TOUR DIARY #5
ROCKING THE CASTLES OF EUROPE!
The rescheduled show in Belgrade starts off the fourth week of our Summer European tour. Completely rained out yesterday, it’s a totally different story today – blue skies, blazing sun… looks like we’ll actually get this one done tonight! But first of all… “Hurry up and WAIT”!! That’s the universal mating call of the TV Show. We jump into vans and get shuttled over to a TV station (I will confess to still not knowing what the station was, or what the show was either) where we walk in, immediately get ready to perform ‘Dancing’ and ‘Rebel Yell’ and then sit down… and wait. Waiting is the name of the game in TV – camera blocking, wardrobe and make up, technical issues – they all combine to make it a waiting game. This is fine for me – I check my emails, see what trouble I can get into (none this time, but I’m always on the look out!) and then eventually they shuffle the enthusiastic audience onto the set and it’s time to shoot. Both songs sound great and I have a lot of fun – I think the others do too, although the moment we’re done, it’s back in the vans and over to the gig. No chance to discuss what we just did, cos it’s straight onto the next thing – rocking a huge park in Belgrade.
The sun sets with a beautiful orange glow as we hit the stage and the intro tape rolls. It’s a perfect setting and people are packed from front to back as Billy hits the stage running. The moody synth intro of ‘Postcards’ shakes the stage with its low end until the first chorus hits… lights blaze, guitars crackle and Erik ‘The Viking’ Eldenius slams the beat home and we are off and running. ‘Cradle Of Love’ immediately follows and the audience erupt as Steve heads over stage right wings and I follow his move over on stage left. Billy’s in the center, punching the air and the audience treat us to a serious bit of good old fashioned jumping around. They’re all jumping in unison and it looks amazing! Straight into ‘Dancing’ and ‘Flesh For Fantasy’ and no one’s letting up – this is turning into ‘one to remember’ and I definitely turn a corner with my playing tonight. Everything just feels… right. I look over at Steve and his right arm is spinning around and around, throwing the coolest windmill this side of an actual windmill! Erik grimaces and grinds his way through a perfect first half of the set, hitting hard and giving us an unwavering, steady groove. Evil McG is right next to me, laying down some killer bottom end, and Paul’s keys are perfectly set in my mix to provide all the sparkly bells and whistles. ‘Eyes Without A Face’ and ‘LA Woman’ (which tonight becomes Serbian Woman) and suddenly we are on the home stretch. This gig flies by for me, and is tons of fun. Serbia rocks our world, and we rock theirs – seems like a fair trade to me.
Another long overnight drive and I manage to get about four and a half hours sleep before the inordinately long stop at the border wakes me up. The strange thing about sleeping on a bus is that once you get your sea legs, it’s the stationary, silent, non-moving feeling that will wake you up and not the rolling, noisy stop-start motion. So as we sit in line waiting for a completely non-interested Customs agent to take a cursory look inside the bus and stamp the passports a few hundred times, I drink coffee upstairs and watch the amazing lightning storm light up the early morning sky. Eventually we drive through into Macedonia and find our hotel. Now then, ladies and gentlemen, the prestigious “Quote Of The Tour” Award has to go to our manager Laurence (who has joined us for the second half of the tour). When I roll downstairs for a coffee, I find him and Paul sitting outside, relaxing and chilling. Talk turns to the… um… dubious luxuries of the hotel we are staying in, and Laurence looks up and throws down the statement… “I would say that we are probably not at our peak, in terms of tour accommodation”. As understatements go, this is the Mother of them all, and in the interest of international peace and harmony I will not itemize the negatives here – I’ll simply say that a lot of us were downstairs ready to check out way ahead of time. No one was found wringing out the last few minutes in the spa, or quietly enjoying their last cup of coffee on the patio terrace! “OK… ready… done… finished… lets get out of here!!”
