Knowing I only have one hour to drive today, I took the morning easily. Quite nice, waking up in a small town such as Sturbridge, MA; thought I’ll have a quick breakfast, good cappuccino, and then drive easily and pleasantly to Somerville, MA—just outside of Boston (hotel prices in Boston were just too much to handle. It did, however, seem a bit lucrative to stay at the Four Seasons hotel in Boston, for the unbeatable price of $3,700 a night).
Sturbridge, MA is a small town that prides itself with its history. We decided to pay a visit to a local cafe called “Sturbridge Coffee Roasters”. “Nice”, I thought to myself. “Have a breakfast, and then a locally‐roasted coffee”.
Entered the place. “Hello” to the hostess, and we sat down. Waiting for service.
After about 20 minutes of listening to the only poor lady who was working there, speaking to one of the clients, we figured that we should, maybe, let her know that we’re sort of hungry. We ended up going to the cashier and place the order there.
After what seemed to be f’n forever, our long‐awaited order arrived. We both ordered something (breakfast burrito?) that had ham, salsa, cheese and eggs in it; what we ended up getting is a dry tortilla filled with scrambled eggs covered with some ugly, sticky cheese (I suspect it was Cheez‐Wiz); neither ham nor salsa, which is sort‐of what I was waiting for for the last 45 minutes.
But you know what? I don’t think anything can surprise me anymore, when it comes to restaurant standards in USA and Canada; and before you call me a “patronizing jackass”—
(a) I know;
(b) I am not saying that all restaurants suck. I am talking about the average; and
(c) Go to any country in western Europe, eat in a few restaurants and see for yourself.
Back in the car and off to Somerville we went. After a few detours caused by immensely confusing roads, we finally reached our destination—La Quinta Hotel Inn & Suites in Somerville, MA; not a walking distance from the venue (unless you’re a masochist), but close enough to public transport.
Entering the hotel, we were greeted by the nastiest hotel receptionist I ever came across. Her name was Liz and her attitude was so patronizing and disgusting that all that Jeroen and myself could do is look at each other with a huge “WTF” expression on our faces.
Packed a few things and left towards Sullivan Square, which is the nearest subway station. I decided to spend as little time in the hotel as possible, and instead pass the time in some quiet coffee place in downtown Boston. I’m too tired to walk around sight‐seeing; I should note though that it was a beautiful day. I was just too tired.
Out of the subway at the Downtown Crossing station, I went up the stairs towards Washington street and all I could see around was tall buildings, shady‐looking people and quite a bit of litter. Well, that’s normal I guess, I can’t recall exiting a subway station in a big city and seeing beauty all around. I just don’t understand why it is like this. If somebody can shed some light as to why public transportation stations are often so dirty and populated with suspicious people, please let me know.
The downtown area of Boston is decent—not too crowded (nowhere near as Chicago, for example), a bit dirty but altogether pleasant to walk around. As I was starving, I had a sandwich at Cosi (simply because it was the first place that I found, having decent food) and then proceeded to Boston Coffee Company where I spent the next few hours catching up with the world.
Half an hour before the opening act, we went to the Orpheum Theatre to collect the tickets—front row, absolute centre (this is starting to get annoying)—then split up as Jeroen went to see the opening act and I went away looking for a cafe to continue catching up with things.
Arrived at the venue about 10 minutes before the band took the stage. I was really interested to know what this concert would be like, in the light of the recent developments regarding Mark’s health condition.
The Orpheum Theatre is an old (built in 1852. Yes, over 150 years ago. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orpheum_Theatre_%28Boston,_Massachusetts%29), beaten‐up, sort‐of dusty theatre. Not very impressive—not in the exterior, not in the interior; the sound, however, was decent. The reception area was quite crowded (I miss the spacious reception areas of some venues in the west coast… Eugene, Oregon being case in point) and stank from beer.
The front row seats were so close to the stage that it was very hard to avoid having my knees touching it. The band, however were about 3–4 metres away from the edge of the stage.
So what did we have there…
We had two individuals that decided to leave LP covers of Dire Straits albums (one left Dire Straits, the other left Making Movies) along with a marker, hoping for a signature (which never materialized). One of the LP’s spent the entire show on the stage (the guy just put it there at the beginning of the show). At some point I was considering taking the LP and signing it myself.
We had a surprisingly cheerful Mark. It appears as if his health condition is improving—still limping, but I have to say that he played much better today than, say, two days ago. Perhaps it’s the day off, perhaps it’s an improvement in his condition… whatever the reason is, Mark played as if he was in perfect health. The “sticky thing” discharged from his palms seemed to not matter at all this time.
We had a buzz that came from one of the amps—continuously, the entire show. The buzz’s volume increased and decreased in concert with Mark’s volume pedal’s state; the very same buzz you hear when connecting a single‐coil pickup guitar into an amp without using any sort of device to clean that buzz.
(Maybe Guy Fletcher will elaborate in his diary entry)
We had some daring, interesting solo’s during Sailing to Philadelphia and Coyote. When the time came to play Prairie Wedding, Mark was holding a Pensa guitar instead of the Telecaster he usually plays that song with; for a second I thought that there’s a setlist change, however it was Prairie Wedding again, played with a Pensa. Ha. Interesting. Sounds not bad at all.
(It’s not the same Pensa as the one used for Telegraph Road; it was this one:)
Good to have seen Mark cheerful again; clearly it affects the band as well, as they all played very well. No screw‐ups, everything going smooth… pleasant.
Hats off to the band for job well done.
The crowd was very cheery during the band’s performance; standing ovations were very frequent—sometimes even at the middle of a song. Before playing Donegan’s Gone, Mark mentioned the fact that that is the point in the show where “the bequests start arriving”; he does that in every show, and it indeed triggers further bequests by the crowd. However the difference this time was that the bequests just kept on coming. The crowd yelled different song names (of which some didn’t have anything to do with either Dire Straits or Mark Knopfler) for about a minute straight—I believe there was no song in the Dire Straits repertoire that wasn’t “bequested”.
Crowd was very happy to have the band over for a visit. That said, Jeroen informed me later that the crowd’s behaviour during Pieta Brown’s show was terribly disrespectful—“even worse than the Mashantucket experience” (quoting him). He mentioned that the crowd was so busy talking, that Jeroen could barely even understand what Pieta was singing, and at some point towards the end, Pieta turned to the crowd and asked them “come on, tell me, what is it that you all are talking about?” or something of the sort.
Show ended at 10:30pm or so; a refreshing smoothie from a nearby store, subway ride, cab ride and back to the hotel.
Tomorrow—driving to Newark, where we will base for the next 4 nights or so; then drive to Red Bank to the show.