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Compiled by Terry Kilburn

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 23rd June 2019 – Amsterdam

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Ah well, it was inevitable I suppose. I got up this morning, in Brussels, to make a cup of tea to discover that housekeeping had removed my travel kettle and tea mug from the room. An innocent enough mistake, but no less frustrating as I interrogated the maids in the corridor in vain. “No English speak”. Two hours later they redeemed themselves, the kitchen staff had found them. Looks like I’ll have to revise my procedure for making the room ‘maid-safe’.

Making our escape from the basement car park of the Amigo, we drove past the front entrance where there was a crowd of fans clutching pens and their various collectibles. I’m not sure many were actually there for us as there were real celebrities staying. Woody Allen for one. There was another band in the hotel too but I failed to discover who they were. They certainly looked Rock and Roll enough, long hair, tattoos, carrying guitars etc. Just like us. Ha.

Swiftly jettisoned at the GAT terminal, Brussels, we went through the usual rigorous security screening (I’m getting tired of this belts-off thing) and were bussed to the jet where low and behold, parked up next door was the old Embraer Legacy we used on the last tour. Daniella confirmed this. What are the chances? We soon took off and landed at Schiphol almost before we could get through our crudités. We’ve cut out the ‘lunch on the plane’ thing down as some of us are starting to resemble inflatable beach craft.

The Ziggo Dome is surely one of the finest music venues in the world. Its design is to be admired, as its acoustic properties were clearly paramount when it was conceived. They even have acoustic treatment on the stairwells. The latest improvements include a lookalike nightclub with full bar attached to the dressing rooms. As a consequence of the sound, the band enjoyed every minute we had up on that stage, an extended sound check and an absolutely fabulous show.

Every concert in Amsterdam is the same. Simply put, the Dutch are just cool, on so many levels. We were working on some new horn arrangements for a tune we haven’t played yet and Tom Walsh mentioned to me that he has a ‘saved search’ on eBay for his Trumpet mutes. The reason is that they are extremely old and difficult to replicate. As with many vintage instruments, there’s nothing quite the same as the original. This description from Tom…the one on the right of the picture is circa 1940s. In Chicago, the ‘Harmon mute co.’ kind of became the Hoover or Tannoy of the trumpet world, because their brand name became the identifying name for the product – so it’s commonly referred to as a ‘Harmon Mute’ in the business! Some great combo of the light design and alloy of the metal (believe this Harmon is aluminium mainly) meant that it was the go to brand, and was popularised as a sound and style on trumpet by Miles Davis. He uses a mute (that will be very similar in age to mine) just like this on his 1959 album ‘Kind Of Blue’ which still remains the biggest selling jazz album of all time, unless you count Kenny G, which I don’t!…The other one isn’t as interesting but I have had it for around a decade. It’s a Straight Mute, often found in symphony orchestras. This particular one has a bottom made out of copper, which makes it slightly more sonorous, and I use it on ‘Once Upon A Time In The West’ to try and evoke the sound of all the famous spaghetti western soundtracks of Ennio Morricone, etc.

Luxuriating in our monitor mixes, tonight’s show was the best for me, and many of the band. The sonics of the hall do indeed play a big part in how things sound in our ‘ears’. Judging by early reports from the audience, the two go hand in hand. We enjoyed freshly poured draught Heineken before our final encores. “Don’t get used to it” stated Peter, firmly. It was as sweet as any beer has ever tasted. It’s all in the timing I guess. Encored duly done, we sped off to the Wonderful Waldorf Salad eagerly looking forward to one of life’s true pleasures… a day off in the Dam.

Show-pics gratefully received from Henk Pestman

 

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 22nd June 2019 – Antwerp

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Here in our hotel, there’s a yellow spin bike in the gym that I’ve been taking an interest in. Not an actual Peloton, the one I fell in love with at the Beaumont hotel in London, but it’s really good. I told Jim, who was midway through his 1-hour uphill walk next to me on a treadmill, “I’ve just discovered music”. Meaning of course, music whilst working out, which I used to detest. Spin biking is all about tempo, enough said. Today it was a mixture of Salsa Celtica, Busta Rhymes and DJ Shadow.

After a reward-laden breakfast of baguettes and butter (a weakness when in or near France), it was soon time to meet in the lobby for our 45-minute drive to Antwerp. I avoided the terminally slow elevator and used the stairs. The lift in this place has history. I always remember it as breaking down almost on a daily basis. You’d have thought they might have replaced it. Goran led team ‘A’ drivers away from the heart of the EU capital and traffic, Northbound to Antwerp.

Notorious for its huge size and consequently difficult acoustics, the Sportpalais has a longer history than I imagined which dates back to 1933, and when it was completed it was the largest indoor arena in Europe. It is currently the 2nd most visited arena in the world. With an oval shaped circus style roof, the sound echoes around in here for an eternity as we were reminded during sound check. Thankfully, 14,000 sound ‘absorbers’ make a big difference. It was decided today should be the day for the tour photo. Band, crew and drivers assembled on the stage after sound check, I set up my camera and one of the video crew guys took the pics.

