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First of all a belated Happy New Year to one an all from the Balcony in Karlsruhe where I’m perched in a cold rainy drizzle trying to get back on my feet after a tour that was my most successful in years and also one of the most stressful for a very long time as we fought through a myriad of problems and events that at times threatened to derail us at every turn.
I will be writing up the blogs from the last section of the tour in the coming days but for now I’ll deal with the news as we enter another year that promises to hold a lot of new projects and opportunities and a new beginning.
On Christmas Day I proposed marriage to my wonderful and beautiful lady, Simone and can now announce we are engaged after 5 years together traveling back and forward from Germany to Scotland. Simone will be moving to Haddington this summer with her soon to be teenage son Liam. We’d been thinking long and hard about where we were going to live and after long and careful consideration and discussions with family we decided that for many reasons East Lothian was going to be our home. We weren’t sure for a long time and it wasn’t until Liam told us he wanted to live in Scotland last Easter that the wheels were set in motion. In November Simone was granted custody from a judge after consultation with Liam, his father and his mother and we were finally allowed to bring him over with us to start school in July. Simone’s 2 daughters are staying here in Karlsruhe and attending university and we will be in close contact and visiting each other regularly.
The girls knew I was going to propose to their mother as they had ‘stolen’ one of her rings in October to give to me so I could get the right size. They were sworn to secrecy. My daughter Tara helped me choose the engagement ring when we were in Birmingham on City Hall show day and we picked out a white gold design with an emerald and 2 diamonds as I knew Simone prefers simple jewellery. As the days went by the band and crew got to know but I kept the news within a tight circle of close friends. I wasn’t sure when the right time was to propose and had considered and rejected the idea of after the Glasgow show when Simone would be visiting for the weekend with all the kids. I showed her daughters the ring on the day they went home and they were beaming big smiles at the airport when we hugged our goodbyes.I decided to go for Christmas day.
My parents were having dinner with us and Tara was at her mothers in Edinburgh so I had a great opportunity. I picked up my Mum and Dad in North Berwick at midday and came back to the house with them to open presents by the Christmas tree Simone and I had decorated on the night she arrived 2 days before. I opened the gift Simone had given me to discover a white gold ear stud with a green tourmaline stone to replace an ear ring I’d lost months before. Seeing the same metal and green stone in the stud convinced me that she knew what I was planning and that the secret had got out.
I asked her what was her favourite spot in the garden and she said the Peter Pan pond area. We went out and I got down on one knee ,opened the box containing the ring and asked her to marry me. I thought she was going to faint as her legs started shaking. She didn’t expect it at all and it had come as a huge surprise. It had been a beautiful magical coincidence that we had both picked out the same white gold and green stoned jewellery and for both of us it was yet another sign we were totally in tune with each other and meant to be together. We went back into the house to tell my parents who were absolutely overjoyed and declared it their best Christmas present ever. Needless to say we are so happy together, very much in love and looking forward to creating our new home together with our extended families.
The announcement was delayed until the 2nd January as we had to inform our kids and other family members and with the sad death of Lemmy and then my daughters 25th birthday on New Years Day we didn’t feel it was the right time. It’s been great coming over to Durlach and meeting up with our friends here and we are both looking forward to Simone’s kids coming back from their holidays this weekend.
There’s a lot of organisation to take care of as I have to redesign the last remaining studio room and set Liam’s room up before they come over for Easter when we have to enroll him at the school. We then have the physical move of furniture and belongings to both the girl’s new flat in Karlsruhe and Liam and Simone’s to Scotland. With Liam starting school in July we both realise that our wedding will have to be put back until probably next year as I have to write and record the ‘Weltschmerz’ album and rather than try and cram our celebrations into an already crammed schedule we’d prefer to leave it until we have space and time to organise and enjoy the occasion. We are both just so glad that as of the summer we will finally be living together with Liam in Scotland in a house and garden we both love .
Well it’s been a hectic last few days with big shows, big crowds and big performances.
Bristol was a stunner and I admit to being in tears at the end of ‘Misplaced’. The sense of relief after the Dutch debacle when the wheels were close to coming off the tour only saved by Tony Turrell’s availability and his ability to step in at such short notice was palpable.Tony T did a brilliant job on his first night and we all applauded him on stage at the end of ‘the Company’. It was a night of high emotions and the crowd were absolutely terrific. I could not have asked for a more supportive and energised audience for out first UK show.We all left the stage with massive grins and there were lots of hugs all round.
The stress had taken it’s toll on my voice a little bit and I was weak on the top end,cracking a bit on the big throat holds.With 2 London shows up next I was taking no chances and was in my bunk early all potioned up.I woke up outside the gig in Islington and decided I needed something extra to take down the swelling on my chords. I jumped in a taxi and headed down to Euston to the University College Hospital A an E department where I would spend the next 4 hours until I was sent by a lovely doctor who I filled in on my situation. She gave me a short course of steroid pills and I made sure this time I got some back up amoxcyllin anti b’s which I recognised could have been the issue in Poland when I got hit by the virus. I’d had the injections in Holland and I now think that my immune system got whacked and opened the door for a hit as I didn’t have a back up.
I knocked back the first load of pills in the taxi back to a soundcheck and an interview with Team Rock that I was now missing. The doc had told me they’d take 4-5 hours to kick in and I was crossing my fingers they would be reacting before the show. They did.The warm up went well but I paid a bit for a lost soundcheck as my onstage sound was all over the place under the high reflective roof that acted like an upturned empty swimming pool.The show however was superb and although not as wild as Bristol was a brilliant London reaction.
