News Archives: July 2019

Compiled by Terry Kilburn

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 18th July 2019 – Cattolica

Cattolica is a small community to the South of Rimini, along the coast, that started life as a resting place for pilgrims who travelled the Bologna-Ancona-Rome route, on their way to the sanctuary of Loreto or to St. Peter’s in Rome. It would have been an obvious spot for a rest, the beaches here are as beautiful as they are in Rimini, one can only imagine the beauty 7 or 8 hundred years ago. 

It certainly felt like a sleepy town and as it turned out, one of the strangest gigs of then tour so far. The venue “certainly ain’t Nimes”, as one member of our crew put it and the Supermarket next door added a certain ‘reality’ to the load-in and setup. With onlookers everywhere you looked, it was a curtailed sound check. The catering area had to be hastily thrown together in a gym building behind the stage, which meant a short walk across a public area. I was accosted as soon as I left, apres-soup, to go to sound check but found the people very sweet and respectful. Of course everybody wants a selfie these days, I can see why, but it can take a while.

The roof of the stage was, well, a roof, but that was about it. Of course it rained and because the roof was so high, it was partially inadequate as the rain came in from the side, onto my keyboard rig. Thankfully, the rain remained light and the nearby storms stayed away. We have been extremely fortunate with storm avoidance on this trip.

The backstage area was extremely cramped, for a production of the size of ours and squashed into the space beneath the stage at the Arena della Regina, a purpose built venue in the heart of the town. Thanks to the rain, which soon passed, the evening temperature was perfect and before the show started, most of  the band came upstairs from the dungeon to get some air. The show was held for 10 minutes, we couldn’t hold any longer, we had a plane to catch to Rome. There were inevitably still plenty of people coming in. This is where the problems started. We took to the stage and the commotion in front of us was all too apparent.

A lot of people who came late, couldn’t get to their seats due to so many standing in the aisles. Seats that had already been taken by opportunists, thinking they were free. The rain had washed the seat numbers away and the ushers who were there before the show were nowhere to be seen and security seemed inexperienced. There were clearly a lot of very confused frustrated people making a huge fuss in front of us, and at one point it looked like it might all ‘kick off’.. Saint Pete Mackay, our tour manager was out there doing his level best to sort out the mess and it took him about 4 songs before calm was restored. Poor organisation was clearly to blame. Then to make matters worse, towards the end of the show, security failed to allow people to come to the front of the stage. The suppression was evident. It wasn’t until during the very last encore that the crowd had had enough and sheepishly surged. It was only then we saw their beautiful smiling faces, full of joy, parents with their entire families, small kids, released from their shackles, allowed to bask in the last 16 bars of the set, before we disappeared, reluctantly into the night leaving the roaring cauldron behind us. It was in the cars and vans we learned about the full facts. During the show it just looked from the stage like a few pissed off fans. There was more to it of course. At least it didn’t rain.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

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Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 17th July 2019 – Turin

Beautiful venues seem to be everywhere in Italy and today’s Stupingi Park is no exception. Situated to the South West of Turin, it is a historic hunting lodge, quite the largest I’ve ever seen, not that I’m over familiar with hunting lodges. Each year, it hosts the Sonic Park festival, a feast of music and…beer, and more music.

Easing through the light afternoon Rimini traffic for our last hub-run from here, we arrived at the San Marino / Rimini airport where we passed through security, Mark smiling for the obligatory photos with the local police and security.

Light lunch was served by Daniella on board the White Asparagus and pretty soon we arrived in Turin and were driven by Alex’s team to the Stupendous Stupingi. The rural setting, a pleasant change from the huge run of arenas we’ve completed over the past few months. Dressing rooms were situated a long way from the stage so vehicular transport was required the get us there for sound check and show.

Low and behold. The scheduled time for opening the doors was moved an hour earlier than advertised by the local police, for some strange reason, can’t imagine why, and as a consequence, we thought a support act would be needed since the early comers would be standing for a very long time. What was originally a seated show turned out to be the opposite. Unable to get Veronica Fusaro here in time, (she supported us in Nimes) Mark asked Mike and John to open with a traditional folk set. John said that it was the first time in 12 years that Mark has asked this and that if the show goes well, they can do it again in another 12 tears.

