Here I am – still alive and well, despite last week’s little footballing mishap. At times like those, I do question myself as to whether I was really cut out for the football business: however, experience has taught me to steady myself, take a deep breath and remember – rightly or wrongly – that if I don’t bring some of the industry’s misgivings to light, then who will?
You can’t imagine the amount of scallywags that have infiltrated the beautiful game over the years, from chairmanship right down to player level (with a fair few managers and – yes, undeniably – the majority of “agents”, thrown in for good measure). Why? I know why.
Initially, there’s way too much money swilling around in the game for some form of corruption not to have found it’s way in the back door. However, the relative insecurity afforded the players, managers and coaches, deems that the game – at first team level anyway – is essentially results driven: you don’t do the business, then – generally, sooner rather than later – you’re out of a job.
Anyway – typically – I digress: the past week has been spent working through a long list of household chores and duties, in addition to taking in a couple of football games. The plan is to complete most of the work before I have to leave here the first week in January (when I’ve got to run off to Europe – with Paul – for a few days). In addition to the domestic related tasks that have to be completed – including a complete edit of my archived files (very time consuming, as I find myself continually pausing to reflect upon the many memories that the paperwork tends to evoke). When it comes to the family filing, I tend to encounter something of a dilemma: I know I have to sort through it, however there’s a kaleidoscope of memories, the odd one or two tinged with an undercurrent of regret – which, I suppose, is only natural.
As I’ve no doubt made mention of before, I need to have my surroundings organized to enable me to think clearly – and plan efficiently. I sometimes wonder if living in a fairly large family house is something akin to the painting of the Forth rail bridge – located, in fact, only a few miles from here – in that once the job is completed, it’s time to start all over again, at the other end.
Jade has spread herself out in the conservatory as she studies for an upcoming exam, due to be sat, soon after she returns to University, in mid-January: I’m always energised when she is around the house – which, in turn, enthuses me to throw myself into my work. She helps whenever she can and is very good at just getting on – unaided – with the tasks I give to her.
I have to face up to the fact that I’m not going to be able to sell the house in 2009, as I had originally planned: that may not be too bad a thing, as I’m slowly starting to formulate a plan for the next few years – more of this next week. My first priority is to pay more attention to my health (which is by no means in a bad way, - however, a little fine-tuning won’t do it any harm). I’m trying to drop my weight below the 12 stone mark (that’s 168 pounds for my non-UK readers), which requires me to shed another 13 pounds from where I am now (12 stone, 11 pounds). I was within five pounds of the target weight, three days ago, but the onset of the Christmas festivities put paid to all that. On that note, I truly hope that – wherever you may be – you have enjoyed a wonderful Christmas. Apologies for this week’s entry being a little disjointed. BFN.
Yesterday, Saturday 20th, was possibly one of my darkest days in football, in the fifteen years – or so – that I have been dabbling with that side of my business.
In trying to help out one of the most decent coaches in Scottish football, Mr. Jim McInally who currently manages the Scottish third division side East Stirling, I responded to his plea for a goalkeeper, just to see him through two games, until the transfer window opens again in January.
Between us, we decided that the Guinean international goalkeeper, Kemoko Camara (who Jim had previously seen, when the lad had spent a few days at Morton, the club Jim formerly managed) – whose papers were in order to allow him to play the necessary games in Scotland – could surely do an impressive job for East Stirling, for the two games in question.
Subsequently, we flew Kemoko into Scotland on Thursday evening, to join East Stirling in training and to familiarize himself with the other lads in the team, with whom he would take the field yesterday, for an important game against another one of the top teams in the Third Division, Cowdenbeath FC. I should remind you at this point that East Stirling were enjoying an eleven-game unbeaten run (their best since 1947, I’m led to believe) and only two more unbeaten games away from an all-time record for the club. You can tell what’s coming here, can’t you? Oh, yes.
With only about fifteen minutes of the game underway, Kemoko glaringly misjudged a cross ball which, in turn, the defender behind him failed to clear – and Cowdenbeath were suddenly a goal up. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but steadied myself in the knowledge that every goalkeeper has a “howler” every so often – and at least his one, in this case, was now out of the way. As a goalkeeper, your mistakes are punished heavily and often end up awarding the opposition a goal. At least, I told myself, there are still a good seventy minutes to play: provided East Stirling was able to pull a goal back (and even if it stayed that way until the end of the game) their fragile unbeaten run would have a good chance of remaining intact.
Thankfully – at the time – East Stirling did manage to pull a goal back and the teams went in at half time with the score “one apiece”. However, not long into the second half, Cowdenbeath scored a second goal which – if I’m being honest – I thought Kemoko was a little slow to react to. This was followed by a third goal for Cowdenbeath, when a defensive mix-up, following a long through ball, allowed the Cowdenbeath striker to “round” Kemoko – and slot the ball away. Final misery was heaped upon East Stirling when, within the last ten minutes of the game, one of the Cowdenbeath forwards unleashed an unstoppable shot into the top left hand corner of the goal.
You know, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I had to bring Kemoko back to Edinburgh after the game, I would most certainly have slunk away, before the final whistle: it could not have gone any worse, if I had scripted the whole game to turn out like that. So, my patient readers, not one of my more memorable football experiences and one – quite honestly – that did have me questioning myself there whether I’m really cut out for this football lark: something I will give some deep thought to over the coming week. Thanks for bearing with me through the pain. Apologies that this week’s entry bears little relation to “the road”, however this mishap has really thrown me.
Sitting at home this evening, taking a breath - and wondering what it’s all about.
Such a questioning state – I’ve no doubt – occurs with a gently increasing regularity, as the advancing years approach. Ever since I heard Bill Clinton – a few weeks back at the event that Paul was appearing at – say that you should be careful as to how you evaluate success, as you approach the later years of your life, I’m slowly taking a different, steadier, look at things.
In terms of my personal life, I’m fairly sure I now stand at the crossroads of decision, however those crossroads are not clearly signposted as yet – therefore it’s crucial not head off in the wrong direction. My general plan for next year (2009) was to bring my house up to scratch prior to selling it - although the choice of where to live next was not an issue that I was very close to solving. Being the sort of person who needs to be surrounded by order in his personal life, I will take the next couple of weeks to hopefully reach a point where I am more personally organized than I have been for a very long time.
I then need to pay some attention to my health: nothing major, you understand – just weight, exercise and dietary considerations. I’m confident of dropping 10-12 pounds within the first two weeks of January (it can be done on that “South Beach” diet, as I’ve proved in the past: just a fair amount of serious willpower required). If the weight loss can be accomplished, then I can take an honest look at my wardrobe and probably offload a fair amount of clothes that have had their day. “Your health is your wealth” as Nicky Byrne once said to me. How true it is.
I’m sure that, during the above processes over the next few weeks, I will be much better positioned to make some even-handed decisions as to where (literally) I would like to see myself in, say, a year from now. At this time of year I see the sun going down at 4.30 pm and then not showing it’s face again until almost 8.30 am in the morning – and I know I don’t want to experience too many more years of a northern hemisphere climate. Easier said than done.
I arrived back in Edinburgh late Friday night, from Frankfurt, and upon stumbling into my front hall, found that the Christmas tree – and certain complimentary decorations – was already in place. Thinking it could only have been Stella who had gone to that trouble in my absence, I immediately dropped her a text of thanks. However, it turns out that Jade arrived through from Glasgow early on Friday afternoon and took it upon herself to spruce up the house! Jade has now received a parking permit for her car, within the locale of where she stays in Glasgow, so she has now taken the car through there for the foreseeable future.
Apologies that I have not relayed much information, as to my whereabouts over the last week: my last event with Paul, this year, was an in-store signing in Frankfurt, on Friday afternoon, preceded by – on Thursday night – an appearance at the Telekom/T-mobile Christmas party in Bonn. Paul has gone off to undertake some preliminary recording work, in the week before Christmas – and here I am, in Edinburgh, attempting to bring my domestic life into some sort of “never been so organized in years” order. If I stay focused and put in the hours (the latter has never been a problem for me) then I should have taken major strides by the end of this month.
A fine good morning to you from the cabin of BA 938, winging it’s way to Dusseldorf this fine Sunday morning, as Paul will feature tomorrow on the “Emotionen” live German TV show, the theme of which is outstanding achievements, in various fields of endeavor, over the past year.
I arrived down in London last night, from Edinburgh, in preparation for taking today’s flight: sadly, these biting economic times are even having a knock-on effect on some of the bigger scheduled air lines: in this case, British Airways have “pulled” their daily early-morning flight from Edinburgh to London and – conversely – the last evening flight coming the other way. As Paul was quick enough to note, it’s probably more to do with dwindling numbers on the last London – Edinburgh flight, however that same aircraft is normally used for the first morning flight back.
Can’t pen too much detail “from the road” this past week, because I was very fortunate to be able to spend the first five days of said week at home in Edinburgh: a rare occurrence, this year so far. No complaints at all, though, on that score – as it enabled me to push on with the myriad of domestic tasks requiring attention. Having said that, I need to devote a few days, when I’m back home next (after the 12th December) to catching up with a few dear old friends. This lifestyle is not renowned for expanding one’s social circles: I mean, how can you cultivate any sort of personal relationships, when you’ve been away for over ten months of the year?
Now, I’m going to be honest about the subject of romantic relationships here: in my case, they are something of a conundrum. Sure, most women - of a similar age group to me - are quite taken with the lifestyle I lead and the supposed “celebrity excitement” that appears attached to the job, but then not seeing one’s prospective partner for eight months of the year soon cools that. It’s all academic however: I dropped myself into a fair amount of debt over my football project last year, so I had no choice but to point my nose in the direction of the grindstone – and reverse the situation. Fact is, I don’t really feel comfortable presenting myself to a woman when I am on something of an unstable financial footing: so, girls (if there are in fact any of you out there, taking sympathy with my plight!!) – you’ll just have to wait: gotta sort myself out first.
On the other hand, my line of work decrees that I rub shoulders with many women throughout the course of my longer-than-normal days – so I’m not short of “workplace” female encounters. When you’re the guy running the show – and provided you are both respectful and polite – you can always be sure of that extra little bit of attention coming your way, from the fairer sex. I was once charged with keeping Liza Minnelli amused for thirty minutes, during a Wham! sound-check: I can’t recollect much of that half-hour, but I know that I was buzzing for days afterwards – just from being in her company! If Helen Mirren were to find herself at a similar loose end, then – again – I’m here for her (it’s usually just after that bit that I wake up with a start.)
Have I wandered off the beaten track (road?) a little this week? Regular readers will sagely nod their heads in gentle agreement, at this point. Yes, it does happen. However, as this page goes pretty close to representing the sum total of my social life, then it follows that you are the friends with whom I will be sharing my weekly thoughts. Hey, you’ve got to take the melancholy, alongside the meaningful, once in a while. Many thanks for bearing with me this week. God bless.November
I’m racking my brains, today, wondering if this may be the first time this year, when I’ve penned my “Diary from the Road” from my own house!
I’ve been here now five full days this week, having arrived back in the early hours of Tuesday morning. I didn’t even have my own house keys with me, so I was awoken by Stella (who kindly agreed to drop the keys off to me, before going to work) as I snoozed against the inside window glass of the driver’s door of my rental car. I think I landed up here about 6.30 in the morning.
In spite of Stella’s sterling assistance, there is much to be accomplished domestically, when I’ve spent so much time away from Edinburgh this year. Right at the front of the queue is the organisation of my company accounts, particularly as our “year end” is 31st December. Turns out that I was operating from a now-defunct version of the “Quicken” software that I have steadfastly utilised, for over twelve years now. However, I had little choice but to perform two “upgrades” to bring said accounting package bang up to date. Thankfully, folks, it is now done!
My week started with a photo-shoot in central London, where Paul’s management secured the use of the Piccadilly Theatre – in the heart of London’s West End - for the day. I was dreading the thought of the parking situation (particularly with my Volkswagen Passat rental car being the “estate” version) but I struck out by being able to use an almost-hidden goods-delivery lane, on the right side of the theatre, where I was able to leave the car until we finished around 5.00 pm.
On leaving the theatre just before 5.30 pm – Port Talbot bound – I was naturally dreading the time I anticipated it would take us to reach the M4, particularly as I always believed half of London headed due west, after work every day, Amazingly – for reasons I will struggle to fathom for a long time to come - we were leaving the elevated section of the westbound flyover (and taking to the M4 proper) by 6.05 pm! Unheard of! Maybe a Monday night is just a “quiet” night.
My original plan had been to drop Paul at his house in Port Talbot and then check myself into my favourite little guest house in the town (Mountainview Guest House – I can unreservedly recommend it: speak with Eli or Lisa), however – faced with the drive to Scotland, one way or another, day or night, I decided to make the journey overnight, rather than the next day. Sure, I was pretty beat, however I figured that even if I could put 200 miles “under my belt” it would probably allow me at least a few hours at my desk, here at home, on Tuesday. The rest you know.
So, apart from the accounts to be squared up, there has been lots of running around dealing with a variety of minor domestic issues: I can’t actually regale you with a blow-by-blow account of what has kept me active over the past five days, but I can tell you I’ve hardly stopped!
I must admit to having a couple of football players currently placed at clubs, in the hope that they may win themselves a short playing contract – leading, of course, to something more consolidated in the future: so that has involved watching two games this last week. But, hey, you know – I can’t go running around the world like a crazed lunatic forever: I’ve got to look at what I may be able to do four or five years from now. As I keep saying, it just takes that one player…
Yes, there’s no doubt about it – I certainly get around: this Sunday evening finds me in Chelsea Harbour in London, ensconced in “Jury’s” hotel, not a stone’s throw from the river (Thames).
This week started off in Germany, wandered into South Wales for a few days and now we’re back in London, preparing for a photo-shoot, in the centre of London tomorrow (Monday 24th).
I believe I briefly explained last week that, rather than return to London, after our Dusseldorf appearance (Saturday 15th) – when we were due in Cologne again, for Paul to appear on the comedy-based “Total TV” show (Tuesday 18th), we elected just to stay in Germany over the “weekend”.
Therefore, having made the short 45-minute trip from Dusseldorf to Cologne, early Sunday afternoon, we settled into our Cologne hotel for three nights. This allowed me to finally tidy up all aspects of the recent European tour accounting to the point where I am now totally up to date. It’s been a while since I could say that – and, boy, the sense of relief is palpable. That allowed me to conduct a complete luggage “re-sort” on Monday: not so much my personal suit carrier, as my briefcase and what I fondly refer to as my “number 2” case (this one has all office-type items squeezed into it, such as printer, cables, stationery, back-up discs, converters, plugs, etc). Those tasks are now accomplished, so altogether Monday was a very rewarding day!
The “Total TV” performance went off effortlessly, on Tuesday night, and proved to be an excellent marketing opportunity for Paul’s next German tour and the recently re-packaged “One Chance” album release (staggeringly, Paul could yet reach a million album sales, in Germany alone, by Christmas!). A good night’s work, all in all: but an early flight back to the UK in the morning!
As Paul was due to turn on the Bridgend Christmas lights on Thursday evening (Bridgend shopping centre being only about 20 minutes drive from where Paul stays in Port Talbot) we decided to call in there on our way back from Heathrow airport, just to check the sound levels, as Paul had also kindly agreed to perform three songs at the event: “Nessun Dorma” and “Time to Say Goodbye” were the two most requested compositions and with the shopping centre and Paul chose to open the three-song set with the haunting “Oh, Holy Night”. He was greeted by a very enthusiastic, locally based, audience as he stepped out on the small balcony overlooking the main shopping mall.
Afterwards, Paul made his way downstairs onto the main walkway of the shopping centre to sign autographs for a large contingent of fans, and well-wishers, who had waited behind patiently, until he had finished his “Meet & Greet” and his radio interviews, upstairs on the balcony level.
I then enjoyed two fairly quiet days (Friday and Saturday) in and around Port Talbot and Swansea, before collecting Paul from home, at two o’clock this afternoon, to drive him up to London today, in preparation for several business meetings - and tomorrow’s London photo-shoot.
I’m even hopeful of making it back up to Edinburgh for a few days next week (might need a road map to find my way there – so little have I been home this year). I have to leave the hotel here at 7.00 am in the morning, so I’ll bid you goodnight folks. May the force be with you. BFN
I have to admit that it’s so much easier when I’m able to pen my weekly diary on the day it’s supposed to be done, namely a Sunday – and that’s what I’ve managed to accomplish today.
As my daughter Jade will no doubt attest, I spend my life trying to bring myself up to date, mainly where work is concerned: I sincerely believe that last year’s over-involvement with my football project (dream?) seriously set me back in respect of both my domestic and personal business responsibilities - to the point where I disregarded everything else going on around me.
Having righted a fairly perilous financial situation, I am now in a much stronger position to put things right in my personal life: Stella (the children’s mother) has been of immense assistance in this respect, by ensuring that many of the household jobs requiring attention, have been dealt with, in my absence. I just need to apply myself on my next trip back and start to augment the good work she has done, by continuing to improve the decorative order of the place. I’m certainly in a good position to take a flamethrower to the interior of the garage, on the basis that – having not touched any of the contents for nigh on a year, there has to be much that can be disposed of – especially years and years of filing! I chucked a whole load of old files away, in the middle of last year; so now I must move on to phase two.
Back to the present, otherwise the thought of all that needs doing, upon my return, will slowly start to depress me. That, and where my life is actually taking me: I can’t put that off forever.
