Paris Review – Part One: The Long Story? Or The REALLY Long Story?

I guess it’s best to start with the really long story and edit it from there… so may I start?

I slept soundly enough Wednesday night and into Thursday. Probably didn’t settle down quite as early as I should have, but at least sleep wasn’t elusive that night and I got a good few hours in. All things considered, considering how absolutely pent up, anxious and full of dread I was – on the actual day of our departure I was sailing with low level optimism. Low level, granted…but with optimism nonetheless. Albeit, on a scale from 1 to 10, it was maybe a 2 or a 3…it was there at least!

I packed a small carry-on bag, making sure I had ALL essentials (earplugs included!). I showered relatively early and was ready by 11am. Birdy was ready an hour later. I decided we should get the 75 to Renfrew Street and just walk down to Killermont Street to the bus station instead of the faff of getting to the bus station from Queen St. I was worried I made the timings a bit ambitious from the time of getting off the train at Queen St to getting to the bus station for the Edinburgh Air coach. So…the 75 seemed the better option. All good. Had a chat with neighbour Robert (who was taking his dug, wee Chico, for a walk around the park space by Hawthorn Quadrant) while waiting for the 75 to arrive. 

Got to the bus station in plenty of time. Got to Edinburgh Airport in good time as well. We arrived around 2.45pm for a 6.30pm flight out. Had the usual stuff go on at security. I didn’t take all the liquids that I was required to out of my bag and I was wearing stuff that triggered the security alarms. I had to be body searched and portably scanned with a handheld scanner. Birdy went through similar stuff but it’s always to be expected at any UK airport. We had time on our side. It was all grand. 

Next hurdle – boarding – not a hitch! The plane departed slightly later than scheduled but we landed in Paris on time. It was a very smooth journey on the plane. Last hurdle. French border security! All good! 

Actually, that was the penultimate hurdle. The last hurdle was ‘le taxi’! Birdy had booked a taxi via and…short story, the driver didn’t greet us at arrivals but was waiting for us at departures! I know, right?! Anyway…it was sorted. We found our driver and off we went. French traffic is APPALLING! It was 10.10pm on a Thursday evening and the roads were just HEAVING…everywhere. From the moment we left the airport right until we got into the Boulogne-Billancourt area of Paris where the hotel was…nearly the whole taxi journey was a slow crawl through heaving traffic. A lot of stationary moments. 

I finally could breathe a sigh of relief once we arrived at the hotel just on 11pm. I should have had Birdy pinch me! Lol. I couldn’t believe that it all actually went pretty damn smoothly and there were no big hazardous snags to have to deal with. WE WERE IN PARIS! And I was going to see the most amazing band in the whole universe the following day. 

Not sure what time it was that we bedded down, possibly just after midnight? Not too late anyway. We were both knackered. I quickly realised after laying down that I forgot to get the earplugs out of the bag. I got up, tried to have a quick feel around to see if I could find them. Couldn’t remember exactly WHERE I had packed them and didn’t want to take the bag apart looking, so I just thought “Meh, I’m so tired anyway…I’ll get to sleep.” Well…upon reflection I wish I had pulled my bag apart trying to find the earplugs because … FUCK ME – the snoring! Jesus Christ! Birdy had NO TROUBLE AT ALL falling asleep. She was out like a light in minutes and then snoring like nobody’s business for the vast majority of the night. TWICE in a week I had been kept awake by birds serenading me – GIVE ME THE BLACKBIRD ANY DAY – the Yvonne Bird I wanted to chuck into the Seine! 

The worst ‘sleep’. The worst! I maybe got about two hours during the short lived silent pockets in which ‘el Birdo’ woke up for a while and wisnae snoring. Truly those pockets were short lived. 

We had breakfast at 9am. I have never been so thankful for coffee EVER. The hotel was great. Fab room. Great bathroom. Very affordable. A two-star place. Great reception staff, everything. Its only fault or let down was that there were no tea/coffee making facilities in the room. I was fucking GASPING by the time we got down to the dining area for breakfast. OMG! French coffee is MAGNIFIQUE!!! There was orange juice and yoghurt and a selection of bread and pastries – a small crusty bread roll, a small croissant and a pain au chocolat (which I took back to the room for later). I had two coffees. 

Back to the room after breakfast to shower and get ready for a little look about, maybe get some lunch or just find another place for yet ANOTHER coffee. We were a 15 minute walk from the hotel to the venue. We needed to cross the Seine via this footbridge (it took traffic too – but was being used primarily as a footbridge) which went over in quite the arch. It had a little area…like a decked area either side of it where you could just sit on and enjoy the spot. Couldn’t really take in much of a view if you sat down there. But it at least allowed you to take the view in without getting in the way of people wanting to cross the bridge.

