Hamar, Norway 11 June 2013
Monday the 10th was another day off in Helsinki that began with an early push in the 8th floor gym followed by a couple hours walk along the harbour. An open air marketplace with stalls of fresh fruit, souvenirs and hot food is there catering to the tourists from the cruise ships. The food stalls all have the same fare: fresh grilled salmon, fried potatoes, sautéed vegetables, reindeer meatballs, fried squid, hot coffee cold drinks. The cool breeze coming off the water paired well with the warm sunshine and smell of the freshly grilled food, all combined it was impossible to resist. There on the grill was the whole salmon and for 10 Euros you got a large plate full of it with potatoes and mixed vegetables and I happily laid a tenner down. As I was heading to the covered seating area balancing my plate of food I was dive bombed by a fearless seagull that swept down around me and deftly plucked a beak full of hot salmon from the plate and flew off. The whole thing happened so quickly and I had to admit the gull deserved that bit of food if only for it being so brazen. I'd managed to hang onto the plate and there was still a pound of fish on it when I finally got under cover at one of the tables. Absolutely delicious, fantastic, cooked well through but not dry. After, I walked along the harbour for an hour or so stopping to sit and watch the boats and get an espresso. An afternoon that reminds you to be glad you're alive. Back to the hotel for a little practise then out again late in the afternoon for another walk and a pint of local beer. An Italian dinner later that evening and in bed by midnight, the Helsinki sky still dusky.
Tuesday begins a run of six shows in a row in different cities and was a busy day. We checked out, were driven to the Helsinki airport and flew to Oslo. From Oslo it was an hour drive to the city of Hamar, located on the shores of Lake Mjosa, Norway's largest lake. Stunningly beautiful rolling green hills, picture postcard lake homes and farms. A very ambitious highway construction project is going on that will eventually transform that drive from a two lane road to a major highway. Construction for miles... everywhere. Tunnels being blasted through the hillsides, earth moved from one place to another. Mountains of stone and rubble, cranes, earth moving machinery... incredible. It slowed our progress a little, but we arrived in Hamar and the venue shortly past four in the afternoon.
Tonight's venue is Vikingskipet (the Viking ship) is also know as Hamar Olympic Hall, built as the speed skating rink for the 1994 winter Olympics. It is a massive indoor facility able to hold as many as 20,000 people. It's roof looks like an inverted ship from the outside and the inside ribs of that boat from within. Coming in to the Vikingskipet I thought it might be a gigantic echo chamber but was pleasantly surprised to the contrary once we took the stage for sound check.
Our show was set up for 8,000 seats and all of them were filled. A sea of people and still acres of floor space on both sides of the seated area. We hit the boards at 7:45, the daylight still streaming through the windows in the roof and we steamed through an inspired show. Nothing gets in the way of this band now, nothing phases it. The band is unflappable and somehow gets better after all these years, each tour, every night, every song. We're really playing like grown-ups now. Toward the end of the evening all 8,000 people were standing and did so for the remainder of the show.
It was runner to the Rovers and the hour-plus drive back to the Oslo airport. At 10 o'clock at night you still needed sunglasses it was so bright. They certainly get a full days work done in these parts in the summertime, the road construction crews still at their tasks of rearranging the hillsides. Finally got to the airport, cleared security and onto the Legacy a little past 11. Liz our flight attendant had drinks of choice waiting by our seats when we boarded and shortly after take off served filet mignon with baked potatoes and salad. A delicious dinner followed by another gin and tonic and we're landing in Bergen on the south west coast of Norway.
Today's score: 4 cities... Helsinki, Oslo, Hamar, Bergen... 2 flights, 2 one-hour drives and a gig. Good day, good night.