Helsinki, Finland 9 June 2013
Saturday was a day off and good getting into a gym with daylight, proper equipment and only a trickle of soothing Asian music wafting in from another part of the spa. After three weeks half heartedly putting my time in the miserable facility in London, I pushed hard and needed it.
Those who ventured outside the hotel that afternoon were treated to Helsinki's 23rd Annual Samba Carnival. Apparently Samba is big here in Finland with seven Samba schools throughout the country, all participating in the parade which boasted floats, flowers, lavish costumes and of course plenty of music. I'd tumbled out of the hotel about midday and it was all happening, the last thing in the world I'd have dreamed of seeing. I walked the city for a couple of hours and later that night joined everyone for dinner at a great Helsinki steak restaurant followed by a short night-cap with Mike, John and Ian. Closed my curtains about 1 in the morning and it was about as dark as it gets around these parts this time of year, sort of a late dusk.
Our show on Sunday was in the Hartwall Arena to an audience 9,000. We've played this venue several times before though not since 2008. First things first, it was a dash to catering on arriving for a steaming bowl of leak & potato soup and crusty bread. Better make that two bowls. Sound check then back in for dinner, our 5 star catering heroes really showing off with an array of salads including Caesar, rocket and salmon and buffalo mozzarella with fresh tomatoes. Tonight's winning entrees were grilled sea trout with Mediterranean vegetables and Asian roast pork tenderloin in hot and sour soup with Shitake mushrooms and braised Napa cabbage. It was a miracle of flavour and could not have been any better.
We all gathered down at the hotel bar after the show and couldn't get over how well it all went this evening. We've hit that rare slipstream of structure and freedom, everyone listening and playing off each other yet never too much, nothing forced, always relaxed, always different but within a framework. Most important, we're simply having loads of fun playing music with each other.
An Irish pub around the corner called Molly Malone's beckoned several of us and we met up with some of the crew, our flight attendant Liz, a couple of our drivers (off duty of course) and the above mentioned catering gods for a couple of pints. All this followed by a day off on Monday. It's a lucky life.