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Compiled by Terry Kilburn

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 26th May 2019 – Glasgow

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Cars and vans collect us and drop us off at venues, hotels and planes throughout the tour and our 2 wonderful teams of German drivers cover extraordinary mileage to accommodate this. When things go wrong, the tour management have to think fast and a simple yet distressing van break-in overnight meant we lost a vehicle this morning. My views on what should be done with the perpetrators of such abhorrent crimes should probably not be shared here.

Logistics fascinate me, which is partly why I write these pages. Seeing the production in full swing can be remarkable enough but to realise it is completely stripped down, packed, transported and set up again within a 24-hour period is bewildering. To Dave Hall and Kevin Hopgood, our Stage and Production managers, it’s all in a day’s work. Sometimes distances are too great to reliably get the gear to the next location in time, hence the days off.

Yesterday’s travel itinerary is a good example of the logistics of moving 6 trucks and 3 buses from one arena in Dublin to another in Glasgow, 391 kilometres away. Naturally there are bigger shows out there, many in fact, but the organisation is essentially the same. After show in Dublin, the load-out begins. (There are some more time-lapse videos on their way). The trucks are packed, in VERY specific order. All flight cases are numbered and must be loaded in sequence. Local crew are used to do the majority of the heavy lifting and one of our boys will direct each load in each truck. Laurence, our Keyboard tech is particularly experienced in this department and I often see him in the back of a truck if we leave the venue an hour after the show ends. The trucks leave the venue around 2am and in this case headed for the port in Dublin to catch a 6am ferry for a 7-hour crossing to Liverpool. They then drove to the Glasgow Hydro whilst, in this case, the crew take a commercial flight and arrive in Glasgow late in the afternoon of the day off. On show day, the routine is re-established and load in begins at around 7am with the floor being marked out. The catering, rigging and production is ‘tipped’ at 8am and the rigging starts at 8:30am whilst the lights are unloaded. At 10am the audio and tech risers are tipped and at 11am, the backline. Backline is another word for all the gear that goes behind the band…guitars, keyboards, amplifiers etc. At 3pm, the crew do what is called a line check. This ensures every audio ‘line’ (there are many) works perfectly before the band show up for sound check at 5pm. Dinner is served at 5:30pm and auditorium doors open at 6:30pm. We take to the stage at 8pm and the cycle begins again.

During sound check, one of Glenn’s basses underwent a little surgery. Kevin Rowe and Glen Saggers took the neck off the bass to straighten the neck, which was showing signs of a warp. In the pics, Kevin tweaks the action whilst Glenn Worf confirms she’s good to go.

Every show is unique, from the way the band play, the on stage dynamic, to the audience. Tonight in Glasgow was another exclusive example. The only thing that doesn’t seem to change is the appreciation we get back from each audience at the end of the show. Glasgow being no different. A great show.

 

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 24th May 2019 – Dublin

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Leaving London at 1pm on what promised to be the busiest day ‘ever’ in the skies over the UK, we headed for Farnborough. Along with our 5-star review in the Times yesterday, in which Danny Cummings was so eloquently described as ‘Exuberant’, I read that all air traffic records would be broken today with a notable increase in private flights, it being a Bank Holiday weekend and the Monaco Grand Prix weekend. Farnborough was heaving. 190 flights were scheduled for the day. A lot for a small airfield. We crawled our way West and eventually arrived and boarded the jet I now affectionately call the ‘White Asparagus’. At the table by my seat, was my birthday cake. Thank you Daniella.

I always wondered where the word Dublin came from. A couple of taps on a keyboard reveal it derives from the Irish word Dubhlinn which has many different spellings but means ‘black, dark’. This is in reference to a tidal pool that was located where the River Poddle entered the Liffey, on the site of the castle gardens at the rear of Dublin Castle. Maybe this is why Guinness and Murphy’s are so distinctively dark. As always when playing a show in Dublin, glasses were lined up for the encores, filled with fresh, delicious local brew courtesy of St. Peter (Mackay). Pete is always at the foot of the stage steps when we come off stage, always with an armful of towels. Mostly for Ianto and the ‘exuberant’ Danny.

For more than 20 years, Mike McGoldrick has known and worked with Seán Keane. Seán was at the show tonight and managed to drop in to the dressing room. He recently recorded a gorgeous version of ‘Piper To The End’. Such a beautiful, distinctive sean-nós (traditional style) singer, it was lovely to meet him. His descriptions of his recent work with an orchestra were fascinating.

For anyone who has ever wondered what it’s like standing at Mark’s vocal mic all night and virtually playing ‘blind’, here’s an indication (below). A shot from that viewpoint with both follow spots on. Tellson James, our LD (lighting designer) has recently implemented a new truss extension which houses two remote controlled spotlights. These are operated by one of the lighting boys from an ingenious device known as a ‘RoboSpot’. Looking more like a Harley Davidson than a lighting controller, the operator can fully control the spot positions and focus and view on a remote screen.

