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Hello. My name is Isaac Shabtay, 32 years old from Ontario, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s “Get Lucky” tour during the spring‐summer of 2010. This is in much the same way I did for Knopfler’s 2008 “Kill to Get Crimson” tour (see the “Links” section), except that this time, I will be following the entire tour—starting April 8 in Seattle, Washington, and ending July 31 in Gredos, Spain. Similarly to before, though, you are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read and comment. All comments, positive and negative, are welcome. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see links at the right‐hand side of the screen), so new posts become available through your favorite RSS reader. Have fun, Isaac

Friday, April 23, 2010

Concert Day: Fox Theatre, St. Louis, MO (April 22, 2010)

A great night sleep on Holiday Inn’s fine bed went uninterrupted until about 9:00am. I guess all of the thoughts and ponderings, that lately have been occupying my weary mind and pushing sleep away, decided to take a night off and my body was very happy to take advantage of that fact. I woke up feeling very well and recharged.

A four hours drive awaited us, from Kansas City to St. Louis; no need to rush anywhere, I thought. A minute later, my starving stomach reminded me that it also has a say in what’s urgent and what’s not, so we checked‐out and went on our way to find a place to eat.

It wasn’t too cold but there was a light, annoying drizzle pouring from cloudy, depressing skies. Walking in light rain wearing shorts and sandals is rarely a pleasant thing to do, especially when you’re hungry and looking for food. Driving through Kansas City’s almost‐vacant downtown area (Kansas City is the first sizeable city I have seen so far, that has hardly any traffic during weekdays), we ended up parking next to a cafe named “12 Baltimore Cafe”, located at (see if you can guess it) 12th & Baltimore, which was a part of some hotel whose name I cannot recall.

Do you know what “Grits” are? If so, good for you. I do. I mean, I do now. But this morning, I didn’t know. I like trying out new foods; the other side dish being “potatoes”, I thought I’d spice things up a bit by trying new things. Mental note to self: NEVER DO IT WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY. Breakfast was delicious but whatever that “Grits” thing was has been quite the torture to consume.

A tasteless cappuccino and we were on our way to St. Louis.

The light rain turned into moderately‐annoying rain as we left Kansas City via the I‐70E, and the abundance of trucks didn’t make driving any more enjoyable to say the least. Warm temperature, convertible roof up, rain… and having “Grits” for breakfast… I had a feeling that this is going to be a long day.

Fortunately, after a little less than an hour, the rain stopped. Taking the convertible’s roof down, the ride became not bad, actually. The state of Missouri is far from being boring; very similar to south‐central Ontario—green on all sides, trees all over the place (must be gorgeous here in the fall), rolling hills… pleasant.


A stop in a peaceful‐looking city named Columbia (still in Missouri) for coffee has turned from yet another attempt to locate a local cafe into another Starbucks fallback. Knowing I have more than enough time on my hands, I decided to stop over for a coffee break as an attempt to compensate for the ridiculous cappuccino I forced my stomach to consume just a couple of hours ago.

Jeroen then took the wheel and I sunk into a couple of hours of responding to emails and doing some work. The drive itself seemed to be a breeze, no traffic whatsoever even as we approached St. Louis.


The Parkway Hotel was going to be our lodge for tonight. Quite far from the venue—about 2 miles—and I can’t seem to recall why I picked exactly it but I must have had a good reason. Check‐in was a breeze and I was very happy to find myself in a hotel room again.

We went for an early dinner at the hotel’s Applebee’s. After what seemed to be forever, the tasty meal made its way from the cook’s oven (or microwave) into my stomach, stopping for a moment on two inside a plate. Twenty minutes later, we took the hotel’s shuttle to the Fox Theatre, which is located in St. Louis’ downtown area, adjacent to the University of St. Louis.

Having some time to kill, we explored the area for a little bit and came across a cafe called “Nadoz Euro Bakery and Cafe”, located in 3701 Lindell Boulevard, about 5 minutes walk from the venue. Really cool place, serving decent coffee and offering ample seating space. After an hour of sitting there, I came to realize that they have a grand piano right nearby. The urge to play superseded any other urge; alas, some student put his i‐Pad on the notes’ stand and started playing classical music, showing no sign of nearing the end of his session.

Showtime approached, and we headed back to the venue.


The Fox Theatre, AKA The Fabulous Fox Theatre, used to be a movie theatre—now used as a performing arts theatre. As with most previous theatres picked for this tour, this theatre is, too, stunning. Reading a bit in Wikipedia, the interior of the theatre is almost a duplicate of the Fox Theatre in Detroit, MI—featuring a Siamese Byzantine design. It is truly fabulous:


A minute before Pieta went on stage, a familiar face suddenly showed up and called my name. It turned out to be Colin Bryce, who was following my Kill to Get Crimson blog two years ago. We emailed each other a few times however today was the first time we met. He introduced me to his wife Kimberly, his son Conner (13) and his daughter Chloe (7). The family flew from Arlington, TX for the show. The conversation was cut because I had to step out to catch up with some things; but we continued talking once the opening act was over.

You know those cases when you ask somebody a question, and later slightly regretted that you asked it? Most of the times, you kind‐of have a feeling, while asking the question, that you’re going to regret it. Well, this happened to me today. I asked Colin a very simple question.

“So, Colin, where are you guys staying?”

Innocent question, right?

Of course. So I thought.

So here’s the deal: the Bryce family are ghost‐hunters. Yeah, that’s right. While you and I search Expedia for hotels or resorts, these guys do everything they can do to find haunted mansions, haunted houses, or pretty much anything that is haunted—to sleep in, and experience some events that are out of this world, literally.

So this week they’re staying in The Lemp Mansion (, which is said to be one of the most haunted buildings in the USA.

They told me a few stories about their past experiences. Folks, only listening to these stories made me shiver; as I am writing these lines, it is 1:00am, the room is completely dark and only a small lamp lights my desk—and I am genuinely terrified.

Naturally, I asked myself what do the kids think about their parents’ hobby. Imagine my amazement when Conner told me that he actually takes active part in these endeavours, and that it’s not scary for him anymore.

A super‐nice family, I tell you. Pleasure to meet with them.