Another castle, another Billy Idol show. This tour shall forthwith be known as “The European Castle Tour 2014” because it seems most of the shows have some kind of ancient fort/castle/turreted brick-built defense system right next door! And these things are always lit nicely after dark, so it helps focus my mind while we play….. if I find myself drifting off, perhaps thinking about the peanut butter and tomato toasted sandwich I’m gonna devour when the shows finished (trust me people, don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!!!!) I can catch a glimpse of the old castle out of the corner of my eye… ‘Castle. Weird. Nice though… Oh yeah! Onstage. Playing show. Ooooops!’… welcome back to the present, Morrison! Macedonia are appreciative and other than the sounds of the Mosque next door halfway through the set (it has some kind of speaker system set up and blasts a crazy prayer at regular intervals – luckily the pre-recorded prayer seems to be in the same key as the song we’re playing at the time and just sounds like an interesting remix/sample in the song!!) we play a great set. After show food is delivered and devoured, hands are shaken, bags are packed… And it’s thank you Macedonia and hello Romania!
We have a day off in the capital – Bucharest – and it’s yet another gorgeous European city with café society, sidewalk eateries and a slow, easy, friendly pace that facilitates a lack of stress, and a “what’s the hurry?” attitude. Most of the day is spent painting and laying around in my room. Once I feel rested (and I’ve watched the Assen MotoGP race… don’t worry I’m not veering off into motorcycle land no… ) I get ready for the band and crew dinner that Billy is throwing tonight and head out with Erik and Jimbo into the mean streets of Bucharest. There’s a live Opera taking place in the square where our hotel is situated, so we are accompanied on our walk by the faint sounds of dudes without any balls (castrati… singing really high… get it?) and a fat lady singing. We grab a sidewalk café caffeine injection and make our way to the amazing Italian restaurant that will be the scene of our merriment. And merriment it is indeed. Carbs are consumed, vino is drunk, and dessert is savored. Lot’s of laughs, war (tour) stories abound and everyone has a great time. Much thanks to Billy, who has the respect and class to throw these dinners, and loads of love to everyone around the table. The tour is moving into the closing stages and we all wish we were headed back out almost immediately. Patience, though, because there is a lot more of this to come once the record gets released. More touring, more rock n roll, and more lavish dinner parties in exotic locations!!
The show in Bucharest could not be in a more stunning location. We feel like the Christians being fed to the lions when we walk into the awesome amphitheater, complete with statues, huge columns surrounding the semi circle, and a stage at one end (presumably where the gladiators do battle later that night!). By the time we hit the stage, the sun has gone down and the columns all around this place are lit up neon blue, giving the place a kind of ‘Underworld’ feel, and I don’t mean the Al Capone type underworld… I mean the gloriously hot Kate Beckinsale Vampire movie, Underworld. The fans greet us warmly and it’s on from the opening chords of ‘Postcards’. A nice size stage means lots of running around, which means hot and sweaty, which means I’m into it. Playing well, I take my usual running jump at the start of King Rocker, launching myself off Billy’s monitor… and land literally centimeters from the edge of the stage! I teeter precariously for what seems like an hour (although in reality it’s maybe a second). Am I going to fall off into the pit and break an ankle? Or am I going to bring my body back onto the stage and pull this shit off!!?? I manage the second option, although I have no idea how. The rest of the set is spent thanking the Rock and Roll Gods and breathing deeply to calm myself down.
The next day we have another show in Romania – this time in Cluj, and it really is IN Cluj… The venue is the city center! Surrounded on three sides by ornate churches, old stone buildings and sidewalk cafes, the stage faces the square. A huge open space with statues all around, they have brought in all the production and it looks amazing. Catering today is a hotel restaurant that’s in the square – they have the whole restaurant blocked out for us and Erik and I enjoy an amazing meal. Now I have to say that its not very often we can be relaxing at a sidewalk café, sipping lattes literally 20 minutes before we play… but today we can, and it’s with a very relaxed head (and a very caffeinated heart!) that I walk up the ramp and on to the stage tonight. We can see the crowd stretching out way beyond the square and down the main street… and disappearing around the corner. There are people everywhere. It’s a rocking show and I have a lot of fun… running over to Paul and jumping up onto his riser provides us with a laugh or two… Blue Highway sticks out as a highlight, with Steve Stevens improvising on his intro to the point where I almost miss the cue because my jaw is on the floor at the noises coming out of his cabs. Billy has the crowd clapping, jumping, singing… it’s a great show and I come away loving Romania even more.
