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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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Apology (in Advance)

Hello folks, there’s something I was going to write a couple of weeks ago but never got around to… and I think now would be a good time.

Over the last couple of months, since the Get Lucky tour has started, the popularity of this little blog has been on a constant rise and is now more popular than I could even imagine it to be. So, really, thank you all for your readership and support; much appreciated.

The European leg of the tour, which I was intending to do solely by public transport (except for Spain where I will be renting a car, or tie myself to the crew’s buses while riding a skateboard behind it as the train schedules won’t allow me to get to the concerts on time), has been sort of like a walk in the park so far as train travel here is so efficient and I just happen to understand English.

That wouldn’t be the case once the upcoming week is over, and I’m off to the mainland. While train travel shouldn’t be so bad, the fact that I am not speaking any language (that is spoken in Europe) other than English leaves absolutely no room for faults. Planning for the tour past the last Royal Albert Hall concert is not easy as I’m taking it very seriously in order to minimize the “aggravation factor” and the possibility of errors.

Some concerts are going to be tricky to get to—often arriving at the destination city 3 hours (!) before the concert starts.

I am not done planning yet; I intend to spend as much time as possible, in London, in order to finalize planning.

So, if you see that I don’t respond to emails too often, or that I pass on certain invitations for social gatherings—please accept my apology. It is not because I am a jackass (read: while I am indeed a jackass, it is not the reason for the aforementioned)—it is simply because I am working very hard to plan for the goal I had set to myself: attend the entire Get Lucky tour and write about whatever it is that pops into my mind whilst on the road (and is worth writing about; well, “worth” here is a relative term, I suppose).

Thank you all, again, for your support and my apologies in advance. Nothing personal.

Signing off from Bournemouth (I’m hungry; time for dinner).


Concert Day: BIC, Bournemouth, UK (May 28, 2010)

Walking back to the UMI Hotel from Brighton’s brilliant beach, at around 2:30am, I already had the opportunity to predict that a good night sleep is not quite what Lady Luck had been planning for our night together. Dozens of youngsters—they couldn’t be more than 16 years old—flocking the beach area next to my hotel, drinking alcohol, yelling, being stupid.

Some young girl sitting on the sidewalk, leaning against a food‐stand serving junk food, talking on the phone while sobbing.

What is this world turning into, where high‐school kids deem it “cool” to eat garbage, drink alcohol, sort of compensating for the utter lack of purpose in their lives.

Choosing the UMI Hotel for accommodation in Brighton turned out to be a mistake. Mental note to self, #214: unless it’s a 4–5 star hotel, never pick a hotel too close to the centre of things. My room, located at the third floor, was OK and sufficient as a hotel room but man, the amount of noise coming from the outside… unbearable.

Apes of all ages, shapes and forms—all came together with one goal in mind: prevent me from sleeping properly. I woke up every hour or so, but somehow got a great 4 hours straight sleep after 6:00am.

I will have to work very hard over the next few weeks to get into a regular sleeping pattern; not the easiest of tasks when you’re not staying in 4 or 5 stars hotels; I guess I’ll have to consider changing some of my travel plans.

Anyway, I couldn’t have imagined leaving Brighton without another round of that fantastic cappuccino, courtesy of Marwood Coffee Shop on Ship Street. It was about 11:00am when I entered the store and faced a couple of barista’s who were obviously very high up there, and I’m not talking about altitude. Still, perfect coffee and I was on my way to the train station—a short 7–8 minutes walk—fifteen minutes later.

Arrived at Brighton’s train station about six minutes before the train’s departure time (hourly service from Brighton to Bournemouth through Southampton Central). Buying some breakfast to go at the train station, I realized that I was left with the staggering, insane amount of just under £5 in my wallet. Well, if someone is to rob me during this trip, please do it now.