Our seats today were very good; back to the centre of the front row. The Bryce family was seated right next to us, to the left of the stage. And then the show started.

Folks, I can a few things about this show.

I can tell you that it was a very good show, of the best shows so far this tour. The band seems to have everything working smoother and smoother as the shows go by.

I can also tell you that the sound was phenomenal; even at the front row, the sound was clear and vivid—much better than the front row experience of the night before.

But, above everything, the show tonight was one of the best I’ve seen so far for a different reason altogether: the crowd.

I haven’t heard much about St. Louis before visiting; as a matter of fact, the entire state of Missouri was new to me. You know they say that different regions and different states have “different people” in them? that’s what I mean—I didn’t know at all what to expect.

The crowd consisted predominately of adults, my guess 40 years old and better. Looking at the crowd every now and then, you could actually see how grateful they were for the band visiting their city. They were so hungry for the music, especially for the Dire Straits tunes that I’m sure most of them grew up listening to; the theatre’s roof exploded once the band finished playing Sultans of Swing (with Mark performing the outro solo using very similar riffs to those he made famous in the Nelson Mandela Tribute Concert back in the early 90’s; absolute joy, I loved it), women went nuts for Romeo and Juliet and I could see a few people shedding tears during Brothers in Arms. So much passion, unbelievable.

Granted, that passion didn’t stem from thin air; it was an outstanding performance with the band giving its best.

Half‐way through the show, Jeroen noticed Conner (Colin’s son, see above) enjoying the show with superb passion (how frequently do you meet a 13 years old kid enjoying MK’s music?); as a matter of fact, the entire Bryce family (including sweet 7 years old Chloe who was clapping her hands through some of the songs) enjoyed the show so much that we decided to play some musical chairs and relinquished our centre seats; the Bryces shuffled to the right and enjoyed the show from where Jeroen and I have already enjoyed it before—the best seats in the house.


Kudos to the Bryce family—pleasure to meet with you.

Kudos to this amazing St. Louis crowd tonight; it has been a treat being a part of you.

The show ended with Chloe receiving a handshake from Mark, drum sticks from Danny Cummings as well as one of Glenn Worf’s picks. Seeing the kids’ happy faces… joy.

After the show ended, we exited the venue and found out it was raining. The possibility of hiring a cab seemed remote as there were millions of people outside and police was handling traffic. We decided to walk back to the hotel. Running & walking, then running again and walking again, in the rain… after 25 minutes were at the hotel. Shower never felt that great.

What an amazing day; what an amazing crowd. What an experience!

Tomorrow—wake up early as there’s a Friday drive to Chicago which may take more than the expected 5 hours. Also, I am scheduled to meet with the representative of an amazing organization tomorrow, for my next post in my “On Giving” side‐project. Stay tuned.

All the best from St. Louis, Missouri—

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Concert Day: Midland Theatre, Kansas City, MO (April 21, 2010)

Today is going to be the most tiring driving day in our trip so far, made a bit easier as a result of our decision to get a bit of a head‐start right after the Denver show. Spent the night at a hotel in the town of Limon, CO—a town consisting of nothing more than a few hotels and restaurants, maybe a neighbourhood or two. One of these towns that exist primarily for passer‐by’s to spend the night in, on their way to a more interesting destination.

“Walk of Life” woke us up at 6:30am (not the best song to wake up to; I prefer Eddie Vedder’s “Rise”), and after half an hour we were having breakfast at the hotel. The name of the game today is saving time as we have a long drive ahead of us, plus a time‐zone change which makes things 1 hour worse for us; we were not going to scour this little town for decent breakfast. Gotta hit the road…

By 7:30am we were back on the I‐70E driving towards Kansas City, MO. For the first half an hour, I was driving through moderate‐to‐severe fog; the temperature was way too cold for a convertible ride (50℉ / 9℃), light drizzle and way too many clouds.

Checking the GPS out for the next coffee place on our route, results came back with a Starbucks, 211km east in Colby, KS. And the next one after that?


Borrowing an expression from my friend Bill Miller… four‐letter‐word!

And the ride… Well, what can I say. Just when I thought that I’m through with such boring roads for this trip, came the I‐70E and showed me how wrong I have been. OK, this has to be one of the most boring rides on earth, if not the most boring one. Equivalent in its nothingness only to the prairie drives in Saskatoon and Manitoba, this road is a challenge to anyone’s ability to stay awake while driving. Within an hour of driving with the convertible’s roof up, I couldn’t stand it anymore and handed the wheel to Jeroen. Lord, is this going to be a long day.


(the small blue car is us; the orange flag is our via point at Starbucks; the purple line marks our route to the checkered flag)


I think I was sleeping while Jeroen was driving; what I can remember is that I opened my eyes about 9km west of Starbucks, our destination for a short refreshment. Within seconds, Jeroen said that we have to pull over.

Looking to my side, failing to notice anything interesting worth stopping for, I asked the inevitable question.


“I think because I was speeding.”

A Kansas highway patrol caught Jeroen driving 12 mph over the speed limit (82 mph instead of 70 mph, in a road so boring, plain and straight that I can’t really blame him). I instructed Jeroen about what is expected of him (park the car, open the window) and what isn’t (DON’T GET OUT OF THE CAR).

The police officer approached us, greeted us, let Jeroen know his speed and asked for his license / registration / rental car agreement.

PO: “Where are you guys headed to?”

Jeroen: “Kansas City”.

PO: “And where are you from?”

Jeroen: “I’m from the Netherlands”.

PO: “And what are you going to do in Kansas City?”

Jeroen didn’t even hesitate: “We’re following a concert tour in North America.”

PO: “Come again?”

Jeroen: “We’re following Mark Knopfler’s concert tour in North America.”

PO: “Oh. Have you seen any show already?”

Jeroen: “Yes, yesterday was the 11th one.”

PO: “Wow, that should be an interesting concert to go to. Alright guys, I’m letting you go. Drive carefully”.

Not entirely unlike our experience at the USA border at the beginning of the tour, it appears that the PO was caught completely off‐guard by our explanation. “Following a concert tour in North America” is not the response a typical officer would expect. I was actually quite surprised that we were let go without any warning and / or fine.

