Arrived in Manchester on Friday afternoon. The cab driver who brought me from Manchester Picadilly to my hotel sang the praises of the town. He also told me that he had driven someone in his cab the previous week who was friends with Bob Dylan--and was coming to see him play. The cab driver had never heard of Bob Dylan before then.
After checking in to my hotel and getting myself sorted out, I headed over to where Manchester Academy is located. As it turns out, there are 4 "Academies"--the first is a large building that seats about 3,000, and the academies get progressively smaller until you get to "Club Academy", which holds about 300 to 400 people. This is where John played.
I walked into sound check with no difficulty, and listened to the band go through "Dislocation", "He's a Liquid", "Evergreen" and "Hiroshima Mon Amour". Before they really got going, I chatted with Tara Busch, who was unpacking her own gear with her husband Maf. It turns out she's from Hartford, Connecticut (about 3 hours from where I currently live), and spent time in North Carolina before moving overseas. Tara spoke about John as an influence--she said she learned a lot from being in the studio with him. She was especially impressed with his minimalist style, and his ability to choose what sounds he's going to use "efficiently". As I've mentioned, Tara's songs are a bit complicated, but they are very good. There's probably no need to for her to imitate John's style, though in general, learning different ways is never a bad thing.
Afterward Chris Curran showed me where they were coming out after the gig, and I joined the queue to see what fans were there at the show. There were a number of children at the show--probably ages 6 to 8--which is a first for me. One of the gents at the show was kind enough to show "Manchester hospitality" and buy me a drink. I actually was able to sit on a stool by the side of the stage for the entire gig, and was able to see the stage clearly. There were a lot of people at the gig, but it wasn't packed to the point of not being able to move around.
The gig itself was spot-on; the sound guy later said that it was the best sounding gig out of the three so far, and I think I would agree with him. Tara opened, and this time she had no equipment difficulties. John started the show with "Shatterproof" as usual, and this time said, "This is for all the bankers." The show then steamed ahead, with very intense vocals, and great sound. (There were a few errors, but I have sworn not to reveal them. OK, one of them had to do with the "moment" in "Just for a Moment". I won't name names.). John later said to me that "mistakes happen in live gigs, it's just one of those things." None of the errors were fatal, though at least one was funny. One of the audience hecklers kept asking for them to play "Quiet Men", and then shouted, "John, you are the quiet man!" which made Serafina laugh visibly. The setlist was the same as the previous shows.
After the gig, I went to the backstage door, and Benge and Serafina came out. Serafina went back in and got me a beer. We sat on the steps with Tara and Maf, talking about mistakes made in the gig, and offering suggestions regarding a fancier drum riser for Benge. They let me come back into the dressing room, where John was getting ready to get changed after the gig, and had a couple of visitors. I went with Serafina and Benge to a nearby pub for a drink, and John joined us later. I've noticed that when John likes someone or thinks they're a decent person, he refers to them as "civilised". We talked a bit about the gig circuit, and John mentioned seeing the Talking Heads with the Ramones in Belgium around 1977. I think he also said that Ultravox had opened for Blondie around 1978. ("Now I'm name dropping" he said.) I had a couple of drinks, and when Hannah Peel finally joined us, she ended up going with Benge and Serafina to get something to eat, and I went back to the venue with John, so he could collect his things and go to his hotel.
As we walked, he told me how much Manchester University had changed since he'd been there. "Only about half these buildings were here when I was in school," he told me. We also talked about the difficulties of touring in a different city every day. John said, "I come to Manchester, and think, look how much has changed; I'd love to take a look around. Don't have time. Get to Liverpool. Notice how much has changed. Would love to take a walk around. Don't have time. Looks like they've done some reorganisation in Glasgow; would love to look around, don't have time. And so on." While I haven't been to most of these cities (except Liverpool, and that was just 2 years ago), I think I feel the same way--I'm here in a new city, but I basically have time to check into my hotel, head into town, look around for about an hour tops, and then hit sound check. By the next morning, I'm writing my blog posts after breakfast, packing up, and then heading on to the train to get to the next city. There's no time to explore anything here. Perhaps one day.
John was heading back to his hotel, and offered a ride back to mine, so I took a short ride in the touring van with John and Chris 1 and 2 (Curran and Oliver) to my hotel. Chris Oliver mentioned that he was playing soon in New York with Chameleons Vox, so I need to look up that gig when I get back to the U.S. Now time is flying, it's sunny in Manchester (which I hear happens only about twice a year), and I have to check out and catch a train.
So, now I am off to Liverpool. Until tomorrow...