Here’s that final Note From The Road entry, the one I usually get long winded and sentimental with. I don’t wish to do that this time. I simply want to thank every single person, truck drivers, technicians, our personal instrument techs, our tour managers, caterers, our wardrobe assistant, this brilliantly talented band of musicians and friends…. and of course our fearless leader, Mark.

I always feel the same at the end of every tour, each being better than any previous but this one being so easy, well managed and a very relaxed. Once we were up and running the shows were forces to be reckoned with. Every single day was a pleasure and that is because of the people mentioned above. I thank you all for the last 6 months of this tremendous run.

I’m already home in Nashville as I peck this out, suitcases unpacked and back up on the shelf ’til next time. I’d begun a new album just prior to this tour and plan to open that project again, roll up my sleeves and get back to my own work. Then…. who knows.

Finally, to everyone who came to see us play and to those who follow this journal, my truest appreciation and thanks. Mark & Co. can play our hearts out all night long but unless folks turn up to hear it, it doesn’t mean very much.

With this final entry the road notes are wrapped and in a few weeks will be folded into the archives and will revert to a more casual posting schedule with the Nashville notes later this autumn.


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New York 25 September

We decamped Los Angeles early morning the 23rd for a 5 hour flight to New York and lost three hours in the time change to the east coast. We hit a major traffic snare as we approached the hotel…. the United Nations in session and Trump in town. Horns blaring, cars not moving. We’re not in Santa Monica anymore. Finally hit our hotel at 7 o’clock. My son is visiting the city and will spend these last few days with me here at the hotel. We went to Victor’s Cuban Restaurant which always hits the mark. The following day, after a couple of slices and beers at Ray’s Pizza, we spent hours in Central Park, deeper into it than I’d explored before. Hints of Autumn in New York, the weather a comfortable mid-70s, a perfect day. Dinner plans for a last band meal fell through tonight, due again to gridlocked traffic, Trump and the U.N. meeting. We ended up meeting at the bar for a drink then went our own ways, Danny and I to the Dim Sum Palace for steamers full of all kinds of deliciousness and sake. Back to the hotel for a very early night at 10 o’clock.

25 Sept.

The last day and final show of a remarkable 6 month tour. A mid-afternoon call due to stand-still traffic. It was so bad the cars couldn’t get to the hotel and we walked a block to them. Yeah, I know, tough life. Congestion everywhere, getting around the block took 15 minutes. We finally made it to Madison Square Garden and bolted for catering, followed by our soundcheck. Bonnie Raitt opened the show tonight and we worked up a duet with her, one of Mark’s songs called Wherever I Go. My son and his friend joined us for dinner at the venue then they went out to find their seats. I went to my wardrobe trunk to empty it into a spare suitcase brought along for that very reason. Amazing how much stuff you can accumulate in 6 months, clothes, shoes, books, bags, CDs, posters and more. I managed to wrangle it all in, but only just. Lots of goodbyes to the crew tonight, wishing well and safe journeys. Bonnie took the stage at 8 sharp and I went into the house to hear the first of her set. Great singing and her slide guitar playing sublimely rocking. Bonnie’s long-time band is a forceful combo, fantastic, including her guitar player of a quarter century or more and my friend from Nashville, George Marrinelli. Back in the dressing room it was time to get on with changing and a short warm-up of the fingers then on stage for our part. I was wondering how it would feel playing in a large arena to 11,000 people after the last 5 weeks of performing in theatres and smaller venues. Expecting jitters, I walked out there and couldn’t have been more comfortable. At the risk of being redundant, tonight’s show was as musically smart, brilliantly played and almost frighteningly relaxed all around. I enjoyed every song so much and per final shows, bid each adieu as we worked down the setlist. Bonnie joined us for the penultimate song…. MK, Bonnie and band rising to the occasion and hitting a grand slam home run. One final tune, Going Home, and that was that. We had an after-show reception there at Madison Square and saw so many old friends who’d come to see our last show. We didn’t get back to our hotel until 1 in the morning and the whole band made it’s way over to the Irish pub around the corner. At 4 in the morning we shut it down. That’s when the real embraces and goodbyes between us happened. It was an upbeat farewell this time, the great show, reception and many a-Guinness. Glenn and I have a noon departure for JFK Airport just a few hours from now. I laid down hoping to get 5 or 6 hours sleep but six months of this tour kept firing in my head and I couldn’t shut it down. Don’t know when I finally drifted off but what sleep I did get, wasn’t enough.

26 Sept.

Up, coffee, shower, reshuffle the suitcases and out the door by noon. Said goodbye to my son who’d been staying with me for a few days and will stay on another couple before retuning to Nashville. It took an hour and a half to get from midtown Manhattan to JFK. As Glenn and I made our way through the terminal, wheeling our luggage and slogging through security, we very quickly realised, it’s a wrap and we’re out of the bubble, that rarified time while on tour where we live in the lap of luxury; private jets, elegant hotels, top drawer catering and restaurants, the best that Europe and North America has to offer, all the while playing music for each other and many thousands of people who want to hear it. The bubble is burst. Long live the bubble. Here’s to another one. Onward to the other bubble….home.

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Santa Barbara-Phoenix-Los Angeles 20, 21, 22 September

p20 Sept.

It was a mid-afternoon flight to Santa Barbara from L.A. that took us longer to arrive at LAX than the flight time. The Santa Barbara Bowl is always a gig we look forward to. Lots of folks backstage tonight, guitar pick-up guru Seymour Duncan, my old pal Tom Hensley, Sarah Hensley and Michelle Conrad, actor Michael Keaton, drummer-record executive-producer-artist manager Bobby Columby and folk-rocker David Crosby. This was all before the show. I first played this venue nearly 40 years ago with Rodney Crowell and have played it many times with MK & Co. it was a wonderfully comfortable evening temperature-wise and the audience of 4,600 were there for a Friday night party. Mark and band in great shape even as we close in on the end of the tour… everyone still fresh and finding new things to play and way to do it. It was another top gig and a 20-minute runner back to L.A. Thanks Santa Barbara.

21 Sept.

A strange start to the day, wide awake at 5:30 this morning couldn’t get back to sleep and finally decided simply to get on with things. After a couple cups of coffee and dreaded computer stuff, I dragged down to the lame gym and put an hour in. Got back to the room and went back to bed for a couple of well needed hours, then off to Phoenix for tonight’s show at Coamerica Theatre. I lived in Phoenix through most of the 1960s and it is a very different city now but it always feels like going home, especially stepping off the plane into the hot, dry, desert air. It was a capacity audience of 5,000 great Phoenicians, felt good playing back in my hometown. Another runner tonight and a barbecue fuelled flight back to L.A, cars to the hotel and in bed at the civilised stroke of midnight.

22 Sept.

Ditto this morning. That’s what happens when you go to bed at a civilised hour… up at 6. Spent the entire first part of the day on this blasted computer and battling a mobile phone that’s gone intermittent on it’s way to packing it in. I have no patience for either. Left the hotel at 3:30 and drove up through my old stomping grounds of Hollywood on our way to another old stomping ground, The Greek Theatre in Griffith Park. I played here many times with Neil Diamond going back to 1971 and including the performances that yielded the Hot August Night live album recorded here in 1972. More performances with him at The Greek followed. The place still looks and feels the same as it did back then. I think this is the fourth or fifth time playing it with Mark and it’s always very nostalgic coming back here for me. We took the stage to face a sold-out house of 6,100+ Los Angelenos, looked up at the towering trees around the venue and proceeded to do what we do well…. play a musically rich and relaxed show. I don’t know who’s enjoying things more, the audience or us on stage. We seldom have receptions after our shows but LA is generally the exception and it was good seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Arrived back at the hotel at midnight really buzzed from a great LA show and, for me, a warm homecoming. We decamp early tomorrow morning for a flight to New York as we head into the last show of this remarkable tour.