Dire Straits played here in the 1980’s, or so I assumed. This was not the case, confirmed by the fact we are not listed in the Wiki ’past concerts’ section and from an email from Bart Cornand. He writes…”The 1985 tour took you to the (horrible) Limburghal in Genk and… the infamous Forest National in Brussels (boomy and dirty). Both the Love over Gold tour and the On Every Street tour were Forest National too. Your first time at the Sportpaleis was 2005 (Shangri-La). Later tours alternated between Forest and Sportpaleis”. Regardless, I do remember this venue as being slightly on the funky side of dirty, not much fun for the crew. It’s cleaner these days but not by much. However, the Belgian crowd more than compensated. What an audience. every seat sold. Quite an atmosphere.

Silence, and I mean silence from the crowd during even the quietest sections of the show are a testament to the respect Mark’s fans show the band. I love the fact that applause is reserved until the very last vestiges of sound have disappeared from the stage. Then the eruption, never lasting too long as we segue into so many songs. The encores reveal a different atmosphere with every single person up out of their seats, hands in the air showing their appreciation. All I can say is that we appreciate, love and relish it.

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 20th June 2019 – Luxembourg

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

 

Belval is an area to the West of Esch-sur-Alzette, in south-western Luxembourg which was once the home of the country’s steel production. As I’ve mentioned in previous diaries, when production was abandoned in 1994, the Belval works became derelict. A project of regeneration which started in 2001 has seen 18 years of steady growth and each time we pass through to play the Rockhal, the original site becomes more and more unrecognisable.

Each new construction lends an architectural contrast to the original blast-furnace structure and accompanying buildings which still remain. It’s quite eerie.

Lyon was good to us but it was time to say goodbye. The tour rolls on relentlessly. We left the wonderful Villa Maia and headed in cars driven by Alex and team ‘B’ towards Lyon airport where we cleared security in what seemed like a makeshift VIP room. We ‘auto-stopped’ an ‘auto-bus’ which took us to the jet of joy and the patiently waiting Daniella. I don’t know what it is but whenever we get onboard the plane, we’re starving, well I am. The sound of crisp packets being opened behind me was all too much, I caved in.

Visually stunning cloud formations accompanied us all the way to Luxembourg as nearby storms left their telltale patterns. The pilots skilfully dodged just about every shower en route and we soon landed, gently kissing the tarmac, always a lovely feeling. Driving team ‘A’, led by Goran collected us and we sped off toward Belval, time-lapsing through the traffic.

A bowl of STUNNING Lentil and Bean soup (OMG), a sound check and a health-conscious dinner of Dorado and Mackerel on a bed of Salade Niçoise and the show time of strictly 8pm show-time was soon upon us. The standing crowd is always great here and the room always sounds fabulous, well it does for us, I assume it’s similarly good out front. We had another wonderful show which sadly was shortened by one song due to an irritating 11pm curfew at Luxembourg airfield. We left the venue with the amazing crowd still cheering for more. It’s a humbling feeling every time and I can’t say there isn’t a tinge of guilt as we speed off into the night leaving crew and audience and venue staff to clear up our mess.

Luxembourg once again became a day trip, but that didn’t diminish our appreciation for the place and everyone who came along. The plane awaited on the tarmac and once we cleared the security in the small but perfectly designed GAT area, we walked to the plane. Daniella had sourced a Mexican meal that was delicious, hastily devoured by 11 hungry musicians and the team of 3 management. Quite how she managed to serve the entire band drinks, the meal and clear it all up on a 30-minute flight, I’m not sure. We drove into Brussels and our 3-day base, a hotel that was surrounded by police. I’m talking hundreds of late-night armed officers, all here to ensure we arrived safe and sound. Well…indirectly. They are here as several heads of state are staying in the hotel. A few of us made it to the hotel bar but were prevented from entering as the bar itself was roped off for the convenience of the aforementioned dignitaries. There was of course not a soul in there but they MIGHT turn up any minute. They did, followed by a herd of media. I instinctively started taking pictures. They didn’t like that. We drank Leffe and were happy.

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 19th June 2019 – Lyon

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Rhône and Saône, the two rivers that converge in the heart of France’s 3rd largest city. It was the Romans who initially recognised that the strategic location at the convergence of 2 navigable rivers made it a natural communications hub. Lugdunum, as it was known then, can be translated as ‘Desired Mountain’. The original foundations were built on Fourvière hill, and is the desirable location of our hotel for the past 4 days. Overlooking the entire city, the view is one of the best of the tour.

