WEEK SIX: GERMANY TO SKOPJE
Perched on top of a hill, in a ridiculously medieval hamlet, somewhere in the German countryside, is a castle. Not a Disneyland version, with bright red turrets and live jousting every hour….. but a real, old, stone-built castle. With a tower. And a moat. And Billy Idol! This was the venue for the first German show of the tour, about two hours drive outside of Munich where we were staying. The village is absolutely beautiful, with narrow, winding lanes and church steeples and surrounded by rolling green hills and thick forest. And the venue itself was an outdoor gig, within the grounds of the castle, overlooking the village. This kind of setting obviously kept us all amused for a while, with trips up the tower, photographs with suits of armor and lots of quirky, “ye olde worlde” type wisecracks. But eventually the novelty wore off and it settled into being another gig, complete with the usual ‘hurry up and wait’ vibe (although the sunset from the stage as we went on was pretty spectacular). We were supported by old school punk outfit, The Damned, who Jeremy and I watched from the side of the stage – Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian tearing through classics like New Rose, Smash It Up, History Of The World and Neat Neat Neat like it was 1977! Sensible has always been underated in my opinion and is actually a great player.
Eventually it was our turn, and as we hit the stage with the opening of “Ready, Steady, Go”, I could see the hardcore contingent of German fans (a lot of whom had already said hello at the Zermatt acoustic show earlier in the year) spread across the front rows. Banners, flags, welcome signs and fists in the air greeted us as we powered through the first few songs. There was a slight rain in the air, but thankfully the heavy downpours stayed away and we laid down another 2 hour set encompassing all areas of Billys career. “Prodigal Blues” made an appearance, along with “Running With The Boss Sound” – both songs were not played at Donnington. My personal favorite of the night was our new song, “Kings And Queens” which just seemed to click into place and felt huge to me, for some reason. Thank you Germany – we’ll be back, but for now we have to leave your rainy land and head off to the sunny beaches of ……
Athens, Greece! Ah, the relief of the terribly-bad-for-me UV rays beating down on my skin that slowly bake me to a crisp. The sound of the ocean lapping in and out, just inches away from my feet. Touring? Not so bad right now, I have to admit!! The schedule is designed so that we play the show in Athens and then have a full day off as well. So in reality we have three nights at a beautiful hotel, right on the waters edge. The vibe is relaxed and chill and everyone disappears into their rooms, by the pool, out at the beach, and takes some space. The first night, a few of us go out to a restaurant that has been recommended to us, and we are not disappointed. Set in the cliffs overlooking the bay, this place (I think it was called Ithake or something like that) served us with some of the best seafood I’ve ever eaten. We were so taken with the place that we went back on our last night as well! But I have just been reminded that I have to tell you about a dressing room incident – let me tell you about the tale…………
…….. of the missing yoga. Bands have riders. A rider is a list of things that should be in a dressing room at a gig. Despite popular rock and roll mythology, it’s not a list of the most outrageous demands known to man (vestal virgins and sacrificial pigs!) but more a few of the little culinary items that make living in a vacuum for months on end bearable. Your favorite bottle of wine, or the healthy option (protein, not many carbs, teas and coffee etc) are what would normally be seen on a rider. Occasionally you will hear of a “brown M+M’s story” (and if you don’t know what that is – shame on you! Go Google immediately!) and at Athens, I managed to add my own weird addition to the rider! I like to have plain, non fat yogurt on my rider. Nothing fancy, just plain yogurt to use with cereal. When we turn up at the Athens show, I notice that there is no yogurt on the table, so I ask if we can get some. I ask nicely, politely and get greeted with a little bit of hesitancy….. so I double check…..”plain, please, with no fruit”…. OK, they say to me, but we will need some time. I tell them that is not a problem and thank them. Well, about an hour and a half later, a woman walks through the dressing room door, carrying a YOGA mat and announces she’s here for the Yoga lesson!!!! Plain, with no fruit – hahahaha!!!
The show in Athens was fantastic. Indoors in a huge arena, we were supported by The Stranglers, and their set was exactly what I wanted from them…. All the hits, from Something Better Change, through Peaches and Grip, and ending with No More Heroes, it was great to see JJ and the boys doing their thing. Our set was totally enjoyable, with an audience that was noisy and a set list that again covered all bases. Billy was rocking hard, and had every single fist in the place punching the air by the end of the second number! Steve’s acoustic solo seemed particularly emotional, and Jeremy was hitting harder than ever. Those kind of things fire me up and make me play better, move more, and smile wider. As a musician, I feed off my band mates – there is an unspoken energy on any stage, on any night, and my performance is inextricably linked to that energy. With this band, I have been extremely lucky to feel such positive vibes every time we hit the stage, and in Greece the combination of everyone being so relaxed (sunshine works wonders!) and the venue and the audience being so receptive and I felt just right. The encore of White Wedding and Mony Mony came all too soon, and that was that.
The day off. Complete and utter perfection, as far as I am concerned. I woke up early, and drank decent coffee on my balcony, watching the morning arrive on the Athens coastline, making the ocean sparkle and dance in the sunlight (listen to Morrison waffle on in such poetic fashion….hahaha!). Anyway, you get my point….. it was pretty fucking beautiful! Once suitably caffeinated, I met Evil McG in the lobby and we set off to go scuba diving with Athina Diving. What a great bunch of guys – totally relaxed and super pro, we rented a bunch of gear, jumped in the high powered 10 man boats, and headed out into the ocean. After about 20 minutes, we were at the site – a reef that broke water out in the bay. From the moment I hit the water and descended, I felt at home. I swear I was a fish in a previous life, I feel so comfortable under the ocean. The diving was great, with a bunch of coral overhangs and some decent marine life to keep us all occupied and enthralled. What a lovely way to spend a day off in the middle of such a hectic European tour – thanks Athina Diving! As I said before, we hit the restaurant again that night and ended our Greek visit with another stunning seafood meal.
The trip to Skopje was an easy one – private plane and a quick drive to the hotel – and so we had a chance to look around and get a few hours rest before heading down to the venue. Now that the onstage sound is pretty much dialed in, we chose not to soundcheck and arrived at the venue a couple of hours before we hit the stage. I can hear the audience during the opening band making some decent noise, and sure enough, when Steve and I hit the opening chords of Ready, Steady, Go, the place erupts!! One of the best gigs of the tour so far, the audience is jam packed inside the venue – thousands of noisy Idol fans singing every word and dancing about all over the place. It looks amazing from the stage and we all play a fantastic show. It feels like we have this nailed now, and the unit of the six of us onstage is tight and concise – we are all having fun up there and it translates…..eye contact, smiles, playing as a band and not six individuals – tonight was one of those shows that makes me proud to play guitar, and even prouder to be playing these particular songs. What a fucking life! I’ll be back in a week with a round up of the week ahead….FIVE shows coming up – Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljbujiana, Vienna and Prague.