America gets a lot of stick for being overly homogenised and lacking in diversity. I don’t really see it, though. Maybe I’m lucky in that the whole place is blurring past us at such speed, but it’s such a buffet of flavours and mini-cultures, you can’t help but love it. Plus, if you don’t love it, a couple hundred miles up the road, you probably will.
We begin the morning in Manhattan. There’s fewer places on the planet that can match it for sheer density of population. Folks are packed tightly in – above, below, beside and between each other. Then, as though the DVD has skipped, the next moment, the view from the van window here in Buffalo is of vast expanses of open space. Houses sit proud at the end of long driveways, with so much space surrounding them that many don’t even bother with fences. You can just make out where properties end by the fact that mown lawns give way to wild grassland.
We wind our way into the gig and hear Howling Bells soundchecking. (We’ve reached the point in the tour now where Coldplay soundchecks are a pretty rare event). Their drummer sounds like he’s giving In My Place a go (and a pretty good go at that). Before he stops, the whole band have chimed in and it sounds great. I like these folks a lot – but then, they are Ozzies and this serves only to re-enforce the truism that I’ve never met an Australian I didn’t like.
I bury myself in my roadie world, fiddling with bits of my rig with sound-man Dan Green. One of the joys of a tour lasting this long is that you can dig into every aspect of what you do and find absolutely the best way to go about it. We are approaching the 12 months mark now and we’re still finding ways to improve the show by a percent or two as we go. It’s obviously a fine line between not fixing what ain’t broke and taking advantage of the opportunity to learn every bit of kit inside out.
Arrival at Detroit finds Howling Bells in a covers mood once again. Today they give God Put A Smile a go. If they keep this up they’ll have spanned the whole setlist before the end of the tour. Having an opening act that are not only great in their own right, but are fully capable understudies is sheer genius. I can’t believe it’s never been suggested before…
The C-stage section seems now to be regularly featuring a quick lyrical improvisation from Chris each night. For the whole time I’ve worked for the band, he’s made up comedy songs on the spot during soundchecks (usually at the expense of various members of the crew). I’ve no idea whether this improv spot will become a permanent addition to the show, or whether it’ll go as quickly as it came. What I do know though, is that when he fished for a reaction in Detroit, he got a pretty huge one!
They can indeed make a very loud noise. For reasons I won’t go into, I was in the spotlight tower about thirty feet above the crowd as they were making this noise and it sounded utterly immense. I might wander out to the C-stage more often.
I’m now on my last day off in NYC for a while. I figure I should make the effort and get over to B&H. This is a huge department store entirely full of cameras, lenses, video gear and more gadgets than you can shake a USB cable at. Visiting New York without dropping a bit of cash there is like going to Egypt and not bothering with the pyramids. New toys for #42….