Blog: Tales of The Night Before the Morning After (Winter 2010)

Caldo Verde

2nd December 2010 | Juliet

Despite the snow, we made it to Lisbon. Rescheduled flights, running for connections, a trip from the highest Highlands of Scotland, and a punctured taxi didn’t stop the journeying…

But it was the snow that was the main news of the day. When the snow hits the South of England there is always a national emergency…

At the airport in Manchester there were a few cancelled flights. At Heathrow the board showed mostly cancelled. Gatwick was cancelled totally.

So, Lisbon on a cool evening.. a taxi ride to the Bairro Alto to sample the delightful Ginjinha… a row of glasses on a bar and a pouring to the rim with this thick red liquor…could it be some kind of sloe gin?…It’s Ginjinha anyway..

And we move on through the chilly night up the cobbles in search of Fado music. And we find it and sit on a wooden table and eat olives and green wine (Vinho Verde) and Bacalhau à Brás, the famous salt cod which our local friend and guide says is like scrambled egg. Well not quite. Whatever, it’s fantastic ‘cos it’s late and it’s been a long day of traveling and running for planes that end up sitting on the tarmac for almost as long as they are in the air.

In this bar there are two guitarists. Fancy guitars though. Huge and lute-like in shape, the special one that we are told even Jimmy Paige couldn’t get a grip of. Such is local information. The strings provide an amazing textured layer of melody and rhythm for the Fado singer to take a stand from. When we enter the restaurant there is a man in a white suit doing his song, then the woman with the very black eyes takes over, and when the Fado singer starts, I mean takes over. All conversation stops. It’s like a drama there in front of you. Stopping you mid sentence or mid forkful…

There are other fish events too, we are in Lisbon so it has to be …and a starter of the famous Caldo Verde soup which we are assured is vegetable, cabbage, but has a piece of pork in it , but it’s vegetable the vegetarians are assured ..it’s thick and greenish.

The Fado ranges from the slightly too loud to the ecstatic jaw droppingly beautiful. It sounds like these unamplified voices could reach the back of a stadium…. Dessert and sweets is what Portugal excels at so our host says we have to try the Baba de Camelo, which our local host translates as…”camel saliva”. However it turns out it’s actually caramel mousse, so we do. It’s like the gloop from banoffee pie without the pie. Six teaspoons dip in.

A very amazing woman singer ends the show, performs some Fado with such passion and style it is hard for us to leave the bar. She is wearing one of those black lace scarves which she twirls around her fingers that look like ornate gloves.. But leave we must. The singer with the scarf comes over to say goodbye and we invite the singers to the gig but they can’t make it ‘cos they got their own show. It’s the small hours. Back down through the cobbled streets. Lisbon is alive and happening. It’s drizzling… We refuse another Ginjinha and jump in a cab…past the squares and the fountains…Lisbon by night so beautiful…saudade

Murder in Tim’s room

3rd December 2010 | Juliet

Lisbon is a very beautiful city and from the hotel we can see the venue. A domed circular palace of a building, designed with more than a nod to Moorish architecture, with red whipped meringue turrets. It’s the old bull ring, and these days has all sorts of activities within it, including the occasional bullfight.

A lengthy soundcheck is followed by dinner: chicken in oil, undressed salad, rice and chips in the diner next door.

The dressing room has a brick-effect partition divider. “That’s not gonna stay like that long,” says Jim. ”Watch that, and it’s heavy.” Health and safety out the window.

The juicer is back. Five kg of carrots, ginger, apples and beetroots are crushed and served.

Then the show. The first since Guadalajara. There is an extended version of Sound that seems to be the 12-inch disco version, or maybe a whole mini-album’s worth, and quite a long Sometimes. On the gig, Tim said “it was ecstatic.” Beyond that he was too busy to comment.

News on Sky showed flight delays, fuel shortages and snow. Endless snow and crisis ensuing across the UK. Spanish airport workers not working. Wonder if we will get back to the UK in time for the tour? …Visions of going overland or by boat.

After the show a mega crowd of Portuguese soap stars and their friends along with others enter the dressing room. And yes the wall-effect partition comes tumbling down…. towards me but I have my arms full of a king-size black duvet and Tim’s magic black suede shoes…and can do nothing but gasp. A hunk of a Portuguese man grabs the tumbling partition and saves the day….

