London, England 28 May-1 June 2013
A loose, catch-all posting that covers the last several days and our residency at the Albert.
Tuesday the 28th I did an interview with a good fellow from Napa Valley, California named David Kerns who writes interesting and perceptive articles. He is currently in London writing about the Royal Albert Hall and interviewed Guy Fletcher, Ruth Moody and me about what it's like to play there and why it attracts so many to it's stage. Turns out David has been following this little tour journal of mine and noticed the hotel rant about the coffee the other day prior to coming to London. He and his wife Gayle arrived at my room for the interview bearing gifts from Northern California... a pound of French Roast Peet's Coffee along with a filter cone and paper filters to make a cup at a time in the room. It's the best coffee I've had since leaving home. I'm forever in their debt and might even forgive misquotes and outright slander in the name of Peet's Coffee.
Wednesday the 29th. Up early to another dark, damp, cool London day, my outlook improving after a couple of cups of the above mentioned Peet's. I've been eyeballing a very smartly tailored Savile Row cut suit and took myself off this morning to try it on. I looked better than I had any right... a proper gent I reckoned and ponied up. I've always wanted a trim cut, dark charcoal suit of British worsted wool. I'll be wearing it everywhere now, lunches, dinners, the gym, out in the garden.
A wonderfully relaxed gig tonight, full house... even the galleries behind the stage were sold. I was back at the hotel before midnight for a night cap and early to bed.
Thursday the 30th. Really had to drag myself down to the dismal, dirty, gym this morning. The place could not be lit any brighter, blazing fluorescent lights, trainers who suck the air from the room with their phoney, loud chatter, oblivious people working out on equipment that's so poorly maintained it squeals. Unbelievable that the facility keeps going this way. It has one thing in it's favour; the merciful absence of music. You're handed a large bath size towel when you sign in and after the first day I realised why. You don't want to lay directly on anything down there. The mats for floor exercise look like they've absorbed sweat and dirt of London's entire population for years. No telling the last time the floors have been swept or the equipment wiped down. Bad news. Oh yeah, it's cramped. To get around that they've put a wall of mirrors up and the three treadmills facing straight into them. Yeah, that's it... just what you want to see when you on the mill, yourself. I don't think so.
Catering served up a monstrously delicious Beef & Guinness pie, tender and flavoursome beyond all reason. The other big hit of the night was the Monkfish that according to the guys who ordered it was remarkable.
Another great show tonight, #4. They're all played a little different every night and that's what makes it interesting. The audiences are all unique as well, tonight's being a little more subdued at the beginning but absolutely with us all the way. After the show I met Tom Jones who'd come to the gig. Our own Ian Thomas played with Tom for many years and is a fellow Welshman. What do you say to Tom Jones? A pleasure to meet you and thanks for all the music. Also met Justin Sandercoe who I'd mentioned in these notes last autumn. Justin has a vast series of guitar lessons on-line that range from beginners all the way up through some very complex jazz theories and everything in between... rock, folk, lead, rhythm, fingerpicking, and more. Please check out and support his lessons at: http://www.justinsandercoe.com/ The lessons are so clearly conveyed and well done... not too much at a time and very focussed. I think he's a great player and educator.
The Friday night RAH crowd was ready for a show, great audience, MK & Co. in top form. Down to the West Foyer Bar for an aftershow reception and ended up staying until the last stragglers were unceremoniously tossed out by the good RAH staff at 1 o'clock in the morning. I don't blame them for wanting to go home. My son Jeremy who's currently living here in London was with me and we made our way back to the hotel and the bar for a final beer of the night. Our head caterer and chef, Chris Desmond was up there and very kindly bought us a round. He's a top man and it was good visiting with him as usually he's up to his elbows when we're all at the gig.
Up early on Saturday the 1st day of June. Our tour manager Tim Hook has arranged a roof tour of the Albert Hall. We did this back in 2005 or '08 (I forget) and it was harrowing and thrilling. At that time my son Jeremy was here as well but had something else on and this morning was his chance to finally do it. In short we were taken to the very tip top of the Hall, 135 feet above the floor. After climbing flights of stairs and the scaffolding of the dome, you arrive at the pinnacle of the dome and if brave enough, walk out on a wire grid and look down to the floor of the Albert. I found it funny that in our group of 8, 4 women and 4 men, all the women went straight out that grid and the guys with the exception of my son, hung back. Many thanks to Ollie for a wonderful tour that ended with us walking the perimeter of the Albert roof for a great 360 view of the city.
It's amazing how quickly our six days at RAH have passed and here we are at the final show of this run. As always it's an honour to walk the boards of this stage and halls of the building. I was reminded that I first played here in 1972 with Neil Diamond, 41 years ago. I would have been speechless if someone would have told me then that I would still be playing here in 2013. I'm very grateful to still be at it and enjoying every minute.
I think this final show was as good as we've played all tour and the other guys thought so as well. The audience went completely mad at the end. Don't know what else to say about it, but it was a perfect way to leave the Albert until next time. On a blue note, this will be Nigel Hitcock's last show with us for awhile. Nige has become a great band mate and we'll miss him, but he was only onboard for the dates in the U.K. What a musician, an honour to play music with him. Here's to you and the next time Nigel. Also great having Ruth Moody and her wonderful band with us. We'll be seeing them again in Paris.
After the show there was a large reception in the Elgar Room of the Albert rather than the smaller bar where they'd been held previous shows this week. So many people and old friends there tonight and it was great seeing them all. One new friend I met was Brian Bennett the legendary British drummer with the Shadows and many other recordings and projects as well. I felt like I was about 12 years old, didn't know what to say but we ended up talking about making records, how that's changed now and how the business has as well. Brian Bennett, wow.
We've reached the midway point of this tour chronologically speaking and are all looking forward to a short break of five days off before resuming. I'll stay here in London as it's not quite enough time to fly home and back again, visiting friends and having some dinners with my son. I'll give these notes a rest and pick it up again on the 7th after our show in Zwolle, Netherlands.