I know, I know! "What's goin' on with the band?" "What the hell are you guys up to?" Well it all boils down to Steven wanting to go solo for a while and the other four of us wanting to continue. I'm not getting into what and what not's been in the press lately. I'd like a day off from all that if you don't FREAKIN' mind.
Some weeks ago we finished four shows that were still left on the plate for this year. As we're getting close to the end of the year I found myself replaying my mental videos of those gigs.
The first one was in San Francisco. It was basically a huge party put on by one of our most massive companies. They may be a corporate monolith but when they decide to reward their employees with a party the lid is basically off the budget. They rented an island off of San Francisco and turned it into soiree central. The place was set up like a permanent venue even though it was only going to be used for this one night. What the hell? We have a history of wretched excess. Why not play for a big corporation enjoying theirs? Considering that it was a party for their employees I guess it’s kind of cool.
A little while before the show we went over to a tent to do a met and greet with some of the revelers. On the way back I thought I heard someone say that Roger Daltry was playing nearby on another stage that was set up for the party. We headed in that direction and found ourselves in his trailer where he and his band-mates were getting ready for their show. We had met before in Japan a few years back so, even though we hadn't had time to become close friends there was still a happy re-union atmosphere. We spent a few minutes catching up. Simon Townshend was there. I asked when they would be coming to Boston and then gave him some advice about where to find some cool duds if they want to go out and spend a few quid.
I had a new tech named Mike who usually works for Joe Walsh when the Eagles tour. He had some unexpected time off and came to work for me on our remaining gigs. We had some time for a sound check earlier in the afternoon and everything was tight. We don't always do sound checks because the sound can vary so much when the venue fills up with people. Some of us almost consider them bad luck but this time it was productive as I got to simplify my set-up a bit.
Steven was off on his own somewhere so we didn't see him until show-time. As everyone already knows there had been some difficult vibe issues but once we got up on to the stage waiting to go on, I felt us morphing into show mode. It was exhilarating to sense the everyday crap melting away and being replaced by that feeling of diving off a cliff as one, knowing how good that water was going to feel.
We hadn't played in a while and when that happens a really good show usually pops out - especially if the crowd is really into it which they were. The party atmosphere was thick and juicy so we just fed on it. There were even a few tender moments between us guys in the band. The audience sees some of it but a lot happens just between us.
The next day we saddled up and went to Hawaii. We had a show to make up on Maui and another one over in Honolulu. I love the long flights. I get my stack of magazines and books and space out for a few hours. I'd do that every day but it’s a little harder to get away with it.
Honolulu Airport. Photo by: John Bionelli
So, a little while later we're at the hotel sucking in that island atmosphere. My body doesn't even bother getting jet lag anymore. Have you ever heard the sound track from "South Pacific"? My parents used to play it all the time when I was a little kid. There's a song on it called "Bali Hai" which was my favorite. I could hear its mysterious melody emerging out of my memory as I stood outside gaping at the volcanic mountains reaching up to the massive orange clouds as the sun went down. I wonder if Robert Plant was thinking about that song when he wrote the vocal to "Immigrant Song." Check it out sometime.
We had a few days off before the first gig which was great for me because I was still recovering from my throat thing back in July. Crap, I wasn't really planning on bringing that up but I guess I did. Here's the quick version. I went in for a routine check in the end of June and the doctor discovered a spot he didn't like. I could tell something might be wrong when he paused with his scope and didn't say anything for a few seconds. He sent me for a scan which confirmed what he was thinking and then there I was in the process once again. Only this time he sent me to a guy who got it out without a lot of the collateral damage I might have had to deal with. It went well but it put me in a healing process that was still not completely finished when it was time to do these last four gigs. The hell with it. Time to rock.
Photo By: Amanda Ayre
So a few days later we were on our way to Honolulu to play the arena we played the last time we were there decades ago. We jumped into some puddle jumpers and buzzed over there. I spent the time remembering the first time we were there. We definitely thought we were hot shit to be playing in Hawaii back then. It was probably the tour when we promoted Get Your Wings. Back then the world was a little less threatening so we were met on the tarmac by hula girls dancing to our new album which was blasting out of a pair of big speakers over by the luggage truck. As we each got to the bottom of the stairs we got a lei and a kiss. Different world. The only way to get felt up at the airport now is when you're going through security.
So here we were back in Honolulu wondering if we were at the end of everything. Things have been tough lately. I'm not coming from just my side here. The uncertainty is cruel to all sides in this case. It definitely wasn't cruel on stage that night though. We buzz-sawed through the set without mercy. It was such a relief to be somewhere where difficult stuff could be forgotten for a while. If there's one thing that we all share, it’s the idea that when we're up there the show is all that matters. The discord just doesn't fit. There's no place for it.
Photo by: Amanda Ayre
The end of the night came too fast and there we were in our separate little airplanes headed back to Maui in the middle of the night. I was with Brad and a couple of our tour management guys. The excitement of being onstage was still with us. We talked about our impressions of the gig at the top of our lungs because the engines on our funky little plane were so loud. Pretty soon voices gave way to the roar and everybody sat back into their own fatigue and reflection. Feelings of exhilaration and regret banged together in my head as I stared at the darkened shape of the mountains below us.
We had a couple of days off before the Maui gig. One day a few of us went out sailing on an authentic Polynesian sailing canoe. It's a bit ironic that it’s called a canoe because it’s so big. There were at least six of us and there was still room. The thing was based on ancient designs but for some reason it had a really modern shape to it. One of the guys with us was native Hawaiian and did a really good job of telling us all these stories that have been passed down for centuries. It blew my mind that hundreds of years ago a whole flotilla of these would set sail for Tahiti which is at least a couple of thousand miles away. They had people who knew how to navigate by the stars with no technology whatsoever except the mysterious knowledge they had learned from their ancestors. Somehow they'd hit the bulls-eye.
We stopped to do some swimming and one of the guys disappeared for a few minutes. Suddenly he pops out of the water with an octopus. I'm thinking, "whoa, when's Spider Man going to show up?". The thing was totally evil looking and cute at the same time. It was so small you could hold in your two hands. When it was out of the water it lost its shape and turned into a dark green blob. It tried to show us how badass it was by spewing brown ink all over the place. At least I think it was ink. After a couple of minutes our guide decided to get it back in the water before it got too stressed out. We headed back to the shore and as we got close I wondered how the guys were going to land the boat without us all getting thrown onto the beach in the huge waves but they did it.
I swear the second we were back on land I started thinking about the gig. I'm not great at awkward stuff. I tend to worry about it which is something I need to get over. Mostly I was looking forward to it. We were doing it as a make-up show. We were supposed to do it a year ago but some logistical stuff went wrong and we had to cancel it so some lawyers decided to sue us. That's never happened before. We never cancel gigs unless we absolutely can't play. I think people on the islands were really frustrated because not as many bands play there as they do on the mainland so when a show goes down its even more of a disappointment. It was a big disappointment for us too because, as I mentioned earlier, it's a cool feeling that people so far from where we're from want to hear us play.
I know this is a weird place to pause but I'll have to finish this little thing later. I hope everybody has an awesome New Year. Make those resolutions! Put 'em in your head and let them grow. They'll happen someday!