Mannheim, Germany 25 October, 2011
Monday the 24th was a day off, one of many on this tour. Anyone who's followed these notes in past knows M.K. and Co. put their collective noses to the grind stone when we tour. Six or more consecutive shows are not uncommon before a day off. However, this is Bob's tour and he doesn't like to do more than three shows before taking a breather.
Everyone had the same idea as how to spend the day, doing little as possible. The Villa Kennedy in Frankfurt is such a comfortable hotel, it's easy to luxuriate indoors. The full size, indoor, heated swimming pool and lounge areas plus a great gym saw use from many of the Knopfler camp. I think the only souls who made it outdoors were Glenn and Mike. I spent some time exploring the wonderful Yamaha amplifier, THR 10. This is the amp I'd mentioned that is literally the size of a loaf of bread, weighs a couple of pounds and delivers a wide variety of sounds, tones, effects and... surprisingly... volume! From the spanking clean sound of a Fender, the warm nosey crunch of a Vox to modern high wattage rock, this amp covers loads of ground. As for effects, it has built-in chorus, flange, tremolo, delay, spring reverb, hall echo, reverb+delay. When you find a sound you particularly want to go back to, there is a 'save' program. It looks like a practice amp but is much more. Check out this link: http://www.yamaha.com/thr/
That evening was our traditional Italian dinner with German promoter Marek Lieberberg, but first a meeting of the minds at the fantastic Villa Kennedy bar. Guy, John, Mike and I perched for martinis and beer to whet our appetites, then it was off to the restaurant. I won't begin to describe the food here except to say it was heavenly, course followed course... too many to keep track of, the wine superb and nobody's glass ever empty thanks to the top drawer staff looking after us. All this followed by grappa and desserts. Thank you Marek. The only thing to do after severe gluttony it return to the hotel bar for a night cap, and a few of us did. Sleep.
Tuesday the 25th was a day spent shaking cobwebs of the previous night, de-camping one of our fave hotels and a short ride to Mannheim where we played the SAP Arena. We arrived while Bob and band we sound checking. While the stage was being re-set for check, Donnie Herron from Bob's group and his 5-string banjo joined our Mike McGoldrick on pipes, John McCusker on fiddle and me on guitar for an impromptu backstage play. Donnie's a brilliant multi-instrumentalist, steel guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, etc. and has played with Bob for seven years. Prior to that he was one of the founding members of the group BR 549. He plays a style of banjo that I'm particularly fond of called clawhammer. Very different than the Earl Scruggs bluegrass, clawhammer and it's closely related cousin drop thumb, is played without finger picks and was the predecessor to Scruggs style. It drives in a very different way. Donnie's a master at it and we've all decided to do some more playing together while we're out here. Loads of fun and great music. We've pressed Donnie to give us some lessons as well.
More fun and great music when we took the stage, a particularly great Sailing, Speedway and one of the new tunes, Haul Away For Home. As usual our 70 minutes were finished before we were ready to quit playing. The crew turned the stage, always professional and lightening quick. 25 minutes late Bob, band and MK took the boards, Mark playing the first few numbers with Dylan, a particular high point was the song John Brown. Fantastic.
A four hour bus ride followed tonight's show. We went a little easier on the wine, cheese and bread having eaten so much the night before. DJ Fletch took over the upstairs lounge, Jim, Glenn and I being happy to hear one great record after another. At 2 a.m. the bus pulled up to our hotel in Munchen where we stay tonight and play tomorrow.