All Leeds Road To Newcastle…

Re: Post title – Worst Spoonerised Pun, Ever! Lol

I was still feeling somewhat knackered from Abedeen and Glasgow but was excited for the next two.

It was a moderately early start for the trip to Leeds. I set out at 9.30am to make it to Queen Street for the express train to Edinburgh at 10.15am. From there just a 20 min wait to get the connecting train to Newcastle. 

I’m SLOWLY getting used to the layout of Waverley station. I’m certainly getting used to where the trains between Glasgow and Edinburgh arrive and leave, so that part’s good. 

The train to Edinburgh was positively HOACHIN’ – my mask was kept firmly OAN! I looooooove Newcastle train station! It is such a well laid out station! So easy to navigate and get around and everything is handy – just perfect! 

I get into Newcastle at 12.53pm and have until 1.43 before my train on to Leeds is due to depart. I left home having only had my usual coffee and banana so I grabbed something to have to eat later on and for now just topped up with another banana and a chocolate bar. 

The station was busy. A few hen’s parties were milling through. A wonderful array of St Tropez shades (from burnt umber to walnut) in various “barely there” states of dress (I use the word ‘dress’ VERY loosely here)  were on display. “People-watching” at Newcastle station is a veritable feast for the eyes.  

After that top up and the people-watching I find my eyes are quite heavy on the Newcastle to Leeds leg. A quieter carriage, at last, but I need to somewhat keep my wits about me as at York I need to change seats in the carriage. No great shakes. Unlike the change I had at Berwick on Sunday (more on that soon). 

All the travel down to Leeds went as smoothly as I could have hoped for and arrive at around 3.15pm – thankful that for this one I don’t have to run around like a headless chook and get myself down to the venue before 4.30pm. For Leeds, I just had a standard ticket. No soundcheck or meet and greet – that’ll come at Newcastle. I should have a good seat. 

I really was quite knackered. I had had an early night but I was up early and I really was flagging by now. Too worried about falling asleep on the train(s), I didn’t let myself rest too much but once I was booked into the hotel I was staying at (more an Inn – as it was a room in a pub) I allowed some time for a rest. When I got to the room I had the wrap I bought at Newcastle station earlier (I’ve got to say that Sainbury’s “Taste The Difference” halloumi and chargrilled vegetable wrap with basil pesto was DELICIOUS), washed down with a Yorkshire tea. 

I double checked Google Maps to see how far the venue was from the pub. Less than half a mile away. A 10 minute leisurely walk. With the stations and trains on the way being as busy as they were – esp. From the Glasgow to Newcastle leg of the journey – and knowing I had a meet and greet for Newcastle, I didn’t want to be doing too much mingling. And once in Newcastle it was obvious to me that literally NOBODY in England is bothering with mask-wearing any more, so…. I just wanted to keep myself away from crowds and people for a few hours. I was happy to chill in my hotel. I had planned to meet up with some fans in a pub elsewhere but I decided not to risk it. It’s around 5pm by now and I decide to take a rest on the bed and head down to the venue around 6.45.

I get to the Leeds First Direct Arena about 6.50pm. There had been some showers while I rested on the bed but the sun was back out as I made my way to the venue. I took my seat about 7pm and chilled. Leeds First Direct Arena has a similar makeup to Aberdeen’s P&J – a rectangular shape with the length long of it being parallel to the stage, if you get what I mean? Longer in width WITH the stage, rather than longer in depth FROM the stage. I was in the lower tier seats (there were floor seats right up to the stage, rather than a general admission standing area like there was in Aberdeen and Glasgow) but in Row V, so I was quite a way back. I felt roughly as far back as I did from the stage at the Hydro, just much more elevated which made the distance feel further. 

People were still milling in at 7.50pm. I personally love taking my seat early because I love listening to the tracks played over the sound system as the pre-gig “warm up”. About this time I spy two familiar faces making their way along the row in front of me. Chris and Robert, who I know from the SM fan groups on Facebook – and who I had met previously in Liverpool on the Acoustic Tour in 2017 – just happened to be sitting right in front of me! As I see them approaching I get up out of my seat and say hi and the three of us have a hug and a chin wag before the playing of Sparks’ “So May We Start?” signals the beginning of the night’s proceedings. (It keeps reminding me that I must watch Annette again!)

