Tuesday, 1st March 2005 in Road Trip U.K. 2005.
Tense energy everywhere. All packed, tour schedules photocopied, hotels booked. That side of things fine. Where are the CDs? .Due to a couple of minor problems, the new CD ‘Works in Progress’ have not yet arrived. They were promised by 10.30 but still not here at 12. Starting to load the van when they arrive. More tension while we tear open the first box. The cover is fine – colour reproduced well- everything OK. Rushing into studio to listen to it and ‘eureka’ it sounds good as well. What do I mean ‘good’ – it sounds great!!!. Neil recorded the CD with the slavinian musicians ‘Terrafolk’ who were here to do a couple of gigs and we all get emotional listening to the enthusiasm they put into the tracks. Boxes loaded into big blue van and off we go up the A12 and into the sunshine. Ten minutes later the sky turns black and it rains solidly till we get to the first gig – The Millfield Theatre in North-East London. From outside the theatre looks like a large brick box but inside it is good with a low stage and comfortable seats leading up and back from the stage. Neil, JJ and Tom set up the stage while I set up the merchandising table and then look for drinks – water, tea etc for the guys. The stage manager says they aren’t available. I ask to look at the rider and see that the words ‘tea, water, beer and one bottle of wine’ have been crossed through by the theatre and then signed by our agent, who, needless to say will not be ‘looking after us’ again. ‘And by the way’ the manager adds, looking at the t-shirts, cds and other merchandise, ‘we take 15% of everything you sell’. First gig and you meet someone like that.
Should really introduce you to the two lovely people who are with Neil on this tour and who also worked on the album with Neil. J.J. Jones lives in Suffolk quite nearby and is a fantastic ‘listening’ drummer. He left home to join a rock band when he was fifteen and a half and he hasn’t stopped drumming since. He, in turn, introduced Neil to the baby of the group – Tom- nickname ‘The Professor’ ( he has a degree in music). Tom plays double bass and every sort of music from a circus band during the vacations while at college, through jazz, rock and ending with Neil. He also adds a sort of street cred to the band – ‘babe magnet’. When the sound people get it right and you can hear all three musicians clearly, the effect is magic – Tom’s bass playing is beautiful – he plays a solo to die for in ‘Friends at The End.’
So coming back to our first night – the sound and lighting are mediocre as is always the case when there is bad feeling at the management end of things. There are about 120 people – all terrific fans and apart from the negative vibes generated by the theatre, it turns out to be a slightly wobbly but good evening. Neils set list includes two numbers on the ukulele –‘My Little Ukelele and ‘All alone’ from the new CD. Then ‘Bold Sir Robin’, Face Mail and Hee Haw. Then ’Cats’, ‘Never Alone’ and ‘Ego Warriors’, finishing off the first half with ‘The Philosophers Song’. These are all interspersed with cod adverts sung by their alter-egos ‘Rory Motion and The Drainpipes.’ The second half starts off with ‘Idiot’, followed by ‘Protest Song’, ‘Crystal Balls’, ‘Evening Sun’ and the ever popular Rutles medley. Then ‘Friends’, ‘Godfrey Daniel’, ‘Eye Candy’, One of those People’ and ‘Hero’, leaving ‘Urban Spaceman and ‘Back in ‘64’ for the encores. Sandwiched between all these songs are stories and comments ‘a la Innes’ on life and times in the consumer society of the 21st century. We sell about twelve new CDs but also a fair number of Recollections 2 and 3. I am hoping to persuade Neil to press a few more Recollections 1 – there is a big demand for the whole set. The Ego Warrior T-shirts sales are slow but I have high hopes for them.
Neil comes out to sign and chat with the audience at the end which is when I can pack up and begin to unplug and stow away the guitars and stage props. Tom has only the double base to bag but J.J., like all drummers has to slowly and methodically work his way through all the kit himself so he knows exactly where the bits and pieces are at the next gig.
Now a long drive – we are all tired but the agents, in their wisdom, booked Dunfirmline in Scotland for tomorrow and so we must drive at least three hours to get us some way up the motorway before the morning. So we set off for Leeds – Neil taking the first shift at the wheel since he was still high on adrenaline. Reminded me of some of the distances we travelled between gigs in the US last year. But at least then we had a couple of days to get there. After one stop when J.J takes over the wheel we arrive at a Travelodge just outside Leeds at 3.30am and sink quickly into unconsciousness.
Neil’s thought for the day ‘one man’s pragmatism is another man’s bodge’
Tom’s first thought ‘Oh, what, you mean I have to say something. Oh! Well…..um…poo’.Well he is only 25!
JJ ‘All in one bite’ !!!!! Can see this is going to be an intellectual and highly stimulating tour.