Obtusely, the police escort TO the stage was insisted upon. I don’t ever recall doing that before. There must have been a reason that only the local police knew about. We followed them on the public roads around the perimeter of the park and Pete noticed that on the Sat-Nav, the venue appeared strangely familiar. We got to the rear of the stage and waited another 10 minutes as people were still pouring in to the venue. At 9:10pm, we’d had enough and we went on to rapturous applause. I noticed there was still a steady stream of latecomers well into the third song. As always, the set flew by and we were soon back in the cars, following the Carabinieri who were insistent on guiding us to the autostrada, where we parted company, waved goodbye, thanking them loudly and headed to the waiting jet and Daniella’s late night treats from a local restaurant, in her home town. Needless to say it was Stupingi.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

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Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 15th July 2019 – Nîmes

Around the time the Romans built this venue, Gladiatorial battles took place on a regular basis and the thought of 24,000 people in this arena, freshly built, witnessing such spectacles is awe-inspiring. Our little show seems tiny by comparison, certainly a little less gruesome, yet still as exciting in its own way. The 10,000 French fans that made up tonight’s audience were everything a band could wish for.

Rimini is our home hub for these few days and the Grand Hotel, once held in awe by the young Federico Fellini who used to look through its gates dreaming of a life of luxury like the hotel’s guests. Built in 1908, its classic style enhanced with Venetian and French antiques of the 18th century, and the original parquet floor and Venetian chandeliers have been restored. The best thing about the hotel for me it its location. Right by the beach. The Italians know how to do ‘beach’ and unfortunately, they also know how to charge for it. The going rate for a Grand hotel umbrella rental being 85 Euros. The staff here are lovely but some of the rooms are seriously tired, the whole place could benefit from some serious investment for a refurbishment but I can see why there would be reluctance, as the place is clearly popular with its guests. I overheard that some of our chaps are finding the coffee hard to drink. Personally, I love it when there’s no need to ask for a Double Espresso. It’s Rocket fuel.

Everywhere in Europe is hot now and shorts and t-shirts are essential day wear. We jetted, bare legged, our way to Nimes in the usual fashion (van, jet, van) and when we landed, we were informed we would need an escort the get us to the venue in the heart of Nîmes, as the police had closed a road. This appeared in the form of one of the promoters on an e-bike. A strange convoy indeed. At the venue, John Illsley and his family dropped by. John had played a couple of nights ago at the Guitar en Scène show, the night before us, supporting Joan Baez.

Night-time temperatures weren’t going to recede much so we were grateful for the breeze. The Mistral (sometimes the Tramontane) is a Northerly wind which has been known to blow for 7 days straight, sending local farmers a little doolally.  The continuous howling noise of the tramontane is said to have a disturbing effect upon the psyche. In his poem “Gastibelza”, Victor Hugo has the main character say, “Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne me rendra fou…” (“The wind coming over the mountain will drive me mad…”) The crew removed the sun protection from the gear that needed it and we sound checked and swiftly vacated the stage for our support act for tonight, Swiss-born Veronica Fusaro, whose set I really enjoyed.

Assaad Debs has been our promoter here in France ever since the band first came, in the 70’s. With tonight being possibly the last show, it was a nice opportunity to take a picture of us together, myself, John, Mark and Assaad. Au revoir Arènes de Nîmes. Yet another incredible evening even if the hot, dry wind did not relent, meaning Tellson James, our lighting man, kept pumping smoke onto the stage which was immediately blown away. Apart from coughing our way through the set, we had an absolute ball and were sad to leave so quickly in a convoy escorted, literally to the steps of the plane by the local Gendarmerie. They certainly enjoy a bit of action, maybe they use this as training for when real dignitaries come to town. We were delivered to the plane earlier than planned and soon discovered there was no local air traffic controller in the tower. ‘Out to dinner’. As Danny said, France is the only country where restaurants close for lunch. We had to wait for over an hour on the tarmac before we could close the doors and request that our 1:30am slot be pushed forward. FAA regulations dictate that any slot requests must only be made by aircraft ‘ready to depart’. We were soon on our way and back in Rimini at the Grand just after 2am. A soirée held in Danny’s room became a music lesson as we delved into an old Billy Cobham album, which started to turn our tired, affected brains inside out.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

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Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 14th July 2019 – Saint Julien en Genevois

Saint Julien en Genevois is a small town on the border to Switzerland that plays host to the Guitare En Scene festival each year. It’s one of the few occasions we can potentially visit 4 countries in one day as we fly into Geneva. Today however, it was  simply a hub flight from our base in Rimini, Italy. As I type this I wonder how any hotel can possibly operate with internet speeds below 10mbps. It’s 4G for me as my phone becomes my Rimini hotspot. It’s hard to imagine life before these remarkable devices existed. Similar to smoking, Mark and I reminisced about how we used to smoke everywhere we went, Dunhill Blues. Quite horrific, when we think back now.