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Berkeley 18 September

18 Sept.

Traffic from the Oakland airport to Berkeley was… well, Californian. Once we arrived it was The Greek as usual, friendly staff, great catering, etc. As for the show, it was as we’d always remembered as well. What a fantastic audience, full house and couldn’t be more appreciative. The thunderous ovation at the end was remarkable. MK played as well as I’d ever heard and the band as well. Thanks, Berkeley, Oakland and San Fransisco. A runner down to L.A. where we will base for the next several days. It’s great seeing palm trees again…. back to one of my hometowns and one that was very important in my younger days of doing three record dates a day back in the late ‘60s until we moved to Nashville in the mid-‘80s. Day off tomorrow.

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Portland-Woodinville-Vancouver 13, 14, 15, 16 September

13 September

A short hop down to Portland from Seattle to play the great Keller Auditorium, always a wonderful gig and tonight was no different. A luxury for us coming in out of the cold of our previous show to this good sounding room with our own sound system and a spectacular sold-out audience of nearly 3,000. Mark played as good as I’ve heard him in all these years I’ve been around and the band followed suit. Perhaps as good a show as we’ve played the entire tour. Thanks for a memorable night Portland.

14-15 September

Two consecutive shows in Woodinville, Washington at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. Originally founded in 1954, it is the oldest winery in Washington, is located on 87 acres of land and produces many varieties of wine…. a staggering 8,000,000 cases of Riesling alone! The grounds near the old manor house have hosted a summer concert season for many years and we always look forward to playing here. With lawn seating for 4,300+ and food and wine concession stands it really has a relaxed, picnic vibe…. everyone having a great time. After our last outdoor experience we were pleasantly surprised with the mild temperature even though it was cloudy. We all brought heavy jackets just in case. Another memorable part of this engagement is the food cooked up in their own kitchen and especially the Chioppino, a seafood stew in tomato, garlic and wine broth. I enjoyed it so much 4 years ago that I asked the chef for his recipe which he wrote out by hand…still have it.

16 September

Another short hop this afternoon to Vancouver for tonight’s show. We’ve always stayed in Vancouver in the past but this time we have been basing for an extended time in Seattle. No complaints about that. A lovely theatre, I don’t think we’ve played before, The Orpheum…. a perfect size with a capacity of 2,500+. We’re really sailing through these shows now and on the countdown to finish. Only 5 more shows for the tour following tonights. Wonderful audience and MK & Co. all in top form. A 26 minute flight back to Seattle, just enough time for a drink and some Asian nibbles. Back at the hotel by midnight…. early night.

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Denver-Salt Lake City 9, 10, 11 September

9 Sept

A day off here in Denver. I went to the gym but by-passed the treadmill due to what I think is a broken toe. I’d knocked the hell out of it on the bed frame in the last hotel and for several days it’s been very bruised and painful. I can still walk but don’t want to put it through the rigours of a 40 minute treadmill push. After the gym I headed off to the great Denver diner Sam’s No.3 for lunch but when I got there it was closed for sidewalk repairs around it. Vastly disappointed that I would not get my bowl of pork green chilli, I tumbled into a nearby restaurant and martini bar called The Corner Office. On the menu to my surprise was a bowl of pork green chilli that begged to be ordered. Being a big fan of that concoction, having tried its many variations in different locales and often being let down, I have to say this was one of the best bowls of green chilli I’ve had anywhere and was in the most unlikely place…. a martini bar! Seriously great, packed with flavour, fresh Hatch chilli and just enough heat to linger but not overwhelm. Coupled with fresh, hot flour tortillas and a draft beer, it was a winner and highly recommended though I cannot vouch for anything else on the menu. The Corner Office, 1401 Curtis Street, Denver, CO. 80202. I had dinner tonight in a residential suburb of Denver called Platt Park, a beautiful 100 year old neighbourhood that has become a very attractive place to live as well as having wonderful shops and restaurants. The exquisite Sushi Den is worth the drive for Japanese cuisine, sushi, drinks and overall fantastic vibe. 1487 S. Pearl St. Denver, CO. 80210.

10 Sept

I rounded up Danny and took him to The Corner Office for a re-run on that pork green chilli. It really was that good. Tonight’s show was one anticipated like The Ryman but in a very different way. Red Rocks is a natural open air amphitheatre surrounded by towering, majestic, red sandstone outcroppings. Its use as a performance site goes back to the early 1900s when a makeshift stage was erected and an opera singer performed there, declaring it a perfect acoustical setting. Since then Red Rocks has hosted the who’s who of every musical genre. My first time playing this venue goes back to September 1972 with Neil Diamond. It’s always a humbling experience standing on that stage looking out at the audience and the lighted walls of red sandstone. Tonight was just that with a sold out audience of 8,400+. Our friend Pieta Brown was in attendance tonight and it was good catching up with her. Pieta opened for us on the North American leg of our 2010 tour and is a wonderful song writer, singer and all around artist who’s worth your time to check out if you haven’t done so already. Nightcaps back at the hotel and a few of us ventured around the corner for just one more ’til last call. Always a good time in Denver.

11 Sept

I made it three in a row for the green chilli at The Corner Office before saying so long to Denver. Tom Walsh, trumpet star of the band managed a last minute dash to the Rockmount store for a proper snap down cowboy shirt which he wore proudly at the show tonight. We had a very turbulent flight to Salt Lake City this afternoon. As we drove to the venue I remembered how clean this city is, not a spot of litter anywhere, and how fresh the air was as well. Tonight’s venue, Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre, is part of the University of Utah. Memorable from 4 years ago for how cold that show was and as I was coming down with some kind of vicious bug that ended up lasting a week or more. The crew had a late load in and set up due to heavy rains earlier today but by the time we’d arrived the skies had cleared to a deep blue and the rains had moved on. A lovely setting for an outdoor show, lawn seating for 3,000. We sound checked late but there was still a hint of warmth in the air. Remembering our show here last time, I donned my leather jacket as we took the stage. By the third song the cold had really begun settling in and a breeze had picked up. I’d have to say it was the coldest show we’ve ever played, every one to a man having difficulty playing because of numb hands and also each instrument reacting negatively to the cold, particularly the horns and wind driven instruments like whistles, pipes and wood flute. Nothing would remain in tune due to the cold. Stage manager Dave Hull brought out water bottles that had been filled with hot water and acted as hand warmers between songs. MK & Co. soldiered through the set and never gave anything less that our best. The audience was so great and hung in the cold right along with us. Hot cups of tea were waiting off stage prior to the encore and really helped to get us through the final couple of songs. It was a remarkable show, mind over matter, and one that I’ll not forget anytime soon. Hats off to all; audience, crew and band. A runner from the stage to waiting and warm cars to the airport and a 90 minute flight to Seattle where we’ll base for several days. Got to my room fully intending to go to bed but struggled with my computer trying to get online here at the hotel. After a 40 minute effort, ending with I.T. stepping in and solving the problem, I was wide awake and wandered down to the hotel bar which was mercifully still open to find Tom, Graeme, John and Danny bellied up. A couple of Don Julio Repesada nightcaps never tasted better and the day off tomorrow will be a welcomed one.

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Sugarland-Austin-Grand Prairie 6, 7, 8, September

6 Sept.

After a restful day off at our hotel, the converted brewery of Pearl Beer built in 1894, we flew 45 minutes to Sugarland, Texas. The town feels new and is a suburb of Houston. However, to fans of the legendary Leadbelly, it is home to the former prison, work-farm penitentiary opened in 1909 that once housed him. It was 100 degrees today and I could only imagine him and the other inmates shackled together on work crews overseen by prison guards on horseback looking for any excuse to torment and punish the prisoners. Today, however, Sugarland is a brand new city, it’s old prison closed for a number for years now. Tonight’s show was in one of those new structures, a theatre called Smart Financial Centre seating 4,500+ . A beautiful theatre that sounded great. It was such a relaxed show tonight that it felt like playing to a living room. Great sound, great show, great audience. No more to say. A short flight back to our brewery hotel and in bed by midnight.

