26 April 2014

Camel Tour 2014 - part five - that was the tour that was

click on photos to enlarge!

That was the tour that was. Here's a nice photo of the entire crew, the denizens of the big blue bus, posing outside the penultimate venue in Turin, Italy. From left to right: Jason Hart (progmaster general of the digital domains), Simon Grocott (backline amp and guitar duties and Tommy Cooper impersonations), Emma Edgar (unflappably expert tour manager), Derek Jones (brilliant lights in all senses of the words), Denis Clement (the multi-talented, multi-tasking man from Manawaukee), Derek Haggar (distinguished First Lieutenant of the Backline Territorials ATB and Bar), Ton Scherpenzeel (the dashing Dutchman, great keyboard player and our hero), Mike "Bunny" Warren (our prized and genial mixmaster general), Wing Commander Andrew Latimer (mentioned in despatches for exceptional guitar-playing under enemy fire), John "J-J" James (esteemed stage monitor mixmeister), Felicity Hall (our lady of the t-shirt boxes), and myself about whom I will say nothing.

the morning sun illuminates the curtains of my inner sanctum

But where did I leave off? It was overnight from Lisbon to Madrid. I awoke early to watch the entry into that great city and marvelled at the way our intrepid driver Craig managed to manoeuvre the long bus (and trailer) through the narrow streets. Then I noticed we were actually going around the same few blocks several times, waiting for the temporary parking space outside the theatre to be made available.

Madrid morning

The Teatro Nuevo Apolo is an old music hall type venue with original wood-panelled walls. It's quite narrow, only room for tiny side balconies but no boxes although you get the impression it would like to have had them. Two balconies above the stalls though and they were full of extremely enthusiastic attendees come the evening. We had a good time, again.

wood panelling
Teatro Nuevo Apolo

Before soundcheck I managed an hour's perambulation with Ton and Denis. Didn't quite make it to the Prado but who needs it when you have the shop windows around the Plaza de Tirso de Molina...

Happy Shop

This one was a very happy shop. Brightly coloured party dresses, original antique Chinese footsoldiers of the Imperial Guard, cheerful plastic flowers and some handy Bunny ears.

My Kind of Shop

This one was an excellent shop. Here you can stock up on 3-D Jesus posters, vampire capes, nylon flamenco dresses, false moustaches and get your Halloween window stickers in March already. What more do you want?

sad shop

This was a very sad shop window. To be honest I couldn't summon up the courage to venture inside. I regret it now of course. Perhaps I could have been of help. It obviously started out with the best intentions, seemingly offering a wide range of practical headgear, cute dolls and smiley flowers but something happened. Now I'll never know what it was. A family tragedy? Perhaps the owner became weighed down trying to keep up with the latest trends in hats? Perhaps he/she simply fell to the floor like the dummy head laid low by the final tartan trilby. There are so many stories we simply walk past without seeing.

And so to Barcelona...

early morning Barcelona from the bus

Another nice theatre called Barts. All nicely organised as in Madrid by Mr Robert Mills. Before sound check had time for a solitary amble to La Rambla and surrounding area and had an agreeable culinary experience in the market...

And then overnight again to Turin. Woke up to see the Italian Alps reflecting the early morning sun.

Good Morning

In Turin we played once again - last time was in 2000 or something like that - in a club called Hiroshima Mon Amour, named after the wonderful film made in 1959 by Alain Resnais  with a screenplay by Marguerite Duras, no less. Everybody would like to see that, here's a trailer. Anyway, it was a nice, fun, rock-club type gig (I like those), then it was off overnight to Vicenza, a very lovely town that was home to the great Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio, several of whose edifices adorn the old town centre. Not least of these is the famous Teatro Olimpico, apparently the first enclosed theatre built. It has a fascinating raked stage with a trompe-l'oeil effect of streets retreating into the distance.

Stage of the Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza

Thanks be to Claudio Canova, our promoter in Vicenza, for giving me a swift tour of the city in the time available before sound-check, which luckily included an excellent pasta lunch in the piazza by the Basilica Palladio.

View of Vicenza from the Cathedral up in the hills

Piazza Basilico

Piazza Basilico

Teatro Oimpico

After savouring the sights (and the Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli) of Vicenza, it was back to the soundcheck at the Teatro Comunale, a splendid-looking new theatre. The architect has to be congratulated on the sleek modern aesthetics of the building but it appears not enough thought was given to the acoustic properties of the concert hall. It was one of those places where not only was there a marked 500 millisecond delay audible from the stage but somehow the bass frequencies disappeared somewhere in the ether. But in the end the place filled up with enthusistic and friendly people who seemed to thoroughly enjoy it and so, as a matter of course, so did we. Thanks Vicenza.

Teatro Communale, Vicenza
Bunny explains to Andy about the sound problems

View from the mixing desk

Well, and so it all came to an end, our little tour. After Vicenza it was an epic journey back to the UK, jettisoning people at various stages on the route. Thanks to all who came to see us, thanks to our lovely crew. Looking forward to the next one. Just don't ask me when that might be. Cheerio!


16 March 2014

Camel Tour March 2014 - Part 4

                                                      click on photos to enlarge!