Today, Sunday, I’m presently in Cologne, having this morning travelled the short distance from Dusseldorf where (last night) Paul undertook an appearance – and sang three songs – at the annual AWD gala. AWD are a hugely successful German finance house that produces a similar event each year, mainly for the benefit of their legions of nationwide staff. No small affair, it was yesterday staged at the ISS Dome on the outskirts of Dusseldorf where – amongst many other noted inspirational business-world achievers (mostly of German origin) – we were graced with the appearance of none other than Mr. Bill Clinton! So, how about that then, guys and gals?
While undoubtedly well-versed in the origins – and implications – of the world’s current financial crisis, I was far more drawn to what he had to say on the subject of personal success and how it should certainly not be measured (not always, anyway) in terms of financial and material gain. I actually need to take (more than) a few quiet moments to reflect upon some particularly poignant observations the ex-president had to share with his audience, in respect of my personal life.
With the completion of our two Vienna (Monday and Tuesday) and one Zurich (Wednesday) shows, we have now completed the world touring with Paul, for this year. Over a hundred shows in over eighty cities, in the space of just over ten months: I’m still trying to take it all in, folks.
Paul now has a mixed bag of commitments to put his mind to, over the next five weeks, including promotional activities, personal appearances and a few Christmas-type functions – not forgetting that a start has to be made to a new album! With the touring/promotional machine almost slowed to a halt, I need to try and find the time to assess my own goals and aspirations for next year.
Well (continuing on from where I left off last Sunday) I’m happy to report that our luck held out - where checking in early to hotels, on our days off are concerned - and we found ourselves able to check into the Stuttgart hotel, moments after we pulled up to their front door, at 8.15 am!
When one enjoys such a fortunate turn of luck, particularly on a non-show day (and if one has been sensible enough to climb into one’s bunk soon after the commencement of the overnight journey) then – for me - it just leaves so much time available in the day to beaver away in my hotel room, attempting to keep the accounting up to date. You will recall that I am “doubling up” on this tour, taking on the work of Tour Accountant, in addition to my “staple” of Tour Manager.
When I planned the routing of the German tour, I spotted the availability to “base” ourselves in Stuttgart and “commute” the two hours down and back to Mannheim, especially us our next show after Mannheim was in fact Stuttgart itself, on Wednesday night: this upside of this is that we were able to stay three nights in the same hotel and – as any old road dog of a Tour Manager will tell you – the less hotel check-ins you have to deal with on a tour, the better.
Of course, it was the second time Paul and I had visited the SAP Arena in Mannheim this year, our earlier appearance there featuring Paul as a guest on “The Dome” television music programme, where – back then in late August - Paul experienced an incredible reaction from an excited concert-going crowd, the majority of whom were almost twenty years his junior!
In Stuttgart, I was amazed to find that the “new” Porsche arena – with 6,000+ capacity – was located directly adjacent to the Schleyerhalle, a venue I have played several times in the past and which also has about double the capacity of the Porsche arena. There’s obviously a reason behind that thinking, however I’ve yet to get to the bottom of it. I’ll have to read up on that one!
Thursday saw Paul’s performance staged at the infamous Frankfurt Festhalle, one hundred years old, next year: and arguably our most well-received performance on the whole German tour. Again, I’m at pains to explain the reasons why certain (in this example, German) cities appear to receive the same Artist with markedly different reactions. Could such an old and grand structure as the Festhalle provoke an emotional undercurrent with its concert attendees? Mmm..
There was no show on Friday, so we elected to depart the Frankfurt Marriott at the civilized hour of 1.00 pm, resulting in the tour bus pulling up outside Nuremburg’s Meridian hotel at just after 4.00 pm. As is pretty much par for the course, when I’m “doubling” up jobs, I immediately applied myself to the tour accounts – the outcome being that I missed dinner with the lads.
So, yesterday we played our last show in Nuremburg, ending a very successful run of ten German shows (I believe many of us are still somewhat reeling from the measure of Paul’s success there) and tonight finds us in Vienna, in preparation for three “back-to-back” performances: the first two in Vienna itself, with the final European tour show in Zurich on Wednesday. As I write, my challenge this evening is to clear my hotel-bedroom floor of the mass of account documentation that threatens to drown me – being as I swim like a brick, I had better get a move on. Adios.
A cordial good evening to you all, from the luxury of the “Volvo Hilton” (our tour bus, actually).
We are currently motoring overnight, bound for Stuttgart, after tonight’s Hannover show and – as the choice of viewing in the back lounge is not to my liking (I’m just not a fan of the British comedian, Eddie Izzard), I’ve decided to use my time constructively – and write up my diary.
Tomorrow (Monday, 3rd) being a day off, I decided we should “overnight” it down to Stuttgart, rather than spend six daylight hours, tomorrow, staring at the autobahn. Although our show in Stuttgart is not actually until Wednesday, our show on Tuesday (at Mannheim’s SAP Arena) will enable us to commute from Stuttgart – a two-hour run – without moving hotels for three days, When you have been doing it this long, any day you don’t have to pack and unpack – is a good day.
Last time we spoke, we had just completed the first show of the German tour at Hamburg’s Colorline Arena, after which – on Monday – we travelled to Berlin, with the venue being the Max Schelling Halle (meant to check out Max’s “claim to fame” however, as yet, have not gotten around to it). I have many memories of Berlin, stretching back over thirty years - when you actually had to pass through a fairly heavily-manned checkpoint, on the tour bus, halfway along the East-West “corridor”. Strangely enough, I recall being in Berlin on the occasion of John Lennon’s death (December 8th, 1980) maybe so because I was with a Liverpool band at the time, “Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark” or OMD, as they became more affectionately known.
Stella, our children’s mother, was actually travelling with me at that time and the date also coincided with her 28th birthday, which probably further reinforces that period, in my mind.
OK, back to the world of Paul Potts: Tuesday, this past week, we played the Leipzig Arena and then travelled overnight down to Cologne as – again, like tomorrow – we had no show the next day. Although we were not technically reserved at the Cologne hotel until Wednesday night, the reservations manager kindly allowed us access to our rooms, when we pulled up outside the Hyatt Regency at 07.45 am on Wednesday morning! That can make such a difference on one’s day off as (you will recall, I have recounted in the past) sometimes you can sit outside the hotel, on the tour bus, until midday, waiting for the rooms to be ready for check-in. But, hey, look at the savings!
We stayed in the Cologne hotel for three nights (including playing the gig at Cologne’s Lanxess Arena, in the middle of that spell) and then on Saturday morning I opted to “hit and run” Bremen, meaning we drove directly to the Bremen show from the Cologne hotel, played the Bremen show – and then jumped back on the tour bus and motored across to Hannover, a mere two-hour drive. That plan allowed us an easier day today, with no travel involved to reach today’s venue, other than the short trip from the hotel to the AWD Hall to play the show - and afterwards we set out on tonight’s journey to Stuttgart (where I’m reliably informed we may be able to check into our rooms again, when we arrive in seven hours form now: twice in one tour? Unheard of!).
Well, folks, it’s been good having you with us, on this hugely successful tour: many of us – probably including Paul himself – will look back years from now, and marvel at what was achieved!October
Ich bin ein Hamburger (well, for tonight anyway).
So, this evening, Paul opened his German tour with a show at the Colorline Arena here in Hamburg. But, what of the past week? Well, avid (faithful) readers, all will be revealed.
Paul’s appearance at the launch of the Chinese Volkswagen “Bora”, in Beijing on Monday past, was a spectacular affair: launched, lavishly, in the velodrome used in the recent Beijing Olympics, my first thought was to attempt to fathom just how many of the cars had to be sold, just to cover the cost of the launch!
How Beijing (Peking) has changed since my last two visits there (1986 with Wham! and 1987, for an “advance” on behalf of Marlboro Country Music” – although the tour never actually happened), much of that – recently anyway – due to the advent of the Olympic Games. Certainly on the Wham! tour (we played Beijing and Canton, then termed Guangzhou) there was no four lane motorway from the airport to the city, no modern skyscraper-adorned business district and no hotels of the standard of the Ritz Carlton, where we were fortunate enough to stay this time.
Thankfully, on Tuesday morning (our flight to Honk Kong and then onward to London, not departing until that night) we managed to arrange a trip out to the Great Wall, unbelievably my third time I had visited this amazing structure and still I was struck by how steep the gradient, on certain sections of the wall, actually is. Paul and I wandered a good two hundred meters east of our “entry point” on the wall, the majority of that particular stretch being “downhill”. I’ll tell you – the “return” trek over that stretch felt to the both of us as if we had spent a rigorous two hours in the hotel gym. We certainly slept on the overnight flight to London on Tuesday night.
Upon our return to the UK on Wednesday morning, I elected just to pop down to Port Talbot for a couple of days, while Paul enjoyed a couple of well-earned days in his new abode. When there is only a two-day gap between trips, it’s hardly worth my while to fly up and down to Edinburgh (it also costs substantially less to opt for the Port Talbot alternative, in such instances). On this particular occasion it also gave me the opportunity to “advance” a future engagement that Paul has agreed to: namely an appearance at the nearby Bridgend shopping centre, on Thursday 20th November, to switch on their Christmas lights (and sing a couple of songs while he’s there!).
Friday lunchtime found us on our way back to Heathrow to catch a flight to Dusseldorf, for Paul to appear on the “Wilkommen Bei Carmen Nebel” TV show, staged at the Westphallenhalle in Dortmund yesterday – a venue in which I have undertaken many a concert in previous years.
With the first date of the tour tonight, I made the decision to bring the tour bus to Dortmund to collect us immediately after last night’s TV appearance was finished – and then “whisk” us up to Hamburg, where we checked into the Park Hyatt hotel at just before 3.00 am this morning. Paul enjoyed an excellent reaction at the show tonight and if this is indicative of how he will be received throughout Germany – over the next two and a half weeks – then we are heading for a very successful tour. I’ll speak to you this time next week – with five shows under our belt! BFN.
I was pondering this morning that maybe I need to rename this weekly edition as “Diary From the Air”, rather than “Diary from the Road”. Once again, I’m airborne while writing this.
On this occasion, we are headed to Beijing, from Taipei, via Hong Kong: we are, however, in Beijing for a couple of days only, the details of which I will divulge in next Sunday’s entry.
For now, my reflections of the past week, spent in Taiwan, having played three shows: Taichung (Tuesday 14th), Taipei (Thursday 16th) and Tainan (last night, Saturday). What can I tell you of my experiences in those three cities? Well, I’m afraid, not much relating to Taichung, as we commuted to the first show from Taipei – a two and a half hour drive – and therefore it was what we road dogs refer to as a “hit and run”: in, do it, leave.
I think that, initially, we were quite surprised to find a rather subdued audience response, however our local Taiwanese promoter assured us that this is very much the case, in “the provinces”. They are not unappreciative, it was further stressed: rather, quietly respectful. In their defense, I have to say, I detected a growing response to each of the songs, as the evening’s programme wore on: but, yes, little sign of underwear being pitched towards the stage! Now don’t be thinking that is a common occurrence in our more “reactive” markets – actually, the closest underwear has – I believe – ever gotten to our stage is when the production “runner” in Calgary left my newly-fetched laundry sitting on one of the orchestral platforms. Ah, well…
The venue in Taipei was the Taipei Arena, a cavernous indoor facility, with a saleable capacity of just under 10,000 – of which we sold over 8,000 seats: a credible achievement by any international Artist standards, keeping in mind that the album has been out 16 months now! We all immediately – from the second song onwards – noticed a more vociferous response than that of Taichung. However, in fairness to the first show, the sheer physical characteristics of the Taipei Arena’s construction were always going to (naturally) amplify the basic audience reaction.
On Friday afternoon, we checked out of the Taipei Sherwood hotel and motored south – in two people carriers - to Tainan, the last of our three Taiwanese performances: the most remarkable thing about the journey being that we rarely found ourselves – on Taiwan’s premier motorway - flanked by anything other than large manufacturing plants or substantial industrial complexes. Only in the last half hour of the journey did we experience to a smattering of green fields, shortly before arriving in the suburbs of Tainan. Sorry, gang, definitely couldn’t live in Taiwan!
The other immediately noticeable impression of Tainan was that of inner-city calm as a contrast to the bustle and vibrancy of Taipei: almost too quiet for the likes of a boy like me. Subsequent to a local Internet search, I surmised that the sound of “Lips” bar promised some mild excitement and so therefore – against my better judgment, I guess - I headed over there to check out the “action”. Well, folks, the only relationship this bar had to “Lips” is that its location had obviously not passed any. It exuded all the atmosphere of the last bar on earth with all of seven punters in the place. You know, Manila’s nightlife may have bordered on the raunchy, but give me raunchiness any day, over complacency. “Grab a Granny” night in Beijing tonight? Mmmm
What a difference a week makes, indeed. This time last week, I had just arrived in Manila, fresh from my week’s break, “up country” in the Philippines. Here I am now, a week later, ensconced in the Sherwood Tapei Hotel, with three Taiwanese shows ahead of us, over the next six days.
We arrived here yesterday, having spent the last six days in the Philippines capital city (I take it Manila is the “capital” - but feel free to correct me) and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed myself there: a large part of the credit for that has to go to Bambi Verzo, our Philippine promoter, who left no stone unturned, organizational wise, to ensure a comfortable and hassle-free stay.
You know, generally speaking, the further you venture from the “beaten track” of touring, the harder the Tour Manager’s job is liable to become: this is simply based upon the fact that the more out of the way territories find it difficult to attract many of the more established touring Artists and therefore the “local” promoters do not always have a wealth of experience in dealing with the acts that do manage to make it into their (the promoter’s) neck of the woods.
There are several reasons for so few touring acts actually reaching some of those more out-of-the-way locations - and most of them have a financial connotation. One staple fact governs whether a local promoter will take the risk to bring a name act into their territory and that is based upon said act’s record sales: if the act is shifting “product” then, the argument goes, they should be able to shift concert tickets (what is also of invaluable assistance to the local promoter is the particular act having visited their territory to promote the album release – this usually guarantees one or two televised appearances and a generally “active” media presence).
Even allowing for the above (i.e. impressive record sales and substantial media activity) it just becomes financially “unviable” for certain acts to play shows in the more remote markets, mainly because – even with a sold out show or shows – the income still does not cover the cost incurred by the Artist in appearing there (large touring entourages and excessive production elements are the two decisive factors at the root of this). With Paul Potts, we are a small touring party – six, including Paul’s wife – and we do not travel with excessive equipment: our microphone system, keyboard mixer, video computer and music scores can all be checked in as baggage at the airport.
While, yes, we admit it can prove very costly to tour our own orchestra worldwide (with the exception of our UK and European tours), Paul has always insisted that we should give the work to “local”, professional, musicians who relish the opportunity to play with an international Artist.
Well, I wandered off the Philippines show there a little, folks: apologies for that. However, we just played the one show here, on Wednesday this week, to a sold-out Manila audience, at The Plenary Hall. On this basis, and with a second album under his belt, I’m convinced Paul can return to the Philippines, next time hopefully to play additional shows. Bring them on, Bambi!
Let’s see what my upcoming week’s stay in Taiwan has to offer; however it will have to go some to match my enjoyment of the Philippines. My first impressions of Taiwan are of a reasonably industrious, thriving, economy. What will my thoughts be this time next week? Watch this space!
“The Thrilla in Manila”! – as they once billed a WWF Wrestling event that I worked on, in this part of the world. With the greatest respect to the region, I wouldn’t term my stay here – so far - as thrilling, yet it has certainly been enlightening.
I actually just booked into the Shangri La Hotel in Makati (the business district of Manila) earlier this evening, having travelled down from Subic Bay – a journey which only took just over two hours, but would have taken almost double that, due to traffic, had I elected to make the trip early tomorrow morning. The Shangri La – in terms of opulence, service and décor – may certainly make it on to my continually-evolving top twenty most impressive hotels of all time.
However, the majority of this week has been spent two and a half hours (average driving time) up country, on the shores of Subic Bay. Last week I mentioned being initially puzzled as to why the Philippine domestic flights did not depart to some of the outlying islands after 5.00 pm - which was a fair part of the reason I elected to seek out a location that I could reach on Monday night and put some roots down for the whole of this week. On bringing up the subject of the “curtailed” domestic flights, with a few of the seasoned “ex-pats” that I got talking to in Subic Bay, it turns out that the small domestic airports on the likes of the islands of Palawan and Bouracay Bay are considered unsafe landing strips after dusk!
So, to Subic Bay and the last six days: well, look, I didn’t expect the Costa del Sol – and it certainly was not the Costa del Sol. However, there was a certain charm about the place, although it has seen better days (those better days being when the port was a regular naval staging post for the US Navy during the Vietnam war days – and for a while after that).
My first hotel (read on) was the Subic Park, located at the western end of the small Subic Bay peninsula, with a half decent view of the bay and some very attentive staff. They were also able to offer “Wi-Fi” internet service in the lobby – although not in the rooms – which suited me fine.
However, on Tuesday afternoon I happened to take a taxi ride over to the little (neighboring) town of Barrio Barretta and stumbled upon a hotel that wasn’t just “adjacent” to the beach – it faced right onto the bay! One was able to wander off the hotel’s restaurant patio; three steps down, and find warm sand underfoot. How comfortable and relaxing is that? Time for action!
Arriving back at the Subic Park hotel, later that same afternoon, I begged (well, not literally begged) them to allow me out of my weeklong agreement and refund my deposit monies for the “unused” days, thereby enabling me to re-locate to the Arizona Hotel in Barrio Barretto. They were most understanding of my situation and, subsequently, I found myself – book in hand – relaxing on the beachside patio of the Arizona Hotel, a mere twenty-four hours later.