7 Sept.

Lunch with Danny and Tom at La Gloria near our hotel. A menu that represents all the states in Mexico and different than the usual Tex-Mex fare. I’ve managed at least one meal each day that we’ve been in San Antonio and today was no exception. It was a 19 minute flight from home base to Austin and we spent more time getting to the venue than we did in the air. Tonight’s show was at The Moody Theatre where they tape Austin City Limits… the longest running, televised music show going back to 1974. Originally broadcast from the university public television facility the show has moved to a purpose built theatre-television studio with a capacity of nearly 2,200, located on West Willie Nelson Ave…. of course. A full and appreciative house tonight and a great sounding room which was no surprise as it was made specifically for music. The flight back to San Antonio broke the record for our shortest flight… coming in at 17 minutes. Still enough time to have a drink and devour loads of Austin tacos. Back before midnight in San Antone.

8 Sept

Decamped San Antonio’s Hotel Emma (Pearl Brewery) and flew to our show in Grand Prairie, Texas just outside Dallas. The Verizon Theatre is another newly built venue with a capacity 6,300 seats. Like most of the modern theatres, it was built with acoustics in mind and convenience of bringing large shows in. In other words, the load in areas are large with easy access to the performing area. They do not have the ambience or ornate decorative features of the old theatres we’ve played on this leg dating from the 1920’s. While those old theatres are wonders of old world artisanship, they are awful for the crew who must fight loading in and out of a show, cramped backstage areas and several stories of “walk up” dressing rooms. Top gig tonight all the way around from the venue and sound to the sold-out audience, not to mention MK & Co. A memorable evening followed by a Texas barbecue fuelled flight to Denver, plenty of ribs, chicken and pecan pie. We gained an hour heading west and landed in the Mile High City at 10:30 with a day off tomorrow.

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Nashville-Atlanta 3, 4, September

3 September

There’s no better bed than your own and the same goes for your personal brand of coffee and prep. Being home for a couple of days while still mid-tour is great and strange. Woke to do all the normal things of home… coffee, take the trash and recycling to the curb, make the bed…. all leading to re-entering the tour bubble this afternoon. I re-organised my bags then turned up late in the afternoon at a hotel in my own hometown I’d driven by hundreds of times but never had occasion to stay. Checked in and re-joined the band for short drive to our Nashville show at The Ryman Auditorium. Opened in 1892, it was built by former steamboat captain turned evangelist Thomas Ryman as a church. Over the years its stage has been a home for the likes of Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra, opera singer Alma Gluck and virtuoso violinist Efram Zimmbalist, Bob Hope, countless other stars of stage and screen. Perhaps its most famous years were from 1943 to 1974 when it was the home of The Grand Ole Opry radio show. By the late ‘60s and early ‘70s it had fallen in to disrepair and was condemned to the wrecking ball after the Grand Ole Opry was to be moved to a more modern theatre in another part of the city. It managed to escape that fate after being listed in the National Register of Historic Places and survive as a tourist attraction where for $1.00 you could walk through the place and stand on its stage in front of a “WSM Grand Ole Opry “ labeled microphone and have a picture made. In 1991 I had the very good fortune to co-produce with Allen Reynolds a live album of Emmylou Harris and The Nash Ramblers in this auditorium. At that point the structure was so compromised that only 200 or 250 were allowed in the place at one time for safety reasons. The entire balcony known as The Confederate Balcony was unstable and off limits to the public and there was no seating allowed beneath. That album, “At The Ryman” won a Grammy award and a great deal of attention. It is credited for fuelling interest in restoring, reviving and modernising The Ryman Auditorium. I claim and take no credit for any of what followed but am extremely proud to have been a small part of that recording. Wikipedia the Ryman for a far more detailed history if interested. All that to say, this historic venue was our office tonight. It’s been 11 years since we played here last and it’s always a special stage and gig for us and anyone who’s had the good fortune to walk its boards. A very intimate venue seating just 2,360 people, it has been sold out for months and was packed to the very rafters of the place. Everything about the gig was exquisite from the sound of the venue which the Ryman is noted for, to the audience, to MK & Co. which somehow elevated itself to still a higher rung no doubt spurred on by the house we were in and its people who joined us tonight in the audience. I’ve played on many stages, large and small going back to the early ‘70s (when I first played The Ryman with Neil Diamond) but there are few venues that can match this one. I was so buzzed from the gig that I lay in bed ’til well past 2 reliving it. A brilliant hometown show. Thanks Nashville.

4 September

Up very early, 6:30 to be exact, still firing from last night’s show. That’s about 4 hours sleep. Coffee and a rare room service breakfast which I normally don’t eat. I ate next to nothing all day yesterday and went to bed feeling very hungry waking even more so. A relatively early bag call and a 1:45 wheels up to Atlanta and another venue we love to play, Chastain Park Amphitheatre. We arrived in the city as it was peaking in the mid-90s fahrenheit… from the heaven of The Ryman to the hell of Atlanta. To be fair, Nashville was about the same yesterday but we didn’t have an outdoor gig. We’ve played this venue many times and tonight’s max crowd of 6,700 gave us a rousing ovation at the end. Back on board the jet, drinks in hand we sailed off south-westerly to San Antonio where we’ll base for a few days and a day off tomorrow.

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Minneapolis-Milwaukee-Chicago 30, 31 August .... 1, September

30 August

Fully caffeinated work out at rooftop gym. Definitely the winning facility of the North American leg so far. An early afternoon departure from Midway Airport to Minneapolis and the Orpheum Theatre. Natalie had platters full of Chicago deep dish pizza, not exactly my favourite but as it was the first thing I’d eaten all day I devoured a piece and some salad. One piece is a full meal and held all the way through the show, bypassing the venue’s catering. The theatre opened in 1921 and for a period in the ‘80s it was owned by Bob Dylan who sold it to the city and it’s restoration began. It seats 2,600 and was a sell out. Another enthusiastic audience here in Minneapolis and a stellar, relaxed show on our part. Glenn Worf’s friends brought their usual gift of cases of Original Leinenkugel Beer brewed in Chippewah Falls, Wisconsin. The brewery has become synonymous with all manner of flavoured beers that are unspeakable, I can’t stand them. However, their “Original” is one of the best straight ahead American beers ever and sadly you can’t find it outside of a very limited area in Wisconsin. Many cases were delivered along with sausages and cheese. This bounty ended up on our flight back to Chicago and was a great way to kick off the journey. To top that off we had a hot Thai dinner served as well and the Leinenkugel was a perfect foil to it. Back at the hotel just past midnight and straight to bed.

31 August

Probably a record set for the shortest flight of the tour or maybe ever… 19 minutes from Chicago to Milwaukee. Natalie still managed to serve hot Italian beef and cheese sandwiches and clear the tables in time to touch down. Tonight’s show at Riverside Theatre is on the Milwaukee River. We’ve played this one several times as well and the 8th Floor catering is always memorable, one example of a venue with in-house catering that’s great, definitely on a par with our European catering crew. The dining room is warmly lit with racks of record albums, a turntable and amplifier and three vintage, full screen, in-cabinet video games from the ‘70s. Shelves with books and posters on the wall. A typical old theatre back stage, small, lots of stairs leading to landings with single dressing rooms on each. One lift with operator and accordion style door. Long wait. Good exercise up and down the stairs. Another good one tonight and great audience reception, a sold out crowd of 2,400. A runner and a 19 minute return flight to Chicago, fuelled by Leinenkugel, bratwurst sandwiches, summer sausage and cheese. An amazing amount of food crammed into a short time frame.

