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.

1July

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
Hamburg-Prague 25, 26 June

24 June

Good day off in Amsterdam that started with construction either somewhere in the room next to me or outside my window which faces one of the canals here. 7 o’clock. Good thing I turned in early last night. Coffee, gym. Both Jim and Guy wandered in to the fitness room having been awakened by the same racket. I had a lovely lunch with my friends Nadia and Hank Quintelier who I mentioned in yesterdays note. Wonderful Italian called Incanto… a walk up on the river. Good catching up with them. Later in the evening I headed out for a couple of hours.. still broad daylight at 8 o’clock and nearly 90 degrees. You have got to love that. Bypassed dinner, still full from lunch but opted for a drink in one of the may umbrellaed cafes on Rembrandt Square. Another early night in bed with book in hand. Currently reading The Wisdom Of Bones by Kitty Aldridge, brilliant story and characters and every sentence a miracle of writing.

25 June

Farewell to Amsterdam… everyone had a great day off in this great city yesterday. Flew this afternoon to another great city, Hamburg to play tonight. Unfortunately it was a hit and run, not staying in town. The Barclaycard Arena was our venue tonight as it has been for many years. A serious heat wave is sweeping Europe this week setting new records and the arena was a sauna with 10,500+ people adding their body heat to the mix. We all came off stage, having played another good one, completely soaked to the bones. A runner and an hour flight to Prague where we’ll base for a few night, play tomorrow and have a day off here the following.

26 June

Down to the gym complete with a big bellied, old Daddy Warbucks-type guy grunting, groaning and slamming his weights around then laying on the only work out bench in the place to “rest”. Stupid sonofabitch. People who have no gym etiquette or simply don’t know what they’re doing should stay the hell out of the facility ’til they get some training. If you have to drop weights to the floor or slam them together on a machine, you are lifting too much and out of control. Wise up idiots. Meantime, a heat wave sweeps across Europe and Prague was well into 90+ f. today. I opted to cool it after the gym, practice, read and get ready for the gig tonight. Tomorrow’s a day off and I’ll get out then. 7,000 good folks braved the heat in the O2 Arena to see MK & Co. If there was air conditioning it was either turned off or in-op, in fact no air movement at all… a real steamer. Apart from keeping the sweat out of your in-ear monitors and eyes, it made no difference to us, everybody dug in and played a terrific show. Back at the hotel I again opted to cool it with an ice cold Budvar, the REAL Budweiser, a book and bed.

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Richard Bennett
Antwerp-Amsterdam 22, 23 June

22 June

A mid-afternoon, hour long drive to Antwerp from Brussels today. We arrived at the venue, Sportpaleis, just in time to catch the last of lunch in catering…. spicy chicken kebobs with vegetable fried rice and tomato soup. I dove into it all including bread, butter and a trip to the juicer… green apple, carrots, loads of ginger, celery. If that weren’t enough, I followed it with a large espresso and a cookie. No wonder after soundcheck I opted out of dinner for a nap and good bit of practise prior to the show. Another venue we’ve played many times before, tonight’s show was literally filled to the rafters with nearly 14,000 folks. Top show and audience. The usual runner and hour drive back to Brussels. Having skipped dinner I was now very hungry and just about to head out to find something to eat when Guy rang with the offer of gin and tonic in his room and two bags of sandwiches that catering had made up… cheese and pickle, ham and mustard. A sandwich never tasted so good along with a couple of drinks then off for an early night.

23 June

Decamped Brussels for a 25 minute flight to Amsterdam and a gig at Ziggo Dome Arena, another venue we’ve played many times. I was here a couple of years ago with Neil Diamond on his 50th Anniversary tour and being here this afternoon brought back memories of him as well as the many shows played here with MK. Ziggo is a fantastic arena, modern, clean and a pleasure for the crew as well as the artist. The sound of the place is exceptional for such a large arena and they’ve continued to improve it over the years. Sold-out at 12,500, tonight’s show was a joy from first note to last, so musical, confident, relaxed and well played all around. There were glasses of cold Heineken draft beer back stage when we came off thanks to our hero Pete Mackay. Day off tomorrow in Amsterdam. I’ll be having lunch with my friends Nadia and Henk Quintelier who over the years have put together a brilliant fansite for me that I endorse wholeheartedly. They’ve done exhaustive research and have uncovered recordings and articles to do with me that I’d long ago forgotten about. If you’re interested it is: www.fansite.richard-bennett.com or go to the “Links” section of this site and click on Henk’s RB Website.