The hospital visit gave me an off the cuff and wonderful curve into the introduction to ‘Family Business’ after ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Feast’ had rocked the room. It started with a joke about how you always find a drunk Scotsman in an A and E ward and how I was praying he didn’t recognise me as he was babbling away to himself. He was bordering on the aggressive but the arm in a sling indicated he wouldn’t be much use in a rumble. Everyone was avoiding eye contact and it was obvious he wasn’t a stranger to the premises.After a while a woman came in with a 4 year old boy sporting a mean black eye.The drunk guy started to engage him as the wee laddie sat on the floor in reception wrapping himself up in his hoodie to avoid interaction. The guy kept talking to him and then uttered what was quite a chilling statement. “Did your stepfather give you one then?” It was out the blue and the boy slid behind his mother and hid himself, I used that final utterance as the point break to introduce ‘Family Business’. It was perfect and threw a curve ball at the audience. The performance was inspired by it.
The last part of the story I left out but the seer Scotsman went out for a cigarette just as his name was called to see a triage doctor. He’s probably still sitting there waiting.
The ‘Perception’ intro also hit a chord and it was a pretty aggressive rendition that I think took some people by surprise.
Of course everyone was waiting for the main event and ‘Misplaced’ drew a huge roar of approval as it opened.What can I say? It was majestic and we careered and soared through the album to a conclusion that was met with a wall of applause.
‘Market Square’ and ‘Company’ led us home and I’d probably got the finest reaction in London for quite a while.
Backstage was beaming and we had the company of old friends to celebrate. We continued the party in the ‘New Rose’ pub down the road a few pints of Guinness salved the throat which had held up well. As I hadn’t checked in the hotel down the road and couldn’t be arsed wandering with a full quota of luggage down Islington High street at 2am I elected to stay on the bus which we shared with Lazuli who we’d given bunks to. They’d had a terrible day after breaking down in central London and having to get gear crossloaded to a van to make the show. They had no hotel so least we could do was offer our mobile residence for the night. I actually slept well and deep and woke up as fresh as you’d expect for the second night.
I discovered that 30 years to the day Marillion were in Japan so it was quite Fellini that I met up with Mark Kelly and our lawyer friend Guy for a Japanese meal before the show. We had a great natter about our experiences in previous incarnations in Japanese restaurants and the shenanigans that went on. It seems my memories are rather more clear and he did squirm a bit at the recollections. Wild days indeed smile emoticon
The voice was recovering and I went on stage confident and buzzing. The warm sake had done a trick and a decent soundcheck rectified all the faults from the previous night and I was in a good place.We hit the stage with a positive and fired up attitude.
It all went according to plan plus. ‘Family Business’ intro was retained as a lot of people had commented on how well it had worked. Dark curves and humour and a drop launch before people had come to terms with it all.
‘Perception’ took a slightly different twist as I’d been told 120 ticket holders hadn’t shown up the night before. It had seemed a little bit spacious the previous night whereas the Saturday show as a lot more obviously attended. The promoter’s rep wasn’t sure if it was unsold tickets from online sellers that hadn’t been bought or whether it was the concern after Paris. She said it had changed since the Bataclan massacre and people were concerned about going out to public gatherings. I added the fact to the introduction and it was well received as it has been since I developed it. ‘Punter’ was even more powerful for it as we all understood the connections and ramifications.
‘Misplaced’ opened to a roar of approval and expectation and we didn’t disappoint. It was high emotions from the off , ‘Lothian’ exploding in raised hands and a highly vocal crowd.The second half attacked but when we reached ‘Mylo’ I choked and cracked a bit as I remembered that it was Mark Kelly and I in Toronto when the news broke that John had died that morning. With his picture on the screen I wondered what Mark was thinking out there in the crowd.
The lift was tremendous and we reached the outro on an amazing high. ‘Perimeter Walk’ dark, broody and pulsing, ‘War Widow’ detonated and ‘Childhood’s End’ and ‘White Feather’ was performed to an ocean of raised hands. It was incredible to watch this reaction.from stage.
‘Market Square’ tore it up and ‘Company’ had a raft of ballet dancers on the venue floor. I thought it was better than the previous night by a notch.
The only annoying downer was that I was told just before the encores that there was some drunken prick who’d been nausing people off and had deliberately thrown 3 pints of beer over a woman and her daughters who’d been having a great time but were in his way as he came back from the bar. They were distraught and soaking wet. It wasn’t the right time to ‘out’ him as it would have destroyed the beautiful and positive atmosphere in the crowd at that point. Security couldn’t get to him and I hadn’t seen the incident. Tara was fuming as she had been putting up with a lot of sexist shit on the merch stall from drunks trying to grab kisses. The guy in particular that had thrown the beer was one of them. She shouted him down as he left the gig and refused to sell him merch. I was quite proud of her as she dealt with the problem, drawing security to the situation and then gave the 3 girls free t shirts as they were totally drenched. If the guy in question is reading this you should be totally ashamed of your actions and should apologise in public to these ladies whose night you ruined.
Backstage we were unaware of the entire story and I was showered and welcoming guests after a truly magical 2 nights in Islington, one of my favourite venues in London with the most friendly and helpful staff you could wish for.
With the bus wired up outside and a leave for the day off in Cambridge around 6am for a hotel check in at 2 we had time on our hands.
We elected to head for the ‘Hope and Anchor’ pub up the road, the home of Stiff Records back in the 70’s and famous venue that had hosted the early London ventures of U2 and so many brilliant bands over the years. I took Tara downstairs to the gig space and even I was surprised at just how small and cramped it was. I couldn’t believe that a band I knew from the 80’s ‘Nakd Lunch’ were playing and only to a tiny audience of about 20 people. They were brilliant, ‘Joy Division’ before ‘Joy Division’. I was sad that we only caught the last 10 mins o their set but when we were offered to sty downstairs for the lock in with out own company we had a great time having a natter and I even bought a t shirt from their merch guy who I’d met through mutual friends and had correspondence with here on FB . To make it even more Fellini orientated the sound engineer and gig promoter I knew from Charisma days back in the 80’s. It was a fine wee reunion and I exited the club with a slight wobble after quite a few dark rums.
