I've long had a soft spot for playing in Wales' capital city, especially with The Australian Pink Floyd Show. My first gig there with the band, just a month over 10 years ago, was, I think, also their first at the arena currently known as the Motorpoint, where we've played most years since then. As far as I recall it was also one of the band's earliest encounters with a UK arena, staged at the end of a tour of smaller civic and assembly halls as a chance to try out the newly expanded PA and lights just before the band's first tour in the USA and Canada. On a much less significant scale, it was also the first TAPFS gig for which I dressed “up” in stage clothes other than a plain black t-shirt and trousers...
This year's visit began when I rolled off the tour bus at around 10.30, knocked on the stage door and was let in by Ceri, one of two lovely security ladies who guarded the door for us all day and were happy to chat and laugh with everyone as we passed by on the way to the upstairs catering area and back. It's that kind of friendliness which, for me, makes the Cardiff gig a nice one – so thank you Ceri (I hope I've spelled it right!) and Babs for the warm welcome! I did try to get a photo of the two, despite their protestations that they photograph badly, but it didn't come out well so, since I was threatened with dreadful revenge if I published any picture of them that was less than stellar, you'll have to make do with one of Cardiff's High Street instead.
That the weather seems to be turning now from damp, dank winter towards a warm early spring definitely helped to make it a nice day: it was a real pleasure to leave my overcoat on the bus and sally out into the centre of Cardiff in just a light jacket. The city centre's changed a lot in the last 10 years – the old streets of houses and bars one used to walk through from the arena to the High Street have been razed and replaced by the massive concrete-and-chromium Dewi Sant shopping centre, and the High Street itself has been ploughed up and re-paved as a pedestrian zone. Not surprisingly, part of the Cardiff experience in past years has been the negotiating of roadworks and the skirting of building sites – but this year all of that seems to have settled down, leaving a lively, seemingly thriving city centre which I thoroughly enjoyed strolling around in the warm sunshine.
Thankfully, all the redevelopment hasn't taken out some of the more individual aspects of old Cardiff. The long, narrow pedestrian shopping arcades which meander back from High Street are still there and busy: I found the city's Oxfam bookshop relocated since last year from its old High Street premises to a much roomier site in the Royal Arcade. A small but very pleasing purchase was made there, one which I shan't describe now because it may become part of a new project being worked out with Jason. A little further up the block, the city's attractive 19th century covered market hall is still there too, although this time I failed to locate the packed little bookstall which used to be inside.
But that was probably because time was moving on and I needed to be wandering back to the arena to set up my instruments for soundcheck. Perhaps that'll be a subject for another blog one day, but for now I'll just offer you a couple of slightly different photos: one showing roughly my view of the world during the performance of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond Pt. 5”, one of two ladies and an alto saxophone reed...
Soundcheck done, it was time for tea, a splendid and very filling concoction of pasta, spinach and flaked salmon prepared by lovely cook (I rather like “cookess”, but it's probably non-p.c. and anyway it's one of those 16th century English neologisms which didn't catch on) Lorraine, who also tried to get me to sample a fabulous-looking chocolate dessert she'd made... but I resisted, albeit with difficulty! And I speak as someone who doesn't eat desserts, so that's how tempting it looked! Stupidly, though, I didn't take a picture of it... so here's one of another of her sumptuous servings, the tiffin she made in Plymouth!
And in due course show time came around. It was a good one. The Cardiff audience was very vocal in its appreciation – and, on a Saturday night, rowdy in a positive way, expressing a lot of enjoyment. Meanwhile I was charging around backstage running through my routine of hat changes, seeing to Tea Club (no, it wasn't a one-off subject for a blog, it's still on every night!) and adding in an extra layer of running banter with Ceri and Babs, who were highly intrigued by my pink saxophone. (Well put. -Ed.)
End of show, everything packed, exchanged hugs and hopes that we'll all meet again next year with the two lovely ladies, onto the bus, sampled a rather nifty bottle of port with Jason... and so to bed, perchance (OR NOT) to dream of a welcoming TV set in Plymouth!