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

Friday, June 25, 2010

Concert Day: Hanns‐Martin‐Schleyer‐Halle (“Schleyerhalle”), Stuttgart, Germany (June 24, 2010)

Writing: at the terrace of Maritim Hotel, an amazing hotel I somehow Priceline’d for a rate too low to be serious. 12:18am and I just finished an interesting chat with someone. None of your business.

Waking up at room 35, an ugly, dusty, horrendously‐desperate hotel room in City Hotel Mannheim, the first thing I did upon regaining consciousness was to attempt to determine what the hell was it that woke me up. The response came very shortly after, in the form of a sche‐bang type of noise from outside. They’re constructing again, for sweet f**k’s sake.

It’s not that falling asleep was easy, don’t get me wrong. Poorly ventilated room, and I woke up multiple times during the night because it was just too hot to bear.

Altogether a very poor sleeping experience for your truly. I guess good‐night sleep costs a bit more than €55 a night. I shall wait for the online feedback form from to unleash my tongue at that poor facility. Wait and see; the last laugh, baby, is mine.

The next train was scheduled to leave Mannheim towards Stuttgart on 10:30am, a short 40 minutes ride.

Writing: still at the terrace, just one table to the back. One (or more) of the four guys sitting at the table next to mine has / have just decided to enhance the atmosphere with some questionable bodily aroma and I could hardly breathe. Something like that might have started World War I.

… Where was I? Oh. OK, so I arrived at the train station at around 10:00am planning on a short breakfast. Train’s delayed by 15 minutes—good. Reserved a train from Rome to Milan (apparently those require reservations; thanks Daria for not letting me know. Wink wink) and miraculously found this coffee place called Coffee Fellows. Seems to be a chain that sells espresso products and interesting bagels; more importantly—a very clear English menu right on the wall. Pleasant.

A lox bagel and great cappuccino and I was ready to start the day. Up to the platform and I caught the train right on time—arriving at Stuttgart before noon.

The city of Stuttgart (Wikipedia: is the capital of Baden‐Württemberg in southern Germany. Its metro area is home for more than 5 million people which makes it the third largest metro area in Germany.

The first thing I noticed once I stepped out of Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof was that, if judging by the city centre area, this is one fine looking city. Looking around, you see houses on hills’ slopes basically within a few minutes walk, not more. Needless to say I was impressed, as I did not at all expect this; my previous knowledge of Stuttgart was limited to knowing that it has a moderately‐successful soccer team, as well as being the home for a few famous car companies.

The weather was fantastic—clear blue sky which, combined with the hills covered by red‐roofed houses and trees of all sorts, presented a view that was hard to remain ambivalent to. Which reminds me… I will have to get rid of some of my wardrobe soon as most of the shirts I brought are long‐sleeve and I can already feel summer hitting a bit too hard for me. Something tells me that, once in Italy and in Spain in mid‐July, my long‐sleeve shirts will be as useful as ashtrays in motorcycles.

I predict a short shopping spree in Amsterdam. Jeroen, may I rent some shelf‐space at your place to store some shirts I don’t need anymore?

Thanks man.

My hotel, Maritim Hotel Stuttgart, was located about one kilometre away from the main train station. I decided to walk it as my ankle appeared to not hurt as much anymore; walking through the streets of Stuttgart—mostly office buildings—I approached the hotel area and noticed a large garden right behind where the hotel was located. Some graffiti on the walls gave me the sense that this is going to be yet another hotel booking fail; but then I took the turn towards the hotel…

What a pleasant place. Great setting, fantastic location close to everything and man is it quiet in here. As I have made so many hotel bookings recently, I couldn’t quite remember how it was that I got this hotel. No way I would have paid full price for such a nice hotel (great rooms!) in a city as expensive as Stuttgart. A short discussion with the receptionist revealed that I booked that hotel using Priceline. So far, all hotels booked through Priceline were 4–5 stars—and I mean, true 4–5 stars—fantastic hotels in prices way too low to be real.