It was a fine feeling diddly bopping down the road to the bus in the wee small hours after playing 3 brilliant shows in a row with no casualties.
The day off here in Cambridge was exceptionally quiet apart and I was glad to just calm down and rest after all the recent dramas.
Backstage now, 30 mins to showtime and feeling good about everything.
30 years on the album is still resonating with people and it’s great to celebrate the moment. I was reminded of just how long ago it was when I met with Robert Mead, the model for the original album cover after the show at the Assembly rooms.He joined us in the pub after show and we had a good natter. Strange to think that 30 years ago he was chalk marking hearts on a Berlin wall.
How the world weaves and curves on us all
Day off in Birmingham after another great gig in Cambridge last night. I managed a laundry at the venue yesterday but got worried as it was over 4 hours in the washer dryer which had a broken door and was a bit worse for wear. It looks like some of my stage T shits could fit Action Man and I’m concerned the jeans may be a couple of sizes smaller too. At least I have clean underwear again but they may be a bit tight around the crotch! smile emoticon
The venue was packed last night and w had the added bonus of a great house lighting engineer who gave us the use of 4 CO2 cannon at the front of stage that had been left over from a corporate event at the weekend. Simon also hung a couple of mirror balls from the overhead truss to give us a bit of sparkle in ‘Lavender’. He put in a great shift for us and made the show a bit more special with added visual dynamics to play with.
‘Pipelin’ literll fired off with the CO2 eruptions and we locked into the set quickly with ‘Feast’ energised before the ‘Family Business’ intro and a bluesy performance that it the mark.’Perception’ and it’s intro went down well and again hit a chord with the crowd, Simon adding red, white and blue lights across the stage to back the tricolour on the projection screen.
TonyT is really getting to grips with the set now and he is putting in some great playing as the band settles into the new line up. He deserves huge chocolate medals as he drove down from a day off in Liverpool where he’s teaching at the university and then was driven back after the show for another stint today thanks to his lady, the lovely Diane. It’s well beyond the call of duty. He obviously missed soundcheck so we had Romaine from Lazuli up on stage checking TT’s gear out and playing along on ‘Pipeline’ and ‘Lavender’ at soundcheck which was filmed by his band mates on their ever present go pro’s on selfie sticks. It was a fun moment smile emoticon
‘Misplaced’ was as always special and was greeted with high emotions all round. I am amazed just how much this album touches people and as well as the old hands there were a lot of youngsters in the audience singing along with me.The reaction at the finale was immense and it carried into the encores with mass ballet dancing particularly enthusiastic last night during ‘The Company’.
Robin set off home into the night with Tony close behind him. Steve and Vince are back home today leaving us with a depleted circus. The Lazuli boys joined us on the bus last night for some wine and pizza as we had to hold off on our journey as per usual as hotel check in was at 2pm leaving us with hours to spare on these short UK hops.
I wasn’t up late and left the wine rats in the downstairs bus lounge. It meant I woke up earlier than I wanted and found myself parked up by the canal. I opted for the walk along the tow path as it was a nice morning and the hotel was somewhere in the distance. After about 15 mins laden down with luggage I was regretting the adventure but it was a beautiful walk and I needed the cardio especially if I’m going to fit in my new shrunken jeans.
4 shows to go and the next run of 3 will be a toughie that I’ll have to take care with to reach Glasgow in good shape. The voice is holding up and I feel pretty fit these days. A lot more fit than I was a few weeks ago. I’m looking forward to getting dropped of at the farm on Saturday morning as the tour bus passes by the studio on the way to Glasgow. Simone and her kids are all across for the weekend and arrive Friday night in Scotland. It’s going to be fantastic having them all over for the last show and it’s the first time Simone’s 2 daughters have been at the studio for quite a while and they are all excited to be coming to Scotland again.
But today is chill out and rest and take the deep breath before the spurt to the finish line in Glasgow on Sunday. I can sense the end of the tour now and will be glad to step off the bus for the last time on Sunday night with all my detritus picked up over the last weeks.I might just even manage to hold back a couple of bottles from the wine rats for Christmas.Doubtful though.
It’s been a tough last few days in the circus as I keep on searching for silver linings in the dark clouds that passed over us.
Tomorrow we reassemble on stage in Bristol at the 02 with Tony Turrell on keyboards. He’s been doing his homework and arrives for rehearsals at midday. Robin and Steve have filled him in on all the keys and sounds etc so we will be edgy but confident as we all know Tony T more than capable of learning and playing material at short notice.
It was sad to say goodbye to John Beck who was a forlorn figure on the ferry over to Dover. Watching him weave his lonely way along the upper decks that were rising and falling in the heavy Channel sea raked by 70 mph winds you couldn’t but help feel for him.
We’d been stuck in Calais for over 4 hours waiting to board and cabin fever was setting in having been trapped on the bus for the last 16 hours with only very occasional pauses in truck stops for relief and basic foodstuffs. It was a tough day for everyone and we all tried to mask our severe disappointment at losing the 3 Dutch shows.
The announcement of the replacement dates in April with the Groningen show moving to the bigger hall as it was now available gave me a lift as did the chance of 5 days to rest my voice before the UK shows.. With 5 shows to be replaced I’ve decided to extend the tour by adding a few more dates in areas we missed on this run to take it up to around a month on the road from 18th April onwards.
