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The O2 Islington Academy is a very strange venue built into a shopping centre complex and as such has no real vibe. It’s quite subterranean with tiny dressing rooms in the bowels of the concrete structure, 2 floors down and a hefty walk if you forsake the clunky lift. The actual performance area is in a box with a very high balcony overhead a lofty stage. Acoustics when empty are horrible so sound check dragged as the FTC fought the squeals and squeaks from the monitor wedges. We all knew that later with what would be a good turnout despite other acts in the city that night (Whitesnake/Journey etc) the acoustics would calm down as the reflective surfaces would be countered by the presence of soft people! I headed out for a sushi lunch with Tara as the FTC fought the room. The area was quite happening so a wander through the market, a stop at a Polish barbers for a trim before the show and the TV filming, a pint with Simon Moston and his family at a local Irish bar and a meet up with James Anderson to discuss festivals and ideas for next year eaked away at the clock. Check was a trial but we had something to build on. I disappeared alone for a gourmet burger before showtime and was glad I had a chance to put some “goodies” in my system. This was the first of the last run of 4 shows and so far my voice had been holding up well. London after a day off is always the favourite set up and a decent warm up before show had me dancing in the corner of the ring.
Another fired up audience awaited and it was obvious people had been listening to the clips on the Fishheads Club site as some were actually singing along in bits! “Perfume River” is turning out to be a great set opener and can see it retaining position in the Autumn. It’s been constantly evolving and we were by now very comfortable with the arrangement so far. Once Calum adds his contribution later this month I’m sure it will truly come to be a classic album track. “Feast of Consequences” follows on well and it’s a good few steps on from it’s Leamington debut. I still feel there’s something missing but I think it’s a vocal melody on the “running out of..” sections. I’ll find the angle in the studio. “All Loved Up” is a tremendous addition and again once people know the track I think it will be a regular in a live set.The potential audience participation is immense! 😉 There was an idea to film this with the Hero Black camera on a head strap and have audience members film themselves for inclusion in a clip further down the line but it was obvious it wasn’t known well enough or at all for that to happen and to get the result I am looking for. More on video ideas I have and which you can be part of in a later blog!“Blind to the Beautiful” is making such a ripple out there that I’m keen to get a finished version to radio as soon as it’s ready. (That again has a video idea attached.) Everyone has commented on how catchy it is and maybe, just maybe I could get a crack at radio plays. The “High Wood” trio have also developed a long way and my only concern is that we have to “bookend” these songs with 2 more tracks that stand up and pass parade. I am confident we can sort them out later this month if I can get the lyrics together in the next 2 weeks. It can be done 🙂 Although we had “Other Side of Me ” in playing capability we never brought it out on stage. TBH I think we forgot and with the set working so well I didn’t know what to eject. As always I’d gone out with the plan to aim for short of 2 hours on stage and as always we ended up playing 2 hours plus every night. Luckily my voice was holding out well but by the end of the gigs I was exhausted. (note to self- fitness pro gramme during recording). “The Great Unravelling” was also playable from a music standpoint but I didn’t have enough lyric yet and wasn’t confident to jam one on stage as the song is quite intricate and could easily have itself unravelled! Altogether the reaction to the “Feast of Consequences” material was overwhelmingly positive which in turn made us all more confident with it on stage and the prospect of going into the studio. The London show was a fantastic success and there was a great vibe backstage.The box had rocked big style and plaudits were due a fine band performance. After show my old friend John Keeble dropped by with his wife. John I’d met when we crossed with his band,’Spandau Ballet’ at TV’s and other shows. We’d got on really well despite a vast musical difference in styles and I’d worked with their singer Tony Hadleigh in the SAS band on numerous occasions. John was actually the drummer on my first ever solo gig at Lockerbie in 1989, played on the “Internal Exile” track during the “Vigil” album recordings and had nearly joined us just before we took on Dave Stewart. He’s a fine man and I’d known John and Flea for over 25 years having given away Flea at her wedding and remaining strong though geographically distant friends ever since,. It was great for Tara to meet them too for the first time! 🙂 He loved the show! 🙂 I was staying at the Premier Inn next door so check in after the gig before a bar jaunt across the road to the Hilton where I had a meeting with an Icelandic promoter and James Anderson who’s been booking his Dad Ian’s band ‘Jethro Tull’ for a few years. It’s always strange being separated from the circus when you’re on a tour. It doesn’t feel right being away from the team and there’s a slight sense of being alone and lost. Waving goodbyes to the Carrier was weird. The hotel room had all the usual goodies that the Travelodge omitted but for that “priveledge” it cost £155 for this particular night in a box! Thankfully it was on the TV shows expenses as the next day was the only one we could make work in the diary. My Hilton bar sortie was relatively short with only one Jack Daniel’s and coke consumed. A rare drink for me these days but John Keeble, who’d joined us , insisted for old times sake! 