A very personal and heartfelt thanks to all our friends and fans in the UK for the wonderful reception we had over the last two weeks touring the 'sceptered isles'. It began with the usual splendid hospitality of Steve and Linda at Ollie's in Ascot - already one of the premier R&B/Jazz/Soul venues in the Home Counties, and they're planning to enlarge and improve it all before our next visit. Now that's what I like to hear.........perhaps the 'big' boys like the Jazz Cafe could take note, and do something about the PA system, or the accoustics, or whatever. The word is IMPROVE.
Can you imagine the stick we'd get if, when we came back to Britain, we didn't improve on the last time around, or at least make strenuous efforts to change, challenge ourselves, or at least try some new approaches? I can hear the moaning already, were it not for the fact that we really do make changes (sometimes subtle, but always in flux and in character) all the time with a view to keeping everyone just a little bit surprised and energised by our presence. Good on you, Ascot (nice crowd response, too)
On to Southampton, and what I can only describe as the one audience on the whole tour that gave us the impression of being slightly baffled by it all. I think it's the 'Southern Tribes' thing (and you can't get more southern than Southampton), although along the coast a bit in Brighton, I hear there's a very healthy scene for funk/soul/acid jazz, that I would really like to explore next time around. Anybody listening there, Brighton? Still, the hotel were very friendly, and the breakfast was brill.
Then a Saturday on the railways experience to take us to Bromsgrove, where Andy put on a first-of-its-kind marquee gig at the beautiful Tyler's Lock on the canal there, and we had a fantastic little gathering on what should have been a dismal, wet night in the Midlands. Lots of fun, and a genuinely ecstatic reception from a bunch of people who appreciate our kind of music, and who will definitely be there in 'doubles' next time around. Well done, Andy - it's going to be a great gig once people in the City (Birmingham) realise it's for real, and that you're putting on the best. Nice, also, to work with the Bullet Sound guys from Stoke-on-Toast....... always a great bunch to have a few drinks with - and they're all called Dave to avoid confusion!
So to the Jazz Cafe for the sixth year running. The Monday, our first night, was surprisingly free of hassle compared to previous visits when the (minimal) sound system has at times conspired to make our initial setup and soundcheck something of a nightmare. This time, however, thanks to a combination of Phil, our sound engineer's expertise, and a couple of pre- planned accoustical shortcuts, it turned out to be a very relaxed and quite pleasant afternoon in the bat cave, culminating in an off-the-cuff taping for London Live, the BBC's local affiliate, who came to the soundcheck with their state-of-the-art digital recorder, and we were able to whack off a couple of live tunes for their early evening broadcast. The gig went very nicely, too, and from then on each night got progress- ively better both musically and attendance-wise, culminating in a really stonkin' night on Wednesday, when our old friend Daryl Hall, and his phenominal guitarist, Paul Pesco (he of many Madonna records, amongst others) took the stage with us for an encore rendering of "Work To Do", complete with Paul's George Benson-esque guitar solo which brought the balcony to its collective feet, and the standing floorbodies to their knees. A great night.
I had a feeling when we found that we could end the tour with a double- night stint in Edinburgh, that the Gods were definitely with us this time around, and there was a distinctive 'tingle' in the air from the get-go at the Liquid room there. It had been two years since we last played on native soil, and we were as ready as you can imagine for this one. All the heavies were there for the Thursday night, and we had some raucous response from the Embra' hooligans, some of whom joined us for a little reception that the wonderful people at the Point Hotel threw afterwards in our honour. First, let me say that it's one of the best hotels in Britain, if not in Europe - very much high New York style, and design-conscious to a 'T', without being witheringly trendy. Full marks to Andrew Doolan and his fabulous staff for making our stay the highlight of the tour. Thanks also to Liz Smith, and Pauline for their unbridled hospitality.
Friday night had all the promise of a grand finale to the tour, since all tickets were sold out in advance, and we knew that there was a strong national presence of people from all over Scotland in the house. Nothing, however, prepared us for the reception as we walked onstage while Adam played his thundering drum intro. According to our sound- engineer, Phil, the needles in the mixing booth went off the clock when we climbed aboard, to what can only be described as a "Hampden Roar" (the national football stadium, for those unacquainted with the term). It was pure dead brilliant. From that moment on, I don't think I stopped grinning like a demented daschund all night. The band was truly on fire and the audience knew it; they also knew all the words of every song, and there were times when we literally could have stopped singing, and simply let them get on with it. We eventually did, in the encore, when we finished up with "Let's Go Round Again," much to the amusement and amazement of all present.
Altogether a fitting end to a lovely tour, and a moment to savour and dig out of the memory banks when faced with the odd 'difficult' audience, or less-than-wonderful circumstance, as one does in one's travels as an itinerant busker. In this business you learn to take the rough with the rough.
We now set off for the absolute cultural antithesis of Edinburgh, steeped in history and antiquity that it is.............Las Vegas; mind you, I wouldn't be surprised if they had a fake Edinburgh Castle by the time we get there. After all, a bogus Eiffel Tower, an ersatz Statue of Liberty, and a few phony pyramids are already in place, and every time we go there another travesty of tackiness has been erected with a view to hoodwinking the hordes of midwestern junket gamblers that this is what the world at large has to offer, and that there's really no need to leave American soil, let alone bother to own a passport. Well, who am I to burst their bubble. After all it was Kant who said that "the only reality is that which resides in the eye of the individual." It's just that a lot of people need glasses out there. Wagons Ho, and see you in Vegas or California.