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L&L - The Tour Pt II!

L&L The Tour Pt2

And so to Rugby via Bishops Stortford as our jaunt around the UK continued.

Having already been nearby to Stevenage at the start of our tour, we wondered just how well this Stortford show would be attended. We needn’t have worried, really. A very friendly welcome awaited us at South Mills Arts Centre…and the tea/coffee on offer from the venue staff as we set up was augmented by a spectacular array of quality biscuits in a glass jar. A jar that quickly emptied.

It had dawned on me by this point that playing multiple shows on successive nights wasn’t going to destroy me physically in a way that I’d feared at the tender age of 54, and one particular truism was also becoming evident to me and, no doubt, some of my bandmates-namely that my technique and ‘feel’ was imperceptibly improving night on night.

You do know the songs, the lyrics, the arrangements, starts and endings, all that caper, but there is absolutely no substitute for the confidence you derive from playing these songs repeatedly in front of paying audiences. Suddenly, drum fills that once needed one’s full concentration to pull off correctly are less of a challenge. Which is nice. I only piss about in sound check time, though - just for my own amusement mostly, although it does get a knowing glance from bassist Gary if I try something particularly silly that comes off.

But when it comes to showtime, there is absolutely no pissing about permitted. I’ve blogged before about the drummer in this sort of show playing his or her parts accurately so that all the others aren’t distracted into playing inaccurate parts themselves. One song in particular requires my full concentration and it’s unlikely to be one where I’d even muck around with it at soundcheck…that’s Extreme’s “Get The Funk Out”, which I can tell you is deceptively tough on the drums.

Constant 16th notes on the hi hat for the most part, opening and closing those hats regularly to set the groove and some devilish bass drum patterns throughout. Fellow drummer Rich Sawyer spotted me admonishing myself at Epsom Playhouse when I dropped a rogue bass drum beat in during the intro and only stopped calling myself a “twit with an a” by the first chorus. Standards folks - standards!

And if I have it tough in that song, we should spare a thought for Jon Sudbury on guitar who has the odious task of replicating Pino Butterscotch’s solo (Brian May says it’s the best guitar solo ever…and he knows his way around a machine head). Jon carries it off every night however with no fuss and no admonishing himself…at least not so that anyone else notices.

Meeting folk after shows is always nice as they do need to be thanked for their support of us and the theatre concerned. I get the occasional talkSPORT or Planet Rock listener come over for a natter and Bishops Stortford was one such place where a Spurs fan shot the breeze with me for a few minutes, but not after praising the show he’d just seen “It’s like every song is an encore song, right from the get go!” he exclaimed. That’s a pretty succinct way to describe what we do with L&L…that quote might go on a future poster advert!!

With the gear de-rigged and packed into vehicles it was time to head for our overnight stop somewhere between Hertfordshire and Warwickshire as Rugby was our next port of call. The hotel was right next to a very nice American diner place, so we knew breakfast was sorted…once we were all up that is. Breakfast time on tour is closer to midday than 8am so that all get sufficient rest overnight.

Singer Mark was my roomie in our Travel Tavern. He has some amazing stories to tell about his vocal career with the likes of Sweet & Praying Mantis, not to mention his own excursions to New Jersey back in the day in his quest for a record deal and a band to tour with. Nowadays he runs a hugely successful Rock School down in his native Portsmouth area. So groundbreaking has his work been in encouraging youngsters to pick up guitars or drumsticks over the years that he was awarded a British Empire Medal recently. Magnificent. He doesn’t wear it much though :)

Having smashed through brekkie at aforementioned American Diner, it was back on the road to Rugby for the next show at Benn Hall. Upon arrival, we were intrigued to see that a CD & record fair was taking place in one of the adjoining rooms in the theatre complex. Cue a very speedy load in of our equipment and a dash into the fair to scope out some bargains. Keyboard player Oscar peppered one stall holder with questions and info that he probably wasn’t expecting (!), singer Tanyth got in for free somehow and I didn’t find any previously unknown KISS rarities. Standard issue.

Rugby’s crowd was as rowdy as we’ve experienced so far. Not that previous audiences have been reserved at all - this lot were up for a dance and a swing yer pants from moment one! We were swinging our pants too in honour of guitarist Glenn on the eve of his birthday. Tanyth brought along banners, cakes and cans of his beloved cloudy cider to help him celebrate a…erm… ‘milestone’ birthday!! I’ve known Glenn since we first met in 1992 when my band supported his in Wales…that merely reminded me how disgustingly young he was back then, never mind now! Happy birthday “Nailz” xx

We all reconvened a couple of days later in the idyllic surroundings of Ilkley in Yorkshire. Any predictable talk of anything “Baht At” or whistling the tune to Emmerdale was banned prior to the trip and everyone behaved on that front. The Kings Hall is a beautiful olde worlde theatre right on Ilkley High Street. There are balcony viewing areas on either side and, for the first time this tour, we encountered a stage that had a slight incline from front to back-enough to have Tanyth questioning whether her stiletto boots would keep her upright at vital points! I think I explained how she could make it part of the show, as Ace Frehley used to do in his early KISS days when his bad balance on those platform heels led to at least one collapse per gig!

