Thursday morning was like many others, with the notable exception that I did not have to drag my luggage to another city and another hotel. It's a bit of a relief to stay in one place for a few days. Garry, ever hospitable, offered to take me on a walking tour of the Roman ruins of London, which we did en route to meeting up with Martin, and going to the Griffin for the pre-gig meetup. To be honest, I was not sure I was up for a long walk, though it did prove to be worth it--I had no idea that there were these old walls, bastions, and temple remnants hidden among the marketplaces and tall corporate buildings in the Eastern part of the city. We also visited the Roman amphitheatre recently discovered underneath the Guildhall. The excavated bits were in a room with projections of these Tron-like figures that were likely supposed to represent gladiators and other performers, which was quite unexpected. The amphitheatre is believed to have been built around 70 C.E. and abandoned around the 4th century, and I was impressed that wooden beams still remained from the structure. I noticed a sign that said this was a "scheduled" site, which likely means "registered as an historic artifact", but it sounds peculiar to the American ear. As if the British government has penciled in this site on its calendar. Before going downstairs, Garry asked where the amphitheatre was, and we were told, "Right--go all the way down the stairs, door to your right." This struck Garry as funny, as this is matter-of-fact speech is so very English. ("Hanging Gardens of Babylon?" "Make a right, second door." "Valhalla?" "Take the lift to the 5th floor, turn left." Etc.) We also visited the remains of a Roman basilica that's hidden away in a hairdresser's shop. Quite surreal.
The meetup was rather small, which was a bit of a surprise, as there were many fans who said they would turn up. It is likely that this is because John is doing a tour, rather than just one gig in London. Rather than travel to London, people are probably just going to see John play locally. Martin and I cut out slightly early to head over to XOYO, and I ran into Chris C., Chris O., Steve, and Isobel, standing outside just before the doors opened. The last time I saw Isobel was at the Troxy, and we kept having our conversations cut short, so I was very glad to see her for this gig. Karborn also showed up for this gig, looking almost distinguished in a proper shirt and jacket, though his shoes killed the "distinguished" part. Karborn said he just wasn't ready to be that distinguished.
"The Neat" was the first opening band for the gig, and I was surprised to see that they were traditionally guitar-based rather than a synth band. I ran into someone early on who had been at soundcheck, and thought they sounded a bit like Oasis. I liked their gig overall, as I am not one of those Foxx fans dedicated to electronic music--my taste is very eclectic. However, I did wonder what the hardcore synth fans thought. Xeno and Oaklander came on next, and did a very good set. It's difficult for me to comment very specifically on either band, as it was the first time I'd heard both of them. Garry said he thought Xeno and Oaklander sounded a bit like early Berlin.
John and the band finally came on about 30 minutes late, and did what I thought was a fantastic set. I stood in the back with Isobel this time, rather than being right up front, and the sound was very clear, John's voice sounded very good. At this gig, they dropped "Just for a Moment" from the setlist. I'm not sure if this was because the gig was running late. In the back, I was standing behind some young men who looked like they'd escaped from a bad 1980s movie. This struck me as funny, because the group of them were clearly impressed with themselves. When they finally left, I had a very good view of the stage from the bar area. There were a lot more people at this show than the one on Tuesday.
After the gig, security was keen on getting people out, and Steve had to talk to several people to allow those he couldn't get wristbands for to stay. Eventually it was sorted out, and John finally came from backstage to chat with us. They were all moving on to Benge's studio, and then to their respective places for the night, before heading for Holmfirth in the morning. (At least one person reading this post will realize that I have not mentioned tissues once in this posting. Well, at least not until now.)
So, it is the day after, and I'm feeling a bit sad that the gigs are over. I will miss seeing the band, the crew, and all of my friends here. I very much appreciate the hospitality shown by Chris C., Steve, John, Benge, Serafina, and Hannah while I've been following them around for these gigs, and I hope the tour finishes up spectacularly. I'm also indebited to Paul, Pip, and Rob for letting me tag along on my Oxford visit, and to Garry for going out of his way for me on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as Tapio, Martin, and everyone else who bought me rounds and helped me out in other ways while I was here and pretty cash-strapped. Even though I'm tired and I have to go home, I really don't want to, I've had such a good time with everyone, and wish I had more of it.
Tomorrow morning I get on a plane for Newark bright and early. Today I have to switch hotels one last time, and will probably meet up with Tapio, who is also at a loose end before an early Saturday morning flight. It will not be a late night tonight for sure.