I therefore spent the next four days, until earlier this afternoon, just leisurely reading my book, with the panoramic tranquility of Subic Bay spread before me. I did venture out on a couple of evenings: however the nightlife there is a law unto itself – and probably merits a whole diary page of it’s own, so it will have to wait for another time. See you in Manila, next week, folks. BFN.September
A warm welcome, from Terminal 3 at London’s Heathrow Airport, where I await (this Sunday evening – yes, I’m in real time!) a flight to Hong Kong, and thereafter onwards to Manila.
Now, those Paul Potts aficionados amongst my ever-swelling readership ranks (?!) may come to the conclusion that I’ve finally lost my marbles: “Poor bugger” you’re thinking “Paul’s finally drove that young, placid, Scotsman to distraction, to the point where he’s boarded his Philippines flight a week early!”. Fear not, oh intrepid readers, I have not taken complete leave of my senses: I’m actually going to take the opportunity to travel ahead of the main party – and see if I can’t enjoy a few days of R ‘n R (that’s rest and recuperation – and not rock and roll) a couple of hours up the coast from Manila itself, in a charming location called Subic Bay.
As I sat with Paul in the departure lounge in Luxembourg airport this morning, he mischievously informed me that the BBC weather site (not noted for it’s absolute reliability – and hopefully so in this case) was predicting some rain this week in Manila. Having been to that part of the world on a couple of previous occasions, I duly informed him that I had some reliable local connections – and that I was going to have a word with someone, about holding off the rain, until he arrives!
So, having lived my life – along with (and alongside) Paul – at ninety miles an hour for the past nine months, can I actually slow down, for a few days? Well, folks, I truly hope I can: assisted by the comfort of my oceanfront room at £45.00 per night, breakfast included!
However, what of the past week? As you may recall, we returned from our Samsung event on Monday morning and checked into our usual hotel in Fulham, as Paul had several management and record company meetings to undertake (on Monday afternoon and most of the day Tuesday) before returning home to Port Talbot, early Tuesday afternoon. We happened to have dinner at (what appears to be) a fairly new restaurant in the Kings Road, in Chelsea, namely “Eight over Eight”: they concentrate significantly on European dishes but also feature an extensive array of modern fare. Not silly expensive, but featuring thoughtful presentation and attentive staff. If you happen to be in that neck of the woods, I can highly recommend the establishment.
Once Paul had managed to spend a couple of well-earned days back at home (albeit with a Taiwanese film crew shadowing him for a fair amount of that time!) we were off on our travels again on Friday, heading out to the delightful western German town of Trier, just a stone’s throw (as we Brits say) from the Luxembourg border, for Paul to appear in a nationwide TV show called “Verstehen Sie Spaß”. This can be roughly translated as “You Got Humour?” and is best thought of as “Candid Camera” type of production – although there may be quite a few of you who may not recall the iconic “Candid Camera” programmes from the late 70’s, on British TV.
Trier is indeed an enchanting town and it’s always good to veer off the beaten track of the bigger German cities and explore some of the smaller towns. Paul turned in an impressive performance on the show last night (already “up” on YouTube, I believe!), which will not do any harm to our upcoming German concert tour ticket sales, already doing exceptionally well. So, folks, I’m off for my little break: all will be revealed, this time next week. Keep it here. BFN.
Greetings from 38,000 feet en-route from Barcelona back to London on Monday morning, 22nd September (well, you know it’s rare that I ever actually write this thing on a Sunday: however, compared with how late I’ve penned some previous editions of the diary, this is fairly timely).
If you managed to catch last week’s entry, you’ll be well aware that I was labouring heavily under the realisation that my son would actually arrive in Brisbane, Australia early yesterday morning – and that I have no earthly idea when I will actually see him again. I received a brief SMS text late Saturday night, European time, confirming that he has arrived safely and now has “the freedom of Australia” (as long as he can pay his way, to stay there, I reminded him).
Of course, it still really hasn’t sunk in that he’s now gone for a an extended period of time: the only chance of us meeting up (short of me winning the lottery and becoming “Jack the Lad” instead of “Jake the Lad”) will be if I’m down in Australia – on tour or undertaking promotional work with Paul – or if he has any reason to pop back to the UK for a while: the latter being a very thin possibility, as that would represent failure to him, were it to occur in the first year or so.
Hopefully, within the next couple of days, he will have procured an Australian SIM card, which will at least allow us to maintain sporadic text contact. As a result of him utilizing Youth Hostel type of accommodation in the first few months of his stay, I’m figuring that my chances of reaching him on an Australian landline will be pretty slim. Thankfully, there is always e-mail and, although he sold his laptop to assist towards funding his trip (serious stuff, huh?), he intends to utilize Internet cafes, to allow him to stay in touch with us. We shall see what we shall see. What more can an estranged parent do? He can hope, he can ponder, he can reflect (he can wait!)
However, enough of the brooding - what of my travels of the last week? Well, first off, was a trip to Mountainview (40 minutes south of San Francisco) for Paul to appear at the annual Google/Zeitgeist event. The company booked us into a hotel in Palo Alto, a charming university town, only a short rental-car trip from the centre of San Francisco – which enabled us a couple of days of exhaustive sightseeing in the city. Los Angeles - or should I say Hollywood, as you would be surprised the amount of people that equate Hollywood with being in Los Angeles - may have the glitz and glitter, however San Francisco has the heart and the soul (of rock ‘n roll?).
On Thursday last (the day after the event) – and not having to depart until 4.50 pm in the afternoon for London – we gave the rental car one last outing and motored over to the “PCH” (Pacific Coast Highway) or Highway 1, that hugs the coast most of the way from San Francisco to Los Angeles – the very route that myself and the children traversed a few years back, when we hired a motor home. Folks, that is a magical road: America’s first highway. Try to check it out.
On leaving San Francisco overnight into Heathrow, we connected on, via Terminal 1, to the flight to Barcelona. Now in the old days, with my son en-route to Australia through London, I possibly could have hooked up with him: not any more, with the Edinburgh flights now landing at Terminal 5! So, on Friday, not knowing when I would ever see him again, we were separated by only the width of an airline terminal – but with no possibility of seeing each other. A sad day, indeed, BFN.
If you happen to detect a somewhat melancholy and subdued tone to this week’s diary entry, then you would be entirely correct: this morning, at approximately 05.15 am at Edinburgh Airport, I said goodbye to my son, not knowing how long it would be before I would see him again (I had waited until he came home in the early hours of Sunday morning – having finished his bar job at 3.00 am in the morning – so that he could take me to the airport, in his car, for my 06.20 am flight to London.)
Ironic, really when you think about it: he has said goodbye to me many times at airports before, with both of us knowing it won’t be terribly long before I’m arriving home again. This time, I really don’t know when I will see him again, as next Friday he takes a one-way plane ticket to Brisbane in Australia to (and I think these were his words) “seek his fortune”. Strangely enough, although I had gently cautioned him on certain aspects of his proposed trip, I almost wish I could just “up sticks” and embark upon such an adventure myself. Where have all the good times gone?
I’m well aware that this hectic lifestyle that I lead will prevent the full effect of his departure from sinking in, until a few days after he has actually left the UK, next weekend. Maybe it will not be until next weekend, actually, when the real melancholy mood decides to take it’s hold.
What can you do, as a parent (particularly when they have paid for the damn thing themselves!) other than wish them all the luck in the world and request that they call home once in a while? This time next week (Sunday 21st), he will actually have his feet on Australian soil - then we’ll see how the full realisation of it hits home with me. As part of the deal with the “student” visa that he acquired for the trip, he has to engage in at least three months of “seasonal” work which – as best I can ascertain – is basically fruit or vegetable “picking”. Some of the rural farms also supposedly have basic accommodation for their workers, so he’s keen to find such a location. After he has put in his three months seasonal work, then he can widen the scope, as far as the type of job he can apply for. Having just spent the last three months working in “Tiger Lily” in Edinburgh, one of the more “happening” bar/restaurants in town (which is how he paid for the Australian trip) he shouldn’t find it too difficult to find similar work in the land of Oz.
Back to reality – and a brief summation of the past week in Paul Potts world. If you caught last week’s diary, you’ll know we arrived by train, last Sunday evening, from Zurich to Vienna. Paul’s promotional activities were scheduled to take place on Tuesday and Wednesday, so it enabled us to have a wander around Vienna and – as you’ll know if you ever have managed to visit the place – it is indeed a beautiful city. Although, can somebody please just explain to me how they constructed some of those amazing buildings, two or three hundred years ago – how did they even manage to carve and cut the stone that makes up many of the sculptures on the buildings?
On Thursday we both flew into London, Paul diving home to Port Talbot to catch up with things and me connecting up to Edinburgh to do pretty much the same. Three days at home seemed to fly by, before I found myself waving goodbye to my son in the darkness, at Edinburgh airport early this morning. It’s not easy to stem those familiar doubts now, as to whether I ever spent enough time with him, in recent years. Not one of my better days, folks. Thanks for being here.
“Trains and Boats and Planes”. For the more senior of my readers, the afore-mentioned song title refers to a Burt Bacharach composition of many years ago. That song’s significance at this particular time is that – if only to break with the “routine” of having composed four out of the last five of my diary entries on a plane - this Sunday I’m doing it from a train. Honest!
This particular train is the 0940 service this morning, out of Zurich, bound for Vienna and due to arrive into that city’s Westbahnhof station at 6.28 pm this evening: having said that, at this very moment we are sitting in Feldkirch station, just over the Swiss border into Austria, having been shuttled gently backwards and forwards (no more than 50 meters each time) on four separate occasions in the last ten minutes. Now the train power has gone off! Never a very good sign.
Well, by the time I reach the end of today’s entry, we will hopefully have left Feldkirch well behind. Let’s meanwhile concentrate on the events of the past week, while mainly in Germany.
You (may) recall I left off in Hamburg last Sunday, in preparation for a fairly hectic day of promotional work on Monday, the earlier part of which was conducted from a function room on the hotel’s lobby level, after which we re-located to a TV Studio to pre-record the Marcus Lanz programme on ZDF. That done, and with a couple of hours to spare before our flight to Munich, we popped in to the Pizza restaurant adjacent to the TV studio and grabbed something to eat.
We reached Munich later that night and checked into the Airport Sheraton Hotel, as some sort of “Cardiac Convention” meant that the city’s major downtown hotels were all booked out. It was not the end of the world, as the venue Paul was appearing at the next day (the Allianz Arena –where he also appeared, less than two weeks ago, for the occasion of the grand opening of the German Bundesliga football season) was on the same side of town. No complaint about that.
Now, that was a great piece of theatre on Tuesday night: picture the famous “retiring” German international goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn, running around the perimeter of the field, taking his last bows, waving to sixty thousand avid fans – while Paul stands in the centre circle singing “Time To Say Goodbye”. Pure magic, as they say in Scotland. An enduring memory, indeed.
On Wednesday we (well, Paul) undertook a day of radio and “phoner” interviews before we boarded the 4.26 pm train from Munich to Zurich – and enjoyed a leisurely four-hour journey into Switzerland (leisurely, that is, once they managed to fix the air conditioning problem in our carriage – by scientifically opening the windows!). It was a colourful journey, but nothing compared to the one we are taking today, through the mountains to Vienna. As I write, we are traveling on the longest, uninterrupted (by stations) sector of the journey, between Kufstein and Salzburg. Although we only had one full promotional day in Zurich (Thursday) Paul decided not to travel all the way back to the UK, only to have to fly back to Vienna on Monday afternoon, for the two days promotional work that is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, next week.
Sure, this trip is twice as long as flying between the two cities but, hey, once in a while you have to take advantage of alternative forms of travel. Like I said, trains and boats and planes. BFN.August
Well this is certainly something reasonably unusual today: I’m not writing this on a plane (and, to be honest, any day I write this on the Sunday that it’s meant to be written - is a fairly unusual occurrence: technically speaking it’s currently 2.45 am on the morning of 1st September, but I’m sure you’ll allow me a little “artistic license” here – it’s the closest I’ve been for a while!).
Right now, I’m in a rather cool Hamburg hotel (the name of which I’m afraid I can’t divulge folks, as there’s every chance we’ll stay here when we come back to do the tour – and we would all be kidding ourselves on if we thought that such information couldn’t possibly be “used against us”). I enjoyed a fairly unusual occurrence today: a proper day off. You’ve heard me banging on about this before, however it’s unusual to experience a day – whether touring or “promotional” – that involves neither any work-related activity or, even more surprising, any travel. That was today.
In fact, thinking about it honestly, I’ve actually had three of those days this week! Very, very, unusual. The reason being that, with this current German promotional trip requiring us to be in Mannheim on Thursday night, this past week – and with our corporate appearance in San Diego falling on Sunday of last week – Paul did not see the point of arriving back in the UK on Tuesday, only to have to leave again on Thursday to go to Germany (it would have meant, technically, that Paul would only have had one full day at home). Therefore, we decided to hang back in San Diego until Wednesday, this past week, and then take the overnight BA flight to London which put us in to Heathrow at 3.15 pm on Thursday afternoon, enabling us to then connect to the 6.35 pm flight to Frankfurt: said flight leaving from Heathrow’s terminal 5 – so no terminal change required!
All of the above meant that I was able to spend another two relaxing days in San Diego which you’ll know - if you happened to peruse my diary entry last week, where I was singing the praises of the city – was a most enjoyable time for me. Sure, there’s always some form of work to be done every day I am on the road, however as a significant portion of my time is taken up with travel, two days where one doesn’t have to go anywhere is always going to render one a little extra time. One of the things I had promised myself to do was to visit Balboa Park while I was in San Diego, the scene of an early Jethro Tull outdoor show, back in 1976. Of course, it’s almost impossible to recall any significant details of the show way back then, however it was good to stretch out on the grass in Balboa Park (32 years later!) and do absolutely nothing for two hours.
The “Gaslight Quarter” – where our hotel was located – is such a vibrant and interesting district and I would love the opportunity to return there at some point in the near future. I’ve long harboured this notion of taking a Motorhome around every State in the US (wonder how long it would actually take to accomplish that, comfortably?) – but would I ever come home? Mmm.
So here we are in Germany, where – thanks to the now well-documented Telekom TV commercial, featuring Paul’s YouTube, “Britain’s Got Talent” footage - Paul can’t walk 100 meters down the street without being stopped for an autograph. Tonight, every member of staff, at the Italian restaurant where we ate dinner in Hamburg, had to have their picture taken with Paul. Well, you know what? Let’s take it while it’s going. The album’s now been five weeks at number 1 in Germany which is an amazing achievement. Time to Say Goodbye? No, just Time to go to Bed. See ya soon.
Ah, San Diego – it’s been a while: but, now, it’s even cooler than I recall it previously.
In your time, this must have happened to you at least once or twice, if you’ve been fortunate enough to have visited a few different places over the years: something just clicks. Something (or, more likely, several things) just puts you at your ease with your temporary environment.
My personal criteria for knowing that I’m in a city where I’m warmly comfortable with my surroundings is that I’m convinced I could live there. San Diego is one such city. Shall I throw in a couple more for you? Vancouver; Perth (Australia); Capetown; New Orleans; possibly Paris.
Here in San Diego, particularly in the Gaslight Quarter, even amidst the bustle and vibrancy of these ten square blocks, there exists a tranquil ambience that seems to permeate one’s spirit. Having a couple of extra days (Monday and Tuesday coming) to spend here will render the experience all the more enjoyable; therefore I’m eagerly looking forward to the next 24 hours.
However - the main purpose of this diary being to log the events and occurrences of the previous seven days – what can I tell you of the last week. Well, the majority of it was spent based at the Atlantis Resort, on Paradise Island, just across the bridge (or two bridges, to be exact) from Nassau, in the Bahamas. This place, as they say, has to be seen to be believed. The sheer enormity of the hotel complex alone (over two thousand rooms) must put it right up there, in the (say) top thirty largest hotels in the world. My immediate impression, when I first viewed this monolith, from the window of our mini-bus – at distance – as we threaded our way in from the airport, was that two large “Chinook” helicopters had just airlifted the building from Las Vegas Boulevard and just plonked it, smack bang, in the centre of this man-made island.
Nevertheless, I have the utmost respect for how they have planned and executed the whole Paradise Island project. You think arranging a world tour for a bunch of reprobate rock ‘n rollers is a mind-numbingly, massive, undertaking? I’ll take it any day (as I would) versus trying to oversee the conception, design, and construction of running a 2,500-bedroom resort).
For me, personally, I was far more taken by the town of Nassau - over on the “mainland”. I spent a couple of late afternoons wandering up and down Bay Street and wallowing in the culture. As you would expect, the humidity in that part of the world is strength sapping and a basic twenty-minute “sight-seeing” walk around the marina necessitates another shower back at the room.
Yesterday (Saturday) we flew here to San Diego, via Dallas Fort Worth airport, where we encountered a major rainstorm – to the extent that several incoming flights (within minutes of our flight landing) were diverted to the “local” airports of Love Field and Alliance. So intense was the downpour that from the concourse looking out onto the tarmac, you couldn’t even see the parked planes at the end of the jet-ways. Alas, we’re here in San Diego, the sun is shining, the temperature is acceptably warm – and the intense humidity has stayed back in the Bahamas. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for a stroll around the Gaslight Quarter to see what I can see. In this topsy-turvy world in which I exist, you reach out with both hands for your quality time. BFN.
Well, for the third week in a row I’m penning the weekly diary from high above God’s earth: by all accounts I’m going to spring two steps from “blue” to “gold”, on my British Airways frequent flyer card, in the space of twelve months: a fair achievement (I’m told) but a poignant indication of just how much of my time this year has been spent at a minimum height of 26,000 feet.
