Saturday, February 17, 2007

Roadie Report 23 - The United Kingdom and "Crowded House" Flash Back by Camilla McGuinn

Bristol,England (photo by Camilla)

The first UK show was at The Coliseum near Aberdare, Wales. It is 23 miles from Cardiff so Steve Walker, the CMP rep/tour manager, picked us up at the Cardiff Hilton at 4pm. Steve has been working with us on every tour to the UK since 1997. His capable hand makes touring in the UK a delightful, stress free adventure. We of course ran into traffic - the world’s afternoon traffic starts at 4pm - but it gave us time to catch up on Steve’s life in Australia and the antics of Gemma, his daughter. He flies to England once a year to work with the CMP concerts.

At the theater we had our first meeting with Jade Gallagher. CMP had sent me the “MySpace” links of two performers they wanted Roger to consider for his opening act. I went to Jade’s site first and knew she was the one Roger would choose. She has not only a beautiful voice - she is gorgeous.

This was Jade’s first national tour and her enthusiasm and that of her producer, Guy was a delightful fresh breeze. We quickly developed an after-show pattern: while Steve was packing the equipment, Jade and Guy would come to Roger’s dressing room and share our Champagne which the promoter always so graciously provided. We would spend about half an hour sharing stories and road experiences. It reminded me of a tour that we’d done with Crowded House in 1989.

Crowded House was on tour after the release of their “Temple of Low Men” recording. Their manager suggested Roger as their support act for the West Coast concerts. Elizabeth Rush, Roger’s agent at the time, negotiated for us to ride on their tour bus with them. It was a bit awkward going into the situation because none of us had ever met and their tour manager wasn’t sure he wanted to share their bus with us. I talked to him for a while, and told him that Roger always has a relaxed attitude and that we didn’t need bunks on the bus since there was only one overnight trip and we would be fine on the couches.

We flew to Vancouver and met the group for the first time at sound check. After Roger’s sound check, all three of them approached Roger and asked if they could play on the BYRDS’ songs. I pointed out that if they joined Roger that early, they would be dissipating their own entrance for their show. They didn’t care one bit - they wanted to play with Roger. Every night they joined Roger on stage with the precision of master musicians. I recorded the shows on cassette. At the last concert, while their Capitol records A&R man was talking with me, I took the earphones from my Walkman Pro, placed them on his head and said, “Listen to this.” I watched his face as he listened and his eyes almost jumped out of their sockets. Capital released my cassette recording of Roger and Crowded House.

Capitol Records never paid any royalties to us and knowing record companies, they probably didn’t to Crowded House either, but it was magical and I’m glad some people have a copy of that piece of history.

Neil Finn, Nick Seymour and Paul Hester performed one of the best high-energy shows I have ever seen. Roger and I would sit on the side of the stage, sip some Champagne and be thoroughly entertained by a different show every night. Their love of the music and the fun they were having, spilled over onto the audience and onto the equipment box we were sitting on.

Other magical moments of that tour were on the tour bus. When we boarded the bus the morning after the Vancouver concert, the group pointed us in the direction of the back suite. This is the primo property of a tour bus and they had decided that it was to be Roger’s. We were overwhelmed. During the drives we spent a lot of the time in the front of the bus getting to know the group. It didn’t take long for us all to become very comfortable with each other and then the fun began. The conversations were filled with so much witty repartee, my head was spinning from all the puns. Then the quiet moments would begin. Neil would ask Roger a musical question, then a Byrds’ question and then a 60’s question. The banter between Nick, Paul and Neil would cease as they reverently listened to the music sage answer their deeply inquiring questions of the times and music of the 60’s decade. I enjoyed watching their faces and wondered if my face still showed excitement when I was in the presence of someone who had made an impact on my life. As I write this I realize that these guys made a big impact on our lives. I was probably sadder when they disbanded than when the Beatles did and I'm thankful we will always have the memories of that magical tour in 1989.

