November 16, 2017
I arrived late in London after Cambridge, and ensconced in a comfortable room, I slept. Briefly.
Up early, I got coffee at the bar and then did twat all in my room. Excellent staring at nothing may have occurred.
In the afternoon, I went out to pick up some things.
Had an unusually shocking bad lunch at Wagamama, that I circled with a fork, and then I went to see the Death of Stalin in the cinema, aware that my appreciation of it was likely lessened by the absence of David.
I found myself to be ill, not waga related, and eventually managed to get back to my Hotel, with the help of G who was luckily close by.
Hearing this, my eldest daughter, a london resident, and herself poorly, came to my room in the evening, and after I had run a bath for my stage outfit, we softened one another with kindnesses and shit TV, ’til we both fell asleep in my bed.
This morning her alarm sounded, and I chivvied her into getting ready for work.
She has always been the undead first thing, and all the cognoscenti know to placate her with coffee-blood.
Instantly perky we bid a fond adieu, after eating eggs and asking for the breakfast room speaker music that raised in me violence, to be turned down to stun.
Alone, I think to sleep again, but know it futile.
After a couple of hours I walk out for more coffee, and a light lunch from Leon, before bathing myself and packing my case for tonight’s first of 2 Palladium shows.
Vinny collects me at 3pm.
I feel out of sorts.
I don’t know what that’s all about.
Being under it maybe.
Is it the ‘London gig’ anxiety that most acts seem to carry?
London audiences have every choice at their fingertips, and are thought to be hardened and lofty and ungenerous, but that is not my experience.
London has always given me the warmest of welcomes.
Besides which, I am no more in the thrall of one city than any other.
Here, though, I think, they have seen my changes happen.
They seem to expect me to come as I am, and I love them for that.
The only stresses I have ever really felt was knowing my parents were in the audience, and they have clapped on the down-beat of their last show.
Back stage is not inviting at the Palladium.
My rooms, though featuring every necessity, lack warmth and even the most basic touches of personality.
It might be a dentist surgery before dentists thought it a good idea not to strike the fear of antiseptic into small children.
I may be exaggerating, but it’s a skill.
We have nowhere to set up our catering, so beyond a coffee warmer and a table to circle, we have no green room, per say.
Moan moan moan.
It’s my diary. Fuck off.
You are talking to yourself.
I picked at a take out.
Jonathan came to do my hair.
I made up and dressed.
The boys came to me.
We warmed up.
The Palladium was rammed.
It’s a handsome theatre.
Our set opening happened just as we designed it to.
I felt like I came out of the box well.
This is not a Spinal Tap reference.
My anxiety was not in the room.
I was facing tiers of approval and acceptance and welcome, and I felt on it.
I felt like it was going the right way, but a few songs in, the sound proved to be nebulous.
We were getting a lot of boom from the room.
I was aware that I fell behind the beat a couple of times.
I wear one ear monitor and like to have one ear free so that I stay connected to the reactions of the crowd.
My monitors are set so that the vocal bass is wound out, no reverb and the middle focussed tight.
This way I can hear myself through the mix, in order to pitch.
I remember doing a session at The Stables years ago and in soundcheck balanced my monitors just so. Organised my sound to this end. Perfect
Another woman singer was opening, and as we crossed paths, me to the stage, she said,
‘Oh, by the way. The monitors sounded awful.
I got them to turn the bass and reverb right up for you. It’s lovely now!’
She had a perfect, pure and reedy voice. Extra bass and the pad of reverb in her ears equipped her with soft furnishing. Lux.
I do not.
Mine is drift wood and bison and shag pile.
You lose earrings in my fibres.
I was royally fucked.
Couldn’t hear a thing, and my sing, ruined.
I try not to think of that session.
There were jazz sneers in the audience.
Not all, but enough.
The type that wink at a chord change.
The ones that clap an elbow patch.
I was doing that show with the Johnny Dankworth and his missus.
He introduced me by saying I had made ‘That ol Devil’ my own, or something.
I wished he hadn’t immediately, as I knew perfectly well that my version was perfunctory, and besides which, I saw exactly what was coming.
A cunty audience member, plump with their own exclusive fat-gas, snorted their derision, intent that I should hear.
Sat in front of me as they were.
I swear. If I ever get that full of myself, feed me my own entrails.
Smug vain-glorious fucker.
