Planes, trains, buses, freeways, vans, hotels - that's what it took for me to make a show in France, this last weekend. You have to be a Warrior. I joined my Wishbone Ash cohorts for a great show in Colmar, France, alongside Toto and Thin Lizzy. I'll come back to reviewing the show.
Companies involved in transport and accommodation make the most profit from rock & roll, it seems. Oh yes, and Ticketmaster. They do pretty well I think, taking up to 25% on a concert ticket last time I checked. What's up with that? I wanted to go and see the Who on their upcoming Quadrophenia tour, but I seriously have to think about paying those kind of ticket prices. A night out at a rock show like this with the family could deplete your bank balance by a $1000 after parking, a t - shirt, drinks, the tour program and a hot dog or two. At least Wishbone is a far more cost effective rock experience these days.
Recently though, I got a big bang for my buck at Town Hall in New York City where I went, with Aynsley to see the Australian guitar whizz, Tommy Emmanuel. "You have to see him at least once" is what my friend Carol Farnworth said to me and she was so right. This guy can rock - out on an acoustic guitar way more than 50 heavy metal wannabes put together. Aynsley agreed. Talking of my musician son, any fans of the HBO TV series, Boardwalk Empire, can see him blowing a trumpet as part of a 1920's jazz band, in an upcoming episode. He had to suffer a short - back - and - sides haircut for the privilege but he said it was worth it. Who would not want to appear on TV alongside the Sopranos' Steve Buscemi?
Talking of which, has anyone seen Steven Van Zandt in Lillyhammer? Great stuff. He wrote, directed and acted in it. It's really quite funny and an unusual idea for a TV series. I turned on Bob Skeat to it and he's now got the giggles already - a true sign of a winner in my book. Steven Van Zandt, leads me on to Springsteen. There's a great profile on Bruce in the New Yorker magazine, where Steve also waxes forth, at one point. The article is all about how hard Bruce works. Has he seen our winter tour schedule yet, I wonder? Apparently Bruce does it all without touching drugs or alcohol. He takes days off between shows, sleeps in 5 star hotels and has chefs prepare food from around the world, while at age 62, working - out daily, with a personal trainer. It's hard, I guess. He sounds like a bit of a pussy though, if you ask me - I think we can top him there (not in the pussy department but in the work ethic department;-)
We'll do it all - with no days off, plenty of drugs (Aleve) and alcohol, surviving on shitty food (much of the time) and definitely no private jets! Hey Bruce baby, I remember when you opened for Wishbone in the Mid West at some skeevy dive - bar back in the 1970s. Now that's rock & roll. Where did WE go wrong, I wonder )
The summer TV fare in the USA is great. I'm really digging Breaking Bad, of course. Walter White is my alter ego, I'm sure of it. Political Animals and the new Dallas ain't too shabby either. I'd watch that, just to see JR, Bobby Ewing and Cliff Barnes going at it again. Then there's the Olympics. I'm so glad I installed air conditioning, a flat screen TV and a big - ass sectional couch. Oh yes, and a 'do not disturb sign' which I hang round my neck, except when needing to be fed tea and biscuits and the er, occasional glass of cheap Chilean plonk.
July, here in the USA, was officially the hottest on record, EVER . Not so in Europe, as I found out at the Colmar show. The night we arrived, dinner was taken on the hotel patio. I thought, 'this is charming - what Europe is all about'. I was just about to bite down on my two tiny pieces of meat, that represented my veal dish, following the foie gras, when the heavens opened and the canvas awning above, gave way, dousing us, the tables and the patio. We ran inside the restaurant, where we finished dessert and coffee. No major damage done.
It was great to catch up with Bob and Joe, together with French 'fanager', Christian Guyonnet, who arrived with his wife, Françoise. Christian has a project in mind for me. His actual profession is video producer / director. Ash fans will remember that he produced our recent rockumentary, soon to be packaged for sale with the Elegant Stealth CD. Later this year he will be making a documentary about the French animator, artist and painter called Enki Bilal. Christian and Enki want me to provide the sound track. Should be interesting. I met him recently at a swanky do at the French Embassy in NY. He's also the inventor of Chess Boxing, but that's another story.
The Colmar show was great. Muddy and Mia arrived in a Kia (sounds like a song lyric) during the next day, having travelled by road from Helsinki - yes by road - like two homeless rock & roll gypsies. They are soon moving to the UK so Muddy took a long detour, via the Eastern corner of France. Bob Skeat and I commandeered the hotel bar for the next two nights along with our crazed French agent Döm Berard a.k.a. Killer Komansky. Time - out, away from our bar duties, was only taken, in order to play the show, in fact. And what a show. We opened, waking up the 4000 strong crowd. Great venue, great sound system. Got to meet some great crew guys. Phil from Sting's outfit - thanks for helping me with the guitars. Clive Brooks; latterly Nick Mason's drum tech and now Simon Philips ' tech, has the most complex set- up job of anyone. He used to work for us in the early 1990s, so we shared some good stories and memories.
Great to catch up with Thin Lizzy's Scott Gorham and Marco Mendoza - you are gentlemen. Thin Lizzy rocked the house. Great to hear those songs. I always get shivers down my back during the song, Whiskey in a Jar. It's just my favorite song. Then, it was the turn of the Americans in Toto (with the exception of lone Brit, Simon Phillips flying the flag for Blighty). I'd met Steve Lukather pre show, passing him on the stairs backstage, where we greeted each other with big ol' hugs. He's a monster guitar player, as everyone knows but what they don't know is that once, I believe, he gave Laurie Wisefield one of his signature model, Music Man guitars. All the Toto guys are monster players. Nathan East on bass. How does he do it? It's a joy to see this level of professionalism and musicality from an outfit. I said to Bob; " makes me proud to be a Yank (on this occasion)". Of course being a dual citizen of the UK & USA, I get to fly both flags - flip flopping at will. Or is that Mitt Romney?
This was not an easy venue soundwise but these three acts have over a hundred years of gigging experience between 'em so no problemo. The crowd loved it. Our hotel bartender loved it. Folks at the press conference loved it. The transport companies loved it. I loved it all. Back home now. I'm couch - bound again, after a session at the gym, but life is good.
More please! A.P.