Here, in the centre of France, with the Beaujolais and Burgundy regions to the north and the Côtes du Rhône and Provence to the south, Lyon has no issue with ‘accessibilité au vin’. It was midway round the beautiful Lyon Salvagny Golf Club, I started looking forward to the large glass of Provence Rosé with ice cubes. The day was very hot but thankfully, cloud covered and breezy. I had organised the largest golf party of the tour so far as 6 of us met for a round on a perfect day off before the Lyon show. Our gracious host was course director Francois Tirard, a lovelier man you couldn’t hope to meet. The course, in mint condition, was challenging and genuine fun. Simon (Drums), Dave (Stage), Peter (Sound), Tellson (Lights), Alex (Cars) and myself were 2 very appreciative 3-balls.

Ônce we had finished golf, we joined Francois on the beautiful patio, enjoyed said glasses of Rosé and prattled on excitedly about the 4 birdies and the many wonderful golf shots we all played, and the inevitable shockers! Then it was back to the band hotel for more drinks and typical band-crew fun and banter. We have a lot of fun as a band party but when we get together with the crew boys and girls, the circle is more complete.

Next day was breezy and humid and the Tony Garnier hall seemed like a bit of a cauldron. The gig was going to be a hot one. Sound check and controlled dining completed, we headed for the stage at exactly 8pm, the excitement was tangible. The show felt loose yet the band felt, for want of a better word, ‘tight’. I hate using that word as it’s how we used to describe bands we used to go and see when we were young, it’s no longer a word we use… yet it is determinately correct.

Evenings like this are to be treasured and by 10:30, we were at the hotel bar, on the patio… treasuring. A large plate of cheese and bread, placating the inexorable hunger that follows every show, accompanied our final drinks session here. Sleep soon followed and was swift and deep.

 

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

Tour Diary of Guy Fletcher: 17th June 2019 – Paris

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Blimey, what a day.

Over the many years we’ve been coming to Paris, we have enjoyed extended stays in hotels and often made it a ‘hubbing’ point. This time we’ve chosen Lyon as a base. Whenever there are large events on in Paris, which is often, hotels ramp up their prices, hugely, a standard business practice which I’ve always thought was unethical. So, no walks down the Champs-Élysées or aimless wanderings around Le Jardin des Tuileries.

New improvements have been made to the Bercy arena since our last visit. Only the exterior is recognisable. The dressing rooms are now in a different location and the hall itself is no longer red. We’ve played here many times since 1985, during the Dire Straits heyday, yet as someone pointed out, stadium shows excluded, we are putting more bums on seats on this European tour than on that one.

Simple journeys from the airport here are always unpredictable as traffic around Paris can be extraordinary. We often shake our heads at the ‘donors’ on motorcycles, who snake between the traffic at ridiculous speeds, seemingly anxious to be taken to the nearest A&E department in the back of an ambulance. Today, the traffic was typical and we made it to the venue in about 40 minutes from Charles De Gaulle airport.

On arrival, French Onion soup with huge cheesy croutons was communally devoured and sound check was thorough. We fine-tuned a few endings and a couple of intros. There are always things that can be improved. We had some fun backstage and I joined Mike and Ianto in the tuning room on a Bodhran. Mike showed me how to hold the beater. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a go and Mark is absolutely right when he says it’s difficult. About 10 minutes in, I started to get the hang of it. As Mark says onstage each night now, there’s always someone learning a new instrument backstage. It’s like a music school back here! The show was quite spectacular and considering it’s a Monday night, the Parisians were absolutely up for it. So much so that the traditional ‘bull-run’ happened as soon as we started the party that is Postcards From Paraguay. We coasted to the end and wondered if we’d ever had such a marvellous gig in Paris.

In cars after the show, we headed for the Boulevard Périphérique and with Mark, Glenn and myself in the lead car, the guys in the vans behind were witness to some hair-raising antics. When we pulled up at the terminal (there is no facility for private jets here), a few fans who thought it would be a good idea to follow our convoy dangerously close, grabbed their albums and sharpies and surrounded us as we got out of the cars. They had driven like lunatics to get here, all for an autograph, which… they didn’t get.

Rolling our bags through the deserted terminal and going through security, we were led out, airside to board a bus to take us to the plane… the bus wasn’t there. Our air support team had prepped everything prior but when a French bus driver decides to have another cup of coffee, what can be done? We waited on the tarmac for 15 minutes or so, until the bus showed up and eventually took us to the plane where Daniella was waiting. Unfortunately, our slot had been moved back and we were refused permission to turn on our APU. The lack of air conditioning didn’t last for long and our slot was shifted once again, in our favour. We took off at around 12:30 and arrived into Lyon under an hour later. Team ‘B’ led by Alex collected us at a deserted Lyon, Terminal 3 and we headed for the serenity of our hotel hub in Lyon. It seemed like a whirlwind of a day, with plenty of excitement at both ends of the scale. “Paris, on a Monday?”, we kept asking ourselves. What a city. What a night. What a tour.

Thanks to Jean-Luc Lebeury for the gig pics.

 

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