I have already asked Tony Turrell to continue on keyboards as John Beck is at least 3 months in recovery and will need extensive physio on his hand to get back to full fitness. We both agreed that banking on him being able to play by April was too much of a gamble.
He left the bus at 6am on Monday morning after we had parked up in Folkestone around 2 in a coach and lorry park where we could get power to the bus for the night’s stopover. Alastair, Vince and Robin left with John for the rain up to London and beyond while Steve, Gavin and Angus came with us to Bristol for their trains home for the couple of days we had off before the 02 rehearsals and gig.
Only Tara, Yatta and I stayed in the Travellodge and we were all desperate for a shower to get rid of the second skin that had grown under our grimy clothes.My throat was scratchy and my nose blocked from the near 36 hours of traveling in the bus which by the time we arrived in the city felt like a submarine. I walked up the corridor to my room still anticipating the swell of the ferry deck and the rolling of the bus in the winds that battered us along the motorway.
The shower was pure ecstasy and I ignored the box that would be home for the next couple of days focusing on the welcoming double bed and the promise of star shapes later. None of the remaining trio fancied going out in the rain and cold and we elected for the basic hotel fare of pie and mash and a bottle of wine ( a lot cheaper than the £40 for the same meal for Tara and I on the midnight ferry ).
A catch up on ‘I’m a Celebrity’ in my room with a bottle of wine from the hotel bar before the eyelids collapsed and I slipped under the heavenly duvet. I hoped that I’d be waking up in the morning to no more dramas and a relatively stress free day for a change.I needed some chill time and rest.
Tara makes her hotel room her home. I’m truly amazed at just how much stuff she carries around.
First day off lunch at 3 with Tara and Yatta on the Glassboat restaurant up from hotel. My first turkey dinner of the season. Barbers for a trim then holed up in hotel until later when a windswept Lazuli arrived to take us out for a fantastic curry in town.
The evening came to a close after meeting up at the hotel with my dear friend Andy Fox for an interview together with Romaine and Dom from Lazuli for his GTFM/BCFM Rockshow.
Bed around midnight then up at 1 next afternoon again. Felt a bit throaty so a long trudge up town to pick up supplies from Holland and Barrett to ward of any potential incoming. Bought some Christmas presents with Tara before some ramen noodles and another hole up in the hotel room.
It’s the first time I’ve actually had a chance to have a decent wander around this city despite visiting it on tours over the years. It’s a really beautiful place especially around the market areas where I could have spent hours investigating the stalls.
Really wary of keeping myself in shape for the next 8 gigs and trying not to get stressed out about them. Not sure whether to head out for food tonight or just eat in and have a really early night. Pressure is most definitely on to get through these UK shows in style.
It’s with deep regret and sadness that I have to announce that the 3 Dutch shows in Groningen, Tilburg and Amsterdam have to be rescheduled after John Beck our keyboard player broke his arm after tripping and falling over outside our hotel last night.
He has badly fractured his right arm at the elbow as well as fracturing a major bone in his right hand. The hand injury is serious and may have long term implications. His arm is in a cast for 6 weeks and he has been told the hand may take a further 6 weeks to properly heal.
The UK tour will go ahead with Tony Turrell taking over on keyboards. Tony already knows the set apart from ‘Feast of Consequences’ and ‘Pipeline’ having played in the band line up during the ‘Return to Childhood ‘ tour. He is a highly capable player and we are both supremely confident that we will have the set together and rehearsed by the Bristol 02 Academy show in 6 days time.
The 3 Dutch shows are being rescheduled for April and I will be able to announce the new dates later today.
I sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused and appreciate that these gigs have been hugely anticipated by a lot of people some of whom have made special travel arrangements to attend.
This unforeseen accident has totally taken the wind out of our sails just as we had regained momentum over the last 8 shows and about to play 3 completely sold out Dutch gigs on the way back home to a sold out UK tour.
I am indebted to Tony Turrell who has stepped in at extremely short notice and without whom I could have been staring at a far bigger problem. The UK tour is unaffected and all dates will go ahead as scheduled.
John is obviously despondent about his injury which has ruled out any playing for the foreseeable future and we all wish him well in his long recovery and hope that there are no long term implications.
Great gig in Saarbrucken last night and 30 years to the day when I played a venue only 10 klicks away in Volklingen on the original ‘Misplaced’ tour.
That gig is a haze in a maze in a fuzzy memory bank and I ached up the stairs to the dressing rooms to park myself in a room in a another city I wouldn’t discover until the night dropped like a stage curtain. Holed up in another shared space biding my time.
I wasn’t feeling particularly confident pre show as my voice was a bit ragged at the top end and despite a lengthy warm up it took 3 numbers for it to settle down and become flexible. The onstage sound wasn’t helping as the huge dome above us created all sorts of issues which thankfully weren’t a problem out front as Alastair had it under control. The 1300 people who filled the venue soaked up the reverb that had made for an awkward soundcheck and greeted us on stage with a mighty roar that immediately lifted me.
‘Pipeline’ saw a raft of hands in the air and I knew we were going to have a good night despite my initial anxiety about the voice. It was an energetic and appreciative crowd who were more than willing to participate any chance that came along.
There were quite a few mini mistakes and fluffs on stage but the energy was good and covered the traces as only rock music can when delivered with spirit.
‘Feast’ and ‘Family business’ both hit the spot and it was obvious this audience were no strangers to the solo catalogue. The intro to ‘Perception’ was well received and the song delivered with strong emotions that resonated with the crowd.
Needless to say the intro to ‘Misplaced’ was met with a massive cheer and we soared into the album with everyone out front lifting us ever higher through the sections. By the time we hit ‘Childhood’s End’ we were peaking and I don’t think there was anyone out in front of us who didn’t have their hands in the air. It was an awesome sight. At the end of ‘Feather’ and on the final rally the roar was immense and a wall of energy hit us detonating huge smiles all round.
