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Compiled by Terry Kilburn

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 10th September 2019 – Denver CO

Mile High, or 6,450 feet (1,970 m) above sea level to be precise. This venue literally ‘rocks’. It’s certainly one of the most iconic places to perform on any tour and tonight’s show was a stunner. 

It always takes a day or so to get used to the altitude in Denver, in the gym it really tells as well as simply walking down the street. The day off which proceeded the show here was mostly spent relaxing, or should I say, luxuriating, by the pool at the Four Seasons. In the evening, band and crew met at the crew hotel for our ‘tour party’. We took over the bar of the Kimpton hotel and enjoyed a rare ‘off duty’ evening with our amazing crew. We count our lucky stars to be out here, on the road, with our, not so little, family away from home.

Leaving the bar at 10pm was wise as in the past these little soirees can get out of hand. I remember the last one in Atlanta in 2015, or rather I remember the head the next morning and the consequential tough gig that followed. Most of us were in bed early ready for the day that lay ahead.

Early start and straight out to Target to buy a Heart rate monitor. The Peloton can push you hard and other band mates have advised I should know what the old ticker is up to at all times. A Fitbit Charge 3 came with me back to the hotel room. I plugged it in, it buzzed and whirred into life and asked for a software update. I complied and that’s the last I ever heard from it. Stillborn. Many visits to customer support and the Fitbutt community revealed many, many other frustrated users with defective units. Why do they put these things out when they’re not bullet-proof? Well, I know why.

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Hot and sweaty after another high altitude Peloton ride, I, and the rest of the band got our gig bags ready for a 3:30 departure for Red Rocks. Our convoy arrived just as the crew were finishing their line checks and were ready for us to do an early sound check. Just as we headed to the stage, the wind picked up. Up here, when the wind blows, it’s kind of scary as the PA and lighting ‘hangs’ sway about like outdoor Christmas decorations. The sun was thankfully behind a rather large cumulonimbus that seemed to come along for our benefit. It wasn’t rain-bearing thankfully. As soon as we finished our thorough sound check, the wind died to reveal a beautiful late Summer Colorado evening. 

In no time at all the sun set. We were in catering as it got dark, the food here is always wonderful and everything on the menu was great. The closest thing to our European catering team so far on this US leg. Danny and I recorded a couple of video interviews in the keyboard department. I’ll put them together as quickly as I can. There seems to be so little time for video editing on this tour. I’m not quite sure how I did it all before. 

Getting ready for an outdoor show, it’s prudent to check the temperature, especially up here as it can get quite chilly as the evening wears on. I wandered up to the stage (the dressing rooms are below) to get a sense of it. It was quite balmy and with 30 minutes to go until showtime, it looked like the venue was packed. There was definitely a buzz in the arena which was familiar. This gig is special, for sure.

Heading to the stage with ‘ears’ in, a few of us too big breaths from disposable Oxygen canisters Steve had thoughtfully provided. House lights went out and the roar was…so…Red Rocks! What a place. What a gig. Reports coming back after-show were great and in the Four Seasons bar afterwards, the lovely Pieta Brown joined us. After one drink, at 11:30pm, the ‘Edge’ Four Seasons bar took last orders which we all agreed was utterly ridiculous. The girl behind the bar was in no mood to negotiate but Tim, our tour manager showed up just in time and called the hotel manager in who immediately arranged for another round. The barmaid was visibly annoyed, shaking her head and splashing mixers around. The Four Seasons chain has evolved, you can’t blame them, but nowadays the clientele make us look decidedly old-aged. Yes, I know we are but that’s not the point.

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: 8th September 2019 – Grand Prairie TX

Departing the lovely Hotel Emma, I recapped mentally on our great stay in Texas. The people have been great, the weather, hot and the food, stellar. And so it was, back in the vans and en route to San Antonio airport for the final time. We drove up to the FBO gate and as ever, Captain Calvert was waiting. The gates slid open and we pulled alongside the beautiful Challenger 850.

A 40 minute flight into Dallas Love Field airport was smooth and swift and cars were one again, airside to whisk us and our gig bags to the venue. The Verizon is another purpose built theatre, fabulously appointed and designed so when we pulled up backstage, the crew were smiling after what was an easy load-in with all 4 of our trucks being able to reverse the trailers up to the loading bays. Grand Prairie is a city within a city, situated in Dallas, Tarrant and Ellis Counties, it was annexed as a city in 1909 and since then has grown exponentially. The sprawl of urban America is no more evident than here as vast areas of prairie have been converted into a self professed ‘city of promise, a city of growth, a city of location”.

