Apologies for the week and a bit of dead-air. I'm contributing photos to the new, updated tourbook and ploughing through all the pics I have has been nothing short of an insane task. It would appear that since the tour began, the mirror on my camera has clicked up and down just short of ten thousand times. I have no idea how this has happened. I deliberately haven't enabled the annoying "chickkit-chikkit-chikkit" motor drive mode, even...
As you can imagine, ploughing through this lot and getting it into some kind of order has been an all-consuming task. No excuse for dereliction of duty, I know, but there you go.
Leaving Australia was bloody hard. I love it more every time we go. Everything that annoys me about where I live seems right over there. In terms of personal space, it's glorious - a land-mass comparable to North America with a population of seemingly fewer people than I've shared a tourbus with back in my cheaper touring days.
I could expound greatly on my utter love for this place, but I've been told by a couple of the locals to keep it quiet. They don't want everyone turning up and spoiling it, apparently... Suffice to say that come the lobby call for the airport on our last day, I have never been more tempted to simply disappear into the city and refuse to leave. If going on tour is like running away and joining the circus, surely going AWOL at this point would be the right way to bow out?
There is a bit of housekeeping to do in terms of reporting of events though, before I wave Australia off into the bloggy rear view mirror. I think beyond anything else, Australia has marked the point at which the tour truly passed from being something to be laboured on to being something to be enjoyed.
By this I don't mean that the show has slipped into auto-pilot and that nobody is really bothered any more. What I mean is that all the immense effort, all the refinements, all the hard-won little improvements have all consolidated into the knockout show that the guys have been aiming for all along. For want of a less cliched analogy, it really has been a bike-riding exercise.
If the free show at Madison Square Garden was an example of the euphoric (if slightly grazed-of-knee) first runs on our fab new ride, we're now well past the point where keeping balance has become second nature. It's now all about enjoying the ride and maybe pulling a few tricks along the way. I can think of no better example of a "just for the sheer hell of it" wheelie than the Sound Relief concert. Originally booked as an acoustic performance, the band threw the whole show in there. Teaming up with John Farnham could easily have been sneered at, but was utterly killer on the day. Highlight of that particular section for me was the news coming back that his first words on walking off stage were, "Well that was bloody good, let's get a beer". If the song they'd just finished wasn't as CM claimed, "the national anthem", then I can think of no finer national alternative...
And then, there was that run. The insane aeroplane-armed dive across the open field that surfed the knife-edge between thrilling excitement and crowd-control disaster perhaps just a little more closely than intended. He seemed gone from the stage for an awfully long time. From where I was, it looked pretty certain that he wouldn't make it back to finish the song. Perhaps this was more than a wheelie, perhaps he'd taken his hands of the handlebars just a little too long and the front wheel had flipped out underneath him?
On a side note - Kelly moves fast when he needs to, doesn't he? ;-)
I was immediately reminded of seeing Fishbone at Reading Festival many years ago, when Angelo Moore when out for a "swim" over the crowd and disappeared completely, eventually prompting one of the band members to take to the mic and politely ask the crowd, "Could we have our singer back please?".
Eventually though, the little mobile knot of chaos moved its way down the barrier until Chris emerged into the security lane at the edge of the field. Only then, was it really clear how intense it had been. Like a cat who'd been missing from home so long its owners had given up all hope, he weakly trotted towards the stage looking as though he'd been dragged through the dirt for a week solid. Upon hitting the stage, he genuinely collapsed for a moment, before dragging himself to the piano stool to deliver the final lines of the song.
Sixteen words and he brings it home and seals it as a perfectly-formed moment.
With that, he was off to the dressing room to spend the afternoon throwing up into a bucket and wondering how the hell he was going to do another show in a few hours.
Unsurprisingly, the gig that night was an absolute stormer. It benefited from the double whammy of being a Saturday, which gave all the punters time to get well warmed up in whatever way they saw fit and also having the excitement of the morning's show fresh in their minds from the TV broadcast. This third Sydney show was an undoubted highlight. Powerful and celebratory, it's a huge lap of honour.
These weren't the only signs of starting to enjoy the ride, though. All manner of things are being deemed a good idea that wouldn't even have been discussed during the super-stressful days of production rehearsal way-back-when at Wembley Arena.
For example, if they had been prepping the C-stage and someone suggested getting a sporting legend in to slap Chris's arse with a pair of maracas throughout, I doubt that the idea would have been greeted with as much enthusiasm as it was here in Sydney.
Another example of the "skewed sense of the sensible" comes in the completely logical evolution of the stage-right Dancing Roadie. This has evolved in a wonderfully natural way over the tour to what it has now become. Wayne, one of our lovely lampies it would seem actually studied dance in a full-on Performing Arts manner. He started demonstrating his hip hop moves during the intro tape, early on in the tour. This mutated into all the folks who work on that side of the stage giving him his own lightshow with their trusty roadie torches. Eventually, the band got wind and demanded that he do it onstage.
Now, each night, he emerges onto the stage-right crowd ramp with a broom. Completely unassuming at first, he sweeps, he whistles a little to himself and goes about his business. As the Jay-Z track slowly takes hold, this mutates into some serious move-busting, before the Blue Danube kicks in and it all goes wonderfully ballet. The band watch nightly, doubled up in laughter and amazement backstage in Andy Bramley's video control world. It's glorious silliness. The fact that it's all grown purely by itself as the tour madness has slowly crept aboard makes it all the better....
Another rather pleasant feature of these Sydney shows is the daily commute into work by water taxi. As far as I'm concerned, every gig should involve a short boat trip with stunning views....
Mention must be made of Popey and Andy Mackrill (and all the fellas working with them). They're our Australian promoters reps who had a huge, huge hand in making it such an enjoyable run. They excellently walk the line between super-solid organisation and making the whole thing feel like a bunch of naughty boys on a school trip. Good on ya fellas!
Finally, Sydney brought the creativity forth in a caption competition in the Production Office. Our beloved Production Manager Craig Finley had been snapped in a rather unfortunate mid-sleep pose on the flight here. I have to say that following the recent kerfuffle-over-nothing following some comments about the boss on a radio show, my vote went to Bash (Will's drum-tech)'s entry (Number 8):
Favourite memory for me of Sydney has to have been sitting out on my balcony overlooking the Opera House and noting that my neighbour was none other than guitar legend Pete Townshend of The Who. I quietly ponder that I'm pleased with my choice to settle for a nice sensible job in Rock and Roll, as opposed to allowing myself to be lured by the glamour of something as precarious and unpredictable as working for a bank.
Then, we were off to New Zealand for another little glimpse of Eden. It's a new arena - not without its problems in terms of sound, but with a roaring all-standing crowd on both nights that more than makes up for it. I have dear friends at the first show. All this travel offers a great chance to (albeit very briefly) catch up with those who have been flung far and wide. I bid them goodnight at 2am and head off to make an early start in photo-organising. They disappear off looking for the bar that the after-show party is in and end up staying out 'til half six in the morning with the rest of the crew. Stories of Chris being behind the bar serving cocktails abound...
This brings us pretty much up to today. We've been in Singapore for a couple of days in a tropical paradise resort that Franksy has sniffed out. Two glorious days off and we're about ready to head back into it. I make it through about four thousand photos and reward myself with an hour sitting on an outcrop of rock that claims to be the southernmost point on the Asian continent. The sun goes down and the shipping slips slowly past.
I wonder to myself how on earth I ended up here. I decide not to think too hard about it in case someone realises there's been a mistake....