I was glad it was a short drive to Holmfirth as I was slightly hungover after a night that span from Mr Lau’s on a tide of Mojitos that washed a few of us up together in a nearby bar where white wine done for most of us. Saying that I was still in bed by midnight but needed the 2 Berocca tablets to straighten me out in the morning. It was a rare sunny day and the drive through the dales was idyllic. We arrived early afternoon to crowds of holiday makers making the most of the bank holiday weekend in the sun. The outside tables of the nearby restaurant and bars down by the river were overloaded with beer slurping sun worshipers! I always get nervous about Holmfirth as it seemed to have taken over from Sheffield as my bogey town. Every time it appeared that I went to Sheffield some ailment or another would hit me. I even caught exactly the same viral laryngitis that stole my voice just before a Marillion show that had downed me in Manchester on the 13th Start tour and which had me waylaid in bed there for a couple of days as Holmfirth, Picturedome was next gig. Next time we were to play to replace the postponed show Frank Usher had a heart attack and it was moved again. Not a name that conjured happy memories although that finally achieved replacement gig was a killer!
The venue had changed since last time we were there with a great new dressing room area ( we did miss the full size snooker table from the old one upstairs) and the interior seemed a lot less like an old picture house than I remembered. As a known and respected venue it drew a lot of trade despite seemingly being in the middle of nowhere. I love it, always a great vibe even when empty during soundchecks. I had good numbers for the night and again the appreciation for Lu Cozma was a litmus test for the energies in the room. We weren’t to be disappointed and the band fed well of the room that night delivering a tight sizzling rock set that fairly lit the venue up giving us a reaction that matched the superb Warrington crowd 2 days before.
First few songs I was a bit spikey as there were a lot of cameras in the air with some people filming all the performance directly in front of me. There were flashes going off and one guy had what looked like his i phone torch app on while he was filming. To top it all I had 2 women , again directly in front of the PA stage left, gabbing away, a pile of drinks in front of them. A few shakes of the head at the camera people front stage was all that was needed to make my point and they politely put them down. A little ribbing on mike to the flashers and the torch boy also got the same reaction. All cool! The 2 gabbers however ignored the numerous glares and during the acoustic “Blind to the Beautiful” I could hear them over Robin’s guitar, as could others around them. It was distracting and intrusive and was ruining the vibe created by the performance. At the end of the number I strode over and told them off mike to “shut the f##k up” , “stage voice” on full strength. Maybe harsh but I was totally wound up by their total disrespect for the musicians and myself and other audience members who were trying to listen to a performance that was being ruined by 2 people being inconsiderate and ignorant. The applause from that section of the crowd as they left the area said it all. After matters were settled so quickly did we and accordingly rocked the house. The WW1 section was particularly poignant with “The Gathering” putting in a special appearance and touching a chord in area where so many men joined up join the “Pals Battalions”. A fantastic overall show, another 2hrs 15mins on stage and a knackered outfit backstage.
It was a long drive to Wakefield after the gig with Yatta again at the wheel of the Fishmobile.I should have been leaving for Hampden park for the final next day but instead it was another longer hike to Bilston in the heat and a search for a pub with Sky Sports.The gig at night didn’t suffer from any downer from the defeat to Celtic and was in fact the perfect antidote! 🙂 A cracker of a rock gig in front of a great audience who despite ‘Rush’ playing the “megadome” up the road gave us a good turnout and is a good sign for the Leamington Spa gig in November which should attract fans who already had ‘Rush’ tickets. The fans on the night didn’t disappoint me and we got a traditional Midlands reception which helped register a sterling show. Again the ‘High wood’ trio went down really well and ‘Perfume River’ sat so well at the head of the setlist. The medley was a corker that night and the enthusiasm from the crowd lifted it to another level. One of the best of the tour. The head hit the big soft pillow in the Holiday Inn with a smile , football forgotten!
Gig 3 on this run was Milton Keynes Stables.An acoustically unforgiving venue where there’s no place to hide it was my first (and only) “sell out” of the tour and the larger than usual guest list was short on seats with my cousin’s son, Paul Carter having to watch from stage left behind the wings. Trevor White, my former producer at Planet Rock called in as did David Stopps, Friars promoter who although we missed each other after show as he had too leave early sent Robin a message saying how much he’d enjoyed it. Also there was Diz Minnitt, my old friend who’d joined Marillion with me back in 81 as bass player. He was there with wife Helen, who I’d worked with at Aylesbury Unemployment Benefit Office, and who I ‘d introduced to Diz way back when, and his daughter Lissie. Stef Jeffrey, who’d been Marillion fan club secretary, and later mine up here for a spell, also came with her daughter.With Tara there it was quite a meet up! 🙂
There was however a slightly sad air to the occasion as in Warrington I’d met up with Carol, one of my ex girlfriend Kay’s workmates who’d originally told me off her passing away last year, who’d given me the funeral programme which I’d never seen as I couldn’t attend the ceremony for many reasons. A photo on the rear of the booklet taken in the late 80’s hit me hard and after showing the others who’d been part of those halcyon days discussions backstage in the Stables centred for a while around Kay’s passing. Her name on the front of the order of service was “Kay Leigh” which I must admit having a smile to as we’d both avoided making our relationship in the past a public affair during the media frenzy surrounding the single. There were some happy memories related and it was wonderful catching up with dear friends again after so long.
