Lisa Stansfield: Turkey ……. with all the trimmings

It’s 6.30am and I’ve had 8½ minutes sleep. Or at least, that’s how it feels.

Having gone on stage last night at the GQ Awards after show party at around 1.30am, it was 3.30am when I put out the glorious soviet people’s bedside lamp. And now, I’m wandering aimlessly around my hotel room, close to tears and wondering what it is I am supposed to be doing.

Thankfully I’ve been at this game for long enough to know that there are certain key things that must be done the night before.

Pack. Very important. It’s always much quicker to pack the night before rather than trying to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything in the morning, when you can’t even remember your own name, where you are or why you are there.

Drink water. Lots of it. Irrespective of how much you have drunk, it is always a good idea to drink as close to a small swimming pool as you can manage. It really is the only effective protection against a hangover and the downside – getting up to go to the toilet 20 times in the night – is always, repeat always, a price worth paying. You know it makes sense.

We are scheduled to leave for the airport at 7.15 and breakfast in the hotel starts at 7.00 so, those of us who like to start the day with a square meal have 15 minutes to either smash something down or, in my case, assemble a take away.

No problem. Eight inches of baguette, a fistful of bacon and a threatening of scrambled egg along with a healthy dollop of tomato ketchup (1 of my 5 a day) and I have the perfect travelling companion.

The rationale behind leaving at such a preposterous hour was to avoid the terrible morning traffic which the local agent told us we would undoubtedly encounter on the way to the airport.

Well, it was like a scene from War of the Worlds on the way there. We hardly passed another car and we arrived at the airport a week early to find the night watchman rubbing his eyes and looking at his watch.

So, in place of killing the local agent, we killed a few minutes checking in and what seemed like a day and a half filling out exit paperwork to make sure that the glorious people’s republic wasn’t glorious to the tune of ten more people. And then we were through to the bun fight that is security.

I swear the process gets more like It’s A Knockout every time we do it. Take this off, put that in the tray, remove any item not knitted from macrobiotic lark’s hair. You’re almost naked by the time you walk through the scanner. It’s probably easier to turn up at the airport in your dressing gown and then just get dressed once you’re through security.

Finally we were through and we caught the flight by the skin of our teeth, with only two hours to spare. I couldn’t even fill any of the time by having a coffee as it would keep me awake and I was desperate for some shut eye.

By now, you may be getting the impression that I don’t cope well with lack of sleep. A point I will concede.

Image 7I’m not asleep. I’m just thinking

Image 1Davide takes advantage of the chance to stretch out……….

Once on the plane – an Aeroflot plane – I almost instantly made a startling discovery. British Airways, it would seem, are NOT the world’s grumpiest airline!

It didn’t matter though because as soon as I hit my seat I passed out and for 4½ hours my answer to anyone’s question was zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Image 9The conversation was flowing on the flight down to Istanbul

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We arrived in Istanbul at around 3.30pm local time and were all made to feel much better by the VIP treatment waiting for us.

As we stepped off the plane we were greeted by two delightful young Turkish ladies who loaded us all on to what looked like a cross between a golf cart and a hummer and we were whisked off straight through passport control and customs and within a few minutes we were standing around waiting for the remnants of our luggage.

IMG_0763Our VIP stretch mobility scooter

As we stepped out of the airport terminal we were hit full in the face by a billion degrees of Turkish sun and the sights, sounds and smells of the entire Ottoman Empire trying to get out of the car park at the same time.

We piled into the waiting Mercedes, ordered the driver to set the air con to Arctic and headed for central Istanbul.

As time was now cracking on it was decided that we should all go straight to the venue to get set up for the soundcheck. Well, all except Mick and I, who were assigned the crucial task of testing the hotel beds to make sure they were comfy enough.

Hey. Someone has to do it.

An hour or so later, and with our critical mission accomplished, they were ready for the brass at the soundcheck so off we went.

Waiting downstairs in the lobby was our old friend Lorraine who had flown in at the last minute to fill in for Andrea (whose mum is now doing well, by the way). It’s quite a job she had in front of her. The last time she worked with us was way back in January and she now had to remember everything – without a rehearsal. Words, lines, notes – the lot. And the dance steps 😉

As everyone was feeling like death, the soundcheck was over in about 10 minutes and then some of the guys stayed at the venue to have something to eat while others of us went back to the hotel for another quick nap and a bath.

8.15 in the hotel lobby and we were on our way to the show.

The rather aptly named Beşiktaş Kültür Merkezi is a delightful little theatre in the heart of the Beşiktaş area of Istanbul, which is a bit like Soho but with lots more kebab shops.

DSC_0005The delightful little Beşiktaş Kültür Merkezi Theatre

The show itself was actually great fun. Despite the fact that we were all dead on our feet, the adrenaline saw us through (or was it the Vodka and Red Bull?) and we had a stormer of a show, with the crowd, though fairly small, bang up for it. Lorraine did an amazing job considering she had no rehearsal whatsoever and she sounded fantastic.

Once the gig was finished I met up with an old friend who now lives in Istanbul and he and his lovely wife took me out to see the sights and experience the vibe of Istanbul. We sat in a couple of waterfront bars drinking and catching up until around 2.30am and the place was still buzzing when I finally admitted defeat and they dropped me off at the hotel.

