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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 19, 2010

Concert Day: Arena Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany (June 19, 2010)

Writing: seated at the lobby of Leipzig Marriot Hotel, my hotel for tonight. 11:20pm, Saturday night and I ain’t looking for anything that is more challenging than parking my ass on a couch and writing. Thank you.

The one month anniversary of the European leg of the tour (oh Lord. I find it hard to appreciate the fact that I’ve been traveling for more than two and a half months now!) amounted to a fabulous night sleep at Berlin’s Motel One—Bellevue. Same as the last few days, today’s train ride was scheduled to be a mere one hour ride via the ICE train to Leipzig; direct trains to Leipzig depart Berlin Hauptbahnhof on an hourly basis, so no need to hurry.

Motel One doesn’t offer free Wi‐Fi in the rooms, unless (and that’s the weird deal) you buy their breakfast buffet for about €7. Figuring I’d have to eat breakfast somewhere, and I really need that Wi‐Fi thing working, it was really a good two‐for‐one deal and I made it worth the while by devouring a really healthy and tasty breakfast.

I mentioned it before, I think: so far in my European travel experience, even the cheapest hotels I stayed in had breakfast buffets superior to most hotel‐provided buffets in North America. Fascinating.

Another hour was spent with my ass occupying one of those comfy funky seats at the lobby (you should check that hotel chain out), booking hotels for Italy (thanks Daria!). A free coffee with milk, courtesy of a nice redheaded receptionist with surprisingly good English, and I left the hotel at around 12:00pm to catch the 12:58pm train (it’s 15 minutes walk to the train station… But again, I’m in a “take it easy” mood nowadays before the craziness of July’s travel begins).

Friends of mine who had been to Berlin before were signing their lives next to stating that this is one hell of a fun city to be in. I felt bad for having to leave without seeing anything there; but hey, sacrifices have to be made. I will be back here some time for sure (Paris, however, comes first).

Saturday morning… Bellevue’s streets are empty. Cloudy sky. It’s windy, a bit cold. Walking up the street towards the central train station really didn’t feel like walking in the streets of one of the most vibrant cities on this planet; it felt more like walking on the moon (the actual activity, not Police’s song). Arrived at the central station having enough time to shop (for water) and take some pictures; Berlin’s central train station is very nice, functional, easy to get oriented with.


Train left on time and I found myself at the quiet zone of the ICE train’s first class cabin—joy. Got a lot done during that short one hour ride to Leipzig.

Leipzig (pronounced Lipe‐Zikh) (Wikipedia: used to belong to East Germany at those times when that stupid wall used to exist and make life miserable for way too many people. It was seriously hit during World War II but was rebuilt ever since. Economy here is doing well comparing to other ex‐East Germany cities, and it has some interesting character to it. Not quite the boring German city, no; comparing to Frankfurt, for example, Leipzig is pretty interesting.

(Then again, Frankfurt isn’t really located high up in the “worldly interesting cities” list, but work with me here)

My hotel was the Leipzig Marriott Hotel which I Priceline’d for quite the ridiculous amount, given the fantastic location: across the road from the main train station, about 1.5km away from the venue which can also be accessed via a short tram ride from the main train station, and right next to Nikolaistraße (read: Sh‐tra‐sse) which is the street offering most of whatever is there to do at the city centre area.

Crossed the road towards the hotel, checked‐in and felt really good being in one great hotel room. It’s really hard to fail when you book with Marriott—they may be expensive (unless you Priceline the living sh*t out of them) but you can be sure that you’re getting a fabulous room.

I was hungry but determined to manage to book a hotel for Rome before I leave. The last part of the tour (Italy post‐Perugia onwards) is going to be the toughest, with Spain being the pinnacle of annoyance as I’ll probably have to fly everywhere, rent cars and altogether work way too much; so I’m trying to get rid of planning as soon as possible.