The weather was GLORIOUS! Mostly sunny and around 23 degrees Celsius. I felt wonderfully warm. We had coffee and a sweet treat from a place by La Seine Musicale called ‘Seguin Sound’ – more cafe creme for me! I had a chocolate mousse thing with it which was divine! Then I realised with having to repack stuff for the trip I had to pack two very small bags to carry with me for all my ‘essentials’ – cash, cards, phone, reading glasses, distance glasses (I cannae do bifocals), lip balm…I forgot to pack the Sharpie I had in my carry bag into the ‘essentials’ bags. SHIT!!!

Views from the footbridge.

It was 2.30pm. I had time to get back to the hotel, grab it and come back before we started queuing for the ‘VIP’ experience. I wanted to make sure we were there right on 3.30pm because I knew I’d be having to explain to someone the whole circumstances of why I was there and didn’t actually have VIP tickets…ya da ya da. Made it back to Birdy waiting for me at Seguin Sound at around 3.15pm. Phew! I was feeling a little flustered, though I tried to pace myself getting back to the hotel to get the Sharpie and get back in time. 

As I thought…once at the front of the VIP queue I had the fun of trying to explain why I didn’t have VIP tickets but that I should be on a list and allowed in. The young woman at the door was very helpful and thankfully the organiser lady (who I now wish I had asked her name) for SJM Concerts knew who I was and knew the whole score and PHEW!!! Birdy and I were let in, given our merch bags and all was good. We took a seat over the way and I thought I spotted a familiar face – which I had…more of that (even if very briefly) later.

A few minutes tick by and I see the organiser lady walking towards us. “Guess what, Larelle? You have a question to ask.” Whaaaa?! Again? Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that. I just put questions in, hoping against hope. Never really expecting it. When it happened in Glasgow I just couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t that lucky with Newcastle though. I’d have loved it if Jim had answered that question for me. I left asking the question for the Paris gig until the last minute.  Wasn’t even sure what I was going to ask but then thought, well, I am an Aussie after all – I’ll ask JIm and Charlie what their fondest memory is of their early days touring Oz. Hoping against hope that I might get some hilarious anecdote from Jim. I remembered him years back  – early days of me being in the fandom –  posting on FB about the fun him and Charlie got up to at Kings Cross on their first tour. For those not so familiar with Sydney – Kings Cross had quite the notorious reputation – when I lived in Sydney, at least – full of nightclubs – also where the red light district is – the seedy side of the city – akin to Soho in London – underworld crime too. All of that. I just remember at the time of that FB post thinking “Yeah, I can well imagine you and Charlie getting up to all kinds of shifty stuff there!” I always reckon that’s why he’s wearing sunglasses and Charlie looks so wasted on that Countdown performance of Love Song. Clatty pair of stop-outs! Manky pups! Lol

So, no one was more surprised than me to be asking another question. And I was thinking “Oh, fuck! He is going to be ssoooooooooo tired of me!” GOING to be…? IS already! Has been for ages. The anxiety ramps up. 

Those of us asking questions are led together as a small group. I see one reprobate I know through the fanbase online that I had yet met face to face (you know who you are – if you’re reading this!) – we said hi. He introduced me to his mate – double trouble, really. Thank you – to both of you. You both said such lovely, wonderful things to me that I wasn’t expecting at all. Please know that those words meant so very much to me. I know that one of you said that you read my stuff – so if you’re reading this – thank you! (I’m smiling – even if it is through tears.)

The soundcheck was probably the most special one. I think Jim waved at me. I think. I never know for sure. Always questioning afterwards. Probably for someone behind me, beside me, above me…around me…anywhere else! For anyone else but me. When it came to asking my question, I couldn’t even look at him. Thank god for that sheet of paper – because I could just look down and pretend I was looking at that. Bless him – he got bogged down in talking about when they can tour Oz again. It has little significance for me personally. I gave up on the dream – of my own ‘holy grail’ of seeing them down there. I have accepted that, for me, it’s not meant to be and that’s fine. I’m glad for the Oz fans out there though that he addressed it and that Birdy filmed some of it and … yeah. “What was the question again?” Lol

Do you think I’m the biggest pest in the world? Do you dread seeing my face at every damn gig? Do you just pray that I’ll go away? …

And a million other questions if those three would be lucky enough to be answered with “no!”

Charlie was on the ball. God bless you, Charlie, you lovely, lovely man. 

The questions ended on a beautiful note. I feel blessed to have experienced what happened at this soundcheck. It was lovely. 