A deep breath behind the stage and then ‘Market Square’ picked everyone back up again for another ride. A weary descent down the rickety stairs and the wine was opened before the final push. ‘The Company’ was the perfect send off with good ballet dancing skills included. A really great result that I hadn’t quite expected earlier.
It was Dominic’s last gig with us and the perfect farewell for him. Despite his dartboard tour routing that had ‘G’ our driver shaking his head at times he did a great job standing in for Yatta and at the end of the night he dutifully handed over the official Mag-light torch that is the staff of command to Vince.
We had an hour to wait on bus driver’s hours to kick in and diddly bopped to an Irish Bar a few minutes away for some welcome pints of Guiness with the Lazuli boys who’ve been putting in some serious hours following us in their camper van. Dominic bought the round and we all had a group photo taken before we sauntered back to the bus and a tipple in the downstairs lounge after big farewell hugs with our ever smiling German tour rep.
I flipped the bunk relatively early and racked up 6 hours of Zeds before waking just as we entered Dutch air space. Day off in Groningen and 2 nights in a decent hotel are more than welcome and much needed.The ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign is on the door.
Our stand in production manager Dominic Droese yesterday backstage in Oldenburg. He is a lot more rock and roll than this picture implies and had to endure Tara’s revenge after pocketing her i phone while under the influence on the bus leaving her in a panic that it had been left in the dressing room the night before. His bunk was taped up like a spiders web using ‘gaffer tape’ after he had had a few ‘libations’ in the downstairs lounge. Not what anyone wants to fight through to get to bed while wasted on a moving bus.It was his last night with us as we move to Holland and a returning Yatta tomorrow after tonight’s show in Saarbrucken.
The band played well last night and I had a good voice on song in a room that Alastair had concocted a great sound in. The problem was that it was our first seated venue of the tour and the crowd energies were low in the main. It would have been a better venue for a Fishheads Club show rather than the rock vibe we have just now. It was pointless getting the crowd on their feet in the early stages and I had to wait till ‘Perimeter walk’ to rack up the interaction and keep them up till the end of ‘Childhood’ where we took a great response. I enjoyed the show but it was tough going to get the crowd up to our level and I think that apart from some die hard fans indicated by old T shirts from Vigil days and beyond I don’t think the crowd generally were that aware of the solo material. It felt like playing to a theatre crowd rather than a rock audience.
I heard later that they had been told to remain seated for ‘fire regulations’ and perhaps people were a bit intimidated and self conscious thus the lack of involvement. Never the mind we had a great time on a tight stage that restricted my dancing moves and made me very self conscious about protruding drum and keyboard risers and monitors always threatening tumbledown moments. My back slipped towards the end and I had to sit down a couple of times to straighten things up. It looks like I will be revisiting the clinic in Amsterdam for some more injections in a few days.
One strange moment was when someone walked up to put a small plastic bucket on the front of the stage during ‘Misplaced’. I couldn’t for the life of me make out what it was and it looked like it held white tissue paper. It wasn’t the time or place during the performance to check it out and it started to give me the creeps as it was placed without a word being said and the person immediately disappeared from sight.I picked it up as we left after ‘Childhood’s End’ to discover on examination backstage that it was full of white sugar mice with the artwork from the single glued onto the bucket. A weird gift but to whoever presented it thanks from the downstairs bus lounge for the munchies! smile emoticon
And now a darkening Saarbrucken where I would have loved to have revisited one of my favourite steam rooms in Europe if not for lack of time today. A wander in the streets after dinner and soundcheck and some gluhweins at the Weinachtsmarkt before show seems to be the order of the evening. Big crowd tonight with again over 1000 expected. Looking forward to the day off in Groningen tomorrow.
Friedberg heralded the return of the voice although I admit to being very nervous pre show as to whether I’d stand up to the strain of a full show. I elected to drop “Long Cold Day” from the set and warmed up the voice before sound check and the gig.
It was an emotional night for all concerned and Paris was on everyone’s mind. I stood out front for most of ‘Lazuli” set and had a few tears as they delivered a beautiful eulogy before a passionate collection of songs that energised the room.
The local promoter’s had booked another support band who foolishly went on after ‘Lazuli’. Despite playing a shortened set our French friends took a fantastic reaction from a crowd which thinned out as the second act got into their set. Why they were even on the bill I don’t know as I discovered they had only played one show in the last year.
It made our job a little easier as following ‘Lazuli’ means you really have to up your game from the start. By the time we went on the 1000 strong crowd were waiting for us.
Having a working voice again and a virus on the run filled me with confidence and I was moving and dancing with a relevant fluidity I hadn’t had for a week or so. I was careful not to overstretch the chords, guarding against hanging around in the big notes too much. I was still missing a bit of range and crackled a bit ‘up top’ but nobody really noticed apart from me.
Alastair did another great job in a difficult room that had a lot of reflective surfaces including a wooden wall the entire length of the room facing the stage. He’s proving quite an asset to the circus and I have an on stage sound that is really helping me sing with a new confidence.
‘Misplaced’ as always was a diamond and the crowd were with us all the way lifting me out of the depression of the last few days as I had genuine worries about whether I could pull it back. The decision to pull Bielska Biala, Rendsberg and Haltern had been the correct one in the long run and I sit here in Nuremberg with a voice at close to 95%. I know this doesn’t make the fans who missed out on those shows feel much better but I will be back in April next year to fulfill those dates and with fingers tightly crossed I am over this lurgy, the worst I have had for many years, and all things going well will see out this tour in style.