Cruising at 30,000 ft above Northern Italy, we marvelled at the plates of Antipasti that Daniella laid before us. Italian food. Say no more. Geneva appeared on the horizon and we descended and touched down just after 3pm. A very short drive across the border and we were backstage at the small festival and as with some of these shows we’ve been revisiting, it felt like we were here yesterday. Last time we were supported by Sonny Landreth and tonight it was none other than Albert Lee.

Èvents today seemed to be dominated by sport as Wimbledon hosted its men’s final, Silverstone hosted the British Grand Prix and England were about to end their 14-year wait for glory in the Cricket World Cup. An intense match as always when England are playing, it went right to the wire, twice. The match finally being decided by what is called a ‘Super Over’, something I’ve never seen and neither had any of the crew who seemed to all be huddled in a small room watching, cheering and groaning in unison as the match entered its closing stages. I hadn’t followed any of the cricket until this point. What a time to join the party! 2 runs were needed from the final ball, and when delivered, a hit, a sprint, a dive, England ‘running out’ the desperate batsman in black, lying on the ground, his willow coming up just short of the line. It was a brilliant piece of fielding that ensured a well deserved victory and a loud cheer from all in the crew who then scurried back to work as Albert Lee finished his set and the stage needed to be reset for us.

Neatly segueing from sporting occasion to show, our backstage hang was nearly over. Oh yes, Dave, in catering, made the best Fish and Chips we’d ever tasted. That came from nowhere! We made our final preparations, tactical coffee for me, pre-show rituals that I won’t go into, and we wandered across the road to the big white tent which was bursting it seems, at the seams, with 6,000 anticipant French fans.

Entering the cauldron from behind the stage, a couple of white lights that represented house lights were extinguished and we walked on to rapturous applause and cheering. whether or not it was Albert’s warm up, this was one excited crowd. They were simply amazing. When we came on for the encores, everyone held up cards which simply said ‘Thank You Mark’. What a wonderful gesture. This was probably the most ‘in touch’ with an audience we’ve felt all tour. At one point during Mark’s band intro’s, a group at the front waved to gain Mark’s attention as someone had fainted. We called for some security but whoever it was, was carried out swiftly. I hope all was ok there. The show continued and even though we were without our beloved Sound system, the local PA, lights and crew were fabulous and we left the venue all too soon feeling that we’d been a part of a special night. Thai food, drinks and laughs on the jet back to the tiny airport at Rimini which had been opened specially for our arrival. I’m not sure quite how that works but… I’m grateful, for that and everything else on this amazing tour.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

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Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 13th July 2019 – Lucca

Current temperatures across Europe are high but not like last week so it looks like a good week to hit Italy. Saturday morning at the Sheraton, Sopot consisted of a 3:30 am wake up call, courtesy of the room below and their in house disco party. I could hardly grumble though as I’m sure I’ve woken plenty of hotel guests before with my system. The hubbub seemed to crossfade into outside noise as a bodybuilding contest was being held and stands were being erected. As much as we loved this place, especially the friendliness of the Polish people, I was ready to leave and found myself downstairs nice and early for the drive to the airport, the GAT and a rendezvous with Joy and Daniella.

In the air, I looked down over the 2+ hour flight and thought of the crew journey, particularly the drivers. A 36 hour trek to get the gear from Gdansk to Lucca. The crew actually took a Ryanair flight on the day off so spent the evening of the day off enjoying lovely Lucca.

At 5pm, the crew were ready for us to sound check. A low key affair as the venue is a public square. Catering was ‘local’ (due to logistics) and not too bad but definitely not our team! Chris, Dave and Scott enjoyed not having to slave away in a hot kitchen whilst Steve, who is normally a buzz of activity, was, a buzz of activity and oversaw the whole operation ensuring it all ran smoothly for band and crew. As I think I mentioned, we no longer have our much loved sound system AND lighting rig, so each show brings with it new challenges as sound and lights, interfaces with local equipment. Tonight’s interface was looking good for sound, not so for lights. Tellson basically had to program the show as we went along leading to some pretty odd lighting moments.  Nonetheless, we had a great show and loved every moment of playing in Italy again.