During the meet and greet that followed, myself and a fellow fan got chatting to Derek Paterson – Cherisse’s drum tech. Del’s a lovely man – nuts – but wonderful. The crew are so hard working! Such amazing people. 

Then I am there in front of modern music’s own Glaswegian version of Laurel and Hardy. Lol. Or perhaps it’s just Jack and Victor? Still not sure who’s who in that comparison. 

He says to me “Hello, Larelle. How are you?” – How long have you got? That’s NOT what I said, because my brain doesn’t work when I am in front of him and I can barely put two words together. So for want of any kind of great, catchy repartee with him, I say “Ooookaaay…I think.” Can’t remember exactly how he asked it but he asked how I was enjoying Paris, or had I been looking about, or some such….I think I said that we didn’t arrive until late the night before. At one point, I think it was after he said hello and asked how I was and I replied with my “oookaaay, I think”, he said to me (I think he said this…) “you’re quiet”. I wish I could have said “Oh, really…you think? Jim! Why would THAT be…I wonder?!” Lol. But obviously….I HAD NO FUCKING REPLY TO THAT! I wish I could say “Uh, derrrr!” I think that is probably the most rhetorical statement he could have EVER made! “Yeah, Jim Kerr…and bears shit in the fucking woods! And the Pope’s a Catholic!” I’m quiet.

I wish more than you will ever, ever know that I was this exuberant, bubbly, chatterbox…mouth going ten to the dozen…and YOU, James Kerr, wouldn’t get a word in edgeways…but that ain’t me – certainly never seems like it ever will be now when I am around you. That’s just how it’s now destined to be, it seems. Whatever minor bits of confidence I exuded some years back that was there within me sailed off long ago. And it was you that gave that to me! That confidence. But it’s disappeared now completely – whatever vestiges of it existed in the first place. 

A few snaps and…it’s all over. 

I did manage to make use of that all-important Sharpie and get the question sheet I had signed by Jim and Charlie (and Birdy got her lanyard signed). 

Nearly 2,500 words and we’re not even at the actual gig itself yet! This is the place where I am ‘chatty’, Mr Kerr. 

I have ssoooo much more to write…but I am KNACKERED. I am going to have to do this in two parts. Part two might not happen until tomorrow. But for now I need a break and I will post this as part one. 

Stay tuned! (If you haven’t tuned out already.)

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.

Scotland – Two Gigs In Antitheses (For A Girl From The Antipodes)

It all started very early. About two and a half years ago, in fact. These two gigs, Aberdeen and Glasgow, were originally scheduled to happen a few months apart. I can’t even remember the original dates now – but I think Glasgow was in April and Aberdeen was for August. Then the shit hit the proverbial in March 2020 and numerous reschedules saw the two gigs placed a day apart. Taking all logistical factors into account, the best option for Aberdeen seemed to be to drive – so the theory went!

We (me and the OH – the only driver in this relationship) set off at 10.15 am. I had arranged to get a Ultimate Fan Experience ticket from my friend, Thomas. Information sent out to Ultimate Fan/Soundcheck Experience ticket holders stated that registration for the VIP experiences would take place between 3.30pm and 4.25pm – ie: get your butt there by 4.25 AT THE LATEST! 

The travelling started well. We got to Dundee in good time, arriving around 12.15. We stopped at an ASDA on the outskirts of the city. One with charging bays so we could top up the EV we hired. That was the theory! In practice…? Firstly, the charge points at the ASDA were not compatible with the connector to our EV. So I searched for another. There was one a mile away. Great! Nothing much lost in having to travel a mile along the road to the next one…. Except, that mile was done in crawling traffic and then I followed the Google Maps navigation to a T and it gave me the wrong entrance point for the garage where the charge point was. By the time we got into that garage, about 45 minutes had elapsed. 

No worries! It’s a fast charge point. It’ll get us topped in no time at all! Except…it wasnae working. Fuck! Okay….where’s the next one? Camperdown Leisure centre. Okay! It’s only another mile away. The charge point was the wrong type. Then to Camperdown Country Park. Too slow! Then, FINALLY to one by a community centre in the east of the city. We sat there for…I can’t even remember how long….maybe an hour…possibly. FREEZING TO DEATH.

Anyway, we topped up enough to get us to Aberdeen. JUST enough. We spent the rest of the journey looking at the miles we had left to travel compared to the charge left in mileage on the car. And the time it would take to get to the P&J Live arena. If it all went okay from this point, I would get there about 4.15pm. Real touch and go shit.

