The weather this year in the UK has been unusual to say the least and the Northerly airflow is now making it feel like mid winter but at least when the sun DOES come out, it is warming. The journey for me today was likely to be the longest drive of the tour so far as todays show coincides with the start of another Bank Holiday weekend and traffic conditions should never be taken too lightly. Eike was waiting in my driveway in the 500bhp 5.0-litre supercharged V8 Range Rover, fully fueled for the journey. To say that the new Range Rover Sport is nice is a bit like saying that George Best was quite good at kicking a ball about. It’s an animal.
The sun was out, we were wearing sunglasses and so we set off. It wasn’t long before we hit rain, and traffic. The sheer numbers of cars on the road meant that the full grunt of the engine in this car was never fully utilized and we came upon queues of traffic time and time again. Luckily we had left plenty of leeway to arrive at the venue at around 4PM. By the time we reached Oxford on the A34, I suggested we head across country towards Banbury to avoid what all our navigation devices (of which we had three) were telling us was heavy, very slow moving congestion on the M40 Northbound. Sometimes I think sat-navs are too clever for their own good. What we were unaware of at the time was that the Police were about to close the M6 due to two virtually simultaneous, serious accidents. After being held up frustratingly with the venue visible in the distance, we didn’t do too badly and pulled into the backstage area at 4:30PM, about 20 minutes after the rest of the boys in the band who had come up from their London hotel. Unfortunately, the majority of concert-goers bore the brunt of the motorway closure and it was looking like the show might be delayed.
Starving after not having prepared for the epic journey, I dashed to catering to find Mark and Glenn finishing up their bowls of Dave-made Vegetable soup. I inhaled a bowl whilst discussing the setlist with Mark and also the strange goings on last night with the tuning issues. Tom, Richard’s tech had a smart theory that my Martin was affected by a floor light. For most of the show my guitar stands off my riser, unused, but in the TV studio, it was very close to a lamp which heated the guitar. This resulted in it being completely ineffective at holding its tuning. At sound check it was totally back to its normal accurate self. I think Tom was right but he put on a new set of strings just in case.
I nipped into the kitchens to say hi to the miracle workers Dave, Chris and Georgina and to garner as much info as I could about today’s dinner offerings. Jerk Lamb kebabs with Roasted Mango and Pepper rice headed the quartet of treats, closely followed by Mozzarella stuffed chicken in tomato, Smoked SeaBream with potato and Leek croquettes and as usual my mind was so set on dish no.1, I’ve forgotten the last one. Needless to say I tucked into the Jerk Lamb which came on skewers and was a taste bomb. I quizzed Dave as to its preparation and he has promised to give me his secret marinade recipe. I’m not sure if I can share it yet.
Once the doors had opened the stream of people coming in was as slow as expected and we talked about the possibility of a delayed show. Consequently, our warm up routines were relaxed but by 7:15, there seemed to be a sudden flow and seats were filling quickly. It was decided to start the show at around 7:50. By the time we walked on stage, the venue seemed pretty full. The audience were as they all have been everywhere so far on this tour, warm appreciative and respectful. After a couple of songs, Mark entered into his usual banter and after last night’s TV special, he seemed to have a feel for a chat. There were a few comments about the delay and quips with audience members about the various ways of getting to the venue. All very jovial.
pic Pete Mackay
By the time we came back on for encore no.1, knowing members of the audience were standing right at the front. After 2 songs, we waved and bowed our goodbyes whilst Mark walked along the front shaking hands with the crowd. With smiles everywhere you looked, we leapt into a convoy of 6 Range Rovers and escorted at a very safe pace out of the NEC complex by a police vehicle. At the exit of the huge convention centre, he let us on our way Southbound again.
The boys headed back to London and I once more with Eike at the helm, headed for the South Coast. Two hours and 15 minutes later, I was home. Sleep wasn’t very far away on what seemed like quite a short birth day.
A big thanks to all who have sent and posted birthday wishes. Very sweet of you.