The train change in Southampton Central went fine. I was boarding the second‐class car that was marked as “Quiet Zone”, found a seat and sat down. Within a minute, the train started moving; and as it started moving, so did the mouths and the limbs of about 10 kids. My second time in a “Quiet Zone” car… second utter failure. Luckily, it was a short 30 minutes ride to Bournemouth.

My American friends happened to have taken the very same route at the very same time (we did not get to spend any time together on the train, though; I was riding the second‐class cabin). Our ways were split once we arrived at Bournemouth’s train station, as they took a taxi cab to their hotel and I was set out to find my B&B by foot, about a mile away from the train station.

For whatever reason, the BlackBerry’s GPS didn’t function at all during the first 20 minutes of the walk; streets signs were nowhere to be found so I had to be extra careful with navigation.

At the end everything sorted itself out and I arrived at my destination, a wonderful B&B called Boscombe Grange Hotel. The hosts were great, what a warm welcome. House was clean, tidy and the room had everything I could have asked for. Very quiet neighbourhood—something tells me that I’m not going to be hearing drunken teenagers rambling outside tonight. Good Lord, finally, a good night sleep.

The hosts and I had a good chat for about an hour, during which I told them about what it is that I’m doing here—they seemed to have taken it quite well. They admitted that they don’t often hear background stories such as this one.

Some set‐up in the room, catching up with things while recharging batteries—mine, the laptop’s and the BlackBerry’s, that is—packed a small backpack and went outside, walking the approximately two miles towards tonight’s venue—the BIC—as well as the Marriott, where the Americans were staying (the two are next door to each other).

The path leading from the B&B to the BIC goes through some quiet neighbourhoods in Boscombe and Bournemouth (two neighbouring towns). Pleasant walk through streets beset by trees, bush and nice houses and lots of B&B’s.

Guy Fletcher’s “Natural Selection” made its way from my BlackBerry into my ear canals through the magical power of Bluetooth technology; a pleasant, relaxing listening experience. At some point, the path meets Bournemouth’s beach line and the scenery is breathtaking.


The Marriott and the BIC are just under a mile away from the point I took these pictures at, so I decided to climb down the stairway onto the beach and continue walking from there.


After about an hour wandering about, breathing fresh air into my lungs, it was time to eat. Once you leave the beach area, there are lots of pubs and small restaurants, each with its own offerings as to which garbage to contaminate your stomach with. A cash machine was nowhere to be found (and no, a small sign over a “cash machine” in some shady convenience store does not count); as my budget was limited to the £4.90 found in my wallet, I ended up playing it safe—a sandwich and a latte at Aloha Coffee by the beach. Price? Exactly £4.90.

Interesting how these things work out.

Word from the Americans was that it’s going to be a while before they’re all ready, so I made my way to the Marriott’s lobby. Some afternoon tea, seated by the window overlooking the water. Relaxing views to clear the mind before the concert.

At around 7:30pm, we made our way to the BIC—about two minutes walk.


The Bournemouth International Centre (BIC) (Wikipedia: is located right by Bournemouth’s seashore. It has two halls in it—Windsor Hall (where the concert took place) is the bigger one and seats 6,500.


My seat was at the front row, dead centre (well, not quite; the centre of the stage was actually facing the aisle. I was seated at the rightmost seat of the left block). Three seats (!) separated me from the Americans; as this was going to be the last concert I get to go to with this wonderful group, I approached Maarten (I suppose most Knopfler fans would recognize him by his first name)—who was seated right next to Mike, and asked him if he would switch seats with me some time during the show. Everybody wins—he gets the best seat in the house (physically) and I get the best seat in the house (socially). He didn’t seem to have too much trouble with that.

A quick chat with Ingrid, who I shared a hotel room with in Newcastle last week, and a few readers of this blog who stepped up and introduced themselves (thank you!), and it was 8:00pm; “Feelin’ Good” started playing and the show started.

