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Compiled by Terry Kilburn

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 16th August 2019 – Mashantucket CT

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

 

Perfect break. After 57 shows is such a short space of time across Europe, the whole touring party needed a good rest and 3 weeks felt like the perfect amount of time to recharge the batteries. Heathrow Terminal 5 was the meeting point for those flying to regroup in the US from the UK and British Airways was the carrier. A day after news headlines described BA business class as ‘Ryanair with free meals’ I was apprehensive. The main terminal lounges were absolutely heaving, as usual. I bumped into Danny and he and I were told by one kind BA staff member that there was another BA lounge at the gates. So we headed there to find a deserted, luxurious, chilled, hang. We felt privy to privileged information as we helped ourselves to luxury sparkling water and bags of Kettle Chip crisps.

Easing into my cramped, semi-functional BA business reclining seat on the ageing 777 bound for Boston, I missed the slightly more advanced equipment found in Virgin Upper Class. At least the tea on board is ALWAYS good on BA and the cabin crew were great. They’re a tough lot and I admire what they do in sometimes pressured situations.

Queuing is something the Brits are good at and it was just as well as when we arrived at Immigration, the ‘lines’ as they call them here, were long and winding. Eventually I found myself at the front next in line for interrogation by a supremely surly officer who never once looked at me and who fired off a stream of quick-fire questions. “Papers? – what do you do? – No, What do you DO? – Why are you here? etc.” Nothing particularly unexpected. He waves me through and suddenly I’m officially in America again and it feels great.

Unsurprisingly, once we got through the airport and to the Four Seasons hotel, an old haunt, I was hungry. Clam Chowder had been on my mind for the past 24 hours so a trip to Legal Seafoods, just around the corner, was on the cards. Jim came with me as he had just arrived from Los Angeles and was equally in need. We went and ordered identically. Clam Chowder, Crab Cakes and a Samuel Adams Ale. Heaven.

Often when we come Stateside, it coincides with the start of the Football season in the UK and this time, we headed here one game in. It seems like an appropriate time to post something sent to us by a very well known man in the game, Scottish Head-coach, former player and top man, Gordon Strachan. He has been to many shows in the past and this tour he came to see one of our RAH London shows and sent us a wonderful report. See below.

The show was our second visit to the ‘interesting’ Foxwoods Resort Casino at the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation. It’s a strange place this. I huge concrete hotel and casino, the largest in the USA I’m told, set in the middle of the beautiful Connecticut countryside. We arrived early afternoon after a very short magic carpet ride from Boston, Logan on our favourite jet, a Gulfstream G5. Sadly we only have this plane for today as the airfield has a short runway which requires a powerful jet for take-off and the G5’s have twice as much power as a Challenger. It’s the aviation equivalent of ‘headroom’, seemingly limitless thrust, and you do feel it. We soundchecked for a good 2 hours to familiarise ourselves with the set. It was great to play with the band again, everyone sounded fantastic and this was carried over to the show itself. We had a blast. It’s so great to be back in the USA. After the show, we ran back to the Gulfstream and flew on to Philadelphia. We’re off and running.

 

Albert hall formation – by Gordon Strachan

Bennett (RB) Great player,  not easy to be that good considering you have a legend playing inside from inside. Still would have liked to see him come inside and playing closer to MK.

Graeme Blevins (GB) Have to look at Graeme and Tom as a partnership. Both are terrific players but seemed scared to leave each other’s side. Obviously both have great lungs but neither moved more than two yards either way. Would have liked to seen them making runs beyond Mark and allow him to drop off. Both came to the fore when needed.

John McCusker (J MC) Typical Scots player,  all action, tenacious, multi talented, lacking in physique and hair .. but gave it his best and handled individual moments when called on brilliantly.

Mike McGoldrick (MM) Endless amount of talent and energy . Unfortunately we lack a goalie and as mike looks like he can play anything in any position he has to play behind . Has the ability to come out and play any position (think Ederson Man City).

Jim Cox (JC) Another who could play for any team/band in the world. Doesn’t need to make to many forward runs as Jim has enough energy for two. Again stood and counted when the pressure was on.

Glenn Worf (GW) A class act, never flustered, would like to have seen him playing between Graeme and Tom and a bit deeper to allow to go forward. Don’t know how that would affect them being so far apart from each other.

