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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, June 5, 2010

Concert Days: Royal Albert Hall, London, UK (June 3–4, 2010)

I suggest that you all calm down, and take a deep, deep breath.

The world’s still standing; sun is shining (at least in London), birds are chirping (except for in the Gulf of Mexico, thank you BP), the FIFA World Cup is still due to commence in a few days and the Korea’s are still on the brink of war.

Seems like the world’s still turning regardless of whether I post something or not… bummer. I was hoping to have reached world domination by now.

Well, the reason I didn’t post anything on June 3 was that I decided to concentrate on completing the train & lodging schedule of my Europe trip. Starting tomorrow (June 6), I will be in a somewhat constant move most of the time; I will have to be on alert for any unforeseen changes as the language barrier means much less fault tolerance.

I am happy, though, to say that except for a hotel / hostel room in Oslo (too expensive; still trying to find some reasonable place) and a few places in Germany, I have all lodging sorted out till mid‐July or so. Turns out that, for a few train connections of high‐speed trains, I still have to make reservations however those can only be made at the train stations (despite the fact that I have an unlimited 1st‐class train pass for two months). Hopefully, everything goes according to plan.

I am writing this post while sitting at the Eurostar train, which takes me from the UK to Europe’s mainland. The first stop is going to be Jeroen’s place in The Netherlands (it’s a day off for the band today); starting tomorrow morning, it’s independent travel for me again, roaming train stations and streets in countries most of which I had never been to before.

So… lets see… what was going on during the last two days.

Thursday (June 3) was dedicated mostly to planning and catching up with the world.

One of the hardest things to do while travelling in such rush is to accept the fact that you cannot possibly please everybody all the time. Prioritization must takes place and sacrifices have to be made—sometimes it’s annoying, but hey what can you do. Not everything is pleasant in taking on such an engagement, when being goal‐driven is the very thin line separating success over failure.

Anyway, after having a few lunches in Caffe Concerto nearby the hotel—well, how can you blame me, their food is delicious—we decided to try someplace else. As I was busy planning, Jeroen was taking a stroll around Hyde Park, in a seemingly failed attempt to lose any significant portion of the weight he had put on over the last couple of months. On his way, he came across a place called “Seventeen”, serving Dim Sum and other Asian delicacies, not far from the Notting Hill Gate Tube station. As he told me about this amazing discovery upon returning to the hotel, remote, distant memories of having Dim Sum lunches with now‐ex colleagues made their way from the brain right into my stomach so I was more than willing to try it out.

The path from the hotel to Notting Hill goes through Kensington Church Street, which is a neat, narrow street running south to north, slowly leading you from the bustle of the busy area of High Street Kensington to the more quiet, friendly‐looking area of Notting Hill.

Arriving at Seventeen, I witnessed a nicely‐decorated, albeit somewhat pretentious, small restaurant. I elegantly skipped the pricey ordinary menu and went for their lunch specials—“set lunches” (which are fixed menus; you pay a certain amount of money for a certain combination of items, no changes / substitutions) numbered 1 to 3. After some deep thought, Jeroen asked the waiter for “set lunch #3”. I followed by “I’ll have that too”—a phrase that I later regretted.

No, it’s not that the food was bad. It was actually delicious. However, very shortly into the meal, I realized that the number of items that we were served didn’t quite divide by two. Some items were served twice (as they should), then some items were served once (WTF?!), then some items served twice again (good), and only one dessert.

As Newman called in that great episode of Seinfeld when he functioned as a judge between Kramer and Elaine over that bicycle: Quite the conundrum!

During that time, we both had theories about what the hell happened—all theories leading to this restaurant’s employees having a somewhat strange understanding of grade 1 arithmetic. At the end, looking at the bill, I realized that the waiter misheard my “I’ll have that too” as “I’ll have number two”, referring to “set lunch #2” which was actually smaller in size.

These things can only happen to me, I guess. First, the Tate fiasco, now this… and there are two months to go! I wonder what’s next in store for me.