Stopped at Starbucks in Colby, KS for refreshments. Another one of those pass‐by little towns, we spent less time there than the time it took me to write the last two sentences. Weather became sunny (albeit a bit cold), so we decided to take the roof down otherwise the ride is going to be to tiring to complete in one day.

After some seriously boring drive, we arrived at Topeka, the capital city of Kansas, and decided to have lunch in a place called Lupita’s Mexican Restaurant. The place has received very good reviews in Google. Once I started chewing on the food I reached the conclusion that the reviews must have been written by the restaurant’s owner, or his family. No way this food is “great”. Edible? Yes, to some extent; unlikely to make you vomit. The awfully‐located, dusty‐looking Johnny’s Authentic Mexican Kitchen in Las Vegas, New‐Mexico was much better. I ate for the sole purpose of survival, then we were back in the car for the last 100km of travel.

I should admit that, as you leave Topeka towards Kansas City, the road becomes more interesting, with quite a few hills, colourful trees, farms and other views I’m so accustomed to, being a resident of south‐western Ontario. FINALLY, at 5:00pm sharp, we arrived at Kansas City, MO.


What’s interesting there is that we encountered no traffic whatsoever, in either direction. It was 5:00pm, working day. Bizarre. Anyway, finding the hotel (Holiday Inn, about 3 minutes walk from the Midland Theatre where the concert took place) was easy and within 10 minutes we were at the hotel room, unwinding after an extremely long driving day.

Kudos to the tour’s bus drivers who manage to drive these distances at night.

Apparently, the hotel’s staff have too much free time:


Plus, tell me what’s wrong in this picture:


Quick shower (made even quicker with two showerheads, for those who didn’t understand what’s wrong with the picture above), and we went to the venue.

I had to skip Pieta’s show today as I had to catch up with just about a million of things; and what’s a better place to do that than a coffee shop? that in mind, I started looking around the Midland Theatre for a coffee place.

Not too coffee places in downtown Kansas City—at least not where I was looking. Sad and disappointed, I opted at the last resort—Starbucks, located inside the Crowne Plaza hotel.

A tall, mature guy welcomes me with the classic “what do YOU want” expression on his face. Cold… I need something cold and refreshing. Already dreaming of the moment in which my lips touches the cold plastic straw, the guy went away, and returned after a minute saying that he ran out of whatever it is that puts the banana taste in “Strawberry Banana Smoothie”.

Hmmmmmmm. OK. “So I’ll have an iced coffee, with whole milk please.”

The guy grins. “Actually I already threw out all of the ice already, as well as all of the teas. Once every two weeks comes a customer that asks for those, so I usually throw those away about half an hour before closing”.

I gotta say, that made me feel oh so special. For a second I considered taking the smart‐ass approach and ask him to add “only available up to 30 minutes before closing” on the menu, next to each item he deliberately gets rid of before closing.

I didn’t.

The Midland Theatre, located in downtown Kansas City, seats ~ 3,600 and is certainly striking. I was as impressed with the interior of this venue as I was with Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre—big, spacious, featuring eye‐catching decor. One of this venue’s nice (or disturbing, depending how you look at it) features is that it has a bar at the back, meaning that you don’t have to get out of the hall in order to get a drink.


Before the concert started, I met with a guy named Joe with whom I had exchanged a few emails before—nice to meet you, Joe, was a pleasure speaking with you. Minutes later, I found myself amidst an intense conversation with one of the stage guards, whose job is to prevent people from becoming “too happy”. The guy told me about Kansas City, and how nice city it is but transportation in it sucks bad (the residents keep declining any plan for improving public transit, etc). I like conversations like these, you know, learning about all‐new places; and who are better to speak with than locals?

Then, the concert started.

JBL is a famous American manufacturer of loudspeakers. Owned by Harman International (the makers of the Harman‐Kardon speakers, very popular for laptops), it has been making loudspeakers since 1946. Certain Toyota vehicles ship nowadays with JBL speakers built into them.

But I will never buy a JBL speaker. Not because it’s not good… but because it’s haunting me. Here is a picture of what I was looking at for almost the entire show:


For the first time this tour, my seat was in a terrible, terrible place: orchestra pit, row 1, second seat from the right. And the reason it was terrible didn’t have anything to do with the view—conversely, it gave me excellent opportunity to stare at Richard Bennett’s hands and learn a few things; it had to do with the sound. Not only was the sound terrible at that spot (being no fault of the crew, I should say; what can you do, sometimes you have to make compromises for the general good), but that particular speaker, conveniently parked right in front of my face, threatened to kill my ears.

For the first few songs, I simply had to stare at it. Whenever I was looking to my left, to see the centre of the stage, that cursed JBL speaker threw some painful high frequencies into my right ear’s canal, making me shriek. So I had to look straight, and that’s where the speaker happened to be (had to stretch my neck to look at Richard’s guitar playing; and how long can you stretch your neck for?).

After a while I got sick of it and pushed some plugs into my ears. That killed the sound altogether for me, but at least I will be able to hear tomorrow.

A family was seated to my left; the Missus, seated next to me, revealed absolutely no interest in the show and used her smart phone for text‐messaging during almost the entire show. It was obvious that she was dragged to the concert by her husband, who was seated next to her and cheered pretty much continuously. Behind me, people were talking loudly during the songs; and the aisle separating the front‐row from the stage has turned into some sort of a walkway as some inconsiderate guests decided to go to the bar multiple times during the show.


But the concert itself was very good. The crowd expressed a significant amount of love towards the band; a rather aging crowd, it still went bananas after Sultans of Swing—so bananas that it made Mark comment something along the lines of “Come on, you don’t really like that old stuff, do you?”, much to the crowd’s enjoyment. A particularly funny instrumental dialogue between Tim & Mark during Donegan’s Gone—how these guys broadcast humour using musical instruments and body language is nothing short of amazing.

Today’s performance of Piper to the End featured Mark again yielding to the band members during the outro solo, which, for me, makes the song.

Another good concert is over.

