The hills are alive….

Only a few days ago we were bemoaning the onset of Wintertime as it seemed that the gloom had descended and the sun disappeared. Last night’s drive Southwards meant warmer weather as we headed towards high pressure and milder conditions being enjoyed by most of Southern Europe at the moment. Our 24 hours in Innsbruck was met with some of the nicest November weather I can recall. As far as I can remember, the band have never played here although when I look it up, Dire Straits is listed as one of the ‘Top Acts’ to appear here. Innsbruck was the destination for my first school trip abroad at the age of 12 and my first memorable experience of alcohol experimentation along with my classmates. Not a pretty sight at 3am as my friend John Deacon threw up (whilst asleep!) in the bed 3 of us were sharing. Thankfully, I’ve learned in the 40 years since that a modicum of self-control will go a long way.

I digress….The Europa Tyrol hotel is a perfectly nice place to stay, one of those hotels where everything works, once that you’ve figured out how to get into the room. A glancing swipe on the illuminated perspex pad with the key card and ‘push’ the door. Amazing how something so simple can seem so impossible. Reports the following day revealed I was not the only one who suffered brain fade, some of Bob’s band who arrived later experienced similar moments of blind confusion.

Breakfast was….well, you know. I open the window and the fresh mountain air fills my lungs with renewed ‘get-up-and-go’ so I dress, grab the camera and head for the hills. Incidentally, I must mention that Peter (bless him) bought me a new camera strap yesterday. It’s a revelation and rather than explain further,  you can see what I mean here.

The hotel concierge tells me that it’s a ten minute walk to a chairlift which carries you to the mountain top restaurant with spectacular views etc. etc. Excited about the prospect of a potential photograph of the tour, I head off only to discover ten minutes later that all the chairlifts and funicular railways are closed for maintenance in preparation for the winter season. Understandable yet incomprehensible. Instead I traipse around the old town shooting up rather than down. (unfortunate turn of phrase) Glenn Worf did manage to make it to the hills as he has friends here who have a private recording studio in a spectacular location and was invited up there for lunch.

I wandered past an Augustina bar and bier garden and fond thoughts entered my head of our evenings in Berlin. My 40 years of experience in self-control came in handy as this wasn’t a day off and even a small beer would have made for an awful evening show. I drifted on…With the Alps all around, there’s certainly no shortage of beautiful scenery and I walked amongst the many Christmas shoppers on my way back to the hotel and the approaching bus departure time for sound-check etc.

The sheer size of our buses meant that it would have been as quick to walk to the venue but we depart the hotel and in 15 minutes we’re there. The Olympiahalle Innsbruck was built in 1963 specifically for the purpose of hosting the Ice Hockey matches of the 1964 Winter Olympics. The ice hockey games at the 1976 games were also held here. With a listed capacity of 7,034, this is one of those old-school ice arenas we know and loathe. I mean acoustically of course, as with a hard, vertical back wall, the sound travels straight back at the stage in the form of a loud, hard delay. In past times, this was a horrendous experience but with modern technology and of course the in-ears, it’s not really even an issue. It just all sounds ‘louder’.

The jovial backstage atmosphere is further illustrated here as Bob’s Tour manager, Jerry Wortman and Paul Crockford share a joke.

We take to the stage after a 5 minute ‘hold’. Sometimes the audience is a little slow coming in and in order to open the show to as many folks as possible, there is a little flexibility re. the showtimes. Another amazing audience which raised the roof when we finished and stood for seemingly ages applauding. There is little to compare with the feeling of coming off stage after a great gig and we are lucky enough to be able to experience this nearly every night. As John pointed out the other evening, our fans are near perfect…they applaud wildly when appropriate but listen SO intently when the dynamics drop to the point of literally being able to hear a pin drop. Sometimes in the middle of Marbletown, I swear you can hear the audience holding their collective breath. Truly remarkable. As we came off stage we greeted some of Bob’s band who were hanging around backstage and looking as sharp as ever. A super-swift crew turnaround and Bob, his band and Mark took to the stage once more to the perfectly delivered introduction as read, live, by Al Santos, Bob’s tour manager. As Paul Crockford does our on-stage announcement, he and Al have quite a bit of banter each night over this. In fact Paul keeps threatening to shut Al in a flight case one evening and hijack Bob’s announcement.

Another great day on the road nearly over and we board the buses once again for the trip further South into Italy and the prospect of some REAL pasta!

…buona notte e dio benedica…