Next day reportage from Andy says there was later a party in Tim’s hotel room where there was a game of Murder. It sounds like the board game Cluedo but with drama and thirty players. Tim said he was murdered by his cousin on his bed with a shoe.

Oporto in the Park

5th December 2010 | Juliet

We took the train up from Lisbon.  It was very prompt and very comfortable. 

They brought us coffee in small cups, and desert that was coffee flavoured below and something pistachio green with flaked almonds on top.  Dave slept most of the way.  He wins the prize for kipping anywhere.  Tim worked at his laptop, and our table of four we read novels and looked around.  Out the window there was a flash of seaside and a sighting of snow on the distant mountains and then we were there…

Jim pulled on his hat.  Yes it was cold.  A North-South temperature shift… I’d left my hat on this very punctual train but George Clooney’s doppelganger who was playing the amiable stylish guard said I could get back on and have a look…he would hold the ever so punctual train…no hat though…a black hat lost into a black hole on a train seat in northern Portugal.

And then to the hotel, a bit of reformulating, and off to the venue, which is also a dome.  A concrete dome.  So cold though as there is no heating.  The crew look like they are on a mission in Antarctica.   Lagged to the full.  They have had a very very long day, having left Lisbon at the crack of dawn on buses.

The dressing rooms are cold.  There is a fan heater.  It’s not making a difference to the temperature though.  I make some fresh root ginger tea and honey.  The cure for inner chills and it catches on.  I make 25 cups of the stuff.

The building is a sports hall stadium set in the park.  We are directed to the park refectory to eat.  “I bring the kids here sometimes for an ice cream,” chirps Saul and tucks into a baked apple..

The gig is heaving with people.  It’s a mega crowd in this mega stadium. People are wearing coats and scarves…

Alberto the photographer is enthusiastic as ever and is jumping around the stage snapping with Daliesque passion . Larry who has a severe back pain, somehow manages to find a last burst of dance energy for the encore and stage invasion. Tim does the whole gig in his coat.

Chaise longue?

9th December 2010 | Juliet

The first show of the UK tour is in London.  Leave the ice rink and snowy mountains behind and head south.  Crossing London tricky, students rioting, tube up the creek, mile long queues for taxis. 

London taxi drivers, don’t you just love them?  This one tells me a story about Lady Diana’s flowers in Kensington.  How the whole road smelt of perfume.  Then he tells me the story about a bloke that got in the back.  I said, “I know you,” he tells the tale.  “Turns out he was Bill Wyman,” he went on… “Pick him up a lot now, he lives over there.”

Get to hotel finally.  The band are already in London ‘cos there was a production rehearsal yesterday.  Tim tells me he played guitar on one of the songs standing in for Larry…

Tim has been doing a photoshoot for his next project.  He is really happy because he slept for 13 hours and is now full of energy ready for the tour.

Larry however is absent, and appears later, limping badly.  He has a serious back condition and is on uber-painkillers which so far are not working.  But the show must go on, and it does.

The V.I.P. warm-up sets off and is followed by a question and answer session from the audience to the stage.  Tim’s manager is there and says “I never heard that story about Brian Eno.”  Sorry I didnt catch it, but guess some of you did…

Catering is back.  No more foraging for Mexican take-outs etc…  Instead it’s there and todays soup is lentil and lemon.  Later the fish pie with peas runs out.

Everyone is very excited about the gig.  The venue is a huge old theatre type building.  Some sitting and a massive standing crowd.  Larry takes a seat for some of the show. Jims sums up the first show of the tour: “Chose to play a strange set but somehow made it work. Tried to keep Larry in the poorly chair but he refused. Hope he’s Ok today.”

There is talk of getting him a stylish chaise longue for the tour, to make him more comfortable and also mention of a hospital bed.  The latter is less likely than the former.

Brixton: Sitting down in sympathy with Larry

10th December 2010 | Tim

The manager of Brixton Academy of 15 years standing said this was the best that he had seen us play, and other kind words that would make a nun blush. All Larry’s previous days’ pain management efforts have come to nought.  As he desperately climbs the food chain of tranquilisers from small child to horse, now we are in search of elephant stun guns… looking for relief from the fire that won’t go out.