This week I’m happy to report a month of touring coming up, albeit a couple of months away yet: essentially we are down in South East Asia from 4th to 19th October and then, shortly afterwards, we are in Germany for twelve days. Being a Tour Manager to trade, I’m always pleased to be doing what I do best, from time to time. Furthermore, as I’ve said many a time, promotion can be infinitely harder than touring. With promotion, you can have repeated early mornings – sometimes with no let-up in site – whereas once in a while (mainly because the Artist has to protect and care for his voice) touring throws up a day off and maybe even a late morning.
Anyway, one of the reasons I mention the touring aspect is that it conveniently leads into what I was doing on the first day of this week, last Monday. Actually, allow ne to digress somewhat – before going on – to tell you that, after proudly completing last week’s diary entry while flying from Rome to London, we were presented with the news (fifteen minutes before were due to land at London’s Heathrow airport) that we were being diverted to London’s Gatwick airport!
Now, in thirty years of flying, that’s only the third time that’s ever happened to me: this time – we’re told – on account of a fire alarm sounding in the Heathrow tower, and the building having to be subsequently evacuated. Apparently the airport was completely closed, for aircraft landing and taking off, for over an hour. The upshot of that little episode is that we had to sit on the ground for over an hour before we were able to take off again, thereby make one of the shortest flights in history: Gatwick to Heathrow in sixteen minutes – and all at 5000 feet.
That was me scuppered for catching the last train from London’s Kings Cross station to Leeds, where I was due at a production meeting nexgt morning re the afore-mentioned tour. No choice then, but to rent a car and drive the 200-odd miles to Leeds, where I arrived just after 2.00am.
So that was Monday: taken up by the production meeting and then me jumping on a train back to London. The following morning I tided up all my meeting notes while Paul visited the record company’s new premises in Kensington to catch up with some of the heads of department and have a chat. We met up again later in the afternoon and – with young Vibica McCoy from our management office in tow – we jumped on a flight to Cologne, to commence (from Wednesday to Saturday) four days of fairly intense German promotion, both for the “One Chance” album – which is enjoying a welcome resurgence as a result of Paul’s “Nessun Dorma” track being featured as part of an advertising campaign for a cellphone company – and the already mentioned tour.
Cologne to Berlin to Munich (where Paul sang at the opening of the Bundesliga campaign, at Bayern Munich’s relatively new, very impressive, stadium. We arrived back in the UK yesterday for a brief one-night stopover at a Heathrow hotel, and here I am now, winging my way to (wait for it) the Bahamas. It’s work – honest! – as Paul will be undertaking an engagement there. BFN.
Possibly indicative of the hectic nature of my life (darting around the world with Paul Potts), is the fact that here I am, once again, composing this week’s diary entry from 33,000 feet - in this particular instance heading back to London, from Rome, and a most memorable of events.
We, dear readers, have just spent three days based at most enchanting location – namely the L’Andana Hotel, located two hours north of Rome in the picturesque surroundings of Castiglione della Pescalla, where Paul was asked to sing at a wedding. While the pre-wedding festivities and the wedding reception itself were held within the grounds of the hotel, the marriage ceremony was performed in a tiny church in a nearby village (population 122!), twenty minutes drive from the hotel. One has to be there to appreciate that such places still exist. But they do.
Now, if you happen to have marriage plans on the horizon (oh, and if your lottery ticket came up with all six numbers yesterday) then this is the place to do it. I wasn’t even directly involved in the ceremony, but those images of the last few days will endure, for a while yet. I’m wondering how close I can come to verbally portraying the experience. “Breathtaking Serenity” might do it.
Now at this point I will confess to not being much of a fan of Italy (with Spain and France, at one time, not too far behind) however it is entirely not personal: I’ve just long held the theory that the best places to go on vacation are sometimes the worst to stage concerts. Bless the likes of Italy – and I’m still trying to get to the bottom of this – but they have a certain (shall we say) “tomorrow will do”/laid back work ethic that I struggle to comprehend. I’ll give you an example, and you may have noticed this if you have spent any time in the country in the past few years: in which other continental European country do you see some policemen smoking while on duty? For some odd reason, it remains a poignant memory of the country for me. Maybe it could be referred to as a “professional casualness”, maybe brought on by the invariably warm weather?
However, I’m getting ahead of myself here, as the week was started in West Hollywood, where we remained until Thursday evening, prior to boarding the overnight flight to London and then connecting on to Rome, to enable us to attend the function as detailed above.
I was very aware of how – this time anyway - the eleven stays spent out in the States sped by rather all too quickly: it set me wondering that if one rushes around all the time, does one then find time equally rushing by one? All this perceived wisdom is coming to me far too late in life.
Possibly to my own detriment, it’s maybe time to come clean – to some degree – in regards to my own personal dilemma: should I just forget all about my football project and concentrate wholly on my music business interests for the next four or five years (which is probably about all the time I have left in this line of work) or should “I keep my hand in” on my football interests? After all I’ve held my FIFA license for twelve years now and put a lot of time and effort into it. Thank God the transfer windows close at the end of this month, as every young aspiring footballer, with a dream of making the big time, has been calling me recently: word must have got around, last year, that Jake’s immediate motivation is not money. However, I’ve had to be ruthless and tell the majority of them that I just don’t have the time to assist. Such a pity. BFN.
Another week of my life spent in the spiritually-lifting locale of West Hollywood: yes, I know that it can all sound rather glamorous at times but – as, hopefully, my regular readers will back me up on – it goes much deeper than that in respect of my affinity with this particular region.
The bonus on this trip was that we didn’t have to start work until Wednesday: not that this dictated I could retire to my lounger by the pool, cellphone in hand, laptop on laptop (it’s all the rage at this hotel, let me tell you) – rather that I could utilize my hotel room to make a start to collating all the tour accounts, relating to the recent Scandinavian outdoor shows.
On Tuesday, we took a leisurely drive up the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway), through Malibu but this time not going all the way up to Santa Barbara, as we did on the last trip. Now folks, I have to tell you – and I want you to try to picture this in your mind – it’s a fine sight to see the sun dipping over the sparkling ocean, as you drive north through Malibu and beyond. Should any -shall we say – “affluent”, single, Malibu resident (preferably female and in the 45-55 age group) have happened upon my website and found herself to be enchanted by my turn of phrase and rapier wit, then feel to induce me to come witness that very sunset from your ocean-facing balcony.
Now, shall we descend back to reality with a fantasy-awaking thump? Here I am, here I am. Can’t go into any great detail at this time (as one has to protect the guilty) but let’s just say that Paul put in a good shift this week on the current project with which he is involved: so much so that, having made a late afternoon start on Thursday, we almost missed out on one of those spine-tingling moments where you witness a world-famous artist in a a memorably intimate setting.
On this occasion, good people, I refer to none other than Mr. Superstition himself, the iconic Stevie Wonder who – and somebody must have had a lot of “pull” here – appeared as the specials guest on Thursday evening, at our hotel, to mark the occasion of the official opening of the hotel’s villa complex (just adjacent to the main hotel block) in conjunction with an exhibition of photographic images relating to the history of the Gibson guitar and it’s many exponents. Yes, there was the man, alone at the piano performing a rendition, amongst others, of a “you could here a pin drop” version of overjoyed. Yvie Burnett, Paul’s personal and stupendously attractive vocal coach, was completely beside herself, she was. So taken was she by the appearance – not thirty feet from her – of one of the all-time musical greats that she almost spilt red wine down her pink dress. Good job she has another (and another and another and another) pink dress. Pink is definitely a thing with Yvie, but can somebody tell me what’s with the pink can opener?!
I should also mention the earlier appearance of one Mr. Neil Young at the same “party” (which we missed as a result of our unquestioning dedication to the task at hand – and me taking Laurel Canyon, instead of the more “reliable” Coldwater Canyon, coming home at that time of night. Still I made it back in touch to catch Mr. Billy Gibbons, he of “ZZ Top” infamy (OK, you younger whipper-snappers, go Google him) producing some fine guitar licks with that unmistakable sound.
So, all in all, a memorable week in charming West Hollywood. “Where Have all the Good Times Gone?” as the “Kinks” Ray Davies once remarked. They’re alive and well in room 115. Check me out!July
Not for the first time, since I began penning this weekly diary (how long have I been doing this now? I’ve almost lost track), I’m writing this week’s entry, from 39,000 feet – as we make our way back to Los Angeles, this time to be based there for just over a week.
First things first: what a most pleasant week we’ve just had, playing three consecutive outdoor shows in Sweden: Thursday, Friday and last night. You will recall – if you managed to catch last week’s diary entry – that we flew into Copenhagen, early evening last Sunday (20th) to enable us to stay at a hotel in the city centre, thereby allowing Paul and his wife to have some time to wander around in the city, the next day (Monday past), while we awaited the late Monday afternoon arrival of our Conductor, Sound Engineer and Piano Player, into Copenhagen.
Once they had been collected at the airport, the next day, the bus swung by our city centre hotel to collect the three of us and off we went – via that magnificently engineered bridge that runs between Denmark and Sweden – on the 50-minute journey to Malmo, where we based ourselves for three days. Being that Paul was faced with three consecutive shows, it was deemed best that we rehearsed with our 63-piece orchestra (all the way from Prague) on Tuesday and then gave Paul the chance to rest up on Wednesday. Good decision, upon reflection.
It was indeed refreshing to perform at three markedly different outdoor locations this week: one park outside of Helsingborg, adjacent to the coastline; one castle by a lake (very endearing) an hour south of Stockholm and one cricket/athletics ground, on the outskirts of Gothenburg. The distance between the first two shows necessitated an overnight trip on the tourbus, however that’s just fine by an old road-dog like me: when faced with consecutive shows - be it opera, rock ‘n roll or theatre – overnight sleeper buses are, in my opinion, the only way to travel. On the way back down to Gothenburg from Eskiltuna (the show near Stockholm, on Friday night) our bus developed a fault with the air-conditioning but, that being our last of the three bus journeys, we just had to stick it out (more like sweat it out) for four uncomfortable hours: you see, not always as glamorous as some would have you believe.
Yesterday, upon arrival in Gothenburg - and briefly swinging by the Gothia Towers hotel to drop our luggage - we encountered masses of “Iron Maiden” fans, there to see the band’s show at the Gothenburg football stadium. You probably couldn’t find two more diverse entertainment performances in the one city on the one evening but, hey, different strokes for different folks.
So, having arisen (does that sound a little biblical?) this morning at five o’clock, to catch the 0805 SAS flight out of Gothenburg, to London – to ensure that we safely made this connecting BA flight (upon which I currently sit) which departed Heathrow at five minutes past midday today, UK time - I feel myself staring to wilt a little. Trouble is, this is an eleven-hour daytime flight and if you don’t ensure that you grab three or four hours sleep at some point during the journey, then you collapse in a heap for a few hours when you arrive there – and then find yourself wide awake again at three a.m. in the morning. Still, I’m back in West Hollywood where I always feel at ease with my surroundings. I just may move out here someday, however that will depend on having a close encounter with UK Lottery headquarters. So we’ll just have to see.
A warm good afternoon to you – literally - from wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen (what’s the next line of the famous song – “Salty old Queen of the Sea”? – amazing how that stuff lodges itself way back in the memory banks). In spite of me taking every opportunity to have a pop at the UK weather, even I would have to admit that it’s almost too hot today, here in Scandinavia.
We arrived here earlier this evening, from London, en-route to Malmo tomorrow, for a day’s production rehearsals, prior to the three outdoor shows - in a row - next week in Sweden.
However, what of the events of the past week?
I believe I left off last week, chilling out in far-flung Prague, from where I returned on Wednesday afternoon. Now, originally, the plan had been for me to collect a self-drive “Voyager”, upon my return into London, and then drive down to Port Talbot in readiness to bring Paul back up to London (leaving at the crack of dawn – for a record company meeting in town at 11.00 am on Thursday morning). We were then due to attend to other business matters on the Friday, stay in London that night and then head down to our Stansted Park show, Saturday.
As it happened, there I was standing at Easyjet departures in Prague airport, when I received the call that the two days of meetings in London, for Paul, had been postponed until early next month – and therefore our next commitment would not be until the Saturday night Proms event.
At that point, I really couldn’t switch my arrangements (particularly as I could not reach my contact at the car company, on his cellphone, to alert him to the sudden change of plan). I decided therefore just to carry on as originally planned: pick up the vehicle and just head on down to Port Talbot, a couple of days ahead of time, and hang out in the Artist’s “back yard”!
Calling ahead from the road, on my way to South Wales (on my hands-free phone, officer) I managed to book a small guesthouse called “Mountainview”, not far from the town centre where I was initially surprised to find the landlady speaking with a definite American lilt in her voice. All would be revealed upon my arrival, I assured myself – although, in this case, with me not due to pull into Port Talbot until after eleven on Wednesday evening, my curiosity would have to be left on hold until Thursday morning. Turns out the landlady (Elee) hails originally from Boulder, Colorado, and has – somehow – found her way to Port Talbot, South Wales, where she runs this thriving little bed and breakfast business. I never did get to the “how and why” of it.
After spending an interesting couple of days “investigating” Port Talbot and the surrounding areas, I collected Paul from his house, mid-morning Saturday, and we motored down to the “Proms” event, staged at Stansted Country Park, near Havant in Hampshire. With only a brief rain shower to spoil the otherwise perfect evening weather, we enjoyed a most pleasant concert backed by a very proficient orchestra. We (Paul, myself and his wife Julie Ann) then drove back to our usual London hotel, prior to leaving this morning for Denmark, where you now find me. So, three outdoor Swedish shows coming up next week: let’s hope the weather continues as pleasant as it is today. Don’t know when I’ll be home next, but I have absolutely no complaints. BFN.
Greetings from one jet-lagged Tour Manager, whose body is currently flying the “flag of truce”.
I suspected this would happen: sure, I’m well experienced in dealing with the symptoms of jet lag, when making transatlantic flights, as said flights normally signal the commencement of a continent-wide tour or a prolonged period of record company promotion. This time, not so.
As you will (may) recall from last week’s entry, I flew into Tokyo with Paul last Friday (4th July) midday, arriving in Japan early Saturday evening. However before I had a chance to apply some of my standard procedures for dealing with the effects of the imminent jet lag, we were jumping on a flight back to London – and a twelve and a half hour daytime flight at that – on Tuesday morning. Hence my body signaling it’s wish to surrender. Got to keep going though.
The very next day (Wednesday 9th) after our return from Tokyo, Paul was booked to appear at The British Insurance Awards, staged this year at London’s famed Albert Hall, a venue I have played several times over the last thirty years. Technically, it is not an easy facility in which to “rig” sound and lighting systems, however the effort is generally always worth the trouble, as it is such a magical environment for an Artist to perform.
I’m now back on track, undeniably assisted by having spent the last couple of days in Prague, chilling out, from where I am currently penning this week’s entry. I flew out here on Thursday evening, just on a whim really, when a friend of mine (also heading out that way for a few days) alerted me to an incredibly cheap return flight deal – from London’s Gatwick – on “Easyjet”.
I have to tell you it’s a long time since I played a show in this city: so long, in fact, that it was still Czechoslovakia back then: I believe I undertook shows in Prague, Dubrovnik and Brno, way back in 1976. Of course, I’ve not had a chance to trawl back through some of my old files to check if it was really that far back – maybe I don’t want to! In the deepest recesses of my memory, I recall a dark and foreboding country: of grey buildings and even greyer people. Well, I can happily report that all of this bears little relation to what is now the Czech Republic.
Today, Prague appears to be a major, thriving, tourist attraction - with a wealth of interesting buildings, churches and parks, etc awaiting discovery by the throngs of guide-book clutching visitors roaming it’s myriad of streets. Not sure if the city actually turned me on that much though: still, no complaints about the weather (a welcome 75 degrees Fahrenheit), that enabled lunch and dinner to be taken outside, with a plethora of appropriate eateries to choose from.
Does that last paragraph make me sound more like a travel writer than a rock ‘n roll Tour Manager? Apologies for that: still, I’m constantly aware that I can’t do this job forever, so it may be that is something I could turn my hand to, somewhere down the line! It’s currently very difficult for me to spend any of my time on my football project, as there is so much going on around Paul at the moment. However, I have to remember that it’s my touring work – and not my interests in football – that is keeping me alive at the moment therefore, my football project will – unfortunately - just have to wait. Such is life, dear reader(s). We’ll see y’all next week.
They seek me here, they seek me there: greetings, oh avid readers, from the land of the dipping yen. If I say so myself - I definitely get around. Last time I was out here in Japan, I was figuring I had visited this particular country (I believe) somewhere between ten and eleven times. One thing’s for sure – I’m definitely into double figures now.
We arrived here, late yesterday afternoon, having departed Los Angeles just after lunchtime on Friday. If you work out the time zones, it does actually all make senses (not at first though)
I was sorry to leave the sheltered comfort of the Hollywood Hills, particularly on such a beautiful day. That’s eleven days I spent there, and it all passed rather too quickly. Looks like I’m back there in a few weeks though, so I’ll look to manage my time a little better, on my next visit. I never seem to tire driving up over the Canyons (either Laurel Canyon or Coldwater Canyon) although – with the schedule we have kept – I’m fortunate to always be driving “against” the traffic. For years, while driving through those very canyons, I’ve always been struck by the same nagging thought, prompted by the multitude of luxury properties, liberally scattered either side of the hills: how can so many people have so much money?!
This – I believe – will rank alongside two other Japanese visits, as being my shortest time spent in the country on any one given visit (the other two being our earlier trip here, in April, for the two Paul Potts show – total, four days – and, possibly the shortest of all – a three and a half day promotional trip with Westlife, in 2004). Will I come here again this year, I wonder?
