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Compiled by Terry Kilburn

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 3rd September 2019 – Nashville TN

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Returning to Nashville after 11 years was always going to be a shock as both Richard and Glenn, Nashville residents, said Mark and I wouldn’t recognise it. They were right to an extent but it’s still ‘Nashville’ but with heavier traffic and a vastly altered skyline. Our hotel is a new building called the Hutton Hotel situated on West End Avenue, close to our old haunt, the Leows Vanderbilt hotel. We must have stayed there for months on end over the years, when we used to come over to record Mark’s albums and before that when Mark first met Chet Atkins. Chet, of course played the major role in creating the ‘Nashville sound’ that ultimately led to Nashville becoming ‘Music City’ and the centre of the Country music scene in America.

Yesterday’s day off fell at a good time and the weather in the South is hot as High pressure dominates either side of Hurricane Dorian currently devastating the Bahamas. The Weather Channel is permanently on, revealing the sadness of a decimated island that has sustained 2 days of 185+ mph winds. Stark contrast to the heat in Nashville as a few of us headed for a visit to the wonderful Country Music Hall of Fame. We bumped into Mark’s ex publisher and great friend David Conrad outside the hotel who offered us a lift and entry into the Hall of Fame. David has been on the board for 31 years and is a respected name in town. The afternoon was spent in calm awe, looking at the fabulous exhibit displaying some of the rarest and most well known instruments and artefacts in the history of country music. Bill Monroe’s famous mandolin for example which he played his for whole career, even when an ex girlfriend broke into his house once and turned it into matchwood. Bill took it to a local repair man who spent 3 months rebuilding it. Bill went on to play it until the year he died in 1996.

My wife  Laurie is with me now and it is her first visit here in 29 years. she has many old friends in town and we all hooked up in the evening for a fabulous dinner in one of the few restaurants open on Labor day night, whilst some of the guys went to 3rd and Lindslay to see Paul Franklin and Vince Gill in the Time Jumpers, THE hot Monday night ticket.

After waking on show day, it was time to see if either of the two Pelotons were functional in the gym. One was. Then it was breakfast in the hotel restaurant with the only recognisable thing on the menu being called a ‘Truck stop’. 2 eggs with Bacon, Hash Browns and a side of toast. It’s a strange hotel that is trying to be ‘boutique’ and failing slightly. As always though here in Nashville, the staff are great even if their tools fail them.we were off to the venue at 4:15 for a sound check on the hallowed stage once again. A union curfew meant the crew were behind but as always, we caught up and the stage was set. We’ve played quite a few shows here but for about half of the band, this was a new experience. Something about playing on this stage elevates the performer, well that’s the way I see it and Mark was clearly buoyed by this, plus the fact that the love and support coming from the audience which included a whole host of friends was palpable. Paul Franklin, Vince Gill, Emmylou, Jason Isbel, Tim O’Brien, Chuck Ainlay, David Conrad, Paul Kennerley to name but few.

Never have we played here and not felt this extraordinary feeling. After show, we hung at the venue and chatted with friends for as long as we could, or until they had to get home. Then a few of us headed to the only bar still open near our hotel, ironically, the Vanderbilt. One more drink and a toast and we were done in Music City once again.

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 1st September 2019 – Chicago IL

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

We’ve been in Chicago now for almost a week so it feels nice that we’re finally playing the show here tonight. The now quite familiar Chicago theatre is another fabulous venue, one of the first theatres built in what is now theatre-land, Chicago.

In keeping with the regime, the Peloton session was first up, then brunch across the road with Danny. Eggs Benedict for 12 dollars as opposed to 60 dollars in the hotel seemed like a good idea. Back to the room to pack for a 3pm bag call when the bags would be taken to the plane for tonight’s after show flight down to Tennessee.

Nearly time to say goodbye to the Peninsula once more as I crammed the strewn contents of my room into the Large Briggs and Riley. It never looks like it will fit, but amazingly it does. Teapot, kettle, shoes, electronics. It all fits.

Downstairs in the lobby, the band were assembled, 20 minutes before scheduled departure. Not once on the entire tour has anyone been even remotely late. Unlike the old days. Our SUV-minibus convoy had us backstage at the venue in 5 minutes and we all headed to catering for the ritual that is soup.  Another great catering team were in place here and dinner was delicious, although I had a ‘Sparrow’s’ portion. This is the way ahead for me these days, along with the rest of the band. Carrying a full stomach on stage just isn’t an option these days. Plus we’re going to eat later on the plane, so we may as well be hungry when we do.

Yet another wonderful, rather vocal audience greeted us as we took to the stage for the show. These theatre shows are so much fun, we get to really see the faces of at least the first ten rows. The expressions on people’s faces can be fun to watch. Soon, we were all back in the vans, sitting in pre-Labor day traffic. Even at 11pm, the highway was crawling. 30 minutes later we got to the plane and dined on G&T’s, Roast Chicken and laughter. Nashville for the first time in a long time was an exciting prospect. A day off too before one of the most anticipated shows, the Ryman Theatre.