Got set‐up in my room, a quick shower to freshen up and I went back to the city centre to explore it for a bit, and maybe sit down a write a little. A short meal at Block House (a German chain specializing in nothing but offering adequate food for reasonable prices) and I went to check out Königstraße, one of the more famous streets in Stuttgart’s city centre.


Königstraße, a walkway (cars not allowed here) just facing Stuttgart’s main train station, makes for a lovely walk in sunny days. There are shops, restaurants, pharmacies, cafe’s, food stands… and, of course, quite a bit of tourists. Apparently, this is a good starting point for exploring Stuttgart.

The main train station also borders with a big park, Rosensteinpark, which looked lovely from a distance but unfortunately I didn’t have the brains to go there. Instead, I decided to sit for coffee in a tourist‐friendly cafe boasting a terrace right on Königstraße.

During most of that time, I was engaged in a rather disturbing online chat that sort‐of clouded my enjoyment of it all; I guess sometimes it’s better to simply not reply when someone’s paging you, regardless of how important that person is to you. Well, lesson well learned. 6:20pm, time to go back to the hotel and on to the venue.

The Hanns‐Martin‐Schleyer‐Halle (better known by the shorter name of Schleyerhalle) is located about 6km (!) away from the city centre. Getting there took an awful lot of time and I’m thankful to my brain for engaging in Miriam Mode otherwise I would have missed the beginning of the concert. The walk from my hotel to the nearest S‐Bahn station was about 500m, a bit more than the 50m suggested by the hotel’s receptionist; from there it’s three stations to Neckarpark—a huge park containing numerous sporting fields, stadiums and arenas; from that station, another 20 minutes (!) walk to the venue.

The Schleyerhalle is named after Hanns Martin Schleyer, a business man who was kidnapped by the RAF (Red Army Faction) in 1977 and murdered about a month later as the German government didn’t comply with the kidnappers’ demands. Another thing that I was surprised to find out was that Mr. Schleyer used to be an activist in the Nazi party, and also served as an SS officer. Reading about him in Wikipedia ( I couldn’t really understand what it is about a Nazi activist that would justify having an arena named after him. Am I missing something in his story?

The hall is adjacent to the Porsche Arena and the Mercedes‐Benz Arena, together creating quite the massive sporting complex. Standing at the entrance to the venue, I really couldn’t find any sign saying “Schleyerhalle” so I thought perhaps the venue has been renamed to “Porsche Arena”, as it appeared to be the name of the building everybody was entering.


The views from the terrace just outside the venue’s doors are lovely (see pictures above) and demonstrate what Stuttgart’s terrain is all about. This is one city in Germany I am likely to return to for a more in‐depth visit. ticket collection was easy and worry‐free; a pleasant surprise was to find out that ticket owners had their own entrance, adjacent to the box office—essentially bypassing a 10‐minutes line‐up due to bodily security checks. Entered the door and found myself swimming in a river of people; extremely crowded inside, and poor ventilation didn’t make the experience all too pleasant.

Hungry, I decided to go for two (!) pretzels and a cup of water. That’s €7.50 for you. By complete chance, I found a table‐side spot to stand by and eat while the entire country of Germany appeared to flow into the venue; I followed about 15 minutes before the concert started.


Lady Ticketluck, who had been assigned with the task of providing me with the best seat in the house, was a bit in an off mood today. I guess I did something to upset her; instead of having a reasonable argument with me, she decided to keep quiet and get back at me where it hurts most—a third‐row ticket, a bit off the centre. Thanks, Lady Ticketluck; no cuddling tonight.

The concert started a few minutes past 8:00pm.

The first thing that was very hard to avoid noticing was that Mark and Guy were dressed in new shirts. Now that’s big news very worth making note of. I think this is the first time this tour that Mark did not wear a black T‐shirt, and Guy’s shirt was extremely, extremely red.

Very red.

Whoever came up with the RGB system for representing colors, probably had Guy’s shirt as the benchmark for “red”.


No familiar faces whatsoever at the front two rows, which leads me to believe that those rows were reserved for VIP’s or, in general, people much worthier than I am for the purpose of enjoying a full band view in Stuttgart. It was very interesting, however, to realize that the best seat in the house—front row, dead centre, had no ass sitting on it.

