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L&L - The Tour Pt IV!

As we entered the final furlong of our month long tour, there would be one slight change for the last 2 shows in Portsmouth and Shrewsbury. Jon had a prior commitment which meant he unfortunately wasn’t available, but a band like ours always has folk standing by to come in as ‘pinch hitters’ as and when required. In fact, there’s only one band member yet to have had a dep come in for them…more on that later.

So, the call went out to my oldest friend Keith Laurent to guest on guitar. I’ve known Keith since the mid 80’s when he answered an advert me and my bass playing pal put up in a Solihull music shop looking for a guitarist into “Lizzy KISS Whitesnake etc”. Actually, he was one of only 2 respondents to that ad…and the first one ran for the hills when he found out me and Andy were both just 16! Keith and me clicked as mates straight away and that remains to this day. Our musical paths have crossed over the last 30-odd years and we’re always ribbing each other over our alleged musical abilities, but he’s a perfect guy to play with L&L when called upon.

Pompey New Theatre Royal was the first theatre where we’d debuted the whole ‘Bootleg Rock Show’ package a year or so back, so it was nice to return-and especially nice for Mark at his ‘hometown’ show! Loads of his friends and family would be present, but if he was nervous about it, it certainly didn’t show…it never does with Mark-he is totally unflappable no matter what.

As we set up, Tony (our video clips guy) and me discussed having both seen the ABBA Voyage avatar show thingy in London. We were both in agreement about its brilliance (no spoilers) but we did laugh at a silly idea I had where Bud Flanagan - he of Dads Army theme fame - sings the hits of ABBA (don’t ask)…it will be my follow up album once I finally get Pan Pipe Metal made…and if you believe that…

The crowd were insanely good in Pompey. Noisy and in a full on singalong mood as soon as the curtain went up. We’d loaded up on a wee bit more Pyro and effects for these last 2 shows and the response just added to the atmosphere. My older brother was there - he’d not seen us since before Covid and he was staggered at how much we’d come on in that time as a band both musically and visually too.

Most of our gang went home that evening but swiftly reconvened the following afternoon for the final show of the tour in Shrewsbury at Theatre Severn’s Walker Room. When I arrived, the theatre lobby was packed with mums dads and kids all heading into the main theatre room next to ours for a matinée performance of Madagascar…there was an evening performance of that show to come too, and it made me smile wondering if a family might take the wrong turn up the stairs later on and accidentally witness Tanyth and Mark rather than Alex and Marty strutting their stuff!

It was a lovely venue in which to round things off. My snare drum’s volume and ‘crack’ on the new Vimto kit has prompted much discussion/jollity amongst the crew members working with us, and whilst we were sound checking, Jon our lights guy came into view making a movement down with his arms each time I hit the snare that approximated a woodcutter chopping a particularly tough log in half!! It’s not THAT loud, honest…

The audience in Shrewsbury were a little more reserved at first than the Pompey crowd the night before, but they soon got to their feet, waved their phone torches to the ballad-y moments and sang as loudly as any crowd we’ve encountered in the past month.

I thought I would pay tribute to each of my bandmates at this point. A 7-way ‘marriage’ as it were between the band could be a recipe for problems and disagreements…well, that simply doesn’t happen with us, and even being in close proximity to one another over the course of this tour hasn’t changed the group dynamic from the happy and productive one that we have. So, in case you didn’t know who’s who…

Mark - If I’m the MD (musical director) he’s the MC (master of ceremonies). Always genial and friendly onstage to bring people so effortlessly into the feel of the show. Backstage, he’s more quiet and focused but so easy going and cool to be around. Always brings the set lists and the water…still AND sparkling on occasion just for a bit of onstage burping jeopardy! By far the most experienced band member and it shows every single night we play.

