(Writing this post sitting in the cafe at the Copthorne Tara Hotel where I’m staying during the London tour; Thursday, 12:30pm)
Yesterday was a very good day in many respects. The normal healthy breakfast at the hotel, followed by a joint planning effort as Jeroen helped me with completing the train schedule for the European trip, excluding Italy (Daria, we need to talk!) and Spain (Budget / Hertz / Thrifty / Dollar / Enterprise, we need to talk!) while I was working on hotel bookings.
The more planning I get done, the more it gets into my head what magnitude it is the thing I got myself into. Once the planning stage is done, I will publish a link here to a Google Docs document, containing a spreadsheet outlining the journey. I showed the intermediate version to two of my best friends back home and they both conclusively agreed that this journey bears the essence of insanity in it.
But for me, it boils down to simple logic.
First and foremost, I love to travel. Had I not have the seed of wanderlust in my blood, I would have never done such a thing.
Second, I listen to Knopfler’s music on a daily basis, and—except for my favourite song (Brothers in Arms)—all songs sound much better live than on the studio albums (to my taste, Brothers in Arms is almost all about the genius keyboard work demonstrated in the album, blending perfectly with the out‐of‐phase wired Gibson Les‐Paul that Mark either doesn’t have anymore or just refuses to use).
Third, the time of the year is just right—spring / summer.
Fourth, I like getting familiar with new cultures, new people, new societies, new lifestyles.
Fifth, I tend to get bored with places relatively fast (I’m not one of those who would spend a week in one city) so a somewhat “rushed” schedule is not such a bad idea, as it gives me the opportunity to decide, for later, which are the places worth re‐visiting for a more in‐depth experience.
Sixth, I like writing about my travels.
… I guess you can see the point now. In one sentence, I can summarize this trip as a “rushed voyage through Europe with the benefit of listening to the best live music the world has to offer, on a daily basis”.
Also, the moral support I receive on a daily basis from you, the readers, certainly helps make this experience even better. You may be surprised, however, to hear that very few individuals actually tried to convince me not to go for it; luckily, I tend to notice when an advice stems from personally‐biased motive.
After some planning, I realized that the weather outside is just too gorgeous to not enjoy. Spent a couple of hours in Hyde Park, doing nothing but sitting on a bench under a tree and enjoying the perfect weather. Exhilarating experience; Hyde Park is such a sweet spot at the centre of London. I loved it.
Another fantastic Italian lunch at Cafe Concerto—my new discovery, offering brilliant yet simple menus as well as desserts worth dying for—and again to the hotel to continue planning.
Walked towards the Royal Albert Hall at around 7:15pm with the (unrealized) intention of catching the opening act. Something was evidently different at the ticket collection location, as there appeared to be some sort of a pre‐show happening. Whoever stepped into the ticket collection area was asked whether they’re “on the guest list”; at around 7:30pm, while enjoying the fresh air outside (rather than waiting indoors) I noticed Knopfler’s wife, Kitty, getting out of a car. Guy Fletcher’s family followed shortly. At the meantime, quite a few respected‐looking individuals went into the special guests line.
That may have had something to do with the markknopfler.com ticket allocation for this concert. I am led to believe that the first few rows at the arena’s sections were reserved for special guests, while the general public were seated at further rows. Not quite the shocker, considering the fact that the majority of the band members do have relatives and guests in the area; they certainly deserve watching this top‐notch show from a good location.
(That, again, is just a theory)
Passing the time sitting outside the venue getting some fresh air, I was approached by a nice guy called Rocco who came from Parma, Italy to enjoy the show. Rocco is a friend of Federico, a leader of a Dire Straits tribute band based in Italy, who had introduced himself to me a while back shortly after I published the news about the Get Lucky blog. The three of us (Jeroen, Rocco and myself) passed the time together, chatting, sharing a few laughs… until the time came to enter the venue.
Seated at the very centre of the 7th row, I was most curious about one thing—the sound. The sound at the front row, where I was seated at during the first three concerts at the RAH, was fantastic; typically in closed‐roof venues, the sound at the back is better; so I was really looking forward to the experience.
A few minutes past 8:30pm, Feelin’ Good started playing and the band took the stage.
The answer to my curiosity regarding the sound at the 7th row came very quickly with a definite, strong “Oh Lord”. It was fantastic. Brilliant. I don’t know what it is about the architecture of the building or the sound enhancements involved, but the sound at the 7th row was so clear and balanced that you could easily be mistaken to think that it’s just you and the band in the room. As good as the sound was at the front row, the sound at the back was even better.
The view? Well, except for a surprisingly tall individual sitting right in front of me, often obstructing it, the view was clear and bright—being that the row’s centre, I could just look ahead at a straight angle and see the entire band playing at once.
Again no setlist surprises—no new songs, only Monteleone being played instead of Get Lucky—the latter having been played only once at the RAH so far.
As Mike McGoldrick is soon going to leave the band, I am already beginning to miss him. Whoever was reading my Kill to Get Crimson blog from two years ago, may remember the posting after the first show at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles—the first concert at the North American tour featuring John McCusker; that posting was almost all about the difference that was made once John joined the band (he was absent from the first few shows of that tour due to USA Visa issues, so I’ve heard); well, McGoldrick’s addition to the band presents an enhancement just as strong as John’s. As Mark says, he has played before. Also, John & Mike play very well together and I’m surely going to miss that once the tour lands at Europe’s mainland.
So, those of you who did not attend any concert featuring McGoldrick, I’d strongly suggest getting one of those USB appliances being sold these days containing the official live recordings of the RAH shows.
As the previous few concerts at the RAH, yesterday’s show was, for me, all about the musicianship of the band members, not necessarily Mark’s. The improvisation sessions during Done with Bonaparte and Marbletown keep developing into sequences I have never heard before. I would advise you to look closely and listen carefully to those jam sessions—I don’t know how it is possible for eight musicians to express such creativity at the same time while creating something that is way more than just pleasing to the ear.
Something did sound a bit unfamiliar, though, during the Sultans of Swing’s outro solo, especially at its beginning as Mark appeared to be trying a new approach. I suggest you give it a listen if you can.
The audience was a bit less vocal than before, much due to the relative politeness of the first few rows.
The usual Running of the Bulls took place as the last notes of Telegraph Road were playing; from the 7th row, standing and just enjoying watching that senseless frenzy, I could clearly see some pushing taking place along with a fair bit of anger. I don’t know about you, but the sight of someone almost running over a mature old man—maybe at his 70’s—is not the most pleasant sight in the world.
Show ended at 10:45pm or so. Outside the venue, a short meet‐up as a was introduced to Rocco’s friend, a photographer, who made it to the show from Italy, as well as Slavina—a reader of this blog, and two nice people from Switzerland whom I first met in Glasgow.
Hunger struck again on my way back to the hotel. I did my work convincing Jeroen that he’s hungry as well, so we had some Greek platter shared between the two of us in a Greek restaurant called Utopia, a few minutes walk away from the venue. Not bad, but I wouldn’t really kill anybody in order to eat there again.
Back at the hotel and an early night sleep.
Signing‐off this post at 2:00pm Thursday, from the hotel’s cafe. Back to planning…