🙂 Positive ideas and cunning plans abounded and I stretched out in my hotel room with a good day’s result behind me. I got my lie in and headed off in the tube to Goodge Street and the Gibson Guitar Academy. I was a bit frazzled and on entering and meeting up with the film crew, editor, interviewer and all I was hoping I could pull this off and not get tongue tied. I basically had to introduce 12 video clips with my thoughts and anecdote crammed into 2 minutes each and a programme will be out on “Vintage TV” late Summer around the time of the album release. It’s harder than you think working off the cuff on these, staying on track, not over speaking or elaborating and keeping an energy level up for camera without being animated. Day after a London show was not a preferred time but I did my side and we pulled it off. With Ian Anderson having already filmed that morning and Mark Ellon and Steve Hackett in later I am in good company for the series. It also gave me an introduction and this week I’ll be sending my own solo clips down for inclusion in future transmissions and perhaps a full interview around the release of “Feast of Consequences”. With a potential viewing audience of 2.5 million it was well worth making the effort and I enjoyed working in front of a camera again. I can’t remember all the clips but there were videos by Bob Dylan, Talking Heads, Kate Bush, INXS, Free, Sandy Denny and others. You’ll just have to catch the programme when it comes out ! 🙂 After a relatively short time I was out on the streets again and taxiing to Paddington and a train Westwards to Bath and the next sound check. Again expenses had provided me with a First Class ticket and after a quick few plates at ‘Yo Sushi’ I was on my way.I couldn’t but help notice the vast difference between the German ICE trains and this clattering carriage which was 30 years old rolling stock with numerous refurbs as the conductor told me.The narrower UK rail gauge compared to the wider European doesn’t half make a difference to the motion with the German ICE trains so much more smooth and stable. I had kind of expected something a lot more modern and up to date on the main line West out of London.It was still a hell of a lot more comfortable than the Carrier and at least I could sip on my chilled half bottle of Savvy rather than concentrate on a drive. I kicked back and enjoyed the fleeting countryside. We’d played the Komedia in Bath during the Glenn Hughes warm up’s and had decided to go for it again this tour. Advance numbers were ok but not that great. A mild walk up on a sunny night made the place look quite full but we knew this was a different vibe from London. The audience were far more laid back and into listening at the start. They seemed more nervous of me and a bit of banter lightened the mood and set us off on the road through the set. By the end we had a highly appreciative and enthusiastic crowd which easily warranted our standard 2 encores of “Freaks” and “Lucky”. Another result for the circus and warm words were spoken after show about the new material.I was making a lot of new friends on this tour and I think thanks to Facebook there were a lot of people coming back to see the shows after a long absence. I was to discover a lot of people who had never seen any of my solo shows, a lot of whom came up to me and mentioned how surprised they were at how rocky the material and band were. A problem had been identified with the Carrier which wasn’t “pulling” correctly. The band and crew were up earlier than they wanted to be after a short night in bed as the FTC had to find a Merc garage in Taunton on the way down to Tavistock, about 3 hours away! Tara and I left at midday and became concerned as the problem hadn’t been sorted and the guys were bouncing around dealerships trying to get it sorted. The gig wasn’t at risk as doors were 8 and thet finally hit town around 3.30 , an hour after Tara and I arrived at the venue, a beautiful stone factory building right next to the canal. I sat in the beer garden and conducted an interview with the local BBC station. The interviewer was a bit confused as he thought he was talking to “Mitch out the Moveable Feast band!”. He became quite animated when he discovered it was me and tbh I was bit disappointed at the promo team who should have set this up a while back and who could at least have informed the station we were playing as they had no idea I was at the Wharf that night !.It started off well but then as questions ran out the cliches came in. “Are you playing “Kayleigh” tonight?”, “No”, “Why Not” “Because most fans would rather hear something else!” , “Oh”. Then there were the usual “Is there any chance…?” etc and it ground to a halt. Worst question put over on the tour was in Holmfirth where an interview that was going into far more depth than one warranted pre gig ended with ” So Peter Gabriel when he left Genesis said he was going to grow cabbages and make babies…. is there any connection?”