Guy Fletcher (GF) Didn’t get forward enough. Seemed happy to stay with his back four. Probably seen Richard right in front of him and thought there was no room for him to get forward. Terrific player and has mastered the art of keyboards. Having thought about it, must be near impossible getting forward with a keyboard, even Andy Robertson would have trouble.

Ian Thomas (IT) Danny Cummings (DC) Again another strong partnership. Technically first class, mobility a problem, probably due to the instruments maybe that’s why they keep the full backs at home so not to be isolated, but showed when they were left on their they could handle the pressure.

Mark Knopfler (MK) One of the best front men in the world. Technically first class, great brain. Unfortunately lost a bit of pace since last seen and may need a visit to the nutritionist. Strangely still looks healthy.

Summary.

Magnificent performance, I likened the performance to Man City. Every player was technically brilliant. All players could work in a team shape but when individual brilliance was needed they could all deliver. A performance to be proud of.

Gordon Strachan.

 

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

The Wisdom of Bones

Friday, August 9, 2019

‘For me to want to reread a book straight away it has to have bowled me over. You might think I’m biased because I’m related to the author but I think The Wisdom Of Bones by Kitty Aldridge is a wonder.’ – MK

Get your copy now

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 22nd July 2019 – Verona

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Arena di Verona. This has to be the most spectacular place to finish up on this wonderful trip around Europe. Another stunning Roman amphitheatre which has hosted so many spectacles in its 2,000 year history. The opera season is in full swing and a walk around the venue is a view into the world of large show logistics as the scenery for all the productions is outside in the open. Each show has its own set of backdrops, fake walls and giant statues and miraculously, these are lifted into the arena with the help of a giant mobile crane which sits right outside our dressing room.

Rome was where this incredible day started and most of the band appeared in the restaurant before 10:30am to have a full Hotel de Ville, Rocco Forte breakfast. I said cheerio to Laurie and Leon who were flying home whilst the band headed out to Ciampino airport for the last 2 trips aboard the magic carpet with Daniella looking after us. We were dropped at the GAT terminal and it was time for hugs and farewells to our amazing drivers in team’B’, headed by Alex Fischer. The boys have been completely awesome, their professionalism and driving skills have been appreciated greatly by all of us. Of course we wish they could come to the US but it can’t happen. Daniella was waiting on board and as soon as we took off she rolled out the most delicious Charcuterie plates accompanied by Strawberry and Champagne Risotto, Very ’80’s.

Eventually we descended into Verona and were bussed to the terminal where team ‘A’ were waiting to drive us into town. The searing heat hasn’t relented in Italy and when we got to the Arena, Dave Hall mentioned that the on-stage temperature during load-in reached a ridiculous 121 degrees Fahrenheit. (see photo) The crew who knew full well these last few shows would be the toughest, never complain and when we roll up for sound check, everything is always perfect. The admiration and appreciation we hold for these guys is genuine, even though we rarely say so. Mark did thank them for an amazing trip during the show. The whole day was tinged with sadness as we said goodbye to our amazing catering team. Dave, Chris, Scott and Steve have looked after band and crew superbly over the past few months, but the good news is that Steve will be coming to the US to oversee the local catering situations wherever we go. We also said cheerio to Simon Jayes, our drum tech who cannot be with us in the US. Simon is a stellar chap, a fabulous mate on the golf course and one of the finest drum techs known to mankind. Backstage, I arranged to meet my Verona friends from the Montecariano Valpolicella winery. I was here a year ago when Laurie and I came to the opera for her 60th birthday and the Montecariano boys looked after us so well. Also, Alessandro, our dear friend from the Italian record label came to see the show.

Never a day goes by when we don’t thank our lucky stars and when we left the dressing room and walked out into the arena, we knew it was going to be a great night. The roar of the crowd, so easily heard in this perfect amphitheatre ensured the band got off to a cracking start. The intensity of the evening was contrasted by the silence during the quiet songs and the wonderful applause, especially after every verse in Romeo and Juliet, clearly touching the hearts of so many in this special place. During ‘Postcards From Paraguay’, Ben Byford, one of our sound techs couldn’t help himself and danced his way onto the stage. As the show concluded, I hugged all the crew I could on stage-left before we left the venue.

