Bordeaux-Toulouse-Zurich-Milan May 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

The Metropole Arena in Bordeaux was packed to sold to capacity…. 7,500 for our show of the May 6th. On occasion we will have an artist open the evening and tonight it was Jook Ross, a singer-songwriter with a beautiful voice and melodic songs, who will be with us for the next couple of nights. Jook’s set was very well received. After a short interval, we took the stage and played a great show. It was a runner back to our chateau and a band party in Guy’s room… the first of the tour. Full attendance, great music, patters of French cheeses and breads, umpteem bottles of brilliant French wine and a dozen beer for good measure. We wrapped up about 2 in the morning and poor Guy’s room looked like a proper rock and roll casualty complete with a splintered chair. More like the ‘mild ones’ rather than the ‘wild ones’ I can assure you there was no intentional trashing, merely situational.

Up early and feeling better than I had any right to, I got myself out for an hour’s walk through the forests and vineyards of this beautiful area we’re staying. As I was walking through the Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte winery I heard a rhythmic banging and followed my ear to what turned out to be a cooperage and a cooper making a barrel by hand. The banging was him setting the metal bands that hold the barrels together. A quick coffee back at the room and it was time to leave for a short flight to Toulouse and tonight’s gig at Zenith… one of those landed spaceship looking places. The usual soundcheck followed by dinner. Jook opened again tonight. We took the boards at 9 o’clock and played what I think was the best show of the tour so far. They just keep getting better and the crowd was so good to us. A runner and quick return flight to Bordeaux. Tomorrow we decamp for Zurich and a day off.

8 May, The day off was cold and rainy and found most of us hanging at the hotel. A lot of us gathered in the hotel bar astonished by the prices for a drink and the restaurant as well. Ended up in the downstairs “Bond” bar complete with ‘60s decor and a cocktail piano player. We ordered a load of club sandwiches and devoured every scrap. A few of us ended up in Guy’s room for a nightcap and some music.

The Zurich gig was, as Dan said, a listening audience and a concert vibe. The most relaxed gig of the tour so far and the best played. Sold out at 10,000 it was a fantastic audience and show. A runner back for a night cap and early to bed.

The afternoon of the 10th we departed Zurich, south bound for Milan. Tonight’s show at Mediolanum Forum was, again, for a capacity audience of 9,000. MK & Co. have hit a new level over these last few nights. Hard to describe but they’re very emotional performances from everyone, Mark singing and playing things I’ve not heard before. The true friendship, mutual admiration and musicality of every man on that stage is hard to imagine in any other situation. It was a beautiful show here in Milan. Guy, kindly again, turned his room into a hospitality suite with music and night caps. Tomorrow is a day off in this wonderful city.

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Richard Bennett
Lisbon-LaCoruna-Pamplona 1-5, May

Lisbon, May 1-2

Having played Lisbon we had two days off in the city. The always luxurious Four Seasons never fails to deliver with it’s welcoming bar, rooftop gym with it 360 degree view, spacious and comfortable rooms complete with espresso machine and walk out balcony. Over the years i’ve consumed much caffeine as I took in the sweeping view of the harbour and city and this stay was no different. The familiar sight of the wide, tree lined pedestrian walk-way leading to one of the high points in the city always intrigued and after all these years I decided to walk up it. Well worth the effort as at the top, with the massive flag of Portugal waving and marble fountain, is one of the most spectacular views of Lisbon. There’s a small park even further up from there that I took on as well. I stumbled across a small, unassuming and great restaurant called Everest Montanha, Cozinha Nepalesa e Indiana…. cuisine of Nepal and India. A mid-afternoon lunch of Chicken Karai (stewed chicken curry fried with peppers, ginger, coriander and butter), garlic nan and a large creamy local draught beer…. it couldn’t have been better. So good that I went back for dinner the following evening for a Lamb Vindaloo with Glenn Worf. Fresh, fragrant and fab…. www.everestmontanha.com

La Coruna, May 3

After two restful days off we launched into a very busy one. Checked out of Lisbon and an hour flight to La Coruna, straight to our venue for tonight Coliseum… an arena with standing floor and seated circumfrence capacity 7,670+. A short sound check, dinner followed by a three hour hang as the show didn’t start until 10 o’clock. With this tour we’ve had the luxury not only of a large comforatable band lounge but also many smaller rooms for quiet or practising, nearly as many rooms as band members. Lots of space to stretch out, practise and relax. It was much appreciated tonight. Once we finally hit the stage it was a great gig and always getting better. I had a number of technical problems but that never gets in the way of a good show. La Coruna gave us all a wonderful evening. It was a midnight runner to the plane, a couple of G&Ts then arriving in Bordeaux where we will base for several days. It was past 2 in the morning when we arrived but are staying out in the country at a working vinyard. Exploring to be done and a day off.