1 September

This year has flown by. I can scarcely believe it’s been 5 months since we all convened in London to begin rehearsals and here it is September. It’s Labour Day weekend in America a holiday that for all it’s backyard barbecues and beer, really commemorates the hard working women and men and the organised labour movement, unions, that ensured safe working conditions and a fair wage. So if you are celebrating, just give a thought to that while you enjoy your families, hot dogs and hamburgers. After basing in Chicago for five days, we actually played here tonight at The Chicago Theatre. Built in 1921 it became the flagship for 28 theatres across the midwest in the B&K chain. A lavishly appointed theatre typical of it’s time, it presented movies and live shows including a 50 piece orchestra as well as it being a pioneer in the use of air conditioning to attract customers. As early as 1922 it promoted jazz concerts regularly into the 1930s. As part of it’s original attractions it had “the Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ played by Jesse Crawford, well known theatre organist from that period. The Mighty Wurlitzer was restored in 1970 and is the oldest of it’s kind still in existence. Seating capacity is roughly 3,500 and was sold to the rafters. Always a great gig at the Chicago Theatre. It was an hour flight following the gig in to Nashville. Nice to sleep in my own bed and have a day off at home. Planning a family barbecue for the holiday.

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Indianapolis-Kansas City 27, 28, 29 August

27 August

We decamped Toronto this morning, everyone having had a good stay int that great city. Natalie is our new flight attendant and she’s already hit a homer with platters of fantastic sushi for lunch. Tonight’s show in Indianapolis os at the Murat Theatre, a Shriner’s temple built in 1910 and a very intimate theatre seating 2,500. Good memories of past gigs here. My daughter and her family live in Indy and came to tonight’s show arriving in time for me to take my grandkids up on stage prior to the show and let them look out across the footlights to see what I see. Also joining tonight was my old friends Frank Dean and LuAnn Lancton. I’ve always had a soft spot for Indianapolis and even more so now that my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren live here. The audience was spectacular right from the opening of the show, a standing ovation that didn’t settle down for the first three or four songs. It was the kind of audience that is so welcoming you don’t even think about what your playing, you are simply playing. When you hit that “mindless” zone it is really what it’s all about. We all hit it tonight. On the last song I finally found my family in the audience and both of those kids were still awake far past their bedtimes and beaming at me. Nothing beats that… nothing. Unfortunately we’re not staying the night in Indy but flying on to Chicago so I won’t see them all again until the tour wraps. Natalie came through again with perfectly made gin and tonics with loads of fresh lime along with meat loaf, mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes, served, devoured and cleared in the 39 minutes it took to fly from Indianapolis to Chicago. We gained an hour on the clock in the process thus arriving in Chi-town prior to wheels up in Indy.

28 August

A one hour flight this afternoon from Chicago to Kansas City, Missouri and tonight’s show at the Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland. Opened in 1927 as The Midland Theatre, it is a shining example of how ornate and artful movie theatres used to be in that golden age. The venue seats 2,300 with an additional 200 standing at the very top tier balcony…. the nose bleed section as Neil Diamond used to call it. Our Graeme Blevins and Tom Walsh made a pilgrimage to the grave of native son and alto saxophone be-bop legend Charlie Parker. On their return I asked Graeme (our sax man) if he’d brought a few extra reeds along to throw on the grave for Charlie. As usual for these old theatres, cramped quarters backstage. Tonight’s venue contracted catering left lots to be desired. You’re really in trouble when you walk into the dining area and it smells like the steamed food you were offered in your high school cafeteria. The salad was too tired looking to even bother with. An industrial warming container filled with what was supposed to be chicken fried steak also some very overly cooked and soggy asparagus, rice with spaghetti sauce and mushrooms??? and a few other atrocities. I poked at a few things but never really ate any of it. Very often this is the typical American catering. As for the show and K.C. audience, that’s another story. A wonderful stage to play on and a grand sold-out reception. Back to the plane after the show and once air borne platters of Kansas City barbecue were served…. ribs, chicken and smoked sausages with b.b.q. bean and potato salad. A nice light late-night snack. I know all about regional allegiances to barbecue, it’s not unlike being loyal to your sports team. Memphis, Alabama, Texas, the Carolinas, Georgia…. all have their own distinct styles of this smoked delicacy and K.C. is no different in that regard and just as delicious.

29 August

It’s down to the last couple of days in August, I can’t believe how quickly this year is flying by and particularly this North American leg of the tour. Today’s a day off in Chicago. Up to the rooftop gym again that overlooks skyscrapers and Lake Michigan. Followed by a “Char Dog” at Downtown Dog on Rush Street. Real deal Chicago-style Vienna hot dogs on poppy seed buns with fluorescent green pickle relish, onions and mustard. If you choose to put ketchup on your hot dog that’s your business but I would ask for it that way as you’re libel to be tossed out onto Rush. The Char Dog is just that, cooked ’til the outside is blackened and crisp. Right next door is another favourite hang out, Pippin’s Tavern. Nothing quite like sitting in a dark tavern in the middle of the day drinking a pint of Smithwick’s. From there it was down the Magnificent Mile… Michigan Ave. Shopping is the preferred sport down this street and I obliged three of my fave stores leaving skid marks on my VISA card in each… H&M, Zara and Express. Shoes, shirts, jackets… a new wardrobe as I’m sick and bloody tired of what I’ve been carrying around in my suitcase for not only this tour but the same old tired stuff for previous tours too. As someone who never gets rids of things that still fit, these new additions to my suitcase then closet can look forward to at least another 30 years of non-stop action as long as I don’t put any weight on. My clothes will wear out before I do. Shopping done there was only one thing to do… a pre-dinner martini in the hotel bar which is far too inviting with perfectly concocted potions. It was a fuck-off band dinner tonight at still another Chicago haunt, The Capital Grille. A CAPITAL idea and I hope my doctor isn’t reading these notes. A tenderloin filet and lobster tail with truffle oil fries and plenty of health giving red wine. A perfect day off.

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Boston-Montreal-Toronto 23, 24, 25, 26 August

23 August

We de-camped Manhattan this afternoon, everyone having had a fine several days in the Big Apple. When I greeted our tour manager in the hotel lobby I realised I’d lost my voice from this little bug I’ve been fighting making me sound far worse than I actually felt We arrived in Boston at Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion in time for sound check, overcast, breezy, in the low 70s. Rockland is an open air venue with a capacity of 4,700 give or take a few. The stage and seating areas are covered with a sail-like contraption. I remember playing here many years ago with Mark when it was called, I think, the Bank America Pavilion and a massive storm with heavy winds swept up from the harbour. I thought that sail covering was either going to blow off or pick the whole place up and sweep us out into the Atlantic. No worries about that tonight, it was a perfect evening for an outdoor show, mild and a soft breeze. A “no sweat” show both literally and figuratively…. we breezed through the 2 hour set as cool and easy as the wind itself. A thunderous reception from a great Boston audience followed by a flight to Toronto where we’ll base for the next few days. Nothing makes a great flight like gin, tonic and lobster rolls. There was plenty of that and more to go around.

24 August

A full push at the gym this morning then little else until our flight from Toronto to Montreal and tonight’s show at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Once there I met up briefly with an old musician friend of mine, Keith Glass and his friend Alistair. Keith was the electric guitar player in the popular band Prairie Oyster. I produced an album for them when they were on RCA Records that did very well back in the ‘90s. We were trying to figure out the last time we saw each other and realised it was something like 25 years. Yikes. We recorded that record in a town just outside Toronto called Mississauga at a studio called Metal Works. Fond memories of all that. Good memories too about this theatre in Montreal that we’ve played before. It looks striking from the stage with it’s red chair, black and white motif. It seats nearly 3,000 and sounds very good. Standing ovations throughout the show and a massive response at the end. Thanks Montreal. The flight back to Toronto was barbecue fuelled…. platters of ribs and chicken all delicious. Hotel. Bed.

25 August

Another well designed theatre tonight, Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto. Acoustically as well as aesthetically pleasing to the ear and eye. Toronto’s catering crew gets kudos for a delicious Indian dinner of various chicken dishes, vegetables and curries… a home run. A capacity audience of just over 3,000 helped make this a great show.