Once booked, it was already 4:00pm and I went out for some early dinner. After eating sandwiches for almost two whole days, I promised myself a restaurant. The receptionist guided me to the best Italian restaurant she can think of; thank you very much dear, but it’s closed between 3:00pm and 6:00pm (that I found out after looking for the place for 20 minutes).

Took some pictures while looking for a place to eat. Weather was lovely and Leipzig’s city centre is pleasant to walk around.


San Remo restaurant is very hard to miss as its terrace is so massive that it takes more than half the width of the walkway. Lots of people on the terrace, watching the world cup (Ghana vs. Australia. Ended 1:1) so I sat inside.

The first thing that caught my attention about this place is that they have five (yes, five) menus—four of them are for desserts, and one—small—for actual meals, mostly Italian. The sight of the awesome desserts was so great, so strong that, had Jeroen Gerrits seen it, he’d take the first flight from Amsterdam to Leipzig and wouldn’t return until “the job is done” (Jeroen has very weak resistance to sweets. You get to learn these kind of things about people once you drive 14,000km with them throughout North America).

Pasta—not bad. Some variation on a latte that I have never seen before—excellent. Then came the dessert and I thought I died and went to heaven. Cherries crepe with some ice cream on top. Oh, it was worth eating sandwiches for two days just to lay my tongue on this heavenly mixture of sweets.

An hour was killed there chewing on good food and it was time to leave. Decided to do some more walking around, take some more pictures. It’s nice outside and my hotel is right there, so why not.


Time to go to the venue… up to my room, got whatever I needed and headed out. My right ankle still hurts so my plan to walk to the venue (about 20 minutes) was deserted towards the ankle‐friendlier alternative of taking the tram. Once again I got totally and completely amazed by the quality of public transport in Germany; why have a car here—that’s beyond me. You can get damn near anywhere you need with public transit; perhaps it takes a bit longer than when using a car, but the experience is altogether less stressful, cheaper and if you plan your schedule right you will actually spend less time in transit.

Simply awesome. I have no other words to describe it. Public transit in major cities in Germany should serve as a beacon for all major cities in North America (except for NYC of course. You know… NYC isn’t really representative of North America). Harper, Obama… come on, get your ass moving.

A short tram ride to the Sportforum station, then crossing the road to Arena Leipzig. I’m here, about an hour ahead of time.

Arena Leipzig (Wikipedia: is a sports arena that seats up to 12,000. It is a part of the Sportforum (Wikipedia (German): which offers, other than the arena, a swimming pool, sports museum and Leipzig’s central stadium.

The Arena is located at the southern tip of the Sportforum, surrounded by a fair bit of ass‐friendly grass as people waiting for the concert spent their time sitting on it, basking in the sun. I joined them, of course, right after obtaining my ticket and taking some pictures.


45 minutes before the concert’s scheduled start time (8:00pm) I went inside to explore the area.


My ticket: block A (front) row 1 (you know where that is), seat 1 (the count today started from the centre). Good to be back at the centre.


Lots of people traffic near the centre of the stage tonight; people seemed to be excited about having the band over for a short visit, and that excitement was demonstrated a few minutes after 8:00pm when the band took the stage to the sound of immense cheers.

The concert started… but something was definitely missing. Didn’t sound quite like previous concerts, and after a few minutes I realized what was going on. Comparing to previous concerts, there was relatively less guitar action on behalf of Mark. He seemed to be distracted for the first few songs (things improved significantly after Hill Farmer’s Blues)—often just going to attempt to play something, then regretting; or playing it while the volume pedal is depressed so no sound is made. On his face, it was as clear as daylight that either something distracted him (pain, perhaps?), or he was very tired, or both.

Get well soon, Mark…


Romeo and Juliet extorted severely loud cheers from the audience, and Sultans of Swing was the turning point of the concert as things appeared to work much better for Mark from there on.


