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Compiled by Terry Kilburn

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 22nd September 2019 – Los Angeles CA

The history of the Los Angeles Greek Theatre dates back to 1882, when Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, came to America from South Wales to seek fortune in gold mining. Colonel Griffith settled in Los Angeles and purchased the Los Feliz Rancho, which he later donated to the City of Los Angeles in 1896. This three thousand acre gift to the residents of Los Angeles was given with the intent that Griffith Park would be made an ‘eternal place of public recreation’.

Here, as I write at 33,000 feet, on our way to New York after last night’s show at the Greek, we find ourselves crossing the Rocky mountains, this time in an Easterly direction. It’s always bumpy at this point so fin d myself correcting many typos, apologies if I haven’t caught thm all. I can’t help thinking about the poor travellers affected by the Thomas Cook collapse. Yesterday, Britain’s biggest oldest and largest global travel group went into liquidation after a slow-motion downward spiral that started in 2006 when the company’s handling of an incident when 2 children died of carbon monoxide poisoning on a Thomas Cook holiday in 2006 was sorely criticised. The lure of cheap holidays and air travel mean that currently nearly 600,000 customers are affected by the announcement, many stranded. Thankfully the British government have stepped in to assist repatriation as best they can by laying on homeward bound flights across the globe. 

Eastbound, we said goodbye this morning to Los Angeles, Santa Monica and the fabulous Casa Del Mar. Our stay there has been as enjoyable as it always is. It’s difficult not to enjoy a beachfront location and beautiful secluded pool area, with weather to match. Of course this building is well known as being the home base for the Synanon drug rehabilitation program in the 70’s and 80’s. There is a permanent reminder of its former status as when drawing the curtains in the morning, inevitably you will see some of the local homeless population waking after a night under the palms on the beach. People struggling with mental illness or substance abuse issues and who are living in encampments are often the most visible, but it is a myth that people experiencing homelessness decline help or prefer to live outdoors. The incongruous luxury of a beachfront room seems less so as I find myself watching the morning routines of some of the guys as they roll up their sleeping bags and towels. I reluctantly break the spell…It’s show-day morning, I decide to have one final attempt at ticking that Huevos Rancheros box properly so Laurie suggested we head for the Mexican Restaurant a couple of blocks away on Ocean Avenue. Success, at the final attempt.

Great breakfast demolished, it was time to consider the day ahead, and what a day. The Greek Theatre is one of the most iconic venues of the tour and even though we’ve played here many times, it still holds such respect from the band. It is LA after all. We left the hotel mid-afternoon and found that the drive wasn’t too interrupted by traffic. Sundays in LA can be unpredictable but the 10 freeway was smooth running. The day was hot and the gear covered with space sheets to protect it from being baked.

Retreating to the basement area of the Greek, the band were to be found in catering where Steve was overseeing the presentations. The food was absolutely excellent, in contrast to last time we played here, I seem to recall. At 5pm, we headed for the stage which was now just about coming into some welcome shade as the sun dropped behind the hill beyond which lies Griffith Park. My attention was drawn to a peculiar tree which appeared to have many small boxes attached to it. It turned out to be a 4G repeater, not a tree at all. A completely man-made lookalike with dozens of transmitters enabling locals, park-goers and Greek-goers to receive adequate coverage. Prior to the existence of this tree, there was none, the locals being the ones who complained the most. They got their wish to the detriment of Glenn and Gavin on the crew who battled with interference in some of the acoustic instruments. Of course, by the time we arrive, most of these issues have already been solved. You’d just never know. I’m just nosey, so I find out.

Every sound check is as useful as the one prior, Mark and I were just discussing this. The band dynamic is such that it’s only by playing in some of these tunes at the venue before the show that we can really deliver the way that we… at least think we do. Judging by the audience reactions, we seem to be doing ok. It will never be perfect of course, even after 85 shows.

Even after 85 shows. My god. Here we are, right at the tail end of a remarkable tour. Just one more after tonight, seems impossible to comprehend. Obviously so many mixed emotions that we all choose not to think too deeply about it all. The diaries are there partly for that reason, research, reflection and reality.