Learning that it was to be a 7pm show, plus we were to gain an hour on our after-show flight to Denver, we headed to the stage with a view to a quick sound check. Once again, our PA system was in use and the stage sounded great. Catering was lovely, albeit a bain-marie extravaganza. I had the tiniest piece of fish and 2 chips…but I did succumb to the lure of a home made Victoria Sponge Cake. Just a slither, honest. Frugal portions pre-show mean that when I get to the jet after show, I’m ready to eat a small Texan town (and I knew we were having ribs!).

Loud extraction fans were switched on during line-check which halted proceedings as they were…LOUD. The reason for this was that the air conditioning in the building could not be controlled, only turned off, and since the temperature was very cold indoors, in stark contrast to outdoors where it was 105 degrees, the solution was to open the loading bays behind the stage and switch on the ‘evac’ fans top pull out the cold air. Obviously the fans were shut down and we continued with sound check and by the time we took to the stage, the temperature was lovely and warm.

An annoyance for musicians from the UK is the temperature differences from outside to in. Air conditioning in the USA is literally everywhere and often buildings are so cold inside, you need to wear a sweater. I know what you’re saying… ‘bloody whingeing Brits’. I’d rather be hot, than cold, any day as the fingers work better.

So the final Texan show was set to be a cracker, and it was. The audience were absolutely lovely, particularly attentive. This was the first audience on the tour who waited until the very end of Romeo And Juliet before applauding. Kudos, Grand Prairie. The final few bars have several descending chords which are often swallowed by applause. We finished up and ran to the plane, our driver taking a longer route so we pulled up with everyone already on board. I couldn’t wait to get stuck into the ribs. I didn’t even mind that they were cold. Stepping off the plane in Denver was the first time in weeks where a jacket was required. Cool air finally and on the run into town at 10:30pm, in the SUV I noticed lightening in the area and immediately called up the live lightening app on my phone. Sure enough as I got to my room, a cracking, but brief, thunderstorm moved across downtown Denver.

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: 3rd September 2019 – AUSTIN TX

Austin is a great city, it’s a simple fact. Apart from the musical influences, it is one of America’s fastest growing cities where prospects and standard of living are good. Austin is known as a ‘clean-air city’ for its stringent no-smoking ordinances that apply to all public places and buildings, including restaurants and bars. That includes vaping devices now so popular across the States.

Under cloudless skies in the extreme heat (high 90’s) of the afternoon, we left the hotel Emma for our short trip, but not before Laurie and I took a short Riverside walk. We didn’t get that far as the heat was just so oppressive, energy conservation being in mind, the show for me and an afternoon of art museums for Laurie. There is some fabulous art on display here in San Antonio both in public spaces and galleries.

Since we are presently hubbing from San Antonio, today’s flight was awkwardly short, Austin being only just over an hour drive away. Literally up and down, less than 20 minutes in the air. when we arrived into Austin, the number of private jets parked up was astonishing. Easily over 100. Our driver said he had never seen so many. The reason was the huge College ball game played out this evening. The Texas Longhorns hosting LSU. The end result was a 45-38 win for LSU. The traffic on the way into town was gnarly so our experienced team of drivers who have been looking after us in San Antonio, took the back routes and got us to the venue with little delay.

The 1970’s saw Austin’s emergence in the national music scene, with local artists such as Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Over time, the long-running television program Austin City Limits, its namesake Austin City Limits Festival, and the South by Southwest music festival solidified the city’s place in the music industry. My son Max, played the South By Southwest festival earlier this year, his first ‘working’ trip to the States.

It’s always fabulous to come to Austin and play since the fans here are extremely knowledgable, musically speaking. It’s not hard to see why. Having played this theatre before, our crew were well aware of the difficulties that lay ahead for them as our production is about 10% too big for this stage. Gavin, our monitor guy and Tim, Richard’s guitar tech had to set up off the side of stage. This was offset by the fact we were able to use our own ‘L-Acoustics’ PA tonight. It all lends itself to a club-like gig as the actual room is quite small and most people are on the balconies.

Night descended quickly and we said goodbye to ‘Willie’s’ balcony outside the dressing room and took to the stage. Great show, great crowd, all the usual. We nearly killed two electric scooterists as we left the venue who whizzed in front of our departing car without a care, something that is all too common in cities where they charge unrestricted. Luckily, our driver was being extremely cautious. At the jet within 25 minutes for the super-quick hop back to San An. Tacos and a beer and we were home. Saturday night at the Hotel Emma is clearly a scene but Tim had reserved us a private table in the amazing Emma bar and we stayed until close of play at 2am.

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 September 2019 – Sugar Land TX

Sugar Land is known as an ‘edge’ city, set on the outskirts of Houston, the original Sugar plantations were consolidated into ‘Imperial Sugar’ in 1908 and the area remains the home to its headquarters. As we know, Sugar has certainly been used extensively in all commercial foodstuffs, none more so than here in the US. The sweet success of Sugar is well documented. No other substance occupies so much of the world’s land, for so little benefit to humanity.

