Lisa Stansfield European Tour 2014 – Day 16/17: Munich to Stuttgart

So, yesterday’s blog saw us parked outside the amazing Circus Krone, one of only a handful of permanent circus venues in Europe.

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Putting aside what you may or may not feel about animals in the circus (I, myself am strongly against) it is still the most fascinating place you could ever get the chance to explore.

In the summer the circus is out on the road and only uses this building as its winter base – hence the Lisa Stansfield Circus’ playing there – but, even with everyone gone, it is still a very evocative and strange place.

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In the summer, whilst the whole shooting match is travelling, they take the opportunity to repair and decorate the buildings and so, before the soundcheck we were able to wander around – through the Lion pens and Tiger cages, the stables and the Hippo enclosure (although Mr Pottamus was still in residence, having been rested for the tour).

The sights and smells are just unbelievable and, even though they themselves are hundreds of miles away, the smell of the Lion pens still managed to strike fear into the heart. I still shudder now, even at the thought.

As I said, I’m strongly against wild animals in captivity but I guess it was some consolation to see the care and attention that was being taken with their accommodation and indeed the hi-tech medical facilities they had on site.

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The run where the Lions & Tigers come down into the arena

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Stables

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Big cat pens

Anyway, after the tour of the estate it was time to do some work.

The show takes place in the circus ring and what a grand and theatrical setting it is. Maybe it’s redolent of the idea of running away with the circus, but somehow this show feels a little more glamorous and exciting than the others.

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Sound check over, we got right in to the usual pursuit and, much as I was raving about the food yesterday in Cologne, this was out of this world. The chef had the absolute bare minimum of facilities and even less space but somehow he managed to create what was by a country mile the best dinner of the tour so far.

Tender Beef in an onion and balsamic sauce with dauphinoise potatoes and broccoli or Lamb Kebabs with Rice and roasted vegetables.

Plusā€¦..

CHOCOLATE PROFITEROLES!!!

They had to wheel me to the bus for my post-prandial lie down.

The show itself was another corker!

After her struggle with Hay Fever yesterday, Lisa had been to the doctor and he prescribed some amazing medicine which certainly did the trick.

She was absolutely on fire and I think this was easily as good a show as Paris, if not possibly better.

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Post show high spirits

After the show we had a relatively short (3 hours) drive to Stuttgart and a day off.

To be honest, I personally would rather be playing than have a day off but then again, ask any member of the crew and they would say that that was probably because I don’t really do any actual work on the days on!

They have a point.

We swan up at 4.00pm, play for an hour, moan about stuff and then tittle off until the evening when we put in an arduous 90 minute shift of drinking, dancing and generally fannying about on stage.

Those guys have been at it all day putting stuff up, making it work and then pulling it all back down again.

So, they deserve a day off, even if we don’t.

Next morning when we all crawled out of our bunks and checked in to the hotel, we agreed to liaise in the afternoon and make a plan for social activity.

Later that afternoon I was in my room attending to some business when Super Sooze texted me to say that some genius had suggested a BBQ and we were meeting at the bus at 5.00pm.

The venue and the hotel were next door to each other and the bus was parked between the two so we set up the grills beside the bus and got cracking.

It has to be said that Mickey came into his own in the presence of charcoal. Even though he was a tiny bit worse for wear, having been in the bar planning it since midday, his chefery was absolutely outstanding. What Mick can’t do with a sausage and a pair of tongs isn’t worth doing!

Several thousand calories later and the emptying of the last bottle of champagne was my cue to leave and get back to the room to carry on working.

I’m not sure exactly what happened in between but, at 2.00am there was a commotion outside my room and I went out, to be greeted rather effusively, by two of the band.

I say two of the band. I knew that’s what they were, but they had no idea. They quite clearly hadn’t the faintest clue who, what, how nor where they were.

I won’t name names but Party A was attempting to get Party B back to his room but it was definitely the blind leading the blind.

Blind drunk that is!

Luckily I had a rooming list and was able to see them both back safely.

They may need to return the favour one day…….

Lisa Stansfield European Tour 2014 – Day 6/7 Hamburg to Bremen

And so, we awoke early in the morning already parked outside the venue in Hamburg.