Done with Bonaparte was played at the C key today (like yesterday. To my taste, this is preferable over playing it in the D key but who the hell asks me) and during the Marbletown jam‐session it appeared that all hell broke loose as the band gave a fantastic performance. What made this performance so good was that there was no gap at all between John’s part and Mike’s part—perfect synchronization, not even one intermission bar. Straight to business, so the momentum built by John transcends directly to Mike and kept thereafter. Good stuff. I got my ass off my seat at the end of the song for a standing ovation; one of the best Marbletown’s yet.


There have been talks recently, following Guy Fletcher’s recent diary entry announcing setlist changes coming up soon. Martina, whom I found myself sitting next to in pretty much all concerts in Germany so far, diverted my attention to the fact that there’s a guitar slide on the tray holding Mark’s towel and water. I naturally assumed Donegan’s Gone is up next right after Marbletown… but no. Mike remained seated with the pipes, Richard grabbed an MK Stratocaster and Mark re‐gained his National and neglected the slide altogether.


No, I didn’t guess. It took about 10–15 seconds for the band to start playing, during which I ran through all instrument configurations I yet to have seen but couldn’t figure out what was coming next.

The first song from Kill to Get Crimson to be played during this tour—ladies and gentleman, please welcome The Fish and the Bird to the setlist. Together with the Coyote we already have, we got ourselves a nice zoo thing going. Performed very similarly to the way it was during the Kill to Get Crimson tour, except that Mike’s pipes add a whole lot to it—beautiful.

I couldn’t help but smile all throughout the song; you should be able to figure out why. Mike McGoldrick appeared to have understood why, a bit hearty smile aimed directly at me. I guess my happiness was evident.


Fantastic Telegraph Road finale and the audience at the front blocks were all standing. To ensure I can watch the concert, I stood up and walked peacefully towards the centre. Good to be there, listening to the usual encore.


About a minute before Piper to the End started, some nice‐looking woman shoved herself to the front, right beside me, pushing me aside. She had an interesting agenda—handing Mark an envelope. Here, see:


Now, you know me… I’m curious. Now get this: the envelope’s addressee side had the following written on it:

To: Mark Knopfler
Notting Hill, London
England, UK

(Doesn’t he live in Chelsea? Even I know that, and I know less about Mark Knopfler than 100% of his fans)

The other side of the envelope (the sender’s details) had everything filled in. Now you may think it’s bizarre, right?

Wait. There’s more.

The envelope actually had post‐marks of what appeared to be genuine post‐marks of a legitimate country (Germany or the UK… couldn’t tell which). I’m strongly suspecting that she once actually tried to mail that letter and it was sent back to her. She put a stamp there and everything…

For a minute I toyed with the idea of explaining to her how mail works; you actually have to write down the address as mailmen kind‐of need that in order to deliver mail. Might as well saved her €0.40 and use a bird as transport. But I decided to just let this be—Lord, just when I thought I have seen everything.

Cute, though. Made me smile; she was quite disappointed though when her attempts to deliver the mail have failed.

Concert ended at 10:20pm. The audience loved the show—cheering all throughout and roaring at the end.


During one of the songs, some tiny piece of paper appeared to have made its way from the ceiling onto the floor, right beside me. It was a sticker, apparently got loose somehow and detached from one of the projectors up above. It wasn’t too warm at the venue so I suspect one of those projectors got heated up? who knows. I collected it, and once the concert was done, returned it to one of the crew members who appreciated it very much.

– “See you tomorrow”, he said. Well, I guess they all got used to my face hanging around.

Got a bit disoriented as I left the venue; finally found the tram and within 10 minutes I was at the central station, steps away from the hotel.

Decided to take a short walk around Leipzig’s centre area to see what’s going on. Surprisingly, not much activity. Some places were open—especially those with terraces—mostly mature people sitting out and about chatting quietly over drinks.


Back at the hotel and I started writing this blog entry at the lobby.

Good day. Very good day; I’m happy.

Signing‐off this post at 2:30am, in my hotel room. Long train ride (about 4 hours or so) to Köln tomorrow.


