In stark contrast to the weather in the more Southern regions of California, the grey mist hung this morning over the San Francisco Bay area stubbornly. The wind was whistling, as it always seems to so here but it was nothing compared to the potentially violent storm approaching the South Coast of the UK. Many homebound calls were made checking on the situation and thankfully it turned out to be not quite as bad as the one which decimated the South back in 1987. We departed the hotel in mid-afternoon and Mark stopped at the hotel entrance to sign some autographs and we rolled away becoming three of the 280,000 cars a day which cross the Bay Bridge utilizing the new Eastern span which opened only a few weeks ago. The old bridge will be demolished over the next three years. The Western span has already been retrofitted with massive amounts of Steel and Concrete to strengthen the bridge while allowing for a wider range of movement during an earthquake. We love a good bridge! Ten minutes later we were pulling in to the backstage area at the Fox.
The decline of the magnificent Oakland Fox theatre built in 1928, started as early as 1962 when due to the onset of television and small multiplex cinemas, it stopped showing first-run movies. Eight years later in 1970, it ran its final film, appropriately ‘Let It Be’ by the Beatles. In sync with many great theaters across the USA came years of neglect, near-demolition and an arson fire in 1973. In 1975 it was nearly pulled down to make way for a parking lot but in 1978 there came a turning point in the history of the building when it became an Oakland City landmark and the following year it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1996, the city bought the building for 3 million dollars and in 2004 a painstaking restoration plan was conceived and finally completed in 2009. The restoration was clearly a resounding success and the Fox is surely one of the nicest places to go and be entertained. The backstage areas too have been beautifully considered in the restoration and the dressing rooms are comfortable in the extreme.
What better location for our final run of two shows and with stars and calendars aligning perfectly, the fabulous Ruth Moody was able to join us for both. With a voice like “some sort of guided missile” as Mark introduced her tonight, Ruth sound-checked with us along with our UK guest for the Californian trip, Nigel Hitchcock on Sax. An elongated and relaxed soundcheck enabled us to enjoy near-perfect stage sound and we were ready for another gig.
Then it was downstairs to the backstage area where thankfully the catering today was up to the job as the last two days have been, shall we say, less than mediocre. Delicious Sunday Roast Beef with an American version of ‘Yorkies’ and a lush gravy with breaded Tilapia on offer as an alternative to the meat. ‘Did you know?’ that in Arizona, Tilapia are stocked in the canals that serve as the drinking water sources for the cities of Phoenix, Mesa and others. The fish help purify the water by consuming vegetation and detritus, greatly reducing purification costs. A home-made Apple Pie finished me off and I made my way to the dressing room for ten minutes, horizontal.
I’ve often said it but it would be hard to beat last night’s show. Yet again, I think we may have succeeded as we walked on to a typical Bay Area reception and the crowd were as up for it as anywhere in the world. In fact most of the front of the auditorium had to be told to sit down in the 2nd song. Not by us I hasten to add. By the time Ruth joined us for three songs we were about as relaxed as it’s possible to be on a stage in front of paying public. I have at this point to re-iterate that singing harmonies with Ruth is fun in the extreme. I imagined myself during Kingdom Of Gold to be clinging on to that ‘guided missile’ for dear life as her laser guided pitching perfection carried me. It took all my concentration to hang on.
Then Mark introduced Nigel for two tunes and we glided our way through a slightly longer pre-encore set than usual. A single encore tonight left the large majority of the audience desperate for more and they were still standing and applauding long after house lights were illuminated. I guess it’s a long time since we have done only one encore and there was an element of confusion. It probably won’t happen again. An early show time meant that we were weaving our way back across the Bay Bridges in the swirling wind by 10:30. Back at the hotel it was a relaxing cup of tea for me as I still feel the legacy of that migraine a few days ago.
So just one more show to go on this ‘bonus’ US tour. I can’t over emphasize how much fun it’s been to be back out with these boys and girls AND to be able to look forward to next week and more time in British Grove working on more of Mark’s new tunes. Stay tuned to this site for more studio diaries etc. etc. etc.