The tour started for us in Bedford. Production rehearsals, where everyone meets everyone for the first time in months, began with the usual hugs and handshakes and introductions to new members of the crew. New Year’s resolutions are still in place and stories of recent visits to the gym and comparisons of girth are not uncommon. For lunch the café facilities offered us a choice of delights; Mr. Kidson seemed content to settle for a virtuous plate of pure cabbage.
After long and tiring days of rehearsals we left for Nice in France before driving to Monaco the following day. The wet weather from England seemed to follow us to the south of France, but even in the rain the Mediterranean coast was an agreeable sight. Dave, Alex, Lorelei and myself stopped at a Kebab restaurant at the behest of Dave, a fine connoisseur of kebabs in all their forms and we all enjoyed a not so virtuous plate of salad, chips and kebab as we discussed the recent events of Justin Bieber and whether his crimes against music and his recent behaviour should cause him to be derided or whether he should be somehow be pitied as a misguided youth. Alex, feeling rather passionate about the issue, sounded off some colourful expletives whilst Dave seemed to think it was all part of Rock n Roll; I preferred to not have an opinion about an ephemeral pop star.
Leaving Nice we enjoyed our first trip on the bus for the tour while Emily kindly made everyone cups of tea from the selection of teas available in the cupboard, and we arrived at the venue at around 2 pm, carrying our luggage up a hill from the car park.
Monaco, a tiny country on the French Riviera, is apparently the most densely populated country in the world. Noted for glamour, racing, royalty and gambling, and the oh so very, very rich, the famous Casino Royale was just a 5 minute walk from the hotel we stayed in the first time we played in Monaco in 2012. Now we were booked to play in a larger venue about a mile further away. The weather was overcast but the seafront outside the venue affords spectacular views of the sea. The place is mountainous and not designed for a casual stroll, its hilliness can make walking an exhausting task; most natives of Monaco seem to prefer to drive sports cars.
Now, back in Monaco for a second time, we sold out the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo. This being the first show of the tour, some of the finer details of the set list were yet to be decided; the order of the songs in the set, for example, and how to allow the musicians to have enough time to change guitars and scroll up the right sound. It was a little nerve wracking knowing that we had only just finished our production rehearsals and there is still work to be done until we are completely happy with it. Having produced some new animation and film material as well as songs we hadn’t performed in years, we were looking forward to playing an exciting new set.
Performing to a full house, the receptive crowd made it a very good first gig. Of course, being the first show of the tour, we were still ironing out a few glitches, cues and details that are apparent more to ourselves than the audience. Between sets we compared notes and lamented some of the minor issues we had during the show but such things are part of live music and we soon concentrated on the rest of the songs to be performed. Afterwards we relaxed in our dressing rooms waiting for the bus to arrive close enough to the venue's artists' entrance so that we could spend our first night on a Phoenix bus, apparently one of the best bus companies in the business, with the added advantage that the sleeping compartments are in two quarters-enough to separate the loud snorers from the quiet snorers. Many times have I found an abundance of strange shoes at the bottom of my bunk at the end of a tour, a testament to various objects flung at me during the night to silence me for a short while...
Next stop: Grenoble, France.