Subject: Sunsets Tour Stories
Hi y'all, (I'm practising the accent regularly now!)
OK, a brief synopsis of the tour since Cambridge (where we doubled our audience since last btw!)
London was tense as always and I must admit to not particularly enjoying these shows, always daunted by the awareness of media etc. After show was hectic as always, strangled conversations and pinball like manoeuvring between camps of old friends. Some of the SAS guys were there, with Roger Chapman in particularly fine form. I flew home next day to catch up on wife and work and a swim with Tara in the local pool. It's strange balancing the two di-opposed environments, tour and domestic. Picking up Tara from school and being with 9-5's is particularly a strange feeling when you've been living on a bus for a month or so.
Saturday, I flew to Luxembourg to be greeted with the news that due to heavy rainfall the stage roofing had collapsed the previous night bringing down all the rigging and narrowly avoiding seriously injuring stagecrew operating underneath, one of whom was Elliot " Ness" , SOE's Engineer and T42's sound engineer of the day. Why they had a flat plastic roof rather than a sloped arrangement I don't know. The rainwater collected in the hollow and before someone could slash it and relieve the pressure, the whole canopy collapsed under the weight of water. Thanks to the action of the local mayor the event was resited indoors and when I arrived the Festival was in full flow in a huge local sports hall. Obviously, the whole schedule was delayed and we didn't get onstage until 1am to a completely sold out audience of around 3,000 people. It was possibly the finest Lux. show to date and Keith played the best he would play in our company. The reaction was ecstatic and as our first show in Europe it provided a great litmus test.
Next up Eindhoven and another major exam in front of the Company Holland. All in all a great night was had and a very shaky Raw Meat had to be pulled out as we hit 3rd encore. We hadn't played it since very early in the tour and the Eindhoven performance was ropy with a lot of " noddy's" (looking at each other for cues!)
It was sad to say goodbye to Peter Wollters as President of the Company Holland and I must admit to being a wee bit emotional during the official stage farewell. It's a new era and after this reaction on our first Dutch gig, I'm confident that Jolande can steer the Co. in a new positive direction. Judging by the reviews I've received so far it looks like we're gaining ground in Holland again after a long time in the critical shade. No ones happier than me!!
Next up another sold out show. This time our first show in France. Paris, Divan du Monde which was preceded by a host of interviews with various papers. SOE is already outselling " Suits" and the reviews are brilliant. The gig set up was a pain in the ass. We already knew that there was a sound limit of 105db, but we didn't know that the microphone that determined the level would be directly in front of the PA and only 10 metres from stage. I could set it off with my raw voice off mike!! When the limiter kicked in, it switched the out front PA off and during the performance the crowd's applause and community singing kept on tripping the orange lamp that signalled overload, eerily lighting " Hair Bear" up in the engineers outfront booth. How we smiled! The gig was brilliant and once again we passed the test with flying colours (all orange!!) Of course the frontman used the " sound system" to his best advantage during the between song banter much to the amusement of the crowd " Cre...... (cue light!).
I agree that some live shows and sound sources are excessive, but I believe a realistic level has to be found. One idea being touted at the ILMC (International Live Music Conference) this year was warnings on sound levels posted on all entrances and exits with earplugs available for those who require them at the merchandise stall. Musicians and engineers have a responsibility to themselves and just as importantly the fans, to keep sound levels at non-dangerous levels so that everyone can enjoy the live event.
If the EEC Bureaucrats get their way, however, Rock and Roll will fundamentally change in the future and I for one don't welcome their total control over this situation. However, it's only a matter of time before a band is sued for damages by a fan who's hearing has been permanently damaged by an irresponsible sound engineer under direction from a band who use db's to cover a lack of musical talent. When that case comes up the industry will shake, rattle & roll.
After a quiet night in a local Irish bar with members of the Company France and the Paris St Germain FC fan club (they're offering me gigs during the World Cup next year around the Scottish games ) it was yet another night on the bus before setting of for Orly airport at 8am for a 12.30 flight to Istanbul. I complained about the early start not knowing just how close we'd get to not making the flight. Our 4m high double-decker bus with attached trailer headed into the sprawl of Orly on our carefully preplanned route worked out by Les, our faithful driver. With the terminal in sight, we turned a corner and came face to face with a sign denoting a 2.9m height restriction! One hour later, which included some ridiculous reversing and manoeuvring, we were the wrong way round on a roundabout with the French airport police halting traffic to enable us to get to the coach park! OK, so it's now 10 am, 2 1/2 hours to check in, the crew are unloading the trailer and I'm in the terminal to pick up the 10 tickets the Turkish promoters set up. I stood in a very slow moving queue at the TA desk and 4 customers and 30 minutes later I stood in front of the clerk to be told the computers had just gone down. Simultaneously my ears were filled with whistling (not tinnitus - I knew the gig hadn't been loud - the orange light told me so) and suddenly soldiers with guns were ordering everyone out the terminal. I had a suspect device 2m away from me and being next to American Airlines and at the Turkish desk I had no argument! 40 minutes later I'm back in and spent another hour and twenty minutes waiting on the slowest clerks in the World to get to me. With 24 pieces of equipment and two clerks handwriting 10 tickets in minute detail it seemed we were doomed.