What I can have no complaint about, of course, is the rate at which my frequent flyer miles are accruing, although if can sometimes represent something g of a dilemma: OK, so at some point you have amassed enough “miles” to circumnavigate the globe whereas, on the other hand, you’ve had to – probably – fly three times around the world (in the same year) to accomplish it. So, why would you feel like climbing on another plane, after that?!
While I was in town this week, up until Friday midday, I was hoping to catch up with several of my touring buddies who, over the years – and at different times of their careers, have chosen to re-locate to California: as well you know, a lingering, personal, regret of mine. Unfortunately – being in the business that they are in, I suppose – the majority of them were out of town! So, I’m hopeful of catching up with them, on the next trip as some of those guys are valuable contacts as well as distant friends. I’m going to start making the arrangements for that now.
Once again – and nearly every time I visit here – the enormity of this city overwhelms me: because we are fortunate to stay at some of the city’s bigger hotels, we generally find ourselves accommodated on the higher floors of said establishments. When you are looking out at Tokyo from such a lofty position, only then can you grasp the “vastness” and enormity of this city. As I’ve said before, way too claustrophobic for me. Strangely enough I may be back there a third time before this year is over, depending upon whether Paul can squeeze in a brief press/promotion trip as part of the marketing campaign for the new album. I’ll be back in the UK next week and should have the chance to dive up to Scotland for a few days. BFN.June
This much I was able to re-assure myself of, this past week: I could live in California.
Now you could argue (with justifiable cause) that who wouldn’t do the same, given the opportunity? However, I have to assure you that it’s less to do with the weather (although being able to eat dinner outside every night is certainly an attractive proposition) and more to do with a “culture vibe” that washes over me, every time I stay in West Hollywood.
We arrived here late Monday afternoon and checked into one of my favourite West Hollywood hotels (hope you understand that I can’t divulge the name right now, as we will utilize the same hotel again, several times before the end of the year) where my children once stayed with me. “Dad, dad!” I was excitedly informed by my – then – reasonably star struck son, back when we stayed here in 2005, “Julia Roberts is having breakfast by the pool!”. That made his day.
I’ve spent a lot of time in this neck of the woods, over the last thirty years (I was alarmed to find out this week – while “googling” a company called Krofft Productions, who produced the show in question – that it has been 30 years since we filmed the Bay City Rollers special, for NBC, here at Hollywood’s KTLA studios!). I maybe need to pause for a few seconds and reflect upon that. OK, I’m back having – of course – not spent enough time reflecting upon that.
I’m out here with Paul for the next eleven days, while he attends to various business matters relating to his US interests (you can tell I’m being cagey here, can’t you?) more of which can be revealed in the weeks to come. In fact, I’m sitting right now on the patio at the house of an old friend, tucked away up one of the canyons, located on the San Fernando Valley side of the Hollywood Hills. “Britney Spears has a house about half a mile from here” Jimmy casually informs me “and we’re fairly convinced that the occasional low-helicopter activity in our area is not unconnected with her”. Personally, I cannot see the attraction of the woman, no sir.
Of course – and maybe this is one of the less attractive sides of living in this part of the world – we are slap bang in the middle of “gratuity world” out here, or as it is more commonly pronounced, “gra-two-ity”. In fairness, California does not stand alone in this gentle accusation – it’s a North American, country-wide, phenomenon. Where in the world do you come across restaurants that “conveniently” give you examples – on the very restaurant bill itself! – as to the amount of tip you can leave, according to different percentage calculations of the bill. Only in America, dear friends. One wouldn’t mind if one could be absolutely sure that all tips were being filtered back to the staff that actually earned them. I’m not always convinced.
In spite of the above, and a few other quirky “septic” [septic tank/yank] traits (over dependence on car horns; overuse of the word “enjoy” from restaurant staff; the seeming profusion of young, and not-so-young, tattooed blonds – to name a few), I still have a fondness for the place. There is a work hard/play hard ethic that appears to exist here and with which I find myself completely at ease – however I may have missed the boat in terms of seizing the opportunity to relocate out here, for a while. “Never say never” as I tell my children. Finally, apologies for not really giving you much “road” info this week. All in good time, my friends.
Don’t you just love it? Here I am, California bound, 38,000 feet up and as very suave lady who is one row in front of me (in business class, I have to admit) is happily snoring her head off! It’s refreshing to know I’m not alone in this world: I mean, I know that hundreds of thousands of people around the globe suffer from the same affliction – but just hearing it occasionally just, well, reassures me somewhat.
So, yes, here I am Los Angeles bound (if the truth be known, it’s Monday afternoon) having accepted a contract to work with Paul through December of this year. Within the next month there will be a variety of commitments that Paul will have to fill including – but definitely not limited to – recording, promotion, touring and private performance bookings. Now that I’m on board for the above-mentioned period, I’ll be happy to be keeping busy.
I have to say that the last ten days at home came as a very welcome break – although I have kept busy working on the house, ably assisted by Stella and her painting skills. My (well, our, when Stella is mentioned in the same paragraph) siblings have also been instrumental in the domestic re-organisation programme. Finally, the lounge carpet has been replaced with something of obviously better quality – and the entrance hall awaits the laying of a laminate floor. There was a time when (realizing the house had not been too well looked after in it’s previous ownership – but me being in too much of a hurry to purchase it) I thought the required cosmetic refurbishment to be seriously daunting. I believe, with the alterations as mentioned above, that I’m now over the worst and so I’m enthused to push on with “Phase 2”, upon my return – I’m just not sure when that’s going to be.
So, Los Angeles (well, West Hollywood, to be more specific) here I come – again. I’ll be staying at one of my favourite hotels there, where my children once spent a few days with me, at the end of a US tour, in 2005. Now, because this diary is “current” and because I have no control over who accesses it, I’ll have to hold off revealing the name of the hotel in question, until after we’ve checked out! But, yes, fond memories of my previous stays there. I’ve actually stayed in several hotels in that same locale, and they’re all likeable for their own individual reasons: The Chateau Marmont; Le Bel Age; Le Mondrian; Le Parc (those last three – as you may have guessed – all being part of the same chain of “suite-exclusive” hotels). I’ve been lucky.
I know this would be very easy to say, however I have a definite empathy with the West Hollywood area: I know when I arrive there later today, I will experience the same vibe (for want of a better word) that just makes me feel so at ease with my surroundings: remember, I spent the best part of six weeks there – many, many, moons ago – while filming a TV special for Krofft Entertainment, at KTLA studios on Sunset. These are indeed fond memories.
Well, I’ve certainly run off at a tangent while penning this week’s entry – no surprise, I would imagine, for my regular readers: sometimes I just feel the need to empty out what is running around in my head – and who better to pour it all out to, than you guys? Having just checked my new watch (a corking, end-of-tour present from Paul and his wife) I can see that we still have five hours to go. Time for some shut-eye. Much more “road” stuff to report next Sunday. BFN.
Greetings on Father’s Day – with this particular father having finally caught up with his diary!
Well, I’ve been back home most of this week and it certainly has felt a little strange, having been away from Edinburgh for exactly five months, having left to go to London back on the 11th January – and arriving back here on Tuesday past, 10th June.
I was greeted back at the house with the front lawn grass up to my knees, my back garden chock full of weeds – and a mountain of mail. My children – now both working in separate up-market bars in the city’s George Street – have been very helpful in assisting me to tidy the place up and to bring all my household paperwork back up to speed. They give me energy.
It’s strange you know. I spend the majority of my time on the road, staying in hotel rooms every night: I don’t have to tidy up after me; I don’t have to wash the towels I use; I don’t have to cook any of my own food – I don’t even have to make my own bed. Then I come home to reality: house repairs needing done, un-watered plants dying, garden completely overgrown, etc. I’m almost ready to run back out on the road again to escape those multitudes of chores. When the children are around, we certainly seem to get through things much quicker and much easier.
On the work front, it looks like I may have the opportunity to continue with Paul Potts until almost the end of the year. He has a wide variety of commitments over the next six months, including recording, personal appearances, corporate performances and a substantial amount of promotion for the next album (said promotion geared more towards the end of the year). A good six months of work will enable me to conquer most of the debt I managed to amass last year, as a result of my continued love affair with football. I’ve toyed this week with how best to continue my involvement with my football project and I’ll discuss it with my partner tomorrow.
I could be off to the States with Paul, as soon as next Saturday, 21st – I’m waiting to have this confirmed tomorrow. There’s still a fair amount of work to be done at the house, over the next few days, however I’m satisfied with the progress I’m making on that front. There just never seems enough time in my quest to see all my domestic affairs “up to date”. Thankfully, I’ve recently adopted a far more stringent “editing” regime, when it comes to sifting through the considerable amount of historic touring files – currently stored in the garage – which I’ve amassed over the last thirty years. Nowadays, much of the reference material that I would need to refer to is stored on (and backed-up from) the hard disk on my laptop computer.
Well, it will be interesting to see what the week ahead will bring and whether next week’s diary may, indeed, be penned from California. I do apologize that this week’s entry has ended up being somewhat disjointed: I did plan to write something more orderly but – and I have been guilty of this a few times in the past – I found myself “subject jumping”. I’ll do my best to make it up to you next week when my head will be in a more positive place. I have certainly been experiencing some fairly dramatic mood swings during these past few days – maybe it’s simply a matter of spending some regular time in the gym so that my days start more energetically and more positively. So, I thank you for your patience this week and promise you better, next week. BFN.
Well, here I am with one show to go, to finish this world tour! Can’t believe we’ve pulled it off.
Rhyl (the first date of the tour, back on 17th January) seems so long ago. How well I remember advising Paul that it was all about pacing ourselves, particularly with the toughest section of the tour (North America) hot on the heels of the initial UK leg. But guess what? We’ve made it.
So just to recap, the past five months has seen us play shows in United Kingdom; USA; Canada; Mexico; New Zealand; Australia; Japan; Korea; Denmark; Sweden; Norway; Finland and, finally (with shows today and tomorrow) Holland. All done, apart from one last show tomorrow night!
For me, personally, it’s a fairly major milestone in that the monies made from the above have enabled me to claw back a big chunk of the debt that I landed myself in last year, when I allowed my love affair with football to completely preoccupy me. What was I thinking about?
Within the next couple of weeks, I’ll be playing my own version of the “balance transfer shuffle” – I just need to loose some of the remaining debt until next year firstly just to ease my own financial pressure and, secondly, to commit some funds to the upkeep of the house. I have a lot to thank the Paul Potts tour for, in enabling me the steady work of the last six months that has allowed me to accomplish the above. The trick now is to find another slice of work that will take me through to the end of this year and would certainly almost bring me back onto something of an even keel, as regards my financial position. Then I could take a breather!
Back to the road: I believe I left off last week, en-route from Ballerup to Herning, to enable us to have a travel free day-off on Monday. I found Herning to be a charming place, with the Hotel Eyde (a building over 100 years old) smack bang in the town centre’s “shopping precinct”. This, I have to say, did not discourage our bus driver, Franz, from somehow managing to maneuver the tour bus right in front of the hotel, as we all fell off at 4.00 am in the morning, to check in.
This quaint old hotel also boasted a covered restaurant adjacent to its front door, from where one could sit with a cup of coffee and observe the town’s patrons going about their daily business. Having excellent weather for the two days we were in Herning only added to my overall impression of a very relaxed and easy-going town. I hope we go back there sometime.
Next day we motored down to Sonderborg, for another delightful open-air show just next to the castle and with the coastal waters behind us. This was our last show with the Danish orchestra and it was sad to have to bid them goodbye, particularly as several of the players were very charming ladies. I wouldn’t complain at having those women around more often!
On Thursday we flew up to Finland for a one-off show at Helsinki’s “Finlandia” on Friday evening, then traveled back down here yesterday (and a day off on a Saturday night in Amsterdam) in preparation for tonight’s first of two shows at the Heinekin Music Hall, which I can report went exceptionally well. Be prepared to find me in melancholy mood next week, when I will have had time to reflect upon the endeavors of the last six months. Until next Sunday.
Today finds me in Ballerup, in Denmark, a smallish city in the north-eastern corner of the country, where the sun is shining beautifully and – I’m told – back in Scotland they are experiencing the hottest day of the year. Scotland – where’s that again?
Last week I left you in Malmo, where on Monday we played the second of our two shows there (you’ll recall that availability problems deemed that we could not play the shows back-to-back).
From there it was an overnight trip to Oslo: no choice really, as the distance dictated that if we had made it a day drive, we would have had to depart Malmo around seven in the morning. Far better to just creep into one’s bunk on the tour bus, about one hour out of Malmo, and then wake up seven hours later outside the Oslo hotel: it’s the only way to travel. Believe me.
Now, I must confess, I find Oslo a very enjoyable city and had a particularly memorable night out there (at a club called “Smuget” - which I certainly would recommend) when I did a show with Franz Ferdinand at “Rockafellas”, back in late 2006. One day, of course, I really need to commit most my life on the road to print: when that happens, that particular Oslo night will certainly take up a couple of pages. When she was fun she was fun. When she wasn’t, she wasn’t.
Apologies, folks: I wandered off the beaten track there, as I recalled good times gone by. Do you think its human nature that when we recall a period of time in our lives (and possibly relating to a particular person) we find the memories of the good times flooding back initially, and don’t always allow ourselves to focus on the not-so-good times? I suspect that’s the case.
In the middle of this week, it actually appeared as if we were looking at a three-day gap, although I believe that Wednesday night was being “held’ for a possible second night in Oslo (particularly as the first night sold out impressively quickly). However, in the interim, Paul was offered the opportunity to appear on “Holland’s Got Talent” on Friday night – as a special guest, and also to present the outright winner on the “final” show. This gave us a chance to have a “real day off” in Oslo (and you know how much I like Oslo!) – us being Paul, his wife and myself, while the other guys left late Wednesday night from Oslo and traveled overnight to Odense.
So the next day (Thursday) Paul, Julie Ann and myself caught the airport express train, from just next door to Oslo’s Thon Opera hotel – a far cheaper, and quicker, alternative than taking a 50 kilometer taxi-ride out there. We arrived into Amsterdam in the late afternoon, another most enjoyable city and also one of my favorite hotels in the world – “The American”. I first stayed there back in 1980 with “Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark” and have always looked forward to staying there, ever since. There’s just something about it that puts me at my ease.
Following a day of promotion – culminating with Friday evening’s appearance on the “Holland’s Got Talent” show – we flew back up to Denmark yesterday morning, to undertake the second of our two Odense shows. Today, as I mentioned earlier, finds us in Ballerup: although we will not stay in this area this evening: preferring to drive on to Herning tonight so that (even with an estimated 4.00 am check-in) we can still enjoy a “non travel” day tomorrow. It’s not a bad life.May
Greetings from Malmo in Sweden – and a rare occurrence on the road: a “real” day off.
A “real” day off can be defined as a day when you neither have a show or any form of travel.
This particular day has come about because of a reasonably unusual set of circumstances: mainly the fact that the two performances we have here in Malmo (two nights ago, Friday, and tomorrow night, Monday) were spaced apart by three days, due to the unavailability of the facility on two consecutive nights. In between the two Malmo shows we had a show booked at Gothenburg last night, Saturday, therefore we did not check out of the Malmo hotel yesterday morning and just elected to “commute” the 153 miles to Gothenburg. This resulted in us arriving back into Malmo at 1.30 am this morning: therefore with no show today in Malmo – yet a show here tomorrow – we find ourselves in the unusual situation of having a “real” day off.
Did you follow all of the above? I was a bit heavy on the details there, I apologise.
So, to recap on the tour movements of the last week: we drove from Aalborg, at Monday lunchtime, to our next Danish post of call, namely Odense. Our Scandinavian promoter, Kim Worsoe, invited us all out to dinner on Monday evening in Odense, as there was now show that night. The show the next night was actually staged in a delightful outdoor setting, just on the outskirts of Odense with the weather being slightly warmer than the light evening chills that we had experienced at our first two outdoor shows, in Randers and Aalborg.
We then traveled overnight to Stockholm, from Odense, arriving into our Stockholm hotel at 10.00 am on Wednesday morning, with that evening off: which actually worked out quite conveniently as the Champions League final was being screened that evening on the widescreen TV in the hotel’s lobby bar: if you’re anything of a football fan, and you managed to catch the live screening of the game, then I’m sure you’ll agree it was an exciting, if not classic, game.
As we were facing a fairly long “day drive” on Friday – with a show here at Malmo’s Eis Halle the same evening, we switched our arrangements on Thursday afternoon, and elected to make the trip down here overnight, immediately after the Stockholm show: that proved to be a wise decision as our orchestra stuck with the day trip – a journey which took all of eight hours to complete, and meaning that they had top travel direct to the Malmo venue.
Now you find me sitting in the lobby of the SAS hotel in Malmo, penning this week’s diary entry on the actual day of the week that it’s meant to be done! (a fairly rare occasion). I have a few administrational tasks to tidy up, after which I will try to get an hour in at the hotel gym, an activity that has been sadly lacking during the recent weeks – and has probably contributed to those extra 4/5 kilos that have found their way onto my not-so-slender frame. Thankfully, I’ve shown in the past that it is feasible to lose 7/8 pounds in the first week back from a long tour, by cutting right down on one’s food intake (particularly with certain food groups!) and taking regular exercise every day. That is certainly going to be the requirement, come the 11th June, when I will hopefully have a clear week to address the misgivings of the last 6 months! BFN.
Something of a whirlwind seven days, I would have to say – and here I am in Aalborg, Denmark.
We are now five shows into our Scandinavian tour, which will encompass the countries of Denmark (10 shows, 5 of them outdoors); Sweden (four shows); Norway (1 show) and Finland (1 show). These Scandinavian shows will take us through to 6th June, in Helsinki. We will then fly to Amsterdam on 7th June, undertake two shows there on 8th and 9th June, and return to the UK on Tuesday 10th June.
