"4 days in the USA (and Canada)" - A diary of the Canada/US leg of the Turn It On Again Tour by Tony Reynolds.
Hey y'all back from the land of the free, the brave, the large cars, large trains, large food plates and VIP hospitality. Did we have a good time? THat would be the greatest rhetorical question of all time. I've been fortunate enough to have some great times with some great people this year in the UK and on mainland europe but this may have topped them all.
Having hooked up with Duchess Suite and el-kay on arrival, 1st stop was the band’s hotel for lunch- honest- and anything else was a bargain. Well immediately on arrival we bump into Mr and Mrs Stuermer in the hotel lobby. Taking the time out of their busy schedule to chat to us and sign Doug’s T meant a lot to all of us and gets the stay off to a flying start. We just missed out on getting to the production rehearsals, which took place the day before, which is a shame. By all accounts, the setlist is going to stay the same as Europe for at least the first couple of shows. If there are any changes Daryl suggests possibly In Too Deep for Hold on My heart, but nothing else planned.
Doug picked up his Toronto Maple Leafs shirt from the official store, having had "GENESIS 07" emblazoned on the back. And is looking to wear it with his kilt to the gig tonight, although the forecast for tonight is 35C, with the humidity taking it over 40C, which will make it a bit of an endurance event for us.
In the evening we go to Armando Gallo’s hotel, having agreed previously to meet him there. Doug had been in touch with Armando about the convention and it was agreed that we would meet up in Toronto as he’s there for the film festival. To us, he's always been a bit of a god, so to meet him was a really special experience. He was an absolute hero . He was to me before I met him and although there's usually an apprehension about meeting people you've admired from the outside world I would have been surprised and disappointed if this gregarious Italian had feet of clay. When he came into the hotel lobby he looked completely wiped. He had just flown in from the Venice film festival and looked out on his feet. The fact that he came down to see us despite that said it all about his generosity towards us. I think we spent the 1st 45 mins telling him to go to bed. He insisted on staying up and disappeared to his room to bring back down his laptop and showed us a lot of his personal photos of the band old and new including some pages from the new book which had been sent to him.
He was hugely engaging, funny and self deprecating and unbeknown to me now at the heart of the US film industry, director of the Golden Globes and a whole lot more. He's also very fond of the ladies but modesty and house rules prevent from expanding on those tales. Like a crap interviewer I asked him his favourite gig and song. Rainbow 73, followed by Oxford 73 and Suppers Ready. I gave him my Pete Wood batwings badge. After some outrageously expensive Glenfiddichs, my mood towards him going to bed changed and I then insisted he stay up with us. He was waiting for his partner to arrive by this point so he was happy to do so and got his 2nd wind. Michaela arrived eventually and we parted in the small hours.
We went back to his hotel the next day to leave him a thank you note with the desk and another Pete Wood badge, the old man, as he said it was hearing the Musical Box that turned him onto the band in the beginning. Needless to say me and HH were just so buzzed that he spent so much time with us. And as we insisted he was a hero to people like us he assured us we were the heroes. We called it a draw.
so for the TO gig. I'm a real crap typist so I'll call this, part one. If Doug gets out of his scratcher anytime soon, he can pick up from here failing that it'll be me again.
Rising reasonably early given the jetlag and late night drinks, headed out for b/fast to Cora’s, a Canadian chain b/fast restaurant. Best b/fast ever? Was there anything about this trip that wasn’t the best ever? Filling in time till the meet and greet in the company of our generous hosts Duchess Suite and el-kay we headed to the Foggy Dew or Doo depending on your place of origin to the pre-arranged meet and greet. 1st time kilted in foreign climes for Doug and for me 1st time abroad outwith the footie, so feeling a bit nervous. Doug replete with his Toronto Maple Leafs top which had Genesis 07 emblazoned on it. It went down a storm with pretty much everyone who saw it.
Met up with a few official forum types, Mark the k/board player from Slippermen, Maria and Jay from Ultrastar and a demented ex-marine, who in the words of Stan Ridgeway, was “an awfully big marine” and crazy with it. That and the drink. And who may or may not have been called (Oh ohhhh) Camouflage. A few drinks in, Doug tugs on my sleeve and in a stage whisper urges me to leave asap without being noticed. Terrorist attack? Attack of Dysentery? Almost as unexpected, a call from Maria to head over to the stadium tout suite and meet her at gate 4 as we were going backstage, I was advised. All very exciting.
So Maria slipped on the VIP wristbands, cunningly disguised as plain white with no marking. Very clever. And we breezed past several layers of security types, up lifts, down corridors and entered the hallowed room of VIPs. Not backstage as such, but good enough especially when I saw the free bar and tables of food. Pretty much 1st in we settled down and took advantage of our good fortune.