V.I.P. soundcheck: As a band we insisted upon these V.I.P. soundchecks because they were so successful in America. We enjoy the intimacy, humour, and it focuses us.  Best of all it relaxes us for the gig to come because we’ve already played a mini-gig to some faces we will see again later.  I’ll admit the initial idea was presented as a way to tour America without losing money this time, but it’s turned into something that we enjoy and so far everyone who has been to one seems to think it’s wonderful too.  So to ye naysayers, check it out before you slag it off.  In these high tech days where people no longer buy music, bands have to find more creative ways to survive.  We will choose the ones that mix creativity with pleasure.

Once again we chose an insanely suicidal set list.  This recent development was inspired by the American tour where we alternated 54 songs in increasingly bizarre orders and found much to our surprise that the audience loved it, and we received the best reviews we’ve probably ever had.  At the Hammersmith gig I’d thought we had lost the audience three quarters of the way through, only to realise it was part of my paranoid delusion.  In Brixton Saul turned to me and said, “I don’t think we should play Don’t Wait That Long, we’re losing them. ” Luckily James don’t have an efficient communication system worthy of its name and the set continued and was, dare I say it, fantastic.  But this gives you an indication of how nervous we are playing to a British audience who we know many of whom have come to see the wham-bam-thank-you-mam Burger King James greatest hits and then get confronted with a 15-course meal at the Fat Duck. (Some hits of course included.)

By the way, in answer to the OneOftheThree.co.uk review suggesting we should rest Out To Get You, we’ve tried.  But it’ s still so alive as a song, and Saul’s solos are still so fresh and unexpected, that it’s impossible to do so.

I loved the gig so much that when I was standing on the crash barrier I allowed myself to swallow dive into the mosh. The last time I did that was ’95 in the same venue.  And I remember thirty people went down under the crush.  I realised that if someone had got injured, I would have been responsible, so haven’t done it since.  I think our audiences are a little more conscious now.  If you see me heading your way be gentle with me, I bruise easily.  I’ve always loved that image of Iggy Pop standing up walking out into the audience raised on peoples hands; well a boy can dream.

Frosty the Snowman & huevos rancheros

11th December 2010 | Juliet

Frosty the Snowman is playing every hour it seems on the bedside Magic Radio. Frosty and Kirsty and Shane’s duet never let us forget that Xmas is coming…

A crisp pre-Xmas day in London. Breakfast of huevos rancheros at the local Giraffe, where the salsa in the basement loos takes on disco proportions. We walk in Kensington Palace gardens but skip a visit to the Enchanted Palace. In the park Japanese tourists take close-ups of pigeons, and tame squirrels run up legs…  And a new black hat was found and bought.

We ate at Wagamamas. Too much MSG…

“We were dark, the set was dark, Dave’s suit was dark”

12th December 2010 | Juliet

The gig in Birmingham went along with the shuffle of the 54 songs…a pack of cards?  Which two are the jokers?  A carefully thought out  mixture of the back catalogue with a few wild cards thrown in, including God Only Knows

Larry says, “The pain is shifting , a sharp pain when I walk, but I am not in agony.  The injections may have kicked in.”  He’s on some kind of power drugs that don’t seem to have worked immediately but are now easing things.  He is spending 22 hours of the day horizontal.

Soup on arrival was sweet potato and coconut.  Then the usual soundcheck and V.I.P. do-da.

Sunday roast followed, with hazelnut loaf vegetarian option, and then the gig…

“It was kind of scary,” said Jim,” we were dark, the set was dark, Dave’s suit was dark.  It stayed dark.  Everyone in the band thought it was quite a mean and moody, dark gig, but the crowd left exhilarated.”

Matty the drummer from The Twang appeared backstage, and we popped out into the pit just in time to see Out to Get You.  Just as a local roofer named Saul was climbing off the balcony hanging over the crowd below.  He’d felt like a caged animal  in the seated area and security wouldn’t let him out.  He jumped just as Tim sang “Out to get you…here we go again…”  Downstairs security heftily chucked him out so he missed the last few songs Laid and Sometimes.

Tim said, “Could you get him to teach me how to drop like that?” (This Saul lands like a cat.)

Stayed in a Hotel Du Vin and went to France for breakfast.  A real french waiter brought the basket of croissants and le yaourt was citron.  He called me Madam ‘n all.  Tres délicieux.  The café au lait was just right too.

