The Prince’s Trust was founded in 1976 by King Charles III (then Prince Charles) and helps young people in the UK in many ways. Around one in five young people in the UK are not in work, education or training. Youth unemployment costs the UK economy £10 million a day in lost productivity, while youth crime costs £1 billion every year. The Trust addresses this by giving practical and financial support to the young people who need it most. They help develop key skills, confidence and motivation, enabling young people to move into work, education or training.
In the 1980s The Prince’s Trust was synonymous with the Rock Gala. The fund-raising concerts were created when the UK economy was gripped by inflation, strikes and high unemployment following recession and as Brian May was quoted as saying last night, this country now finds itself in a similar predicament.
Last night was certainly an evening to remember.
Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, made their first public appearance together since the recent royal engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
I believe it was 1985 or 86 that Dire Straits performed a show for the trust. It was an honour to be involved in another Princes Trust Rock Gala and this time I was asked to play keyboards in the house band together with Midge Ure, Mark King, Mark Brzeziki, Jamie Cullum, backing singers extraordinaire Susie Webb, Zoe Nicholas and a wonderful horn section comprising of John Thirkell, Simon Gardner, Snake Davis and Neil Sidwell.
The ten of us assembled at the familiar Music Bank rehearsal rooms on Monday morning at 10am ready for what lay ahead, the daunting task of learning the 26 songs to be performed by the various artists at the event. In the previous week, Midge (the MD) and I had been sending out mp3’s to the band to start the ball rolling. We got stuck in and ran the songs that Midge and Mark would be singing and some of the guest artists turned up and we ran their tunes. The first day was as intense a day of rehearsal as I’ve ever experienced but it soon became apparent that the chemistry of this band was wonderful. We all were relishing the experience and with Midge at the helm, with all the homework everyone had done, by the end of day two, we were feeling pretty confident we could pull this off!
I should mention also that the whole event was beautifully coordinated by none other than Paul Crockford management and his amazing team. Paul had the good sense to enlist most of the Mark Knopfler road crew. There were many familiar faces involved from Dave Dixon on the sound board to Kerry Lewis on monitors, Laurence Adams and Colin Barton (keys) Glenn Saggers (guitars) Pete Mackay (security) etc. etc. all familiar names to my regular tour diary readers I’m sure.
The House Band in the dressing room
So to the show day. The band call was for 12:30 and we arrived to the stage to scenes of organized chaos. No panicking though, it was just the sheer amount of equipment being loaded in for this one-off show. By one o’clock they were ready for line-check and half an hour later the sound-checking began, starting with Eric Clapton. Eric bought along the wonderful Chris Stainton to play keyboards (which gave me a break in the show..more 3D viewing?). By 4:30, the stage was set and all was ready for the show.
Because all of the artists were already in the building, the red carpet arrivals were staged. We were driven in two gleaming Maserati cars (two at a time) from the stage door round to the red carpet where the press were assembled.
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 17: (L to R) Musicians Midge Ure, Mark King, guest, Guy Fletcher and Laurie Fletcher arrive at The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala 2010 supported by Novae at the Royal Albert Hall on November 17, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
Midge, Mark King, Mark Brzeziki, me and Laurie
Susie, Zoe and Sir Tom
At 7:30 the concert began, introduced by none other than Dame Edna Everage. She introduced the first musical act…Status Quo. They performed ‘Rocking all over the world’ and ‘Whatever you want’. Then whilst the stage was re-set, Rob Brydon did a short set and then introduced the Prince’s Trust all-Star band (that’s us) and we bounded onto the stage and Jamie launched into ‘I’m all over it’.
Then a real treat, Alison Moyet came on and we performed a version of ‘Feeling Good’ with Alison and Jamie trading verses. Fantastic. Then it was the turn of Phil Collins and we played a Motown set, ‘Heatwave’, ‘You can’t hurry love’ and ‘My Girl’.
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 17: ***EXCLUSIVE*** Singer Alison Moyet performs at The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala 2010 supported by Novae at the Royal Albert Hall on November 17, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Alison Moyet
It was a total honour to play with this chap.
Mark King then stepped forward to the mic and we played Level 42’s ‘Running in the family’ followed by a real high point for me…’Vienna’ with Midge Ure. Something I’d dreamed of doing ever since that record came out back in 1981.