Some guy tried to nick Doug’s hat. We started chatting to him and another guy introduced to us as Steve. The latter, later identified as the guy who kicked off the press conference last November last year before David Baddiel came on announcing the reunion. The hat pilferer then asked where we were seated and suggested to our new friend Steve that he could get us better seats. We forgave the petty larceny from this guy now giving orders to Steve. He was identified to us by Maria as Michael Cohl, apparently the world’s biggest promoter – Stones, U2 etc. Well blow me. On 2nd thoughts…
At that point our old friend Armando – see how that works, Steve and Michael, new friends, Armando from the day before, old friend- and his entourage walks in. Delighted to see us he insists we join him and his party for drinks etc. To our delight he’s wearing the old man badge we dropped off earlier in the day. We reminisce over old times- remember when you showed us your laptop Armando. Do you still have it? How we laughed.
Hearing the American Dream music we started out for our new improved seats which had been delivered to us by some flunkey –anyone who isn’t Steve or Michael is now identified as such - earlier on, only to discover we were on the wrong side of the stadium. We saw and heard the opening bars and rushed round taking our seats for TIOA. Stage a wee bit smaller but the setlist and brilliance the same.
Then a long walk back to the hotel not helped by me poo-pooing Doug’s suggestion that the CN tower, adjacent to our hotel, appeared to be in the opposite direction we were heading, resulting in a u-turn some 15 mins later. Sore feet, knackered, satisfied, gleeful, we crashed out in the early hours.
P.S. Just googled Michael and indeed he is a very large piece of edam.
Days 3 and 4 (I’ve started so I’ll finish)
Another early start, an odd feature of the trip, no matter how knackering the night before, still waking early without prompt. Train down to Niagara stateside to hook up with Duchess Suite and el-kay. We had been told this was the quickest way to cross the border. Leisurely trip in business class- best one dollar upgrade ever- to the US to be greeted by a cheery chappie appositely called Mr Bitterman –no, really: who are you, where are you going, what do you want from our glorious country, repeat after me “I love Dubya”. Passed all that with flying colours with nary a vaselined rubber gloved finger in sight and headed off to see one of the shortlisted wonders of the world in all its rushing fury, a sight to behold.
Bit of retail therapy and hanging with the girls, who treated us wonderfully throughout and then down to the gig. At this point we had been told that Buffalo really was a sh1thole and that the Buffalos? Buffalonians? would be raucous, drunk and probably not likely to be the most well behaved crowd. Yep, there certainly were a few tailgate parties going on when we parked the car and the atmosphere seemed lively, but what then transpired was one of the greatest gig going experiences I’ve ever had in nearly 30 years of doing them.
Speaking as someone who saw a few shows in europe and made the trip from there to see some shows in the States I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I had been told beforehand that US audiences tend to talk more and treat gigs as being in a bar and having a beer. Following on from Toronto and the fantastic experience that had been for me and Hairless Heart we were just glad to be going to another show and hadn't really expected anything more than just to enjoy the show and take it easy.
I think I had also been told that Buffalo audiences would be more than typical of the type of US gig goer I had been told about. Well, to echo most of the sentiments expressed elsewhere, the band were absolutely on fire from the get go. The energy, the passion and aura those guys generated from the stage simply reverberated throughout the hall. That was returned in spades from those in the hall and those emotions continued to feed off one another until the end. The place was rocking bigtime. The band knew that, we knew it and they just built on it. So many highlights, Cage medley for me, HBTS and duet into Los endos to name a few. But there were no weak links here.
The sound and lights indoors were also amazing. We were on the floor at the back and the spectacle was superb throughout. Anyone going to an indoor show will not be disappointed and may be in for the better time as far as experiencing the light show is concerned. And they even kept the fireworks!
Needless to say the encore show will be ordered asap. And to the Buffalo audience
I can pay no higher complimnet than to say I was proud to be amongst you, you
did yourselves and your town proud. No wonder the band have gone there anytime
they had been in the states previously. The locals tore up that place in style
along with the band. This Brit salutes you.
Suffice to say the whole show was simply stunning, stonking, stupendous, superb and every other alliterative adjective beginning with “S” and more. The band were awesome, to use another US favourite and so were the crowd. As we headed back to Niagara a few short miles away we were all of one accord:- we had been part of something very special and we would treasure it forever.
One thing that happened before the gig and not for the 1st time was watching our reason for flying in from Scotland registering complete bewilderment with those enquiring. The expression just showed “does not compute” and “what’s the punchline?” And then asking “different setlist here?” “no, just the same”, “Uh-huh, I see” whilst the contrary was obviously the case, bless them. “Just fans” we said, by which time they had usually started backing away slowly.
Over the border kind courtesy of DS ,who really went out of her way to make things as smooth as possible for us logistically, to the hotel in the Canuck side of Niagara. Bus up the road next day to TO, further shops, bit of lunch in Canadian hero Wayne Gretzky’s bar and car to the airport.
And so ended our US odyssey. With grateful thanks to our generous hosts, once
again, to all the great people we met that made it so memorable, my Passepartout
without whom I’d probably still be at Glasgow airport departure lounge
and to the band of all our lives who keep on giving. Long may they do so.