This was the first gig that I was in a position to really enjoy the full experience of the lighting and graphics show. It really IS quite the thing! I think us fans have been knocked out by it. We’re all raving about it! I really do love it. I’m not usually that taken in by all the “bells and whistles” of that kind of show – I’m usually in a cynical mind about that kind of show, as if the bands are making their staging great to deflect from the fact they’re not the best performers live…you know? But not with Simple Minds! And I am sure that has been part of the reason why they hadn’t been using stage sets quite like this before. I’m sure Jim has had similar feelings to mine about staging like that – how much of it is for “show”, as such. And I am sure it’s been a financial factor too – you can take the boy out of Glesga, etc, etc. But it has paid off. It’s a real spectacle. A great one!

If I can put my critics cap on for a second – I felt the sound was a little louder than it had been for the previous two gigs and therefore it was a little distorted. Only a tad. Not so much that it in any way diminished the enjoyment of the night. It was a strange outcome in fact because I had read a post on SMOG from Jason Beardsall referring to the sound at Glasgow and he said that Jim thought the acoustics at Leeds First Direct Arena were better than the OVO Hydro – which I thought was interesting. Prior to seeing them last Wednesday night, my only other experience of seeing a gig at the Hydro was seeing Massive Attack in January, 2019 and I didn’t feel the sound was that good that night. I didn’t have strong hopes for Wednesday night but to my surprise SM sounded absolutely AMAZING at the Hydro. Either GG worked his magic perfectly to get the sound right, or the acoustics there weren’t as bad as I had remembered or…I dunno. But the sound was first class on Wednesday night. But for Leeds, I experienced the sound quality I was expecting at the Hydro. So…who knows?

As for the gig itself? Well, the Leeds crowd were up off their feet from the get go. I grapple with this whole thing about seating and whether to stand or not. You know…we’re not getting any younger us lot and some people have health problems that they don’t always want to admit to. At times I like to sit at a gig. I can enjoy the aural experience without having to be on my feet for hours and that’s great if the act you’re seeing is not an out and out “rock” act that has slower, quieter songs in their set. And I am ALWAYS conscious of the people behind me. If they aren’t standing up, then I’m not going to stand up, either. The guy two seats in front of me (and the seat in front of Robert) was up nearly all night. I felt for Robert – he hasn’t been in the best health lately and he really needed to stay seated so he was missing a lot of the action. I appreciate that the guy wanted to stand up but…you know…when no one else around you isn’t standing, maybe you should be just a tad more courteous and sit back down. At least for the first set of the gig, eh, mate? 

The crowd in general was quite rowdy. A couple of guys sitting next to Robert, on his left, were getting quite intoxicated and were singing on the top of their lungs and all that. I really am not very keen on alcohol being served at gigs, I have to say. I’m sure it’s a great revenue raiser for the venues but…I don’t get why people want to get tanked up for a gig.

During the second set I stood up more and at times Robert stood up too. I hope he enjoyed the gig and didn’t feel too squandered of his enjoyment of the gig thanks to matey in front standing all night. He didn’t seem to. I chatted to him and Chris after the show and he was happy and so was Chris. They were both blown away by the show actually. We left the venue and had a bit of chat outside for a while. I then said my fond farewells and went back to the pub hotel. The pub around the corner from it was heaving and from my room I could hear the goings on back there. 

The place I was staying at is called The Wrens. When I got back I was feeling a little concerned about how much exposure I had to unmasked people in close proximity to me – from the travel down to Leeds to the patrons at the gig itself. It was all feeling quite “in yor face” to me and I had brought a lateral flow test with me to take in the morning and I was getting SSOOO worried it would end up positive! So when I got to my room, I washed my face and gargled my throat. 

They had their own branded coffee mugs and coasters in the room. The room was a good size with a strange light bulb hanging wires chandelier thingy. A good bathroom too. The windows when closed provided pretty good soundproofing from the pub round the corner. There were also earplugs provided, in case you needed some extra peace. I had my own earplugs and used them for sleep. I had a good, deep sleep with little interruption.

