The Antwerp Sportpalais was at one time the largest indoor arena in Europe, but that was back in 1933, the year it was completed. Clearly the venue has seen better days but it is well loved by many artists as the Belgian audiences are second to none. The backstage areas are a little dark and dingey by modern standards but the staff at the venue do a great job in making the place feel comfortable. There is always a great atmosphere here and tonight’s show was no exception.
The day kicked off back in Bremen at a hotel described by John McCusker as a giant version of Fawlty Towers after a particularly hilarious breakfast room service episode. With most of us recovered from the effects of being unable to master the room key system, we checked out and assembled in the lobby for departure in the Rangers of Mannfred’s team to the airport for our short flight to Antwerp. Team A is Bob, Eike, Mario and Mannfred.
The rain seemed to have set in but when we arrived at the small airport for our security screening, the sun came out and blue skies dominated. Back aboard the cars, we were driven ‘airside’ to the steps of the plane, clearly being watched by passengers queuing on the tarmac to board a Ryanair flight. We were up and gone before they were all on board. One can get very used to this.
At 24,000 feet we leveled out and Liz served up an antipasti snack and setlists were discussed and agreed upon. As she cleared out tables, Liz mentioned that the Antwerp runway was short so the pilots would be stopping the Legacy a little quicker than usual. With air-brakes fully deployed, we came to a slow taxi in the middle of what appeared to be an air show. Crowds lined the tarmac with a multitude of cameras and binoculars aiming in our direction. We waved back out the windows at a few kids who’s parents had bought them a long to see a display of 2nd world war fighters and bi-planes in the annual Antwerp Stampe & Ercoupe air show which pays tribute to the pioneers Jean Stampe and Maurice Vertongen who started their flying school and aircraft factory at Antwerp airport back in 1923.
John and Mike at the soup station in catering..
We were soon off the plane and into Bernie’s cars for the short drive to the Sportpalais. Soundcheck was used practicing a few of the tune we are hoping Ruth Moody may come and join us for tomorrow’s Amsterdam show. Of course Ruth will be our support for that show as well as the Royal Albert Hall shows and some of the French gigs.
pic Lee Fonteyn
The show tonight was another winner as we played to a packed house with not an empty seat in sight. As we negotiated our way through tonight’s set, it occurred to me that thirty years ago, never in a million years would I have expected to be still here, touring, performing to sold-out crowds who relish every note, with a band as magnificent as this…the best band I’ve ever had the pleasure to be in, bar none…ever. with a slightly different tail end and encore performed, we headed once again into the cars and off not to the airport but directly to Amsterdam and another new hotel experience. Just under 2 hours later we were checking in to the brand new Conservatorium hotel. Our last hotel had its foibles and charm and this one has its fair share of eccentricity and quirkiness. The 200million Euro rebuild of a magnificent 19th century Neo-Gothic building blends historical architecture with modern design and there are no prizes for guessing the architect was Italian. I mean that in the nicest possible way yet functionally I’m left scratching my head a little. There is a film called Demolition Man which stars Sylvester Stallone in which there is a running joke with 3 shells in a bathroom. I felt a little like his character, projected into the future with little understanding of the most basic in-room technology. As I will no doubt elaborate upon tomorrow.
For now, bed, and the thought of a day off in museum district, downtown Hamsterjam.