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L&L - The Tour !!

I’ve blogged before on here about my one week or so as a touring musician back in the mid 1990’s when City Kidds took to the highways and byways of this land to spread the word of Glam. Or Nu Glam…or whatever we were…

Once we’d played The Marquee in London on the final night and I was back selling guitars in Brum the very next day, I harboured desires to repeat the process in very short order - perhaps 29 years is a bit of a stretch as being termed ‘short order’, but here we are.

Leather And Lace, the “Classic Rock Anthems and Power Ballads show” has been either a germ of an idea or an actual thing for almost a decade now, and we’ve just begun touring as “The Bootleg Rock Show feat. Leather And Lace”, adding to the Bootleg 60’s & 80’s shows that production company Transmedia have nurtured and worked with extensively both here and abroad. It’s the sort of band/production arrangement that bassist Gary and me coveted when we first discussed the band idea on that fateful curry night in Winchester back in early 2014.

9 years on, and we’ve just completed he first leg of our jaunt with 4 shows in 4 nights - trips to Stevenage, East Grinstead, Epsom & Weston Super Mare to be precise.

Covid and lockdown hit Leather And Lace pretty hard in several ways, some of which are not for public discussion on a family blog like this. Suffice to say that, despite certain attempts to assert otherwise, we were always around as a band, waiting for the opportunity to get back out there and strut our stuff. The vindication, therefore, of seeing this stage production come together is very prevalent in our collective minds as a group.

There are 7 of us in the band and musicians will tell you that getting 4 piece groups together to work is like herding cats half the time, and we all hail from a wide area across the south of the UK, so preparations for this tour were really about knowing what has worked in our theatre shows up until now and simply taking it up a notch or 50. This is where Arthur, Tony and the Transmedia team came in and augmented what we do with their magnificent staging, lighting, sound and visuals.

We’ve had a couple of initial one-off shows like this during the last 18 months in places like Portsmouth & Wimborne, so the basic framework and structure for this new tour was already in place. But you’re still a little apprehensive on opening night of a full blown tour, let me tell you.

The one great thing that came out of lockdown was the friendship and camaraderie of the 7 of us who get up on the stage. I think it was Paul Stanley who talked about “two way marriages not making it” when asked about the difficulties in the dynamics of having 4 folks in a band. Now, whilst we aren’t exactly The New Main Street Singers doing a toothpaste commercial on stage every night (oh look them up, it’s funny), but someone I met after the Weston show simply said to me “You looked like you were having the time of your life up there…”

And they’re 100% right

I’m playing songs I love on an instrument I’ve loved since I first picked up drumsticks 40-odd years ago with 6 others whom I love being around and trust implicitly to bring that same approach to their individual roles. But we are a BAND, as opposed to singers with anonymous hired hands backing them up…we have personalities within our number who add to the dynamic and the fun of being in a band, and hopefully that comes across when you see our show-whether it’s a huge production or not. That’s why I smile a lot. So there

Anyway, to Stevenage and opening night at the Gordon Craig Theatre, a venue known well to Arthur and his team, and thus a good place to start off for them logistically. The 7 of us all arrived by mid afternoon and began our equipment set up. For me, that meant my brand new bespoke Purple Acrylic drum kit from Natal Drums.

This kit is a genuine one of a kind as Natal Acrylic kits are made in 3 finishes (clear, red and orange) but because our colour scheme is generally black and purple, I contacted Craig Glover at Natal to ask about a custom purple kit in the same sizes as my existing DW stage kit in black sparkle. Craig and the team at Natal came through for me quite spectacularly and a couple of months ago I took delivery of the most gorgeous shells and hardware…it has quickly become affectionately known as “The Vimto Kit” and looks amazing under the stage lighting. It also sounds monstrously loud, especially the acrylic snare drum which, as Partridge might say, will take your face off.

Actually many of us in L&L have new toys to play with onstage. Gary owns more Spector basses than every other Spector owner on the planet (I’m only half joking there) and he has recently got a beautiful purple quilted top bass to complement the stage look. Oscar has been busy upgrading his keyboard setup in recent months and guitarists Glenn & Jon are always looking for something to perfect their stage sound, whether it be a pedal board or a new guitar.

Also, a number of us are now using in-ear monitoring systems (IEM’s) onstage. I was first to take the plunge on this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my hearing has deteriorated over my 40-odd years of playing and not always taking proper care of my ears. I would say at this point that my mid-range is worst affected, and I have lost a good third of my hearing having had tests done.

