Compiled by Terry Kilburn

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

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.