I have to say that in all the time I have been doing this, I’ve rarely played more than three shows in Denmark, on any Scandinavian tour: and here we are, doing ten! Very unusual.
One of my first impressions on this trip is the immediate reminder of how well versed the Danish are with the English language: I have yet to meet any individual (from hotel reception staff, through to the local taxi drivers) who cannot manage, at least, a passing conversation with me. Nevertheless, as was the case when I visited the local “Dansk Bank” in Copenhagen, to change some money, I always enquire if the person I’m dealing with has “a little English”. A minor courtesy, I know, however – as you may have discovered in this life - a little courtesy can go a long way. Why, can somebody tell me, does it often take a lifetime to learn such things?
So, this week, we have already played five shows: having arrived in Copenhagen on Monday, we then played Fredericksburg on Tuesday evening (22 miles outside the capital city), followed by two consecutive shows, Wednesday and Thursday, at the Falconer Centre, in Copenhagen itself. The best thing about the Copenhagen shows was the fact that the venue was right next to the hotel: I probably made it from my hotel bedroom to the backstage production office in around 6/7 minutes: possibly a “world record” in my time – apart from the odd time when I’ve slept on the production office floor, such were the deadlines I was working under at the time.
On Friday, the original plan was to drive on the tour bus, up to Randers (still in Denmark), for our show there on Saturday evening. However, due to Paul having a meeting with some of his management and record company people, scheduled for mid afternoon in Copenhagen, I sent the bus ahead with our three “crew” guys and booked a train for Paul and I to travel to Randers, later in the afternoon. It’s certainly interesting to note the contrasting differences in rail travel around the world (I’ve probably alluded in the past, as to how comfortable I am, traveling on trains) and in this case it was surprising to observe the lack of a “buffet car” on a main rail route out of the capital city – and at a peak commuter time.
Here in Aalborg, where our show was this evening (Sunday), Paul was invited to plant a tree beside the city’s main park where sixty-five entertainment personalities have done so to date. It was enchanting to see how some of those trees have grown, since Cliff Richard was the first person to do so, back in 1987 – you should see the size of his tree now! Others who have planted trees there in the past twenty-odd years include Joe Cocker; Andrea Bocelli and Katie Melua. I wonder if I’ll ever go back there again and see how Paul’s tree is faring? Only time will tell. BFN.
Well, whad’ya know? I’m back on UK soil. Not for long however (flying to Copenhagen tomorrow).
We arrived back early Friday morning, from Seoul, having connected through Hong Kong onto the overnight British Airways flight. I decided that it made little point to run back up to Scotland, when it would only mean two days there: the idea is to reduce my amount of traveling!
This past week, we completed the last of our three Seoul shows (on Monday) and then flew down to the coastal resort of Busan - South Korea’s second largest city and the country’s top tourist area - for our final South East Asia show, on Wednesday evening. I can certainly see the attraction of the city, although that view may be somewhat embellished, as a result of the location of our hotel (smack bang on the beachfront, overlooking the water).
One of the things that immediately struck me about Busan, was the seemingly-endless amount of high-rise apartment buildings: sometimes ten or twelve blocks within a few hundred square meters of each other. I meant to ask one of the Korean promoter’s staff about the reason for this but – typically – just never got round to it. However, with the city being nestled between the ocean and the surrounding hills, I’ve deduced that land space must be at a premium and therefore the only way to build is the way.
Strangely enough, the initial “vibes” I encountered while I was in Busan (a gentle, tranquil, city within an otherwise fairly frantic country) reminded me of the coastal city of Thessaloniki, in Greece – of all places! On the latter occasion, I was finishing up a fairly hectic Deep Purple tour, where the previous two shows to Thessaloniki had been played in Athens: therefore, within the space of twenty-four hours, I found myself transposed from the clamour of the capital city to the tranquility of Thessaloniki. I can still recall the good feeling of that day.
So, I’ve come away from Korea with a pleasant impression of the country and would have no qualms about re-visiting the area: although, to be honest, New Zealand tops my list of “re-visitable” countries, based upon all the places we have visited so far, on the Paul Potts tour.
Now we are back on the Western side of the world and heading out to Scandinavia, at lunchtime tomorrow, for the final leg of the worldwide tour. While I’ve obviously toured Scandinavia m any times in the past, I have to tell you that I have never undertaken so many Danish shows on the one tour: apparently, Paul made a public appearance in Copenhagen’s town square, in the autumn of last year during his promotional schedule, which was initially anticipated to attract a crowd of around two thousand: that figure ended up being closer to twenty thousand. This certainly had some bearing on Paul’s album being Sony/BMG’s biggest seller in Denmark, in 2007.
For my part, I have to start deciding what I’m doing, from mid June onwards: Paul’s schedule, over the next couple of months, will revolve around his recording commitments, in respect of his next record release: therefore. I’m unsure how much of a tangible involvement there will be for me. The situation should become clearer within the next couple of weeks, so I’ll keep you posted. This business tends to be feast or famine: who knows where the road leads next? BFN.
Today finds us in the Korean capital of Seoul where, earlier this evening we played the second of three consecutive shows at the Ewha Women’s University (Grand Auditorium).
While the choice of venue may initially strike you as somewhat unusual, the facilities were excellent in aiding the production of our show. Although our normal orchestra setting numbers either twelve or fourteen, the Korean promoter decided to pull out all the stops for the four Korean shows (three in Seoul, one in Busan) and very kindly furnish us with a 48-piece orchestra. Now, with the greatest respect to the variety of 12/14 piece orchestras, that we have used in several different countries over the course of this world tour, the sound of the 48-piece alternative, when in full musical flight, is something to behold.
For me, personally, Seoul comes as something of a breath of fresh air, after the four days spent in Tokyo: the latter just too frantic and almost claustrophobic. Conversely, Seoul can boast a “gentler” city skyline, more inner-city greenery and a few rolling hills in the suburbs.
We are currently housed in the Grand Hyatt Hotel, which occupies a geographical position of prominence overlooking the south part of the city: such that, even sitting in the Terrace Lounge on the ground (reception) floor, one can enjoy spectacular views, particularly at night.
The hotel itself boasts several quality in-house restaurants, in addition to a thriving nightclub scene, on the lower lobby floor (consisting of a live-music bar on one side of the separate lower-floor entrance and a pump-it-up vibrant disco room, on the other). The guys and myself have tended to hang out in the live-music bar, particularly in light of the fact that they have an excellent “covers” band – all the way from Montreal would you believe – who go by the name of “Sold Out”. We did wonder whether they had especially chosen that name – as a play on words – for their three-month “residency” on the hotel premises. Seems unlikely.
A very competent band indeed, consisting of two girl singers, drums, bass, guitar and keyboards: one of the two girls (the one who impressed me most, with her energetic sense of rhythm) appeared to also be a fairly competent musician, covering bass guitar and keyboards, when both of those respective guys stepped up to the down-stage centre microphone, to join the other female singer, on lead-vocal duties. Their positioning – stage wise – is fairly unique, with them set up on a small semi-circular platform, “behind” the bar staff’s serving area. The drummer was jammed right at the back, with his head grazing the low ceiling but – the blond lead vocalist aside – I felt he was the most competent of the musicians in the band.
From our side, a fairly decent week’s work (this past week), with two shows in Tokyo and two shows in Seoul. We have one more show in Seoul tomorrow (Monday) then it’s down to the coastal resort of Busan, for our final Korean show, on Wednesday of next week. We have been using confetti “canons” as a stage effect on the Korean shows, almost on the last note of the show, durng the encore song, “Nessum Dorma” – and they are proving very effective (I just wouldn’t like to be the person/persons charged with cleaning up the mess afterwards). By this time next week, I’ll be a lot closer to home, so I look forward to speaking to you then.April
So, yes, I’m a little late with this week’s entry, however I want to share with you, where I am at this very time: not to be smug in any way, rather to try to communicate this impression of enormity that I’m grappling with this morning. Intrigued? No? Surely just a little?!
I actually have the laptop perched on the typically wide window ledge of my Tokyo Hotel (the Cerulean Tower, in the city’s Shibuya district) – mostly all skyscraper hotels in Tokyo seem to feature “deep” window sills – we’re talking 15 inches or so, and I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that it bears some relationship to the occasional earthquake occurrences here.
The view from this 34th floor room (if “view” is the correct definition) is just of an endless metropolis: every size and shape of building – the majority of which, of course, are tall – as far as the naked eye can see. Maybe it’s because this is my thirteenth trip to this country in thirty years that I’m absolutely convinced I could not live here. Now, don’t get me too wrong: the people are wonderful, the culture fascinating and the nightlife memorable – but when the time came to escape it for a while, where could you go, for as little tranquility?
The traffic-ridden elevated flyovers that crisscross the city are literally within touching distance of the office and apartment blocks, that skirt almost the entire length of them: an hour and a quarter to get in from the airport today (Monday 28th), although – in fairness – with our Qantas flight from Perth touching down at 09.45 am, this morning, at Tokyo’s Narita airport, probably not much different than trying to make it into London’s West End, from Heathrow, at the same time of day. Good advice for claustrophobics: Tokyo’s not for you.
I was, of course, a little saddened to have left Australia – particularly where (as a result of Paul and Julie Ann having some family belonging the city) we stayed on after the show, for three days. Yes, folks, it’s one of those rare occasions where my accounts are totally up to date: it’s almost unsettling.
When I left off last week, we had just finished our show at Sydney’s Opera House, which meant that on Monday morning we were on an early flight up to Melbourne for our first “back-to-back” show since Mexico City (I was recall doing eleven shows back-to-back, way back in 1976 with Jethro Tull, so this surely could be a whole lot more frantic).
Tomorrow (Tuesday 29th) and Wednesday will see Paul play his first ever Japanese shows, and the good news is that we have sold-out the first show and we’re not terribly far away on the second one: I’m still reeling for the fact that I’ve been here twelve previous times (I had to run through them again, in my head, to make sure that was a true figure) so I don’t know if you’ll be interested in the list of acts (in, almost, chronological order): Aerosmith; Bay City Rollers (2); Japan (the band!); Alcatrazz (2); Wham; George Michael (2); The Cult; Westlife (promotion only) and now Paul Potts: that’s only twelve!! (that I can remember, anyway …)
Heading off to Korea later in the week, from where next week’s diary will be penned (we have three shows in Seoul and one in the coastal city of Busan. See you “there” next week. BFN.
Well, guess where my show was this evening? None other than the Sydney Opera House!
Sure, I’ve been to Australia a few times over the years – but the shows always seemed to be at the arena-sized venues (it’s hard to see The Cult playing the Sydney Opera House). Now, to be honest, although the venue is a worldly-recognised icon, the interior of the actual concert hall is certainly no more lavish than at least six or so of the opera-type venues we have played on this tour, so far. It’s the exterior of the building – rather than the interior - that captures they eye and leaves one with an indelible memory of it’s unique architecture.
So, what of the past week? Well, as you know (if you read last week’s entry!) I was rather saddened to leave New Zealand behind. Now, originally, the plan had been to fly from Auckland, Australia bound, on Monday afternoon (14th) to Adelaide, via Sydney. In fact, our crew guys stuck to this itinerary: however, Paul, his wife and myself – at the request of the record company – took a little “detour” via Melbourne, for a full-on day of promotional activity on Tuesday. We then flew up to Melbourne on Wednesday morning, in readiness for the show at Adelaide’s.
The next day we flew up to Brisbane, the city that my son has recently announced he wishes to travel to – once his University term finishes – to hopefully (for the both of us!) find his fortune. So, I’ve acted as a sort of “advance party”. Unfortunately, there were only two direct flights from Adelaide to Brisbane (one early morning, one late afternoon) so I was not able to have enough time, as I would’ve liked, to have a good look around the city, on his behalf. However – and I’m sure the decent weather had some influence on my initial impressions of the city – Brisbane comes across as a fairly cool city. Yes, I was here a couple of times with George Michael however – as all you young things will invariably discover, with the passing of time – the old memory cells are not quite what they used to be! Maybe just as well.
On Thursday evening our Australian promoter invited us all out to dinner at a very pleasant Italian restaurant near the river, which only enhanced my overall view that there could be a lot worse places than Brisbane, than my son could have chosen to embark upon the next stage of his life’s travels. The fact that the unemployment levels are refreshingly low always helps!
Following Friday evening’s show in Brisbane – at “QPAC”, next door to the city’s University, we took a flight down to Sydney, with no show last night. Chris Taylor (piano player) and myself took a late afternoon leisurely walk along the waterfront in the direction of the Opera House itself, passing very close underneath the Sydney Bridge (our hotel, Sebel Pier One, was located a mere stone’s throw from the south end of the bridge. Believe me, it’s only when you stand underneath that monster of a bridge that you seriously begin to marvel as to how they ever managed to build that bloody thing, all of eighty years ago. Quite stunning.
So, with the unique experience of having, today, played the Sydney Opera, I’m sitting here on the outside deck of the Sebel’s ground floor bar, staring out over the bay and pondering that – really – this isn’t a bad old life I lead: trouble is, I can’t do this forever. Mmmm. Any ideas?!
Alas – sadly – tonight (Auckland) was our last show of four, here in New Zealand: it’s a pity to find myself leaving here tomorrow, en-route to the Australian leg of the tour.
As I slightly struggled to explain last week, the last ten days or so have imbibed in me some strange form of calmness – and it therefore surely has to bear some relation to the new environment that I found myself in. Yet, I still can’t exactly put my finger on it.
On Monday, having undertaken the Christchurch show on the previous day, we took a midday flight to Wellington and checked in to the city’s Bolton Hotel, a very impressively designed establishment, where the subtle in interaction of colours and fabrics – both in the corridors and the bedroom – leant the hotel a very pleasing and comforting ambience. Of course, not much happening on a Monday night except – as a few of you kindly remembered –the occasion of my birthday! Managed to deftly hide that fact from the rest of my traveling party: knowing my guys, it would have immediately been deem as unquestionable cause for celebration.
Actually, the other three guys (Mark, Chris and Mark) had gone out to eat earlier in the evening, whereas I was determined to finish the last elements of my US-tour accounting and Fedex the paperwork back to our New York accountants. Consequently, I caught up with the guys at a restaurant, about ten minutes walk from the hotel, just after nine in the evening.
As they were just finishing their dinner and heading back to the Bolton Hotel (and also because their reports on the food they just eaten was not exactly glowing) I decided to seek out a restaurant in the Courtney Place part of town, the area – I was reliably informed – which “jumps” at the weekend. However, it was pleasing to be able to enjoy a leisurely dinner on my own, reflecting upon another year under my belt. Things could be a lot worse. A lot worse.
The day after the Wellington show, at the Michael Fowler Centre, we flew to the city of Rotorua, famed – and I kid you not – for it’s smell! The smell of sulpher hydroxide that is, being that Rotorua is located smack bang in the middle of New Zealand’s geo-thermal region: lots of mud springs and bubbling geysers. Everyone who has spent any time in the region kept re-assuring me that one will soon become used to the smell – however I’m not so sure.
The good thing was that we had a couple of days break in Rotorua, prior to Friday’s show and therefore – particularly with the weather being the most pleasant it’s been, since our arrival in New Zealand, I spent a fair bit of time doing – well – not much really: and it felt good.
Just to be able to sit outside one of the many street side cafes - and bask in the warm glow of the afternoon sunshine – was at least some reward for the grueling North American schedule.
Back down to Auckland yesterday morning, on a dinky eighteen-seat plane to play our last New Zealand show tonight, to a sold out house and a very receptive audience. So, it’s off to Aussie land tomorrow, for our first show in Adelaide on Wednesday night. I would certainly welcome the opportunity to come back to New Zealand soon. I have enjoyed it immensely. See y’all.
Christ(church)! We’re in New Zealand and what a genuinely enchanting country it is.
When I left off with you guys last week, I was en-route to Queenstown, on New Zealand’s southern island, where Paul and his wife had decided to “hole up” for a few days. What a picturesque part of the country this proved to be: the minute we touched down at their quaint little airport (no security check, before boarding the flight in Christchurch, to fly to Queenstown!!).
It’s quite something to depart Los Angeles last Monday evening, after flying in from Mexico City, and then touch down in Auckland, early on Wednesday morning (if you care to work out the time-zone changes and add that to the actual flight time of the LA-Auckland direct flight, then you’ll see how one actually loses a day!). I think it’s all done with mirrors.
You must check out Queenstown on the internet: a lovely little town, nestled between gentle rolling hills on one side – and a blue-green lake on the other. Yes, folks, I could stay there (well, I did – but only for three nights). The biggest challenge was finding a printer, in such an idyllic situation, which could copy, collate and reduce my tour itineraries for the next leg. However, step forward, the Queenstown Business Centre – and a young lady called Julie (as I recall!) – all the way from Galway in Ireland. Job done in just over three hours!
Having undertaken four different flights in under twenty-four hours, to reach Queenstown (Mexico City/LA; LA/Auckland; Auckland/Christchurch and Christchurch/Queenstown) I was fairly zonked: however, bitter experience has taught me to “graft” myself onto the local time zone, at the earliest opportunity, in order to minimize the sometimes-crippling effects of jet lag. In this case, it meant trying my hardest to stay up until later on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday and Friday, I completed various accounting tasks relating to the recent US tour – however, thankfully managed to find some time to wander aimlessly around Queenstown and partake of some of the local “attractions”, most notably the “Sky Lift” which whisks one upwards to the top of a prominent hill, overlooking the panoramic vista of Queenstown below. I actually experienced a small tinge of regret, as we made our way back to the quaint little airport yesterday (Saturday) afternoon, en-route to Christchurch, from where I sit at the venue, just completing the last couple of paragraphs for this week’s “Diary from the Road”.