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On days when we are in and out with two overnighters back to back, it makes sense to just camp up at the venue rather than schlep backwards and forwards to and from a hotel. This was a nice modern venue with good dressing rooms and showers so that’s what we did.

It’s actually rather convenient and means that the vital locations of the day – stage, dressing room, catering and bunk – are all within a couple of minutes walk of each other.

The day started well with a good old fry up and a couple of strong coffees and I was ready to take on the world.

The venue – The Congress Centre – was a modern place with big, wide, comfortable seats and a steep rake to the auditorium. It was a beautiful building with lovely acoustics and I’m sure very comfortable for the audience but, if I’m honest, we kind of knew that the atmosphere at the gig would be a little flat and reserved. It’s almost always the case that the more comfy the seats, the less involved the audience gets and that rule certainly held that evening.

The comfy seat syndrome was also exacerbated by the fact that the stage was huge and the front row was a corporation bus ride away.

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A brass eye view (if you’ll pardon the expression!)

This is why we all much prefer playing in clubs as the vibe is always so much better. As the audience are all standing, none of them has to feel conscious about blocking the view of someone sitting behind them. They’re all in the same boat and it doesn’t take much to get it rocking!

Anyway, it’s not our job to moan about the conditions – as good at is as we are – but rather to crack on and give every show 100% for the sake of the people who have paid good money to see Lisa – seated or not.

After breakfast we all filled in the time with our own stuff – emails, Facebook etc. and before we knew it it was lunch time.

One of the down sides of touring as a band member (and there aren’t many, I admit) is the fact that there are often sizeable chunks of time to be filled. There is a famous quote from Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the band who, when asked how he would sum up 25 years of the Rolling Stones replied “5 years playing and 20 years hanging around”. That will certainly resonate with anyone who has toured for more than a few weeks at a time.

Unfortunately, one of the ways in which you fill the time is by eating and, given there is food everywhere – catering, in the dressing room, on the bus – it sometimes feels like I regularly eat my own body weight in Bountys.

As the venue was pretty central, after lunch Mick and I had a walk into town for a look around.

As a city named after fast food it’s a very pleasant place and we had a good look around, I bought some shoes and then we had a coffee by the lakeside and watched the world go by.

Come to think of it there are a number of food themed cities in Germany, all of which are very beautiful places. Hamburg, Frankfurt, the Black Forest, Vienna (ok, that’s Austria but….. hey).

In the UK, of course, we have Eccles, Pontefract, Dundee.

Ah, well….. perhaps not.

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Ich bin ein Hamburger

Sightseeing done, we headed back to the venue for the soundcheck and my traditional pre-show zzzz and before we knew it we were at the side of the stage ready to go on.

As expected, the audience were a little muted at first but Lisa always manages to get them up on their feet and rocking. With typical teutonic efficiency however, the stewards shepherded the party animals who had come to the front back to their seats but, each time within a couple of minutes Lisa had them back again and this game of musical chairs (?) went on for half the show until the stewards gave up.

So, after another great show we were all in high spirits and looking for some mischief – particularly as the next day was a day off.

We were driving overnight to Bremen but we couldn’t leave until 1.00am – something to do with the driver’s hours – so we all ended up in the hotel bar next door telling stories, watching Eurovision and steadily emptying our wallets.

At the appointed hour, our trusty bus pulled away from the venue and things had already started to get messy.

By the time we arrived in Bremen, there were many casualties and it was clear that checking in to the hotel was a non starter. So, it was our bunks as usual and every man for himself the next morning.

A day off in Bremen loomed so no-one was up particularly early but, by midday-ish most people had checked in.

For football fans today was a big day – particularly for Mike the bus driver, Sooze our mum and Walter the tour manager, as they are all Liverpool fans and they were still clinging desperately on to the forlorn hope that the stars would align, West Ham would suddenly become any good and they would not have squandered the best chance they have had in 20 odd years to win the League.

As a staunch Wycombe Wanderers fan whose league position had been secured by only the frailest of margins a couple of weeks before, I was mildly ambivalent as to the outcome – although I think it would have been nice for Liverpool to win. However, for the sake of team spirit, I agreed to go with them all to the nearest Irish Pub (every city has an Irish Pub) to watch the game.