. I didn’t even answer. The Wharf at Tavistock was jumping and I was pumping water on board as the sweat cascaded off me in the venue which had become a sauna. The crowd were brilliant, banter was flying, the music was splendid, band on form and everything going well. I sat down to introduce the “WW1” trio and started singing the entry to “Crucifix Corner” after a warm round of respectful applause. Just as we started the very first crescendo section all the power went off. Dead. We had no monitors or PA and Fraggles were scurrying. It was quickly identified as being a blown amp on the left side of the PA which had tripped all the fuses. It was an awkward moment. The crew managed to bring up part of the PA and monitors but we were still waiting on the full rig. I needed a song to fill the gap and off the top of my head opted for “Lavender” which I hoped Robin would remember. I shouldn’t have been concerned as he breezed through it to the delight of the crowd who were getting a rare bonus and met us with a highly appreciative roar as we drew it to a close with a full working PA. We completed the High Wood and started the medley with the audience riding along a whooping and a Hollering! Great vibes, high energies all round despite the sweatbox, all was peaking! Yatta stood at side off stage just inside the door to the corridor and dressing rooms beyond in anticipation of leading us off. We were about to complete “White Feather” with the band already introduced when “ping” all the PA went off again. There was nothing we could do. It was too late to rediscover the problem and so I quietened the audience down, made my thanks and we clapped and sang out the end section together with no music. We had run out of time as the curfew had been breached with the PA repair time. Encores were out the question now. We’d missed out “Freaks” and “Lucky” but had delivered a long “Lavender”! The blame was put down to Yatta opening the stage door and all the heat and smoke from the machines rushing out and hitting the house fire alarms.It didn’t spoil what was a brilliant show and probably in fact made it more memorable for everyone because of the PA incidents. I was soaked to the skin backstage and glad I was facing the last show the next day in Southampton. It was a long load out and Yatta and I scooted off in the Volvo to reach the far flung Travelodge as the wee hours began as the Tom Tom that Yatta had programmed to avoid tolls took us way into the countryside. The easy route across the toll bridge at £1.50 had us instead burning about £5 worth of diesel on the rerouted journey through the sticks! We discovered the bridge option next day on my own Tom Tom when we left next morning at 11 for the 3 hour plus trek to the Brook. It was a long hairy drive requiring a lot of concentration. Tara put her headphones on as I was shouting too much at other drivers puttering along on a weekend jolly while I was trying to get to work! We arrived with plenty of time and it was great to see Brin the owner again. I love this gig which I first played with the SAS band way back in the late 90’s and it’s become a regular stop for us on tours. I love the closeness of the audience and the intensity of the venue which is perfect for a frontman playing to a crowd with tight surrounding balcony and open floor below the stage.We had great numbers and again were facing the sauna. Lu Cozma got a great reaction as she has been getting on all the shows and despite her viral laryngitis on the first gigs had recovered and was singing well. It had been great to meet up with her accompanying guitarist Steve Askew. I knew him from way back at Aylesbury Friars when he’d played with “Art Nouveaux” supporting John Cooper Clarke on the same bill ( our first Friars support) and then later on EMI when “Art Nouveaux” evolved into “Kajagoogoo” ( which also had bassist Nik Beggs in the line up) . It was great to get some reminiscing in backstage. A very talented guitarist and songwriter he is a perfect foil for Lu’s vocals.Sad goodbyes to them both and their manager Glenn who’d been a gem on the tour. Their gift of a bottle of VSOP Cognac was most welcome ( and I am having a wee dram now while I polish this off – cheers guys 🙂 ) Our gig was up and boy were we up for it! A perfect last show with all the trimmings. The Brook lived up to it’s reputation and delivered us a fine farewell. We all agreed backstage that it’s difficult to name a “best show” as there were so many. Gateshead, Warrington, Holmfirth, Bilston, London and Tavistock all were so close to call in the standing category with Milton Keynes and Stamford ace seated results. There were no bad gigs, all were fine results one way or another but as we got up to speed after Aberdeen it did get more relaxed on stage with only Stockton for us perhaps being least favourite but still rated a good night.It was over. 13 shows, around 30 hours of singing and performing all over too soon. Steve and I sat up with the cognac for a bit when we got back to the hotel. We’d negotiated the first hurdle with honours, now we face the album recording. The band was tight, the new songs work, we’re rehearsed for live recording in the studio, everything is lined up for the second challenge – deliver a brilliant album! We’d all had a great time together and the new line up works well. I hope I can keep it in place for the Autumn tour and build on an ever growing reputation. We all disappeared to our far flung corners with big smiles after bigger hugs. Tara, Robin, Foss and I in a plane North, the others in transport with Yatta in the Fishmobile dropping McKinty off at York on the way North. It’s a sad goodbye to him as he is out with Katie Melhua later in the year. He’s a true pro, a major asset, a great friend and welcome back to our circus anytime. If you’r reading this- thanks bro ! 🙂 x Yatta as always had done a fine backroom job, the FTC had driven a drive, mastered a new desk and delivered fine sounds to the people, Angus had mastered a video rig at short notice and had done a brilliant piece of work, the band had climbed a mountain and raised a flag and my daughter had been a wonderful companion and more than able merch stand in across the 2 week blitz of dates and had dealt with “Papa Bear” well ! 🙂 Thanks to you one and all for being part of my circus! And finally thanks to everyone who attended the shows, bought the tickets and the merchandise that keeps us alive, afloat and on our journey. I loved seeing the smiles out there and your encouragement and appreciation for the new album and the songs is hugely appreciated by us all. Thanks for being there for me, take care, stay alive, see some of you in September on the Autumn tour ! 🙂 x Fish