The night was added to by the support act “Solstice” who’d been around us in those heady 80’s days. Andy Glass was same as always and as always doesn’t look at a watch onstage.They played really well but forgot stage times and moved 10 minutes into our time which had a curfew on it. The crew did well turning it around and the venue staff were obliging as they let us run over to complete another 2hr 15 set. The all seated venue and the intimate seating arrangements/design made for a slightly awkward show after Holmfirth and Bilston. It was a listening audience and with a huge gap of empty stage in front of the PA and the backline strapped to the line behind it there was too much distance although I could foray into the theatre in front of the monitors during quieter numbers where sound was easier to control.I had a couple of spot lights in my eyes for most of the gig which didn’t help and it wasn’t until later when I asked for more house light and they doused the empty space in ceiling light that it made sense.It was a fine gig and we hit a nice curve between the performance and the crowd involvement. A totally different perspective for a frontman with yet another change in projection and energy. It all worked well and again Angus did a great job with the back screen projections.
In the run up to September we will have a lot more opportunity to work out the visuals closer to the music as the set becomes obvious. We’ll be able to source a load more visuals to compliment the material and I have great faith that Angus can deliver something very special ! 🙂
And so another rack of 3 went up and we were close to half finished! It was a strange feeling having put so much effort into the prep for this tour and then having it go off like a firework! Everyone was getting on well. there was a healthy blend of weirdness and laughter and we were all being relatively adult and sensible in our approaches and dealings with the gigs and performances.However the gigs took their toll. The day off in a Travelodge near Bedford was zombie ville. All talk of planned movie outing and 10 pin bowling the previous night evaporated as we surfaced one by one to congregate in the Clown Carrier late afternoon.We were on a roundabout with a garage and Little Chef our only close options for entertainment. The local village Curry house was shut that night, the pub was the ‘Marie Celeste’, fish and chips the option with a supermarket for wine! I opted for the Little Chef and was met later by Steve who’d also taken the same decision as me to avoid unnecessary wandering.
As we sat in the Little Chef by the roundabout, facing each other at single tables by the window staring through the blinds at the grassy area before the ditch at the main road a duck landed from out the twilit sky.It stopped, had a shifty around and then started walking along the edge of the ditch as if looking for a way down to the water. I noticed it had a gammy left leg and was limping.We watched it waddle for yards and it then just as it was about to disappear from sight around the building I commented that it was probably looking for a gap to wander onto the main road to commit suicide! We laughed and the duck stopped and turned round to look directly at us.If that was creepy after about 10 mins the duck came back having done a circuit around the Little Chef and stopped about 10 yards away to stare through the window at us both. It moved closer and stopped and it was obvious he was checking us both out as he swiveled his head to engage us. We both fully expected it to launch at the window as this was all getting way too Hitchcock! Day off and we meet the Bedford Psycho Duck! When we finished our meal we walked back to the hotel wary of some kamikaze poultry attack, laughing slightly nervously at the experience! Too strange! 🙂
The others had opted for fish suppers from the chippy and were threading their way back from the local village. All ideas of further adventures that night were curtailed and as usual we had the Clown Carrier in the car park as a meeting point. Bottles of wine were opened together with the story box and we sat with the rain drumming on the roof before sleep started to seep into heads like a fine mist and sent us one by one back into the Travelodge to our boxes. Tomorrow was London and it was going to be a long day. We had to leave for the next Travelodge and drop my car off as after the London gig I had a different hotel. I’d been booked for an interview/ presentation of my favourite 12 videos on ‘Vintage TV’ in Goodge Street at the Gibson Guitar museum and as the band were on the outskirts by the M25 I had to get a central hotel to get rest and then to the studio for filming in the early afternoon before a train ride to Bath for the next show.
The Travelodges had solved a lot of problems as they were cheap enough to allow everyone their own room and had decent car parking for our 2 vehicles. We knew they were pretty basic but they were clean, had decent beds and gave us the rest we all needed. The downside was that they were mostly well away from the venues requiring drives of sometimes up to 10 miles after shows. On days off they weren’t handy for adventures as their neighbourhoods had only Little Chef’s, Burger Kings and a fuel station but as a plus there was nearly always a Costa coffee point to get us fired up in the mornings for drives! Travelodge had stripped costs right down with no phone in any of the rooms, the electric towel radiators all disconnected and blanked off, only a tiny bar of soap in the bathroom and no packets of shower gels, 2 towels, tea but no biscuits, 2 pillows you had to bunch together to work, a thin summer duvet and not much else apart from a TV with free channels. I had to admit it was impressive cost cutting but we didn’t really need much else or miss the “extras”. For £30 a night it was a bargain, we got Zeds racked up, no bar to trap you and we knew exactly what we would get every day.The lack of phones caused problems a couple of times as some of the members of the circus forgot to charge mobiles and chasing them down in the morning drove Yatta crazy when the room keys had just been grabbed from the front desk on arrival and numbers not noted. I was lucky as I was following on every morning an hour or so after the Carrier had left giving Tara and I extra Zed time. I didn’t mind the drives at all as they gave me something to do rather than sit in the back of the bus staring at Yatta’s head! Today however with the Volvo drop off we were convoying to the outskirts of London before Taz and I jumped in the van to hit Islington. With Robin home for the day off there were enough spaces and so I had my first experience in the new Clown Carrier. My phone was pinging all the way in as texts and calls rained in from friends and others asking about guest list and meet up times. London is always a challenge on every level and I am always aware that it’s media heartland with extra pressure to deliver on the show. Today would be no exception.