The band arrived to the concert in Bournemouth one day after kicking some serious arse in Brighton, where they gave one of their best performances so far. Topping Brighton was (and still is) going to be some serious undertaking. A slight regression (was it the 3 hours ride from London?), but having said that, this is coming from an individual who has seen this band performing 74 times before, so naturally I would be pickier than most; still, definitely a great show.

Richard’s 4th string broke two seconds after hitting the first Cm in Border Reiver; the show must go on, and it did—with virtually no interruption. If the broken string annoyed anybody, then it must have been Richard himself who appeared to be a little concerned until about half way through the song.

The audience appeared to have participated very well during the show, cheering loudly; that, combined with the venue being relatively small, created some sense of coziness.

Right before Hill Farmer’s Blues, I gave Maarten the signal and we switched seats; I chose to remain next to the Americans for the rest of the show.

Switching just before Hill Farmer’s Blues turned out to be a good choice as the song’s performance rocked which triggered quite the intense limb movements.

During Romeo and Juliet, while playing the National guitar, Mark suddenly turned his head and just stared at me; he wasn’t exactly smiling—he actually had a pretty annoyed expression upon his face. I felt a bit uncomfortable, and turned my head around; upon re‐fixing my head at the appropriate angle to watch the show, I realized that he was still looking at me with some concerned look.

Well, I had about two seconds to calculate what the heck was going on. All possible scenarios went flying through my mind, and at the end I concluded that my sunglasses—being hung upon my shirt’s collar—were reflecting light back at him, which may have appeared to him as if I was filming the show. I then grabbed the sunglasses and wore them over my forehead, to avoid any such confusion during the remainder of the show.

The concert featured an identical setlist to the one of the night before. Knopfler has decided to use Mike McGoldrick’s knowledge of the pipes to play Done with Bonaparte. According to him, the band will make use of Mike’s knowledge while he’s still around (which means, until the end of the UK leg of the tour).

Monteleone has been played again—three times in a row now. Beautiful song, performed better and better with each concert.

Speedway at Nazareth featured a great kicking solo, much to my American friends’ enjoyment as that’s when we all dance ourselves to death.

Prior to the encore, the audience at the front rows bid their seats goodbye and attached themselves to the stage. Always great to listen to the encore while standing; I suggest passing a law requiring this. A totally different experience.


The show ended, as usual, on 10:20pm.

Back at the Marriott, the five of us had a farewell drink as three of the Americans are returning to their homes the day after. Great seeing you, guys—take care and see you soon!

A yellow moon was shining through the clouds…


I was hungry; Val was kind enough to join me for some Indian food at a restaurant nearby the hotel. We spent more than an hour there talking about all sorts of things; oh yes, the food was great as well.

Walked Val back to the Marriott and called a cab to take me back to the B&B.


Tomorrow is a day off before the band makes its way to London for six concerts in a row. I chose to spend the day off in Bournemouth to unwind before the craziness of London begins. Who knows when would be the next time I’ll get to spend some quiet, quality time by the sea?


P.S. This show was the 37th concert in the “Get Lucky” tour featuring neither “Before Gas & TV” nor “So Far from the Clyde”. This is my blog… and this is my own tiny, meaningless, private protest… :-)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Concert Day: Brighton Centre, Brighton, UK (May 27, 2010)

After having almost no sleep at all last night due to the immense noise caused by youngsters who were raised & taught that “noisy = cool”, I “woke up” this morning with only one goal in mind: to get the hell out of this hellhole which is owned by people who provide a rather lax interpretation to the word “hotel”.

A quick shower; as I was drying myself I began feeling dirtier than I was before. Something about the ugly interior of the room… peeling wallpapers, dust everywhere. All basic basic basic. Bah.

Quickly packed whatever it was that had to be re‐packed and I was ready to go. Took me a few seconds to decide between the quick way of storming out of this place (jump through the window) or the polite way (take the stairs). As there are 52 concerts left to attend this tour, I figured that the “quick way” wasn’t going to serve me right; bummed, I went for the stairs.

