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Now sitting by the canal in the beer garden at Tavistock Wharf after a chilled drive down from Bath in the first real Summers day of the year for me! I’d hoped to have been more communicative on this tour but a succession of long days and lack of Wi Fi and the collapse of my personal systems on days off meant that writing has been less than sporadic. Most of the Travelodges we’ve been staying at are well out of town in order to get the cheap rates we needed to give band and crew single rooms.Last night after the Bath show we had a 25 minute drive after a long load out with Yatta and I getting to the hotel about 30 mins before the others. As Yats doesn’t drink he takes the wheel after shows giving me an opportunity to indulge in a few wines on show days after I’ve driven in. Last night we missed an accident scene by only a few minutes on the winding route out of the city. It looked like no one was seriously hurt and judging by the time of the accident and the number of inebriates we’d seen tacking the road as the pubs and clubs emptied I wouldn’t have been surprised if alcohol was a factor in the 2 car prang. A reminder to ourselves about other drivers being a liability to us at that time of the night.I was in bed at 1.30 and up at 11.30 for the drive to Devon. Yats and the boys left in an ailing clown carrier at 9.30 in search of a Merc garage to get a small repair and diagnostics check on the vehicle. We were well underway when messages came through that they were being bounced around garages trying to rectify the problem and time was drifting. The band and crew weren’t too happy as the day stretched for them and they eventually arrived, Clown Carrier engine computer reset, nearly 2 hours after Tara and I had arrived and were already munching on pasties in a nearby cafe. A late load in and as I write punters are already starting to fill the beer garden and I am about to be hailed for sound check with 2 hours until stage time. It’s strange writing this with only tonight and tomorrow in Southampton to fulfill and the UK tour is over after all the immense build up, prep and rehearsals. With recording due to begin in 3 weeks a new wall of stress and pressure arrives. Only a 5 day break on the balcony in Karlsruhe offers some respite but during that time I have to look at the remaining lyrics to “High Wood”, The Leaving” and “The Great Unravelling” if I am not going to be chewed up in the first weeks in the studio.
Warrington day off was supposed to be allocated to lyric writing but the show was a stormer and I was subsequently knackered to extreme, sleeping until after 3pm. The soundcheck was akin to playing in an empty swimming pool and was daunting, only covered by the knowledge that I had decent numbers. With no Manchester or Liverpool shows this tour it sat in the middle but in the North West I’ve always been privileged to have a solid core of fans who were turning out on the night. Lu Cozma got a great reaction and I new the energies were out there as I listened backstage. Opening with “Perfume River” it was as if it was already a set regular and we were all lifted by the reaction with the audience getting involved in the acoustic guitar lift at the end of the song. The sound had settled since check and we were projecting the vibes out and getting them back with interest. The new material was by now sitting well in the set and we were feeling a lot less exposed and a lot more confident after 5 shows. I was also more confident with my voice than I had been for a long time within an electric format. The prolonged intense rehearsals had definitely helped build me up although those pesky high notes on “Script” are always seat of the pants ! 🙂 I remember talking to Midge Ure about those notes we wrote way back, his on “Vienna”, that we come to regret as we get on in age and when you’re racking up dates. Manipulating melody lines and gauging breathing helps and if in doubt just back of the mike and make a face with your eyes shut! 🙂 Shaun always gives me a bollocking when I do that! 🙂
The show was well fired up but as expected there were always the couple of well oiled punters standing in front of the stage left PA stack who were trying to conduct a conversation over a few more pints. Why stand in front of the PA and try and talk over it defies logic. I had been hearing them for the first few numbers and eventually had enough. Despite a couple of doom glares they weren’t getting the message and I had to go over and warn them with full stage voice off mike to get their immediate attention. It did the trick and the surrounding fans were relieved to have them shut up. It didn’t spoil the show and I think it was enough to influence some others yapping who were annoying other sections of the crowd. By this time on the tour I was batting heckles back pretty comfortably and I enjoy it to some extent as it adds to the show. There had been a lot of sparring on the previous gigs and this show had some good comic moments.
Probably the funniest moment was when Foss’s keyboard decided to throw a wobbler and crashed just before we were due to start a number. I pointed out that at Stamford the toy aardvark, that had been kidnapped from the studio after rehearsals and which was on pain of death to be returned, had been on Gavin’s kit when the snare broke and was now on Foss’s rig. I suggested it was a bad luck charm at which point Steve took it on himself to pick it up and drop kick it high above the stage and into the audience! We all went into shock as our prized mascot left us, soared in a long slow curve and ended up being plucked out the air by the large paw of Steve Williams who was with his lady Hel at front stage right. I was glad the aadrvark had fallen into friendly territory but I wasn’t to see him for a few days as he was taken on an alternative adventure as Steve and Hel were following the tour and proceeded to post the aardvark’s own personal tour photos on their facebook pages! 🙂
Keyboards swiftly reset we carried on with the show that provided a very emotional “High Wood” section and I was glad Angus was filming with the newly arrived HD film for the first time on the tour. We couldn’t have chosen a better gig to start recording for the ‘making off’ dvd. The problems with the PA at Stamford had been identified as being a “digital glitch” between house wiring and our new Behringer desk and all had returned to normal which meant we had a desk recording from Warrington to mesh in with the sound recorded on the out front Sony HD camera with it’s custom built mikes to give me the best of both worlds soundwise. The idea to start offering downloads on the day after shows had been aborted as tbh we weren’t ready with all our set ups and didn’t want to risk a meltdown on delivery at this juncture in time. That will happen later in the year when we have ironed out any potential gremlins.
Warrington set a new benchmark for our performances and the audience reactions and we were all on a terrific high after the gig. The new material was sitting well with us and the audience and the set which I had been slightly concerned with regarding balance of songs now felt more polished and was getting tighter every night.
We retired to the Travelodge , only 10 minutes walk away,smiley shiny people and it didn’t take me long to be in the land of soft, wooly Zeds on a much needed and well earned day off for all the circus.
I’d agreed to meet up with Tara for a shopping expedition in the afternoon but didn’t surface until late in the day. Some fine father/daughter bonding and the first time I’d been in shoe shops with her for probably over a decade. I discovered that despite her profession she is as reluctant as me to dwell in shops for long periods but we still managed to get out of the precinct with 2 pairs of much needed footwear and other bits and pieces. I admit it was a lovely feeling chilling out with a happy girl and spending some quality time as just the two of us.
Evening was a fantastic Chinese meal with Yats, FTC, Angus and the 2 of us. It was a thankyou to the the boys as they had been putting a hell of a lot of work above the call of duty to make the show work. Angus had done a brilliant job editing together the back projection visuals from virtual scratch in just over a couple of weeks. FTC has been overloaded with Behringer inputs and was on a very fast learning curve. Yatta was holding it all together in the backroom and Tara was back doing a splendid job on the merch stall after years away. They all deserved a night off and Mr Lau’s was a perfect evening to show gratitude to them all. Of course stray musos wandering the streets grabbed our attention and we ended up in another bar for late night aperitif’s before crashing to earth again in the Travelodge. It was altogether a fine day off, much needed but as always the morning after was slightly fuzzy but with thankfully a short drive to Holmfirth, scene of many past nightmares.
I was still wondering at that point what had happened to the aardvark.