I’ll write up more tomorrow in Munich as today has been taken up with reorganising meds and bags after a long sleep in the depths of the bunk. Waking up early I felt I’d been wired in as it was the first day that I was practically lurgy free. Long may it continue.
Arrived at ‘Backstage’ here in Munich to discover that our mates #TheBlackStarRiders are playing in the venue next to ours. Wonderfully cool to be able to say ‘not seen you since Marrakesh’ smile emoticon
Great to catch up with my good friend #RickyWarwick again and share road stories. Beautiful guy, first thing he did was mention the Hibs win last night against Livingstone. smile emoticon
Both gutted we are playing at the same time and missing each others gigs. Looks like we will be crossing paths in the UK next month as they are on tour with Joe Elliot.
Absolute sweat box last night in Nuremberg that had me struggling a bit at the end of the set as the heat drained me and tired my voice out. It was a brilliant crowd that kept me going as I started to wilt at the end of ‘Misplaced’. Not what you need while still getting back to full strength and I was a little bit worried this morning when I woke up in the bunk still a bit weak from the previous nights exertions.
Happy to say soundcheck went well and apart from a bit tiredness in the top end the voice is fine. 2 days off after tonight and I head to my lady and her family in Durlach straight after the show for some much needed rest and recuperation before we move into some demanding scheduling.
With the next 3 gigs within easy driving distances from Karlsruhe I’ll be taking advantage of a real bed and being chauffeured by my good mate Sven who’s staying with his family outside the city on the next run of shows.
The days off give me a chance to catch up with blogs on the balcony and get my laundry done ( Tara’s already given me hers to sort out as well) and most importantly rack up some deep zeds and fully recover from what has been the worst dose of lurgy I’ve had for a very long time.
Looking forward to tonight here in Munich, best numbers here I’ve had for years.
( Munich was an outstanding show and I am getting the best numbers and reactions there that I have done for a very long time. It used to be a tough crowd even back in the Marillion days but ‘Feast’ and this tour have definitely given me a strong footing here)
(Pratteln was yet another biggie with over 1000 in, my best numbers there ever. If Munich was 8.8/10 then this was a 9/10 with a fantastic crowd who delivered us an incredible reaction. I drove back to Durlach with Sven, Simone and Liam after the show arriving early hours of the morning. I’d spent the previous 2 days off there mostly on my back in bed as the last of the virus broke and left my system. Intended blogs were missed as I continued to recover. Next day in Mannheim I found out that the Facebook pages had been hacked and I was unable to post anything while my account was recovered)
Back again after some troll hacked the Fish pages for it appears no other reason than out of sheer badness. I logged on in Mannheim backstage to find a bunch of notifications from Facebook that some alleged female in Columbia USA had got into the pages and changed passwords etc taking them offline. It was a bit of a pisser and I lost Messenger on a night when a lot of friends from Durlach were trying to contact me re the gig. All sorted again and security updated so hopefully no more unwanted intrusions.
The Mannheim gig was special and the 1200 crowd in a sold out venue were brilliant giving both Lazuli and I a fantastic night on stage. My boys were on fine form and as always ‘Misplaced’ was special.
I’d been taking advantage of short distances between gigs with Durlach in the epicentre to travel back and forth from Simone’s flat and racking up the zeds in a static bed. It’s really helped me recover and get back to full fitness. The intended blogs got lost as I slept most of the time in between catching up on “I’m a Celebrity Get me out of Here” and eating pizza in front of the TV with rationed white wine in a surreal domestic state.
The show is a big favourite of Steve Vantsis and I especially as my good mate #TonyHadley is in the jungle this time. Looking forward to when they get the bevvy into camp as big Tone must be well thirsty by now ! wink emoticon It helps break the backstage boredom and our catering is supremely better than theirs smile emoticon
In Stuttgart tonight with a day off tomorrow in Oldenburg fully deserved after 3 shows in a row. If tonight is as good as Pratteln and Manheim I’ll be a happy boy with over a 1000 people every night and riding a wave of great reviews.
Back on the bus later for the long trek North and I’ll have time on my hands to write up some stories tomorrow and the next day.
We’ve passed the half way marker now with only 2 more German shows before the home run through Holland and the UK with every one of those shows sold out apart from Sheffield where there are only a few tickets left. We are all buzzing on the vibes.
Day off in Oldenburg yesterday after a tremendous show in Stuttgart.I’d stayed over in Durlach after the glory that was the Mannheim gig to get my last night on the Balcony until I return in January and the last time I’d see Simone until she comes over with the kids for the Glasgow show. My chauffeurs Michael and Sven picked me up in the afternoon and we drove the hour or so down to the Longhorn, a venue I hadn’t played for years.
I was reminded of how long ago it was by the promoter who pointed out the broken plexiglass round the DJ booth. When I still had decent knees we had played football in the empty gig pre soundcheck and a misplaced shot had cannoned off the glass and broke it. Slightly embarrassed smiles at the memory but the promoter laughed, he was happy to have me back.
It was good to be in the Longhorn again and playing to over 1100 fans in what would later be a bouncing venue as we played a tight and powerful set with a great comedy moment as I recounted my stage trousers splitting in the Martin Schleyer Halle back in 85 during dipping movements in the “ooh wah” section of ‘Incubus’. One of the most embarrassing stage moments I can recall which left my tackle in the fresh air and only a patch of material between them and the 12000 crowd, my ass cheeks like a pink peach for all the band and crew to see. A decision not to wear underpants after discovering the only pair I had with me that day were stripey and showed through the stretchy white material of the Puma jogging trousers I wore back then proved costly for me but hilarious for everyone else especially Tony my ‘wardrobe guy’ who was on the floor laughing and incapable of helping me .A long solo from Steve Rothery came to my rescue and allowed me time to get to the dressing room and change. I can laugh about it now but back then it was traumatic!.