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Richard Bennett
Lyon-Luxembourg 19, 20 June

18 June

Another day off here in Lyon. Having sworn off this hotel’s gym I got my exercise another way by walking off this hill and down to the town below. Long and steep going, longer and steeper still coming back up. Most of the activity in this area of town is to do with the Cathedral Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon. Construction began in 1180 on the ruins of a 6th century church and was completed in 1476. Lots of noise and people in there this afternoon with tour groups and school children, so it wasn’t particularly contemplative but I do enjoy going into the ancient cathedrals for their beautiful stone architecture, wood carving, statuary and paintings. Although I am not religious, I always make a donation, light a candle and enjoy a few minutes of the cool, dark and, usually quiet. It was a warm afternoon and that coolness was particularly welcomed. While most of the shops and cafes revolved around tourism I managed to find an Irish pub called the James Joyce. This dark wood establishment was inexplicably deserted at 3 in the afternoon and in I turned for a delicious pint of Guinness. So good it was that I was wanting a second but knew I had to make my way back up that long, steep and winding hill so regrettably it was au revoire. I made it back up the hill with only one stop at a small garden with an overview of the city. Once back at the hotel and being a glutton for punishment I decided to give the gym another chance. It couldn’t have possibly been as bad as I remembered a couple of days ago. In I went to find Mark on the treadmill which he graciously ceded to me while he opted for the exercise bike. It was even hotter in there than I remembered and we both must have lost a half stone (7 lbs.) each just in sweat. Later that evening most of that band had congregated at the bar on the veranda where we stayed ’til dark drinking and devouring pizzas. A worthwhile day off all around.

19 June

It was a quick late-afternoon drive to Halle Tony Garnier here in Lyon Built by it’s namesake and opened in 1908 as a slaughter house and cattle market. During the the First World War it served as an armoury until 1928 when it returned to it’s original purpose ’til it’s closing in 1967. Renovated, it reopened in early 1988 as a concert hall. As you’d imagine from it’s history the Halle is a massive concrete floored, steel girder and brick structure and we’ve played here many times. Reverberant would be a good word to describe the acoustics. Hot, muggy and airless would be good words to describe the atmospheric conditions inside. Add to the cocktail 7,000 people. The good news is that they soaked up a lot of the echo and the bad news is they soaked up what little air and oxygen were in the place to begin with. Nonetheless, a fantastic showing from MK & Co. and audience as well. A runner back to the hotel and a rare evening when I was too knackered even for a nightcap. Bed.

20 June

Check out from Lyon and a flight to Luxembourg to another familiar venue for us. We’ve played Rockhal as long as I can remember. For years it was the only thing going in this area of Luxembourg having once been industrial with large, dark and forbidding looking factories. They remained deserted shells and a massive concrete block structure, Rockhal, was the only sign of life, it’s how I remembered it from just four years ago. That’s changed now though the venue is exactly as it always was. Office buildings, shops, schools, apartments and a sweeping overhaul of the are is underway. There are still remnants of the area’s old industrial hulk but new life has taken hold. The gig is a big concrete box, interior painted black, standing audience with bleachers in the rear. We’ve always had great shows here, never fails and tonight’s was no exception, even the more intimate tunes were greeted wildly. A runner and a 30 minute flight to Brussels. What Daniella did in that half hour was nothing short of miraculous. She’d somehow found a proper and authentic Mexican restaurant in Luxembourg and purchased loads of food then dished up platters of chicken tacos, quesadillas, pico de gallo, guacamole and kept everyone’s glasses filled at the same time. Served, devoured and cleared in 30 minutes. Daniella should be in line for some kind of national service medal, she is the best. Arrived at our hotel in Brussels to find it surrounded by police with automatic weapons. Apparently, heads of state are staying in the hotel. A little unsettling. Another long day and another night to bypass the nightcap and embrace the bed. A day off here in Brussels tomorrow.

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Richard Bennett
Paris 17 June

A day off yesterday the 16th. Bit of a strange hotel we’re in, very modern but spartan at the same time. I went down to the gym and it’s safe to say we have winner for the lamest of the tour. My walk-in closet at home is larger. One treadmill, one bench and a few weights. Jim was on the single treadmill so I did what little I could with the weights there and fled. The hotel is on a hill well above the city and I made my half-way down half heartedly, turned around and came back. 2 o’clcok in the afternoon, no restaurant per se in the hotel but a bar where you can order from the very spartan room service menu, so it was a pizza and a couple of bottled beers. Headed back to the room for a read and a nap. About 6:30 I decided to try to finish up my gym work-out hoping nobody would be in there. it was indeed deserted and hot… 30c. about 85f. Got on the treadmill and sweated through a torturous 35 minutes. Dragged myself back to the room to get a note that the band was headed out for dinner just then. I was no way close to being ready so I passed, had a cool shower and headed back down to the bar for a couple of martinis and a plate of French cheeses and crusty bread. A great view overlooking Lyon and it ended up being a lovely quiet hour on my own. Early to bed.