Concert ended at around 10:30pm; time for a pre‐sleep snack, so we explored the downtown area a little bit and came across an area called Kansas City Live (or KC Live), which features a stage for live shows (there was none; maybe in weekends?) and a few nice‐looking restaurants. Very neat, I liked it. A pizza slice and a drink, and I was ready to hit bed.

Tomorrow’s concert is in St. Louis, MO—about 4 hours drive east. Will most likely take it easy tomorrow; 4 hours of driving are peanuts for me now.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Concert Day: Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre, Denver, CO (April 20, 2010)

Doing most of the drive between Phoenix and Denver yesterday turned out to be quite the wise decision. The night before, I got maybe 15 minutes of continuous sleep; rest assured that the sleep deficiency has been generously compensated for. Although I woke up a few times during the night (I’m having hard time sleeping in almost‐zero humidity levels), I sprang out of bed at 10:00am ready for exploring the American Rockies.

Then I looked at the clock and realized we may really not have the time to do that. Exploring the Rockies would mean taking a detour off the I‐25N, and the direct road to Denver is already 3 hours long. We’re invited for dinner at Jeroen’s friend’s house and have to be there by 4:00pm. Blast. I will suffice with looking at the Rockies from the distance.

Before proceeding to Denver, we stopped for breakfast in Trinidad, CO (the same tiny city we spent the night in). There’s a really neat place in downtown called “The Cafe at Danielson Dry Goods” (135 East Main Street) which serves healthy, delicious breakfasts for decent prices; their espresso is also far above average in quality. Check it out if you’re ever in the area.

After half an hour of sitting in the patio, we left Trinidad. Sunny weather, clouds here and there, temperature at 70℉ / 21℃… what other reason do you need to take the car’s roof down? None, apparently. Convertible mode, and within seconds we were back on the highway driving northbound towards Denver.

The views along the route can be beautiful or boring, depending on which side you’re looking at. On your right, there’s vast plains; you’d see farms every now and then, maybe small hills, nothing too exciting (however far better than the damn boring Arizona roads).

On your left, though, it’s a completely different story. Behind the Sangre De Christo mountain range, the magnificent Rocky Mountains occasionally raise their wild, rugged, extraordinarily amazing snowy peaks.


Of all the nature‐bound trips I took, my fondest memories are of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I drove the famous Icefields Parkway (highway 93), running between Banff and Jasper, more than 20 times already and I cannot imagine prettiest views than the ones you get there. Being there so many times by myself prior, still my fondest memories of the Rockies are of the trip that Karen and I took at the summer of 2006—slept in tents in various campsites along the Banff‐Jasper route, 18 days of waking up daily at 6:00am inhaling super‐crisp air with the mountains all around us. It is there where one can feel the prime connection between one’s self and the innocent, pure nature around.

What one also realizes after such an experience is that going back to daily routines is quite the tricky feat. Nothing seems natural to you anymore: you go back to the office and realize that you kind‐of don’t want to belong there. You see colleagues walking by and you think of, really, what is it all good for. You see limits; you see structure; you see patterns; you see routine. And you don’t want to have anything to do with any of these. You want the crisp air again; the greenery, the snowy peaks, the rivers, the creeks and the lakes.

But I guess balance is everything. To appreciate the good, you have to get familiar with the bad. Living your life doing nothing but inhaling crisp air would soon render the experience quite ordinary and you’d want some excitement again, usually in the form of modern civilization, offices, colleagues and office politics.

… Screw it. I want the mountains.

Having no time to actually explore the American Rockies, we decided to comply with Nancy’s command and visit the city of Boulder, CO—being it a finger‐lickin’ good‐lookin’ city. Boulder is a bit north of Denver, but very close to Jos’ place, where we were going to have dinner (Jos would later join us to the show). So we drove the extra few miles north of Denver, parked the car somewhere near the city centre and decided to spend the 15 minutes we have to spend there—by having a drink at a local bakery / cafe.

The expectation to find a beautiful city were fully met. Boulder, CO is a highly‐intelligent city in the sense that the high‐tech community there is substantial and the city itself hosts the University of Colorado, one of the nation’s leading academic institutions. The downtown area is very pretty, boasting lots of restaurants, cafes and whatnot—all designed with the view of the Rocky Mountains in mind. I liked it; will go back.

We then drove back to Westminster, where Jos lives; a very nice house in a quiet neighbourhood. Our hosts—Jos and Megan—welcomed us so nicely that for a minute I thought I was at home. Lovely couple, we all had some great fun. Megan and Jos also cooked dinner for us—a dinner worth dying for. Imagine, after a couple of weeks of eating in restaurants and cafe’s, to have the pleasure of eating healthy, home‐made, super‐tasty food! OH, the joy. How she made that pasta so delicious—beats me, it was one of the best pasta’s I ever had and, believe me, I had my share of pasta in my life. Spaghetti, pesto, mozzarella, grape‐tomatoes—Lord, I wanted to cry.

FANTASTIC! Thank you Jos & Megan for hosting us, it was a pleasure.

The three of us—Jos, Jeroen and myself—went then to the venue—a mere 20 minutes drive, no traffic whatsoever.

The Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre resides in Denver’s Performing Arts Complex. According to Wikipedia (link:, this arts complex is the second largest in the world after NYC’s Lincoln Centre. It seats approximately 2,900 and is considered an excellent venue for musicals due to fantastic acoustics.


We picked up our three tickets; as Jos was our guest, we let him get the best seat, which was at the front‐row, dead‐centre. Even at the front row, the sound was very good—I can only assume that the sound at the back was extraordinary.


The band took the stage on 8:00pm sharp, to an extremely loud cheering sound on behalf of the beautiful, laid‐back city of Denver. After a day off Monday, the band was ready to go and gave a really smoking performance.

Last tour, the band performed at the Red‐Rocks Amphitheatre, which is in Morrison, CO—about 20 miles south‐west of Denver. The Red‐Rocks Amphitheatre (Wikipedia: is considered by many to be the most astonishing outdoor venue in the world; I would definitely agree. Just Google‐up some pictures and see for yourself. In his opening speech, Mark mentioned that while this venue isn’t quite Red‐Rocks, it is an “indoor Red‐Rocks”, with a smile of course—and that drew some chuckles from the crowd. As good as the sound was in that theatre, it is very hard to beat the over‐all heavenly experience of attending a concert in Red‐Rocks. Alas, venue availability is a determining factor when coming up with a tour schedule. Maybe next time.

