I spent the three days off in London doing mostly nothing, a calm before the storm. Got a much needed haircut and revisited a couple of old fave restaurants with Jim Cox and Glenn Worf: Malabar Indian and Maggie Jones.

MK & Co. flew to Barcelona on the 24th of April, were greeted by a fleet of Mercedes vehicles and drivers then whisked straight to the venue Palau Sant Jordi for a short soundcheck before dinner. That was followed by a full run through of the show to work through any last technical or band errors. It’s common for many tours to have the venue booked an extra day with no audience prior to opening. it was a long and productive day that ended in the bar with lots of good cheer.

Opening night the 25th was filled with lots of nervous chatter and anticipation, the band dressed and ready an hour prior to taking the stage. That’s the ONLY time that will happen all tour. As I’ve said before in these diaries, there is nothing like the first show of a tour for sheer on-your-toes energy and tonight was no exception. Well rehearsed but not overly so, it was as if we’d played a gig last week instead of four years ago. The 2-hour+ show felt like it flew by in 20 minutes and the sold-out audience was fantastic.

The afternoon of the 26th we boarded our jet for a short flight to Valencia, a city I’d not been to before. The show was held at the Plaza de Toro bullring and unusual to be playing an outdoor gig so early in a tour. A gorgeous day in Valencia, bright blue skies and billowy clouds, giving way to a breezy cool evening. By the time we took the stage it was chilly. Guy wisely brought a sport coat which he made good use of and the rest of us layered up as we could. Another sold-out show, I think this entire tour has sold out as soon as the dates were announced. Great audience and already the show has taken on a wonderfully relaxed feel though only our second gig and we’re still working out a few bugs. A long, waving farewell from the stage and a runner back to the plane. The flight was short to Madrid with barely enough time to serve a snack and rustle up a couple of drinks for everyone. Due to the late start of the shows here in Spain, we didn’t arrive at our hotel in Madrid ’til nearly 2 in the morning. Completely, knackered. Straight to bed.

Saturday the 27th, a day off. Given the lateness of turning in I was looking forward to testing out these blackout curtains and a sleep-in this morning. At exactly 7:30 a roaring, swirling, reverberating roar put an end to that. It quickly gathered into a steady, rhythmic pounding that shook the window of my room and as I surfaced from sleep realised it was some sort of massive sound system coming up from the street below. I threw open the curtains and eight stories below my window was the inaugural point of the Madrid Marathon. There was no going back to sleep no matter how I tried. It was 2-hours of non-stop rock and roll and public address announcements all hyped up to a frenzy of hopelessly false excitement. Nothing to do but ring room service for a couple of scrambled eggs, coffee and New York Times. Following the blasting of the song “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” it all mercifully ceased. The quiet was deafening.

I made my way down to the hotel gym which I immediately recognised from several years ago as an airless one. The decor and equipment have been up-dated but apparently not the ventilation. Never mind, it was a well needed push and I’m glad I did it. With most of the day in front of me I decided to walk to Madrid’s legendary Museo del Prado, about a mile from the hotel and along the marathon route which was still buzzing with participants, pedestrians, police and portable toilets. I first visited The Prado in 1996 on my first tour with Mark and felt the need to go back again today. The Prado is celebrating it’s bicentenary year, 1819-2019. Always humbling to stand in front of the great works of Goya, Velazques and I never fail to marvel at the staggering and imaginative panels of El Bosco…Hieronymus Bosch. A long afternoon walking and on my way back to the hotel I stopped in for a late afternoon cerveza and quesadilla. A fine day from a rocky start, after all.

Richard Bennett