Northern Light
After a truly amazing whirlwind week at the Royal Albert Hall we all welcomed a five day break from the schedule. For the Brits it meant some valuable time at home with the families and for me, an opportunity to shut down the computer for a few days. . . .
Back on duty this morning as the car arrived in plenty of time to whisk me up to Northolt airfield. With a heavy day of traveling ahead, the weather broke in violent fashion as the temperatures have slowly risen all week with a thunderstorm heading in from Northern France after five solid days of sun. At Northolt we waited in the passenger area for the other cars carrying band members to arrive before heading out through security to our plane. Ah, the plane. Back in the bubble once more as Liz served up a light sushi lunch (a bit heavy on the rice if you ask me…..woah!, see how quickly we get picky)
It was a short hop across the Thames Estuary, North Sea and over once again to Holland and the huge Schipol airport. We approached in an unusual sideways fashion, as if we were covertly ‘slipping’ into the airfield unnoticed as our runway was right next to the GA terminal. I imagined a conversation with the control tower…”H-MKPT to tower, ready to land”..”tower here, clear to land, just stay out of the way of the big birds”. After a very short taxi, chocks were deployed and the door opened to a beautiful warm Dutch afternoon with Gunther, Eike, Bob and Mario piloting our fleet of Rangers ready and waiting on the tarmac. The drive to the Northern town of Zwolle was estimated to be about 90 minutes. A short nap I think. The back of these cars is actually very comfortable once you get used to being so elevated and the ride is second to none. We pulled in to the venue in plenty of time for sound check. We headed straight for catering, as usual. Unfortunately, because the travel distances are so great for the next few days, we only took our back-line truck which meant everything else was ‘local’. This included the PA, lights and , yes you’ve guessed it, catering! Chris, Dave and Georgie have well and truly spoiled us as today’s late lunch offerings left out for the band remained untouched, delightful as the caterers were. So to sound check. It was clear this was going to be a roaster. The IJsselhallen arena is officially a conference facility that puts on the odd gig but our suspicions that is was often used as a cattle market were raised by the smell and the large boxes of straw backstage. Nonetheless, it makes for a great venue and although it was hot, the Dutch made sure the atmosphere was electric. After our soundcheck we hesitantly proceeded towards the catering area where there were a few tasty offerings. I picked out a nice juicy steak, devoured it and retired to our sweltering portakabin dressing room.
pic Henk Pestman
The show was indeed hot. Very hot. Ianto, deployed a fan on his drum riser to keep him cool throughout and we were all jealous. The vibe on stage was quite incredible. I suppose the relief of having finished up at the RAH last week and the four days off all contributed to what was certainly the most relaxed and fun gig I think I’ve ever done.
pic Henk Pestman
This band is truly something else. Mark played brilliantly, Glenn was stellar, Ian, Jim, Mike, Richard and John all had a night to remember and we left the stage after our encores and piled, sweaty into the cars for our journey to Helsinki. Another hour and 20 minutes before we arrived back at the GA terminal. we boarded the plane and most of us were completely famished. Liz had a crafty chicken stroganoff up her sleeve and we all tucked in with gusto. By the time we reached our cruising altitude of 35,000 feet, the Summer Northern sky was lit up. The further we headed North West, the brighter it got and by the time we started our descent two and a half hours later, it was almost broad daylight.
The local time was 3am. Bernie and his team met us airside once more, very civilized, and we headed for the center of town and our hotel for the next few days. There seemed to be an awful lot of people out and about, clearly making their weary way home after a night on the town. It was of course Friday night.
Glenn casually mentioned in the car as we squinted in the early morning light, watching be-shorted party-goers queuing for buses, that he recalled a tour long ago where he was told by our crew that the ONLY country in the world where they were afraid of drinking with the locals … was Finland.