Lovely, crisp sunny weather outside. Morning chill with the sun all over. Oh, what a nice way to start a day after this horrible night! The time was just about 9:00am, and I had a reservation for the 9:30am train, which I would have happily taken had I not been starving like a dog. Paid a visit to Coffee One, where I started writing the blog entry for yesterday (it’s hard to catch up, even for me; what can I do) over a cup of perfect cappuccino and some bites off a somewhat anaemic sandwich.

The 10:30am train leaving Cardiff was actually taking a longer route than the optimal. The shortest way from Cardiff to Brighton goes through London, for a total ride time of just under 4 hours. However, it requires two train changes, as well as dealing with London’s transit—all are factors that I just wasn’t in the mood for dealing with today. Therefore I decided to take Cardiff to Fareham, then change to Brighton—total time of about 5 hours but only one train change and London transit.

While on the train, I completed writing yesterday’s blog entry just as the train arrived at Fareham.

Imagine someone grabs you from behind, blindfolds you, loads you onto a car, drives you to an unknown desolate place, talks to you until you’re clinically depressed, then unloads you onto a desolate train station. Read this last paragraph again, then close your eyes and imagine it. Then read it again.

Done? Good. Now, that’s exactly what being in the Fareham train station felt like. “In the middle of nowhere” would imply that at least you’re at the centre of “things”; it wasn’t even that.

I took my camera out to take a picture; as I was squeezing the shutter, the camera displayed a message in red capital letters saying “SORRY, I JUST CANNOT TAKE THIS” and shut itself down.

Waiting 25 minutes for the train to take me to Brighton felt more like 25 years. Finally, the 1:56pm train arrived (on 1:57pm; I’m thinking about filing a law‐suit) and I boarded it with pleasure; another one hour ride for today and that’s it.

Arrived at Brighton’s train station right on time. Hunger began creeping in, but I decided to find my hotel first. UMI Hotel, conveniently located right by the beach, was a short 10 minutes walk down the main street.

I heard a few things about Brighton before I arrived here; mainly that it’s a beach town, a popular resort destination. I also heard that the beach here is spectacular and is a must‐see for visitors.

Walking down Queens Road, one cannot escape the feeling that this is a tourists’ place. Millions of small stores, restaurants and cafes of all sorts. The path I took was a straight path, downhill, towards the beach (was nice to see the ocean, at last); I couldn’t avoid getting the feeling that there is quite a lot to discover inside the millions of side streets and alleys; everything’s so compact in here.

Arrived at the hotel, hungry and tired. All I wanted was to unload my stuff and go eat somewhere. Lady Luck appeared to have been mocking me all along as the receptionist was dealing with a mature couple that asked her so many questions—mostly obvious, stupid ones—that I could notice she’s getting a little annoyed.

Finally, got the key to my room. Yes! now all I have to do is just go there, unload my stuff and go hunt for food.

… Remember Lady Luck from the paragraph above? What a bitch. You would probably not believe me if I told you that it took me 5 minutes to find my room once I arrived at my floor. Turns out that this hotel is situated in one of the oldest buildings in Brighton, and finding your room is task equivalent to finding your way out of a maze. I had to flip open no less than 10 doors (!) until I finally found my room.

Being that a beach‐side hotel, one would expect that there is good probability of getting a room that faces the ocean. Ah, well, not quite. Talking to the receptionist, she informed me that all single rooms are located at the back; so the question wasn’t how pretty my view is going to be, but how ugly. And, folks, I think I scored it big time; the view reflected through my room’s window made me think that I’m looking through a tent’s window in suburban Baghdad. Sort of like a miserable scene from the movie Borat, minus the goats.

At least the room itself appeared clean and tidy enough to accommodate humans.

I spent about 5 minutes in the room and left. Target—food.

The problem with highly touristic places such as Brighton is that, due to the fact that there are millions of restaurants, it is very hard to make a choice. Even after you filter out places that give you the chills just by looking at them, you’re still left with so many restaurants to pick from… and when competition is high, each such restaurant is doing whatever it can possibly do to attract the tiniest extra fraction of attention from you.