No setlist surprises and I suspect that The Fish and the Bird took a leave of absence, perhaps to attempt breeding (good luck with that). Get Lucky filled‐in for the two animals. Marbletown was as great as it was a few nights ago with a great finale taking place, worthy of a standing ovation.


What struck me most (other than the new shirts, that is) was the audience. Not quite the most reserved audience in Germany. Cheers were very loud and, looking around, I saw more than a handful of people dancing in their chairs. At the second row, right in front of me, a guy who I assume was at his early 40’s was dancing and prancing in his chair, imitating guitar movements with his hands (he must have mentally used some very interesting tuning configuration) and crying like a lonesome wolf after each and every song. He completely lost his temper after Sultans of Swing.


Extravagant Telegraph Road finale and people from the front rows (myself included) rushed on their way to the front, stepping on chairs and on each other. We all spent the encore attached to the stage. Well, that happened before of course, but something in the atmosphere was different. The audience was sort of a blend between Germans and 1970’s hippies. The happiness on people’s faces was priceless; it was a good show.


During the encore, the guy standing right in front of me, attached to the stage, suddenly started moving his body in random directions. It started during So Far Away and by the time Piper to the End was playing, he completely lost any sense of direction, to the point that myself, and other people surrounding him, looked at each other with baffled look upon their faces and kept our distance. I was able to capture one of his rapid movements… to give you an idea what I’m talking about.


I was very close to lose a tooth or two due to a reverse head‐butt. Luckily his skull stopped about an inch from my mouth.

Concert ended at 10:20pm with a spectacular cheer.

Walking back to the S‐Bahn at night… that’s 20 minutes walking plus 20 minutes waiting for the next train to arrive. I was back at the Maritim Hotel before midnight, and started writing this post.

Signing‐off this post while sitting on the lawn adjacent to Park Cafe, a “beer garden” close to the venue. Will wrap things up now, maybe catch a short early dinner prior to the show.


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Concert Day: SAP Arena, Mannheim, Germany (June 23, 2010)

Writing: at my hotel room in Maritim Hotel Stuttgart. Priceline did it again, can’t believe I scored this 5‐star hotel for so cheap.

I was happy to find out that the cloud of cigarette smoke at the hallway of my Oberhausen hotel had disappeared by the morning. I was bearing no sentiment towards that desperate hotel room located in the desperate city of Oberhausen, so I decided to leave as early as possible in the morning.

Checked out and walked to Oberhausen Hauptbahnhof, about five minutes walk away. Even the Hauptbahnhof there looks sad, as if it’s sorry that you came and sorry to see you go. The train I was going to take appeared to be about 15 minutes late so I spent the time over (can you guess?) a rather tasteless sandwich and a cappuccino that left much to be desired.

It was one of those mornings that I was happy to board the train—not necessarily due to my destination being so attractive (I knew nothing about Mannheim), but mostly due to my source city virtually just asking me to go away.

It’s about two hours train ride from Oberhausen to Mannheim, during which I was trying to correct my right ankle’s misdemeanour by transmitting positive energy to it. “Heal, damn it, heal!”. It didn’t. Still a bit painful to walk around the wagon or to the cafeteria. Screw it; I’ll just sit.

Arrived at Mannheim some time around noon. The weather was hot and I was wearing jeans and a long‐sleeve shirt; possibly the only human insane enough to do so in Mannheim. My hotel, City Hotel Mannheim, was located a short 200–300m walk from the train station—a few words of love to my right ankle and we made it.

Well, Mannheim itself is not, by any means, a depressing city; the opposite is true. What was depressing, though, was my hotel. It was worse than Oberhausen’s; one of those “hotels” that you start scratching yourself shortly after entering. Very dusty laminate wood floors, a desk at the corner—so old I’m pretty sure one of my distant ancestors brought it with him from Egypt to Israel 5,000 years ago or so (and somehow made it to Germany); a sad chair and shower big enough to fit a severely obese 13 years old boy.

But hey… what’s that noise? It sounded as if someone was drilling for oil right below my room. Well, I was close enough: someone was drilling, though I suspect oil wasn’t the target.