17 June

Flew to Paris this afternoon from Lyon and with traffic a tangle it was a 45 minute drive from the airport to the Accorhotels Arena, formerly Bercy, where we’ve played many times before. Once there we braced against the small of raw sewage in the dressing rooms and launched into our usual routine, Jook Ross joining us again tonight to open the show. The sold-out audience of 12,000 were loud, enthusiastic and rushed the front of stage midway through the show. A handful of security guards tried to wrestle fans back to seats but were quickly overwhelmed and it became a stand-up gig from there out… a great one. Thank you Paris. A runner back to the airport, with a twist. A white van got in between our cars and clearly was following us to the airport. All our cars try to stay together in a caravan but the white van kept darting in and out recklessly lane changing endangering other drivers as well as our own.. They managed to stay with us all the up to the security barrier at the airport then simply abandoned their van and began running to the head vehicle wielding albums. Seems that more vehicles were tailing us because all of a sudden there were a lot of people running along side our cars. A bit of shouting, push and shove, MK signed a few things but it was too much and our security whisked us all through, everyone on edge. I don’t know what the hell people are thinking, all that… for an autograph?? The airport terminal was mostly deserted as we cleared security then stared for 15 minutes at the parked, driverless bus that was to take us to our plane. Another bus was finally rounded up, delivered us to the jet and we boarded at last. Our spirits brightened considerably when we were greeted by Daniella. The flight was now delayed a take off slot until nearly 1 in the morning, so with drinks in hand dinner was served while we waited. Fantastic Chinese meal, sweet and sour chicken, roast duck, fried rice, veg and chicken egg rolls and fried noodles. A feast. We touched down in Lyon after an hour and it was a half hour drive to the hotel. It’s another day off tomorrow. A bed never felt better.A day off yesterday the 16th. Bit of a strange hotel we’re in, very modern but spartan at the same time. I went down to the gym and it’s safe to say we have winner for the lamest of the tour. My walk-in closet at home is larger. One treadmill, one bench and a few weights. Jim was on the single treadmill so I did what little I could with the weights there and fled. The hotel is on a hill well above the city and I made my half-way down half heartedly, turned around and came back. 2 o’clcok in the afternoon, no restaurant per se in the hotel but a bar where you can order from the very spartan room service menu, so it was a pizza and a couple of bottled beers. Headed back to the room for a read and a nap. About 6:30 I decided to try to finish up my gym work-out hoping nobody would be in there. it was indeed deserted and hot… 30c. about 85f. Got on the treadmill and sweated through a torturous 35 minutes. Dragged myself back to the room to get a note that the band was headed out for dinner just then. I was no way close to being ready so I passed, had a cool shower and headed back down to the bar for a couple of martinis and a plate of French cheeses and crusty bread. A great view overlooking Lyon and it ended up being a lovely quiet hour on my own. Early to bed.

17 June

Flew to Paris this afternoon from Lyon and with traffic a tangle it was a 45 minute drive from the airport to the Accorhotels Arena, formerly Bercy, where we’ve played many times before. Once there we braced against the small of raw sewage in the dressing rooms and launched into our usual routine, Jook Ross joining us again tonight to open the show. The sold-out audience of 12,000 were loud, enthusiastic and rushed the front of stage midway through the show. A handful of security guards tried to wrestle fans back to seats but were quickly overwhelmed and it became a stand-up gig from there out… a great one. Thank you Paris. A runner back to the airport, with a twist. A white van got in between our cars and clearly was following us to the airport. All our cars try to stay together in a caravan but the white van kept darting in and out recklessly lane changing endangering other drivers as well as our own.. They managed to stay with us all the up to the security barrier at the airport then simply abandoned their van and began running to the head vehicle wielding albums. Seems that more vehicles were tailing us because all of a sudden there were a lot of people running along side our cars. A bit of shouting, push and shove, MK signed a few things but it was too much and our security whisked us all through, everyone on edge. I don’t know what the hell people are thinking, all that… for an autograph?? The airport terminal was mostly deserted as we cleared security then stared for 15 minutes at the parked, driverless bus that was to take us to our plane. Another bus was finally rounded up, delivered us to the jet and we boarded at last. Our spirits brightened considerably when we were greeted by Daniella. The flight was now delayed a take off slot until nearly 1 in the morning, so with drinks in hand dinner was served while we waited. Fantastic Chinese meal, sweet and sour chicken, roast duck, fried rice, veg and chicken egg rolls and fried noodles. A feast. We touched down in Lyon after an hour and it was a half hour drive to the hotel. It’s another day off tomorrow. A bed never felt better.A day off yesterday the 16th. Bit of a strange hotel we’re in, very modern but spartan at the same time. I went down to the gym and it’s safe to say we have winner for the lamest of the tour. My walk-in closet at home is larger. One treadmill, one bench and a few weights. Jim was on the single treadmill so I did what little I could with the weights there and fled. The hotel is on a hill well above the city and I made my half-way down half heartedly, turned around and came back. 2 o’clcok in the afternoon, no restaurant per se in the hotel but a bar where you can order from the very spartan room service menu, so it was a pizza and a couple of bottled beers. Headed back to the room for a read and a nap. About 6:30 I decided to try to finish up my gym work-out hoping nobody would be in there. it was indeed deserted and hot… 30c. about 85f. Got on the treadmill and sweated through a torturous 35 minutes. Dragged myself back to the room to get a note that the band was headed out for dinner just then. I was no way close to being ready so I passed, had a cool shower and headed back down to the bar for a couple of martinis and a plate of French cheeses and crusty bread. A great view overlooking Lyon and it ended up being a lovely quiet hour on my own. Early to bed.