Show went smooth; the finger of death was not sent at anybody’s direction tonight. A particularly beautiful solo work during Why Aye Man, and a superb performance—perhaps the best one so far—of Cleaning My Gun. Gee, the latter song is a crowd rocker. Right from the minute that Richard strikes that D chord on the 12‐string Burns, to the end—this is a beautiful rock song that’s hard to stay apathetic to.

At the encore, right after So Far Away, a group of women literally lined‐up by the aisle, taking pictures of Mark and the band for approximately two minutes. It was a really entertaining sight; Mark, however, didn’t seem entirely pleased being the focus of attention.

The show tonight has been a winner, no question about it. Great to see the band performing so well day after day—nothing ends a day better than seeing these guys performing.

Jos, our guest at the show, appeared to be very satisfied. Front‐row centre seating in a Mark Knopfler show… well, that’s hard to beat.


After the concert, we bid Jos goodbye and, in order to cut the driving the next day, decided to drive about 80 miles to the town of Limon, CO. I’m signing off this post from my bed at the Holiday Inn Express in this little town; long driving day tomorrow towards Kansas City, Missouri for the next concert.

All the best,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Long Drive towards Denver, CO

Having slept about 15 minutes last night (you know, those hours that you spend in bed thinking about all sorts of things that you only get to think about while you travel the world), I was extremely unhappy to get out of bed at 4:30am.

Well, it was already known that this is going to be a particularly hectic day. The distance between Phoenix and Denver is about 1400km, which is about 900 miles; we have two days to complete it, and we decided to do most of the driving in one day, which is today—as the concert is tomorrow and nobody wants to drive too much on a concert day.

Hungry as a dog and tired as the very same dog, I started driving the happy bunch to the airport, to drop Nancy off. The night before, the front‐desk receptionist reaffirmed what Nancy had told us before—that Phoenix’s traffic may be insane during weekdays, even on 4:30am. I couldn’t believe it until I saw it in my own eyes: traffic was flowing but I can’t recall when was the last time I saw so many vehicles on the road in such an early hour.

The reason for that, according to Nancy, is that Phoenix’s land‐mass is huge, and it has quite a few suburbs so a 2‐hours commute is not something out of the ordinary.

At 5:15am, there was no snow anywhere around (…) but we did capture the temperature at 74℉ / 23.3℃. That’s pretty warm, isn’t it. “Perfect for convertible mode” we thought, and took the roof down… only to realize that temperatures change with every mile you drive and before long we had to wear something extra.

No way I was going to leave Arizona without taking a picture next to a good, nice‐looking saguaro. A saguaro is what the average person first sees in his mind when thinking of Arizona. The saguaro is a particular type of cactus that grows to be the size of a tree. It is very common in Arizona, which is probably why it is considered to be Arizona’s state‐flower.

MAN are these things huge. And old, too: some of them may live to 150 years and apparently there’s a sub‐species of it that grows to be 13.8 meters (!) high.


The saguaro picture‐rama took place at around 6:00am and then we started doing some serious driving. I started, and once I realized I should not continue any further, Jeroen took the wheel and I tried to find a comfortable position to sleep in, to no avail. I was in that weird state between sleep and awareness, until I realized that Jeroen pulling over and the GPS saying “arriving to Subway”.

I opened my eyes.

“Where are we?”, I asked.

“I don’t know”, came the reply. He then proceeded: “I have never seen anything like this. This is the most boring road I could think of, much more boring than yesterday’s”.

Now that, folks, is not something to underestimate. The road we took yesterday from Los Angeles to Phoenix was really, really boring. Hard to imagine a more boring road than that, so I was really intrigued. But first, we decided to eat something and have coffee.

Following the GPS’ instructions to the nearest coffee‐place, we realized we’re in a town named Winslow, in Arizona. Driving through its downtown, I was rather amazed. We’re literally in the middle of nowhere. Nothing is open (that coffee place wasn’t even there). The only thing missing from the picture was tumbleweed and you got yourself a perfect western movie.

Realizing that good coffee is not what we’re going to get in Winslow, we had breakfast at Subway and continued the drive.

Funnily enough, yes, it was even more boring than yesterday’s.

An endless road offering nothing to see except sand, sand and more sand. Sometimes the occasional weed, but that’s pretty much it. An extremely boring drive. As we approached the Arizona—New‐Mexico line, the scenery improved and we started seeing some huge reddish rocks here and there, high sand hills, and of course more weed.

Ridiculously enough, the only acceptable coffee‐place we could find was a Starbucks in Albuquerque, New‐Mexico. To put things into perspective, I should tell you that the distance from Phoenix to Albuquerque is 750km (466 miles). That’s a long drive without any coffee. At last, we made it and took an hour or so break in Albuquerque, New‐Mexico.

Really nothing to do there. Seems like a boring city; people walk the streets with strange look on their faces. As I am no fan of such atmospheres, we left Albuquerque and never looked back.

I should tell you though, that finally, I booked my flight ticket from Toronto to Dublin for the European leg of the Get Lucky tour. I decided to take a few extra days in Spain after the tour is done, in order to unwind from the busy schedule of the tour; will spend those days somewhere in Spain, most likely Barcelona as I have friends raving about this place.

Anyway, starting in Albuquerque, scenery is becoming slightly more interesting. The Rocky Mountains, after all, are not that far away; we saw mountains at the horizon but I doubt those were the Rockies. So far I have only seen the Canadian Rockies, which is the prettiest natural sight my eyes ever had the opportunity to indulge with. I am really interested in exploring the American Rockies, see what they’re about.

From Albuquerque, it’s the I‐25 North all the way to Denver. We knew we’re not going to make it to Denver before dark, and none of us was looking forward to the possibility of driving through the mountains in the dark. Eventually, once darkness fell, we decided to stop in a tiny little city called Trinidad, Colorado—a few miles north of the New‐Mexico—Colorado line. As we climbed some mountains there (our altitude was, at some point, 2,173 meters!), I noticed some deer lurking by the highway.