We said our goodbyes and I headed off to my bed.

As I got in the lift, a thought suddenly struck me.

I wonder if any of the guys are still in the bar?………….

Image 6Boy, that was a tough gig!

DSC_0035I KNEW I should have gone straight to bed…..

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Dave will do ANYTHING to keep his job

Lisa Stansfield: From Russian with even more Love

Lisa Stansfield – GQ Awards, Moscow

After quite a long day yesterday, I woke in my room at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow after a good night’s sleep ready to face the world.

Once I’d had a coffee, obviously.

The Metropol Hotel. What a place! It was originally built in 1899 as a hotel but, after the Russian revolution it was commandeered by the Bolsheviks, renamed Second House of Soviets and used as living quarters for communist bureaucrats. And you can just feel that atmosphere oozing from the very walls.

Despite its very grand foyer and public rooms, once you get upstairs it resembles something like a 1930s sanatorium, with stark, institutionalised concrete and marble construction. As Mick and I agreed, it reminded us of the old Hartlepool General Hospital.

I can just imagine legions of soviet-era po-faced commissars striding purposefully along the corridors to deliver a memo banning smiling during the hours of darkness or packing anti-soviets off to the gulags for stepping on the cracks in the pavement in an un-revolutionary manner.

11.30 am – assemble in the lobby to head off to the sound check.

You know. The one that should have happened last night.

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11.30 call in the lobby

We arrived at the theatre at around midday and they STILL hadn’t finished the bloody set! Despite Mick’s suggestion that we head off to the bar we were in last night, we hung in there and before long they were ready for us.

Just the one song to do for the TV show so we batted through that in double quick time. As Andrea is not here, it was decided that I should cover her vocals in ‘All Around the World’. Good job it’s not in too high a key otherwise it would have been out with the tight trousers.

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The lighting guy got a new toy for Xmas

Once we had satisfied ourselves that everything sort of worked and that someone had put a shilling in the meter, we piled back into our luxury revolutionary peoples minibus and headed back for another sound check for the after show party which, rather conveniently, was being held in our hotel.

Now then, after yesterday’s debacle where we arrived at the sound check to find the set not even built, the chances of that happening again, two days in a row, have to be very slim indeed, right?

Wrong.

Mick and I decided to take advantage of the fact that sound check number two was running at least 3 hours late by heading off to Red Square for a spot of sight seeing. Fortunately it was literally a 5 minute walk away, so off we trooped.

No matter how many times you go to Red Square, it never ceases to amaze. As you walk through the Iverski Gate you cannot help but be awestruck at the sight of Saint Basil’s Cathedral at the far end of the square and the sinister grandeur of the Kremlin to your right. I must say, I’ve always savoured the irony of the fact that, literally right opposite the tomb of Lenin is the most luxurious and expensive shopping mall you could possibly imagine. Poor old Vladimir must be spinning in his casket at the thought of such a temple to mammon right across the square.DSC_0153

Thirkell demonstrates the green cross code…….

In actual fact I have always wanted to go inside Lenin’s Mausoleum but somehow, every time I’m in Moscow, something scuppers it. It’s either shut or there’s a queue longer than a factory pay day. This time it was the former so I’m still no closer.

After a couple of circumgirations of the square, we organised a mortgage and had a quick coffee (hell, Moscow’s expensive) on the terrace of Lenin’s local shops and watched the world (literally) go by.

Then back to the hotel for the sound check that nearly never was and then, after a nice afternoon nap, off to the same restaurant as last night (by popular demand) for a pre-show dinner. By christ it’s tough, this touring lark.

I must say, it’s good to know that Russian TV shows are just as chaotic as British TV shows. All hurry up and wait. We were rushed on to the stage in a mad panic and then stood there waiting for a good half an hour – which was quite uncomfortable, eh Mick? 😉

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Waiting for the show to start. You should have gone when you had the chance, Mick!

We were opening the show with “All Around the World” and, to be honest, it was all over almost as soon as it had started. We gave it our all for 3 minutes 56 seconds and then made way for the awards.

Within 10 minutes we were back in the luxury people’s revolutionary minibus and heading back to the hotel for show number 2.

If I’m honest, it wasn’t the best show we’ve ever done. The room was a great big cavernous affair with a very high ceiling made of glass. Perfect acoustics for a string quartet.

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Nice…..

For us, however, it was a nightmare. Like playing in a swimming baths. Everything sounded louder than everything else and the overall effect was akin to a fire in a pet shop! The less said, the better to be honest.

Thankfully they only required a 45 minute set so we rattled through the hits whilst a bunch of gay guys danced at the front, desperately trying not to look gay so as not to get beaten up by the KGB or the JCB or whoever it is these days.

Post show drinking was kept to a minimum as we have a 6.45 am lobby call tomorrow to fly to Istanbul.

It’s now 3.20am as I finish off this blog and I’m up in 3 hours so I’m looking forward to that!

Well that’s it. Our latest trip to Moscow. Hopefully we will be back here soon because, I’m not sure if I’ve said it but…..