17 June

Flew to Paris this afternoon from Lyon and with traffic a tangle it was a 45 minute drive from the airport to the Accorhotels Arena, formerly Bercy, where we’ve played many times before. Once there we braced against the small of raw sewage in the dressing rooms and launched into our usual routine, Jook Ross joining us again tonight to open the show. The sold-out audience of 12,000 were loud, enthusiastic and rushed the front of stage midway through the show. A handful of security guards tried to wrestle fans back to seats but were quickly overwhelmed and it became a stand-up gig from there out… a great one. Thank you Paris. A runner back to the airport, with a twist. A white van got in between our cars and clearly was following us to the airport. All our cars try to stay together in a caravan but the white van kept darting in and out recklessly lane changing endangering other drivers as well as our own.. They managed to stay with us all the up to the security barrier at the airport then simply abandoned their van and began running to the head vehicle wielding albums. Seems that more vehicles were tailing us because all of a sudden there were a lot of people running along side our cars. A bit of shouting, push and shove, MK signed a few things but it was too much and our security whisked us all through, everyone on edge. I don’t know what the hell people are thinking, all that… for an autograph?? The airport terminal was mostly deserted as we cleared security then stared for 15 minutes at the parked, driverless bus that was to take us to our plane. Another bus was finally rounded up, delivered us to the jet and we boarded at last. Our spirits brightened considerably when we were greeted by Daniella. The flight was now delayed a take off slot until nearly 1 in the morning, so with drinks in hand dinner was served while we waited. Fantastic Chinese meal, sweet and sour chicken, roast duck, fried rice all laid out and tucked into when we got word we’d be taking off a little earlier than expected. With tables full of plates, food, drinks, etc. everyone grabbed hold of what we could then off we sped down the runway and lift off. Miraculously, not one drop of food or drink was spilled. Once airborne the remainder of the meal was served; veg and chicken egg rolls and fried noodles. A feast. We touched down in Lyon after an hour and it was a half hour drive to the hotel. It’s another day off tomorrow. A bed never felt better.

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Richard Bennett
Copenhagen (Kobenhavn) June 15

14 June

A day off here in Copenhagen that began late and slowly after dragging in from the pub last night around 2:30 this morning, with a full push down at the gym. It was nearly three this afternoon ’til I finally got out and hit the street. What is it about a sidewalk cafe in a country other than your own that make you glad to be alive? I fell into a simple cafe-bar for a brilliant chicken club sandwich and a pint of beer, served and enjoyed slowly. From there it was a troll through an open air market, then down to the canal street with it’s tour boats, olden and sometimes crooked colourful, buildings and myriad of umbrellaed bistros and bars. I picked one on the quieter end of the canal and for the price of a beer sat in the warm sunshine for an hour and watched the world go by. People of every stripe, walking, biking and on scooters, tourists and natives, a gumbo of Danish and English language on the air. There’s a great sense of freedom here in Copenhagen which is why, I suppose, so many Americans, particularly artists and many black ones at that, chose to ditch the States, live here and be treated as equal citizens.

15 June

Stormy in Copenhagen as we checked out of our hotel arriving at Royal Arena an hour earlier than usual. As the stage wasn’t ready for soundcheck there was only one thing to do…. catering. Remnants of lunch were still up and I dove into a delicious chicken burrito. I’m pretty tough wheh it Mexican food and what would this crew of UK chefs, great as they are, know about it anyway? They know exactly what they’re doing. Fantastic. Everything followed in order beyond that; soundcheck, dinner, a little private practising, change clothes, show. I’m sure it’s become a bore reading this every day and I’ve long ago run out of adjectives, but I will say 13,000+ people were not bored and neither were we. A runner from stage to the Copenhagen airport and a 2-hour flight to Lyon, France. A long walk through the deserted airport to the waiting cars and a half hour drive to our hotel in Lyon where we’ll base for a few nights. Day off tomorrow.

