Lost at Sea
Istanbul is the only city in the world which spreads itself across two continents. The official population here is officially just under 17 million but there must surely be many more as it is well known to have many unregistered inhabitants. The Bosphorus, which connects the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea, divides the city into the European, Thracian side and the Asian, Anatolian side. As the capital of the Ottoman empire since 1453, Istanbul is by far the largest city in the Middle East and contains around 3,000 clearly visible mosques. If by some miracle you don’t see them, you can certainly hear them as Turkish Muslims perform the prayer ritual (namaz) five times each day. Todays ‘ÖÄŸle’ prayer sounded at 13:13 this afternoon and echoed hauntingly across the river whilst laying by the pool. Having almost forgotten what sun feels like after one of the harshest winters on record in the UK, our stay in Istanbul couldn’t have been more welcome. We seemed to time it perfectly too as this is the first warm spell of weather here this year. Today the temperature rose into the 80’s as some of us enjoyed what must be one of the nicest pools of any tour hotel in recent memory.
Everyone in the band is spending plenty of time in the gym it seems and for me each humbling session is followed where possible by a swim. The heated magnificence of the full size Four Seasons pool means laps of luxury. Our second, or is it third day here means that my pasty white skin colour has now given way to a patchy lobster-red, typical for any Brit emerging from a hibernative condition. We’re being very careful in the sun, as we’ve all learned at some point that sun-stroke and a gig is a grim combo.
As is often the case on a day off, we climbed aboard the Range Rovers and headed out for a band dinner. Last night’s location was quite special. Topaz is one of Istanbul’s elite upmarket restaurants which has the most astonishing views of the Bosphorus. I can report that the food ain’t all the bed either with only a light to moderate ‘fru-fru’ rating. A wonderful and varied menu included Lamb, Risottos, pastas and some typically Ottoman style traditional dishes. I plumbed for an expanding Lamb dish. It looked like a very small portion upon arrival but had mysterious intumescent qualities and my hunger was more than satisfied. The view speaks for itself but when the full moon rose over the Eastern city, it capped off a fabulous evening. What a start to a tour.
Pete took a couple of shots of the evening…
Show day –
This morning’s breakfast order was identical to days one and two..Fresh OJ, Cafe Latte, Birscher Muesli and water. The Birscher in this hotel is stunning (9/10) and has become the staple day starter. Gym, a swim, back to the room to devour the muesli (the reward) and then back poolside for the daily bake.
Those of us who were here back in 2008, remember with fondness the boat trip we took up the Bosphorus and the news that we were to travel to the venue which is on the Asian side, by boat was exciting. At 3:45, we assembled at the Four Seasons riverside dock to await the arrival of our vessel. We were soon, clambering awkwardly aboard and some of us headed for the top deck. The boat crew seemed fine with letting the boys steer although with the heavy traffic on one of the busiest stretches of water in the world, others on board were less than overjoyed. Somehow we managed to navigate our way to the neighboring continent although 20 minutes later, we pulled into a small harbour and the looks on Ian and John’s faces said it all.
We were completely lost…
Just kidding, we of course had no idea where we were but our crew did. We pulled up, moored and disembarked only to discover that Bernie and the Range Rovers were stuck in notorious Istanbul traffic. 15 minutes later, the cars roared up, we piled in and in another ten, we were at the venue.
The gig couldn’t have been more different to the one we played on our last visit here. The Ulker sports arena was not here in 2008 and in fact opened just over a year ago. It’s a great venue and the crowd at the show didn’t disappoint. Chris, Dave and George, our caterers whisked up their usual magical treats which included a Turkish Meze selection followed by home-made Baklava and black tea. Utterly delicious. Well nourished and relaxed we learned that there was to be a meet and greet. John and Mike grabbed whisle and fiddle, Richard got hold of his spare Bazouki and I rummaged through the wardrobe cases in search of the Martin Ukulele. The old meet and greet tunes soon came back to us (almost) and we took to the makeshift stage for the first impromtu M&G of the tour.
The show itself was extraordinary. We are still finding our feet a little but all of the songs (whether we’ve performed them before or not) seem to have a renewed energy. There are of course many moments of sheer brain-fade and blind panic but I’m not sure many outside the band ever notice these moments of…angst. We are still getting used to the new (and so-called, improved) monitor desk but Kerry is as usual doing a spectacular job. In Kerry we trust.
With the sound of huge applause still ringing in our ears (especially when Ian held up a Fenerbahce shirt thrown onto the stage during our bows) we leapt into the RR’s once more for a 15 minute ride (traffic permitting) back across into eastern Europe and our lavish digs, the Four Seasons. The band met outside on the terrace for a nightcap and a debrief of the show. Many things still to address but then we seek great things, don’t we.
One final note today in memory of the late, great George Jones who passed away on Friday. Richard has written a wonderful tribute in his diary pages.
For those who don’t already know, you can read Richard’s wonderful daily notes from the road here.
Richard has recently produced a fab new album called ‘For the newly Blue’. Check it out here –