Tanyth - I used to call Tan “our secret weapon” when we first started gigging, but the secret’s been out for an awfully long time now! Mark calls her ‘a born performer’, which is bang on the money. To call her ‘one of the boys’ would be kind of doing her a disservice, but she’ll know what I mean by that. She’s constantly joking around and having fun at all our expense (pulling faces at me from side stage a particular favourite) and we all speak in a cod-Bridgend accent at shows because of her. We all love her-and so does each audience she sings for.

Glenn - I’ve known Glenn for over 30 years now and we’ve shared many a stage and studio over that time. His immense talent as a guitar player is unquestioned and many won’t know what a truly gifted songwriter he is too-better than me, for sure. He’s got an amazing ‘ear’ for music and is a perfect backing vocalist to throw random harmonies at for so many songs. He’s much in demand from artists like Myke Gray and Daniel Byrne these days, so we’re lucky to have him. Brings the guns and the rugged handsome looks, as well as his Brian May “red special” guitar just for one song. That’s dedication, folks

Jon - the newest member of the convent, but you would think he’s been with us since our inception, such is his talent and onstage relationship with us all, especially with fellow guitarist Glenn. Having worked with him in Aerosmith tribute “Toxic Twins” days some years back, I knew he’d be a perfect foil for Glenn and he makes it all look deceptively easy! This guy writes and sings some brilliant songs of his own too-well worth checking out. Another easy going guy with an encyclopaedic knowledge of rock guitar riffs - there’s barely a riff that he or Glenn doesn’t know instinctively! Brings the talk box and loves a half-time pint!

Gary - Well, this whole thing was Gary’s idea from the start when he rang me in early 2014 with a concept running around his head that we picked up and ran with! I spent best part of a decade putting on the warpaint in Dressed To Kill with Gary and know from my perspective as drummer that he’s the best bassist I’ve ever worked with…and that’s a hotly contested title based on the others I’ve worked with! Brings huge slabs of chocolate with him wherever we play and always wears his cowboy hat at a jaunty angle. He (like me) is relieved to only have to spend 10 minutes getting ready backstage before a show rather than the 2 hours it took to become Gene Simmons or Peter Criss in a previous life! I’ve started calling him “Gary Hardstare” after the looks he throws me when I’ve thrown him…or when he senses I’m hard staring at him !! He’s also lining up his young teenage son Toby to replace me on drums, I just know it! LOL

Oscar - Oscar holds the distinction of being the only L&L band member to have played every single show we’ve done since 2017. That’s shows how much this band means to him, in that he will clear his diary no matter what when our shows come calling. You tend to hear him before you see him at shows with his big booming voice having a volume control similar to the imaginary one on my Vimto Kit! We let him downstage at one point from behind his keyboards to play acoustic and it always looks like he’s constantly treading on drawing pins, he’s leaping about that much! He’s the youngest of our brood and when we started out he was not as experienced as most of us were in front of audiences as a consequence, but I’m immensely proud of how his confidence and ability has grown so hugely over time, and his little ‘moments’ onstage are always a highlight for the punters-they love watching the ‘drawing pin dance’ especially! He’s a child of the 80’s who just happens to have been born later than that LOL

Not forgetting Keith of course, who I mentioned earlier was on guitar for this final show in Jon’s absence and played even better than he’d done the previous evening. He pulls better “guitar solo faces” than most too!

All too soon, the final strains of our outro music were heard through the PA as we took a bow, the audience drifted away to their journeys home and it was left to us for one final pack down of equipment. Presently car boots were packed to their absolute maximum capacity everyone went there…er…Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) !! LOL

If you were one of those who came out to see us these past 13 shows, I sincerely thank you on behalf of everyone involved in the production. Times are tough out there and to know that you spent your hard earned on our show is truly humbling. I hope we gave you VFM.

My Vimto Kit certainly represents value for money based on how much fun I’ve had playing it on this tour. It was something of a leap of faith debuting a new kit effectively at the start of a tour with little production preparations beforehand. My enormous thanks to Craig Glover and Harry Shaw at Natal Drums for their support and assistance

We will be back before you know it on a lighted stage somewhere. Look out for us - we are just getting started!

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