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Richard Bennett
Stockholm-Gothenburg-Herning June 11, 12, 13

A perfect day off in Stockholm began with a 90 minute push in the gym. It was a beautifully clear and warm 70 degree day that called me out to walk. I found a small, sidewalk cafe near the harbour for lunch… steak frittes and a couple of local beers. I walked for a couple of hours before returning to the hotel, took another late afternoon walk for some coffee and finally one more hour walk around 8:30. The hotel’s large, dark wood bar was calling when I returned. A couple of martinis, made with Sweden’s own Henro gin were just what the close of the day called for. Henro is a great gin and it turns out that it’s the most awarded European gin from 2013-2017. I hope they export and will look for it when I get back to the States. A chicken Caesar salad balanced out the martinis after which I retired for a rare early evening. Great day.

June 11

Don’t know ha many times we’ve played Ericsson Globe, once again our venue in Stockholm. We arrived and everybody to a man made a bolt for catering, devouring bowls of delicious, piping hot minestrone soup, bread and butter. Sated for the time being we did a sound check followed by…. dinner. One of several entrees tonight was pan fried chicken breast in lemon sauce with mushrooms. No down side to anything on that plate. A quick bit of practising to warm up the hands before the show, change clothes and on stage. The Globe filled to capacity, MK & Co. to a man could do no wrong, which ever direction the music took us. Relaxed, sure footed and well played. Back at the hotel bar we ran into several musicians in town with Phil Collins, who will play The Globe tomorrow night.

June 12

A quick flight to Sweden’s second largest city Gothenburg this afternoon for tonight’s show at Scandanavium Arena. Among the several entrees offered up at catering tonight was Swedish meatballs, gravy and lingonberries over broad egg noodles that tasted like a miracle on a plate. The show didn’t suffer from all the over eating and the capacity 7,500 audience was wonderful to us. It was a runner as the last note was still reverberating in the Arena and a flight to Copenhagen. It was very stormy as we approached the city and there was talk of going back to Gothenburg. Instead we circled for nearly 30 minutes, lightening flashing, then made our approach. Safely landed, it was a short drive from the airport to our hotel where we’ll base for several days.

June 13

An afternoon flight from Copenhagen to the centre of Denmark and tonight’s show in Herning. Our drivers delivered us directly to the waiting plane but first we had to clear a bumbling, hysterical security check. A temporary screening device for bags with miles of extension cord attached had been rolled out. It took several fellows to find power to plug it in, mind you this is all on the tarmac next to the airplane. Once that was sorted each of us had to stand on a step-up bench to be frisked. This bench is very much the same as the kind in a gym where the height can be adjusted by adding extension footings to either side. Problem was one of the footing didn’t fit properly so the whole thing was in danger of collapsing at any moment. A couple of security chaps finally came around to take a look at that and after a bit of dithering the step up was stabilised. They were all very kind and patient but the whole thing was so inept we could only laugh. Guy Fletcher will no doubt have captured this escapade on video. Off at last for Herning. I may be wrong but I don’t recall having played here before. Herning is an industrial city of 50,000 and produces textiles and furniture among other things. The new arena is Jylke Bank Boxen and seats over 12,000. It was a 9 o’clock show tonight and that extra hour hanging around backstage seemed like an eternity. We hit the boards at 9 sharp for another spectacular crowd and well played show. A runner back to the Copenhagen hotel where a clutch of us hit the pavement, well past 1 in the morning and braving a rain storm to find a pub for a couple of beers to close the evening. This has been a great three day run and tomorrow’s a day off in Copenhagen. It doesn’t get much better than this.

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Richard Bennett
Alesund-Bergen-Oslo June 7, 8, 9

I had a fantastic week off here in London with my wonderful wife. Lots of to-ing and fro-ing. Highlights? The Sorolla exhibit at the National Gallery… food on the east end, Poppie’s and Pho….. The Imperial War Museum where we relived the horror of WWI, my wife having lost a relative in the Battle of Somme. Visiting our niece, her husband and children with Christina’s brother and sister-in-law as well. Had a terrific visit and dinner with Christina’s cousin Patricia and a fab dinner with her at Malabar in Notting Hill. I caught up with my friend Justin Sandercoe for lunch, the brilliant guitar payer and educator based in London, check his videos on YouTube. We fought the humanity on Oxford, Regent and Piccadilly Streets then quickly bolted into a cab and fled. We ate and drank for America. London, one of the world’s great cities, it never disappoints and I always love coming for an extended stay.

