News Update: June 2000
Tull are now launched upon their US tour and currently concluding the Texan dates at the end of the first week. A total of 64 concerts are to be played over the next three months or so and the band cover most of the continental US and Eastern Canada, with the Far Alaskan Surprise to put the Geographic tail sting firmly in place.
Happily, the appalling weather of the last few days, which began as the band arrived in Austin for the first show, has now abated as far as Texas is concerned. The worry on a tour like this is that flights might be delayed or cancelled and each day’s travel is a mini adventure with back-up rental cars and long nights on the bus a reality for the band members who don’t like to rise at dawn for the necessary early flights which we have to take to be on the safe side.
The opening act on the last first shows has been the excellent Young Dubliners – not the most sparkling of names some of you might think – but they are the Young Dubs to their many fans in Southern California. Not so young either, as I wheedled out of them last night! One member celebrates his fortieth birthday today and the others are thirty-something, we are told. And I assumed they were barely old enough to shave.
They are a perfect choice as a Tull opener with their blend of Irish and American influences and a new record, “Red” set for release on the 20th of June. They rejoin the tour for the Florida shows in a week’s time. Come early to catch the band’s full set. That’s an order!
The recent tour of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe was highly enjoyable for the Tull Boys True and no stress or serious illness resulted from the bewildering array of varying national cuisines and back-stage catering. The travel was rough for the “bussers” during the first section. Martin and I had to fly to do the necessary promo on the days “off”.
The weather was a treat during the northern shows in Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo and Copenhagen. The first burst of summer sun and heat produced an unseasonal but welcome start to the Scandinavian art of treating pale winter skins to the gentle tan which so perfectly complements the blond hair, lithe bodies and blue-eyed beauty of the firm-torso-sporting young males. Actually, all the guys I saw were drunk, red-faced, fat and balding – just like the rest of us.
The dates in Poland, Czech and Slovak Republics were enjoyable as always. Tull has had a following for many years in these countries although, of course, it is only in the last ten or so years that the band has performed there on a regular basis. Prague is a highlight of any visit to the eastern part of the continent and a place you simply must visit, especially in the summer months when the street and café culture fills the city with residents and visitors alike. Even nervous and wary Americans should feel no hint of trepidation visiting this splendid city. Go there, even if we are not playing!
The concerts in the former Yugoslav countries were a bit of an unknown, Tull not having played there for 25 years. Zagreb and Ljubljana proved to be much friendlier and open than our previous visit in 1975. It was like being in Northern Italy, wandering through the streets of Zaggers in search of an Indian restaurant. Big Italian influence in shopping, street cafés and bustling town squares. No luck with the curry ‘though.
The crew had the nerve-wracking journey through Belgrade to get to Turkey, but the border guards and frequent police-check officers seemed content with a T-shirt or four and English cigarettes. By careful pre-arrangement with the Nato forces, the roads to Turkey had been left intact during the earlier bombings to speed the crew bus on its weary way. I only hope that we are still professionally engaged when it comes time, as one day it must, to visit Serbia in safety and openness to play a concert for the successors to the current regime. Such a bloody waste of a perfectly good country. Mr. M, your time is up.
Our visit to Istanbul caused a little wariness in the wake of the awful football madness a few weeks before when an English team played the local heroes, resulting in the all-too-predictable death and destruction which attends the game these days. Would some border guard vent his anger on the poor road warriors on the bus? Would the band visas turn out to be so much papier-du-bottom? Would the press and TV folks go on and on about it at the press conference? Well, no – not a bit of it. In fact, even with the game coming up between the Istanbul team and some other blokes for the European championship, a couple of days later, the media were entirely discrete on the subject and it was not raised once during the interviews or even in private conversation with Turkish people. Just as well, since I know little and care less about the “beautiful game of champions”. Dominoes, or maybe scrabble, is about my limit for friendly competition. Sensitive flower that I am. Unless, of course, Scotland is playing.
Our previously scheduled trip to Istanbul was postponed as a result of the tragic earthquakes which killed so many and in the wake of which, it would, we thought, have been insensitive to have turned up on such frivolous business as we purvey.
Anyhow, Isters turned out to be fine and dandy, although rain threatened and the temperature was in sharp contrast to the earlier Scanders warmth. Just the little matter of being paid to iron out with the Turkish promoter. We would hate to have ensure he never works again. The bounced check must be some tiny misunderstanding, we feel sure.
But back to the mighty and muggy US of the Americas. Heat, humidity and hard work will define the clarion cry for mercy on the part of us humblebums during the next weeks; at least on the outdoor shows which form half of the dates on this sector. How will 100 degrees (Fahrenheit – don’t panic, you Euro-persons,) affect the tuning of flutes and guitars? Or the fiddle and pipes of those older Dubliners, The Chieftans, who will be playing with us on the last three shows before our ten day break? At least if you’re a drummer, you only have to hit the damn things. No worries about the niceties of tuning. (I know that they, the drummers would argue differently, but they are a rum bunch, at best and not to be trusted with musical instruments.
Talking of whom, one of the bash-bash fraternity has a birthday coming up in a few days. Send donations and birthday wishes to Doane Perry, bash-meister, professional flagellator and sartorial supremo, care of this web site. I am sure Mr. Giddings will pass them on, in the next couple of months or so. (Well, we don’t want Doane to have too good a time, do we?) I have bought him a couple of really good presents, about which I am so excited, I can hardly wait until the 16th. They are also wearing a hole in my suitcase. No don’t try to guess.
Ah, well, Louisville beckons – at least dinner does – and the skies are clear this end, so best go for it. Pack the carry-on. Converse in Latvian with the Taxi driver. Mount the shining sky-beast and take wing on a prayer-and-Chardonnay towards Kentucky and a date with vindaloo destiny. Or is that just another shining Zagreb mirage on a culinary desert horizon?
June 12th 2000