Tired from not having a good night sleep the last before, I tried to get some sleep on the sad bed furnished with linens and a mattress that—I’m willing to bet my entire investment portfolio—survived at least one war. Didn’t work, and I didn’t need to use too much wit to find out that the drilling noise might have something to do with it. I was too tired to even speak with the receptionist and ask for a transfer to a room away from the driller quality‐assurance factory, so I attempted the insane idea of sleeping with my noise‐cancelling headphones.

Didn’t work. Tip for my unfortunate future wife: I sleep on my side, and you’ll have to occupy the left‐hand side of the bed unless you’d like to snore at my back.

Unhappy, I sprang out of bed and decided to do some travel planning. Julio Bricio to the rescue, helping me plan Spain travel as I’m planning for the Daria‐less part of Italy. Thanks Julio!

Hunger struck shortly and I was bound to scour the area for some food.

The city of Mannheim (, as I mentioned above, is by no means an ugly city. The Hauptbahnhof is located right at the city centre, and from there it’s a very short walk to the main street—Kaiserring—loaded with restaurants, shops and whatever it is that you may want to buy and / or eat. Plenty of terraces—even Burger King has a terrace here.

Burger King having a terrace… could you even imagine it? “Hey pal, how about we go spend some time at Burger King’s terrace and enjoy the breeze and the view”—I can never imagine a phrase like that ever produced by any mouth.

It was Mannheim where Karl Drais built the first two‐wheeled draisine, in 1817. I have no clue what a draisine is or who the fuck Karl Drais was—I am just trying to appear smart by quoting Wikipedia.

On my way to the city centre, I came across the lovely area of the Wasserturm (water tower). Apparently that is Mannheim’s landmark. It is a beautiful structure found at the middle of a beautiful garden.


People were sitting on the benches surrounding the fountain. That is, except for one bench that was occupied by a couple making out (horizontally) with such passion that I thought Vivid are filming some X‐rated movie on site. Well, I’m all for it… if that won’t fight Europe’s aging population problem, then what will?

Doing some research over the Internet, I was planning to go to an Italian restaurant named Ristorante Da Gianni, but couldn’t find it. While looking for it though, I realized something strange—the city’s streets actually follow a grid pattern. An address in Mannheim looks like this: “R17 14” (coincidentally, that’s the address of the restaurant I couldn’t find), where “R17” denotes the block and “14” denotes the house number within the block. Just verified it with Wikipedia and it appears that Mannheim very unique in Europe in that respect.

After failing to find Da Gianni (despite the easy addressing scheme), I decided to pop in for a visit in an Italian restaurant I encountered on my way there. I was too stupid to jot down its name—if someone from Mannheim reads this, please comment and furnish us with this essential information, thank you. It is located right by a restaurant named Coa (weird; I remember the name of the restaurant next to the one I actually ate in, but not the place that I ate in), at the intersection of Friedrichsring and Freidrichsplatz (I guess that Friedrichs guy has done something worth remembering him for). At first, I was a bit overwhelmed with the concept—you take a card, go to certain “stations” and order the food you want while loading your card with the purchases you made—and you pay at the end.

Update, June 27, 1:17am: the place’s name is “Vapiano”. Thanks Sebastian for commenting and providing us with the name!

But the reason I’m telling you about this place is that, factoring in the price, you are unlikely to find such a great price / quality ratio all too often, let alone in such a touristic area. The quality? fantastic. They make the pasta right in front of you, along with the sauce and everything. The pasta I got—really simple, just spaghetti with tomato sauce, garlic and chilli—was heavenly and for €5 this clearly is a bargain. A bruschetta to start with tiramisu (a bit too wet at the bottom, but still definitely enjoyable) and cappuccino to end—a full meal of great Italian food for just about €13.

Go there.

Now if only I could dig out that place’s name…

Anyway, back to the craphole I had to call “my hotel room”, and I decided to go to the venue—the SAP Arena—a short tram ride from the tram station within spit distance from my “hotel”.

