Berlin is a truly fascinating city. The second most populated in the EU… soon to become the first. I first came here with Roxy in 1982. 7 years before the fall of the wall in 1989 due to the end of the cold war and pressure from East German people, West Berlin was wild, exciting and tempting to those prohibited from entry. Within sight but out of reach. Encircled by the East, this ‘island’ was an advert for hedonism, a hotbed of nightclubs and music. Nothing seemed to close at night. 22 was a good age to experience it. 17 years on, the city has changed immeasurably and the contrasts between the world now, and the world then, seem more highlighted yet Berlin continues to attract artists and professionals who want to experiment. Investors have followed and property prices have risen accordingly making it a truly ‘world’ city of culture, politics, science and media. The standard of living here is high.
Even the Mercedes Benz Arena, formerly the O2 arena, aka ‘Das Gig’, is surrounded by new buildings which 4 years ago didn’t exist. The growth is astonishing making parts of the city unrecognisable to even seemingly regular visitors. As we pulled in, late, due to an air traffic delay out of Cologne, the crew were ready and waiting. Today is John McCusker’s birthday and on board the jet, Tijana had procured a beautiful chocolate cake for the occasion. We sat on the tarmac for an hour before we could start engines and make our way to Berlin’s ‘ghost’ Brandenburg airport.
Reverse thrusters engaged and we rolled to a stop on an eerily deserted parking area clearly designed for huge numbers of large aircraft. Poor financial strategies and mismanagement combined with a fair share of corruption have meant that the airport scheduled to open in 2012, remains deserted. Each year a revised date is set. Currently 2020, soon to be revised to 2021. A large terminal building stands idle with the odd aircraft attached. Vast car parks surround the area with not a vehicle in sight, nature taking its inevitable course and tall grasses pushing through the virgin tarmac. The team of drivers were allowed airside and we stepped from plane to car in what is now a chilly, grey day. In stark contrast to Cologne’s bright sunshine.
Lateness isn’t something we’re used to on tour but you can’t argue with Air Traffic Control. As we left the desolate airport, we made our way in convoy to the venue through what turned out to be heavy traffic. As we approached the Friedrichshain area, the huge amount of graffiti, so much of it political, became noticeable. Berlin is considered the ‘graffiti mecca of the urban art world’.
Inside the vast arena, it was business as usual except that my wife, Laurie was en route as well, visiting for our stay here. We sound checked and dined and before we could draw breath, show time was upon us once more. Laurie took her seat in the hall and we took to the stage for show number 15, each one better than the last.
Night time in Berlin and an after show drink at the Augustiner bar around the corner from the hotel has been on the cards for pretty much 4 years! We found ourselves proud recipients of their traditional 1 litre glass jugs of the finest German pilsner. Combined with pretzels and sweet mustard, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect apres-gig treat.