The White Page
  A Road Diary


 

Subject: Okay in the UK

Date: Saturday, May 26, 2001

From: Alan


Since the last bulletin to this organ of gossip, opinion, and insight into the ever-changing travel world of AWB, many miles and many hours of music have been tucked under our belts in, first, a 'northeast' tour of the United States, and now the second week of our UK run is almost over here in Ronnie Scott's, Birmingham.

The first stop over here, though, was in the glorious homeland of Scotland, where I reckon we had the best four concerts there since the old heyday, an opinion seemingly shared, for once, by press and media alike, not to mention the reaction of the fans and our good friends - who are at times also our fiercest critics, such is their determination to see us as good as they think we can be. It's always nice to be able to live up to those high expectations.........it makes all the hours of preparation, travel, meditation (yeah, right!) and concentration seem worthwhile when the music comes out of the machine exactly as you planned it.

I should begin by commending all the guys for their unbelievable stamina and determination to perform better than ever. They had the unenviable task of flying overnight to London, then, after a 3-hour wait in London airport, another flight to the very north of Scotland - Aberdeen - for the first gig that same night. Onnie and I, who had been in Scotland for a few days prior, to take care of newspaper interviews and radio stuff for our home press & broadcasters, had a leisurely drive through the bucolic Scottish countryside to meet this dishevelled bunch lurching through arrivals at Aberdeen airport, while we sat sipping cups of tea with our pinkies raised in traditional 'proper' manner - just to remind them that they were in Scotland now, and they play by our rules!

Anyway after a couple of hours of communal power nap, a fine gig to a packed house ensued, and of course it was the first time Aberdeen had seen this particular line-up in action. The last time we played there was, I am reliably informed, 1994. How time flies when you're doing the same. Edinburgh (The Capital) was next, for two absolutely hammering nights with our home crowd baying for blood, and we obliged them by opening every vein we had. I think I'm right in saying that it's the first time in our careers that we have actually been given a five-star review in Scotland. There was always something missing for every critic who ever covered us in the past...sometimes they just wanted to have a go at us for daring to leave Scotland.......but this time they had to say it was all as right as rain - and in Scotland they know a thing or two about rain, let me tell you.

A pleasant Sunday night in Ayr, on the south west coast saw the end of the Scottish gigs, the end of the brilliant heatwave that had miraculously engulfed Britain for the previous ten days, and the end of our collective battery power, as jetlag and anticlimax finally kicked in as soon as the show was over. Sitting at the hotel bar afterwards, it was all we could do to sink a pint, never mind hold a conversation. Someone would start by saying, "I was just thinking............." and then tail off into silence, which in turn would be broken by a sigh or a belch from another, quickly followed by a 'useful' question such as, "What time tomorrow do we..................zzzzzz" A thoroughly depleted bunch and a funny end to what had been a marathon of sorts. It reminded me of the old joke about the two guys that stagger into a Scottish pub, carrying their sozzled pal between them. They deposit the drunk at a small table, whereupon he proceeds to put his head down and go to sleep. Undeterred, the two mates who are in no great shape themselves go to the bar and one orders three pints. The other one looks at him, they both look over at the sleeping figure at the table, and the barman says, "Nah, he'll never manage a pint." "Aye you're right," says our drinks orderer, "Make that two pints an' a large whisky instead."

Forgive me if I have said nothing so far about the US gigs we did in the three weeks before all this stuff, but somehow it all seems like months ago in the scheme of things. That, too, was some stretch of work, and in the middle period there we actually did thirteen shows in ten consecutive nights - an all-time record for this band, and not something
to try too often as the tolerances for Murphy's law to kick in are pretty tight with that kind of schedule. Nevertheless, we had some great shows with Tower Of Power, in theatres and casinos around Michigan, New York Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Hampshire, and a bunch of our own headliner shows in Ohio, Indianapolis, and quite spectacularly in Louisville Kentucky, home of Muhammed Ali, and the subject of one of my last WhitePage entries, as I recall. What a great gig that turned out to be.

I suppose you're getting the idea here that things are going pretty well all round and that I'm simply blowing our collective trumpet a bit too much, and if that's the impression I give, then I suppose it's fair do's.
How many bands at this stage of their career get the opportunities we have had recently, and then go on to maximise them and turn them into even more ambitious undertakings. Not too many, I think. We may not be able to chase a football as fast as we once could - with the possible exception of Adam, of course - but the grit is all there, and the fire is very definitely well-lit within everyone here at the A. W.of B., a publicly-registered band of gypsies, wiseacres, and erstwhile buskers who have neither the will nor the wit to know when to quit!

Once again, the Tom Joyner Morning Show was another little milestone for us in that it was the first week of the show's being broadcast in New York, and therefore we were the first act to appear on the show there, albeit we were actually broadcasting from Cleveland Ohio, where that week aired from. So there we are onstage, in the second of our three mini-sets that we do on the show, we're in the middle of "Pieces," and I look round to see Tom (who dances & sweats his way through four hours of a 'revival meeting' of a show) advancing across the stage towards me shouting, above the band,"Dig in, man......WE'RE IN NEW YORK" What a completely happy moment, as I'd failed to grasp until then what it meant to him, after all these years, to finally get syndicated into the biggest music city of them all - and one that has steadfastly refused to air the biggest urban morning programme in American history. It made the 4.30 am departure to the gig all worth it.

Well, it's now the 8.30 pm departure to a sold-out Ronnie Scott's here in the middle of England, where you see a different slice of urban life to that of middle USA. The streets here are heaving with revellers every evening, young women tottering along on impossibly high heels, barely dressed at all, screaming and laughing their way to the next disco-bar, pub, or club, while their maurauding bands of boyfriends become more pissed as the night wears on, and are to be found, by the time we make our way home from our gig, arguing futilely with doormen and bouncers who are trying to stop them gettin in to the 'honeypot' inside. It's a hilarious mess of seething humanity, blaring mm-tsss, mm-tsss tecno-disco-retro-metro music that comes out of every establishment, and street bars & cafes where everyone sits to be seen and, hopefully, clocked by some worthwhile 'pull' or other.

Who said youth is wasted on the young? they seem to be doing just fine, thank you very much. I only wonder where they get all the money for these eight-hour nights of drink and other stimuli...cos none of it comes cheap round these parts. Ah, well, that's what larceny is for, I suppose.

On that philosophical (our Irish soundman - Phil O' Sophical) note, I will leave you to go and put on my impossibly high heels and skimpy dress another night on the town. I'll write again when I've growed up.

 

A.G.