Concert Day: O₂ World, Berlin, Germany (June 18, 2010)

Writing: June 19, sitting in the lobby of Motel One—Bellevue in Berlin. Check‐out time is one hour away, then a short ride to Leipzig.

The fabulous hotel room in Hannover provided for one of the best night sleeps I had in a while. The benefit of having rapid transit from city to city (I have no words to describe Germany’s public transit system, other than “exquisite”), as well as a tour scheduled so daily distances are short, is that there really is no rush to get anywhere.

Of course, such easy mornings should not be taken lightly as, before long, it will all be over and serious train rides will take over once again. Therefore, I used each and every moment to relax, plan ahead, and just enjoy the silence.

I recall the day before being a bit on the “off” side with certain things making me feel a bit odd… lonely, that is. Lessons have been learnt so (hopefully) such dips are unlikely to happen. Lets all hope for the best.

The hotel I was staying at was very close to the main train station. Checked out and off I went to the station to grab some breakfast and coffee before taking the ICE train to Berlin. There’s a coffee shop with a terrace right there at the train station; ordering a sandwich and a coffee, I was sent to the very far side of the counter to grab my drink. A lady was working on drinks there, she seemed sort of upset.

You know, that kind of “upset” face one gets after performing the same actions again and again for quite a while with no challenge whatsoever. Striking up a conversation was the last thing on my mind. And then she asked me if I wanted a tablet.

– “?????”, my face said (I remained silent).

– “Do you want a tablet?” she repeated, holding a small tray.

– “Oh, you mean a tray.”

– “A what?”, she asked, surprised.

– “In North America we call this a tray.”

Now I wouldn’t even have told you about this incidence as, on its surface, it doesn’t seem very interesting. But something weird did happen; of the things that my detail‐oriented, mind‐reading brain finds great interest in.

The upset tone of her face has turned, in an instant, into a lovely smile.

– “Why, where are you from?”

– “Canada.”

– “Ohhhh, Canada!”

What’s interesting in this, you’re asking? Well, I will tell you. What’s interesting in it is the fact that myself correcting her English to say “tray” instead of “tablet” (even though, I believe, a “tablet” is a proper substitute for “tray” in some places) seemed to completely overturn this lady’s mood.

This is to demonstrate that you can never predict with 100% probability what it is that turns people’s mind from a state of utter despair into a state of bliss. You can get close to 100% the more you know the person; when dealing with strangers, it’s pretty much a gamble.

The direct and unambiguous consequence of that is, that when dealing with an individual who is a complete stranger to you, a “pleasing” approach is basically the most fruitless approach you can take—first, because you really can’t know how your actions are going to be interpreted by the other side, and second—because you are bound, with such approach, to trigger an internal conflict within your self, between what you had just said (or done) and your core values.

I believe it was Zieg Ziglar who once stated that “a person cannot consistently behave in a manner that is contradictory to his core values”—few statements are as true as that one; combine it with the above and you got yourself in a rather lousy position dealing with an individual that you really just intended to please.

A smart redhead used to tell me that “not every conflict stems from a conflict of interests”. Moral of the story: first, be loyal to your own core values because, without that, no approach can “hold water” for too long. If your core values don’t “work” with the other individual (a potential business partner; a barista; a seller; a buyer; a lover), skewing reality to fit things into “working mode” is always an inferior approach to simply give it up and move on.

ANYWAY. That’s enough Interpersonal Skills 101 for one day. Yes, I thought about all of that while having a small sandwich and coffee.

At around 12:00pm, I boarded the ICE train en route to Berlin. Previous trains en route to Berlin appeared to have suffered major delays; the train I boarded was actually a train that was supposed to be in Hannover two hours earlier.

A nice, easy ride in first‐class towards Berlin. About 30 minutes prior to the train’s scheduled arrival time, we suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere (not even cellular reception there) for approximately an hour, while the announcer periodically announced something in German. People didn’t seem too pleased with whatever it is he had to say. Finally, an hour later than scheduled, I left the train in Berlin Hauptbahnhof.

