I arrived in York on Monday afternoon. The city is very beautiful, definitely the sort of place I would like to walk around and explore. There's a tremendous amount of history here, and lots of buildings that date back to medieval times or earlier. As usual on this tour, I really didn't get to have a proper look around. I stopped for a pint in the Golden Fleece (which they claim is haunted, though that's not why I went there), and then headed off to find soundcheck.
The energy at this gig was different from the others. I did not have a great feeling when I walked into the Duchess, though I couldn't really have told you why. Chris Oliver repeatedly asked me if I was OK, and I really couldn't say anything other than, "yeah, fine, thanks." At one point I was suddenly very cold, to the point that I could feel my bones shaking, which I attribute to travel exhaustion as much as anything else. The soundcheck seemed to go well enough, though there was some problems with Sefa's equipment that they were having trouble sorting out.
From the audience point of view, the gig sounded good, though it was clear that something was going on. Chris O. kept having to run across stage, and then over to the sound board, as both Sefa and Hannah seemed to be having issues. John seemed to be having some difficulties during "Underpass". Later, I learned that from the band and crew's point of view, the show was "total mayhem" (to use John's phrase). The band couldn't hear anything they were doing onstage, and at I saw Chris O. wince and stick his fingers in his ears at one point when Hannah picked up her violin. The main trouble was the sound board itself. From what I gathered (and my knowledge of sound engineering is zero), the sound desk at the venue had all kinds of programmable menus that could be set up--probably a very good and efficient thing if you have time to program it, but coming in cold a couple of hours before the gig was not good, and having to make quick changes through songs when they have to go through several menus each time is a problem. John told me that they were all utterly exhausted from trying to deal with the situation on stage, and from what I understand they were up late the day before, which I'm sure didn't help. At one point I could see my hands shaking while I was talking to him, and I realized it was from lack of proper sleep and food. I mentioned it, and John said that everyone was in the same boat--the band was pretty much the same way after several days of not taking proper meals, and then drinking at night and/or not getting much sleep. I'm actually looking forward to a "day off" in London as much as the rest of them probably are.
There were bright spots to the evening. I finally met Alex S. (who runs the Quiet City blog), and John came out to sign autographs and talk to people who were waiting, including Alex, who hadn't had a chance to talk to him in a couple of years. I also met a very nice gent in the front row called Martin, whom I chatted with between sets. The audience energy was very good, though we did have one person who had to repeatedly yell the name of each song as it was starting up. (I'd seen him wandering around earlier, and it's clear to me that he has "issues"--I won't start making diagnoses, though). However, as Martin pointed out, "Well, at least he knows John's material."
It is now Tuesday (Tuesday? Yes, it is Tuesday) morning, and I'm heading to London for the next 4 days, before going home on Saturday. I will not be doing soundchecks in London, as I hope to meet up with the Foxx fans who are going to the London gigs, and I will know more people there than at any other gig I've been to this past week. London is at least very much familiar territory now, so there will be no guessing about where I am or how to get around.