Then it was all aboard the bus for a quick hop to Leeds.  Today is a day off.

Leeds knickers

14th December 2010 | Juliet

Soup was Corn Chowder with tabasco on the side…

Leeds football manager Simon Grayson and some of the team were at the VIP soundcheck.

Outside the venue is the xmas market and funfair bit where painted ponies go up and down, but they were resting when we went past earlier so we didn’t have a ride.

Frazer King were the support.  A sound like nothing else.  Catchy tunes and doo wop harmonies over melodies that sound like they are going backwards.  A quirky, high energy event.  Definitely worth making the effort to get there early in Manchester where they will play before the Pigeon Detectives.

Some red frilly knickers were thrown at Tim early on.  Maybe they were a spare overnight pair?

After the first encore the band came on again and did Top of The World, a chill out song.  Good night Leeds, a great audience.

Leicester: random reflections when it’s too early

15th December 2010 | Juliet

Reporting live from the bus in the twilight at 9.05am , still on the bus on the way to central Glasgow.  Stuck in the commuter traffic jam of Thursday.

The local cheese in Leicester is orange.  It used to be coloured with beetroot and carrot but for many years it has been coloured with annatto.  Some people have a reaction to annatto.

De Montfort Hall is set in grounds.  Drove from Birmingham… two and a bit hours drive.  It’s a soggy day.

The Pigeon Detectives were back as support.  There was no alcohol in the hall.  Only water.

Nice venue.

Tim: “A very real and naked concert.  Everybody playing really well.  Technically very good.  Unknown to us, the soundman was vomiting into a cardboard box during the set, possibly from the tension of dealing with yet more unknown songs.”

Got the Shakes,  first UK performance of the song had audience participation.

Tim was playfully coerced into playing guitar by Saul on Lookaway….

A challenging set list meant the band felt obliged to play some songs that begin with S.

Tiramisu and vegetarian cannelloni for dinner.  There was a starter of some dates stuffed with hazelnuts, blue cheese wrapped in parma ham, or roasted butternut squash soup.

No knickers were thrown.

Stuart from  the Twang was at the gig aftershow.  He’s back playing guitar with them for gigs next week.

Set off in the night to glasgow.  A three hour drive.  Which has taken seven…so far…

Strepsils and salsa at the SECC

17th December 2010 | Juliet

Mark is unwell, he thinks it’s tonsillitis. He is on Benylin, Strepsils and Beroccas. It’s been bad for a few days. Now today Tim has woken with a flu. He seeks help from the Chinese doctor down the road. First the doctor uses oil, and then suction cups which are jangled over the spine itself with pressure causing deep red blood blisters along the length of the spine. It looks terrible. Next comes the cupping. Tim said he felt like he was grappling with an octopus by the end. His back is cherry red circles with a central deep purple red stripe on the spine.

The Chinese doctor then removed the cups and put needles in the head and wrists which caused gasps and shrieks from behind the Ikea curtain.  His needling is of the no holds barred method.

Next the herbs are dispensed. Handfuls of grasses, berries and white polystyrene chunks are placed on paper plates and piled high. These four doses are then decanted into paper bags, folded, and instructions given as to their decocting….

Tim takes to his bunk as we drive to the SECC for soundcheck.  It’s a case of do-not-disturb-till-last-minute-please. The herbs are decocted and administered.  It smells like hamster bedding. Add some honey to improve it. Tim feels sick after the first dose and carries on sleeping until soundcheck.

Meanwhile in catering there is cream of tomato soup and a greek mezze selection. There is some soup set aside without the cream, vegan version.

While the band are soundchecking Alex the chef comes in with houmous and salsa, Dave’s post show refuelling fodder with taco chips.  “So how does your day go Alex?” I make him sit down on the leather sofa and tell me. “I can only sit down for a couple of minutes,” he says. I have never seen Alex sit down. It’s the cooks who keep us all going so here I will feature a day in the life of one of our chefs:

Alex:

“Day starts with unloading the flight cases at 8am…from ovens to wooden spoons.

“Then I get cooked breakfast on for the light and sound crew of 30.