I had no time (or patience) to conduct thorough research so I just Googled something up and an Italian restaurant by the name “Al Duomo” came up, so I went there. The restaurant is located next to the Royal Pavilion, a popular tourist attraction in Brighton.


Once I was greeted by a rude host and sat down, I took the time to read the reviews of that restaurant and, folks, what can I tell you… judging by the reviews, that same old Lady Luck from above was obviously lurking at some corner with a baseball bat ready to hit me in the head. While some reviews were good, most reviews turned out so bad that for a second I thought that I’m reading reviews about McDonald’s.

But you know what? It wasn’t that bad. OK, so it wasn’t even close to Zeffirino’s at The Venetian, Las Vegas (I have yet to find an Italian restaurant that beats Zeffirino’s), but it wasn’t as rubbish as people described. For the price—£8 for a two course lunch—you couldn’t ask for more and not be considered a fool.

Once done eating, I became a bit tired so I started to walk around aimlessly looking for a coffee place. I was planning on meeting my American friends so I thought about having it at the Hilton where they were staying. Entering the Hilton I couldn’t find any hint for quality espresso being served on the premises, so I left towards the city centre (whatever is interesting in Brighton is within walking distance of the beach).


The Brighton Centre, where the concert was to take place, is located between the Hilton and my hotel.


Wandering around hoping to come across an inviting, sophistically‐looking cafe by the beach, I found nothing interesting. Resorting to the BlackBerry and looking for the best coffee in Brighton, I got the lead to a place called “Marwood Coffee Shop” on 52 Ship Street.

Entering the place, I thought that I entered a time machine and arrived at an espresso bar from the 1960’s. The place is decorated in quite the hippy style; ladies wearing long dresses (flowers, of course) make coffee and serve it. A guy with a shaved head and a tremendous beard sits at the corner sipping coffee and doing some puzzle.

“Where the hell am I”, I thought to myself.

So I’ll make a long story short: this place is damn brilliant. Excellent service and—sorry, Cardiff’s Coffee One—this place makes the best cup of cappuccino I have yet to wrap my lips around in the UK. Barista’s should come here to take lessons on how to make perfect coffee. Bravo! What a delight.


With the smooth taste of perfect coffee, I left the premises and made my way to the Hilton, to meet the Americans. Took some pictures around the narrow, winding alleys and streets… just for you.


Met the guys and we all went for some chatter in one of the suites. The view of the beach was too good to avoid pictures being taken.


A short walk from the hotel at around 7:15pm and we arrived at the venue, the Brighton Centre.

The Brighton Centre (Wikipedia: is centrally located, facing the beach. It seats ~ 5,000 and hosts concerts, sports and other sorts of entertainment. Not too big, not too small; the reception area is spacious enough to contain a fair number of concertgoers, and offers the traditional entertainment hall cuisine (mostly garbage).

I came to realize that Knopfler’s concerts in Brighton often serve as a meeting point for Knopfler’s fans throughout Europe. As I am not an active member in Knopfler’s various fan forum (I did log in once or twice before, to publish the Website address of this blog), I learned this fact from having a few chats with friendly fans who came to introduce themselves. Sort of makes sense, you know, this being a resort town relatively close to London—with the latter being so easy to get to whenever British Airways isn’t on strike).

For this concert, the American gang took the four seats at the front row that were closer to the centre; I was seated next to them to the left. Here’s a picture with three members of the gang (Mike’s missing, as he’s the one taking the picture):


The concert started at 8:00pm, as planned.

Overall this was a great show, of the best I can recall. The audience tonight appeared to be more active than the usual UK crowd (from what I’ve seen so far), with the front rows standing against the stage all throughout the encore (one fan named Beth, who came from Bournemouth, somehow managed to get all the way from the upper balconies (!) all the way down to the stage, standing right behind me. How did she do that is beyond me; good job).