Everywhere I went today, I kept hearing the word ‘exuberant’, the review in the Times has clearly left an impression. Suddenly, Danny has his own dressing room and extensive dinner menu!

Yesterday’s day off meant we were well rested and recovered from the stresses of playing the RAH. Even though it’s nothing other than a priviledge to play there, it is nonetheless stressfull, home town, families, friends, reviews! Dublin was the perfect place to play next. Historically an amazing audience and they certainly didn’t let us down tonight. An incredible reception. All in all quite a day. Thank you to all who have sent me Birthday wishes. You are all too kind.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/review-mark-knopfler-and-band-at-the-royal-albert-hall-c7c3jdqnn

 

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 21st 22nd May 2019 – London Royal Albert Hall

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Absolutely one of the UK’s most iconic and prestigious buildings, the Royal Albert Hall is without doubt the venue we enjoy performing at the most. The atmosphere there is special. As I’ve said many times, you can feel the history of the building every time you step out onto that stage. The events of the past of course aren’t just limited to music. The Hall has hosted everything from political Rallies, Suffragette meetings, State receptions, costume balls, exhibitions, sporting events and even an indoor Marathon in 1909. This was a competition between the Italian Dorando Pietri and the Londoner C W Gardiner. The two competitors had to run 524 laps of auditorium which was covered in coconut matting for a £100 prize. Another remarkable event was the Titanic Memorial Concert on May 24th, 1912. The event, which took place 40 days after Titanic sank, was arranged to raise money for the families of the bandsmen who famously continued playing as the ship went down.

Lovingly referred to as ‘The Voice of Jupiter’ is the second largest organ in the United Kingdom with 9,997 pipes and 147 stops. It makes my little Hammond XK3-C and mini Leslie cabinet look a little pathetic. Nonetheless, we can make a pretty big sound with the help of a few other band mates and an extraordinary PA system.

Backstage at the Albert Hall hasn’t changed much in all the years we’ve been coming here yet every time we do, we have a different room for the band dressing room. When the renovations were made to the underground section of the building in 2011, catering was moved down to the lower level where there is now a full kitchen and dining area. It used to be a bit of a squeeze upstairs, especially when catering for the larger than usual family guest numbers. We found ourselves in one of the many backstage bars this time where John is pictured preparing the pre-show Ginger, Honey and Lemon tea drinks for all those who require.

Ear-man Gavin Tempany is the person with arguably the toughest gig in the room. Gavin gives the band their individual in-ear monitor mixes. Everyone has a unique mix which can change for every scene change. Some songs have multiple scene changes. Gavin also ‘rides’ levels in real time for band members should they need it. With eleven band members this is no easy task and we are always tweaking and improving things at every sound check. Gavin agreed to step in to replace our long-serving monitor guy, Kerry Lewis who is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment. We all wish Kerry the best and a speedy recovery.

Rarely seen anywhere else, never during a show, Dave Dixon is pictured at the helm of the FOH desk by my brother Dan who was at the show on the first night. Dan bought down a few more Orbitsound E30 Docks for the band and watched the show from there. He was mightily impressed as I suspected he would be.

Topping off both evenings, we enjoyed after-show drinks both nights with a multitude of guests, friends and families. It’s always quite a scene as there are just so many folks who want to say hi and chat, especially for Mark. It was lovely to see Hal Lindes and John Illsley the second night. Fun was had by all and with a day off to follow, some of the band actually had a few drinks!

 

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 19th May 2019 – Newcastle

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Wherever we play, we meet lovely people and enjoy wonderful audiences but tonight, Newcastle was special. Mark began his musical journey not far from the Metro Radio Arena and every return visit in the past has been emotional but this evening was different. From the minute we walked out onto the stage, we all felt genuine warmth from the audience, even more so during the farewells. Many of the fans in the crowd have enjoyed the shows in the past, sometimes on multiple occasions but I’d like to think this show was the most special, so far.

How lucky are we? Here to do a job to the best of our abilities, but also to have fun and perform Mark’s songs in the best possible way. With the combined talent on the stage, this amazing crew and the technology available to us now, we have everything we need. There are no excuses.

Years of trial, error, failure, success and bloody-mindedness seem to be culminating in the music we play now. From the ethos behind Mark’s British Grove Studios to the touring team that have stuck with us for 30 years or more, I feel we might be onto something. That, combined with the many ‘character-building moments’ up there (nobody is perfect), make every performance a night to cherish. There is a tremendous energy… for a bunch of old ‘dudes’. Horn section not included!

As we left the ‘puzzling’ Vermont hotel to go to the venue, I wondered about the meaning of the word ‘unrivalled’ as quoted on the hotel website. As I write this in London, it is clear there is a giant chasm between Vermont and our London experience. Extreme ends of a galactic scale. There is however, one thing about Newcastle, the people are wonderful. So friendly, accommodating and warm. It’s hard to be negative about anything in such a wonderful toon.