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 17: ***EXCLUSIVE*** Musicians Midge Ure (L) and Mark King perform at The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala 2010 supported by Novae at the Royal Albert Hall on November 17, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Midge Ure; Mark King
Midge solos in ‘Vienna’
To round off the first half of the show, Mike and the Mechanics (Mike Rutherford, Andrew Roachford and Tim Howar) came on and we played ‘Over my Shoulder’ and ‘all I need is a miracle’.
During the intermission, there was a rehearsal of the finale song of the show and all the guest singers assembles in the all-star’s dressing room together with Spike Edney (there’s a clue).
Spike, Zoe, Tom, Jamie, Susie, Sir Tom, Mark, Johnny, Paloma, Alison and me
The second half of the show started with Jools Holland and Ruby Turner singing ‘To Love a Child’. Then the amazing Tom Jones came on and did ‘Strange things happen’, an incredible version of ‘Burning Hell’ with the Stacey brothers on guitar and drums and ‘Glory of Love’ with Jools. Then the All-star band returned to the stage for the Paloma Faith set. We did ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ and ‘New York’. Then it was the turn of Prince’s Trust regular, the amazing Eric Clapton. I have to say that during soundcheck, I thought Eric was playing as brilliantly as I’ve ever heard him. Or maybe I’ve just not been getting enough EC? who knows. What I do know is that he is possibly the greatest guitarist on the planet and both Mark King and I looked at each other in awe. Eric did ‘Rocking Chair’, ‘Same old Blues’ (the old JJ Cale tune), ‘Queen of Spades’ and ‘Crossroads’. Fantastic.
After Eric came the final band of the show.
Brian May, Roger Taylor and Queen. Spike Edney got on my keyboard rig and Jamie and I shared the grand piano on stage right. Roger’s son Rufus came along and kicked off the segment on drums whilst Roger sang ‘These are the days of our lives’ and I’ll tell you, at that moment I thought “they certainly are”. I have goosebumps writing this. Then Roger got behind his magnificent kit and Brian May launched into ‘Last Horizon’. Brian then introduced to the stage the fantastic Tom Chaplin from Keene, I got on the piano for the highlight of the evening for me, I played ‘Hard Life’ on grand piano, on stage, at the Royal Albert Hall, WITH QUEEN. A band I idolized as a teenager. I think Brian mentioned that this song has never been performed live. It was quite a moment and when we finished, Tom received a standing ovation from the crowd. Then I handed over the keys to Jamie who launched into another favourite track of mine, the epic ‘Seven seas of Rye’. Ear drums well and truly blasted, the stage filled with all of the artists of the night and Brian launched into the inevitable ‘We are the champions’ with the two Tom’s, Alison, Jamie, Paloma and Midge all trading verses. We all took our bows and the show was over.
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 17: ***EXCLUSIVE*** Guy Fletcher (L) and Midge Ure perform at The Prince’s Trust Rock Gala 2010 supported by Novae at the Royal Albert Hall on November 17, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Guy Fletcher; Midge Ure
Of course no Royal Gala event would be complete without a royal line-up.
The concert was filmed by Sky in glorious 3D and they really pulled out the stops on this production with a 160 man film crew in attendance. In the backstage green room which was sponsored by Uberchic lifestyle, a company focusing on the more luxurious aspects of living, as well as a champagne bar with smoked salmon and caviar blinis to be enjoyed there were some huge 3D TV’s with representatives from Samsung and Sky giving demonstrations of the medium. The show was aired live in the building so artists not on stage and guests not in the auditorium could don a pair of (passive) 3D specs and see it in all it’s amazing glory. I popped a pair on during the Status Quo set and was impressed. It’s the first time I’ve seen 3D outside of the cinema and I think the experience is just as good, if not better than on the big screen.
It will be broadcast on Sky, in 3D on December 19th, 2010. I’ve never normally been inclined to watch anything I’ve been involved in on television but I’m going to go get hold of a 3D set for this one.
Don’t miss it.
Images courtesy of the Prince’s Trust and Paul Crockford management
The concert was aired on the Sky Arts channel in January 2010