Still a seated show for Mark, who informed the audience of the improvement in his trapped nerve’s status. I would suggest, if I could, that he remains seated throughout the tour even once he’s healed, because he plays better this way, period (I strongly believe so; other people who have seen Knopfler perform both standing and seated during this tour, seem to agree).

The setlist started as similar to the one played last night, until it came the time for Done with Bonaparte when something unusual happened. Typically, the band’s introduction takes place right before Marbletown, but this time it took place just before Done with Bonaparte, which sort of gave me a hint that something’s different. And indeed, for the first time during this tour, Marbletown was skipped, as Done with Bonaparte was followed by Monteleone and Donegan’s Gone.


The greatest part of the show, however, was obviously the end as the audience did not follow the ass‐to‐chair paradigm and was standing all throughout the encore. Comfortably standing right at the centre of the stage, the American gang and I were having lots of fun connecting with this beautiful music very close to its source.

The show ended at around 10:15pm; a quick chat between Beth, her boyfriend, Steve and myself, and then the Americans and I were off the venue.

A quick bite at a Greek restaurant and a beer in a pub right behind the Hilton, somehow the tiredness got pushed away a little. That’s not surprising in the slightest, as spending time with these Americans often results in any trace of tiredness being completely pushed away, making room for more fun. Back at the Hilton’s lobby for more drinks (I had tea!), some more fun chatter and I left at around 2:00am, on my way to my hotel.

Tomorrow should be an easy day, about two and a half hours ride to Bournemouth. The show in Bournemouth is the last show before the band (and myself) travel to London for a week of rocking concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.

Unfortunately, tomorrow’s concert in Bournemouth is going to be the last concert for three of my four American friends. While Val is staying around for the first few shows in London, Jordan, Mike and Steve will be making their way back to California the morning after the show.

They say different people take out different things out of you; and people you call “friends” are people who take out those things that you deem as good and positive. Spending time with these guys—before concerts, during concerts, after concerts, whenever—has been nothing but an absolute thrill. We had so much fun together that seeing them go is very saddening.

Night after night in the UK, concert after concert, these guys—miraculously, always being seated next to me or very close to me—were rocking. Just looking at them react to the music, you could see that they are so much into the music that, had the whole world around them collapsed, they probably wouldn’t notice.

I can only hope that I can find, over the next 50+ concerts, people who rock the way these guys do. Completely averse to the ass‐to‐chair syndrome, fun to talk to, fun to hang out with.

So… Jordan, Mike and Steve—here’s one to you; safe travels back to California and we’ll get together soon. Pleasure to spend time with you!

I am finishing writing this post on 2:00am. I just bid my American friends goodbye at the Hilton’s lobby; started to make my way back to the hotel, as I noticed the gorgeous view of the moonlight reflecting from the sea’s waters. The sky is clear, the moon and the stars shine brightly. The moonlight, together with the brilliant orange‐ish lighting cast by the dozens of lamp posts around, make Brighton’s Beach’s pebbles shine in a brilliant color.


The occasional couple walks by every now and then; granted, this is a pretty romantic scene. Umbrellas and plastic sea chairs are all folded and tied, waiting to be deployed on the next sunny day, universally desired to be “tomorrow” (although that sometimes doesn’t work out).


This is one of the most beautiful sights I ever had the privilege to see. It’s cold, and yet I sat down by the beach and reached for my laptop; no better way to end a post than this.


Something from the past just comes and stares into my soul” said a wise man holding a red Stratocaster. Something indeed pops; distant memories erupt out of my sleepiest brain cells, making their safe journey towards the conscious.

I have never been here before but something in this scenery around me casts a strong feeling of Deja‐Vu. Remote memories of different times; different places; different people who were once the centre of my life—friends; family members; lovers—and are now history, gone.

Life changes, circumstances change; people come and go, each one giving you something but always taking something when they leave.

But at the end, it’s all the same scene.

It’s just you and the sea.