Walking back to the hotel, we decided to stop for some desserts in an interestingly‐looking patisserie in Kensington Church Street, very close to High Street Kensington. I believe it was called Vincent Valerie’s Patisserie. Delicious cakes, good coffee—and I was all ready and set to enthusiastically charge at the laptop once again for another tiring planning session.

No time for much social activity pre‐show, unfortunately, so I went to the Royal Albert Hall very shortly before the concert, unfortunately missing Kate Walsh’s opening act again.

Thursday’s show—similarly to Wednesday’s show—was also, apparently, preceded by some sort of an event for special guests. Another concert dedicated for charity, and it seems like people associated with that charity received the honour of attending a pre‐ and/or post‐show reception as well as populating the first handful of rows. I was seated in a row so high numbered that I didn’t know ever existed—13, all the way to the side (still in the arena, though).

Here is a picture of Jeroen, pretending to be happy with his seat.


The show started shortly after 8:30pm. Again no setlist surprises—perhaps we’re not far enough from the Clyde yet (here’s one hope I have that is slowly fading away… well, you can’t have everything I guess)?…

Altogether a good show—not unlike many others—except for a few mishaps. The sound—which, from the centre of the 7th row the night before was fantastic—was slightly unbalanced, and it seems like one (or some) of Danny’s drums had some echo thing going on, making some of the songs sound interesting (that issue was fixed for Friday’s concert, though). A few dissonances and off‐notes here and there during some solos, nothing however too unpleasant to the average concertgoer’s ear.

I mentioned it once before and I think I should mention it again… I have been watching so many concerts so far so I tend to be very picky… naturally. It may annoy a few of you but hey, I can only tell you about what my brain actually interprets from the millions of signals it gets. So whatever’s written here is just my opinion.

The pinnacle of this concert was, again, the Marbletown jam session which has been developing and being re‐invented on a daily basis since the band got to the Royal Albert Hall. This time it was about John McCusker actually working out a new violin solo for his part of the jam—blending very well with Mike’s flute work and Mark’s Martin guitar work. If what the band is trying to do is create a song within a song, then they’re definitely on the right path. Whatever it is they’re trying to do, it sounds very good.

The customary Running of the Bulls took place towards the end of Telegraph Road; I made it a habit to look around me when that time comes, to see how the stage‐charging phenomena starts as well as what tricks and schticks are being performed in order to squeeze another millimetre of stage‐dust. As we were seated at the very end of the row, we simply stood up and walked towards the stage, attempting (with much success) to clear as much was as possible for the angry mob. Somehow, we made it to the second “row”.

An off‐night for the bulls, I reckoned.


A nice encore during which I was persuaded to find out who the hell that blonde chick was. There was this blonde gal wearing a white blouse that seemed to have attracted quite a few eyeballs around… my built‐in aversion to blonde hair meant that it was much less of an important topic for me than for others, so I didn’t bother to delve too deep into the issue. Another element that made me refrain from conducting any investigation of the matter was a couple of unfriendly‐looking Y‐chromosomed humans around her.

The show ended at around 10:30pm. A quick snack at a nearby Mediterranean restaurant nearby, offering good hummus and really unfriendly service, and back to the hotel for a good night sleep.

Friday June 4 started in much the same way as the day before with breakfast at the hotel and some planning—some of which being done while waiting for my laundry to be done at some laundromat up Kensington Church Street. £5 for one load including detergent and drying. Everything’s expensive here in England; laundry, too.

As I returned to the hotel, I figured that most of the planning has been done already so I decided to celebrate by actually getting my ass away from the Kensington area. Took the Tube to the touristic area of the London Eye. Weather was perfect, which prompted billions of tourists to flock this highly‐touristic area. For a minute I thought I was in Disneyland.


Lots of street shows around. As soon as I got to the heavily‐touristic areas, I realized how much I dislike being a tourist and decided to get the hell out of there.

… Not before some great curry lunch in Wagamama.


Back on foot towards the Tube’s Embankment station… nice views from a nice bridge.


Back at the Kensington area, we decided that a day in London cannot go by without some desserts. Went back to our favourite, Caffe Concerto (turns out they spell it with two f’s) for this:


Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I’m going to miss this place. Take note if it, and go there when you’re in London.