26 August

A day off here in Toronto was spent with my good friends Heather and Bill Howitt who came in from Windsor to see last night’s show. We had a late breakfast at Flo’s Diner followed by a visit to The Bata Shoe Museum. I know… that’s what I thought too but it was very educational. A museum devoted to the history of foot ware through prehistoric humans right up to the latest fashion, traced through religions, continents, native cultures, fashion trends, economics, etc. Followed by cocktails and dinner at a wonderful Italian trattoria called Fieramosca on Prince Arthur Ave. in the Yorkville area of Toronto. Highly recommended.

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Richard Bennett
Manhattan 19, 20, 21, 22 August

19 August

I was jolted awake well before dawn by the noise of garbage trucks and dumpsters crashing up from 57th Street to my 15th floor room. I managed to get a couple more fitful hours sleep before giving up and getting some coffee. It’s a day off in the city today with no real plans other than getting in the gym and seeing what follows. I got in the lift, held my card up to the reader and hit the fitness centre button. Nothing except a red light flashing on the reader indicating the room-key card was in-op. Suddenly the lift jolted into action delivering me up one floor. I exited thinking I would walk down the emergency exit stairway back to floor 15, get the spare key from my room then try the fitness floor again. Of course it never occurred to me ’til this very moment as I’m typing this, that if the key didn’t work in the lift that it probably wouldn’t work for my room. Anyway, opened the stairwell door and walked down one flight to my floor only to find the door locked. I was locked out and unable to re-enter the hotel all the way down 15 floors to the ground where mercifully there was an exit that wasn’t locked. Two unsettling incidents to begin my day. Things began looking up after that, I did manage to get to the gym after being informed that the key-card was unnecessary for that particular floor. Thanks. A good rooftop gym overlooking Central Park, well equipped and under populated except for Jim Cox and Guy Fletcher. When I finally got around to getting out of the hotel it was 3 o’clock, 91 degrees, who knows what humidity and I was very hungry. I walked down 7th for a while and spotted an inviting Irish pub with food, Smithwick’s and Bushnell’s… cooled my heels for an hour and partook of all three. Too hot for walking, I meandered my way back via Broadway to the hotel and grabbed a nap. A good showing of the band turned out for a couple of pints later in the evening at another Irish pub. It was an early night for me, in bed with my book by 10.

20 August

The problem with going to bed early of course is waking up early. Up around 5 and tried to get back to sleep without much luck. Lots of coffee and a trip to the rooftop gym left me knackered. Also fighting off a scratchy throat, tickle in the sinus and that spaced out thing that happens when you’re getting sick. We’ll see. It all added up to a quiet day prior to turning up at The Beacon. Opened in 1929 as a movie theatre it also operated as a vaudeville house. Now world famous as a relatively intimate theatre with a capacity of 2,700+, it’s a fantastic place to see shows up close. I’d forgotten how cramped the backstage areas are, not unlike most theatres of that era. More than 7 floors of steep stairs leading to narrow landings and two or three small rooms with window box air conditioners at each landing. There is one old fashioned lift complete with operator and accordion gate, if you’re willing to wait for it. Most times it’s just easier to walk. We all got our fair share of exercise. Again, catering leaves much to be desired and I only picked at it. Everyone on their toes for tonight’s show, it is New York after all. Well played, well received and over before we knew it. Whatever this head cold is going to turn into, it had me looking forward to crawling back to the hotel and calling it a day.

21 August

Another early morning and I was glad that this little bug hadn’t progressed into something more. It’s still floating around but I was feeling better than I’d expected. Had a couple of coffees and decided the best thing I could do was drag myself back up to that rooftop gym and see how far I could push it. Managed to get 35 minutes of aerobics and another 40 minutes of weights and felt pretty good about that. Still a bit of a sore throat so I opted to go back to the room and cool it ’til lobby call. Not feeling all that good through sound check and opted out of dinner, found a quiet room with a window box AC unit and laid down ’til time for the show. Music and footlights are great healers and once on stage felt fine notwithstanding the occasional sneeze. Another sold-out evening at The Beacon, great audience, great show. A small after-show gathering in the basement of the theatre, several boxes of NY pizza. Having skipped dinner, a couple of slices tasted awfully good. By the end of the night I was very tired, stuffed up, sore throat, achy. I don’t think a bed ever felt better.

22 August

After a solid 8-hours rest, I carefully put my feet on the floor to find I was still in one piece, upright and feeling a little better. Another day off today and I met up with my old pal Rocky Schnaars this afternoon. Rocky for many years was a top recording engineer in Nashville having learned his trade at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound studio on those great Philly r&b records. He engineered most of the records I produced in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Rocky and his wife have lived in the city for a number of years now. We walked through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we took in a current exhibit of rock and roll musical instruments that included guitars belonging to Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Everly’s, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, The Beatles and more… keyboards, drums… a bit of everything. Legendary stuff. Speaking of legendary items we also saw Leonardo DaVinci’s unfinished St. Jerome. Some bits only sketched, others fleshed out a little more. The figure of St. Jerome is eerily translucent, skeletal and bluish veined, clearly waiting the final layer. To me it’s absolutely perfect and moving in it’s unfinished state. We also took a spin through the American Wing with it’s Frank Lloyd Wright and Tiffany exhibits. So much more to see, it’s simply too much to take in on one afternoon nor should it be absorbed that way. Years of traveling and going to museums has taught me it’s better to enjoy them in small bites rather than trying to digest the whole thing. Rocky and I took a cab to Victor’s Cafe the wonderful Cuban restaurant on 52nd St. where we were joined by Alisa Schnaars and Glenn Worf who also used to work with Rocky in Nashville. Lots of rum was devoured along with ropa vieja and sea bass. After dinner fond farewells were bid as the Schnaars’ headed home on the train and Glenn and I walked to the bar at The Warwick Hotel. I’d spent three weeks at The Warwick in November of 1972 while playing The Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway with Neil Diamond.. Just as we were approaching the Warwick, the skies opened up and a torrential rain poured down. Glenn and I slunk into the bar like soaked rats, perched on a couple of stools and had a drink in that inviting, dark, mahogany bar. Good memories of The Warwick going back 47 years. The deluge over we walked back to our hotel and called it a night.

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Richard Bennett
Mashantucket-Philadelphia-Vienna 16, 17, 18 August

Glenn Worf and I arrived in Boston from Nashville on the night of the 15th just in time to pop around the corner from the hotel for dinner at the sublime Legal Seafood Restaurant and Bar. I’d been anticipating their delicious Cioppino and a couple of expertly prepared martinis and both exceeded my expectation. In a town famous for it’s seafood restaurants, dives, bars and grills, there’s not down side to Legal and it was just ‘round the corner.

May 16

Early bag call and check out for a flight to Groton, Connecticut. We are back on a Gulf Stream jet again today, but only for today. It’s been several tours since we flew Gulf Stream’s and they are really something else altogether. Smooth, quiet, sure footed and power to spare. This one was laid out with more benches than seats, designed for less folks then we’re carrying, however everyone made due. Tomorrow we’ll be flying in the plane that will take us through the rest of this leg. After landing in Groton, itt was 25 minute drive through the lush green countryside and forests on the way to the Foxwoods Resort Casino and was kind of like the first day of school after summer break, everyone a little nervous about the first show after three weeks off but glad to see your mates again. We took the stage mid-afternoon and ran the set from top to bottom as a refresher. Turns out we didn’t really need to, it sounded as if we’d just played it last night only better because everyone was so fresh from the break. Needless to say, the show itself was a dream. The Resort boasts a modern theatre that seat about 4,000. Casino audiences can be strange sometimes, inattentive, indifferent, maybe some are there out of curiosity because they were comped tickets by the casino. That was definitely not the case tonight. A great crowd that was there to see the show. I do go on about how good this outfit is from show to show but I have to say everybody to a man played as well as we ever have this tour. Again, maybe because we’re fresh and rested, even with the jet lagged Brits, but it was a gig to remember. The usual runner back to Groton and the Gulf Stream and an unusual dinner of pot roast and salad that was really great. A couple of gin tonics later and we touched down in Philadelphia where we’ll spend the next couple of days and play tomorrow. A perfect first day back at school.