7 June

Farewell U.K. We made our way through typical London traffic to Farnborough Airport and a two hour flight to the west coast of Norway. Alesund is a city I’ve never played in before. Driving from the airport to the town centre I remembered what a beautiful country this is, the air, mountains, water and homes. The show was at Sparebanken More Arena, essentially a very large quonset hut with a standing capacity of 8,500. This show was the quickest one to sell out, in a matter of minutes after it was announced. People were shoe horned in shoulder to shoulder. After 10 days off, we were all a little nervous about remembering the tunes but once we hit the first song our memories proved just fine. There was a noticeable din throughout the entire show, start to finish. Don’t know if it was people talking through the whole thing or what, but it was very distracting. Anyway, we made our way through a very well played show and the reception at the end was fantastic. We did our usual runner at just past 10 in broad, blinking daylight…. Norwegian summer, and flew to Oslo where we’ll base for a few days.

8 June

Departed Oslo and made our way to Bergen another city on Norway’s west coast a little further south from Alesund. An outdoor, stand-up gig tonight that I remember from our last trip here four years ago, The Bergenhus Festning. The entire day had been like the old saying…’if you don’t like the weather, give it 5 minutes and it’ll change’. Rain, cool, sunny, warm, on and off all day. By soundcheck the sky had cleared, the sun out and by dinner it was back to a steady rain. When we played this venue four years ago it was wet and cold with the wind blowing the rain onto the stage. I think we all felt the same thing going into tonight’s show… bundle up and work our way through the set. When we hit the stage the rain stopped , the clouds cleared and the 8,000+ standing crowd gave us an incredible gig, one of the very best of the tour so far. We all talked about what a fantastic audience they were. Thank you Bergen. A short flight back to Oslo and a show here on Sunday.

9 June

It was our usual Oslo venue tonight, Spektrum. Another wonderful Norwegian audience and the band in top form. Our itinerary listed the capacity at 8,000 but it felt larger than that. The floor of the venue was seated along with very steep seating wrapping the entire way around the arena, every seat filled. It was a runner to the plane, the sky light at 10 o’clock. Arrived in Stockholm just past midnight. Tomorrow’s a day off.

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Richard Bennett
London-Manchester-Birmingham 28, 29, 30 May

Up early the morning of the 27th to meet my wife at Marylebone Station after spending the weekend in Redditch, England with her brother and sister-in-law. Once settled back in at the hotel we took the tube to the east end and Spitalfield Market and surrounding area. We indulged in a late lunch of fish, chips and mushy peas at Poppie’s. The place is busy at any hour but we did catch a small table for two. I’ve written about Poppie’s Fish and Chips in past and won’t rehash it again apart from saying if you’re in London…. GO. It was an early evening in bed with books in hand on this day off.

28 May

We piled down the Underground and took the tube to London’s O2 Arena. A straight shot on the Jubilee Line, 9 stops and there in 15 minutes. At that time of day in London traffic would have take an hour and a half. A massive tent-looking venue with a capacity of 20,000. MK & Co. manage to convey a real sense of intimacy to that large an arena and tonight’s show was no different. A few technical glitches like the stage lighting going dark for what seemed like a long time but was probably just 30 seconds as well as a malfunctioning guitar cable of mine that rendered some wicked noises. Still, nothing rattles this bunch. A massive ovation at the final walk off. We rarely have after-show receptions but do when playing London. The couple following the Albert Hall shows were large affairs but given the size of O2 tonight’s was staggering, just the sheer noise and heat of all the people. My wife and I ventured in, made one quick round and threw in the towel, too much of a crush for me. We got back to the hotel for a night cap with Jim, then happily off to bed.

29 May

An early afternoon drive to the Farnborough Airport and a short hop north to the Manchester Arena, everyone relaxed and in good spirits. Our usual routine…. drop the bags in the dressing room, a bowl of soup in catering then on stage for a sound check. The technical problems of the previous night were long sorted but the time we got there and we ran through a couple of tunes to warm up and give our front of house mixer, Dave Dixon, a fighting chance for the show. Dinner, a quick practise then the show. Well, not quite yet. We held our 8 o’clock start until 8:30 due to the audience still streaming in. When we did hit the boards it was to a capacity 6,600+. Tonight’s show really had it all, completely at ease within itself, playing so inside the songs, great performances and musically at the top of form for everyone. One of those gigs where you could do no wrong, whatever you tried worked. A thunderous standing crowd at the end.

