Smiling in Zoetermeer on a hotel day off before the first of 2 sold out shows at the Boorderij. We arrived after a long haul from Liverpool through lumps of fog in Belgium to a sunny Netherlands.
Have to say that the sleep was intermittent as Simone and I had to share a bunk because spares were taken up by our ‘double driver’. her son Liam, who’s joined us on school holidays and a much needed ‘junk bunk’ as the bus is crammed.
Needles to say my restlessness had nothing to do with romance in a tight space rather a body that felt like it was broken.
As you know I’ve been having problems in recent months with a shoulder tendon injury and a bulging L5 disc that’s trapping a nerve causing me terrible sciatica and back pain. It tends to come and go but hits me if I am standing for a long period. It decided to visit me last night on stage in Liverpool just around ‘Threshold’ and it felt like I had completely popped the disc. I was in agony for the last 20 minutes or so and ‘ Childhood’s End’ was excruciating to perform.The irony is my voice is the best it’s been for a while and I was enjoying belting it out last night despite the intense heat on stage that made breathing difficult and had me drenched from about the second song into the set.
The ‘Lazuli’ boys had warned me before I went on and I had to acclimatise quickly. I was necking water constantly throughout the gig and really taking care of my breathing, not squeezing notes and straining.
It was all going well until ‘Kayleigh’ when the kebab I’d eaten as my ‘hearty dinner’ more than 2 hours before stage time decided to revisit me on top of all the water I’d drunk. Just as I started to sing the chorus my mouth filled with chunks and bile and I had to quickly try and swallow to keep it down and the song in place. I felt the acid and the chilli bite my chords and I choked, missing out some words before recovering. A couple of heavy duty gargles were needed to clear me up and wash the chords.It threw me and I decided to let the keyboards on ‘Lavender’ run an extra sequence before starting singing again.
I was blown away when the audience took control and the entire crowd started singing on the correct entry point. I gave up with a smile and joined in with them. I have to admit it was a high emotional point and the entire album was celebrated by a fantastic reaction that blew us away when we finally drew ‘White Feather’ to a close with the finest sing along of the year so far.
It was a very different vibe to the previous show here which had been like playing the ‘Gremlin’s Bar’ as it was so unruly and impossible to control. I was actually a bit thrown on my first introduction after ‘Feast’ and before ‘Long Cold Day’ and had anticipated trouble.It was exactly the opposite and although there was a hell of a lot of talking in the auditorium there weren’t the barrage of drunken heckling I’d expected.Everything settled own after that and both ‘Family Business’ and ‘Perception’ got great receptions.
The introduction to ‘Misplaced’ and the dedication to Mylo made it all a bit more special and I was very aware of this being the final performance of the album in Liverpool. It was altogether inspiring.
I was worried when my back gave way and left the stage after ‘Misplaced’ a very concerned singer. ‘Market Square ‘ was a trial for me. The crowd were again brilliant and uplifting , in great voice and full of energy. Standing side of stage after that reaction I felt terrible. There as no way I could dance ‘The Company’ and I wasn’t even sure if I could sing it on my feet.
The crowd wanted more and I had to deliver something. Just then my trusty Vince delivered a stool centre stage and I sat down as the Val Doonican of Prog and sang my heart out to an appreciative audience dancing from the waist down!
Backstage I was in agony and Simone laid into my back with a massage machine that took away the edge of the pain after about 10 minutes lying on the dressing room floor. It all clicked back into place and some Voltarol and Ibruprofen and a hot shower got me back into a decent upright position. Luckily I’ve already anticipated the ongoing problem and a good friend of mine over here who’s a back specialist has set up appointments for me to have injections that should bring things under control and see me through the tour. (We tried to steal the stool from the O2 but Vince was caught red handed smile emoticon )
Liverpool was the first night for our new sound engineer Alistair Lindsay who joined us on recommendation from Andy Williamson, my out front guy from the ‘Suits’ tour. I had decided to make a change during the summer and felt that the sound needed ‘refreshing’. Shaun Rogers had been with me for a long time and had done a great job for me in the past. For various reasons I felt that these final indoor shows needed something different out front and onstage and Shaun had been told during the German festivals that the Dalkeith show was his last outing.
It was a difficult decision for me to make and for Shaun to take after so many years. Partings like this are never easy as I know he had built a lot of great relationships with fans over the years. I sincerely appreciate what he’s done for me in the past and he’s been a loyal member of the crew and a good friend providing a lot of laughter out here on our road trips. I know he will find another position with another band and I’m sure he’ll bring something special to someone else s party. I wish him all the best and I’m sure a lot of you like me will retain happy memories of times spent together.
Alistair stepped into 2 difficult shows, his first in ‘Hell’ in Norway and last night in the O2 where judging from comments he did really well despite the pressures of working in a reverberating sweat box that robbed a lot of high end frequencies ( sweat was dripping onto my head on stage from the ceiling) and made mixing very awkward. With 2 nights at the Boorderij coming at us I am sure he will get to grips with the set up and the mixes very quickly and we are all confident that he can deliver some great quality out front sound. He’s very nervous having only been in our company in the Circus or a few days and I hope you’ll give him a welcome if you come across him. We are all looking forward to working with him.
And so it begins. Darkness falls in Zoetermeer and I have discovered I have a live radio interview with a local station tonight at 8pm. Shower and back massage now then a cheeky wee Savvy before venturing out. The circus is back in town.