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L&L- The Tour Pt III

I had my special little night in Solihull mid-tour, so it’s only fair that the love gets shared around in this show. And so, partly to minimise the mileage of 3 of our number just for a change, we had a show booked in Swansea-home city to guitarist Jon, a hop, skip and a jump away from Bridgend for singer Tanyth and a hop, skip and triple-jump from Newport for guitarist Glenn.

I still got there first to set up, though.

This was at the aptly named Grand Theatre in the city centre. From the outside, it appears to be a modern venue, but once you get inside the stage door and approach the side of the stage, you are presented with a glorious sight of a beautifully ornate setting that dates back to the late 19th century! Mark had a chat with one volunteer/helper at the venue who told him how the place was modernised over time, with the theatre room itself being somehow reoriented through 90 degrees or so whilst not affecting the structure of the 3 tiers whatsoever. The Grand Circle looked a LONG way up…or down, I suppose - depending on where you are.

The stage was as wide and deep as any we’ve ever played on in our history - not that I get an advantage out of that behind the kit necessarily. I do get the best seat in the house, however, to watch my colleagues working the space in front of me with great skill and boundless energy (I’m sure Oscar feels the same from his viewpoint on the keyboard riser next to mine).

Both Mark and Tanyth get opportunities to take centre stage as singers - one of Mark’s ‘moments’ comes in Billy Idol’s ‘Rebel Yell’ where he goes walkabout in amongst the audience wherever that is possible (there was a massive orchestra pit at one show that prevented him getting down into the stalls). When that happens during the post-guitar solo bit, he disappears from my view completely whilst I keep the intensity of the beat going. I do have my own daft visions of him ‘working the room’ - he almost always breaks out into a raucous laugh down the mic at some point out there before he reappears in my eyeline for the final chorus. We do like to have fun here.

Tanyth has the spotlight shining on her too, of course, and she was especially nervous given that she was back on home turf. But you wouldn’t have known any nerves watching her belt out ‘Alone’ and ‘Black Velvet’ back to back as she does so well every night. Jon’s classy reputation preceded him, as one of the tech guys at the Grand said “Oh, so Jon Sudbury plays with these does he? Bit of a legend round these parts…” or words to that effect. Jon gets a lead vocal with us so he gets a bit of spotlight action at one point. He’s the poor chap who has to stand on stage left to sing and operate his effects directly in front of my new super-loud Vimto kit. So he moves around a lot-can’t really blame him.

Many thanks to the huge numbers who came along, and our Welsh contingent had fantastic support from friends and family that we caught up with afterwards, including Tanyth’s proud Mam …or “Mamager” as she’s known-she’ll tell you herself Tan didn’t get the vocal prowess from her at all. “Like a foghorn, I am!” is the usual response to any questions she gets along those lines.

We had a day off after Swansea before our next ‘2-in-a-row’ set of shows, starting in Eastleigh, Hampshire. The Concorde Club is one of the oldest jazz music venues in the UK that now opens its doors to a myriad of acts playing for an audience who have a bit of quality nosebag at a table before the band hits the stage after coffee and mints. Dinner and a show, then. Curtis Stigers had performed there just before our arrival, and Peter Andre was being heavily plugged as an upcoming visitor.

The stage was nowhere near the size of Swansea Grand two days before. It was actually closer to the stage dimensions that Leather And Lace played its first ever show on at Chesterfield’s Real Time Live in February 2017 prior to our swift move into theatres. Such stages are not a problem to play on at all - in fact it’s sometimes a good thing to concentrate the musical mind for us all to be right on top of one another for a show, much like we would be in a rehearsal space. Any rare mistakes or missteps are instantly recognised - Gary has a hard stare that he can throw my way if he hears a snare or bass drum hit even slightly out of place…I think his list of ‘drummers what can come in when we sack him’ is growing by the week!! (Kidding…I think…)

A really enjoyable show with a later start than normal at this venue (we’re used to 7.30 ko but this was a 9pm show). Arthur and Tony’s production team were happy too, as they’d used less of their sound and light equipment than normal and so load out time was that much quicker. I’m usually last to leave from the band…most to break down and pack away individually speaking. If I’m loading the drums into my car (rather than a more spacious van or truck) I have to have my own system of what goes in first to last so that everything fits and I can shut the flaming boot. It’s a mad game of Tetris every single time!

Flautists don’t have this problem.

The slight problem all of us had was the long drive north the next day as Hunstanton was our next destination on the North Norfolk coastline. The part of town I saw by the Princess Theatre itself is so pretty…and you could see the sea! Indeed, we were told that Hunstanton is unique on the East coast of England in that it offers a perfect view of a western sunset without any land blocking the sea horizon. It was a quite beautiful afternoon upon my arrival and I’d have loved to have stuck around to see that sunset for myself, but the drums don’t set themselves up, I’m afraid. I’ll be back to see it someday, I’ve promised myself that much.

The crew weren’t that far ahead of me as the bank holiday traffic had held them up a tad, but these guys do not panic if the clock is ticking on show prep time. By now they’re all used to what the 7 of us need individually for our setup, so Matt on monitors quickly sorts me the leads I need to connect my headset mic, my in-ear monitor mix and my buttkicker drum throne whilst I’m putting my stuff in place on stage. The buttkicker is that thing where you hit the bass drum and you ‘feel’ the sound of that drum coming through a large transducer in your seat. Sexual references are regularly made around this piece of equipment…I couldn’t possibly comment.

Tanyth had to laugh at me during sound check whilst Mark was singing Is This Love by Whitesnake to check out his monitor mix out front. Tan saw me looking down to my side whilst playing the drum part, and her eyes finally rested on my phone, set atop the buttkicker unit to my left hand side, showing the first half of the Championship Playoff Final at Wembley. A laugh and a “what are you like” shake of the head quickly came my way. Sound check went so swimmingly in the end that I was back in the dressing room with a sandwich and a cuppa watching the 2nd half before you knew it!

I know it seems a cliched thing to say and the kind of hype you’d question from a band trying to blow its own trumpet, but the Hunstanton crowd were noisy and appreciative right from the first number and we talked about little else at the mid-show interval…although I also felt that I should apologise to my band mates at that point too for slightly under par drumming at occasional times. Nothing major that anyone in the audience or even the band would have necessarily noticed, but I knew my performance wasn’t at the standards I set myself. And no, I wasn’t still watching football on my phone!

If you can’t be honest with yourself as a musician and give yourself the metaphorical kick up the backside if you’re falling slightly short of what’s expected, then you’re never going to progress as a player whatever age and experience you have. So you front up.

The second half was much more like it from me behind the kit - and we heard much more of the same wild enthusiasm from the crowd, who we all agreed afterwards was the loudest we’d encountered on tour so far. And before you knew it cars and vans were loaded and folk shot off in about 10 different directions either to go home or head to a hotel overnight stop.

Just 2 more shows to go and they should be a terrific way to round things off - especially Mark’s hometown gig in Pompey on Friday night. Our first ever show with the Bootleg Rock Show team was at the New Theatre Royal and we know there’s even more of you coming to our return there! My money’s on a Mark walkabout there for 100% sure - he could be working the room for 5 minutes I reckon!!!

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