The story gave me a great introduction to ‘Misplaced’ which was greeted with a huge roar of approval by one of the finest audiences I’ve had there.The gig was a massive success and I was pleased to have a decent voice after this run of 3 gigs and 6 now since the worrying lurgy attack 9 days previously.
A rousing ‘Company’ and a mass ballet dance rounded of a successful night and my knees were aching as I climbed the open stairs up to the dressing room area waving at the crowd who knew I had put a shift in. I was a bit more sprightly last time when I still had football playing legs.
A long drive north on the bus and a return to my bunk for the first time in 8 days. A relatively early night and a midday rise to trundle through the streets of Oldenburg to the hotel 15 mins away in the rain and bitterly cold North Sea wind dragging all my cases and bags. I spent the day in my room catching up on a pile of e mails and calls and prodding the FB pages before I met up with some of the circus troupe to head into the old town for something to eat.
We discovered our first Weinachtsmarkt of the tour and a feeling of Christmas ebbed into the team. A great Italian meal and then a last chance gluhwein just as the markt closed for the night at 9 ‘clock. It was still early. As we dawdled back to the hotel the glittering lights of a Mexican restaurant in the centre of a road crossing threw temptation in our path and I suggested a nightcap to the team as there didn’t seem to be any other bars in the vicinity.
And that was how Tara, Angus, Dominic,Alastair and I ended up getting slightly trashed on tequilas and wearing Mexican hats on one of our best nights out on a day off this tour. A mixture of the aforesaid tequilas and various cocktails put paid to us all with Aliastair, still sporting a black eye from the last time he bounced off a bathroom towel rail after throwing up with the lurgy, definitely the worse for wear. He ended up in the hotel dropping his 3 week old i phone 6 outside the elevator, smashing the screen to smithereens and heading to the unlocked corridor fridge for beers for those who still wanted to further descend into oblivion. I declined the offer and was in my room with a bottle of wine watching ‘I’m a Celebrity’ until my batteries finally discharged around 1am. I prefer room based endings to my excursions these days as falling into bed is better than head scratching drunken wobbly wanderings trying to find the hotel. It feels slightly more civilised and incurs less bruising.
A great sleep I amazingly woke up feeling quite fresh and vibrant this morning and the return with baggage through the streets to the bus seemed less of an ordeal.
Tonight is sold out but and we have a tight stage and a seated audience for the first time this tour. It’s only 500 people but the venue has a good vibe and as a theatre is perfect for a frontman.
After show is another huge drive back down south to Saarbrucken. ( Dominic , our agent has already apologised for a tour that looks like it was put together using darts on a map of Germany) then a day off before crashing into Holland.
Everybody is relatively healthy and last night provided no casualties. There’s a stomach bug doing the rounds but compared to the plague we endured recently it’s trivial. Our only MIA is Yatta who left us in Stuttgart to go home to deal with some family issues. It’s weird texting him the gig results and getting his updates from home. He’s back with us in Groningen. We all miss him but Dominic is doing an admirable job as stand in production manager.
Spirits are high and everyone is well aware that we are on the homeward stretch with the UK just down the road a bit. I’m taking no chances and developing an addiction to lemon, ginger and honey teas. Another hole to be drilled in my belt soon. Happy days!
Brilliant gig in Gdansk last night! One of the best venues I’ve played in Poland. the Stary Manez club is beautifully designed with great acoustics and unlike the arena in Szczecin the crowd were on display on the floor and a surrounding balcony making the contact so much easier than the dark bowels of a sports hall.
‘Lazuli’ again delivered a powerful show and we have to keep our game up to follow them.We hit the stage in a high gear and ‘Pipeline’ got the place bouncing before a rampant ‘Feast’. Sound and lights were great and we reveled onstage playing a stand out show to a very receptive audience.
Although I cannot speak Polish slow careful deliveries of introductions seemed to hit the mark and ‘Perception’ in particular was a bit inspired. I recounted some old history with the city from 87 and took the opportunity to take cameras off the photographers in the pit and turn the tables handing them the mike so they could pose while I took shots of them.
As always everyone was waiting on ‘Misplaced’ and we didn’t disappoint.It’s just so inspiring to play and the entire album just glides effortlessly along a wonderful curve.It goes by so fast I sometimes wonder if we have played a short set and I’ve sometimes checked my watch as I walk off after ‘Feather’ to make sure. By the time we delivered an energised ‘Market Square’ and a rousing ‘Company it was 2 hours on stage last night as I took the opportunity of having a full communion with an attentive crowd to explore the intros more than I normally would do.
I genuinely wish I could speak the lingo and admit it’s frustrating but I just can’t get my head round the language. I just try to find the balance in the intros, keeping them simple and short enough and employing a few bits of visual comedy like the camera turnaround to get over the language barrier. It seems to work and the music speaks for itself.
The hot shower after show was exquisite. It’s far removed from our early forays in Poland where venues were quite dismal and lacking in the basics. I can remember having cold showers for 3 straight days in what seemed to be abandoned factories and eating the infamous ‘donkey dick in breadcrumbs’ with 5 colours of cabbage from a polystyrene box. The dinner pre show in a local hotel added to the components of a fine day.
I walked back from dinner on my own to the venue through a magical landscaped area that had been created by the developer who had financed the new purpose built venue from the shell of what had been an indoor training area for cavalry horses. All the derelict army barracks around the venue were being renovated and turned into student accommodation and I was mightily impressed and pleased that this historical area was being brought back to life and not just demolished and turned into modern flats. I shot some footage on the phone for Angus and I to include in the back screen projections we are building on tour as we go along. It’s our little project on days off now.