I was awake by 7am but stayed in bed until 8am. Check out was at 10.30am and my coach back to Newcastle wasn’t leaving until 12.15 and the coach station was just a 10 min walk from the pub. I took the LF test about 8.40am. Had a coffee and a banana and waited for the result freaking out that I’d end up positive. PHEW! To my relief it was negative. I honestly don’t know how I have avoided getting Covid this past 2+ years, but I have. Thank fook! Because even people I know who have been as cautious as I have all this time have ended up with the thing these past few months – and I had been in close contact with people who’d been in contact with people with it. Steve and Andy from Warn Digits, as an example. When I went to see them in Newcastle in December, they were worried they were going to have to cancel the gig at the last minute as their kids both had Covid – well, Andy’s kid did anyway, and I think Steve was worried his kids MIGHT have had it but they had negative tests. Anyway, they both had tests on the day of the gig and they were both negative…but, you know…it had been ages since we’d seen each other (well, I say it had been ages…but actually it was only four weeks before that at the Stag and Dagger in Edinburgh…but prior to that? – nearly 2 years) so we hugged and all that. But I was fine. Nothing came of it. 

But who knows how much longer I can outrun this thing? As long as it doesn’t stop me from going to Paris! That it doesn’t come and get me before Paris is due. I’ll be GUTTED if it does. 

Anyway…all was great. I got to Leeds coach station in plenty of time. The weather was sunny. I had a mocha coffee and a chocolate brownie in the coach station and bided my time. Strangely enough the National Express coach I was getting to Newcastle was actually going all the way to Glasgow. 

It was a smooth and uneventful journey along the motorway from Leeds to Newcastle. The coach was nice and warm and I had the sun on my face so I had a nice snooze along the way. Recharge the old rapidly depleting batteries. 

Leeds Coach Station

My gig partner-in-crime, Birdy, was already in Newcastle ahead of me, having spent the day before in Durham checking out the cathedral and whatnot. I arrived around 2.15pm just ahead of the projected arrival time of 2.30pm. As we were making our way into the coach station I could see both the venue and the Jurys Inn and could see that everything was within easy reach. Grand!

We weren’t meant to book in to our room until 4pm, so we hung about the hotel lobby. With increasing numbers of SM fans arriving to stay, I think they soon realised that having people hang about the hotel lobby until 4pm would make it look a bit chaotic soon. I could see that some people were being allowed to go straight to their room so at 3pm we asked if it were possible to check in – we wanted to be at the Utilita right on 3.30pm for the VIP registration. They let us booked in at 3, yay! A bit of prep and we were back out the door at 20 past for the short walk over the road to the Utilita. 

Queued up out the front at the “hospitality” area of the entrance, we got to catch up with Sue. We chatted away until they let us in through the doors around 3.45pm. While waiting inside, I notice Alison Wilkinson – I spotted her, then she spotted me and – I’m getting fucking old! I can’t remember her name! My mind went TOTALLY blank. I had the Wilkinson bit but my mind was just coming up blank with her first name! Lol. Awful! So awful! Honest to a fault, I tell her I can’t remember her name – Jesus Christ! (Lol. That wasn’t it.) Alison was with her friend, Gail, so the five of us are chatting away, me, Alison, Gail, Birdy and Sue. 

Alison and I are a pair of ogling devils. I’m telling her about this LouderThanWar review of the Bournemouth gig in which the music journo is going on about Jim wearing skinny jeans and how the guy likens Jim’s junk flinging about to being slapped in the chops by Will Smith! I could say sssoooo much more about this – but I won’t. Suffice it so say that Alison and I are in stitches and I am recommending she read the review at her first available opportunity (here’s a link to it for anyone else interested in reading it – I myself found it highly entertaining and quite ‘tongue-in-cheek’ – or should that be ‘trooser-snake-in-knickers’???). LOUDER THAN WAR ARTICLE – HERE

I had to take a photo of Cherisse’s drum kit once I noticed the daffodil.

It was a great way to pass the time until the soundcheck got under way. How Alinson and I managed to look at Jim with a straight face I will never know. Thankfully he was cracking jokes anyway, so us looking like two grinning school girls wouldn’t have seemed so out of place.

On a more serious note, I love hearing The Walls Came Down – those lines towards the end – “I don’t think there are any Russians / And there ain’t no Yanks / Just corporate criminals / Playin’ with tanks”.

And now I’m seeing a headline as I am typing this out about a shooting incident on the New York subway. Bloody hell! Scary times. It never changes!

Soundcheck Jim

The Q and A had some great questions. Someone asked Jim and Charlie about their memories of being on The Tube. Charlie mentioned Jim’s mic cutting out. He was thinking it was during their debut performance on it – but it was their second appearance when Sparkle In The Rain was released. Jim thought it was during Waterfront but it’s during Book Of Brilliant Things. He’s right on it though. Chucks the broken mic away, grabs Derek’s and off he goes. Nae bother!