Once the inevitable had happened, it was back to the hotel for some food and then to finish my book (in the bath, of course).

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Bus driver and Liverpool fan Mike contemplates what might have been……

A nice early night in theory, turned into a late one as I was intent on learning the eventual fate of the eponymous Stoner in the classic John Williams novel. (not much, is the answer)

Lights out at 3.10am and alarm set for 10.00am.

Now that’s what I call a schedule………

Lisa Stansfield European Tour 2014 – Day 4: Zurich to Frankfurt

And so, with a mixture of relief, excitement and a little trepidation, we took to the stage for the first gig of the tour.

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Volkshaus, Zurich

It had seemed like quite a long day which, given we had been at the venue since 10.00 am, I suppose it had. The overnight journey had been pretty uneventful with everyone hitting the sack quite early so as to at least start the tour strong.

Of course, for the crew guys, the first show is quiet a big day as they have to get everything set up and are more often than not having to work with equipment which is not necessarily what they asked for in a space which is not necessarily optimal.

However, experienced pros as they are, they just crack on and get it done, seamlessly making sure that, once the lazy-arsed band arrive, they have nothing to whinge about (although we still try!)

In the afternoon we all in the band had a series of interviews with Bev Nathan who runs the web site and, as they were all done individually, it was a little like shepherding cats, with people coming and going all at the wrong time and the hours filled with either too many people waiting, or no-one at all.

I’m still not sure that she managed to catch everyone but soon enough it was time for us to do some actual work!

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“It all began when I was 5 years old…………”

Sound check was a little longer than usual as we wanted to run through some of the bits of the set which we weren’t 100% sure of and, believe it or not, we made some MORE changes to the arrangements – just to make sure no-one felt they had it under control.

Once that was out of the way it was all up to catering for dinner before we all disappeared off to indulge in our individual pre-gig routines.

Snowboy likes to go to the TV room and watch some 1950s classic TV box set, 80s Dave likes to get the mullet in order and Mickey likes to play Candy Bloody Crush!!

Me. I like to crawl into my bunk and have a little siesta.

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My pre-show meditation room

Alarm set for 8.15pm sees me up with just enough time to get washed and dressed in time for the 15 minute call when Michael and I break open the Vodka and Red Bull and prepare our pre-show pick-me-up.

For a first show of the tour, I think it all went pretty well really. There were inevitably a couple of wobbly moments but somehow the wheels stayed on and we made it through without too many mishaps.

Lisa was on form (as ever) and a big shout out to Terry who, despite having done a number of TV shows with us over the past few months, was on his first actual live show. He did an amazing job and was not in the least put off by the dazzling footwork of the brass team.

Post show there was much relief and a considerable amount of celebration before we all climbed on the bus for the (fairly short) trip to Frankfurt and the second show.

It’s always nice to get the first show out of the way and we can now hopefully all relax and start to really enjoy the trip……

Today’s Poll……..

Lisa Stansfield European Tour 2014 – Day 3: London to Zurich

So, with rehearsals behind us and most of us still at best a little unsure of what’s going on, it was departure day – something which had come as a bit of a shock to Snowboy, who thought we weren’t leaving until Friday! Not bad. Only two days out…..

Having said that, I personally was about as unprepared for a month away as it’s possible to get without being totally unaware that it was happening at all. I hadn’t packed a thing. I hadn’t even thought about packing a thing. I still had tons of business stuff to take care of …. ooh and the minor matter of a VAT return to do!

The plan was to get up REALLY early and whip through everything but, to be honest, I lay awake so much planning this I thought I may as well get up and do it.

So, at 1.00am I turned on the office light and began my quadrannual missive to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs. (I may have just made up a word)

Two hours and several thousand pounds later I crawled into bed painfully aware that the alarm would be going off in under 4 hours.

To be honest, I’m usually pretty relaxed about travelling and within an hour of getting up I had everything packed and was ready to rock.

First stop on the trip though, was a TV Studio in South London where we were to record a couple of songs for the Aled Jones Show which would air on Saturday (while we are in Hamburg).