Of course, at the end, everyone rushed to the front in a decidedly orderly fashion and the smiles on the faces told the whole story. According to Tom, one guy proposed to his girlfriend in the front row during Romeo. What a lovely night. It’s so great to be back here.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

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Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 11th July 2019 – Gdańsk

Śliczny, the Polish word for lovely, seems an appropriate way to describe the surroundings when you walk Northwards along the shoreline from our hotel in Sopot, a town few of us had heard of before this week. The Polish Riviera at this time of year is heaving with families on vacation, enjoying the balmy weather and calm waters of the Baltic Sea. The beach is white sand and as far as I could tell, well maintained and clean. The sea temperature is ‘refreshing’.

Lying smack between Gdansk and Gdynia, a retreat for the rich and royal for centuries, Sopot’s exclusive air remained even through the Communist era. Boasting beautiful beaches and flashy resorts, Sopot is known for its Wooden Pier, the longest in Europe.

In what was somewhat a repeat of yesterday, in terms of a delay, our rigging truck was pulled over by the police in the early hours on its way to Gdańsk. I’m not sure exactly why but apparently it was nothing to do with the way it was being driven, or the driver. It was held up for 3 hours and a fine was issued. Thankfully they eventually let it continue.

Consequently, the entire load-in process was seriously compromised. With the rigging, including catering, arriving at 12:30, the crew had their work cut out to make the show, let alone a sound check. The band were informed that we may not be heading to the venue until 6. We have done shows in the past without sound checks but it generally means that Dave at FOH spends the first few songs getting used to the room. We prefer the sound to be good from the start. The slight irony is that tonight will be the last time in Europe that we use our own PA system. The rest of the shows involve local PA’s as they are mostly festivals which insist on house PA’s.

Zadziwiająco, (one of literally hundreds of Polish words that begin with the letter Z, meaning Astonishingly) the crew had the stage ready for a sound check at 5:15. This was difficult to comprehend when you see the size of their task each day but now deep into the tour, they have the procedure down to a fine art. Kevin Hopgood our Production manager filmed the ‘Stage Roll’ below. As Dave Hall our stage manager said “it’s days like today we get paid for”. Anyone can do the easy days but when it’s tight like this, it requires extraordinary co-ordination and experience to make it work. The Stage rollout demonstrates how the rigging can be set at the same time as the backline is set up. A huge time saving in venues where there is space and facility to allow it.

No more than 10 minutes before doors opened, we finished our sound check and headed for Cream of Mushroom Soup and dinner prepared by our remarkable catering team who were under the same constraints as the rest of the crew.

Yet another wonderful evening lie ahead as we took to the stage for our final Polish show. As with all tours, it’s not long before someone gets sick and a couple in the band tonight were ‘fighting’. You’d never know who though as the show simply must go on. We headed back to our Sopot base for drinks in the bar whilst the crew loaded out and prepared for a journey none of them were looking forward to, an overnight to Lucca involving a 5am Ryanair flight. Ouch. After all that!


Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

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Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 10th July 2019 – Kraków

Dutifully checked out of the Park Hyatt in Budapest, we climbed into our cars and vans. A logistically complex day lay ahead for our drivers. I’ll see if I can get this right… Alex’s team ‘B’ drove us to the airport in Budapest and then drove on to Krakow (5 hours). Goran’s team ‘A’ met us at Krakow airport and delivered us to the venue, then went back to the airfield and collected our luggage and drove to the Sopot hotel (5 hours). After show, team ‘B’ delivered us from the venue to Krakow airport. Then when we landed in Gdansk, team ‘A’ was waiting to our hotel having previously dropped the bags into our rooms. The rule seems to be, if it’s doable, they’ll do it. They really are remarkable, the nicest guys and the absolute best drivers and believe me, we know. We’ve seen them all.

Zooming through the Budapest traffic in graceful fashion, we were dropped at the GAT terminal where we waited for a brief period and boarded the jet.

It is a little known fact that Krakow is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, I am told. The old town is a designated UNESCO world heritage site and is one of the very few in Europe that remains completely intact after the war. Unfortunately, for both band and crew, like so many visits, our schedule meant that it was a flying one.

Ęven for us, it’s hard to comprehend (speaking of logistics) the production logistics that we don’t see and today, the trucks arrived late which meant the whole day for the crew was set back although by the time we arrived at the venue, you’d never have known they’d had no breakfast and had been working flat out all day to catch up. Catering didn’t even get going until 11:15 so it was straight into lunch.