Finally… the American Rockies. I’m writing this post at the Best Western in Trinidad, CO—sweet deal, huge room all inclusive $67. Will go to sleep soon and explore the Rockies for a little while tomorrow, before heading to the concert in Denver.

All the best,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Concert Day: Dodge Theatre, Phoenix, AZ (April 18, 2010)

A second night sleep in Hollywood was just as effective as the first one, although shorter. Had to do quite a bit of driving today to get to Phoenix, AZ, so we left early (around 7:30am) to eliminate any chance of traffic. Yes, I know it’s Sunday; no, I don’t take chances.

That strategy seems to have proven itself once again as we left the Los Angeles metro area without any problem. As soon as we felt like the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles is behind us, we stopped for a quick breakfast / coffee / tea at Starbucks.

(Honestly, I tried to avoid it. We went to a few coffee shops as per my GPS’s advice but they were all either non‐existent or closed)

[Corporate‐world‐takeover‐bitching‐mode ON]

Starbucks… Oh, Starbucks. Funny how the only massive North American chain, dealing with espresso products, does it so poorly. Someone please tell them to stop over‐brewing the coffee. No, Starbucks, it does not make you special. No wonder that most of your revenue comes from food products and not coffee.

But at least you can trust them to be there. Oh, and they are out there, aren’t they. In Manhattan, you cannot possibly swing a cello without accidentally knocking a Tall / Grande / Venti paper cup out of somebody’s hands.

In Canada, It is so successful that it made Tim Horton’s, the Mecca of Canadian coffee drinkers and a national pride by itself (which was once owned by Wendy’s… Oh, the national pride), shed quite a few sweat‐drops and decide to attempt selling espresso‐based products (not much success there, though).

OK, enough with that.

[Corporate‐world‐takeover‐bitching‐mode OFF]

Once food consumption was over with, we continued driving highway 10 eastbound towards Phoenix. The drive is not that bad at first; we actually got some nice views.


However, within an hour or so, the views change for worse.

There is no word in English short enough to describe what’s happening on that road without feeling that I spent too much time typing.


Sand, saguaro’s, weed…
Sand hills.

And repeat that, 250–300 miles.

As you get further away from the ocean, the air becomes dryer and dryer and the heat… God, the heat. Car in convertible mode so at least we got some air flow going on. Imagine doing that drive in a compact car with no air conditioner.

And this is April. 97℉ / 36℃. Imagine August! Hell.


Here and there, you could notice some nice‐looking hills on the horizon:


The night before, we bid Nancy goodbye as she was leaving Los Angeles back to Philadelphia. However, as soon as she mentioned that her flight stops in Phoenix, we knew what was going to happen. It was inevitable that she would change her flight plans and join us at the concert. She had neither a ticket nor a place to stay, yet I had little doubt that we’ll see her again in Phoenix; and at around 2:00pm, I received a text‐message confirming it: Nancy got a hold on a front‐row ticket for the show, and she’ll be staying at the same hotel we’re going to stay.

Insane? I wouldn’t go that far. People who feel just the right “connection” to the band’s music may do all sorts of “adjustments” in order to attend as many shows as they could, because it’s really hard to get enough of this band’s superb performances. The fact that the setlist varies only slightly, does very little to de‐motivate: it’s the entire experience as a whole that counts. The perfect harmony between the band‐members, even the occasional mistakes; Mark’s continuous improvisations—no two solo’s are the same. It’s the whole experience, really. You have to be there to understand.

We finally made it to Phoenix at 3:00pm local time:


Phoenix is a big city. Maybe not population‐wise, but area‐wise… massive, really. It was 98℉ / 36.6℃ when we got there. Clear‐blue sky, and the air was dry dry dry. We later learned that this is typical April weather; at the summer, temperature climbs to 120℉ / 48℃ (!). Humidity is negligible, if any.

Got to the hotel—Radisson City Centre—tired of a long day of driving. We were very happy to get to the room already, and much less happier when we realized they gave us a one king‐size bed room instead of two queens. Events like these are great conversation starters, so I went back to the front desk and told Sasha, our receptionist, that I highly appreciate her compliments however, alas, two beds “should be just fine”. A few embarrassed looks later, it turned out to be the travel agency’s fault. Luckily they had exactly one available room in that hotel with two beds.

Quick shower and we met with Nancy, then drove to downtown for the concert.

Downtown Phoenix is very boring on Sundays. Hardly any people on the streets; nearby the venue, a sign saying “Restaurant & Bar”, with an arrow pointing left, led us to what appeared to be the only open eatery around. The place was almost full; Tim & Mike (band members) were there, and my guess is that the restaurant was full of people who were there for the concert.

The Dodge Theatre seats 5,500—I’m pretty sure that’s the largest venue hosting the Get Lucky tour so far.


The venue’s orchestra pit is divided in half, named “Pit 1” (right) and “Pit 2” (left), with a narrow aisle in between. I was assigned with Pit 1, Row 1, Seat 1 (Nancy somehow got a hold of Pit 2, Row 1, Seat 1). Right at the front and at the centre, which was a mild annoyance during this show because the speakers were just too loud (mental note to self: BRING THE EAR‐MUFFS YOU BOUGHT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE TOUR, WITH YOU TO THE VENUE).

Pretty excited, though hardly‐ever‐standing, crowd tonight. As for the band, the dramatic change in weather conditions didn’t appear to have affected them at all.

Half way through the show, when Mark was telling the crowd about the song he was going to play, he interrupted his speech and sent the so‐called finger of death towards the crowd, asking someone to stop recording the show. Interestingly enough, the pointing lasted longer than usual as the recorder appeared to be very persistent in his / her recording attempts. After about 30 seconds of Mark & the audience trying to figure out what the heck was going on, Mark figured out that it was actually an aisle light; an extremely funny moment for the crowd and the rest of the band. Mark later apologized to the aisle light.

No new songs have been played, yet the setlist varied comparing to the previous concert. Great ending for a very long driving day.

Upon returning to the hotel, we decided to give Nancy a ride to the airport at 4:30am and drive as far as possible towards Denver, CO—where the next concert takes place on Tuesday. I ended up not sleeping at all due to all sorts of things running through my head.