It was still early afternoon. A short system check in my body revealed the fact that I was, indeed, hungry so I decided to stick around the train station and see what’s what and what is there to eat.

Berlin’s central station is big; trams, subways, trains and buses use this station as a hub. Travelling through Germany, you are very likely to find yourself here at some point. Brilliantly designed as a train‐station as well as a mall, there are lots of things to eat and drink here. But what attracted my eye wasn’t necessarily the food.

It was the people. More exactly—it was the sight of literally hundreds of people sitting pretty much everywhere, staring at big LCD screens that were pretty much everywhere as well. Germany’s national team was playing against Serbia’s as part of FIFA’s World Cup. Looking at the scoreboard on the screen, I initially thought that I need new eyeglasses: Serbia 1—Germany 0, and we’re past half time already.

People there didn’t seem too pleased about it. For a minute I thought about conducting a short experiment in human behaviour by cheering for the Serbians, you know, just for fun; then I decided that it might not be the brightest idea since sliced bread. “Man, 32, lynched to death by angry German mob after cheering for the wrong football team” stroke me as a very likely newspaper headline for the morning after.

I took some pictures showing people watching the game. They were everywhere: in the station, outside the station…


A few bites to eat, and suddenly my BlackBerry crapped out. Rebooting it a few times didn’t help, as it appeared that whenever I’m trying to access one of my inbox messages—the machine would simply stop responding. Each reboot takes (for some reason) about 5–6 minutes, so I decided to wander around the train station while troubleshooting it; get some sun, maybe watch the game for a bit.

At the end I realized that BlackBerry’s Facebook application was the source of the problem. Good. Another achievement. Uninstalled it and now I could GPS‐navigate to my hotel, Motel One‐Bellevue, in a neighbourhood of Berlin called Bellevue—a short, 1.5km walk from the train station.

The walk towards the hotel doesn’t present the best sights in the world. Basically walk along the railway route, which runs above ground level on top of walls filled with really ugly graffiti. At some point, I passed by a bizarre‐looking individual who appeared to be bleeding, holding a towel soaked in blood in his hands, and someone who appeared to be his mother standing next to him mumbling things in German that I can only hope didn’t translate to “and now, what do we do with the body?”.


Finally, arrived at the hotel and checked in. Fabulous place. I liked it a lot. Not as grandiose as the hotel I stayed in in Hannover, but hey, for €59 this place is absolutely great. Motel One—Bellevue; remember it if you’re planning on a trip to Berlin.

I knew nothing about Berlin, but friends of mine who have been there before claim that it’s of the better cities to spend time in while in Europe. Still, I decided to spend most of the time in my room as I had a few bookings left to do. I wasn’t entirely sure whether I’m going to be sharing hotel rooms in Germany with other people; now that things became clearer, I did some bookings and now everything is booked and organized until mid‐July, except for Budapest (damn Priceline… didn’t accept my bid for a 5‐star hotel. I guess $55 is not enough).

Was time to leave the hotel and take the S‐Bahn towards the venue. Left a bit early as I decided to stop at the central train station (which is on the S3 route towards the O₂ World) for a bite. Another sandwich at a train station and, folks, I’m getting sick and tired of sandwiches. I am going to celebrate my sanity by actually eating in a restaurant today.

Back at the S‐Bahn: as the train passed Berlin Ostbahnhof (Berlin’s east train station), the O₂ World could easily be seen through the window—it is huge. One station later and I departed the train; it’s a short 5 minutes walk from the S‐Bahn station to the O₂ World. Very convenient. Oh, Ze Germans. Everything’s so efficient here.


The O₂ World (Wikipedia: is a multi‐purpose arena that was opened in 2008. O₂, the telecomm company, purchased the naming rights shortly after and named the arena “O₂ World”, as part of their evident strategy to take over all arenas in Europe and attach “O₂” to their names. Ice hockey and basketball games are popular in this arena; for music concerts, this arena can seat up to 17,000 (!) humans.

