Kölsch and Himmel und Erde. Cologne has many wonderful things to offer visitors and the local beer, Kölsch, is soft, refreshing and gentle the morning after. Flying in as we did, from Strasbourg the previous night, the familiar Hyatt view across the Rhine at the Deutzer Brücke, or Deutz Suspension Bridge, is as spectacular as it is comforting. Simply because it is highly likely that we have stayed in this hotel more times than any other in the world. It is the go-to Cologne hub and its location is unbeatable. Tw minutes from the Lanxess Arena and a short walk across the bridge to the old town with its numerous bars and restaurants. In accordance with enviable German competence, every time we come, the hotel interior has had a facelift. Everything works. Sadly the bar was closed when we arrived. Probably just as well.

ön the day of the show, everyone was relaxed and rested at the venue. The crew were ready for band sound check at 4:30pm and we ran through a few things in the now familiar Lanxess hall. Many people have commented or asked about what we are using for amplifiers for the guitars since the stage is devoid of such things, largely to accommodate the huge band. Some have guessed correctly, we are using Kemper profiling amps. Mark’s long-serving guitar tech, Glenn Saggers along with Mark (when he wasn’t in Edinburgh with me preparing the Local Hero musical) has devoted much of his time in the past 6 months to recreating Mark’s unique sounds has done an amazing job. This switch from ‘real’ amps to digital devices is not for the feint-hearted and it wasn’t without its doubters. Now we are up and running and more than two weeks into the tour, we are all on board with them. They certainly allow for incredible separation in both in-ear monitors and front of house system. The sounds are amazingly responsive and malleable.

Lovely cities tend to be accompanied by lovely audiences and the Cologne crowd continued with the tour trend of waiting until each songs’ final note finishes before they burst into applause. Typically at the end of the set, there is a joyous rush to the front of the stage and when we return for our encores, we can see the hundreds of smiling faces. As we waved our goodbyes, we could see the people at the very far reaches of the upper tiers in the hall were every bit as excited as those lucky enough to be down the front. Wonderful.

No concert in Cologne with a day off to follow would be complete without an apres-bar in room session with DJ’s Fletch and McGoldrick. The hotel received our five star Rock’n’Roll stamp of approval when I ordered a bucket of ice and what was delivered was almost large enough to bathe in. I said to the waiter “we’ll try not to make too much noise” to which he replied “oh, don’t worry about that sir”. At 4:30am, I reluctantly turfed the boys out as I had a morning dental appointment to fix a chipped tooth a few days earlier. Had I not, we could easily have watched the sunrise across the Rhine.