Weather was still perfect so it was time to hit Hyde Park again for a physically‐challenging session of sitting on a bench in the shade watching people come and go.


I totally fell in love with Hyde Park, despite the fact I had very little time to enjoy it this time around.

An hour or so passed oh very quickly as I was doing some more planning while seated on that lovely bench, then back to the hotel to rest after this long, excruciating day of doing almost nothing.

Arrived at the Stanhope Arms pub just as some of the Knopfler fans—who had arrived to London for a few shows, from all over Europe—were leaving. Not looking forward to the possibility of growing hungry during the show, I spotted a place called Cafe Forum, a few metres south of the Stanhope Arms pub.

That cafe proudly featured a particularly tasteless sandwich and the most water‐like version of latte that I ever had. Surprisingly, Jeroen’s tea was disgusting as well. I, therefore, have no choice but granting this place Isaac’s Seal of Disapproval. Avoid it; there’s a Burger King nearby—better value despite the guaranteed stomach‐ache after.

Time to walk to the venue…


Upon arriving at Door 1 in order to pick up the tickets, I was approached by a nice lady who was talking on her phone.

– “Hi, Are you Isaac?”

I did a quick check.
Yes, still am.

– “Yes I am”

– “Hi, I’m Laurie, Guy Fletcher’s wife”

Very nice lady. We had a little chat; turns out that she, too, is following the nonsense I have to say. Thanks for the chat, Laurie—and for your readership as well, of course!

Twenty or more minutes outside, breathing some fresh air, and entered the venue. Row 10 centre, this time around.

The concert started at 8:30pm.

After a bit of an off‐day the day before, the concert on Friday evening was much better. The drums’ echo issue has been resolved; the entire band played beautifully, top‐notch show just as the better ones in the RAH earlier this week. Beautiful solo’s, including yet another interesting variation in Sultans of Swing’s outro.

I guess the big (and happy) news for all is that Mike McGoldrick is staying with the band until the end of the tour. This fact was published Friday morning on Guy Fletcher’s tour diary (see link to the right); to the Europeans of you who haven’t seen the show yet, trust me on this one—this is very good news.

Maintaining the momentum of the last few concerts, Marbletown’s jam session was again the pinnacle of the concert. A slightly different violin solo by John McCusker—somewhat Scottish‐like this time, reminding his own work (I suggest you give Under One Sky a listen), followed by insane flute work by Mike as well as an entire Disneyland of instruments working in concert later in the jam.


Very receptive audience last night. The bulls went charging the stage, as usual; was interesting to see people, once being seated at the very centre of the back rows, suddenly making it to the front of the stage using all sorts of guerrilla techniques—seek and hide, then seek again… hilarious. I decided to stay behind and enjoy the encore from within the comfort of my narrow seat.

Another great concert ended, and with it—the UK leg of the tour. Back at the hotel, I was too tired to do anything but sleep.

I am signing‐off this posting while on the train from Brussels to Delft (through Rotterdam), where I will be spending the night at Jeroen’s place before proceeding to Antwerp tomorrow.

Good lunch in Brussels’ train station; Belgian Waffles indeed taste better here than in North America.

Let the insane part of this journey begin; hats off to the band for a great UK tour, as well as to the great audiences everywhere in this wonderful land I vow to visit again some time soon. Goodbye, Ireland & UK! And as I always, always say before saying goodbye—I hope that it was as good for you as it was for me.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Concert Day: Royal Albert Hall, London, UK (June 2, 2010)

(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 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…


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Blog Posts on Facebook

Hello folks,

For those of you who normally follow this blog through Facebook, there are a few things that I think you should be aware of… I decided to write this down following Nelly’s puzzlement regarding how come a blog post is being published during a concert.

OK, so here it goes. When I post an article, it is posted directly into the servers and is immediately viewable by going to Also, whoever subscribes to RSS feeds of this blog (see side‐bar to the right) automatically receives a notification for the new post in their favourite RSS reader (such as Google Reader).

Up until here, everything’s simple, right? all understood? no questions? good.