Years of touring mean our crew is tough and experienced but it certainly hasn’t  dampened their spirits. There is a real camaraderie and when we arrive at the venue, there are many smiles and laughs, particularly from Kevin Rowe, Stage Right guitar tech…and Ben Byford (pictured behind him). Gazing out of the dressing room window across the car park at the rear of the Arena, I spot Dan, from lights, perfecting a one-legged technique on his ‘Segway Ninebot’. I make myself some Peppermint Tea. There’s a tour joke. It goes like this…”what are the three things you don’t want on the road?…headache, stomach ache and Greg Lake”. Well today I had the stomach ache, three days of German indulgence, so I was looking for some simple White Rice to settle it. Dave, in catering, had a huge tray of exactly that, bloody amazing. Combined with the Tea, it did the trick. I was fine for the show.

Everyone had a great gig. Mark was playing some beautiful stuff and sang well no doubt buoyed by the welcome-home atmosphere. It was all too soon when we left the building, piled into the cars and headed to Newcastle International Airport for our short flight to Luton and a day off at the hotel of all hotels in London. Daniella served an amazing looking Curry. I of course could only eat the Rice. It was not long before we were in our beds, resting up for our next show. One of the shows we all look forward to. Thanks to Aidan Williamson for sending couple of shots.

 

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 18th May 2019 – Leeds

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

‘On a day of cultural adjustment, we breakfasted in Berlin after a relaxing day off there. After 3 weeks of intensive gigging on the continent, we were suddenly back on British soil once again. Yesterday, our 6 trucks and 3 buses made their steady way from Hannover to Leeds via Calais whilst the band base-camped out of the luxurious Hotel de Rome overlooking the Bebelplatz, a hotel that really knows how to be a hotel. It was a bike ride for Laurie and I and lunch in the Teirgarden then dinner at the Augustiner restaurant to be joined by Mark, Danny, Ianto and Tim. A nightcap on the chilly rooftop bar for all those who insist that Summer is really here and the day was done.

Weekend traffic was light heading out of the city and we soon found ourselves at our favourite ghost airport for the fourth time in three days. Surreal is the word that springs to mind as we turned onto the deserted section of autobahn leading to the Brandenberg terminals. Once through immigration with a short pause for the officer to recognise that we’d been in Europe for 3 weeks, we boarded the Joyjet, had a light lunch and a brief nap for our 1 hour 50 minute flight into Leeds/Bradford airport.

Disco naps, catnaps, power naps, whatever you want to call them, they are common for touring musicians and older folks in general. Combine the two and it’s like a communal deep sleep workshop. It’s actually essential as our working day never starts until 8pm. Later in Spain and Italy. It probably sounds a bit daft but timing your energy levels to match show time is not easy. Nutrition, rest and luxuriation control, if you know what I mean, are all determining factors and we won’t pretend that we’re anywhere near its mastery. Yet as the tour progresses and we get shows under our belts, we get better at it. Dinner, a minimum of 2 hours before the show and a nap straight after doesn’t always work. Over-napping can be disastrous. The mind can wander on stage and that’s how mistakes occur. No they don’t. I was just kidding. I think. Anyway, it was lovely to be welcomed into the First Direct Arena by another group of very happy, loyal ‘lifers’ (as I heard some of them call themselves). Mark signed autographs willingly and some even made it round to the other side of the car to ask for mine. Our creative geniuses in the kitchens have started modelling the evening salad bars on nutritional content and most of the band tuck in to incredible combinations of super-foods after sound check. This is where supreme self control is required. The dinner choices are so tempting, it would be so easy to fill up and…well you know. Today, it was a double salad and an infinitesimally small portion of Dave’s famous chocolate fondant. Those who have my cook book from the last tour will know the one I mean.

On to the show. British audiences can be reserved, a shock after being on the continent but the only shock this evening was that they were amazing. Such an incredible welcome back to Leeds for Mark after 26 years. The last time we played here was 1993 with the Notting Hillbillies and before that it was 1980 as DS. The joy was heard by the band throughout the show and the thanks and appreciation given at the end was quite overwhelming. Mark, Glenn and I talked in the car about the fact that everyone, literally everyone was on their feet waving and applauding as we waved our goodbyes from the stage. I suppose we must be doing something right. We ‘ran’ the the jet once again only to find a couple of guys fiddling with the makeshift security scanner set up in an aircraft hanger. We had to wait a few minutes while they sorted it out but we were back on board soon and Daniella had layed out Pulled Pork Burgers for the ravenous horde. They were inevitably devoured. It always amazes us that no matter what you eat before a show, you could eat a horse afterwards. Newcastle Upon Tyne on a Saturday night is quite a sight as we rolled into the city at midnight for our ‘quiet’ one-night stay at the ‘Elegant, Timeless, Unrivalled, Vermont hotel. The night club outside was only just revving up at midnight. 20 years ago I might have said to myself, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. Ahh well, it’s comforting to learn that Engelbert Humperdinck and Geordie duo Ant and Dec have stayed here. Eeh by gum.

 

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