Thankfully there were no casualties (I should stress that the drum and keyboard risers were level and I wasn’t pointing my kit slightly downwards!) and the Ilkley crowd loved the show, especially the gentleman at the very front who was on his feet from the off dancing and bopping, whilst also adding dance interpretations to some of our set list: flapping his arms during “Broken Wings” and jumping sporadically during … well “Jump” obviously. Thankfully he didn’t have anything specific for us during “Love In An Elevator”!!

And so to the show I was personally anticipating more than any other on this tour - my hometown of Solihull and the Core Theatre. Post-Ilkley we had a day off and I was working for talkSPORT up in Middlesbrough whilst the others travelled south to the place I spent over 40 years of my life in readiness for the show the day after.

Nothing like a playoff semifinal 2nd leg to take your mind off drumming for a bit! Boro and Coventry served up a very tense evening at the Riverside Stadium. Commentating on that sort of game is a real privilege-the jeopardy in a game where a Wembley final is at stake and yet no one has broken the deadlock for almost an hour is incredible. Fair play to Cov for getting the job done and also credit Boro fans who, at the final whistle, applauded their players’ efforts rather than get stuck into them…knowing I think just how much work had gone into taking a team from 21st in October up to 3rd by the end of the season. They’ll be back stronger next season I reckon.

Meanwhile my bandmates were enjoying a curry at my favourite haunt The Rajnagar in Olton (on my recommendation) - they claimed the manager was asking after me but I think he was just being nice pretending he knew me!

I could detect a whiff of Murgh E Chili Bahar and Peshawari Naan via the old meat sweats when I met up with Gary and Oscar just outside Solihull at lunchtime having driven back from Teesside in the morning. Before long we’d arrived outside the Touchwood Shopping Centre where the Core Theatre nestled and wondered where and how we’d load our stuff in?? It wasn’t obvious at all - Cue Sam the technical assistant at The Core who came straight out to us and guided us to the very roof of the centre to load in via a massive lift that could take 2 tonnes of weight. Well the lads did have a lot at the Rajnagar…I must say at this point how brilliant the in-house production teams at each theatre have been in terms of helping up set up and break down our equipment each night. Sam was a particular star-we owe her a box of biscuits apparently :)

Walking into the theatre itself brought back many happy childhood memories of watching my older brother Phil playing on this stage with the Solihull Youth Jazz Orchestra (SYJO). Phil was the star of the show as he flitted from playing trumpet for one song to guitar on the other side of the the stage the next! I couldn’t top that here as just the drummer, but I knew there were enough family and friends coming along to add just the right amount of pressure to my own personal performance.

And we smashed it (in my opinion!) It was a really terrific night and Annette Benning could have said to me like she said to her daughter in American Beauty after her dance routine, “You didn’t screw up once!”

Only one gremlin but that proved how ‘live’ the show is. At the start of Heart’s “Alone” it’s just Tanyth and Oscar on vocals and keys before the rest of us come hurtling in after 30 seconds or so. But as we crashed into our first chords, Tanyth’s mic stopped working-just like that. We had no option but to stop, apologise and ask the audience if we could start it again as Tan’s mic suddenly sprang back into life. After hearty encouragement from the locals, it was a flawless take 2.

We put nothing on tape in this band apart from our intro music to each set, and I take personal pride in being 100% live. I reckon we should advertise our show as such in this era where it’s not always clear what proportion of a rock concert is actually live and what is on what my old singer Mikey used to call a “box of lies” - similarly, if we ever DID put anything supplementary on tape, I’d want to let the audience know it was there rather than indulge in deception. Because that is what it is-deception. And so long as I’m in Leather and Lace, no tapes…

We might add a click track though-that’s for only me to hear to allow the songs to sync up completely with the fantastic visuals that The Bootleg Rock Show team provide for each song. Folk have told how wonderful it is to see images and footage from the bands whose songs we are playing and it all adds to the nostalgia and experience we want to bring into each show. For Def Leppard’s “Animal” for example, the verse lyrics come up on the giant screen behind us, but that’s down to Tony our visuals guy, setting them off at the right moment, and me not playing too fast or too slow so that lyrics match up to when Mark sings them. We’re pretty bang on 99% of the time, but a click track to time each song with visuals out together in my earphones would add that lovely extra 1%. You have to strive for perfection and never settle!!

It was so lovely to see loads of pals after we’d finished the set. Gray and Dave my old Shotgun Wedding bandmates were there, my best pal Keith too who deps for us on guitar now and again, and an old school friend Anthony, who happened to be in Solihull on a rare trip home from his work in Thailand and saw our show advertised so fancied a night out! Great to see him as well.

Before long we were back on the roof loading our gear into various vehicles ahead of our trip home. I think I could have floated up there myself without the aid of the giant lift. It had all been that much fun. And there’s an important word. Fun. I have it, the band has it, punters have it. Get that right consistently and you’re golden in any walk of life … :)


Bishops Stortford

Lovely to read what it takes for The Band to take this wonderful show around the Country. One of the best live shows I’ve seen. Thank you for bringing these classic songs to life. See you next time in an around the London area.

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