Lisa Stansfield UK Tour – September 2014: Episode 2: Birmingham to Gateshead

And so, we pull away from The Symphony Hall in Birmingham and say farewell to the utter carnage that is Broad St on a friday night.

I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it in all my days. There were at least 5 ambulances at the top of the street, just waiting for it to kick off – which it inevitably will. Gaggles of spotty youths and orange girls teetered from pub to pub, stopping only to insult the occasional police constable (who were also, strangely, either spotty or orange??)

Sodom & Gomorrah with a silly accent….

Anyway, we were out of there and on our way to much more civilised climes.

Namely, Gateshead.

What??

Oddly enough, although I originate from that part of the world, I’ve never ever been to, seen, nor really given much thought to the Sage Gateshead. Shame on me.

There it stands by the side of the Tyne Bridge, a cultural sentinel guarding against the cap sleeved T-shirted hoards threatening to cross the bridge and engulf the place in the immutable odour of CKone and regurgitated kebabs.

Built by Norman Foster and serving as the home of the Northern Sinfonia, it is another of those halls that never quite expected such musical ruffians as us to be assaulting its acoustic properties.

Having said that, the on-stage sound was nowhere near as bad as the Symphony Hall of last night and so, true professionals that we are, we cracked on.

Mick had a large contingent from Hartlepool in tonight so we were extra careful in making sure that the show would be the best that it could be. We both specially washed our leg warmers and polished our tap shoes.

We did, however, stop short of tuning up as we both felt we had taken care of the important stuff and didn’t want to overdo it before the show.

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Mickey turning the water into wine….. (we bought the Cider)

After the sound check Mick went off to the pub as he seemed very concerned that his guests wouldn’t be able to find their way to the Sage, despite it being the biggest building for twenty miles around. In fact, he was so concerned for their welfare, he went a good two hours before the show started – just to make absolutely sure they got here safely.

That’s Mick. Always thinking of others….

I, on the other hand, have sadly fallen straight into that general state of torpor that usually comes after a couple of weeks on the road.

The process of breathing recycled bus air for half the time and air conditioned public building air the other half, sends your brain into a sort of low level fug which renders you exhausted, even though you haven’t actually done anything!

In my experience there are only two things which can effectively defibrillate the brain in this circumstance:

1 A brisk walk in the fresh air
2 Vodka

OK, three things…..

3 Red Bull

In the end I opted to got to bed for an hour and then administer a combination of two of the above listed items in healthy doses.

Before we knew it, it was show time and we were ready for the last show before the Live DVD which we will be filming in Manchester tomorrow.

This was our last chance to make sure that everything was running smoothly and that the whole set flowed nicely, with each song running smoothly into the next, before the whole thing was digitally captured forever on DVD (available soon in all good stores and web sites 😉

Except, true to form, we changed it all didn’t we?

Anyway, that’s a story for tomorrow’s blog.

Tonight it was Gateshead’s turn to feel the awesome power of the optimism-fuelled mayhem that is a Lisa Stansfield show.

We were all pleasantly surprised to find out that the whole tour is virtually sold out and, if all the crowds are as up for it as the Geordies, then we’re in for a good time all round.

It took a couple of numbers but, once they got into it, the crowd were tearing the place up (that’s tear that rhymes with There, not tear that rhymes with Here)

Lisa was on form as usual and looked absolutely amazing in a new frock. In fact, it’s prompted Mick and I to wonder if we shouldn’t follow suit and perhaps buy some new socks?

After the show, we all said hello to the Hartlepool massive and once again offered our sincerest condolences to Mick’s partner Gill. There ought to be some sort of medal….

Then it was all on to the bus for the overnight drive to Manchester and the scene of the next show – which has a few little surprises to offer!

Bis Morgen…….

Lisa Stansfield UK Tour – September 2014: Episode 1 – From London to Birmingham

So, dear reader.

Finally I find the time to write another episode of, what has become the traditional road blog.

To be honest, I wasn’t going to bother at all this tour because, what with all the eating, drinking, sleeping and occasional playing we have to do, it’s difficult to find the time. However, when this was suggested, the general reaction was one of shock, horror and outrage.

Both of you said that you quite enjoyed reading them.

Sometimes…

…. and, when asked if you would miss it, instantly shrugged your shoulders and replied….

“maybe”….

And so, with that ringing endorsement, how could I possible not find the time to scrape together the usual 700 or so words of utter claptrap and half baked nonsense?

So, where to begin?

Rehearsals were the usual chaotic affair, with poor old 80s Dave pulling his hair out (good job there’s plenty of it!) trying to shepherd everyone into the rehearsal room and away from the usual round of fry-ups at the Breakout Café.

We are adding a few new tunes to the set for this tour, some of which we did on the European tour in May/June and some of which are old favourites making a comeback.

There’s even a completely new, never before heard song which we literally only recorded a few weeks ago. I think it may be the new single so its one to watch out for.

Whichever way you look at it, we needed to get in there and get our heads down and rehearse.

Which we didn’t…..

To be honest, it doesn’t matter how much rehearsing we do, the first night of the tour is always a little bit nervy. Did we decide on the short ending or the long one? What happens at the end of “The Rain” (other than the brass players blacking out)?Were we REALLY listening when Dave ran through the links between songs?

Well folks, it would appear that we….

… WERE listening after all, as the opening show of the tour at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham, went off without a hitch. In fact, I would go as far as to say it was a cracker!

Before the show I met up with Ian Davies, an old school chum who I had reconnected with a few weeks ago after almost 40 years. Ian and his lovely wife Pauline were in Birmingham for the British Open Brass Band championships which were on in the same hall the following day and they came along to the show just to confirm that my playing had shown very little progress in the intervening decades.

It was great to catch up with them and they even came along to the soundcheck especially to watch me moan about the on-stage sound.

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Ticket sales were slow……..   Ian & Pauline at the soundcheck

A number of the venues we are playing on this tour are the Concert Hall type places – The Sage Gateshead, Bridgewater Hall Manchester, Festival Hall London etc – and these were not necessarily designed for bands like us.

A sea of scraping fiddles and sleeping trombonists was more what the acoustic designer had in mind when he sat down at the drawing board with a blank sheet of paper, and so consequently once we crank it up it sounds like a fire in a pet shop! All of the sound rockets the 300 feet or so up to the ceiling, swims around a bit and then rockets back to us with all the notes in a different order. Nightmare.

Thankfully we have the crew to end all crews and they soon had it tamed and sounding more like it should sound.

Of course, once you get a couple of thousand people in there, it changes completely again but, listening back to the mix afterwards, the boys did a stellar job as usual and you would almost think we knew what we were doing.

After the show there was the usual shenanigans and Ian and Pauline came backstage for a taste of the Stansfield glamour 😉 (sweaty musicians in their underpants, devouring the post show pizzas quicker than a shoal of piranha!)

On this tour we are apparently carrying a huge lighting and sound rig and so it took the poor old crew guys hours to get it all packed back into the trucks.

For some reason, my complaint about having to carry three bottles of wine all the way from the dressing room to the bus didn’t go down well and I’m fully expecting to find a horse’s head in my bunk one of these nights.

Or at least the empty wine bottles.

And so, with the first night safely under our belts, we pile on to the trusty bus for the journey north to Gateshead (oh, the glamour!) and Mickey’s home show. He’s apparently invited the great and the good of Hartlepool to the show – so that Fiat 500 will be packed to the gunwales!

A demain, mes amis….