Knowing there would be so many friends and guests in the audience, the band always comes to a Greek stage with something extra, it’s human nature, and the energy on stage tonight was as perfect as the weather. One thing that was a little unexpected was the crowd. LA audiences are expected to be quite challenging, one of the most knowledgable musical crowds in the world is often subdued and contemplative. Not so tonight. What a reaction, right from Paul Crockford’s extravagant entrance and introduction belted at full volume in full Union Jack jacket regalia and Ianto’s 1, 2, 3, 4, count-off, they were UP and they stayed up. all in all it was quite a night, one to be remembered for all time, at least our time.

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: 21st September 2019 – Phoenix AZ

During our stay in Santa Monica, I’ve struggled to tick the Huevos Rancheros box satisfactorily. Our favourite old breakfast spot, ‘M Street Kitchen’ has sadly disappeared, gone the way of many restaurants on Main Street as rate increases force everyone but the most successful business out. We ate at ‘Cora’s’, another ancient Mexican cafe on Ocean drive that has managed to stay in business simply by charging the earth for everything. Their Huevos Rancheros was sadly lacking and hideously overpriced. We’ll never go there again I fear, but good luck to them anyway.

Each run we make to the airport in LA is a tense affair as traffic can be quite insane, but management’s decision not to use Van Nuys as we have in the past seems to be paying off. Today’s trip to Lax, accompanied by what I call ‘Brake Wah-wah’, where the driver is incapable of braking smoothly instead, was pretty quick. Once at the Signature aviation terminal, we decided to pass on ramp access as it involved too much paperwork, and with the band’s legs being fully functional, we simply walked the 30 yards to the jet.

Sushi was waiting on board and our journey across the Southwestern part of the US was long enough for Natalie to take her time. I gazed out across the vast, super-heated plains of the Sonoran Desert and as so often on these American adventures, wondered about the early settlers and how they navigated these great distances in such treacherous circumstances. The heat down there is clearly intense, as it was in downtown Phoenix itself, today the high was a moderate 95 degrees. Naturally I chose to wear shorts. This was my big mistake.

Every building in Phoenix has air conditioning. It’s a necessary requirement here and when we pulled up and got out of the cars, the outside temperature was lovely. Inside the building was a shock however. Apparently, when the crew loaded in this morning, it was 61 degrees. Our production boys requested it be raised as it’s simply unnecessary. By the time we got there it was 64. It felt freezing on stage and not being used to these drastic changes, I got quite a chill which lasted the whole evening. My nose eventually started running during the encores. Shit, not a cold. Not now! As we all know, being sick on the road is no fun at all. As soon as I was back at the hotel, I was in bed and under the covers. As I write this, thankfully it didn’t develop. Massive relief.

Running through the show, we really relished the lovely audience who were intent on listening to every nuance we offered, they were polite but extremely generous in their appreciation. We had such a lovely gig and the sound on stage was perfect. It’s hard to imagine we’ve done this show 85 times now and only have 2 more left. We’re tired but not tired enough to stop. We love this too much.

There were two things I’d never seen before that occurred today. The first was on the way to LAX, I saw a bus shelter advertisement sign that stated in large letters ‘Mass Shooting Insurance’. Everything about that message is depressing. On a lighter note, on the way to Phoenix airport after the show, during what was officially our final ‘runner’, Glenn spotted a restaurant called ‘Welcome Chicken and Donuts’. Chicken inside a Donut, as our driver explained is an acquired taste. My thoughts were ‘for a Chicken, things are never going to end well, but I’d still hate to end up inside a Donut’.

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: 20th September 2019 – Santa Barbara CA

The day off we enjoyed in Santa Monica at the Casa del Mar was mostly spent lying by the hotel pool in glorious late Summer Californian sun but in the evening, Laurie and I had a wonderful meal with Eric, her brother and his wife Leslie at the terribly trendy ‘Elephante’ restaurant nearby. The food was quite stunning, the sunset was beautiful and we celebrated the life of their brother David who sadly passed just a few weeks ago. Eric brought along one of his bottles of Opus One which he bought in 1986. The restaurant decanted it and over the following hour and a half, we enjoyed the taste explosions as the wine took on oxygen from a world 33 years on.

