Blimey, what a day. 

Over the many years we’ve been coming to Paris, we have enjoyed extended stays in hotels and often made it a ‘hubbing’ point. This time we’ve chosen Lyon as a base. Whenever there are large events on in Paris, which is often, hotels ramp up their prices, hugely, a standard business practice which I’ve always thought was unethical. So, no walks down the Champs-Élysées or aimless wanderings around Le Jardin des Tuileries.

New improvements have been made to the Bercy arena since our last visit. Only the exterior is recognisable. The dressing rooms are now in a different location and the hall itself is no longer red. We’ve played here many times since 1985, during the Dire Straits heyday, yet as someone pointed out, stadium shows excluded, we are putting more bums on seats on this European tour than on that one. 

Simple journeys from the airport here are always unpredictable as traffic around Paris can be extraordinary. We often shake our heads at the ‘donors’ on motorcycles, who snake between the traffic at ridiculous speeds, seemingly anxious to be taken to the nearest A&E department in the back of an ambulance. Today, the traffic was typical and we made it to the venue in about 40 minutes from Charles De Gaulle airport.

On arrival, French Onion soup with huge cheesy croutons was communally devoured and sound check was thorough. We fine-tuned a few endings and a couple of intros. There are always things that can be improved. We had some fun backstage and I joined Mike and Ianto in the tuning room on a Bodhran. Mike showed me how to hold the beater. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a go and Mark is absolutely right when he says it’s difficult. About 10 minutes in, I started to get the hang of it. As Mark says onstage each night now, there’s always someone learning a new instrument backstage. It’s like a music school back here! The show was quite spectacular and considering it’s a Monday night, the Parisians were absolutely up for it. So much so that the traditional ‘bull-run’ happened as soon as we started the party that is Postcards From Paraguay. We coasted to the end and wondered if we’d ever had such a marvellous gig in Paris.

In cars after the show, we headed for the Boulevard Périphérique and with Mark, Glenn and myself in the lead car, the guys in the vans behind were witness to some hair-raising antics. When we pulled up at the terminal (there is no facility for private jets here), a few fans who thought it would be a good idea to follow our convoy dangerously close, grabbed their albums and sharpies and surrounded us as we got out of the cars. They had driven like lunatics to get here, all for an autograph, which… they didn’t get.

Rolling our bags through the deserted terminal and going through security, we were led out, airside to board a bus to take us to the plane… the bus wasn’t there. Our air support team had prepped everything prior but when a French bus driver decides to have another cup of coffee, what can be done? We waited on the tarmac for 15 minutes or so, until the bus showed up and eventually took us to the plane where Daniella was waiting. Unfortunately, our slot had been moved back and we were refused permission to turn on our APU. The lack of air conditioning didn’t last for long and our slot was shifted once again, in our favour. We took off at around 12:30 and arrived into Lyon under an hour later. Team ‘B’ led by Alex collected us at a deserted Lyon, Terminal 3 and we headed for the serenity of our hotel hub in Lyon. It seemed like a whirlwind of a day, with plenty of excitement at both ends of the scale. “Paris, on a Monday?”, we kept asking ourselves. What a city. What a night. What a tour.

Thanks to Jean-Luc Lebeury for the gig pics