I was glad to be out of there.
It still smarts.
The sound was getting muggy and I was unsure of the quality of my sing.
I convinced myself that I had been poor.
I was sure I had been.
At the end of the main set I came off and said to Dougie,
Did I sing terribly?
Obviously I was hoping to be talked down from my window ledge.
Not teeeeeribly. He said.
I mean. There were places.
I was by the monitor so I heard it all.
Note to Alf.
If in need of scaffolding, don’t ask a dour, straight talking brummie.
G arrived immediately and restacked me well enough to face my encore.
I went on thinking I had let everyone down.
I thought I was getting a pity clap.
I thought I couldn’t milk the applause because it was a gift of charity.
I don’t know what happened to my head.
I though I had failed.
I left the stage heart sick and mildly embarrassed.
And then the messages came in.
My socials caught light.
Reviews appeared and I was floored.
They were unfailingly glowing and kind and happy and glorious and I couldn’t understand why down was up.
I don’t understand what happened to my head.
I don’t understand.
David came to my dressing room and Vinny took us back to my hotel.
My mind is a blur.
I read comments.
In the morning we have breakfast together.
David goes to work.
I eat the day like pac man.
At the venue we repeat yesterday’s routine.
John and Sean come to my room and we do our warm up scales.
We sing Beatles songs.
For no one.
Graham Norton is in with a chum tonight, and came by to say hello.
This is a fellow for whom I have affection in abundance and has been exceptionally kind to me, so that was lovely.
I have seen so few people to talk to these few months that my conversation is lumpen.
He doesn’t make me feel more stupid.
We finished warming up and I determined to have a better head on and trust in myself.
Tonight, having made some adjustments at soundcheck, our last night’s issues were overcome.
Much more clarity onstage was found.
A fine start.
On the third song ‘Wishing’ someone in the 2nd row decided to film with a fully glaring light throughout, breaking the mood lighting Eric had so carefully created.
I tried to put my hands on my mic in such a way that it might not pierce through my lids, but I lost focus for a minute and that pulled me out of my connection with the song.
I was annoyed with me again, but I made myself pull back.
I don’t remember which song, but it was soon after when they did it again. Only You, I think.
I held up my palm to them hoping they would get the message, but it did nothing.
Their light blazed.
I had to stop the song and ask them to desist.
It was laser bright and robbed the scene of any magic we may conjure.
This obsession with filming over allowing your eye the experience.
I used to work with a bloke once who filmed his son’s birth, only at the end to discover he had left that lens cap on throughout.
What a way to lose a moment.
I don’t get it.
Be in the minute and welcome the next.
We are so proud of this light show.
Eric has spent every hour of every touring day honing it.
To have it reduced for everyone, in order that one individual can capture one clip they may watch once, is baffling.
What’s it to prove?
I went to an Alison Moyet gig?
No ones going to call you a liar.
I had a story to share about the concept behind ‘The English U’.
I tried to tell it, but a short way in, a fellow in the highest balcony decided his experience was more relevant to the moment.
I don’t like to be quick draw on a ‘fuck off’ and he sounded troubled. I searched for how best to deal for a moment, in a way that did not dismiss his experience, or humiliate him, but then I heard him shout ‘Invisible!’ and his welcome was worn.
Bollocks. I’m just going to sing it (The English U) I said.
And determined not to offer up any more windows.
(Apparently he heckled Hannah Peel in her set too, to sing it.
Sometimes we do care in the community).
From then on all swam well.
I regained my equilibrium.
I attempted to mend all the cessations that had occurred by my interventions by singing as well as was in my gift this night.
I have been blessed here with splendid, engaged audiences.
Too quickly, for me, the set was done.
This then the ultimate proof to myself that our running order is optimum.
No drag. No wishing a song over.
No counting for the curtain to fall.
I want to do it again.
Tonight Guy Sigsworth, my producer and co-writer on both ‘the minutes’ and ‘Other’, is in with his wife and son.
I haven’t seen him since we mastered the record, so couldn’t possibly leave without a small glass at least.
Tonight then, they, and a handful of chums came back to my room for a sweaty hug and a glass of white, and I tripped on my unaccustomed tongue, too little for all, but delighting in some small society.
Soon after 11pm, David, who had returned in time for the show, and I, gathered my bags and Vinny took us back to my hotel, picking up filthy burgers on the way.
We have our standards.