Now for the Facebook complications. My Facebook profile was (up until a few minutes ago) configured to automatically check for new blog posts and import them into my “Notes” box in Facebook.

The only trouble with this mechanism is that it sometimes doesn’t work at all, and sometimes it takes hours, or even days (!) until a blog post is automatically imported into the “Notes” box. This has much to do with Facebook’s “Notes” application and the way that it works… let not get into the technical details.

To remedy this, what I often do is manually post a message on my wall, containing a link to the new blog post (the link will lead you to the website, into the specific blog post being published).

Complicated, huh? Yes, I know. Not easy to keep up with technology, is it.

So, what I did just now was to stop the automatic import of blog articles into my Facebook profile (the thing that doesn’t always work, and sometimes takes hours or days to import a blog). From now on, blog posts will appear at this website first, and I will try to (if I don’t forget) post a link to it from within my Facebook profile immediately after posting.

If you don’t give a rat’s ass about all of this nonsense and just want to be able to read the blog posts once they become available, by far the simplest thing to do is to subscribe to the RSS feed using your favourite RSS reader; or just check often.


Concert Day: Royal Albert Hall, London, UK (June 1, 2010)

The London mini‐tradition of myself not doing much more than the absolute minimum required for living was intended to persist yesterday… well, at least the intention was there. Weather outside was gloomy—grey, light rain, exactly the type of weather that makes you want to get into bed, cover yourself with a thick blanket and sleep through it.

Spent the morning continuing to do some planning for the rest of the European tour. As Wi‐Fi is only available at the hotel’s lobby area (for a fee, of course; we got it for free. Long story), I was sitting at the lobby doing some planning until the very sight of the lobby started to freak me out and I was set out to sit in a cafe or something. Cafe Nero has a shop nearby; suffered some rain on my way there, coffee was terrible… gee, thanks for the experience.

I don’t know if I mentioned it last week, but apparently my Canadian credit card doesn’t carry the CHIP thing on it so I had to call Visa last week to have them ship a replacement card to me to London. Well, it finally arrived yesterday; shortly after noon time, I went back to the room and noticed a huge envelope on the counter.

Before using a new credit card, one has to call in, answer all bunch of questions and then the card is activated. I called them and got Jaime, an interestingly‐sounding woman, on the other side.

Jaime: “Are you calling from home?”

Me: “No, I’m calling from London”.

Jaime: “Oh, I’m in London as well.”

I could see where that was going. She was located at the city of London, Ontario—a painfully boring city, featuring ultra‐low population density and ultra‐low number of attractions. Knopfler played there once, during the Shangri‐La tour.

Me: “I mean London, in the UK”.

Then she started going on and on about how she’s jealous, she wants to be in the UK and all of that. A few security questions, and the card was activated.

Jaime: “Is there anything else you wish to discuss?”

Me: “Well, unless you have some recommendations for places to eat in London, I think we’re done”.

Jaime (laughing): “I’ve never been to the UK before, but if you need some recommendations for places to eat in London, Ontario—“

… and then went on and on to tell me about Richmond Street in downtown London (Ontario), offering some Mongolian Grill Bar, a few junk food restaurants as well as a Martini bar. Nothing of what she said was new to me as I had the misfortune of living in London, Ontario for a few months, six years ago.

Me: “Well Jaime, here’s the thing… after a week in London, I’m going to be in Amsterdam, Antwerp, all over Germany, Paris, Milan, Rome, Monte‐Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid… but, frankly, you convinced me. I’m coming back to Canada tonight to have dinner at the Mongolian Grill in Ontario”

Took her a couple of minutes to stop laughing. “Thank you for making my day” she said. You’re most welcome!

Daria, my friend from Italy, has been spending the last three days in London along with her kids and her sister. Unfortunately we didn’t get around to meet except for a few minutes prior to Sunday’s concert, so I decided to go meet with them… Oh Lord, I’m becoming frustrated just reminiscing what followed next… I’m such a dumbass.

Daria informed me that she’s with the entire bunch at the Tate Gallery. The weather outside was cold; light rain didn’t make it easier to walk around, either. I quickly ran a Google search for the Tate, to find the closest Tube station; turns out that it’s about 25 minutes by the Tube (Pimlico station).