Jim also talked about other memories of Newcastle. Him and Charlie hitching down to see gigs. “Sleeping together” in a phone box! And he spoke of earlier childhood visits too, when his Da was working on construction sites around Whitley Bay and going home with the lingo. “We don’t have accents”, he says. I roll my eyes. In my head retorting, “That old chestnut? Jeez-o!” Lol. “So after a week in Whitley Bay I’d pick up the lingo. And I had a stutter as a kid, so I’m in school the next week saying ‘w-w-w-w-why-aye, man!” I’m ashamed to say that THAt did crack me up. This man who ssoooo many years ago seemed so unsure of himself on the stage when it came to engaging with an audience is just…such an old pro at it now. It really is something to behold. You’d never imagine he had ANY fear of being on that stage back then – even if there was bravado he carried off in interviews back then expressing he wasn’t nervous. The reality was something else – and he was. He could perform, of course, and had his own way of engaging then – but you can see he isn’t comfortable there back then. Whereas now? So, so different. I love those polar opposites. I love the Jim of then, and the Jim of now. I love that transition. And how he overcame that.

Yeah…it was a really lovely soundcheck this one. I waved to Cherisse as the soundcheck got underway and when it was done, she came over and said hello, asked how I was and how the gigs were going so far. A guy next to me asked if he could have one of her sticks. She went off and checked and came back with one that she’d signed for him. Lucky guy! Cherisse is awesome!

Cherisse’s drum solo – had to film it!

And then comes the meet and greet – and I’ve had something on my mind. And I was tossing up whether to do this or not. Loz – I think to myself – strike while the iron’s hot! Just ask! What’s the worst that can happen? “Oh…Jim hates me forever and thinks I’m a rude cow.” Nothing too bad….

At Aberdeen, and again in Glasgow and then at Leeds the previous night, I’m noticing an altering of the words to Sanctify Yourself. In the second verse the line is “you’ve got a gun in your hand / you’re making self plans / stay with me all through the night” – but he isn’t singing the line like that. He’s singing lines from the third verse and is kind of mangling them up. But I thought maybe it was a deliberate ploy because maybe he was consciously avoiding that “you’ve got a gun in your hand” line…given how things are in certain parts of the world at the moment. 

So, I’m thinking, “right, I’ll ask” – my curiosity is getting the better of me. 

We’re queuing for the meet and greet. Before we go into the soundcheck, one of the staff of the VIP stuff – possibly she’s the main coordinator? She’s the one taking the photos anyway…she recognises me from Aberdeen and Glasgow and says “you’ve been on the Ultimate Fan experience before, right?”, “yes”, I say. “Well, you’ll be glad to know we have new lights in place and your photo will be great this time.” To be honest I had no complaints the last time. I felt fortunate my photo came out pretty good – compared to others I had seen. 

Having said that…I was reassured by the information and was actually looking forward to a lovely photo. More on that in a mo! First, back to me plucking up the courage to ask about Sanctify Yourself.

So, Birdy’s up before me. I hear them discuss where she’s travelled from today and I hear Glasgow getting mentioned and I call out, saying “She’s lodging” (ie: with me, in Glasgow) – she told me this morning I put her off her stride with that. Oops. I feel awful now. I need to learn to keep my gob shut. Honestly! 

Here we go…I’m up next. I’m just ready for a “You, again? Fucking hell, woman. Go home!” but before I even give them the opportunity for any of the that, I’m like “May I ask a quick question?” – stumbling over my fucking words again as I am spitting out – mindful of how very quick I’ll need to be to ask. “About Sanctify Yourself…” before I can continue, Jim says “I’m deaf, you’re gonna have to speak up.” I WANT TO DIE! I instantly regret my attempt at forwardness and taking the bull by the horns, striking why the iron’s hot and all those fucking metaphors and just…

I try raising my voice some – whilst at the same time feeling like I’m about to collapse in a heap on the floor, feeling me cheeks going scarlet – “Sanctify Yourself – I’ve noticed some changes to the lines of the song and I was just wondering about it” – Jim says “Am I mixing them up? Am I getting them wrong?” I ABSOLUTELY WANT TO DIE AND FALL INTO A 700 FOOT CHASM – the clock’s ticking and I don’t have time to say what I need to say (what I’ve written out about the lyrics just above) – I’m just now thinking “Oh, it doesn’t matter!” Because at this point had it been intentional he’d be saying “Clever of you to have noticed” or something similar…NOT “Am I getting them wrong?” OH FUCK!!!!