Pamplona, May 5

A civilised 3 o’clock lobby call and a short flight landed us in Pamplona, Spain late afternoon. I’d never been to Pamplona and I think the last time Mark played here was with Dire Straits in 1993. Pamplona is best know for it’s “running of the bulls’ those visuals well documented…. people scrambling to outrun a stampede of bulls. Not my cup of tea but to each their own. Tonight’s venue, Navarra Arena is a new one, clean and sounds good. A quick soundcheck, dinner then on stage at 9. One of the best shows we’ve done so far and the audience of 6,000+ agreed wildly. A runner back to Bordeaux and a quick beer with John, Mike and Graeme. Bed.

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Richard Bennett
Madrid-Cordoba-Lisbon 28,29,30 April 2019

Sunday’s show in Madrid’s Wiznik Centre was to a capacity audience of 10,300 good folks. The Wiznik however has a wicked slap-back, meaning the sound of the music hits the back wall and bounces back to the stage somewhat delayed. Playing with in-ear monitors certainly helps as they seal a good deal of outside sound from your ears. Still, it wasn’t enough to diminish the volume of slap-back enough and it was a little challenging to play. We simply put our heads down and worked straight through it, enjoying every minute.

The following morning, April 29th, we departed Madrid for Cordoba. Madrid is a wonderful city and one that I feel I could live in, but for now it’s time to move on. Our driver got lost on the way to the airport but thanks to the good guidance of our tour manager Tim Hook along with Guy Fletcher, both armed with smart phones, we finally hit our target and were soon aloft. Our favourite air hostess, Daniella has been with us again for a few days though sadly will not be along for the entire tour. Daniella had platters of chilled, delicious langoustine, shrimp, crab, lobster and smoked salmon all served, devoured and cleared quickly for this :50 minute flight. We last played Cordoba in 2010 at this same bullring, Plaza de Toros Los Califas. I immediately remembered the large main dressing rooms with numerous, mounted bull heads. Flamenco guitar star, Vicente Amigo popped in to say hello. A number of years ago Guy produced a wonderful album for Vicente in London at British Grove Studios. Also good seeing our friend and promoter for the Spanish shows, Chris Ortiz. The outdoor shows are always relaxed and this evening was no different. A quick runner from the stage to our hotel in Cordoba where nobody could get the fancy, over engineered digital keys to open their rooms. Once inside, the internet was in-op. This left only one option; adjourn to the bar. It was already late when we got there and after a couple rounds the barman went home leaving the place to us. A real case of inmates bing in charge. By the time we called it a day it was indeed…. 4:30 in the morning.

Later that morning before flying to Lisbon, our friend Chris Ortiz kindly took us all to the spectacular El Envero restaurant in Cordoba for an early lunch. It will be useless for me explaining how delicious everything was from multiple starters of freshly baked rolls with dark green olive oil, tomatoes in a thin basil pesto, pureed almond paste, local cheeses, lightly fried croquettes…. all prior to the entree. I ordered a beef tenderloin steak dusted with coarsely ground salt that you could cut with a butter knife, served on top of whipped, mustard mashed potatoes. A serious and memorable lunch. If ever in Cordoba don’t fool around, get yourself to El Envero…. www.elenvero.com. After lunch we arrived at the airport, boarded the plane and were told our flight would be delayed for an hour or more due to landing slots in Lisbon. Between the night before and the massive amount of food consumed at lunch, everyone simply put their seats back and took a siesta.

We arrived in Lisbon and went straight to the venue Altice Arena for our Tuesday night show. I think a few brave souls made it to catering but I was not one… still too full. On stage at 9:15 and a great show, some remarkable moments. Then a runner to our hotel, one quick night-cap and off to bed with two luxurious days off ahead.

So long,

Richard

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Richard Bennett
London-Barcelona-Valencia-Madrid

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.

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Richard Bennett
Down The Road Wherever

Here ’tis…. the first edition of Notes From The Road 2019.

I’m pecking this out from London on Easter Sunday, having just completed three weeks rehearsal. I’ll have a few days off now in the city before leaving for Barcelona and the first show of Mark’s Down The Road Wherever Tour. We’re all looking forward to taking the boards again and can’t wait ’til we get to Spain.

Without going into many details, there will be a lot of surprises, a couple of terrific new band members along with our old pal and ever brilliant Danny Cummings returning to play percussion. There’s a brand new sound system that I must say, having heard some rehearsal playbacks, sounds like a finely tuned stereo system. Tremendous lights as well. As usual the whole package, only better.

On past tours I posted nearly every day. I’m not sure I’ll be quite as verbose this time out and will likely do a weekly as I did on the tour a couple of years ago with Neil Diamond. I’d far rather post when I really have something to write about. That said, who knows. There will no doubt be the occasional profanity laden rant about some crap gym or something inexcusable.

I do plan to enjoy every minute of this adventure, each show, every meal and all the cities. A long adventure it is, this tour runs through the end of September and I’m very proud to share a stage and the fine company of this grand pack of friends through it all.

So long,

Richard

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Richard Bennett