hotel, post this diary and rest up. Again, I hope you all enjoyed the read, and a huge thank you to everyone who has come out to one of the shows so far. You guys are making it certainly the most fun I’ve had in Europe, and I think the rest of us feel the same – from us to you, we will continue to rock every night. See you at the gigs.

Billy Morrison