The SAP Arena (Wikipedia: is a sports arena (how many of those did we have so far in Europe?) used mostly for ice‐hockey and handball. It seats up to 15,000 people—that’s very big for you.

As I stepped out of the tram and approached the venue, I noticed herds of people just walking about, sipping beer, chatting, enjoying the sun. Too noisy for me. But hey, hey… what’s that? Oh, look what I found. A field!


Short calculation of potential enjoyment—along with millions of people who their language I don’t speak and their drinks I abhor, versus by myself in the vast green just a short walk away—and you can imagine what I picked. I slowly marched along a narrow track that crosses the field; with each step, the noise and mayhem faded away until I found myself pretty distant from it all.


30 minutes of true rejuvenation amongst piles of grass and groundsels; savoured every moment with passion too intense to be legal, and I started marching back towards the venue. Show time approached and there appeared to be quite a line‐up at the entrances. After 10 minutes of waiting in line, I was bodily‐inspected by a furious‐looking lady whose job was to ensure I’m not entering with any drinks (so I can buy drinks inside for inflated prices) or knives (what kind of a society have we become?) and was admitted to the venue. Grabbed some water to escort me through the show and went inside to take some photos for you.


Not the smallest venue, can you tell?

Feelin’ Good was playing just as I was on my way to my seat—front row, dead centre. Approaching, I couldn’t find the empty seat that was so passionately awaiting my ass to kiss, until someone there looked at me, got up and left the scene feeling rather depressed that I showed up. Sorry buddy, better luck next time.

Whoever has been following this blog so far must be tired already reading similar things about the concerts—sorry that I have nothing out of the ordinary to report. The setlist (identical to the one played in Oberhausen the night before) has long been perfected by this band that it almost seems as if there’s no challenge left for them to pursue. Not quite the way I would perceive an album promotion tour but—I’m not the one conducting a world tour so who am I to speak. Whatever the band decides to play is their choice and I respect that.


The difference between this show and the one before it really amounts to such small details that, unless you’re a musician with quite the ear for details, you are not very likely to notice anyway. By now I already found the particular “parts” of the show which are of the greatest interest to me as they present the chance for infinite possibilities for beautiful improvisations. Coincidentally, these are not just the most interesting parts but also are the best played parts and it’s up to those parts to make or kill a concert.


I would assign Marbletown’s jam‐session as the highlight of the concert; extremely pleasant, yet a bit less than the one played in Oberhausen (? or was it Köln? check for the one for which I mentioned I gave a very hearty standing ovation). Again the momentum passed beautifully from John to Mike, the only different was the ending which arrived a bit too fast in my opinion. The audience, though, loved it to pieces, hence the massive roar at the almost sold‐out venue (a few seats remained naked at the very edges of the venue).


While I think that Marbletown is most often the peak of the show, it is usually Telegraph Road which appears to be performed at the utmost “bombastic” way, possibly due to the fact that it ends the show and leads to the encore. Mannheim’s Telegraph Road performance was as thrilling as usual, sending the audience standing and the front‐rows to the stage. At the dead centre, I (as usual) did not rush anywhere and was pretty content with people being stuck to the stage before me. Be my guests, folks; whatever floats your boat.


An arena filled with standing audience, beautiful encore and the show ended at 10:20pm, as usual.

Climbing up the stairs on my way out, a bunch of people were already watching the thousands of LCD screens strategically positioned right at the edge of the stairwells. Germany was leading; a win means that Germany makes it to the next level. I got the news about the win while in the tram on my way back to the city centre—well, “got the news” in the form of dozens of crazy fans blowing into those Vuvuzela’s and yelling at the streets. Germany qualified for the next level—well, not quite a surprise. They do have an excellent team.

Congratulations to the German readers for qualifying to the next round. The French ones—oh well… ummm… errrrrrr…… what can I say… ah.

Back at the city centre, I was hungry I decided to hunt for food. Everything turned out to be closed except for McDonald’s… so, really what could I do.

HUNDREDS of people went roaming the streets, celebrating. So much happiness, amazing.


Back to my hotel to consume that hamburger and I went to sleep.

Signing off this post at 6:30pm, June 24. Time to head out to tonight’s concert.