Anyone who has ever done a TV show will tell you that it’s possibly the most boring thing you could ever do. It makes waiting for a bus feel like white water rafting!

Talk about “Hurry Up and Wait”

The day’s tedium was briefly broken by a last minute Change of one of the songs (there’s a hint there!) but other than that it was the inexorable crawl towards losing the will to live. Endless run throughs for no apparent reason all interspersed by platitudes from relentlessly cheerful telly people.

On a side note though. Aled Jones. What a nice bloke!

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What, again? (The Aled Jones Show)

Finally, it was all over and we were free to go.

The bus arrived around 5.00pm and there followed the usual unseemly scramble to get the bunks furthest away from the snorers (you know who you are!!). Over the past year of touring with this band a natural order has established itself and the two bunk rooms have gravitated towards a quiet, peaceful room and a noisy, smelly room.

I, naturally, am in the more tranquil and fragrant of the two (….what?) but I nevertheless have to run the gauntlet of hell to get to the TV room. Not much TV gets watched!

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The Gauntlet…….

So, the fighting over, we settled down for the 16 hour drive to Zurich and the first show.

Not much to tell of the trip really. A few drinks and then off to bed at a reasonable hour so as to at least start off well.

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Home, Sweet Home

One other piece of business:

Anyone who knows me well will recall that I have, for many years, said that I think that every man should see his own bald head at least once in his life. So, as we are away for a month I thought it would be a good idea to complete what mother nature has been working on for the past few years and get my money’s worth out of that hair trimmer.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the result:

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I quite like it……..

Today’s Poll is………

Tales of Derring do – Lisa Stansfield: Japan, 1994

Over the past few weeks, as you know, I have been blogging on a daily basis from the Lisa Stansfield European tour and indeed I intend to continue doing so once we restart the tour in Italy in July.

However, I have enjoyed the process so much that I thought I might periodically post a bit more blog stuff. I really enjoy writing and it’s great to have a deadline to get you started.

So often over the past few weeks of the tour I have sat down with absolutely no idea of what I was going to write. Oh, sure I could just spell out the day’s events in minute detail but I’m pretty sure both of you would get bored of that pretty quickly.

However, just knowing that, no matter how much I might want to give it a miss today, the fact that I had promised to do it meant that there was no getting out of it. Yes folks, that’s how I roll. Gimme a deadline and I’ll meet it!

So, I just sit down and start to write and…. waddya know? Stuff comes out. I’ll leave you to decide whether or not it’s interesting stuff…….. but it comes out nonetheless.

And so, here I am in the middle of the hiatus between the UK tour and getting back out to Europe and I’m actually missing the writing process. There’s a kind of catharsis in sharing the day’s events with people who are interested (hopefully) and besides, I am feeling the need to be creative darling.

So, I thought I might share some of the tales of derring do that an arthritic old musician like me collects over the years. In the 30-odd years I’ve been a professional musician I’ve been shot at, arrested, deported from the US (twice), set fire to a hotel, scored a goal at Wembley and a whole host of other ridiculous situations that a lad who was a coal miner when he left school should never have been in.

If people are interested in hearing about me wearing Lisa’s feather fascinator then surely they would be fascinated by me being kidnapped by the Japanese mafia?

You never know – the stories might build up into that book I’ve always threatened to write.

And so, if only for that reason, I am going to begin a quasi regular blog in between the tour blog, reliving some of these preposterous events. The worst that could happen is that no-one reads them. (Actually, the worst that could happen is that I get sued by someone who was trying to keep it under wraps, but whatever)

So, it seems entirely appropriate that I begin this odyssey with a story set within the confines of the Lisa Stansfield Japanese tour of 1994 (I never promised chronological order)

Japan Itinerary

Funnily enough, when I look back, it seems that very little has changed over the intervening years. This story too, has its beginnings in the bar.

This particular night in Nagoya was like most others in so far as we had done the show and were enjoying a nice relaxing drink šŸ˜‰ back at the hotel.

For this particular leg of the tour we had a temporary monitor engineer by the name of Flakey who was, in technical audio engineering parlance, a bit of a dick! He was one of those fellas that just loved to be awkward and argumentative and he’d pretty much upset everyone by this time.