Krakow didn’t disappoint and the audience was one of the most excitable of the tour. When we launched into the ‘song with the South American connection’, they could contain themselves no longer and the run began. The ensuing partying, for want of a better word, put smiles on the faces of the band, not that that is required. Sometimes it’s hard not to smile being up there with this lot. I’m particularly fortunate as I get to see the whole Ianto/Danny show! If you are coming to a show, check them out.

In cars on route to the airport, we were enthused by the spirit of the Polish audience tonight. We were soon onboard the jet where Tijana was waiting with a fabulous spread. Curry is probably the perfect after show food if I’m completely honest, but don’t tell anyone. It was Tijana’s last flight with us and she was as sad to leave as we were to see her go. She’s been so kind to us and I know we’ve made her laugh along the way. We were soon saying goodbye and in cars on the way to our tourist hotel location for the next few days. On the beach. YES. A brief Dr. Fletch session with a case of Augustiner beers which Goran so kindly bought us.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

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Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 9th July 2019 – Budapest

Budapest is the capital of Hungary, one of 48 land-locked countries in the world. That means, no beaches, no surfing, no blue horizon. But there is water from under the ground, hence the Hungarian connection with bathing in spring water. The water is packed with minerals and is consequently health giving. I know that a couple of the crew make a point of locating swimming spots on the days off and Budapest will have provided with no problem. For me and 4 crew boys, it was golf.

A day off in Budapest before the show is perfect for catching up on rest and relaxation and most of the band did exactly that. Bleary-eyed from a late night music session in my room with Graeme and Danny, I jumped in a cab and met the crew golfers an hour West of town at the beautiful Pannonia Golf and Country club. The hospitality when we arrived was wonderful and we were soon on the first tee in beautiful weather enjoying the freshest of air and a stunningly maintained course. We enjoyed a perfect afternoon in the Hungarian countryside and I even managed to get a lift back with Martin, one of our van drivers as they were en-route from Munich and their ETA coincided nicely. Back at the hotel, Danny was hankering for a bowl of Goulash and the hotel recommended the Rézkakas Bistro across the square. It was fabulous, not least because they had a great live trio playing, Fiddle, Cimbalom and Double Bass. The food was spectacularly good.

The next day, I was feeling the ravages of over exertion. I felt my age, for once, and decided the gym was not going to happen today, as it would have done 20 years ago. I rested ALL day at the hotel before it was time for sound check and show.

Having arrived at the venue, the usual routine, drop bags and head for catering where Steve was just bringing out the soup. French Onion with Croutons. Sound Check involved a modification of one of the segues (the interlinking of two songs), as improvements can always be made, even this deep into a tour, my god, we are 47 shows in! The arena sounded great, so we expected a good show. Dinner for me was a spectacularly good Atlantic Butterfish with Salsa and Zucchini fries. Then it was to the dressing room for more rest. The show was simply stunning. The energy onstage was great. The band just come alive once we get up there and the audience was near perfect. The attention and respect during the set and then the seeing the unadulterated joy on the faces of everyone at the end is heartwarming.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

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Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 7th July 2019 – Munich

Peeking through the curtains, I noticed it was raining. With Summer in full swing now, we haven’t seen wet streets for a while. As promised yesterday, at 9am sharp, the bags were collected from our rooms by Peter. The early departure caused by a particularly large (500kg) unexploded bomb being discovered in Frankfurt and a subsequent mass evacuation affecting air travel hence our early 11:30am slot. The sad irony is that it is undoubtedly an Allied, device dropped more than 70 years ago, one of 2.7 million tonnes dropped on Europe, half of which were unloaded on German soil. Of those, between 15% and 20% failed to detonate so the long-lasting legacy of conflict continues to stretch across the generations. Upon researching, I learned that some devices detonate of their own accord as the metal in detonators corrodes. A frightening prospect.

Riding with Goran, team ‘A’ lead driver to the airport, we reflected on our super-short stay at one of our favourite hotels. At the airport, we cleared security and were soon bound for Munich. Arriving at the venue for lunch isn’t something we often get to do but as usual, the routine was drop bags in dressing rooms and head to catering. Early for us but some of the crew have been in here since 7:00am, in particular, riggers and caterers. I was hoping to see more of an actual setup re. the back line (on stage equipment) but everything was already in place. However line-check was still to come. This is the process whereby the backline crew, wearing headsets or in-ears, are in communication with Dave Dixon on the FOH sound desk and literally check every instrument ‘line’. Dave will also use this opportunity to adjust any instrument EQ. It is a slick process yet extremely thorough. Even though it was the crew who did the overnight drive and started setup at 7am, it was the band who after lunch, distributed themselves evenly throughout the dressing rooms and promptly fell asleep.