“You’ll keep me in check”, Jim says to me. And then probably inside his head, “Now fuck off and leave me alone, you fucking bitch! Who the fuck do you think you are? Fucking CHEEK of the woman. Jeez-o!”

Then I have to pose for the photo. At least it may end up a good one. God knows what Jim’s doing behind me. Probably giving me the bird! As soon as the photos are done, I quickly swing back round to face them and mouth “SORRY!” at them both – but especially to Jim.

WHY? Why do I do this shit?

The more I think about it after the fact – the more I think Jim gets off on putting me on the backfoot. The whole “I’m deaf, you’re gonna have to speak up” – I dunno…it’s probably genuine but I can’t help but see it that in his mind he’s there thinking … “This’ll put her off. Watch this.” He gets a kick out of seeing me squirm, I swear! Well, it worked. Of course it would. And he knows it will. 

And…on top of it all – today those of us on the Newcastle meet and greet have received an email letting us know that the SD card in the camera got corrupted and our photos couldn’t be retrieved! Yay! So, you could have another Ultimate Fan experience at one of the remaining UK shows, or a partial refund. I took a quick look at Hull and Liverpool and although I could get to Liverpool cheaply enough – there’s no way I can stay the night, or be able to travel home cheaply that same night to get back to Glasgow – so it’s a partial refund for me. 

Birdy has better luck as she’s going to the Cardiff gig and can do the meet and greet there. I’ll have to rely on Paris. Holy heck!

As for the gig? Well (soundchecks aside), this has been the first gig on the tour in which I was actually in the front row and OH MY GOD – front row is ssssooooooo good! There was a little extended edge at the centre of the stage. A bit of an edge for Jim to come out to and I was just to the right of where that ended. So just right of centre (my view of the stage) to the stage. And we were closer to the stage than those in the front row at Leeds appeared to be. I was ssssooooo happy! 

I forgot about my embarrassing moment with the question at the meet and greet. I just wanted the best gig experience and just being in front of that man, watching him perform. I wish I could experience it every night for the rest of my life. There is just no bigger thrill. And, I don’t care how it sounds. I don’t care how embarrassing it is – he’s beautiful! He’s just beautiful! 

I stood up this time! From the start til the (bitter) end, only taking a seat again during the interval. The way the barrier is in front of the seats, I am only that bit taller anyway. I think everyone in those lower front floor seats stood up anyway. 

What a show!

Hearing Ghostdancing live for the first time was fucking braw too!

I was seated next to a lady called Elaine who’s from Aberdeen and was at the Aberdeen gig as well, and at the Hydro gig too. She was staying at the Jurys Inn. Actually the three of us – me, Birdy and Elaine – walked back to the Jurys Inn after the soundcheck. We were chatting away again before the gig started. She’s a really nice lady. She was having a great time too. 

Unfortunately we didn’t meet up with Alison, Gail or Sue after the gig but I’m sure our paths will cross again soon enough. 

Back to the gig! I managed a few good photos, and while I was in close proximity I decided to record Celebrate again (just in case Jim did a nice sexy “she rag doll” move for me – nom nom!). I also recorded Waterfront, and Cherisse’s drum solo after She’s A River. You’ll hear me scream my head off in raptures afterwards. 

The best gig. Just the best. For the overall experience. For actual sound quality and light show, Glasgow was the best. Audience reception – Leeds was fab – but a tie for the top with Glasgow and Newcastle. I mean, Glasgow loves their boys (meaning Jim and Charlie, specifically) but Newcastle had a LOT of love for them (Simple Minds as a whole) too.

It’s a hard comedown knowing there are still gigs happening when your own lot is done for now – but at least Paris is only a few weeks away, and I’ve got to get back to studying anyway!

Thanks to Jim, Charlie, Ged, Gordy, Sarah, Berenice and Cherisse. You have all been awesome. Love you guys to bits! See you in Paris!

Great meeting and catching up with – Thomas and Ela, Michael and Nicola, Sarah, Michelle, Lesley, David and Ang, Robert and Chris, and finally Sue, Alison, Gail and Elaine. And I’m sorry to those I didn’t get the chance to catch up with. I hope we’ll get to see each other one day soon.

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