So off I go, walking fast towards the Tube station to avoid the rain as much as possible. At the High Street Kensington station, next to my hotel, two Tube lines are running—the green one (District Line) and the yellow one (Circle Line). Due to some delays, plus the fact that the District Line actually has a few “flavours” (three different end‐stations. Sounds complicated? that’s because it really is), I had to wait about 20 minutes for the Circle Line train to arrive.

Cramped with about 2 billion people on the train, I finally made it to Victoria Station after about 10 minutes. It was so crowded in the train that I wanted to scream; from Victoria Station, I took the Victoria line south, one station to Pimlico. Exited the station and followed the signs to Tate Britain.

I was very happy and somewhat wet when I got to Tate Britain, approximately an hour after I left the hotel. Daria told me she’ll wait for me at the entrance… which she didn’t.

45 minutes (!) have passed, while Daria and I exchange text messages setting up new places to meet—and still, no Daria. I was still wet, and now I began to become tired and hungry. Those who know me well could tell you that the world is not prepared to handle me when I’m both tired and hungry, so I said “f**k it all” and informed Daria that I’m going to eat and “see you later”.

The only place around that resembled anything like an acceptable restaurant was some pub on Millbank street. Took about an hour until I was done, and I decided to give it another try.

This time, however, I’ll come prepared… so I thought. Texting Daria “I’m coming over again. Please tell me EXACTLY where to meet you”, she replied: “Elevator, level 5!”

OK, that sounds specific enough. Entered the building (wet again), found the elevator.

At last”, I thought. “Phewwww that was a long one”.

Elevator Opens.

I enter.

I turn around to push the appropriate button. I see a button for level 1, a button for level 2… hmmm. Interesting. Where are 3 to 5?

Leaving the elevator, I found an usher. Tired, wet and full of hopes that life is going to be back to normal shortly, I asked:

– “How many levels does this building have?”

– “Well, this particular building here has two levels…”

I stopped breathing, anxiously awaiting the forthcoming. In my head, I was already praying that she speaks faster already.

– “… but the two buildings on the side, each one has…”

……………………… drum roll………………

– “… three levels.”

I gazed at the usher as if I had just witnessed her being transformed into a Tasmanian Cacadoo: that is, with more than a bit of disbelief in my eyes.

– “Is this the Tate Gallery?”

– “Well, there are two Tate buildings in London…”

!(#&^!( *#& ^ !(#*&^!(& #^!%#*) !#&)(*!&)# ( *!#&* ^ & !#(*!^%#(*!^ &# )!&^#(!&^

Turns out that Tate Modern, where the gallery is, is about an hour walk away from the Tate Britain, where I was. I just wasted 4 hours for being an idiot.

At least Daria had a laugh…

Back at the hotel, I was just too tired to keep my eyes open so I got a quick nap, about 30 minutes, before heading to the concert. Arrived at the Royal Albert Hall a few minutes past 7:30pm so had to miss Kate Walsh’s opening act again (I will catch it at least once by the time the UK tour is over).

A nice chat with Val and Emily, then to the wonderful hall during the intermission. Still a bit tired, I decided to enter the hall early, park my ass on the seat and relax.

Knopfler concerts at the RAH are often involved with a local charity. A beautiful 18 years old girl named Flora (so I believe) took the stage and read a speech on behalf of Great Ormond Street Hospital. Flora suffers from cystic fibrosis and is a patient at that hospital. I can’t really pinpoint what it was in her speech that made me behave that way but I was absolutely fascinated; I believe my blinking rate dropped significantly during the 3 minutes speech, while every word she was saying elegantly skipped any mental filter in my head and went straight into the soul.

A few minutes later, the band captured the stage and the show started.

Whatever it was the night before that made Mark seem distracted the evening before, wasn’t there last night. The show was a blast, featuring a setlist that bears no surprises except for Get Lucky being played for the first time at the Royal Albert Hall.