It’s a day off in Vienna. And that can only mean ONE thing. Hang out all day at Rattlesnake Tattoo – owned and operated by the infamous Coco and home to the best ink slingers in town. Erik, Paul and myself are met at the hotel by ‘The Posse’ – Coco, George and Michael (who are now just collectively known as George Michael!) and they drive us over to the shop. I’ve been tattooed here before and of course I’m straight in the chair again. This time it’s a bunch of touch up on my sleeve – some of which is over 25 years old, so the plan is to re-color, outline some stuff, throw some detail in – generally tart the old girl up. While I start to get drilled, Paul and Erik decide what they’re getting and suddenly Paul is in the chair, an hour or so into an amazingly detailed ‘dotted style’ flowers piece on his inner bicep. Erik chooses a tastily shaded and stylized dragon (it’s Eriks first tattoo – sorry Mr and Mrs Eldenius… he’s in a rock band now!!!) – Jimbo shows up with our merch guy to hang out and throw insults at us while we are in pain and suffering – it’s the typical testosterone fueled tattoo shop experience and one that Coco and his lovely wife Beate always throw down for us. They are good people, the shop is amazing, and the artists – Stephan and Hannes – are awesome. Thank you and huge respect to the Rattlesnake Posse.
The evening turns into a good hang as well, when our drum tech Trevor secures a bunch of passes for the 30 Seconds To Mars show happening tonight in Vienna. It’s a day off, Coco is rolling about 7 deep, and me and Trevor are down to hang. So it’s all over to the local enormo-dome for my first 30STM experience. And I’m not disappointed. You can enter into lengthy discourse about Jared all you want. Discuss the pros and cons, examine the ins and outs, do whatever you like – the fact is that the guy is an incredible acting talent, super easy on the eyes, and a fucking amazing front man. He is a rock star. He commands every single person in the venue with a mastery that few people have – and it’s a mastery that ensures they all leave at the end of the evening with a smile on their faces and a feeling that they have seen a great show. That’s what its all about isn’t it? So many bands wander on stage, gaze around at their shoes… “strum strum strum my daddy didn’t love me oh woe is me”… a 30STM show is uplifting, about fun, about unity, about bug loud singalong choruses. I watch, I enjoy, I come away a fan. A job well done, Jared!
Vienna Arena – outdoors in a crazy, graffiti covered old factory (or at least that’s what it looks like)… and it’s raining! I watch the audience file in through the window of my dressing room while I calm my mind painting my last canvas for this tour. I feel good, thoughtful, creative… and I finish my painting and start to get ready. Eventually all my guests (the entire Rattlesnake crew plus various other friends of theirs) pile through my dressing room door and the party atmosphere is in full effect. I panic a little when Rangi, our security guy, pops in to tell me the onstage time has been moved up and I’m on in 30 minutes. But I finish getting ready with minutes to spare, my dressing room is evacuated and Jimbo comes to walk me through the rain to the stage. I have to give massive respect to the thousands of people at this concert. Not phased by the rain at all, the place is packed from stage to the back and they all steadfastly remain there for the whole show. A little precipitation never killed anyone, and they just don’t care – soaked, they rock with us from start to finish and we love you all for that! Steve and I have some fun up onstage tonight, yelling things in each others ears throughout the set and messing with Paul during certain parts of the set! Paul’s cracking up laughing and trying to concentrate on playing his parts and the vibe is a good one up there tonight. Thank you Vienna for once again providing us with the noise and enthusiasm we need from you. You never let us down. Next week will cover the final two shows (Dresden and Luxemburg) and the post tour hangover we will all no doubt suffer from – the tour is nearly over and all thoughts turn to the next one (which will be announced soon). Until next week then people – thank you all for supporting Billy and the band and continuing to enable us to travel the world and play music for you.
Billy Morrison (Guitar/Billy Idol)