May 17

Went down to the gym this morning to find it lacking in equipment but teaming with 5 or 6 people who all knew each other, talking as loudly as humanly possible, guffawing and generally taking up space on what little equipment there was but not really working too hard at exercising. What in the goddamn blue hell world is wrong with people? Either no brains, selfish or both. You wanna yuck it up????? Go to the bar. Go to a restaurant. Go to a park. Go to your goddamn rooms…. just stay the hell outta the gym or put a sock in it. On a positive note, our gig tonight was at the Metropolitan Opera House here in Philadelphia. Originally built in 1908 by Oscar Hammerstein I, it was renovated a couple of years ago. A beautiful theatre seating 3, 200+ and sounds fantastic. The audience was just tremendous and like last night, the band has hit some new level of playing. I can’t remember a time when the band sounded better than these last couple of nights. What a pleasure. Instead of the usual runner tonight we hung for an hour or so at venue. Apparently the hotel was teaming with people for a wedding and the bar was a mob scene. Our road manager Pete McKay is so clever, he ordered up massive amounts of chicken wings, beer and wine and we all unwound in the dressing room telling stories about the worst bands we’d been in. We finally made it back to hotel close to midnight. Bed.

May 18

De-camped Philly for a mid-afternoon flight to Washington, D.C. followed by a short drive to Wolf Trap National Park and the well know venue there. It was a hot and humid set up for the crew and the same when we took the stage for sound check. One could slice the air. After that we went to catering. We carried our own 5-Star crew through Europe but due to each venue having contracts with their own catering, we’re at the mercy of those rules at every show in the States. It is far from awful but the quality of this ‘contract’ catering leaves a lot to be desired by comparison. Additionally, the quality of everything in the States is lacking compared to UK and Europe… the dairy, produce, meats. Everything seems to lack any real flavour. Massive agri-corporations and meats that have been fed on antibiotics and growth producing stuff. Anyway, this is the part of the tour where we loose all the excess weight we put on in the early part. We took the stage at 8 sharp and it was no cooler or less humid than when we sound checked. By the third song my clothes were soaked through. Still another great show in this US series and the acoustics in the amphitheatre sound fantastic. 7,000+ fans seemed to agree… a wonderful evening. It was a runner to the plane and short 45 minute flight to New Jersey and a quick drive into Manhattan. We’ll be here for the next several days and looking forward to taking a bite of the Big Apple again.

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Richard Bennett
Rome-Verona 20, 21, 22 July

20, 21 July

A two night stand at the Baths of Caracalla. Built during the reign of Emperor Caracalla between 212 and 216 AD, they were the second largest Roman public baths. They were open to the public and included 2 libraries, one Greek and one Latin, as well as shops and recreation areas. Much of the interior mosaic floors are still intact as well as columns and large blocks of mosaics that decorated the walls and ceilings. Emperor Caracalla opened these baths to every class of people, admission was free, as a political ploy to elevate the publics opinion of him. Following soundcheck, I found my way into the interior and walked inside these ruins, viewing the complex mosaic floor designs and the enormous interior structure of the various halls of leisure and social gathering places. Against the exterior back walls of these ruins a stage and seating has been erected. The Baths serve as the summer home of the Rome Opera company as well as various concerts that included the first Three Tenors concert in 1990. While we’ve played many of the old Roman amphitheatres, the Baths was a first and a breathtaking experience, to turn around on stage during the show and see the towering walls behind us was like nothing else I’ve experienced.. There’s a great deal of information and photos of the Baths of Caracalla on Wikipedia…. it’s worth a look. The only draw back was the gulf of an orchestra pit between the stage and the audience. I was always aware of the separation.

Up early the morning of our second show here in Rome. Coffee then down to the gym for a solid push. While I’ve been laying low this final week of the tour, I was starving for a pizza and walked down the Spanish Stairs and threw myself into the nearest hole in the wall for a pizza and a pint. A late lobby call of 5:30 as no soundcheck was needed. Some reorganisation of wardrobe trunks, clearing out things to bring home that will not be needed when we resume touring North America next month. Everybody’s looking forward to going home for a short break but still very focussed and up for playing these last couple of European shows. Tonight’s, for another sold-out audience of 4,300, was a great one…. really well played all around. I’ll remember these two nights playing here with the Baths of Caracalla towering behind us for a long time to come.

22 July

And here it is… the final day of the UK-European tour. This great adventure commenced the 1st of April with rehearsals in London and has been a pleasure throughout. Just short of four months, the whole thing has flown by so quickly. The efficiency of our day to day touring is a large part of that and endless thanks go to Tim Hook, Pete Mackay and Paul Crockford. Tonight we bid adieu to our fab 5-star catering chefs, Chris Desmond, Dave Eskinazi and Scott Wyse….really wishing they’d be with us in the States. The meals have been remarkable, as they always are with these guys. The fourth member of that team Steve Bond will indeed be coming on the next leg to oversee the catering in America and Canada. Farewell too to our great drivers, two teams that hop scotched from city to city, driving us to each venue then whisking us away on runners each night either to a hotel or an airport, the second team meeting us at an airport at the other end to deliver us to a hotel in a new city. To Goran, Alex, Martin, Mat, Patrick, Piotr, Tobias and Markus…. thanks for all the smooth miles and supply of Augustiner Brau.

Tonight’s venue… Arena di Verona, a spectacular last gig. This amphitheatre was built in 30 AD and could hold 30,000 in old days. The outer facade was originally made of white and pink limestone but a major earthquake in 1117 completely destroyed the outer ring with the exception of a small part. In modern times when used for concerts the capacity is roughly 12,000. It was a sweltering day in Verona and at 5:30 when we sound-checked it was nearly 100 f. It’s been a brutal day for our wonderful crew from who never is heard a discouraging word. Of all, they deserve this break in the action more than any. The facilities backstage were little more than cubby holes with make shift air coolers and it seemed like an eternity until we took the stage at 9:15. The Arena was filled and tonight’s show was a perfect wrap up for this part of the tour.

A runner to the Verona airport where we got tied up at passport control for awhile eventually clearing and boarding the jet for a 2 hour flight back to London. A farewell tonight too to Daniella who looked after everything and all of us so well for so many miles. That’s it . The Brits were driven home to sleep in their own beds and us Yanks spent the night in the Heathrow hotel heading back to the States tomorrow. The tour will commence the 16th of August for a 5-week run of North America. Meantime, I plan to enjoy this time off with my family. I’ll pick these notes back up again in mid-August but for now I’m signing off. Thanks for reading.

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Richard Bennett
Torino-Cattolica 17, 18 July

A quick note about the end of the last posting and the peach coloured moon rising over the Adriatic. I’d put that note up on-line while the moon was still relatively low but as it continued rising, a dark patch became visible on the left side. The higher it went the dark patch became larger eventually blocking nearly half the moon. The partial lunar eclipse added one more layer of lovely to an already perfect day.

17 July

An hour flight this afternoon from Rimini to Torino (Turin) for tonight’s open air show at Stupinigi Park, the grounds of an early 18th century royal hunting lodge. With it’s roots going back to the 1300s, the ‘new’ palace was started in 1729 for Victor Amadeus II, King of Sardinia. The final building has a total of 137 rooms, 17 galleries and covers 31,000 square meters. Not exactly what one thinks of as a hunting lodge. The summer music festival is held on the grounds with a spectacular view from the stage of the estate with it’s central dome at the apex of it’s steep roof with a giant bronze stag perched atop. We were to have had an opening artist but plans somehow fell through and as they opened the gates 4 hours prior to our show it was put to our own John and Mike to be tonight’s opening act. They gamely took up the gauntlet and played a half hour of traditional folk music. Heroes. It’s hard to estimate how many people attended, but the massive expanse of grounds were filled…. 10-12,000? The day’s heat cycled back to a comfortable level and the show was another lesson in relaxed professional music. Top gig. It was a 30 minute runner back to the Torino airport and flight back to Rimini. Straight to bed.