It's been a while since we last met, dear reader. Time becomes particularly elastic once one has spent a few nights on the bus. Well, as per schedule (see above) the journey from Cologne to Sheffield did indeed take ages but the next four gigs went by in a seeming trice. And in case you didn't know, a trice is not only a brief moment of time (when you're in it), it also means to haul up or in and lash or secure with a small rope, which may also be relevant but I can't think how at the moment. Anyway, it was nice to be playing in the UK again. Here's some snaps...

Andy soundchecking in Birmingham

backline tech Del Haggar's sidestage guitar shop
Ravel was here...
...and so was Cliff.
Epstein's Lucifer in the Birmingham Art Gallery

Before sound-check at Birmingham I popped across the road to the Birmingham City Art Gallery, a wonderful old piece of Victorian civic architecture. Enjoyed seeing the six tapestries by Grayson Perry entitled The Vanity of Small Differences. Read more about that here. And was also particularly taken with the enormous Burne-Jones watercolour, The Star of Bethlehem. As with the Grayson Perry tapestries, it pays to get up close and take in the details.

Cambridge Corn Exchange
The Cambridge Corn Exchange is a wonderful venue and we enjoyed ourselves greatly and, at the risk of repeating ourselves, we also had a great time in the cosy and characterful confines of the Paar Hall in Warrington. All thanks to the sheer, unbridled niceness of the audiences.
From Warrington, overnight to Portsmouth to wait around a bit for the afternoon ferry to Bilbao. It was relatively plain sailing all the way, 23 hours worth. The view from my cabin was unchanging, except of course at night when it was invisible.

Then it was back in the bus for another 12 hour overnight drive to Lisbon. It seemed as if we were travelling in a grey mist the whole of the journey so it was a pleasure to be greeted by sunshine and blue skies upon emerging from my dark inner sanctum on the bus into the Lisbon light. The gig was at the concert hall of the University. Denis and I negotiated the metro and made our way to the Barrio Alto where we enjoyed the view at the Miradore and then repaired to a little restaurant in one of the old callées and enjoyed a pleasant lunch of octupus and sardines washed down with some refreshing vinho verde. So that was nice.

the view

the vinho verde

then a quick espresso at the bar of the café brasiliana and back to the soundcheck...

my view of the soundcheck
 The gig was once again a most enjoyable experience with a warm and animated crowd cheering us on. Great to be in Portugal again. Organisation was impeccable, excellent catering. Thanks to all.
After the show, back on the bus for an overnight drive to Madrid. It's all go.... 

9 March 2014

Camel Tour - March 2014 - Part 3

home sweet home
 After a nice show at the Fulderstadt Filharmonie it was back on the bus to Köln, where the early morning sun cast a pleasing light on the city on the other side of the river.

 Set off to flanier along the river bank and crossed over the railway bridge where thousands of padlocks have been affixed to the fence by troth-plighting lovers. A trend which, as far as I know, originated on the Pont D'Orsay in Paris, but I could be mistaken.

Another great audience at the Theater am Tanzbrunnen. Every show is different, although we always play the same set. Different nuances appear spontaneously in the arranged passages and there are always moments of improvisation in the second set which are dependent on our mood and communication. Anyway, this one was a good one, made even more pleasurable by a visit from my lovely daughter Lenya, who travelled all the way from Berlin just to see her old Dad.

Backstage with my daughter Lenya

After the show I talked to two gentlemen who came from Tehran, Iran especially for the show. Which reminds me, I wanted to give an honorable mention to Chuck Padgett, who flew from North Carolina just to see the Amsterdam show and went straight back again. He said he enjoyed it.

Then it was off in the night again for the trip back to the UK. Catching the 8.15 am ferry from Calais and indulging in a 7 item English Breakfast on board. Only the Rt Hon Del Haggar de Backline managed to see off the 10 item menu (although he declined to finish off the toast - and who can blame him?).
On to Sheffield and a pleasant night off in Le Hotel Posh. Tonight Sheffield City Hall where I was reminded that this was the site of my second ever gig with Camel in October 1979 (first one was Brighton Dome). That was a long time ago.

6 March 2014

Camel Tour - March 2014 - Part 2

Eindhoven gig most enjoyable. Lovely concert hall with excellent backstage facilities - very important after a few nights on the big bus. And after meeting with some nice people afterwards it was back on the aforementioned vehicule grande and, after some tricky maneuvering of the bus through crowds of convivial, colourfully dressed carnival revellers,we were off to the historic Belgian city of Gent. Venue was the old music hall/balhaus/theatre called the Vooruit, built in 1913.

Photo taken at sound check, but before then I had a chance to wander around the beautiful old town centre. Here's some snaps from there.

The Port, Gent
Magritte was here
Josephine Baker was here
I was here
Jan van Eyck memorial
What a wonderful window
Then back to the sound check.

Ton's keyboards
l-r: Simon (backline), Ton, Andy, JJ (monitors)

We all had a good night at the Vooruit and enjoyed meeting some nice folks afterwards, including almost the entire Ducept family (Salut!).

Thanks and goodnight Gent (photo: John Bollenberg)

 Back on the bus and rolling through the night to Deutschland, arriving in the morning of a most welcome day off and a night in a proper bed. Availed myself of the sauna and caught up on events in the Ukraine. Currently also reading Christopher Clark's fascinating book, "The Sleepwalkers - How Europe Went To War in 1914" and wondering what parallels we can draw from that.
Thursday, we move on to the Filderstadt Filharmonie, Stuttgart.

and it's goodnight in Stuttgart....