Hardly a moment goes by now as this tour, all-too-quickly, draws towards its conclusion, that we don’t thank our lucky stars to be here and in this band and the next few days will be as much a celebration of life as it is of music. Long may it continue.

Every day seems to be perfect right now as I draw the curtains and look out across the Santa Monica Beach, people carrying surfboards towards the water, including Laurie, who treated Tim, our tour manager to his first surf lesson. Tim did well, managing to stand, first time out. He may have the bug.

Beautiful Santa Barbara, there are few places on earth more picturesque, and each time we visit, it’s easy to understand why you’d want to live here. Flying into the airport on our short hop from LAX, you can drool at the exquisite properties overlooking the water with their secluded swimming pools and tennis courts. Many of the Hollywood greats have chosen to live here.

Our journey was quick, a speedy whizz down to LAX, well not as speedy as we’d have liked as LA traffic is quite notorious. Onto the jet for a 21 minute hop up the coast then into cars again for 15 minutes to arrive at the Bowl for 4pm.

With sound check scheduled for 5pm, we waited until then even though the crew were ready as the sun was full on the stage. We don’t mind a bit of UV but the instruments get very temperamental. The outdoor Barbecue was here once again, just like four years go…to the day!’ The chief BBQ man was cooking Tri-tip, chicken and Salmon. It was sublime. Laurie decided to drive up as we had guests from back home who have a place here, Pippa Blake and Gordon Roddick. It was so nice to see them as the backstage area became quite a scene. Our old friend Bobby Colomby (Blood, Sweat and Tears drummer) was here too as was Michael Keaton, a big fan, with whom it was lovely to chat. What an amazing talent.

Leaving the guests to chat, we realised there was a show to do and we had to get ready. We went on at 7:45 and unsurprisingly had a fantastic time in front af an exuberant Santa Barbara welcome. The evening was perfect as we left the stage and headed back to Santa Monica.

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: 18th September 2019 – Berkeley CA

Hearst is a name which reverberates through the publishing world as William Randolph Hearst Sr. made his name developing newspapers and media. His flamboyant methods emphasised sensationalism and human interest stories, the journalism we all know today. His life story became the core inspiration for Charles Foster Kane, the lead character in Orson Welles’s film ‘Citizen Kane’. The Greek Theatre in Berkeley, on of the most magnificent in California is know officially as the ‘William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre’ as its construction was financed entirely by Mr. Hearst. It opened in 1903.

Every visit here is memorable for so many reasons. The audiences in this part of the States are tremendous, the exclusive promoters here, ‘Another Planet’ are hell-bent on making sure all artists have a great visit and the catering in the basement backstage area is seriously second-to-none.

Across Elliott Bay, the haze this morning was thick and rain was in the air. The outside temperature had dropped noticeably since yesterday, it was time to leave Seattle. We’ve had an amazing 6 nights here, drunk quite a lot of beer and had far too much fun… and it’s flown by, as everything seems to lately. A sure sign we are having the time of our lives.

Readying bags, I zipped up my brand-spanking new Briggs and Riley Spinner case. My previous one actually developed a rare crack due to extreme baggage handling (not Peter) so I emailed them and they immediately sent a replacement. One of many reasons to buy Briggs and Riley bags. Lifetime Guarantee! If they can’t fix it, they replace it. No quibbling. We left the hotel at 2pm and headed to Boeing Field airport and got on board the plane for our trip down to Oakland. It felt like a long way compared to recent short hops to and fro.

Sliding into the SUV, Mark and I headed off, briefly stopping for a few fans outside the airport gate, running with their LP’s for Mark to sign. Mark obliged as he always does when possible but there were the inevitable e-bayers in amongst them, Peter asking one guy what his favourite song is, he simply couldn’t answer.I’ll say no more. Soon we were at the gig, straight downstairs for soup and a barista coffee courtesy of Berkeley’s own ‘Peets’ coffee. Delicious. Sound check was swift and we prepped ourselves for an early show. 7pm I believe it said on the tickets.