Metallica was the first musical act to perform here back in 2008 (if you’re in the mood for some serious laugh followed by serious stomach‐ache, search YouTube for Metallica’s cover of Brothers in Arms); Lady Gaga, who happens to be Guy Fletcher’s favourite singer, also performed here.

(No, I’m not serious. I’m pretty sure Guy dislikes Lady Gaga almost as much as I do)

Picked‐up my ticket from the box office and got inside. It was already around 7:00pm or so.

While the venue is indeed very impressive from the exterior as well as the interior, there is something very disturbing there. It may sound a bit petty but I find it hard to understand why would anyone design a multi‐story facility as huge as this one, with escalators going only up and only one flight of stairs through which you can go down one level. As I entered the venue and wanted to go for a drink, I was basically stuck at the upper floor for about 20 minutes trying to find my way down. I accidentally assumed that there must be more than one flight of stairs back down. WRONG. I actually walked around this entire venue—that’s about 10 minutes walk, mind you—until I found those damn stairs.

Now, of course there are elevators there. Plenty of them. Each elevator was guarded by an individual whose sole purpose was to prevent people from using it. I asked one lady staff member if it’s possible to use the elevator as my feet are killing me already—she gave me such a resounding “no” that really, really pissed me off. You know, that heart‐felt “no” accompanied with a full neck tilt left to right and then left again, along a facial expression implying “I’d rather see you dead than taking this precious elevator down”.

Finally, I found those damn stairs and went straight to my seat, five minutes (!) before the concert’s scheduled start time. At 8:00pm, maybe a few minutes past, the lights went down on the O₂ World and more than ten thousand throats cheered as the best musicians in the world took the stage.


While I didn’t really enjoy the Hannover concert (it appeared to be way too similar to Hamburg’s one. Perhaps even a bit too mechanic. I don’t know, it’s one of those things that you just feel while being completely unable to point your finger at), the Berlin experience was better in my mind. Exactly the same setlist as Hannover’s (that’s three in a row now in Germany) but there seemed to be a more… how to call it… “uplifting” atmosphere in the air. Perhaps it was the audience; perhaps it was just me; who knows.

Maybe it was because the band members didn’t have to drive / fly anywhere today (they’re staying in Berlin), and maybe not, but the did seem more alert and less distracted. Especially Mark, who appeared joyful and smiled often. Beautiful participating audience: not as loud as Paris’ audience (roughly the same number of attendees as at the Bercy)—still cheery enough to please everybody and quiet enough to not piss anybody off.

Perhaps this audience would be louder had Germany’s soccer team not been humiliated earlier that day…


I realized something is different when Done with Bonaparte started playing. Looking at the guitars I could see that the song was now performed using the C key. The original (CD) version of this song is performed using the B♭ key, while most performances of this song during this tour were at the D key. Go figure. Anyway, Mark had to work his vocal cords much less thanks to that.


Marbletown was the show’s peak, as (almost) usual. I suggest you seek some recording of this show as Mike McGoldrick worked quite a different sequence with his flute during the Marble‐jam. It was beautiful.


Beautifully‐aggressive outro solo for Telegraph Road, followed by (as usual) a standing audience all throughout the encore. Nobody was even close to spill beer on me, thank goodness, during the cheers. I remained dry.


Audience’s satisfaction with the show was quite evident throughout the show and after it was all over. Indeed that was a good show, certainly above average. Well done.

Show was over at 10:20pm, took another 20 minutes to exit the venue.


Few minutes walk to the train station, 20 minutes or so in an S‐Bahn car filled with drunk teenagers and I’m back at Bellevue.


Spent about an hour at the wonderful lobby of my hotel, over a tasty sandwich and tea to finish a good day.

Signing off this post from my hotel room in Leipzig. Beautiful outside; will go for a walk and grab something to eat. IN A RESTAURANT, RATHER THAN IN A SANDWICH STAND.