This amazing, resilient city has of course recently suffered once more, this time at the hands of god. Life came grinding to a halt on October 29th as the ‘super-storm’ Hurricane Sandy tore through the New Jersey coastline wreaking untold damage and changing the face of parts of the New York area for ever. Whilst we were enjoying temperatures of 70 degrees on our first show day in Denver, the record books were being re-written on the Eastern seaboard in this incredible year of weather events. Signs of the devastation were evident during our short stay in the city but as is always the case here, the irrepressible New Yorkers get life back on track so quickly.
I’m not sure that we’ve ever had such a brief stay in Manhattan. We arrived at 3:30am on Wednesday morning after a particularly bumpy ride on our buses and 25 hours later, Thanksgiving day, the UK contingent were packing bags and heading for Newark International airport bound for home. Another first was our venue and its location, the brand new Barclays Multi-purpose Sporting Arena in downtown Brooklyn.
Like so many of these ‘caverns’, it’s not the most ideal place for a music fan to come and watch a band as by nature the acoustics tend to be pretty horrible. Nevertheless, with a little careful tweaking, modern line-array PA systems can deliver if the operators know what they’re doing. With its unique design the Barclays Center opened in late September 2012 and was built as part of a proposed $4.9 billion sports arena, business and residential complex known as the Atlantic Yards. Its exterior features include a glass curtain wall covered by a ‘latticework’ made up of 12,000 pre-weathered steel panels, which are meant to evoke the image of Brooklyn’s Brownstones.
The dressing rooms, although character-free, are some of the nicest we’ve encountered and the vast underground backstage load-in area is accessed via two huge elevators each designed to accommodate tour buses or trucks and trailers. Our 7 tour buses and 4 trucks soon littered an area which would have served well as Batman’s bat-cave. Actually, it was only 5 tour buses as we said goodbye to Jason and Saen at the drop off last night. Once again, we arrived early at the venue as the precaution was taken to depart our hotel in consideration of possible heavy traffic, especially as today, the day before Thanksgiving is regarded as the busiest shopping day of the year. In the event, the traffic chaos never materialized and we covered the 8.2 miles across the Brooklyn bridge and were at the gig in 30 minutes. A somewhat relaxed airport-style security screening awaited our arrival, something I’ve never before seen at venues…certainly not for the artists. Once inside we visited catering for the final lunch leftovers and found quite delicious turkey burgers and some sublime vegetable soup. The afternoon’s endless succession of goodbyes had begun. Hugs and exchanges continued in corridors all afternoon up until we took to the stage for the final time of the tour.
During our farewell set and before introducing the band, Mark delivered an end of tour thanks to our regular crew, “in my mind, the best there is”. Heartily seconded by the band. A nicer, more professional, dedicated team of guys you could never wish to have.
Paul Crockford – Mark’s manager. Loud and proud.
Pete Mackay (Saint Peter) – Assistant Tour manager. Not sure how it would all work without Pete.
Tim Hook – Tour Manager. ‘Nothing’s a problem’…”is that normal?”
Colin ‘Alfie’ Barton – Production manager. No more likable man exists.
Kerry Lewis – Monitors. Simply amazing.
Ben Byford – Sound. Hilarious and brilliant.
Kevin Rowe – backline guitars and folkie bits. A lovelier a man there isn’t, and extremely talented.
Laurence Adams – backline, keyboards. Efficient beyond the extreme and fluster-free. Really.
Howard Barrett – Backline, drums. Perfect every day
Dave Dixon – Front of House sound. Well you judge for yourself but the reports say “incredible”.
Simon Tutchenor – Lighting designer. Creative talent behind many a lighting ‘moment’.
Tom Calcaterra – backline, guitars. Precise, dedicated and fabulous with a fairway iron.
Last but certainly not least, Glenn Saggers, backline, Mark’s guitars. Ever-faithful and quite fastidious. If Heineken made guitar techs, they would be Glenn.
pic Pete Mackay
After 33 shows in the European fall last year and after one cancellation, mysteriously another 33 in the US, this journey is at an end. Our hosts could not have been more accommodating regarding the setup and execution of the shows, the two crews and management teams working together in near-perfect harmony with laughter being a particularly contagious running theme. The sound of Paul Crockford’s merriment echoing along concrete corridors from one production office or another, couldn’t fail to raise a smile on any face, that and the sight of him in his pre-show Orange suit or Union Jack blazer.
As I’ve touched upon often in these diaries, new friendships have been cemented and much knowledge has been passed on. Musicians have a tendency to stick together and whenever the two bands were in the building, there would always be humour, conversation and the occasional folk-jam. Thanks and fond farewells to George, Stu, Tony, Charlie and Donny, wonderful musicians and great guys who together make up a fabulous band. Mark’s admiration for our elusive host goes back a long way and the high regard he has for the man is of course the reason we’re here. Of course, I’m pleased to report that next April, our entourage will assemble once more in London and head out on our 2013 tour of Europe without the constraints of the past year. Our full show, something we’ve been looking forward to now for some time.
Whether you’ve only just discovered these on-site ramblings or have been a regular reader for the 11 years I’ve been writing, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading as much as I’ve enjoyed writing. As I said many years ago, the aim was simply to give an insight into a world which I continue to find utterly fascinating and exciting. It soon becomes obvious that we in the band consider ourselves fortunate to continually have this opportunity to play such wonderful music to audiences wide and far, traveling, working and enjoying life with a cracking bunch of fellows.
So, with heartfelt thanks and love I say a temporary “cheerio” to my on-stage pals, Jim Cox, John McCusker, Glenn Worf, Ian Thomas, Mike McGoldrick, Richard Bennett and Mark. What a band.
Until the Spring….enjoy the music.
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”