Obviously a fan of the city, Ernest Hemmingway once said of Munich “Everything else is a waste of time in Germany”, I’m not sure I would go that far but he has a point. Statistically, THE most desirable place to live in Germany, Munich is a little gem. When Germans are polled about where they would like to live, Munich finds its way consistently at the top of the list. The city has a philosophy of “leben und leben lassen,” meaning live and let live. The heat in the venue was noticeable but every now and again during the show, I felt a cool blast as the air conditioning did its work. An absolutely stellar crowd, as you would expect in Munich, cheered relentlessly and waved us off, in cars and vans once again to the airport for the after-show trip to Budapest.

Still in stage clothes we arrived at the Munich GAT to find a gathering of fans with various bits and pieces ready to be signed by Mark. “Enjoy the show?” I asked. They sure high-tailed it here fast to beat us. Which brings me neatly to Mark’s updated policy for signing guitars. The official statement reads…Unfortunately Mark will no longer be signing guitars, scratch plates or any other musical instruments. This is a direct result of those people who are not fans, taking the autograph and using it to make money by selling it on Ebay, through autograph companies or privately to fans. There are also various other unauthorised and unofficial items with fake signatures listed for sale on line, such as lyric sheets, posters, photographs, albums etc. As always, we advise you approach such listings with caution. We will try and accommodate autographs for genuine fans where we can, but please be respectful and considerate when asking for them. Thanks for your assistance and co-operation.

The longest day ended with a small Sub bass soiree in my room. Thanks by the way to Frank, a Mannheim fan, who gifted the band a lovely bottle of German Weissburgunder.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

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Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 6th July 2019 – Mannheim

So today began in Leipzig. The continuance of the fitness regime saw me in the gym, today with Graeme and Tom. A typical luxury hotel basement facility, cold, quiet and empty with standard Technogym torture machines. A bowl of Bircher and we were off again, in cars to airport and then on to Frankfurt where we would meet Goran’s team for the 50 minute drive to Mannheim. With no speed restrictions on this stretch of Autobahn and little traffic, Goran opened up  the V6, 275 horsepower S Class. With 4-up, we  were cruising at 260 kmh or in British money, 160 mph. Normally, this would raise alarm bells for myself and Mark, but good, safe driving is not hard to recognise and we fell asleep.

As we pulled into the conveniently located venue (just off the main Autobahn), 20 minutes ahead of the vans, there was a congregation. In Germany, there are always a few autograph hunters who are prepared to wait for our arrival, whatever the weather. We now drive on by and Saint Peter goes out to collect albums, and posters etc. for Mark to sign in the dressing room. We have certain rules, only one item each and no scratch-plates OR guitars now. (more about that tomorrow) Too many end up on ebay, the hardcore spoiling it for the genuine. Mark does appreciate the support and if there was time, he would sign more. For such a hi-tech arena, the backstage areas at the SAP in Mannheim are strangely confused. The load-in bay is straightforward enough but dressing rooms seem more like an afterthought and the kitchen area is a long way from the seating area. Hardly and issue though as the arena itself is fabulous. Probably a great place to see a show. It’s a good place to do one, and we have done many here since its inauguration in 2005.

Purring away outside the dressing room, the twin washing machines that travel with the gear were laden with band and crew clothes and Jo Lee, our wonderful production assistant was hanging laundry to air dry in the sweltering dry heat of the afternoon. The breeze was up too, so I can’t imagine it took long for anything to dry. We used to have laundry taken away daily to a laundrette by a local runner but there were too many lost socks, shrunken shirts and mixed bags. This system works so much better but I can’t help thinking that it’s all to do with the way Jo runs the operation. Dinner was stunning, as usual and the dressing rooms were chilly. So much so that we were shocked at the heat inside the venue when we took to the stage. Better hot than cold though and we had a fabulous show. What a crowd. You gotta LOVE Germany. We were back in the cars en route to the Villa Kennedy for our shortest stay there. A mere 10 hours. The reason being the small matter of a 1200lb unexploded bomb discovery in Frankfurt. We would be up early tomorrow morning to clear the area as a mass evacuation, including a hospital and a Police headquarters is to take place for its disarmament and disposal. This also means a no-fly zone hence our early flight slot of 11:30. It was virtually a full turnout for a drink in the beautiful Villa Kennedy courtyard before we all wound our merry way to bed.

Guy Fletcher’s full Tour Diary, including photos and more tour diary entries, can be found here.

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