Thankfully the intervention of a TA officer style rep delayed the flight and eventually we trooped on apologetic, pissed off and tired. The in-flight meal was dreadful - vegetarian? Forget it, but once I'd seen the contents of the tin foil container I seriously considered turning into one! The day wasn't yet over and on arrival 3 hours later, Turkish customs decided that they now require carnets (equipment manifestos) and weren't going to let us in the country. 40 minutes, 3 stamps on a fax list with the stuff we didn't have blacked out and a signature and we were in. 1 hour later a 5 star hotel, a fabulous Turkish meal and a fabulous bar bill and we were in paradise.
Next days it was 36 degrees and too hot for a Jock who was entombed with journalists in the hotel. The soundcheck was long as the gear the Promoter had hired was basically fit for a car boot sale. Ironically at the side of the stage lurked a Steinway grand piano at which Mickey's eyes sparkled. We hastily rehearsed Gentleman's and Lavender during which the band would join us for the end section and set it up for an extra encore. The gig kicked off around 10 and I was glad someone switched off the sun. About 3,500 people came in, less than last time, but a ticket price of around 12gbp, excessive for Istanbul, priced out the students and gave us a more white collar reserved audience, which at one point I left the stage and walked about in during the medley. Security freaked, but there were no hassles as I'd already assumed. It became a great crowd in the end after a lot of work, but what could I honestly expect as SOE wasn't even released there yet as the promoter is also the record company and he decided off his own back to delay the album till after the shows. The audience were more than attentive but after Europe it was a demanding performance. The ticket price over which I had no control was necessary to fund the travel etc., and perhaps an extra show would have helped dissipate the costs and bring the Istanbul price down. I'm always learning!
That night was party zone and we ended up (Squeeks, Steve V (now Bubbles) Mickey, Andy W, Duncan and I) in Medusa night club ripped on Turkish vodka and performing Kayleigh and Lavender with the house band. We were very, very drunk at the time (cue Fast show voice). In the morning we had a 6 hour coach trip to Ankara, air conditioned hell, that I mostly slept through to wake up in the jostle, bustle and traffic jams of Ankara. I spent the afternoon de-bussing and re-humidifying in the hotel Turkish bath. The gig was the weirdest yet. Called the " underground city" it was entered by an ancient oak door from which you descend into a huge cellar containing an exact facsimile of a post war Turkish Street, cobbles, bombed out houses and all. Even the bars were made of sandbags! It was like going back to Bosnia.
The equipment was sadly also post war and we were to find that all the onstage outputs were routed to the monitor desk at stage left and then a right and left signal was sent to the outfront desk on the 2nd floor of a " bombed out" building. Andy HB had no control over the sound, just the volume. Anywhere else and the gig would have been blown (sic) but this was Ankara, our first visit and 700 fans wanted the show. As always we handled it and the night will forever be special. We'll be back next year for more shows.
From the 36 degree of Turkey we flew back to Paris and a drive to Weert and the Bospop Festival. It rained intermittently and as we arrived on stage at around 7pm lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. The rain held off as we embarked on a 1 hour festival set (POJP, WCIG, Medley, Bro52, Lucky, Int X,& Co.) to an audience who apart from the central core seemed largely apathetic. I increased my personal power output and reached a high level of aggression as I became more and more frustrated at the lack of impact we were having. In the middle of the medley, a heavy weighted tube arched towards the stage missing Bubbles by a metre. I followed the source of the arc and saw a grinning hand waving ape in the centre of a group of 4 other Neanderthals. I signed a challenge and continued on a very violent stage curve eyeing this grinning twat out front. At the end of the set I stormed off stage, grabbed 2 security guys to even the numbers and headed out front much to the bemusement of fans holding out for autographs. I wasn't 100% sure it was this guy, but stormed out and came face to face with a big scar faced bastard whose group now split. Nose to nose I asked him if he'd thrown the object and he said he couldn't speak English. I told him it took wee balls to throw it and big balls to admit it. Security translated and he denied. I told him he had no balls and walked off. Later on the guys said he apologised and that it was a heat of the moment thing. Big deal. If Bubbles had lost an eye or been carried off with a head wound an apology wouldn't have helped him. You're an easy target on stage and believe me something coming at you out of a spotlight gives you no chance to take evasive action. Whether it's a banana or a tin of beer its dangerous and when you're on a 10 month tour the effects can be potentially disastrous. Anyway, I finally chilled out and after hearing the reaction to Steve Lukathers and Alice Cooper's sets we got as good as a result as the headliners. I put it down to a festival in the rain.
