Perfectly located in downtown Philly, our hotel stands right next to the extraordinary Philadelphia City Hall, a ‘second empire’ style masonry building whose weight is borne by granite and brick walls up to 22 ft thick. Built in 1904 at a cost of 24 million dollars, standing 548 ft, including the statue of city founder William Penn atop its tower, City Hall was the tallest habitable building in the world from 1894 to 1908. One can only imagine the surrounding landscape at that time, not too long after the Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware border dispute was resolved by messrs. Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.
Hours to kill as we woke in the city where we are playing, a rare occurrence, I headed down to a Target store, 3 blocks away to look for an electric tea kettle having failed miserably in Boston. There’s nothing quite like shopping in America. You feel like you can literally buy anything…except of course a kettle.
It’s great to be back in Philly again and tonight’s venue is the wonderful Metropolitan Opera House, known universally as ‘The Met’. Its history is fascinating, particularly so for our Danny Cummings, whose father sang in the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, specialising in the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, at this very venue in the 1960’s. A very sweet, emotional evening as Danny’s sister had flown out to be here from the UK to witness the family repeat performance, especially as Danny now sings the duet with Mark on ‘Sailing To Philadelphia’. Built in 1904 by Oscar Hammerstein I, ‘The Met’ was constantly used for the next 5 decades as a movie theatre, a ballroom, a sports venue, a mechanic training centre and a church. Falling into subsequent disrepair, between 1997 and 2013 the church spent approximately $5M USD just stabilising the building. Then in May 2017, Live Nation signed a lease as a concert promoter and tenant for the building and they and the owners announced a $45-million renovation to bring the theatre back as a mixed use concert venue. It was initiated in December 2018 by none other than ‘ramblin’ Bob Dylan.
Looking like new, the renovation was clearly a very popular decision with the local community and subsequent visiting bands, including ourselves. This is one of the happier Live Nation tales.
Local weather here has been extreme with Summer heat reaching a peak this month. It’s early for us to be touring the US, usually we don’t get here until mid-September so it’s unsurprising that it’s warm. The humidity is high and the building air conditioning was working flat out. Thankfully, not too efficiently as the stage temperature was perfect. We hit the boards just after 8pm to a tumultuous welcome from Philadelphia. My god, we had almost forgotten what playing to American crowds was all about. What a buzz.
Yelling and screaming at its best, that’s what we had tonight at the end of the set as we stood at the front of the stage taking it all in. Time had flown by all too quickly. Pete Mackay (Saint Peter) made a great call in suggesting we stay at the venue after show. There were 2 weddings at the hotel and the Saturday crowd would be out in force in the hotel bar. The renovated dressing rooms were lovely so the band sat and toasted the evening. Richard summed it up suggesting that “we’re playing differently since the break”. Mark in particular is playing some beautiful stuff, the whole band in fact. We also reminisced and told hilarious and remarkable stories, of which there are many in a band this experienced, of touring and playing shows in bands that didn’t necessarily ‘get along’ quite like we do. “What’s the worst band you’ve ever played in?” Mark asked everyone after regaling more details of the ‘shit band’ he was in at the time he hitchhiked home on Christmas morning in 1973 (Matchstick Man). There were some remarkable revelations, certainly enough for a movie. Anyone who has been in bands knows that it’s a rare thing for everyone in the group to be completely at ease with everyone else. It’s a culmination I suppose of many, many years of trial and error. Tonight, on that stage, there was simply is nothing better in life.