 

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 31st August 2019 – Milwaukee WI

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Boldly striding to the elevators, heading for the gym and the addiction that is Peloton, I ignore the usually unknown hunger sensation, preferring to wait until after the workout to eat. Danny is already on one of the bikes having been seduced by the charms of Ally Love and co. With bluetooth headsets we pedal and sweat towards our own virtual goals. The in-room bowl of Granola, Yoghurt, Honey and fresh Kiwi fruit is inhaled so quickly, I prepare a second. The ‘meet’ for the ‘leave’ was set for 2:45pm, it’s only a 20 minute magic carpet ride up along the Lake coast to Milwaukee, home to Beer, Brats and much German ancestry and brewing knowledge. Natalie had ordered a round of Beef and Cheddar Croissants. “It’s a Chicago thing” she explains. Who knew? I picked at mine tentatively and succumbed to its meaty greasiness. Bad but good.

Riverside Theatre. A well known, regular touring venue, our crew never look forward to its load-in with too much glee. It’s VERY tight in there and with the narrow alleyway being the only way in, the truck drivers earn their money today. The most notable thing about the backstage area is that there isn’t one. It’s tight and the dressing rooms are up a narrow flight of stairs. 8 floors in all. The top floor is designated for catering and when I walked in (I stupidly climbed all 8 flights) I caught my breath and remembered that these guys are good. They freshly cook all the food in the kitchen up here, the staff are lovely, the food is wonderful and there is a lovely Barista on hand to make the best Flat White of the tour so far. Actually the ‘only’ Flat White. We have a Nespresso machine in the dressing room at all times which most of the band use regularly, 20 minutes before show time, we have what has become known as ‘tactical’ coffee.

Along the river bank outside, the crew stacked the flight cases as there is simply no space inside. This can be an issue in bad weather, or even snow but there is simply no other option. Across on the other side of the river, there is the ‘Bronze Fonz’ statue, depicting Henry Winkler from ‘Happy Days’ which was filmed here. I would have walked across for a shot but sound check was upon us. I also wanted to visit the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center a 20 minute walk from the theatre, not least as the building is featured in the artwork for my last solo album ‘High Roads’. It was designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen and built in 1956. Saarinen also designed the control tower at Washington Dulles airport which I also featured, yet I was unaware of that connection until today.

The show was upon us once again and we all squeezed into the wings in preparation, along with a rather surly police officer at whom I smiled. There was no response. Charming, I thought. He was there all night, I’m not sure why. I avoided eye contact throughout the show. Guess what? It was another amazing audience and when Mark went through the now quite lengthy band introductions, he paused slightly before announcing “from Madison, Wisconsin, Glenn Worf”. Huge cheers. Biggest of the night until the encores of course. They definitely didn’t want us to leave.

Side of stage, Peter had prepared cups of Draught Leinenkugel beers, at Mark’s suggestion, before the final encore…the idea being to see if it tastes even better out of the tap. The answer is yes. We fell back onto the stage, belching, for the last song then waved our goodbyes to Milwaukee and headed to the jet, Natalie, Brats with pickled onions and more Leinenkugels. 20 minutes later we were coming into Midway once again and 20 minutes after that we were at the hotel for a speedy turnaround for those who needed yet more to this day. Pippins is an Irish bar one block away that we’ve been to many times before. It was as loud in there as I remember but the beer was great and the company even better. Happy Days indeed.

 

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 30th August 2019 – Minneapolis MN

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

There’s much more to this theatre than meets the eye, well I’ve always assumed this but today I learned a little more about the Orpheum. For starters, Bob Dylan owned it, for a period of 9 years before selling it in 1988 to the City of Minneapolis who renovated and reopened it in 1993. In 2005, the city transferred ownership of its theatres to the Hennepin Theatre Trust. Steve Bond, our catering chief, spends his day overseeing the local catering ‘situations’ in all venues for both band and crew. Steve was with us in Europe and his expertise and quality control ensures all catering is as good as it can be. His role means he gets to know the local staff as well as the building, he grabbed me and took me, with camera, to the lower basement level where there lies a dungeon-like museum of disused dinosaur equipment. I’m talking projectors, air treatment machines, pumps. Apparently in the days before air conditioning, they used to run water over ice in a deep well with a CO² compressor, with a hose blowing mist through the air. It would be 90 degrees in the balcony, and they used to call the show ‘Tropical Camelot.’ At intermission they’d be rushing for the exits, gasping for air. Clearly all the original equipment has never been removed and is now covered in decades of dust

With Labor day weekend weather looking good in the Chicago area, our ride to Midway airport was beset with traffic, the mass exodus in full flow. Eventually we arrived and were dropped at the signature GA building where Captain Chris met us and ushered us through the doors to the plane, all of 10 yards away. I still find it utterly incredible that I can be in my hotel room at 2pm and by 4:30pm we’re in Minneapolis at the venue… and that’s with heavy traffic. Mind you, in North America, even regular internal air travel is so much easier than in Europe.