The audience was slightly less loud than the one of the night before; smaller audience, too—for the first time at the RAH this tour, the seats at the stalls behind the stage were empty (yes, there are quite a few seats at the RAH from where you can only see the back of the band). Still, significantly louder audience than anywhere else in the UK so far.

I would say that the highlights of the concert last night were actually three songs being played in a row—Done with Bonaparte, Marbletown and Get Lucky. Towards the end of Done with Bonaparte, thanks to the fantastic sound at the front row, I was watching the band members playing and something made me feel as if they have let all barriers loose, determined to improvise as wildly as possible. No way in hell that whatever was played there during the end of Done with Bonaparte had been pre‐planned to detail; it was just way, way too complex but, lo and behold, it sounded beautiful.

The Marbletown jam last night was also a pearl; John led with beautiful violin sequences that I haven’t heard yet, with Mike joining with the flute a bit later rocking the audience off. Mark also seemed to take a bit of a louder role with the Martin, altogether creating one of the better Marbletown experiences this tour.

Get Lucky’s best part was the end, with Mike, again, working the flute in a way that even made Mark nod his head with satisfaction from time to time.

Beautiful performance.

That was the first time Jeroen and I were sitting next to each other since the North American tour; we were seated at the left‐hand side of the front row. That was the last time we were going to sit together at the front row for this tour (standing? maybe, if I decide that it’s a good idea to wait outside the Heineken Music Hall hours over hours in advance). The Running of the Bulls practice—the name I assigned to the practice of herds rushing towards the stage at the end of the last song before the encore—was about to commence; for the sake of cherishing old times with my Dutch buddy, I agreed to get up from my seat and make one step forward towards the left‐hand side of the stage.

I tell you it was scary. All I did was get up (slowly) and take one—yes, one (!)—step forward. During that step, I was pushed from both sides, once from some idiot who rushed from the back rows into the front, and twice by an Italian troll who literally pushed his wife into my elbows (oh, the love). Jeroen, making the very same step, was hit by a different bull. The pushing continued for about a minute, when I noticed people that used to be at the third and fourth row—suddenly being at the centre of the stage. That just couldn’t have happened without violence.

Show ended after the usual encore.


Last night’s show was the last one for Val, the last remnant from the Americans’ group with whom I had so much fun going to the UK concerts with. Val took an earlier flight today (Wednesday) back to Los Angeles. She will certainly be missed.


On the way back to the hotel, stopped for a moderately‐acceptable Shawarma for a late‐night dinner, then back to the hotel for an OK night sleep.

Signing off this post from a bench in Hyde Park, Wednesday afternoon. Back to planning the European journey…


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Concert Day: Royal Albert Hall, London, UK (May 31, 2010)

One of the main reasons I was so looking forward to the week in London was knowing that I won’t have to do much; the hotel is located a short walk away from the venue, whatever I need is within walking distance. No need to pack, no need to travel anywhere.

My sleep is still in quite the bad shape, regrettably. I don’t know what is going on but, regardless of what time I’m going to bed, I always find myself awake at around 4:30am and having great difficulty going back to sleep. Bizarre, as I was under the impression that my jet‐lag is over. Maybe I was wrong? anyway, I certainly hope this gets resolved one way or another soon as things are going to be quite hectic once the UK tour is over.

London is a great city with more stuff to see and do than even a month would allow. However, upon arriving here, I decided to flip a strong, steady middle finger at the face of the practice of sightseeing; I’ll go sightseeing some other time. For now, I’d like to rest.

… Which is more or less exactly what I did. Save for the concert, that was a predominantly boring day with the highlight being the delicious lunch at Caffe Concerto, an Italian cafe‐restaurant a few minutes away from the hotel. Walking past the cafe, we noticed a wonderful display of cakes, tarts and other deliciously‐looking desserts at the cafe’s display window so we just had to park there for lunch. Very good spot, I suggest you check it out.

Later on, went with Miriam to the Stanhope Arms pub, which appears to be the de‐facto meeting place for Knopfler fans. A couple of hours later, people started leaving towards the Royal Albert Hall; Jeroen and I grabbed a bite at a nearby sandwich store and headed to the venue.