After show the pizza arrived and we splashed a few glasses of wine together before heading to the bus signing autographs with happy fans on the way out. Best gig in Poland so far and if Warsaw tonight is as good we will all be happy campers.
I’m sure we won’t be disappointed
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.
The dust is settling on the Summer season and I’m gradually re balancing myself and finding my domestic feet. Although there is still the Hellfest show in Trondheim in October I’m staring at a 5 week stint dealing with a mosaic of a “to-do” list that’s had me out in the garden the last few days since the Dalkeith gig taking advantage of some decent weather to get some autumn prep done. Today the chainsaw was out to take down stems of a hornbeam tree that has been overshadowing the greenhouse. It took quite a while to get back to grips with dismantling and reassembling the saw and sharpening up.I’m always very respectful of the chainsaw and methodical when operating it and after a long lay off it was a slow deliberate process taking down the wood.
I’d been reminded of my past career on Saturday at Dalkeith estate where I worked for a short time in the woodland nursery as an assistant forester back in 1980 during my middle year from Newtonrigg college in Penrith where I was studying an OND in forestry. . This was just as I started singing with my first band “Blewitt” in Galashiels and about to make the big jump that summer into the music business.
The stage was directly in front of Dalkeith Palace in what I knew as the “Dukes” estate.I used to run around in the woods and down by the Esk river that flows through it and had wonderful adventures there as a young boy. Coming back to Dalkeith to perform ‘Misplaced Childhood’ there on it’s final UK open air outing was therefore always going to be an emotional experience.
I hardly recognised the place these days and arrived late afternoon to be met by the estate manager and the woodland manager of the Buccleuch estates who’d invited me to plant a tree to mark the occasion.Thankfully they’d saved me the back ache and dug the hole in which I planted a young Sequoia tree and was complimented on my technique! It seemed apt to be sticking a Giant Redwood in the ground on the day and I was quite proud to be asked in all honesty.
The planting helped break up the wait till showtime as did the short walk up to the high street where I saw my Dad’s old garage, Dick Bros on the New Edinburgh Road ( also known as “Dickie’s Brae”) from which I’d named my first independent record label. It was all very different but I still felt the memories creep in as I sauntered past old haunts.
I was slightly nervous not really knowing how I would react on stage. The sound up there was not what I’d hoped for and we started with “Pipeline”, the keyboards drowning out everything in my monitors.There was no point in getting finicky and I just had to get the engineer to adjust as much as he could by using hand signs. The sound wasn’t helped by the fact that the staging was a plastic shell that had mushed a lot of frequencies up.
The crowd were into it from the start and the 5000 that were there were more than the organisers had hoped for. When we started “Misplaced” it was obvious a large proportion had come to see this performance which as it unwound took me through some high emotions that had me choking a couple of times as memories intruded.
“Heart of Lothian” was awesome and passionate the crowd ignited.It was made even more special than normal because of the location and there was a huge roar as it closed.
By the time we hit “Childhoods End” the field was ours with “Market Square” riotous and a sea of hands before us signaling we had done the job and fulfilled a lot of people’s expectations.
It was a strange feeling coming off stage and sitting in the dressing room. I find it difficult to explain even now.There was a definite sense of ending and also of a new beginning.
I didn’t want to hang around and left shortly after the “Fratellis” started their set. A lot of handshakes on the way to the transport and we drove out of the “Dukes” gates leaving something behind me that I had known I had to achieve on the night. I felt I was saying goodbye to something but there was no sadness in me.
The studio emptied around midnight and Steve Vantsis and I sat alone in the control room with another bottle of wine dealing with the come down, the others retired to their hotel in Haddington or on the Clown Carrier to Wales. Sunday would be a hangover in many ways within the circus.
Steve drove home late afternoon and I was alone again staring at the fire with a barrowload of issues to deal with in the coming week. There were some long overdue changes due and on Sunday night I was preparing to face up to new challenges and demands.
I am still trying to get my head round writing up the sleeve notes for ‘Fellini Days’ and ‘Field of Crows’. To be honest I have been procrastinating as to delve into those years is quite painful and I have to write up a period that takes in my first divorce, the financial meltdown, losing the house and a lot of other dark moments that are inextricably linked with the albums and the lyrics.
‘Sunsets’ and ‘Raingods’ are pretty much ready to go into production and they will be available on the tour but whether I can get the next 2 up and running is another question and I have some finger bleeding typing sessions coming at me.
As I said the garden needed nurturing and as I pretty much got on top of it with Rab the last few days I’m facing up to starting the writing this weekend.
I’m preparing for what is supposed to be the worst winter since 1963 and it looks like my touring schedules will just miss the beginning of it all.There’s road patching to be done here, fences to be erected and a wood pile to be built. I need to get everything in order and set up in the weeks I have left before the circus hits the road.
For now I’m gorging on a mass of home grown vegetables, looking forward to making my first horseradish sauce tomorrow from tubers in the plot, all the outside containers have been dosed with nematodes to wipe out the vine weevil larvae, the globe artichokes cut down, the winter brassicas in their beds, the garlic and onion sets arriving next week, the lavender and reams of hedges to be cut back, the orchard to be pruned and the ground rotavated to allow the sowing of a new wildflower meadow to feed the bees that will inhabit the new hives I hope to get next summer.
And all this while listening to the new remasters and scribbling away on an ever expanding to do list that will take me into the ‘Weltschmerz’ writing sessions that will begin early next year.
And in all that there is the tour that looks like it is potentially the most exciting and successful that I have been on in years.
It’s hectic, stressful, demanding and sometimes overwhelming but I like it that way.