3 things….

Music

The tour seems to go from strength to strength and we all keep thinking “how can it get any better”? well the answer is, it can. The show in Austin was another to genuinely savour. I wondered why we haven’t been here for SO long. The venue had a club feel to it, yet was large enough to generate some serious atmosphere and sound. The on-stage sound was probably the best of the tour from my point of view and in the hotel bar afterwards Jim and I discussed how the band was firing on all cylinders the first downbeat. That actually rarely happens, there is often an element of marathon-like ’pacing’ involved as we gather intensity in a show but last night the energy was evident from the start. even Mark’s tickly cough didn’t detract from an outstanding performance from the man. There was a direct feed from the front of house desk which was pipes around the backstage rooms by way of a great little speaker system. During Sultans, Jim, Mike, John and I were in the dressing room, digging the sound. Mark and Richard’s guitar tones were fantastic and I thought the performances weren’t bad either, Ianto showing us all just how good a drummer can be and Glenn Worf confirming that my switch to keyboards all those years ago was a good decision. It was a rare opportunity for us to hear what you guys hear out front. In-ear monitors don’t quite convey that fidelity, they are essential tools which enable us to finely tune our individual mixes but they don’t compare to listening to loudspeakers. It’s all to do with the ‘smoothing’ effect of the air between the speaker and your ear and subtle reflections. In all, a great night and one which left us buzzing in the hotel bar afterwards for quite a while. The hotel bar was quite the noisiest bar I’ve ever seen, a Friday night in Austin and it’s clear this is a party town. The din was extraordinary, like being at a gig, difficult to talk in the ear of the person next to you. Tim arranged a quieter location in the hotel lower floor bar, perfect.

Cars

A close eye has been kept on the Volkswagen drama, currently unfolding and sending shockwaves throughout the car industry as in Europe we had an association with the marque. Their manipulation of test results for about 2.8 million vehicles is cheating on a massive scale. After our stay in Wolfsburg, one can’t help feeling for the people of the town whose future may seem uncertain. Let’s hope VW recover their dealer and customer trust, it could be a while. I also cannot help wondering how many other manufacturers are frantically scrambling to ensure they don’t fall prey to similar revelations. In the US we are at the mercy of cars which are offered by the various limo services we employ to drive us to and from the plane, gig and hotels. Today a Mercedes S class glided serenely onto the tarmac and Mark and I smiled at each other. As much as we loved being driven around Europe in VW Phaetons, the modern S class is a car by which all other limousines will be judged. Some American manufacturers have clearly not bothered to study the Mercedes (or they did and gave up). The Cadillac XTS Sedan for example is a great car but it’s no S class.

Food

Tex-Mex cuisine is renowned for it’s use of shredded cheese, meat (particularly beef and pork), beans, and spices, in addition to Mexican-style tortillas. Did you know that chili con carne and fajitas are all Tex-Mex inventions. I’m not too mad for shredded cheese and refried beans but give me a tortilla, salsa and an egg and I’m in. Four Seasons hotel breakfast of Chilaquiles con Chorizo wasn’t spectacular but I loved it. OK, I’m here now. The food at the venue was typically bain-marie style and dry as a pair of desert plimsolls. How is it that you can be first to arrive in catering, just as the food comes out yet it tastes like it’s been sitting the trunk of a car for two days? Hot sauces to the rescue. I’m being harsh, the broccoli was delicious. Actually we’ve been well looked after with American catering, most of it has been wonderful.

I do love America.

Circuit of the Americas, just outside Austin on our approach into Austin – Bergstrom international.

Today’s Track of the Day is Hey Joe – Willy DeVille

(comment – Willy took this tune back to its Texico roots)