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.

Richard Bennett