Steve drove us back to Cardiff after the concert and in the morning we boarded the train to Preston. We had asked Nick, Roger’s agent, to have CMP arrange the tour schedule with concerts two days in a row and then one day off. We wanted to have time to enjoy our work and not become exhausted.

After Preston, we had a day off. Glasgow was only a few hours away by train, just enough time for a picnic on the train. Our Glasgow hotel, The Carlton George, was close to the train station. I chose that hotel because it is in the middle of the town, on the square. Glasgow is a fun town! On one of the streets there is a very large statue of a unicorn which has always had an orange traffic cone on its horn every time we’ve seen it. I’m told that the authorities take down the cone, and sometime during the wee hours of the morning, it’s mysteriously put back.

From Glasgow, we trained to Newcastle where Roger performed at the beautiful new concert hall, The Sage. We only spent one night in Newcastle, then caught the train to Cheltham to spend two nights at the charming inn, Hotel on The Park.(Photo-The Hotel on the Park) We arrived in time for dinner in their intimate restaurant, Parkers, and decided to have lunch there the next day prior to the concert.

The small restaurant was full when we went down for lunch at 1:30pm. There was a group of ladies with a small baby celebrating something and I knew that the setting would not be conducive for us to work on the song list for that night’s concert, so I asked the waiter if he could find us a quiet place for lunch. He invited us into the library and arranged the coffee table for our service.(Photo-The Library at the Hotel on The Park)) After we discussed the night’s songs and were waiting for our food, my eyes glanced at the bookshelf next to me and rested on the Charles Dickens' book “A Tale of Two Cities.” It had been required High School reading but when I slid the book out of its place, opened the first page and started reading it aloud to Roger, the creative work of the author painted a new vivid picture of another time. The weather outside was overcast, the library was quiet except for the sound of my voice and we were engrossed in a classic story written over a hundred years ago by an English author. We had forgotten our stomach’s hunger and had developed a renewed hunger for this story.

Our food arrived and I reluctantly put the book back on the shelf, but Roger told me not to worry- it is a public domain story and he would download it from the University of North Carolinas’ web site, ibiblio , the site which host his web site, and the Folk Den. The book can be found at ibiblio Favorites: Project Gutenberg.

Roger had a concert on the day of my birthday in Basingstoke. I am very fond of working on special occasions because we love our work and there is no better way to celebrate. When Roger sang the last encore song we went to his dressing room where we were surprised with balloons, banners and gifts from Steve, Jade and Guy. I was touched that they'd taken time out of their tight travel schedule to buy and prepare a surprise for me.

My private celebration for turning the blessed age of five and fifty was enjoyed at the Forbury Hotel in Reading, UK. We had three nights in this wonderful hotel. It rained all three days, but we didn’t care. Our room was cozy, the hotel’s restaurant was wonderful and each evening after the concerts, I read to Roger “A Tale of Two Cites” by the glow of the fireplace and the computer screen.

From October 23- 27, I was able to position us in Manchester and have Steve drive us to the surrounding towns for the concerts. We stayed in a very modern hotel, which was a sharp contrast from the Forbury Hotel, but our room had a great view and we were within walking distance to some wonderful restaurants. Everyday we found another culinary delight for lunch simply by walking around the neighborhood.

(1.The view from our room. 2.The Manchester City Hall)

After the 5-day stay in Manchester, the tour was winding down, just three more concerts and we didn’t want it to stop. The last concert was in London - a great city to finish a UK tour. We stayed at a townhouse hotel on Beaufort Gardens, a side street just around the corner from Harrods and a favorite restaurant, Patara Thai Cuisine. It had been the most relaxing tour of the UK that we had ever experienced. The enthusiastic audiences in beautiful concert theaters, Nick Peel’s and CMP's diligent scheduling, the picnics on the trains, the hotels, Jade’s beautiful performances and Steve’s steady hand painted a picture of perfection and we even had time to picnic on the trains and to smell the roses.
(Picnics on the trains)

All photos by Camilla McGuinn

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