All good things come to an end and this miraculous 57 date trip has clearly been the best by a long way. The show was over all too quickly and we were back in cars and off to the airport where we hugged and said “Ciao, abbi cura di te” to Goran and driver team ‘A’. Inside the terminal we queued with many package holidaymakers catching late evening flights home. Security took an age but we hardly even noticed, still euphoric after the evenings show. We were soon bussed out to the jet for the final flight, Daniella serving up ribs, Chicken wings and all sorts which were duly despatched by the hungry band. Our original plan to land at Luton was scuppered, somehow they denied us our original slot so we headed for Stanstead. Not ideal as it extended to final journey times but to be honest, no-one really minded. And so we all head home for 3 weeks break, most well earned by the crew…coinciding with a heatwave hitting the UK right now. Can’t wait to take this amazing show to the USA. Me, I’m off to the beach. See you soon.

 

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 20th 21st July 2019 – Rome

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Rome has one thing in glorious abundance. History. High summer is probably not the best time to see this magnificent city as simply walking the streets becomes hugely draining and with a list of sights and historic buildings as long as any city, walking is what you need to do. For me, it was enough just to have an exclusive stay at the Baths of Caracalla for 2 days, albeit nearly 2,000 years after its heyday.

Over the period of our stay here, we were able to wander the baths free from tourist distractions. Emperor Caracalla was as ruthless as any previous ruler of Rome, a tyrant and cruel leader who enacted many massacres and even had his brother, Geta, killed. Caracalla then persecuted and executed most of Geta’s supporters and ordered a damnatio memoriaepronounced by the Senate against his brother’s memory. Geta’s image was removed from all paintings, coins were melted down, statues were destroyed, his name was struck from papyrus records, and it became a capital offence to speak or write Geta’s name. In the aftermath of the damnatio memoriaed, an estimated 20,000 people were massacred. Those killed were Geta’s inner circle of guards and advisers, friends, and other military staff under his employ. His legacy is certainly one of severe brutality, it is no wonder his gift to the city in the form of these ancient baths which could accommodate around 1,600 bathers at any one time, was required to promote some semblance of popular support. It didn’t last.

Midsummer heat in Rome is notorious and the crew weren’t looking forward to this load-in. With no roof whatsoever, the stage was open to the elements all day long whilst the backline was set up. Protection from the searing heat was the priority, especially with all the digital gear which can so easily overheat. My 2 MacBook Pros on my riser had a large cooling fan on them all day long and into the show which seemed to do the job well. Our first show here coincided with Laurie’s birthday and she and Leon, our youngest son, flew out to both Rimini and Rome. It was Leon’s first visit and introduction to one of the most wonderful things about Rome, the food. The day before was a day off and we hooked up with some good friends who flew out from the UK and enjoyed a fabulous birthday dinner. We started the evening with drinks with the entire band on the rooftop bar on the brand new Hotel de Ville which overlooks some of the many domes across the city-scape, including the extraordinary Vatican. The only example in the world of a country within a city.

At the venue on show day 1, it was decided to keep sound check to a minimum since the heat was unbearable, although to be honest, it was a good 5 degrees cooler than the last time we were in Italy. The scene was set and the backdrop was the baths. The show began and our first reaction was the shock of isolation. I’ll explain. Without a roof, the on-stage sound is free from all reflections and as a consequence, sounds very ‘dry’. Rather like a studio. Also, the fact there was a large empty orchestra pit in front of the stage meant further isolation from the ambient sound from the crowd. We knew they were there, we just couldn’t hear them! This is without doubt the most beautiful setting we’ve ever performed at in Rome and there was something very special about the first show. Our theories were confirmed afterwards as all our friends and guests were blow away with the whole thing. I had no idea the local lighting rtig would be so effective and the PA seemed to do the job too. My new friends from the fabulous Italian company RRD (Roberto Ricci Designs), who make equipment for windsurfing, kiteboarding and Standup Paddleboarding and also have a fashion department, came along to the show and brought along some gifts, for us. We had a few drinks in the Band dressing rooms backstage after the show and then went back to the beautiful hotel rooftop terrace for further libation, with a view. The hotel were particularly tolerant of our insistence in bringing our own wine and beers from the gig. The drivers in team ‘A’ had gifted the band several cases of Augustiner beer and with only a few days left of the European tour to go, we needed to get cracking with its consumption.

Next day, was slightly hotter and Laurie, Leon and I had lunch with our friends, poolside,  at their hotel. Then I joined the band at the venue for show number 2. No sound check today as the crew would not relish uncovering the gear when we know what the place sounds like now. It was difficult to see the audience at any point during both shows but we did see the banners being held up and in particular, the one thanking Mark for 40 years. Very touching and much appreciated. Thank you Rome. I sure hope we will see you again.

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