The evening before, ticket collection has been rather messy with tickets being lost & reissued for quite a few ticket buyers. Paul Crockford, Knopfler’s personal manager, published an apology and promised that things will be going smoother from now on; they did. Ticket collection was a breeze, just as before; I even managed to get a hold of the lost ticket from the night before, courtesy of one of the staff members.

Mental note: Nelly still owes me a great deal of goods for helping her get her lost ticket. No Nelly, I didn’t forget.

After some chit‐chat, as I was looking around me at the food & drinks area of the Royal Albert Hall, I suddenly noticed a familiar face approaching. That turned out to be John Lovell, with whom I’ve been in touch for quite a while now after he contacted me regarding the Kill to Get Crimson tour blog. Him and his girlfriend were also attending the concert and he decided to stop by and say hello. Was good meeting with him at last, we agreed to spend some more time together next time I’m in the UK (John is a guitar player, would be nice to play some tunes with someone for a change).

The conversation with John and his girlfriend ended a few minutes before the concert started. I was seated in a slightly better seat than the night before—front row, fifth seat from the left. The show started exactly on 8:30pm.

Perhaps it was due to my seat’s location but the concert yesterday sounded much louder than the one before. Except for Mark, the band appeared to be in a great shape; Mark, however, still being seated, appeared to be somewhat tired and distracted during most of the show. Why? I have not the faintest clue but that was my impression. At least I hope he is feeling better with all of this trapped nerve pain‐in‐the‐ass story he’s been good through for the last 5–6 weeks.

… Or it could have just been myself being very tired.

Louder audience than the night before, just when I thought that the Royal Albert Hall can’t get any louder. Deafening cheers to the band as they captured the stage, and once the last chord of Speedway at Nazareth was struck, the cheers were so loud that for a minute I thought I’m at a rustic English pub watching England scoring against Spain 1:0 at the 90th minute of the World Cup finals; that thought passed very quickly as, as we all know, that scenario isn’t very likely to happen (and lets leave it at that as I have quite a few readers from England).

Whatever Mark has been going through during most of the concert appeared to have faded away slowly as his performance of Telegraph Road was definitely worth waiting for.

Will that trapped nerve thing just go away already, damn it.

The setlist was identical to that of the night before except for Monteleone and Marbletown switching places.

Even before Telegraph Road ended, people from the front row went running towards the stage, hurdling in a way not entirely unrepresentative of angry bulls in a Running of the Bulls event. Later, I was informed that quite a bit of pushing took place there as people decided to express their violent and disrespectful side towards others.

I was well‐seated in my chair as I was watching the herds ploughing through tangible obstacles towards ecstasy, and remained seated there for about a minute, letting the craziness calm down for a bit. During that minute, I was thinking about what was going on and what was it that kept me in my seat.

I can somewhat relate to people rushing towards the stage (assuming no violence is involved, otherwise I relate to nothing and these people should get their ass kicked). I can understand what purpose this rush—often accompanied by at least some sort of stress—fulfills in their mind…

… But that purpose is, for the most part, irrelevant to me. As life goes by, one thing an individual is often forced to do his to choose the battles he’s fighting and, really, this 2‐seconds “battle” and the accompanying minor stress is very low in my priorities list. I am not willing to go through the most minor stress in order to be one inch closer to the stage… I’m not “there” anymore.

Anyway, the concert ended at around 10:30pm to the cheers of a satisfied audience.


Left the venue and met Val and the rest at the agreed‐upon meeting place. After a short discussion, it turned out that everybody was too tired to drink or do anything so we all spread out to our hotels.

While leaving, I looked back and saw dozens of people waiting next to the stage door. They were standing there for, I believe, more than 30 minutes with a determined look on their faces—they just have to get a glimpse of stardust, even if it means increasing stress on the artist(s).

… I am done trying to rationalize people’s behaviour; way too many things to consider.

Hunger struck both Jeroen and myself as we approached the hotel. Luckily, the wonderful Thai restaurant we had lunch in on Sunday was still open past 11:00pm so we entered for a delicious starters’ platter. Great way to end the day.

Signing off this post on Tuesday afternoon.