…. I love Moscow!

Dosvidaniya!

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Lisa irons Dave’s hair before the gig

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Lisa Stansfield: From Russia with Love………

Yes. I know, I know, I know. About time….

It’s just that life is so busy, it’s only when I go back to being a musician temporarily, that I can find the time to write a blog.

Anyway, this week sees a short trip to Moscow and Istanbul as a precursor to the main tour in October so I’ll do my best to get my blogging chops in.

So….

9.05 am sees us all convene at Heathrow Terminal 5 for the latest leg in the new, improved, extended, on-going Lisa Stansfield 2013 tour.

Unfortunately the day got off to a bad start with the last minute news that Andrea won’t be coming with us due to an illness in the family. We all wish her well and hope that everything works out for the best.

In the meantime we will have to battle on without her in Moscow and hope that we can get Lorraine, who’s filled in for Andrea before, to join us in Istanbul on Wednesday.

It was business as usual in the airport with Snowboy and Mickey enjoying a breakfast pint and me wandering around swearing, looking for a Costa coffee. No luck, sadly. Only Starbucks.

What’s the point of that?

I’m actually going to join the global movement to boycott Starbucks. Not because they are an evil corporation. On the contrary. I like evil corporations. Given half a chance, I’d be one.

No. We should boycott Starbucks because their coffee tastes like a Kandahar puddle. Foul, insipid stuff whose only effect is diuretic.

Anyway, back to the business in hand. After a fairly uneventful flight – Mick played with his new iPad and I talked at Dave – we arrived at a drizzly, overcast Moscow airport courtesy of BA – the world’s grumpiest airline.

I love Moscow….

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We’ve been here quite a few times before and, as an avid reader of soviet history, this place just fascinates me. It’s a city of big extremes and even bigger contradictions and I’m looking forward to doing some exploration tomorrow.

Barely 20 years ago the ownership of cars was reserved for the privileged few but today the road from the airport into Moscow is one massive long car park, not of Zil limousines and clapped out Ladas, but Mercedes, BMW and every type of vehicle you could imagine. It took us 2½ hours to cover the 26 miles from the airport to the city centre.

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Are we nearly there yet?

By the time we eventually reached the hotel it was 10.30pm and we were already late for the soundcheck. We have two shows while we are here in Moscow – both on the same day. We are doing one song (guess which one) on a live TV show from the GQ Awards followed by a 45 minute, greatest hits set at the after show party and we were supposed to do a quick soundcheck this evening for the TV show.

We dumped our stuff at the hotel and hot footed it to the theatre where the Awards were being held. However, as so often is the case, the panic was totally unnecessary as we arrived at the theatre to find them still building the set.

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At first we didn’t mind that they weren’t ready…..

DSC_0151Then we did……….

It was pretty clear that there wasn’t going to be much sound checking going on, so….

….we went to the pub.

Actually, to be more precise, we went to a bar restaurant next door to the theatre. We had a meal booked here for after the sound check but, as we weren’t having a sound check any more, we asked them to get cracking in the kitchens.

Thankfully they were more than happy to oblige and kept us entertained in the meantime with several carafes of what they said was vodka but which looked and tasted like liquid nitrogen. Of course Mick, being ever mindful of not insulting the locals, got well and truly stuck in and, by the time the food arrived, he was in full flight.

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Before the vodka arrived

I should say that this restaurant was (is) the most extraordinary place. The decor was very dark, austere 1930s temperance bar with just the right amount of archetypical soviet industry. Lots of dark mahogany, almost French, fittings and you could just imagine the place lit by gas and frequented by Trotskyist intellectuals plotting the downfall of the Tsarist regime in favour of a glorious socialist utopia.

Instead it was currently lit by the glow of iPhones and frequented by raggy arsed musicians talking about the football scores – especially how Wycombe Wanderers beat Hartlepool 2:1 the week before last. (C’mon Chairboys!)

However, the most striking thing about the place was…….

….people were smoking! Indoors!

I’d forgotten what it was like being in a restaurant surrounded by a haze of fag smoke. To be honest it was more disconcerting than disgusting and we got used to it pretty quickly but nevertheless, the next morning my clothes stunk like an ashtray.

By about midnight, the food arrived and – oh my god!

The temptation is to write off russian food as being cabbage soup and gristly sausages but this……

This was something else. Despite being served up in a 1930s northern pub environment – complete with fag smoke and drunken Hartlepudlian – I think I can safely say this was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. And I’ve eaten a few (…. thank you!)

Virtually to a man, everyone eulogised about their meal and, by the time we had finished, we all had to be wheeled out of the place. Of course, this was all washed down with the requisite amount of liquid nitrogen which all added to the sense of occasion and we drank a number of toasts to the health of Andrea’s mum.

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After the vodka arrived

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again.

I love Moscow….

And so, it was back to the hotel for a quick night cap and a good night’s kip. I put the light out at around 2.30 am and next thing I know……. it’s show day.

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Mick gives his world renowned lecture on the reproductive cycle of the emperor penguin

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Statler & Waldorf

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Oh, the glamour…….

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Mick buys Gill the biggest bottle of scent he can find