Tonight was my first ever show in New Zealand. It’s been too long coming: twice I’ve been heading this way and twice, budgetary constraints have put paid to it. I’m trying to come to terms with the country – what I’ve seen of it so far – but there is undoubtedly a ”uniqueness” about the place. I should be able to have crystalised my thoughts in a more articulate manner, this time next week, having spent another seven days, drinking-in the atmosphere.
Environments, such as this, can also surely only have beneficial effects on my state of mind and therefore – as I continue to silently grapple with “where I’m at” – this calming effect that appears to have infused itself in my being, since arriving here in this fine country. BFN.March
Ola! I write to you today (Monday, actually) en-route from Mexico City to Auckland, New Zealand, via Los Angeles: this, of course, heralds the completion of our “North American” sector of the world tour – and, upon reflection later, possibly the toughest sector we will have endured.
I believe I left off with you guys, in Calgary last Sunday, awaiting our show in the city on Monday evening. On Tuesday morning we caught the flight to Los Angeles and booked into West Hollywood’s Le Montrose hotel. Of course, I have something of a love affair with that particular area of California, having spent extended periods of stay there, on two separate occasions in the 1980’s. It was good to meet up again with my dear friend Penelope and just having her company for my short stay there – in conjunction with my natural - at times unexplainable – affinity to that whole West Hollywood area, just instantly recharged my batteries. I love the place.
Back to reality: our show on Wednesday evening – at Los Angeles’s legendary Wiltern Theatre – went off without a hitch: many guests at the “after show” gathering (as you would expect in such a major, media, city) but very convivial indeed. The venue has a very helpful, experienced, technical staff – and that makes for a great difference (and an easier day) for my “crew” guys.
Although I would loved to have spent another night in Los Angeles, we all agreed that it made the best sense to have a tour bus show up after the performance at the Wiltern - and transfer us down to Phoenix, for Wednesday night’s show at the Ikeda Theatre in Mesa, a suburb 30 minutes from the city centre. Of course, with the extensive after-show arrangements, we didn’t actually leave the venue site in L.A. until around 12.30 am on the morning (technically) of 27th, Thursday.
However, it did not take our driver, Charlie Jam (never got round to asking him the origin of his surname!) long to cover the 225+ miles to Phoenix – with the result that we were pulling up at the front door of the Ritz Carlton Hotel by nine o’clock in the morning. Being that our reservation was (technically – that word again) for Thursday evening only – and also seeing as the hotel had enjoyed 100% occupancy the previous (Wednesday) evening – we unfortunately were not able to check in until 10.30 am: still, that was better than we had anticipated, so we were happy campers.
Wednesday night’s show went particularly well (Paul now back in full voice, following a minor cold bout) and everyone was in good spirits as we headed for Phoenix airport, Thursday, to catch the international mid-morning flight to Mexico City. My fourth visit to this huge metropolis.
I would venture that you really have to visit Mexico City to truly appreciate the vastness and the sprawl of the city. I would love to read up on how it became so populated and so extensive.
It was certainly refreshing to spend three nights (two shows) in the one city and I think the “break” was welcomed by every member of our small touring party: as I previously mentioned, the past five weeks have been fairly grueling and – much as though we have all enjoyed (and benefited from) the experience, I think we’re all glad to have it under our belt. So here we are today, Monday morning, on he first of four consecutive flights to take us all the way to Queenstown in New Zealand. Things certainly become easier from here – and my “Diary’s” caught up! Rock on!
I’ll bet you guys had more than an idea that I had managed to fairly seriously slip behind – again - with my “Diary of the Road” entries: and, oh, how right you were.
Today, thankfully (as I sit in the city of Calgary, a city with some distant, fond, memories – more of this later), I can report that I’m definitely on the mend, albeit I’m struggling to eradicate a wheezing cough: however, compared to how I felt this time last week, in Ottawa – as you may recall – I’m definitely on the road back to fitness (something of a pun there, maybe).
This particular evening finds me sat in my hotel room in the Sheraton eau Claire, in Calgary, where many, many, moons ago (1976 to be exact) I finished an eight-month stint with the band “Jethro Tull” and took my first ever road – and rail, to some degree – trip in the US. I’ll tell you how far back it was: Stella and I actually managed to hire a car, one way, from Vancouver to Los Angeles, purely on the strength of a $500.00 deposit and a photocopy copy of our passports – not a credit card in sight. Changed days, huh?
So, just to summarise, we boarded the Canadian Pacific train in Calgary, to Vancouver; flew from Vancouver to Denver and then picked up said hire car in Denver and drove to L.A. via Las Vegas. One day, I may elaborate on those bygone times (oh, to be back there now) but to quote my very special friend Loraine “I don’t do regret – it’s too saddening a place to visit”. Ah, Loraine – the woman merits a couple of weeks worth of “Diary of the Road” entries, right there on her own: she could still kick my arse at “University Challenge” - even if she had her TV sound on mute.
Time to – almost grudgingly – haul myself back into the present, and a rather chilly Calgary evening. So, what of the past week? Well, on Tuesday morning past, we took the long flight west, from Ottawa to Edmonton, thankfully on a day off. Now, much as though Edmonton is a fairly vibrant city, there’s no way I could live in such a place, being how “land-locked” it is. Strange that, don’t you think, coming from a guy who swims like a brick? But, that’s the way I feel.
Contrast the above view with that of the city that we traveled overnight to (through the Rockies) after Tuesday night’s show in Edmonton – namely Vancouver. Oh, Vancouver. Many years ago I had occasion to be temporarily based in the city, for five days and discovered much of the character of the place that has increasingly endeared me to the city on each subsequent visit. If the opportunity comes to visit this charming city, I’m sure you will not be disappointed. Trust me.
Of course, the fact that I was still trying to eradicate the last traces of my flu bug, sensibly prevented me from sampling the excellent variety of nightlife that the city has to offer: but there was no way I was going to let that bug get a grip of me again. Following on from Thursday night’s actual show in Vancouver, we actually elected to spend the following day there the next day (that’s what you call a “real day off” on the road – no show and no travel movement whatsoever: a rare occasion). Yesterday, Saturday, we took the ferry out to Victoria island for a show at the charming McPherson Playhouse and then this morning we took advantage of a direct Westjet flight from Victoria to here in Calgary, arriving mid afternoon. I’m definitely on the road to recovery – and I can’t tell you how good it feels. Bring on L.A. – see you next week.
Well, avid readers, while I may have left off with you in Boston last week, in the good ‘ol U S of U, you find me today – penning this week’s edition of the Diary from the Road – in Ottawa, Canada: however, the very situation I was quietly fearful of (catching some stray bug, when my resistance was so low, following on from too many severely late nights on this tour – all work-related, I have to say!) has actually happened for real. And I’m not in a terribly good way.
I’ll backtrack over the events of the last week, from which you’ll be able to ascertain how I managed to degenerate into the wheezing, coughing, wreck that writes before you, today.
On Monday past, having played the Boston show a week ago today, we drove back down to New York City (still self-driving ourselves at this point) with the benefit of an evening off. We checked into Manhattan’s Affinia Hotel, an “all-suite” affair, located on 7th Avenue and East 31st Street, almost diagonally opposite Madison Square Gardens. I would definitely stay there again.
Paul had a couple of business meetings to attend with his New York accountants, therefore I busied myself with the procedures of handing back – and settling up for – the two SUV’s. Our next transfer – a flight from New York to Toronto on Wednesday afternoon – dictated that our brief love affair with self-driving was now at an unfortunate end.
So, we come to the New York show on Wednesday evening, at The Town Hall on 43rd Street and – as is typical with the big city shows – the emphasis can often shift from the basic requirement of performing a good, entertaining, show to ensuring that no-one on the guest list is left without the correct designation of backstage pass! Perish the thought. Of course, no New York show is complete without the accompanying “shindig” afterwards (for shindig, read record company after-show party) which is where Paul picked up a slight bug - said bug obviously figuring that, as it was not having too much luck making any serious (lasting) impression on Paul, it would sneak around looking for some far more vulnerable individual – and, yes, it found me.
I didn’t actually realise I was starting to come down with anything until yesterday (Saturday) morning. Since flying out of New York to Canada on Wednesday afternoon, we played a show at Hamilton’s Hamilton Place Theatre, then “overnighted” up to Montreal and then overnighted back down to Toronto for last night’s show. The combination of me pushing myself to sit up until 5.30 a.m. on Wednesday morning to finish my US accounts (and therefore not to have to drag them all the way to Canada with me) and my already physically weakened state – from too many similarly long nights on the UK tour – put me right in the frame for this bout of flu that I’ve contracted.
So here I sit in Ottawa today, having traveled up from Toronto during the day today, on this “day off”: busying myself with the diary, as much to take my mind off things, as anything else.
I would have to confess to having felt better – the road is the worst place to try and rid oneself of such ailments, being that you don’t have the luxury of “holing up” in the one place and attempting to sweat the thing out of yourself. I will think seriously again in the future before I take on such a workload with so little time upfront of the tour. Can’t keep doing this to myself.
So, now we are on the road for real (this week has seen us play another five shows on the US sector of the tour) and with there being a long way to go – world-wise - the need to pace myself is of paramount importance. I’m painfully aware that I’ve probably endured one too many “all-nighters” during both the preparatory and UK sectors of the tour and – God forbid – if I pick up even any sort of mild bug, I not best prepared to ward it off.
On Monday morning we took a mid-day flight from Tampa to Washington and picked up a self-drive SUV from National car rentals, our mode of transport until we reach New York next week. I enjoy driving some of the shorter distances on the US tours, although it’s only when you have a compact touring party – as is our current situation – that you are able to achieve such a situation.
Pardon me if I’m repeating myself here, but our world-wide touring party is now down to a total of six: myself; Paul and his wife Julie; Mark Agnor (Conductor); Chris Taylor (Piano Player) and Mark Littlewood (Sound Engineer). When we have “back-to-back’ shows here in the States – as was the case with Tampa last Sunday and Washington last Monday, then the three “crew” guys will invariably take an earlier flight, to enable them to arrive at the venue with enough time to check through – and test - the local equipment, prior to the orchestra showing up for their designated rehearsal time (and, we’re using a different orchestra in every city as well!).
This was the case with Monday past, with the crew guys flying into Washington-Baltimore airport and picking up their hire vehicle and us flying into Washington-Dulles and collecting ours.
As our next show after Washington was on Wednesday – at the massive Foxwoods casino in the depths of Connecticut – at a distance of over three hundred miles, we decided to drive north out of Washington, directly after the show, for a couple of hours and check into a hotel, en-route, in Wilmington Delaware. As the hotel in question was located just off the freeway, it was pretty straightforward to make the stop – and we were soon on our way again next morning to Foxwoods.
You have to see this Foxwoods complex to actually believe it: the largest single-casino facility in the world, built on an Indian reservation – and therefore free of normal restrictive state gaming laws, that would otherwise prevent such a venture being able to operate (something to do with being located on “sovereign” soil – I must read more about this when I have time). Wild, man.
Having played at the small theatre within the Foxwoods complex on Wednesday evening, we then traveled south, 136 miles, for Thursday evening gig at Westbury’s North Fork Theatre, a quaint old establishment with the stage located in the middle of the venue – making for a very intimate venue, with the audience almost within touching distance. As Westbury is literally a suburb of New York, we stayed in Manhattan on Thursday night – particularly as we had Friday night off in the Big Apple. On Saturday, we drove south out of the city for a show at the Borgatta Hotel and Casino complex, in Atlantic City: for me, a quite charming area. Yes, it’s another “gambling city”, but with bags more charm than Las Vegas (the newer part of Vegas anyway) will ever be able to muster. After the Atlantic City show, it was time to take another long(ish) journey north, for tonight’s show here at the Berklee Performing Arts centre in Boston. Pretty manic week, huh?
Most of this last week was spent in Las Vegas, awaiting Paul’s performance – on Thursday past (28th) - for that special one-off show, hosted by Tony Bennett. There was me thinking I should manage to get close to catching up on my work, but it didn’t entirely work out that way ….
An essential part of my any Tour Manager’s job – relating to “upcoming” territories on a world tour such as this, is the “advancing” of future shows: this entails calling ahead to each and every promoter – of each and every venue – to check over all production-related details of the show.
Time consuming? You bet it is. Absolutely necessary? Unquestionably. However, for reasons I’ll briefly touch upon here, it’s a time consuming process. From my (the Tour Manager’s) end of things, it’s best if I’m sat at a reasonable workspace surrounded by laptop, advance files and proposed tour itinerary: this is fairly easily achievable if one is located in the familiarity of one’s normal work environment – in reality, this is rarely the case.
It’s far more likely that at the very time I need to apply myself to call a particular promoter, relating to his Paul Potts show, I’m stuck at another venue on another show, or I’m connecting flights in some distant city, or I’m out on a promotional run with the Artist. These previous circumstances are of course only my side of the coin: now we come to the guy I’m trying to hook up with, to successfully conclude the “advance” – namely the promoter’s Production Manager.
The very nature of the job description of the promoter’s Production Manager deems that, invariably, he is out on the road somewhere (at the very time you’re trying to get hold of him, of course) producing a show, for another Artist.
So (if you’re still with me here) you start to appreciate that just accomplishing one show advance – which, in actuality, only takes no more than an hour on the phone initially – can take days to co-ordinate. Multiply that by, in the case of Paul’s North American tour, twenty-two shows and you start to formulate an idea of just how time consuming this “advancing” business becomes.
Anyway, back to this week past: Paul’s appearance at the show in Vegas went off without a hitch (quite a buzz for me to be “hanging” in the same space as the infamous Mr. Bennett) by which time – having spent almost a week in the city that was “hardly built by winners”, I was more than ready to move on. Subsequently, at 6.00 am yesterday morning (Friday) we were on a flight bound for Miami – and eagerly anticipating our first “real” US show in Hollywood (Florida) last night.
The show itself was staged in the Hardrock venue, attached to their Seminole Hotel and Resort, a vibrant entertainment and leisure complex, just teeming with the excesses of vibrant youth.
This evening (Sunday) we played a the enchanting Tampa Theatre, Tampa being one of several US cities that can boast the main railway line running right through the centre of town. Something of a surreal situation to be loading the gear out, after the show, with a seemingly endless freight train crawling through the street behind you. However, folks, if you’re up for a little of the surreal, then don’t move that dial. There’s lots more to come. Until next week on the road. BFN.February
Viva Las Vegas!
Arrived here yesterday, from London, via Los Angeles, in preparation for a special one-off show, hosted by the legendary Tony Bennet – and due to be staged next Thursday.
Having completed the UK tour last Sunday (17th) and realizing, as I said last week, that I was just not going to have enough time to make it back to Scotland, prior to yesterday’s morning trip from Heathrow – I spent Monday and Tuesday holed up in the K-West hotel in Kensington (they say Kensington, but it’s just round the corner from Shepherds Bush!) completing the UK tour accounts and ensuring that I did not find myself dragging unnecessary paperwork to the States.
On Wednesday the children flew down for a couple of days and we all met up at a friend’s house, one hour north of London. Even though I was now in preparation mode for this North American leg of the tour (13 shows USA / 7 shows Canada / 2 shows Mexico City) I still tried to keep the nights free to spend with my children and my friends children. They have all known each other for many years, although it’s a while since they all spent some time together. Most uplifting!
How I could have done with a few more days this week, just so that I could have completed certain basic tasks, relating to this sector of the tour (settlement programme, cash road-float spreadsheet, etc.). Once the tour is rolling, it becomes very difficult to nail down some quality time, to deal with tasks that require a fair degree of concentration. The day-to-day touring processes of just traveling the Artist to the show, ensuring all of the required components of the show are in place – and then making the arrangements to move on to the next show – can engulf many long hours. Meanwhile the daily administration work often takes second place.
One then relies on one’s days off to attempt to catch up with the backlog of work, this being particularly crucial when relating to all accounting-based issues. However, as I’ve mentioned on many numerous, past, occasions - a “clear” day off is an extremely rare occurrence: there is generally some element of travel involved with every touring day unless, of course, one is fortunate enough to be doing multiple shows in each city: on which case you have two or three nights when you don’t have to pack up everything after the show. A rare luxury indeed.
So here we are in vibrant Las Vegas, the world’s gambling capital and – even having visited this city several times (mainly work-related) in the last thirty years, I still struggling to fathom the enormity of it all. As I reminded my children a few years back, when we briefly passed through here on one of our motor-home “road trips”, this city certainly wasn’t built on winners. Yet it continues to grow and, currently, to be able to boast something like twelve of the world’s twenty largest hotels, on the Las Vegas strip alone. As with many things in this life, I struggle to come to terms with the sheer industry of the place. In a couple of weeks we play “Foxwoods” in Connecticut, supposedly the largest casino in the world, on the site of an Indian reservation. A few more days here in Vegas and then the touring starts for real. Time to hit the road (Jake).
The first touring show is in Hollywood (Florida) next Friday – then we’re on our way for real.
Well, whadya' know? We’ve come to the end of the UK tour: but, yet, this is only the beginning, in the worldwide sense
However, what can I tell you of the last week? Don’t move that dial. Here we go. It’s Monday, 11th, so it must be Bristol, where we arrived last Sunday, with no show that night.
Now, in terms of concert venues, it has long been argued that the city of Bristol could surely support an arena type of facility. In fact the stage doorkeeper at the Hippodrome (the venue where Paul’s show was staged) informs me that talks were seemingly well advanced on the new venue front, however council politics and lack of funding resources put a sudden stop to things.