30 May

This afternoon we drove to Birmingham, roughly 90 miles for tonight’s show, the last in the U.K. run and also the final gig before a week off. Everyone going home after the show. My wife and I are spending the week in London and looking forward to it. We’ll head to Scandinavia when the tour picks back up again on the 7th of June, but for now a week off sounds very good. Tonight’s show was at the Birmingham Arena, formerly N.E.C. National Exhibition Centre, the same venue where I met Princess Diana and Prince Charles when here with Neil Diamond decades ago. Had a wonderful visit with Mark’s son Ben who’s a brilliant drummer and teacher as well, and in the long running band, Rocket Dolls along with the Rocket’s guitar player Nicky. Although Nicky and I play very different music, we absolutely connected on so many guitar geek levels. Wonderful guys. Also had a good visit with Guy’s brother Dan and the good folks at Orbitsound. I’ll write a bit more over the next week or so about a brand new speaker system they’ve developed that’s small, revolutionary and sounds magnificent called Dock E30. Watch for it. Great show tonight, audience too. Lots of goodbyes within the band as well all go separate ways for 10 days. You’d think it was goodbye forever, that’s how close this bunch is. Everyone was driven back to London to various locations; homes, airport hotels and in my case back to where my wife and I have been staying the last week and will continue for another as we take a break from the tour and become London tourists. So that’s it, I’ll pick these notes up again once we commence with the next leg of the tour around the 7th of June.

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Richard Bennett
Dublin-Glasgow 24, 26 May

Our itinerary is relaxing a little now, though this tour has been far from strenuous. Today was off following the two Albert Hall shows. We’d closed down the hotel bar at sun up the morning of the 23rd following the second show and our hotel had a fire alarm test that morning that sent everyones smoke detectors into red flashing, siren screaming mode…. a blurry beginning for what turned into a warm, blue sky day off in London. We’ll continue to base from the city flying in for shows in Dublin and Glasgow with days off after each back in London.

24 May

My wife is here with me as we base from London and we were up early for her to catch a train up to the midlands to visit her brother and his wife who live in Redditch. I dropped her off at Marylebone Station, took the tube back to my hotel and it was off to Farnborough airport for an hour flight to Dublin. Tonight’s show as in past gigs in Dublin was at the old Point which was enlarged from an intimate rock venue into a 6,000 seat arena. It’s been rechristened a few times and is currently called 3 Arena. A fab show and brilliant audience. Someone has posted a clip of Money on YouTube from this show and it’s great. Pints of Guinness were on hand as we finished the gig and headed to the waiting cars that took us back to the plane. Today was Guy’s birthday and he was duly saluted and toasted. Back at the hotel at 1 in the morning and too tired for a nightcap so straight into bed. Tomorrow the 25th is a day off.

26 May

Cold and blustery when we got off the plane in Glasgow, but of course it is Glasgow. For the flight over, Daniella arranged platters of delicious chilled shellfish, crab claws, lobster, large prawns and some oysters on the half-shell thrown in for good measure. Having not eaten up to that point, it was a welcomed spread Tonight’s show was at the SSE Hydro Arena to a capacity 6,300 crowd. It all keeps getting better. A runner back to the plane where once more Daniella hit a grand slam home run. Where in the world she found properly smoked pork ribs in Glasgow was beyond us all. We devoured platters of them while winging back to London, all the while our glasses were never empty. An hour later we’d landed at Luton and 40 minutes after that were sitting in this hotel’s very inviting bar for a nightcap. Tomorrow is another day off here in London. What a life.

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Richard Bennett
London 21, 22 May

May 21, 22

It’s a 2-night run at The Albert beginning tonight. One of our favourite venues and always special shows partly due to the history of the venue, our history playing it and the wrap around audience so close you can reach out from the side of the stage and shake hands. Tom Jones came backstage before to say hello to MK and Ianto, who played drums for him years ago. Lots of family and old friends down for these very intimate shows and always a mad scramble for tickets, every seat spoken for. As many times as I’ve stood on that stage, going back to the ’70s with Neil Diamond, it still makes my knees a little weak. A wonderful show the 21st and a brilliant one the 22nd, unexpected standing ovations after after some songs and an overwhelming one at the end of both evenings. Thank you RAH.

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Richard Bennett
Leeds-Newcastle 18, 19 May

Leeds 18 May

One of those days where we spanned 3 cities, 2 countries, 2 air flights and 1 show. We departed Berlin after several enjoyable days in that great city. I suspect there will be a massive restocking of beer and sausages at Augustiner now that we’ve decamped. It took longer to get to the Berlin airport than the actual flight to Leeds. Tonight’s show at First Direct Arena was to a sell out capacity 6,300 and we all thought it was a great night of playing and people loving it. A runner for a 19 minute flight up to Newcastle where we’ll spend the night and play tomorrow