Today is going to be a really long day.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Concert Day: The Pantages Theatre, Hollywood, CA (April 17, 2010)

Oh what a good night sleep that was. The Pinot Noir mixed beautifully with whatever it had to mix with, and made me fall asleep like a stone. No rush, I have another day to spend in Hollywood… time to take things slow; especially when considering the awful lot of driving that I’ll have to be doing over the next few days: Phoenix, AZ tomorrow; Denver, CO on Tuesday (1,400km away from Phoenix); and Kansas City, MO on Wednesday (1,000km away from Denver).

As usual, no day can start well without coffee, so we decided to explore Hollywood Boulevard, west of Argyle street, until we hit the nearby Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, some ten blocks away.

For the most part, it was a really annoying walk. I guess the fact that this is Hollywood makes it right for all sorts of merchants to be very intrusive when offering their goods to you, be it a girl for the night or a bus tour showing you celebrities’ houses. Who the f**k cares where Tom Cruise lives. Show me the coffee.

Things started to get really interesting as I approached Hollywood Boulevard’s intersection with Highland. Within seconds I was swimming in a sea of people gazing at millions of side‐shows. I have seen about four million Marilyn Monroe lookalikes. People dressed with bizarre costumes, others dressed with particularly bizarre clothes. Jeroen kept shaking his head saying “this is crazy”. That’s because he hasn’t seen Las Vegas yet.

My friend Jonathan and I came to an agreement that Las Vegas gives a person a really unique sense of freedom; there’s a feeling, when you’re there, that you can do anything you want, whenever you want. Well, the atmosphere in Hollywood this morning was very similar (although not as extreme as Las Vegas).

A quick sandwich at Quizno’s Sub and I was lurking towards Johnny Rocket’s hamburgers. I heard of that place before but never tried it; I vowed to never leave Hollywood before I do.

Wandering around the sea of people seemed really pointless to me so we sat down at the nearby Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Caught up with emails plus some project I’m still working on (nearly done, though). Went back to the hotel after a couple of hours, again swimming through millions of hip, cool and extremely bizarre people.

Decided to try out Johnny Rocket’s before the show, as I have been burnt before, going hungry to a concert… never a good thing. Folks, let me save you some time: it’s rubbish. I will never go there again. In & Out Burger, a Californian chain (I got the lead from Alex Flagg), is way better. Look for it when you’re in California.

Frozen yogurt was our next craving, so we went to a place up in 7095 Hollywood Blvd, called Cantaloop Frozen Yogurt. Funny place, never seen anything like this before. The frozen yogurt is actually self‐served, and you pay by weight. It was the best Frozen Yogurt I have had in years.

While in there, I noticed an Israeli girl talking Hebrew to her boyfriend. Naturally, as when I hear people speaking my mother tongue, I stared. She looked at me and asked me “Do you understand what I am saying?”. So I replied to her in Hebrew “כן, אני מבין מה את אומרת” (English: “Yes, I understand what you’re saying”), which made her laugh. Nice couple, we had a little chat.

Something hilarious happened once we reached the venue. I was going to pick up the tickets, Jeroen was going to cross the road in order to take a picture. On the corner, there stood a ticket‐scalper. As I made my way, Bo Ramsey (Pieta Brown’s accompanying guitarist) made his way to the opposite direction (a greeting “Hello Mr. Ramsey” remained unanswered once again. Total and utter courtesy fail, if you ask me).

The stars were aligned just right so Jeroen, Ramsey and Mr. Scalper occupied the same few square feet… when the scalper tried to sell Ramsey a ticket for the show. Jeroen later explained to the scalper that Ramsey actually plays there. I laughed my arse off hearing this. I mean, come on. Arguments for and against ticket‐scalping aside (I have an extremely negative opinion about it, but who cares), at least know who’s performing.

Had to catch up with quite a bit of blogging so I missed Pieta’s opening act. Nancy was there to make writing more enjoyable; she even got a sneak peak at the unpublished text. I’m sure it made her happy.

The band went on stage at 8:50pm to a cheering crowd. I was seated at the front row again, this time a few seats to the right of the centre—right in front of one huge speaker which kind of made me miserable unless my head was turned just at the right angle.

I liked today’s show better than yesterday’s, simply because I liked the setlist better. For the second time so far in this tour, A Night in Summer Long Ago was played (one of my favourite songs). Cleaning My Gun resurfaced with Richard Bennett kicking the venue’s ass with that 12‐string electric.

A particularly beautiful Why Aye Man solo today, with Mark doing things to his Gibson Les‐Paul that are most likely only allowed in California (well, in California, really, anything goes).

I feel like I have been more… how to say it… restrained today with my reactions to the music. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great concert; I just sunk into thinking about all sorts of things. Maybe I’ll write about those later on during the tour. The music, though, served as a perfect background to that thought‐process.

An extended encore tonight as well. Been a pretty long show. Good job, though. It’s been great.

A slice of pizza after the concert, with Nancy and Vikky, then back to hotel.

2:00am now as I’m signing off this post and going to sleep. Long drive tomorrow to Phoenix, AZ.

Take care,

Concert Day: The Pantages Theatre, Hollywood, CA (April 16, 2010)

The coolest thing about the Pechanga experience was the fact that the venue, the restaurants and the bed were all within a few meters from each other. It’s like having the band perform in your living room, then you go back to your room to change and from there proceed to your kitchen to have a late‐night snack.

The next destination was The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, CA. A mere two hours drive from Pechanga, I decided to take the day slow; slept‐in, lengthy shower, brunch at the hotel… you see the picture. By 10:00am we had left the Pechanga Resort; as I was not going to have any espresso from any “coffee cart” at the casino, our first task was to hit the nearby Coffee Bean & Tea‐Leaf, on Temecula Parkway, about 3 miles away. The weather was great so I spent about an hour at the Coffee Bean’s patio, sipping coffee and blogging—not necessarily in that order.

Life appeared to be so peaceful and the very thought of having to drive into Los Angeles clouded the peaceful mindset I was at. Only a few times have I had to drive through Los Angeles, and each time was worse than the time before. It’s a huge city with millions of cars, smog‐full highways, angry drivers… Bah. So I took any minute in Temecula with the broadest sense of enjoyment.