Anyway, we were all having a nice time when we gradually became aware of an argument between Flakey and a local guy who was a bit worse for wear and they were just firing up a bit of jostling. Most of us relished the prospect of him getting a punch up the bracket but I guess common sense prevailed and the argument was broken up and Flakey sent on his way.

And so the evening continued in the usual way and ended up with me having to surrender around 3.00am and be the first one to go to bed. To be fair, that SakeĀ“ slips down very easily and I still maintain there’s no shame in being the first one to retire – but it didn’t go down very well at all.

However, at that point in time and with that much SakeĀ“ behind me, bed took precedence over saving face (Japan or not!) and off I toddled to my room.

As soon as my head hit the pillow I was fast asleep and knew nothing at all until I was rudely awoken by the telephone. It was 5.00am.

You know when the phone goes off and you’re fast asleep but your body goes into panic mode and you leap up and answer the phone with unbelievable enthusiasm. Like you’ve been up for hours and you’re being REALLY efficient?

Well that’s NOT what I did. I answered the phone like someone who had been drinking SakeĀ“ until only two hours beforehand and didn’t have a clue where he was, what day it was or whether he was Arthur or Martha.

“Guuhh”……. I greeted the caller.

“Johnny. It’s Tim” (Hook, the Tour Manager) “Get up and pack all your things. We’ve been kicked out of the Hotel”

“WHAT?”

“It all kicked off downstairs after you left. Flakey came back down and started a massive fight. Chairs flying, glasses smashed…. the lot. The Police came and the management have kicked us all out of the hotel. We’ve got half an hour to get out, so pack your things and get downstairs as quick as you can!”

As I put down the phone in confused disbelief, my eyes slowly scanned the room. There were clothes everywhere and the detritus from the meal I had on room service last night seemed to be spread over every surface. Cups, glasses, plates. The lot. It looked like a chase scene from Tom & Jerry.

And we’ve got half an hour to pack up and get out………

There was no time for folding. Oh no. Everything just got shoved, squashed and forced into my suitcase. Clean or dirty, it all got rammed into the case along with toiletries and anything else I vaguely recognised.

Through the confused haze of exhaustion, drunkenness and hangover (yes, it IS possible to have the two things simultaneously) I just about made the half hour deadline and, feeling like death, dragged my suitcase and my sorry arse out of the room and searched for the elevator.

As I trudged along the corridor I felt an awful sense of dread at the prospect of what was to come. We’d never find a hotel for 15 people at 5.30am. I could just see us all camped around a park bench for hours while Tim searched for a new hotel.

As I sank deeper into a morass of self pity, tiredness and the onset of early stage nausea I arrived at the elevator station and, as I rounded the corner was confronted by the entire band and crew……

Waaheeeeeeeeeey!!!! They all shouted.

Then fell about on the floor laughing uncontrollably.

Bastards!!!!

I wasn’t sure whether to be pissed off or relieved. In any event, I wasn’t really given the opportunity to do either because a drink was shoved in my hand and, before I knew it, everyone was in my room.

Well. It was the tidiest………….

Japan Dates Japan Personnel Nagoya Itinerary

My First Instalment of my Blog of Mine What I’ve Done!

“You’ve always got something to say for yourself” they said. “Always got an opinion on this, that and the other”.

You should write a blog” they said, “…instead of cluttering up our Facebook news feeds….with your long winded dissertations!”

“Oh yes, and what do you suggest I write about?” I said

“Well, you had a successful career as a session musician didn’t you?” they said

“… and then built up a couple of multi-million pound businesses in the music industry” they said

“Well….yes…and?”

“Well, you should share some of that knowledge with those people who care, instead of bothering us with it!” they said

“Right! I WILL”, I said.

“GOOD”, they said

“OK”, I said

and then we had another drink……

So, being a man of my word, I opened a WordPress account and here we are!Ā My first instalment of my blog of mine what I’ve done.

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I shall endeavour to make my posts witty, erudite and informative, but in truth I will probably end up upsetting people by being contrary and outspoken.

For the moment, though, I am using this rather short (in both words and content) post to try out the upload procedure.

How hard can it be?