The gate count was only 50% at 6:50 so we held until 7:20. Even then the place wasn’t full but Mark decided we would go on and play out the intro a little. Mark, enjoying being quite chatty with the audience this evening and in between verses in the first sone, he singled out the lone guy with a camera light on. It’s amazing, even though he was filming, he didn’t realise it was him. The rest of the crowd respected the band’s wishes and filmed without the ‘headlights’ on for the rest of the night. And what a night it was. This place totally rocks. It was all over too soon of course and we were back in the cars and on our way to the airport leaving behind a din I’ll never forget. We could have played all night. Back onboard, we headedSouth once more, bound for LAX and a short drive to Santa Monica where our beloved Casa Del Mar hotel awaits. Our penultimate hotel stay of the tour. What a day.

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: 16th September 2019 – Vancouver BC

Gastown was in fact the original Vancouver. Named after a Yorkshire seaman known as ‘Gassy’ Jack Deighton, a steamboat captain and barkeeper who arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon. One can only guess as to the origin of his nickname. Our journey to Vancouver today involved us crossing the US/Canadian border twice as we have been hubbing from Seattle for the past 5 days.

At 2:15pm, we were all ready to leave, passports in bags, in the Four Seasons lobby. The regular autograph brigade were waiting outside, as always. Some of the e-bayers wait around all day for an opportunity. I’m not sure what to think about that. We left in convoy with Mark, myself and Glenn in  the ‘Fletch-mobile’. Our driver’s Christian name is Fletcher. The talk was of yesterday’s Seattle Seahawks win various other NFL quarterbacks. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs and Aaron Rodgers of the Packers in particular.

Stunning conditions for flying prevailed as we pulled up alongside the aircraft. I snapped a quick selfie with Fletch. On board, Natalie was ready with a speed service. Turkey subs and lettuce wraps. No sooner had we climbed to our cruising altitude, we descended into Vancouver International airport.

The Orpheum theatre is the permanent home to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and there were many items and photos of their concerts here. Dating back to 1927, the then Vaudeville house was the largest theatre in Canada. It is certainly showing its age but has clearly seen many touch-ups and renovations, the most recent a new set of toilets in the basement dressing rooms. There was plenty of space for us all to stretch out, unusual in most old theatres of this size.

Once again, Steve Bond made sure catering was up to scratch, he rejected the bread, made a trip to whole Foods and remade the soup. Sound check was moved forward as one of our backline crew, Ben Byford was sick and needed a doctor. Thankfully, nothing serious and he made the show with a thumbs up to me as we left later on. We took to the stage at the agreed 8:15 but there was a potential issue lying in wait. The US immigration offices in Seattle were set to close at 11:30 for a shift change so we needed to arrive before that time. It meant that to be safe we shortened the set by one song. So sorry Vancouver.

We had such a great time up there, maybe the knowledge there are a mere 5 shows left after this one focuses our energies. The audience were beautiful, rowdy, excitable, respectful and slightly annoyed by the security who made their presence very much known. Towards the end of the show, an excited room full of people, who were bursting with joy had their fun dampened as the team with earpieces and furrowed brows refused to let anyone dance in the aisles. I was concerned as we do brief all venues pre-show BUT, I also learned later that it is the law that aisles must be clear at all times in these venues. So all in all, they were right. I did notice some of the security clearly, secretly enjoying the band.

Night rain accompanied our swift but safe, 30 minute ride to the airport. we climbed aboard and Natalie dished out plates of Spicy Noodles with Pork with dizzying speed. Tim helped her serve the ravenous band and once again, we were descending and sipping delicious mouthfuls of Sokol-Blosser 2011 Pinot Noir. we arrived at the Immigration building and parked up at 11:20. The immigration lady came on board as we were filling in our landing cards and said “oh, you don’t need to do all that, just come on inside and we’ll get you processed”. She was an absolute delight, efficient and charming, an illustration of how a welcome into America should be. We got to the hotel before midnight, just missing the closing time at Pike’s. Fortunately, the Irish bar across the road, slightly scuzzier, stayed open until 2am. 7 of us closed the place, the slightly blurry selfies revealing accurately the exact emotion of the band. Happy and Fuzzy.

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

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