At 1:00pm I started driving towards Los Angeles. Good thing my GPS is traffic‐aware; took us through some alternate routes, mostly no traffic (the traffic on the other direction, though, was horrendous at best), until we hit the US‐101N towards Hollywood, when all hell broke loose. Traffic up the ying‐yang, I think I lost a few years of living due to smog inhalation.


Didn’t they say that California, and in particular Los Angeles, has the largest Toyota Prius population in North America, being Californians so environment‐aware and such? I swear I couldn’t even see one of those. I saw lots of Ford F‐150’s, F‐250’s and other environment‐unfriendly vehicles. One of those trucks actually had a license plate “GASGRIDY”. Funny & sad at the same time.

We finally reached our destination: Best Western Hollywood Hills, a few meters from Argyle & Franklin, a 5 minutes walk from the venue. It’s a small hotel, yet has everything we need. The most expensive hotel I booked for the North American leg of the tour, too. Well, what can you do. This is Hollywood.

The drive to Los Angeles was stressful after all, so I took a couple of hours to unwind at the hotel room, do the laundry and other maintenance tasks. At around 5:00pm, I received a text‐message from Nancy, saying that she and her friend Vikky (that’s how she spells it) are in the waiting list for a table in an Irish pub called “Dillon’s” next to the venue. A quick bite before the concert appeared to be a great idea; took whatever we needed to take to the concert and headed to meet Nancy and Vikky.

That was my first time in downtown, central Hollywood. What can I say, folks… yes, this is certainly Hollywood. “Silicon Valley”, and I am not discussing high‐tech. We were waiting for half an hour for our table, and, quite frankly, it was a tad complicated to focus on any conversation while half‐naked pub staff kept wandering around serving pretty much everybody except for us.

Dinner was so‐so (for me, at least) and we walked back to the venue.


Ticket collection for took place at a desk on Argyle street, next to the stage entrance. We felt special.


It’s been a tiring day for me:


The Pantages Theatre seats 2,703 (exactly). It opened on 1930 and is considered a prominent, major venue for movies, TV shows and musicals. It is a beautiful, spacious theatre; certainly feels like Hollywood here although this building was built 80 years ago.


Front row, dead centre tickets again. As a matter of fact, the stage’s main floor was split in half exactly between Jeroen and myself:


The L.A. crowd is loud. By far the strongest cheers I have heard so far in the tour; a standing ovation when the band appeared on the stage, and after almost each and every song.

We got an extended encore, with both So Far Away and Shangri‐La included. Other than that, the setlist was identical to that of the night before in Santa Rosa. The sound at the front‐row, at least where I was seated, was good but not as good as a few previous shows—either I was too tired or the high frequencies sort‐of blew my ears away. Too loud? maybe. Still, in general, the show was a joy, but really what made this show for me was the cheery crowd. The band plays very well and certainly deserves to have the crowd on its feet.


Another thing that fascinated me during this particular show was a young woman, who appeared to be extremely excited from whatever happened on stage. She was crying during most of the show, and completely let loose of her tear ducts during Telegraph Road (you would expect “Romeo and Juliet” here, wouldn’t you? I know I did); threw flowers at Mark and wept uncontrollably.

And the reason it fascinated me so much was that I have never yet seen such an emotional discharge during a concert. That’s one of the fascinating thing about music—it extracts different things from different people, making them react in all different sorts of ways. Some people may shrug at Mark’s music; others may nod their head and say “nice”; others would fall in love with the music; yet others would fall in love with the person sitting next to them during the show; and some, I guess, would fall in love with the artist itself. All sorts of reactions… mostly completely unpredictable.

I have seen all sorts of fans, including those who shrugged, those who nodded, those who fell in love with the music / the person next to them / the artist. Granted, it is very easy to tag certain people as “too bored” or “too scary” or “too stalking” or “lifeless”… and I admit to have sometimes done that in the past. I am, however, sort of regret that as it’s a totally unfair categorization. Emotional reactions are very hard to control, let alone predict. As long as the reaction doesn’t harm anybody, it should at least be treated with respect (“agreement” is a totally different thing) as, in the vast majority of cases, those reactions stem from positive intentions.

Hmmmmm. I should think about that further.

After the show, I left the venue only to realize that hey, it’s Friday night and nightlife in Hollywood are just starting now. I felt like having a drink; Nancy and Vikki already went away, but with the help of the latest in technology (SMS), we managed to co‐ordinate a meeting place. I suggested we go to the “W” hotel’s lounge.

When I made that suggestion, all I knew about the “W” was is that it is a hotel right across the street from the venue, and the reason I suggested it was that it was really close to where I was at that moment. I also knew that Nancy was staying there so, what the heck, less walking for everybody.

Little did I know what that hotel really is all about. It’s a brand‐new hotel, built to perfection and boasts a lounge that, by the long line‐ups outside, are really popular among the young, hip and wanna‐be‐cool’s. Way more skin than you’d usually expect to see (“Silicon Valley”, I wrote already), and seems like everyone there was trying to put on the best show in order to be “counted”.

I felt like a smokin’ hot VIP when Nancy and Vikki, being the hotel’s guests, were able to bypass the entire line‐up with Jeroen and myself walking behind, with an expression of astonishment on our faces. I was wearing jeans, a T‐shirt and sneakers (!), and received some strange looks from people who felt that it just wasn’t right that a nerd like me is bypassing the world on his way to one of the hottest lounges in Hollywood.

When we got to the lounge, I understood why everybody wants to be there. It is very spacious, and everyone there tried the best they could in order to belong. Guys dressed as if they’re taking a part in a music‐video shoot, girls dressed as if… well, actually, erase that. “Undressed” is the word. Gold‐diggers in every corner, gorgeous women using their skills to attract whatever rich‐looking guy they could have laid their eyes (and hands) on.

Yes… I guess we’re in Hollywood.

A glass of good Pinot Noir, a few laughs and I left back to the hotel. The end of a good day; tomorrow we stay at the same location, as there’s another concert at The Pantages.