18 July

We decamped Rimini after 5 nights here with mixed feelings of being glad to leave this hotel but having enjoyed the seaside and city. A good stay all in all. We’re now into the homestretch and final few days of the UK-Euro leg of this tour. Mixed feelings there as well, sad to say farewell to all these wonderful cities and audiences but very much looking forward to getting home for a few weeks and charging in to the North American leg.

Tonight’s show was in the town of Cottolica about a 35 minute drive from Rimini. Arena della Regina in the piazza della Repubblica an open air gig. The facility left much to be desired and the organisation from the promoters side was poor, the seating not well designated and security heavy handed. People standing in front of the stage in the middle of the show arguing with security about where their seats were and shaking of fists… a bit of a free for all. Folks milling around through the first 3 or 4 songs before things began to settle down. In the end it was a good gig, well played, but had a feeling of the gig simply being thrown together. A runner tonight to Rome where we’ll base for these last few days of the European leg. A day off tomorrow and apart from hitting the gym, I plan to lay very low.

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Richard Bennett
Lucca-St. Julien-Nimes 13, 14, 15 July

Yesterday the 12th was a day off in Sopot the seaside resort town on the Baltic in Gdansk. A mild sunny day, perfect for walking along the pier… thousands of holiday makers eating ice creme, cotton candy, drinking beer and consuming vast amounts of fish & chips, burgers and every other imaginable cuisine from Indian to Mexican and everything between. We’re nearly at the end of this leg of the tour and for me and the other Yanks, we’ve been away from home since the end of March… a long time. A deep weariness sets in and the quiet days off put a new charge on the battery.

13 July

A long day and longer still as I woke up a 5 this morning and never got back to sleep. De-camped Gdansk for a 2-hour flight to Pisa… yes, that one with the leaning tower. Wonderful stepping off the plane into a hot, dry Mediterranean summer day. From there it was a “30 minute drive to Lucca and our longtime gig the Lucca Summer Festival. An outdoor affair in the old town square that we always look forward to playing, tonight being no exception. Using local sound and lights, our front of house sound man Dave Dixon and lighting director Tellson James worked wonders and 8,000 Italian fans shared a great summer’s night with us. What a gig. We even witnessed a marriage proposal in the front row during the performance of Romeo and Juliet. A really great evening. A runner from Lucca back to Pisa and a midnight flight to Rimini, another seaside resort city where we will base for the next several days. Daniella is back with us on the jet, on hand were perfectly prepared steaks and cocktails for the flight. We arrived at our hotel in Rimini a little past 1. A long and delightful day.

14 July

Flight from Rimini to Geneva, Switzerland and a short drive to St. Julien for our third appearance at Guitare en Scene Festival. An outdoor gig, sort of, actually it’s in a tent. The past two times we’ve played the temps have been soaring and that tent was like a sauna. Tonight’s temps we’re in the ‘70s, very mild and it was a pleasure. A friend delivered a generous amount of beer and wine that will be enjoyed over this final week of the tour. Albert Lee, legendary guitar player and a friend going back to the 1970s opened tonight and it was so good seeing him play live again having lost nothing in the 40+ years I’ve known him. He and Jim Cox are friends for a long time too and it was great to visit with Albert again. He played a rocking 75 minutes and is a real inspiration. Our set was it’s usual relaxed fab gig and the 5,000, mostly standing fans could not have been better. A runner back to the plane and a Thai food feast to deliver us all back to Rimini. Straight to bed.

15 July

Our hotel in this seaside resort city of Rimini is right on the Adriatic Sea. A beautiful setting and the hotel itself was probably a jewel at one time but now feels just a bit tired. Air conditioning intermittent, no desk in the room to work at, uncomfortable chairs, fluctuating water temps in the shower and the morning coffee, while cheerfully delivered, is beyond strong and not in a good way… no matter how much milk you put in, it remains dark, bitter as iodine and you can stand a spoon up in it. The “gym” has only 1 treadmill and it is in-op. Still, there’s little to complain about. Today’s mid-afternoon flight was sushi fuelled to Nimes, France and our usual gig, Arena of Nimes, a Roman amphitheatre dating back to 100 A.D. It’s the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world and is among the 20 largest of the 400 still existing. Always a great venue to return to. A hot and sunny day for the crew getting things ready for us and still hot when we sound-checked at 5, however when we took the stage at 9:30, the sun’s fire had abated and a slight breeze made for a very pleasant gig. Lots of very happy people in this ancient and beautiful setting. We’re a very lucky bunch of musicians who get to play for large and appreciative audiences, in extraordinary venues with a legendary artist and musician. Never taken for granted. A runner back to Rimini, Italy with a late night flight dinner of green pasta lasagna that was delicious. Arrived back at the hotel nearly 2 in the morning. A few of us gathered in Danny Cummings room for a few bottles of ice cold Augustiner Beer courtesy of our German drivers and some music. If it wasn’t late enough by then, I still puttered around my room for another hour or so after that. I didn’t dare look at the clock before going to bed for two very good reasons…. 1) the sun was already coming through the cracks in my window shutters… and…2) the room has no clock in it. Thankfully a day off tomorrow.

16 July

Up late due to yesterday’s nocturnal activities but feeling great. Being relieved of gym responsibility due to it’s non-existence, I got a shower and hit the streets for a walk. Gorgeous and hot day, I walked along the seaside and canals for an hour then headed the opposite direction into the old part of the city, a fair hike. Ended up in the old town square feeling hot, hungry and thirsty. There like a miracle was a cool, dark wood panelled Italian ristorante. I spent a relaxed hour in there watching the world go by, enjoying a large margharita pizza, draught beer and two Italian espressos. When I finally asked for the bill I thought there must be a mistake…. 14€, about $17. It was just the afternoon that I’d wanted. Made my way back to the hotel around 6 glad to peel the shirt off my back and put my feet up. I opened a gorgeous bottle of wine, a gift from our French promoter and friend Assad last night, let it breathe and savoured every drop as I watched a full, peach coloured moon rise over the Adriatic from my window. Another perfect day.

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Richard Bennett
Budapest-Krakow-Gdansk 9, 10, 11 July

9 July

Coffee and gym this morning then a civilised 3:30 lobby call and drive to Sport Arena here in Budapest. One of the many amazing things about this tour is the enthusiasm and camaraderie, every day, even now as we’re well into our forth month on the road. It’s a remarkable group of people who work so well together that makes these tours enjoyable. A wonderfully played show tonight for a brilliant, sold out audience of nearly 8,000.

10 July

Budapest to Krakow this afternoon on a sushi fuelled flight. A 30-minute drive to the Tauron Arena and our usual pre-show activities. We played for 11,000+ tonight that became a standing gig about midway through the set. It always begins with a few people coming down to the front of the stage quickly followed by hundreds more. At that point security is overwhelmed and the people in seats stand in order to see. I’m of two minds about that. It’s all very exciting when your standing on stage and playing. However, as an audience member it irritates the hell out me. The people who come to these shows are wonderful and there’s never any trouble, they simply want to get closer. The shows just continue to get better each night and we all talk about how quick those couple of hours on stage fly by in what feels like 30 minutes. A runner after the gig for a flight to Gdansk where we’ll base for a couple of days and play there tomorrow. This is our final flight with Tijana our great flight attendant who has probably walked as many miles as we’ve flown ferrying cups of coffee, tea, platters of food, beer, wine and cocktails. Safe journeys to you.

11 July

Gdansk is a first for me, never played here in 48 years of touring. Located on the Baltic coast we’re staying in the ‘spa town’ of Sopot on the sea. Tomorrow will be a day off and I plan to explore. As for today, it was a good push in this hotel’s great gym then off to the ERGO Arena. The equipment trucks arrived late this afternoon pushing our stellar crew to their limit. As always they prevailed as if nothing was amiss and were ready for a 5:15 soundcheck cool as the other side of your pillow. The audience of 8,000+ was so welcoming and wonderful, the show sure footed and loose. On the band front, a couple of the boys have been battling a stomach virus, no fun at best of times but to battle through 2 hours on stage is a test…. troupers all. Our John McCusker was honoured tonight winning the Scottish Culture Award for music in Edinburgh while he was performing here in Gdansk. He was nominated last year but lost to the Scottish Ballet and was really not expecting the win this time. We all found out while closing out the night in the bar and John will no doubt wake bruised from all the hugs he received. Congrats Johnny.

