We are driving to Frankfurt, Nick and I.
Nick is my new Tour Manager and we have a nice car.
It’s got heated seats and fuck me, it knows where the white lines painted on the road are. That’s refreshing.
The sun is low and the trees along the road are strobing the light in such a way that I am blinded and nauseous.
Still I am writing this blog cos that’s how I roll.
Diligent, committed and self-applauding.
Rehearsals went well albeit that I only sang through the set once in all and even then, mine was not a flawless rendition.
It’s usually all right on the night and you know I’m not remotely bothered by a restart.
We flew to Amsterdam on the morning of the gig and got to the venue shortly before sound check.
We like it here although the heavy bass sound of the auditorium is a tricky winger to get the ball around.
You put it out and it comes back at you hard and beefy.
Got a great story from this venue from another tour.
Dougie was stood outside at load-in time.
Load in is where the truck is emptied first thing in the morning and a local crew is employed to help with the heavy work.
Opposite the Paradiso is a ‘Coffee Shop’ so named for the imbibing of god’s own fine spliff -greenery.
Some blokes were hanging out nigh on equidistant between shop and truck.
‘Cum on’ says Dougie is his laconic black-country drawl. ‘Let’s get moving’
‘We’re waiting for the coffee shop to open’ say the fellows.
‘Load in now, coffee later’ insists my stage manager. Not remotely deterred.
The guys dutifully approach the truck and pull down the many wheeled and heavy flight cases and begin the laborious task of removing them to the stage.
This they do without complaint or slacking.
Dougie is then soon approached by a different gaggle of men.
‘Hello’ they say. ‘We’re the local crew’….
You had to be there.
My dressing room is plain but well provisioned, and it’s cold.
I am wearing four layers but still feeling it major league.
We’ve been watching Fortitude.
I shouldn’t complain. Big soft wuss.
This is our first gig this tour and in terms of audiences that’s always a happy coincidence for me. You can’t plan on it when routing a tour. Agents have to re-plot 5 and more times to sign off a tour. Trying to find hall availability that doesn’t incur a days drive for every stop where in the route ends up looking like a Spirograph.
So here we are.
Sound check was anxious making.
This is the first tour where I will use two ear monitors every gig as opposed to one. (My old preferred method so that I could make a decent punt at pitching correctly but also get the full vibe of the room. The shared ambience).
Two will allow a greater level of consistency regardless the nature of the room, and also because everyone in the know fears for my hearing. One alone can fuck it up, apparently.
I’m not deathly worried tonight. I have my favoured James monitor man and if it can be worked around it will be and it inevitably is.
I am travelling light.
There is no room in the truck for a wardrobe this time, so I am doing with only a medium suitcase. 5 of the same dress. Tights. Make-up. One pair of shoes. Bit ‘o spray.
Bollocks. It’s plenty.
No one comes to see me for a neatly executed costume change and if they do they’re sick fucks. So.
Sean comes to my room and we warm up. We miss John Garden in this. It was a happy thing, singing Beatles songs in three part harmony accompanied by johns half-sized acoustic that confused the eye and made him seem mountainous.
Sean and I do our exercise tape but are inspired to do little more. We fetch Paul in. Paul is a great fit. Unaffected. Easy to be around. Warm. Conscientious. All the things I admire.
We do our little pre-gig Sambuca shots and Sean pours Paul a baby’s finger of water to share the ritual. Paul sensibly chooses not to drink alcohol before the show. To be fair he has had so much to learn in such little time. Not yet for him the muscle memory.
Plus also, to be fairer, some people don’t wish to drink at all.
It is allowed.
The auditorium is packed.
In front of me I recognise many faces.
Faces are a puzzle to me.
They slip from my memory soon as spied.
That I recognise these means they have been with me time and again.
Faces that fill me with pride and gratitude.
I never thought of myself as the kind of figure that would maintain ‘fan’ loyalty.
Chart world teaches you that fan-hood so much more often is a fleeting fancy, and women fare less well in this it seems than male acts.
Last night on social media I read reviews from more completionists who have travelled far and wide to see me, without my notice, and I am winded.
I’m far from being a universal act but I certainly have been blessed with faith here on my choice planet and it causes my chest to ache. Lucky, lucky me.
We started and ended the set together.
That’s a big plus point.
I think I sang well enough. Always hard to know.
I restart a song I’m not feeling and another where I mix up bridges, but nothing that would cause stools to loosen.
I love Amsterdam.
Back in my room.
My bones are tired and the water is hot.
My old man is with me and our life fits me like bodycon.
My life fits me.
I am seamlessly grateful.