Up until 1901, Texas was happily going about its business, land being fought over, French and Spanish both having a crack at ruling, becoming annexed into the US in 1845…then oil was discovered and the resulting oil boom transformed the state. The growth since then has been astronomic and the wealth is clearly visible in most areas. It’s great to be back here and our entry into the Lone Star state began with a day off. The nickname ‘Lone Star State’ signifies its former status as an independent republic, and serves as a reminder of the state’s struggle for independence from Mexico. The weather here is hot. Daily temperatures at this time of year are in the upper 90’s and air conditioning is everywhere we go. I suppose you get used to it, but the temperature differences from outside to in are extreme. The Hotel Emma is a gem, the beautifully re-purposed set of buildings once comprised a 19th-century brewhouse known as the Pearl Brewery. Much of the original machinery and artefacts were salvaged and are exhibited around the hotel. The outdoor pool is perfect and the gym is ideal. With Peloton bike, naturally.

Going out to dinner seemed to be a no-brainer for all as there was a Mexican street food restaurant across the way called La Gloria. Everyone ended up there at some point, except Glenn and Mark who went to have dinner with a well known country singer friend of Glenn’s just outside town. The Margaritas were unexpectedly pokey and it caught a few of us out. The resultant mild hangover on show day was an annoyance.

Arriving into Sugar Land on the outskirts of Houston, we were driven to the venue, a brand new beautifully designed theatre. Opened in January 2017, this is possibly the best new theatre venue we’ve encountered. The crew were extremely happy as all 4 trucks could be attached to the loading bays simultaneously making load in, and out, a doddle. The venue staff were lovely, the catering, great, dressing rooms, superb and the hall sounded fabulous AND we could use our own PA. All in all we were set for a great night. 

Rarely do we take to the stage on time these days. So many people arrive late, that combined with stringent security checking at venues these days means we usually hold for 10 minutes. This evening we held for 20. There were still plenty of folks winding their way to their seats when we kicked off but with everything ticking over beautifully, we had a great night. Texan audiences are loud and passionate. Their renowned, ‘Southern hospitality’ extends to welcoming us onto the stage. They don’t hold back.

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: 4th September 2019 – Atlanta GA

Chastain Park is an idyllic area situated near the Northern edge of Atlanta. The area was originally occupied by Creek Indians, near the floodplain known as Nancy Creek. Nowadays, it is the largest city park incorporating  jogging paths, playgrounds, tennis courts, a golf course, swimming pool, horse park and of course the Chastain Park amphitheater. Our departure from Nashville came all too soon and we headed to the airport and boarded the Challenger ready for the 1 hour flight South. I figured it was about time I occupied the jump seat in the cockpit for landing. It’s always an amazing experience, something that is quite rare these days of course. It really makes you want to fly a plane. Coming in on approach, we flew at 2000 feet above downtown Atlanta before making our final turn towards the DeKalb-Peachtree airfield.

Recent visits have often involved extreme weather and Georgia can be prone to rain, storms and heat at this time of year. Our visit on this trip is dominated by the heat and humidity. When we arrived at the venue the temperature was well into the high 90’s and the crew were pretty sweaty. Brent, my tech was having some issues with the rig which could have been due to auto-updates but one of the Mainstage rigs saw the interface as alien. Then another cable issue. In fact, the show was quite beset with gremlins. It happens sometimes.

Evening at Chastain was descending fast and the doors opened at 7pm. I had invited my Atlanta golfing buddy (we played last time) Morten Andersen, a bit of a local hero here, and we met pre-show for a quick catch up with his lovely wife Jennifer. 

Events such as these, ie. outdoor park venues, often have a slow walk-in and we had to delay the show accordingly. We went on 20 minutes later than scheduled at 8:20. This was definitely a slightly different type of audience as compared to recent theatre shows. I noticed a lot of people on their phones throughout the show. Whatever. By the time we got to the encores, everyone was on their feet, as has been the case pretty much everywhere. We left the area with huge cheers behind us. The local staff enabled our getaway beautifully by holding some of the strategic the exit gates until our bus convoy had passed. Police escort not required.

Knowing a 2 hour flight lay ahead, I had merely picked at dinner and consequently I was famished. Almost as hungry as Danny! The plate of Salmon with dill sauce that Natalie served up as soon as we were airborne was a sight to behold and duly despatched. 2 hours and several drinks later, we descended into San Antonio and headed for our hotel for the next few days. A complete contrast to our Nashville stay. Every detail is beautifully considered as opposed to every detail being dysfunctional or ugly. Hotels are fascinating and often an enigma. We may have a new favourite here.

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

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