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Richard Bennett
Leipzig-Mannheim-Munich 5, 6, 7 July

5 July

After a restful day off in Zurich we flew to Leipzig this afternoon. We’ll be on the move the next couple of days… staying in Leipzig tonight the leaving again tomorrow for Mannheim. A full house tonight in Arena Leipzig, nearly 8,000 in attendance for a particularly relaxed show after a day off. Great audience. Staying in Leipzig tonight and leaving in the morning. Take as little as possible from the suitcase then zip it back up and move on Mannheim.

6 July

Flew to Frankfurt airport this afternoon then drove nearly an hour to Mannheim to our usual venue the SAP Arena. Soundcheck, looking out at the 10,000 empty seats that will be filled in a few hours from now. Tonight’s show was a textbook lesson in professional playing. A runner back to Frankfurt, a full band turn out for a nightcap, one, then to bed as it will be a 9 o’clock bag call, early departure and flight to Munich in the morning, though there’s talk of training as a last minute problem with the plane has come up. We’ll see.

7 July

A little bit of everything this morning. Rain, fatigue and a massive unexploded bomb from WW II that was discovered in Frankfurt. 60,000 people will be evacuated and all services suspended today until 5 o’clock when hopefully the device will be defused… requiring us to leave town early in order to avoid road closures.. Good news that our plane has been repaired though we’ll be flying though thunderstorms all the way in to Munich. I slept through most of the short flight and we arrived at Olympiahalle at least two hours earlier than usual. A full lunch was still being served, everyone piling into catering followed by all finding a quiet spot and napping the afternoon away until soundcheck. 10,000+ people filled the arena and it was a particularly great sounding place given the size. A runner to the Munich airport after another great show and a flight to Budapest where we’ll be for a few nights and a day off tomorrow. A very long and well travelled couple of days… 4 cities; Frankfurt, Mannheim, Munich and Budapest and 2 shows in a 24-hour period. By the time we hit the hotel in Budapest I was completely knackered and went straight to bed. That day off tomorrow will be welcomed.

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Richard Bennett
Oberhausen-Stuttgart-Kestenholz 1, 2, 3 July

30 June

A day off in Vienna. A long push in the gym followed by a couple hours walk with Jim Cox. Vienna was nearly 100 degrees as the heat wave hovers over Europe. I managed to squeeze in one last schnitzel at dinner then several of us went to an Irish pub where our Mike McGoldrick knew the whistle and flute player. She’d been playing some shows on the Continent and a few of her musicians were along for a little folk session. A pint of Guinness, a few tunes then it was back to the hotel for me and an early evening.


We de-camped Vienna after a great few days for a show tonight in Oberhausen. Landed in Dusseldorf and drove a half hour to the venue. The Konig Pilsener Arena was sold to capacity at just under 10,000 folks. Amazing after the quantities of wiener schnitzel consumed, the band was in great shape, sure footed and relaxed. It’s fantastic playing in front of that many people yet feeling like your in somebody’s living room simply having a go at a few songs. Hard to describe but that’s how relaxed this thing is… in all the correct ways. A runner back to Dusseldorf where on check-in at the hotel a small group of us hoofed it down the road to a favourite beer cellar and their delicious Alt Bier. Smooth, brown, not too heavy and massively drinkable. Served cold in small glasses rather than pints of litres, the beer always stays cold and doesn’t linger around very long. We managed to get 5 rounds in before the place shut at midnight. Not bad considering we were still on stage two hours earlier in another city. In bed by 12:30, book in hand.

2 July

Flew this afternoon to Stuttgart, home of Mercedes-Benz, our fleet of Mercs humming happily through the city, delivering us to Schleyer Halle. Another sold-out show at just under 10,000 folks. A short runner to the hotel and a respectable showing down the bar for nightcaps.

3 July

We’ve been on the move the last couple of days… rare that we stay just one night in a hotel, usually basing at least a couple of nights in one city. Scarcely had a chance to un-zip the suitcase here in Stuttgart last night before closing it up again this morning and boarding our plane for Zurich followed by an hour drive to Kestenholz. Tonight’s show was the St. Peter at Sunset Festival an outdoor gig in picturesque pastures of wheat, farm houses and surrounding mountains. Hot temps during the day but as show time approached the sun set lower, a light breeze picked up and became cooler. A relatively small gig at just under 5,000 folks, a combination of seating in front, grand stand in the rear and standing along the sides. Wonderful gig apart from over zealous security patrolling back and forth directly in front of the stage and guards coming down the aisles bothering anyone with a camera. Completely unnecessary and heavy handed. Wonderful audience, wonderful show. The hour runner back to Zurich was lengthened as three lanes were closed for resurfacing. We finally arrived at the hotel a little past midnight with a good portion of the band making a bee-line to the swingin’ ’60s bar downstairs that kindly stayed open a couple hours beyond usual closing time. With the day off tomorrow we enjoyed quilt-free nightcaps then off to bed for a well earned sleep.

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Richard Bennett
Vienna-Ljubljana 28, 29 June

28 June

A thirty minute mid-afternoon flight to Vienna where we were whisked from the plane to the venue, Stadthalle. A quick dash to catering for bowls of piping hot sweet corn chowder, a sound check, then more delicious food at dinner. What a life. That was followed by the usual, everyone having their own pre-show routines, mine being practice, change clothes, more practice. Coffee. More practice. Tonight was unusual as I got locked in the bathroom just as everyone else was heading to the stage for the show. I didn’t even close the door it simply creaked shut on it’s own and locked. I was pounding away at it and fortunately Pete heard me but couldn’t get it opened from his side. Finally our production coordinator Jo, production manager Kevin and Pete somehow managed to get the damn thing open. I’ve been touring and playing arena gigs since 1971 and have never been locked in the loo before a show, or ever for that matter. There you have it, every gig is new. As for the show, it was relaxed and sure footed, loads of great playing all around tonight, a man in every corner. A runner to the hotel where our promoter for the German and Austrian shows, Marek Lieberburg, hosted a grand gathering at the bar with gourmet hamburgers, wiener schnitzel, wine, beer, cocktails and loads of good cheer. By 1 in the morning I’d had all the good cheer I could possibly handle and made my way to bed. I’d somehow ended up, by mistake I am told by our tour manager, with a suite of rooms fit for a king and two outdoor patios as well. I won’t ask too many questions and simply luxuriate in it’s sumptuousness.

29 June

MOST SCHNITZEL CONSUMED IN A 24-HOUR PERIOD! I’m afraid it’s true, beginning with last night’s soiree at the hotel bar, continuing with tonight’s dinner in catering and just for good measure the meal served on the plane was, of course, wiener schnitzel. I firmly believe you cannot get enough of a good thing and nothing succeeds like excess. A flight from Vienna to Ljubljana, Slovenia this afternoon. We’ve played here many times but it’s always a hit and run affair, never staying. I know next to nothing about the city other than it is the capital of Slovenia and that it was stuck with a devastating earthquake in 1895 requiring a large part of the city to be rebuilt. It’s a beautiful city from what I saw of it through a car window driving from the airport to the venue. Our place of employment tonight was Arena Stozice where we played for 8,000+ people and had the luxury of circulating, cool air in the arena. It was a capacity sell-out crowd and they were thunderous in their appreciation. Thank you Ljubljana. As mentioned it was a schnitzel fuelled runner back to Vienna where Guy very kindly opened his room to us for nightcaps and music. The Orbitsound Dock E30 is fantastic for listening and Guy paired it up with the optional subwoofer… absolutely great. Day off tomorrow.

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Richard Bennett