Newcastle 19, May

The hotel we’re in is trying very hard to be upscale but is simply tatty, old and tired. The internet is in-op, the rooms are little larger than a walk in closet with no ventilation and windows that will not open. The gym is what I expected given everything else. Two treadmills, one not working, sorry for the inconvenience. Several other bits of equipment also tagged with ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ notices. When I piled in there this morning it was mercifully empty so I took the one working treadmill and managed to get a work out with few bits that were functional. Got back to my room and, it was hot and airless. The hallway was at least 10 degrees cooler so there was little else to do but prop open my door to get some cool air circulating. I happily sat there playing guitar to passing maids and guests. We’ll all gladly check out this afternoon prior to the gig. It’s the Utilita Arena tonight in Mark’s hometown, Newcastle. A sell-out to the ceiling crowd, MK & Co. it top form. A runner and a short Indian food fuelled flight down south to London’s Luton airport. We’ll base from here for nearly three weeks while playing shows in the U.K. as well as having numerous days off. A late night-cap with John and Jim and off to bed. Tomorrow being one of those days off.

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Richard Bennett
Berlin-Hannover 15, 16, 17 May

Berlin, 15 May

Awake at 5:30 this morning…wide awake and ready to go. Tried to get back to sleep with no luck and threw open the curtains, ordered up a pot of coffee, read the paper and began the day. Went to the hotel gym for a full push, got all my e-mails written and answered and began gathering my suitcase together to leave and it was still only 9 o’clock. Long day ahead. We departed Cologne bound for Berlin and I did manage an in-flight cat nap. We landed in Berlin’s ‘ghost airport’ Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport. A massive high tech facility that has never opened since ground was broken in 2006 due to mismanagement and crucial mistakes made in construction. It’s original cost estimate was €2 billion that estimate now soars at €7.3 billion. The airport is a comedy of errors, government mismanagement , an embarrassment and financial drain to the city of Berlin. Many say it will never open and should be scrapped and rebuilt. Gates sit empty, monitor screens glow and apart but it is is deserted. The new opening date is 2020 but there’s quite a lot of skepticism as more money is thrown at it. You can read all the tragic details here: http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20181030-what-happened-to-berlins-ghost-airport At any rate it seems they are allowing private and corporate plane use as they don’t require the terminal facilities. We made our way through late afternoon traffic to the Mercedes-Benz Arena for a quick soundcheck, dinner and an 8 o’clock show followed by a runner to our hotel in this city. The Augustiner Beirgarten Restaurant is only a few blocks away and is never missed by us. Tonight was no exception as we devoured grilled sausages, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut all washed down with their signature Augustiner Helles lager. A grand way to end this day.

Hanover, 16 May

Don’t know what’s up with my sleep cycle but it was an early one again this morning. Rang down for a pot of coffee at 7:30 then opened the curtains and window to a cool, grey drizzle. I wrung four cups of coffee out of the pot, read the N.Y. Times, climbed back in bad and when I opened my eyes again it was noon. Shower, pack the day bag and down to the lobby where the waiting cars took us back to Berlin’s ghost airport for the short flight to Hannover. Our air hostess Daniella is back with us for another run and she knows what this group likes having flown many miles with us on past tours. A tasty light Mediterranean lunch was served, devoured and swept away in a matter of minutes. The TUI Arena was our office for tonight, full to a capacity 8,700 folks. These tours always take a couple of weeks to really get solidly on it’s feet but we’re there now with consistently great shows to wonderful audiences. Tonight’s was no exception, thank you Hannover. A runner back to the plane, Daniella had drinks waiting or freshly poured for everyone and served another delicious meal of Thai curries and fish cakes in the short amount of time it took to return to Berlin, all the while managing to keep drinks topped up. Our Guy, Pete and Ianto all helpiing to serve and tidy giving Daniella a hand. Landed back at the ghost airport around midnight, a 25 minute drive to our hotel and I was happy to call it a day. Tomorrow is a day off in Berlin.

Berlin, 17 May

A day off in Berlin that was spent in the gym, lunch with Jim Cox at Augustiner and walking. I attended the Glen Hansard show in the evening with Mike, his son Rory and John at the Admiralspalast concert hall. Hansard is a great singer and songwriter as well as actor and activist. It was a brilliant performance with his great band that included a string trio, guitarist from Spain and musical influences from Celtic to Iranian. Powerful, dynamic songs and performances to match, it was one of the best shows I’ve seen. If he is ever performing in your area, don’t miss him. After the show the four us ended up at Augustiner for beer and sausages and following that we had a pint with Glen Hansard’s sound man, Leon, who Mike knows and it was Leon who’d arranged the tickets. Got back to my hotel at 1 and glad to hit the hay. A perfect day off and a lucky life. Tomorrow we decamp Europe for a while and head back to the U.K. for a series of shows there that will take us through the first week of June.

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Richard Bennett