Next up Biebop, the " Marquee" of Belgium in a wee village called Vosselaar. Our distribution in Belgium is lack lustre and promotion virtually non existent. I was surprised that 300 people showed up our of a potential 450. It looked full and the crowd went for it and made up for the lack of numbers. 2 powercuts during the set, one during the medley and one in 52 caused hiccups, but the band soldiered through not a hair out of place. When it went down in 52 the crowd kept up the mantra and the band joined in as the power came back on bit by bit. Altogether a happening although that night was my first real " bear" at Keith whose 2 hour soundcheck still didn't sort his " equipment problems" out.
The drive to Reading was long and silent and we turned up at a venue with no showers, crap food, crap PA and crap attitude. Now the " Alleycat" is no 1 contender for shithole of the tour. The crowd, about 300 were great and made up for the venue.
Last of the UK section was Bristol Fleece and a near sold out audience lifted us out the doldrums as once again Keith after a 2 hour check had problems, the 12 string in Jungle ride going awesomely wrong. The now infamous " Drinks for the band section" during worm was aided by runs of stage to the bar for pints. As Mickey was driving home, Bubbles was victim that night. Bristol still remains a hot spot for me.
The overall reaction to the UK leg has resulted in my agent turning down shows for the September section with the December leg looking good. The UK is slowly but surely picking up on our vibe. I flew home next morning out of Birmingham and straight into a strong dose of Scottish flu, just what I needed before the Berlin radio show.
Tammi and I flew in on Friday, the band on late Saturday afternoon and Keith who missed his flight early evening and an hour before the show turned up for a very short soundcheck. The hall was acoustically perfect, which although wasn't Rock&roll lent itself to a great recording. I was still under the weather and had spent 2 hours in the Thermen steamrooms trying to defuse my throat which had been ravaged by coughing fits the night before. It helped and I got through the show at 85% fitness. (It's now Friday following and I'm still recovering. Tammi, Shona, Andy W and Squeeks are now down).
Biggest worry was on the lst line of POJP where the cold censored out the word nigger. I was sure I said it but it didn't appear out my mouth!! I thought that was it and panic grabbed me by the balls. Luckily there were only a couple of major bloopers and I got away with it. The audience were fairly quiet until the medley when as one they got to their feet and went for it. Our job was to concentrate on the recording so the output wasn't as crowd orientated as usual. Nevertheless, it was a great night. As the tapes are going to at least 11 stations across Germany it was important to get it right. It sets up the tour nicely which btw won't be announced as with all other dates until they're confirmed. This avoids any disappointment I hope.
Please note Malta, Bugibba Festival, is postponed until 31st August as the town square we're playing in hasn't been finished yet. We're inaugurating the newly built development!!
BTW, as I'm on tour please refrain from E'ing us unless it's an urgent matter as I won't be able to answer personally and the office won't be able to respond to all questions. The list and website will have all dates as they come in and are confirmed.
Finally to end on a positive note, on the 1st July I received a Nordoff Robbins Silver Clef Award for " A major contribution to the Scottish Music Industry" . To say I'm proud is a severe understatement. Apart from sales awards, it's the first personal award I've ever received. A great quaffing of vodka was to be had and the baying of party animals was heard far and wide. It's cured my cold (Achoo, Achoo, Achoo, Achoo Achoo, Achoo, Fishy got the flu - f.....' brilliant man! that cheered me up no end)
As so you're up to date. Rehearsals with JJ are looming as is our new horizon. I'm so excited about the States and Canada and looking forward to meeting a lot of you finally in person. It's feeling good and looking great. Italy's up first and then we're off on the big jet into another sunrise. The futures so bright I need a welder's mask!!!
Take care, stay alive, see you soon
love Onkel Fish
Email 4th July 1997