So, for the foreseeable future, Bristol must soldier on with the three most notable concert type venues in the town: The Colston Hall; The Hippodrome and the Bristol Academy. Apologies to anyone from Bristol who may be reading this if I am somewhat ill informed – I believe there may be another venue known as (or on the original site of) the Tobacco Factory. Then, I do recall playing a gig many years ago at the then Bristol Granary – is it still around, I wonder?
For our part, the Hippodrome is a quaint little theatre, not always easy to book, as a result of the amount of “residency” shows it hosts over the year. That’s more than enough on Bristol!
As a result of many of Paul’s close family and relations making the trip to be at the show, we stayed in town on Monday night and traveled up to Birmingham on Tuesday, this particular city being notable as the one city on the UK tour where we played two shows. The Symphony Hall is a magical venue, perfectly suited to an event such as this. Check it out if you ever have the chance.
Being that we were in the city for two nights, Paul kindly offered to throw a little “after-tour” party at the “Living Room” bar/restaurant just across the road from the venue. Hardly end-of-tour, you may be thinking: however, most acts who throw after-tour parties on the actual last night of the tour glaringly overlook the fact that the very guys who have been busting a gut to put the show in and out each day, have two hours works to undertake, on the load-out, before they are able to show up at any such soiree. When they do eventually arrive at the party’s location, the majority of the “comped” food and drink has been devoured by a bunch of liggers, most of who only bothered to attend the last show! So that’s why we chose Birmingham.
After a day off on Thursday, we played a show at Stoke’s Victoria Hall, a shining example of a facility that has spent millions of pounds in the last ten years, upgrading the inside and outside of the building, but who couldn’t find £250 to install a wi-fi system – not even an Ethernet cable!
From Stoke, it was on to Ipswich’s Regent Theatre (the old Gaumont, when I started doing gigs there) after which we drove directly to London’s K-West Hotel in preparation for tonight’s final show on the UK tour. This time next week, I should be penning my diary entry from Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. Glamorous as it sounds, current pressure of work had deemed that I will be unable to make it back to Scotland next week to see the children. Them’s the breaks. BFN.
Monday past (4th February) found me in London, having arrived at 3.30 am in the morning, after driving down after Sunday night’s Liverpool show.
I may have mentioned last week that the reason for making the above trip (rather than driving down to Brighton on Monday, in preparation for Tuesday’s show at the International Centre) was to enable Paul to pay a visit to obtain his US visa for the upcoming North American leg of his world tour. Paul’s appointment was in fact scheduled for Tuesday morning at 8.00 am, however there were certain business matters that required him to be in London on Monday, hence the reason to drive overnight from Liverpool and avoid the next day’s traffic jams, coming into town.
We chose to stay at The Cumberland Hotel in Great Cumberland Street, purely on the basis of it’s close proximity to the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square: however, on my view, proximity is about all it’s got going for it. Typically of many London “get ‘em in, get ‘em out” conveyor-belt hotels, the front desk staff are heavy on patronization, but way light on initiative.
As far as Paul’s appointment went at the US Embassy, he was finished before 11.00 am, which is a damn sight quicker than when I went there a couple of years back, prior to my trip to the States with Franz Ferdinand. Might have to put that down to Paul being far more recognisable than me.
Keeping in mind we still had a show to play that evening in Brighton, we checked out of the hotel (not easily, I have to say) by midday, and set off for the south coast, arriving just before three.
Brighton holds many fond memories for me, having visited my grandmother several times, when she stayed in Hove, the sister town to Brighton. Oh, to return to those days and those times.
On Wednesday morning we drove up to Oxford for show at the New Theatre, formerly known as the Oxford Apollo, many moons ago. In fact, I was able to suitably impress some of the younger members of our crew by leading them down into the depths of the building and pointing out the old mechanism that once allowed the centre portion of the stage to rotate. Pretty cool, huh?
Oxford was one of the “hit and run” shows on this UK tour, meaning that I decided not to book a hotel there, in favour of driving to Plymouth afterwards – particularly as Thursday was a day off. It was also to allow Paul to have as much time in Plymouth as possible as he spent three years at University there. Plymouth is one of those UK cities, like Newcastle, where I’m sure I could live.
The next day we enjoyed a most pleasant run from Plymouth to Portsmouth, aided by possibly the best day so far, weather-wise, on the tour. We passed through some delightful villages and hamlets in the Honiton and Bridgeport areas of Devon. I may just end up there one day.
With a day off beckoning in Bristol (and on a Sunday too) we decided to head directly there, after the Portsmouth show, a journey of some 122 miles, which took just over two hours – and this is where you now find me. Even more satisfying, is the actual fact that I’ve managed to finally catch up with my “Diary from the Road” entries. Yes, I’ll sleep easier tonight folks. BFN.
Way, aye, man!
I should explain that the above is a common greeting in the North East of England (primarily the Newcastle area) which – roughly translated – means “How’s things going?”. I’m sure one of my Geordie readers (the general reference to the people that hail from that neck of the woods) may wish to put me right on the above: come to think of it, maybe I don’t have any Geordie readers?
But, yes, how I love the city of Newcastle, where the local population will generally be found to be wearing their hearts on their sleeves. On this occasion, it’s probably just as well that our show was at the beginning of the week (Tuesday) as Jakey boy generally finds the lure of the Newcastle nightlife just too much to resist. Hey, life’s just a touch too short, is it not?
Newcastle City Hall is a venue I have played on many occasions and with a diverse array of Artists: every act – who is any act – has played there at some point in their career, the likes of the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and AC/DC (local lads) being no exceptions. A truly great gig!
On Wednesday, I elected to treat that day’s show (at Sheffield City Hall) on a “hit and run” basis: in other words, we drove from Newcastle that morning, direct to the Sheffield venue, after which we drove another two hundred miles to Cardiff. Sure, it makes for a long day – but I’m willing to go for it on the basis that it’s one less hotel to check into and who wants to drive that distance cross-country during the day? Of course, a day-off on Thursday was also on offer.
The Cardiff crowd gave Paul a rousing welcome at Friday night’s show at the International Arena: certainly, with almost five thousand people in the venue, it was something of a “home coming” gig for Paul. It was also a chance for him to hook up with his many friends and relations who live in and around South Wales. We’ll certainly take a few more shows like that!
Saturday’s show was staged at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, a venue at which I had never previously done a show. A lovely little venue, with the bonus that we could walk to our hotel (The Manchester Hilton) located just over a hundred yards from the back door of the venue. If you are planning on staying in Manchester at some point in the future, it’s definitely worth spending a night in that particular hotel, if only to marvel at the view from it’s 23rd floor penthouse bar.
Originally, the plan was to spend two nights in the Manchester Hilton, just commuting to the Liverpool show tonight (Sunday) and then leaving for Brighton tomorrow morning. However, we received news on Friday past, from our immigration lawyers in London, that Paul’s appointment to receive his US Visa was scheduled for Tuesday morning at 08.00 am. As part of the plan was to have Paul meet up with said immigration lawyers, on the day prior to his scheduled appointment – to enable a run through of the next day’s procedures – we had little choice but to leave for London, directly after tonight’s show at the Liverpool Empire.
A fair amount of traveling, huh? Welcome to the road, I would say in reply. I’m glad to report, of course, that my “Diary of the Road” is now almost up to date. Hallelujah! See you all next weekJanuary
How strange – yet invigorating – to be right back in the thick of things, touring wise: we did six shows in seven days, this past week – and I’m here to tell you all about it.
I left you last week in Cambridge, where we had a day off on the Sunday, having made the relatively short trip (41 miles), from Peterborough, to check into the Cambridge Hotel du Vin, arriving around midnight. On this tour I’ve employed a general policy – with Paul’s approval – that (provided the distance is not any greater than 200 miles) we will always drive ahead to a day off.
Let me briefly explain the logic of this to you: although I’m always claiming that there are no real “days off” on the tour (well, certainly for those of us who are charged with keeping the wheels turning) it is certainly a better plan to drive after the show, even if it means an early morning arrival at the next hotel. The next day there is no packing of suitcases; no battling through rush hour traffic as you leave town and – most importantly – no sense of having “lost the day”, as the major part of it appeared to have been spent traveling in the people carrier.
Even though we didn’t arrive in Cambridge until midnight on the Saturday evening, none of us missed breakfast later that morning (helped by breakfast generally being served half an hour later on a Sunday anyway) – then having the full day in front of us, with our suitcases already unpacked in the city we would play next (on Monday night) - and not facing any travel that day.
One final thought on the subject of overnight tour travel: it generally only takes from anywhere between 65% - 75% of the time to travel somewhere after the show, rather than the next day.
However, back to this week: a most enjoyable show on Monday evening, at Cambridge’s iconic Corn Exchange, followed by an old favourite of mine, venue-wise, The Nottingham Royal Centre, on Tuesday evening. Now, there has been a long-held (mythical?) belief that there are two women for every one man in the town of Nottingham. If indeed true, I’ve always pondered as to how such a situation actually came about. No wonder all the lads seem in good spirits in the town!
Our third show on the run (Paul will generally only agree to three shows “back to back”, for the sake of his voice) was undertaken at the International Centre in Harrogate, a delightful Yorkshire town, noted for it’s health spas and its relaxing environment. After the show, I was faced with an-almost two hundred mile drive to Edinburgh, where we planned to base ourselves and “commute” to both the Aberdeen and Glasgow shows. That was a tough drive, in the end.
As it was, in making our way north to the Aberdeen show on Friday, we were unable to cross the Forth Road Bridge, due to a combination of high winds and our high-sided vehicle. We therefore had to make our way to the show via Stirling and Perth (thankfully the bridge was re-opened for our return trip south, later that evening). Our week was completed with a show in Glasgow on Saturday, 26th (and a chance to catch up with both my offspring) and a hometown show (for me anyway!) at Edinburgh’s Playhouse this evening. After tonight’s show, I’ll be driving my party ahead to Newcastle as – and I’m sure you’re getting the hang of this now – we have no show tomorrow. Newcastle is also one of my favourite UK cities – I’ll tell you about it sometime. BFN!
I’m going have to admit to the sort of record that doesn’t exactly make me proud: I think this may be close to as far behind as I’ve ever fallen with my diary entries. Here we go to put it right.
At this time, it’s not even a question of whether honesty is the best policy – I fear that now it is the only policy. So let me tell you that here I am on Tuesday 5th February, after the Paul Potts show in Brighton, determined to get the diary back on track by this week’s 10th February entry.
Right: if you’re still following my current train of thought, I’ll now detail the events of the week ending Sunday 20th January – and, of course, that starts with Monday 14th January. So here goes.
Monday (14th) was the third rehearsal day – of four - at the “Music Bank” facility in London’s SE16 district. This was the orchestra’s first day of involvement and it was good to meet up with all of them and feed off their enthusiasm and energy. To some degree, it reminded me of my days with the “Lord of the Dance” show, when the majority of the dancers (all 32 of them) were aged under twenty-five: always positive in their attitude - and always eager to give of their best.
On Tuesday, our final day at rehearsals, Paul ran through the whole proposed tour set one more time, making some general notes as to the best time to chat to the audience and – conversely – the best time to sing two, sometimes three, consecutive songs, to enable the maximum effect.
We didn’t finish at rehearsals until around 8.00 pm on Tuesday night, meaning a late arrival at the St. Asaph hotel, based about eight miles from Rhyl, the site of our first two shows and (prior to that, on Wednesday) our production rehearsal day. Much work still to be done.
Rhyl, once a vibrant North Wales coastal holiday resort – in the days before the advent of cheap European travel – now sadly appears to be struggling to retain its attraction of past years. However, in Rhyl’s defense, it is hard to make any definite judgment in the month of January!
As you can imagine, Wednesday turned into a very long day: however, we succeeded in staging a fairly comprehensive sound-check with Paul, and Natasha Marsh, our supporting Artist. Our Production Manager, Steve Levitt, made the welcome decision to have our tour caterers on site for the production rehearsal on Wednesday, which – apart from providing an excellent standard of cuisine - obviously curbs the tendency for the crew to have to leave the venue for their meals.
The first two shows of the tour, in Rhyl, on Thursday and Friday evening, went down very well, considering this was Paul’s first time in front of his own live audience: on both nights (more so on Saturday, with the first show securely under his belt) Paul demonstrated a natural ease of communication with the audience. I’m quietly confident that he will continually improve in this department. On Saturday morning we traveled down directly to the Peterborough venue, electing to drive after the show to Cambridge – and therefore the opportunity to relax completely on our first day-off on the tour. Remember the wise (road hardened, no doubt) person who was prompted to claim that, in the touring game, “there are no days off: only show days and non-show days” – and how right he was! I’m going to review this entry in the morning. See y’all “next” week!
Greetings from London rehearsals, where we are halfway through a four-day spell.
I wasn’t wrong when I forecast that this would be a fairly heavy week: it’s a familiar pattern to be honest – and the day I manage to have an early night, prior to the first day of rehearsals, or the first day of a tour, is the day that the sun passes the moon, twice in the same year.
As I made mention of a couple of weeks back, the fact that this is Paul’s first tour, means that many (normally run-of-the mill) procedures require to be initiated, to be able to build a touring framework, from which we will establish a solid – future - touring base (a bit American speak!).
Both of my children, to varying degrees, have assisted with this week’s “preparatory” run – actually they have been around me many times, in such a similar situation, therefore (with several of the common pre-tour tasks) many times they only require the briefest of instruction.
Typically, there are certain tasks that they have, individually, come to loath (although the promise of financial gain usually, speedily, rectifies their disdain): with Jade, it’s the “newspaper editing”. I always have this nagging doubt that, having not managed to even open the newspapers some days, that their may be the odd nugget of information or journalistic article that I would want to file away for future perusal. However, on a week akin to this one past, one can easily end up with a pile of unread newspapers, including the “Sundays”, about a foot high.
In Jade’s case, she seems ill at ease with the handling of newsprint but, bless her, she battled through the job on Friday, managing to save me a few pieces of interest on the football front: she also slid an article on to my desk – when I was deeply engrossed on the phone - regarding the anticipated slump in housing prices: that particular one I could have done without!
When it comes to my son’s dislike of a certain domestic task, I would have to put that down to unloading the dishwasher. It gets done eventually, but under more than the occasional protest.
So, two more days in rehearsal and then off up to Rhyl in North Wales, in preparation for the first show on Thursday coming, the 17th. The rehearsal studios here in London are very organised, to the extent of having wireless (Wi-fi) internet signal beamed throughout the building. This allows me to beaver on, in the little production office adjacent to the main studio, while Paul is running through the shows with the orchestra next door.
It’s very often the case that one will spend more hours of the day in rehearsals that one would normally do in each of the individual venues, once the tour gets rolling: however, rehearsal rime is crucial, to ensure that the show is close to 100% polished when the first concert takes place. Sure, the first couple of shows may, arguably, have a couple of rough spots in there but then maybe that’s not a bad thing: it’s one of the reassuring things of “live” performance – it’s happening, in real time, right before your very eyes and you’re part of that experience. Enjoy! (oops, I’m doing the American thing again). You know, I love the country, having undertaken many tours there but (much like us to them) they perplex me at times. So, until next week. BFN.
Well, so much for an elongated break over the holiday period.
Having been in involved (as best I can recall) in two past tours that kicked off in January, I’m well aware of how easily one can find one’s self falling behind with the workload as (especially in the music business) everything – business wise – tends to shut down until the second week in January: in the case of this (new) year, many of my key contacts will not be back at their desks, in earnest, until tomorrow morning, Monday 7th.
Sure, I took it easy over the 31st/1st on Monday and Tuesday past, particularly on old year’s night. Not being particularly proud of my achievements (or lack of them) in 2007, I was actually quite glad to see the back of the year. I know one should not really wish one’s time away – particularly at my tender age – however as the hour’s crept away towards midnight on Tuesday night – I’m sorry – it just couldn’t come quick enough for me.
The opportunity to actually wake up in the (a) New Year – a year when I certainly intend to put right the wrongs of the past one – became increasingly tempting as the hours wore on. What could I liken it to? Shrugging off an old, irritating skin, to allow the new one the space to breath and to grow into a far healthier specimen than it’s predecessor? Something like that.
I’m very thankful to have my daughter Jade staying with me over her “mid-term” University break. In my line of work (my proper line of work that is – the Music Business) you don’t get to see your children as much as you would have liked. The upside of this – possibly more so for them than their father – is that at least I enjoyed the level of income that allowed me to take them on a few decent holidays. I recall 2005 as a particularly memorable year, in that a combination of my US touring schedule and the ability to downgrade my Virgin business class ticket (to provide me with three economy class London to New York tickets, oh yes) enabled the children to come out to the States twice, to join me both in the middle – and at the end – of the Deep Purple tour. For that, I will be eternally grateful. I still have all the pics!
So, the rest of the past week, I’ve busily engaged myself in many of the day-to-day touring tasks that require set-up and preparation beforehand and which I really need to finish before the tour actually kicks off and I find myself having to deal with the inevitable “new tour” issues that will undoubtedly arise in production rehearsals and the throughout the initial shows.
Experience has taught me that this is a given: and when you add to that the actual amount of hours just taken up by travel every day, then such things as accounting settlement programmes, tour itineraries, payment schedules, hotel instruction letters, immigration (for the ongoing territories) really need to be dealt with, before puts one’s first foot on the tour bus.
Even today, Sunday, I find myself snatching a little quality time to initiate a general clear-up of my office in preparation for the reasonably (ever-increasing) manic week ahead. I’m due in London at 10.00 am next Saturday for the commencement of rehearsals, so the pre-tour countdown starts tomorrow morning. I won’t be as wide awake this time next week. All the best.
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