Most drummers get their onstage monitoring from an angled “wedge” speaker down by your feet or at your side. Sometimes, these wedges are a bit limited in the range and clarity of sound frequencies they provide to musicians and I’ve become increasingly frustrated in recent years at how loud I’ve had to have them in order to hear what I need to hear (i.e. everything).

What I have now is a pair of high quality earphones moulded to my ears and these are connected directly to the mixing desk side-stage. These aren’t your typical earphones as they have a number of drivers within them that optimise treble, middle and bass way beyond what a pair of, say, Apple AirPods can provide. Now, I have a perfectly clear mix of everything I need to hear at a manageable volume. So manageable in fact, that at the end of shows my ears are no longer ringing wildly and any lingering discomfort of tinnitus doesn’t occur anymore. Which is nice.

The one drawback to these brilliant IEMs is that you cannot hear a dickie bird if someone tries talking to you when you have them in place in your ears - unless they’re talking down a mic in your mix of course. I must learn to lip read pronto.

Night One in Stevenage went really well and we worked out the little kinks in the show as our front of house, monitor and lighting engineers re-familiarised themselves with the music in our set and moments that they can accentuate for us or the audience. One audience member, a good friend of Gary’s called Ray, saw me after the show and said excitedly “Your new drums sound like Eric Carr’s used to!! Really musical and tuneful!!” That pleased me no end to hear that :)

I’ve mentioned in previous blogs about the fact that we are often packing down our gear with this band by 11pm. That’s the beauty of theatre shows with a 7.30 start and no support act. Makes a change from Dressed To Kill shows that didn’t get going until after 11pm!

It didn’t seem that long therefore until we were all settling down in our respective accommodation for the next 3 nights, which in my case meant staying at Gary’s place in Hampshire, which was an ideal central hub for the first 3 shows. Any excuse to give his cats some fuss! I was truly expecting to ache rather a lot with 4 shows in 4 days likely to take its toll on a 54-year-old body, but as it turned out I didn’t need an iron lung backstage at Weston Playhouse just in case. Playing rock drums for 2+ hours is good, hard work but there is a bit of finesse required in amongst the bombast at times and I love the dynamics that our show brings and the challenges it presents to me in terms of setting the tempo and getting it right.

The Chequer Mead Theatre in East Grinstead was the setting for night 2 and everything clicked into place for pretty much all of us that night. Different rooms provide different acoustical tests for PA systems and instrument volumes, and you almost always have to make adjustments to your in ear mix from night to night as guitars may be louder or quieter than the night before for some reason or other. But any required changes were made very swiftly during soundcheck and the gig itself was an absolute belter.

Similarly for nights 3 and 4 in Epsom and Weston too! Epsom Playhouse brought a number of friends and family out for band members like Gary and Oscar who live in the area, and it was lovely to see Mike Nolan, a guitarist pal who’s depped for us in the past…and the original Dressed To Kill drummer Rich Sawyer, who’d come an awfully long way to check us out. Post gig only ever gives you a minute or two to catch up with folk you’d rather spend an awful lot longer with, but to see them at all is a blessing, really. Gary’s son Toby who was there supporting his Dad is a budding drummer and is way way better than I was at his age for sure. I’ll be sacked soon enough LOL

Weston Playhouse was the best attended of the 4 nights on balance, but every night saw folk on their feet singing, clapping their hands and having a whale of a time. There have been stories about theatre musicals being stopped recently due to overenthusiastic audience members singing too loud and disturbing the musicians on stage trying to sing the songs themselves. I can appreciate that there’s a time and a place to give it full gusto, and the quiet start to a Whitney Houston track during ‘The Bodyguard’ musical is not really the time or place, but our audiences aren’t shy of joining in and we heartily encourage it throughout.

The tour continues soon as I type, and will shortly take in a show in my hometown of Solihull on the 18th May at the Core Theatre (once known as the Library Theatre) which I’m very excited about. My previous gigs in Solihull have been limited to places like The Saddlers Arms or The Golden Lion, so this is an undoubted step up! Hoping to see even more friendly faces staring back at me on that particular evening - and hopefully they’ll be smiling as much as I apparently do. I wasn’t really aware I smiled so much, but then in my KISS tribute days, I was known for being a ‘happy’ Peter Criss. Bit of a contrast to the real thing I suppose. But, if you’re happy doing a job you’ll never work a day in your life, as the saying goes. Leather And Lace is the latest in many aspects of my life to leave me grinning inanely.

Long may it continue

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