Then I start making lunch.  Start with the soup…… (NB the importance of SOUP – Jules)

“At 12.30 lunch is served to 30 people. I have a look through dressing room riders and put everything into place, then I go back into the kitchen to help cook dinner.  Serve dinner at 5.30. Tonight we are feeding about 60 people. Once dinner done clean and clear it all away and put everything into flight cases. Generally we sit down with a glass of wine at 9.30ish and write the days menus and shopping lists for the next day so Wilf can go shopping in the morning. Then wait for the band to leave and I have to be on radio for anything that’s requested. At about 1am clear out the dressing rooms of crockery and glasses and finally back to the bus for a nightcap and on the bus to the next venue.”

 - Alex Gray, Chef in charge of dressing rooms…with Flying Saucers..

A chorus of funkin’ angels

18th December 2010 | Juliet

Tim is hoteled and shiatsued and sleeping. Next buy some Olbas oil for a steam inhalation. Holland and Barrett have run out. Boots never let us down and I grab some herbal throat lozenges just to cover all possibilities, and remarkably as I pass through tillward there is some wheat-free fresh chicken soup by Waitrose which is residing in Boots… Whatever next? Soon you will be able to buy flatpack furniture in Boots.

The nice man at the hotel heats the broth and sends it to the patient.

I meet Niamh for coffee and tea in the crushed velvet sofas downstairs and we regroup. It’s dark mid afternoon. Manchester looks magical round by the cathedral in the snow, lights and people in winter wonderland gear.

Tim is not eating much for a few days and feels very queasy….and feverish.

Questions from the audience come thick and fast. Where does Dave get his hat? Jim answers for him, “He found it on a bus in Wrexham.” What would make the world a better place? (paraphrased) Larry jumps in with an acute attack of Tourette’s symptoms (sic) to say “Ban @@###@@ religion” in his colourful expletive-expressive way. Tim stands stock still and silent during this bit.

The cameras are whirling round. There are big screens. Tim stops talking to rest his voice and throat which hurts..a lot.

When I find him later he is standing in front of a man who is tenderly holding his face with two hands. Oh sorry… It looked like the interlude of some deep snog, but no he was the doctor checking him out for swollen glands.

Soup is French onion. You can have it with beef stock (traditional) or vegetarian version which is in a smaller pan in the kitchen. White wine is used or the onions go pink said Wilf.

After attempting dinner Tim gets up and passes out in the corridor and before we know it there is the doctor again who has prescribed full-on steroids and antibiotics etc to get him through this fever. The fainting was caused by eating…low BP and blood rushing to the stomach etc.

Tonight there are both support acts Frazer King and Pigeon Detectives whipping up the atmosphere in the stadium.

The special thing about this gig is the 13,000-strong audience ….and then there’s the choir who add magnificently to Got The Shakes, Tell Her I Said So and Lookaway…a backline of funkin’ angels conducted by Joe Duddell, who also plays a mean tambourine.

Tim’s voice is holding up brilliantly and just now the band are officially part of the Finest range at Tescos.

The encore of Sometimes and Gold Mother has choir and full on audience stage invasion. An Xmas do with Chris’s supercharged dancing lights.

Mega aftershow that extends till the wee hours. Larry’s dad is there as are Saul’s folks and Jim’s huge family.

Help Cally sort and pack down the dressing rooms. Find shower gel and towels for those who need them. Why are they always in the wrong room?

Get back to my hotel, take off my pass and reach for my phone to switch it off…it’s gone…quiet liberation… Good night……

Last game of the season, our cup final

18th December 2010 | Jim

To be honest it was a pretty stressful day. The was so much illness and injury in the James extended family it was hard to see a way through the days tight and demanding schedule.

The soundcheck was rushed and clunky as we tried to meet the requirements of a film crew, integrate a choir and get ourselves happy with our onstage sound. The VIPers gave us a brief respite from the panic and a blast of supportive warmth that raised our spirits better than a large glass of Granny’s eggnog.

The gig (such a small word for such a big event) gave us all an elephant-size dose of adrenaline and all pains were forgotten. We did what we do best - banged out big faves, educated with the new, got dark and threatening and put our all into the last game of the season, our cup final. We won 3-0 or thereabouts. Afterwards I got very drunk.

Big thanks to all our crew who made this happen and I hope the U.S. contingent made it home before Heathrow broke.

Also many thanks to The Pigeon Detectives and my newfound best buds Frazer King.

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