I met with some friends of mine in catering who live in Minneapolis before the show, we had a chat, about music and golf since Barry works here with Toro at their world headquarters, one of the biggest manufacturers of turf maintenance equipment. Also, Glenn had his guests, from the Leinenkugel beer company, they come to every show we play up here and always bring plenty of ‘Original’ Leinenkugel pilsener, Sausage and Cheese for band and crew. For starters, there were 36 bottles which were already on ice, which of course found their way to the plane for our journey home. Leinenkugel is one of the oldest breweries in the USA and the oldest business in Chippewa Falls. Founded in 1878, it was sold to the Miller Coors conglomerate in 2016. 

Naturally, the beers they now produce fit in with today’s modern idea of the beer marketplace with flavoured concoctions like Chocolate and Lime Ale, Cheese and Walnut Pilsener, Lard and Cardboard Porter. I’m kidding of course but the original brew hardly sells anymore. However, the locals insist they continue brewing it, for very good reason. It’s beautifully clean and delicious. Glenn’s pals gifted Mark a signed Leinenkugel paddle. An honour I’m told.

Steeling ourselves away from chatting all night, we prepped for the show. The audience were ‘mostly’ in by 8pm so we held for 10 minutes as has become the ritual. Once again, what a crowd. As always, we had a great time, the set just flowed. It was over all too soon and we found ourselves in cars, no drinks of course, as is the law here, salivating with the thought of fresh, icy Leineys. With ramp access, we hopped from the cars to the plane, Chris closed the door and fired up the twin General Electric CF34-3B1 turbofan engines, each capable of producing a thrust of 38.84 kN (8,730 lbf). As we sped down the runway, sipping ice cold beers, I gave a thought to Laurence, now back in the UK with his mother who is unwell. Sending our thoughts. Brent Jeffers, who replaces Laurence as keyboard tech got his first show under his belt without a hitch. Back in the Chicago Peninsula at half past midnight, I think we all felt the waves of tiredness.

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 28th August 2019 – Kansas City MO

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Much the same as any other American city, its past is so often illustrious or even ignominious. The Kansas City Jazz scene in the 1930’s and ’40’s is well documented as the City heralded the tradition from big bands to the Be-Bop influence. Artists like Count Basie with his well respected Bennie Moten band and Charlie ‘Yardbird’ Parker with his mastery of improvisation started their careers here. This combined with the Huge Irish influx and influence made Kansas City a major player on the World music map.

In the time between sound check and show, Graeme and Tom wandered round the city in search of the grave of Charlie Parker, Tom send me a couple of the pics they took illustrating the city’s devotion to the legacy of that era. It must have been quite a scene back then. Mark wrote a song about it intended for the last album which remains an unreleased gem.

Sitting in traffic on the I55, the main and most direct route to Midway airport, Mark and I gazed out from our SUV at the huge numbers of trucks and containers on the roads in this city. Chicago is of course a major hub for transportation as it’s the only place in the hemisphere where all six ‘Class 1’ railroads meet. Chicago transports half the nation’s rail freight.

Seven interstate highways crisscross the Chicago region. Only two states have more interstate highway miles than Illinois and Chicago is a two-day truck haul from 219 million people, or 42% of the continent. It has the third-largest container port in the world, after Hong Kong and Singapore and as a result, almost a trillion dollars worth of goods pass through the Chicago region every year.

Our destination is Kansas City, a short flight from Midway and an even shorter drive from the airport in Kansas City to the venue. The airfield is literally right next to downtown, just across the bridge over the Missouri River. The Midland theatre heralds from 1927, right when the ‘scene’ was beginning. As such, backstage is small, quite basic and essentially quite dirty but the vibe in the building is great as all the staff are so lovely and couldn’t be more accommodating. There was plenty of time for a small bite in the basement catering but I decided it would be a very small bite as breaded, pounded chicken breast cooked beyond recognition didn’t exactly inspire.

Upstairs, Laurence was running through the rigs once more with Brent, who will take over from Laurence tomorrow. The band made the most of the tiny dressing rooms, fine for a trio but 11 musicians can cover some ground. It was all good and when 8:10pm came, we were primed and ready.

Right from the start, it was another fired up audience as they all have been in North America so far. We enjoyed a very relaxed set with no issues, lots of laughs and great moments…as always. The get out was interesting as we all had to get to the street level in the load-in elevator, the same as used by ALL the gear. These places can offer up real challenges for our crew, getting the huge amount of gear we carry into the buildings, but you’d never know. The power of experience.

In cars and on the way to the plane again, we were onboard within 10 minutes and Natalie was ready and waiting with huge G&T’s, wines and beers plus possibly the best ribs, beans and mash I have ever tasted. I know, I probably said that last time we were here…but they were! There wasn’t much food left by the time we descended into Chicago once more on a beautiful late Summer evening, well midnight to be more precise. The views over the city on approach were breathtaking and for once the camera doesn’t offer any justice. Another perfect touchdown by Captain Chris and we fell out of the jet and walked to the cars for the short drive back into town, with NO traffic.

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