We make it to the P&J car park with SEVEN MILES of charge left and we arrived at 4.12. I was BUSTING for the loo! I get to the VIP registration desk and get myself checked in. Then I head straight for the ladies. I find Thomas and his wife in the queue to go into the arena for the soundcheck. I’m relieved to have made it but am so worried that the OH will not find a fast charge point to charge the car up – especially with the limited range left. I left her in a complete state of panic about how critically low the car’s charge is. It’s all I can think about.  

I want to be excited to be there but my worry for the OH and the car and her anxiety and my own stupid anxiety of being in front of Jim for the first time in over two years is just churning me up inside and making me want to wretch. Having made it to the meet and greet on time was no comfort. I felt guilty for my relief at making it, and guiltier still for putting my OH through this kind of crap. And on top of all that, if I got an “icy” vibe from Jim…? That would just make the day a hell.

The soundcheck was great. Very relaxed. There were some great questions asked and Jim had the rest of the band engage in the Q and A. I wish I could remember the question the lady asked that I liked the most – but I was in such a state at the point, I’m surprised I can remember any of it!

Jim and Charlie at Aberdeen meet and greet. (Meet and greetin’ in my case.)

The soundcheck ends, and those on the soundcheck experience only leave the arena for those partaking in the meet and greet to stay behind. I was the penultimate turn. I nearly tripped over the step of the barrier on the way to being stood in front of Jim and Charlie. I said some gobbledegook of some kind – trying to form words, not really being able to look at either of them. And before I know it, I am being asked to face the camera for a couple of photos and are then given my marching orders. 

Worry and stress all got the better of me. I was so low at that point…I probably misread things. I dunno. The day felt cold…

Our seat were side on to the stage. The P&J is a strange shaped arena. I’m not sure I like the arena set up much, in all honesty. Theatres and those approximately 3000-5000 capacity venues are what I like most. 

The venue wasn’t to capacity. I’d say it was maybe three quarters full. The band sounded great! Security were having fun controlling some people in the crowd and a scene kicked off right by where we were seated to the degree where I Travel was completely interrupted for me. 

Celebrate wasn’t though. And Jim did his sexy “she rag doll” delivery – which  I liked (understatement!).

The audience in Aberdeen were otherwise quite subdued. The acoustics in the place was pretty good. It’s a strange rectangular shape. 

As for the band themselves? Amazing. Like they had not had a two year enforced break from performing AT ALL. The only hiccup during the whole night was just at the start of the second verse of Belfast Child, Jim’s mic cut out on him. It took all of 60 seconds (quick as a flash!) for a guy to come running on stage with a replacement. They started the song again from scratch and it was perfect!

In the state I was in, I had tears rolling down my face for Hunter And The Hunted, and again for Someone Somewhere In Summertime.

I had the briefest of chats to GG (Olvier Gerard) afterwards and he gave me a setlist, which I was grateful to receive. 

I left the arena with a heavy heart. A mix of relief, anxiety, dread and melancholy that I was worried that I wouldn’t get to shake for Glasgow. 

The guesthouse we were staying at was only a couple of miles from the P&J. The OH was able to collect me from the underground car park she dropped me off at. We were at the guesthouse around 11.15pm and we were settled in bed just after midnight, hopeful of a restful sleep for an early setout the next morning. 

The view from the room in Aberdeen.

The day started sunny in Aberdeen. I was only mildly hopeful that it was a sign. A sign that, if nothing else, the journey home would be smoother. We set off at 7.45am. We had a near to fully charged car (with a 3 mile critically low charge the night before – the OH finally found a working fast charge station and got the car back up to 95% capacity) – more than enough to get us to Dundee safely and with plenty of time on our side.

We were going to head straight to the chargepoint that worked out for us in Dundee the previous day. We got there just after 9am, but the charger was being used by someone else, so the search began again. This time I knew exactly what type of charger to look for and found another set of chargers just a couple of miles away from where we were. It had FIVE charge bays – and rapid ones too. We got there and were able to make 50% recharge in around an hour. It gave us more than enough charge and buffer in reserve to get us back to Glasgow.

We got home at around 12.30pm, drained but thankful to be home in plenty of time with an uneventful drive. Time for me to chill a bit. Have a coffee, a shower and just get myself prepped for the Hydro gig. 

VIP goody bag – Aberdeen – meet and greet goody bags have gold labeled envelopes with a signed poster – soundcheck posters are unsigned in a silver labeled envelope.

I didn’t want to turn up late again, so I had the OH drop me by the Hydro at at 3.45pm. I go in, get to the VIP registration desk and the lady serving me says “your question has been chosen for the Q and A today”. She hands me a piece of paper and says “Here’s your question. Erm, hang on…that’s your name, isn’t it?” – pointing to my name on the sheet. I had forgotten the ticket was booked in my OH’s name and so my name wasn’t matching up with the name on the VIP list. “Yes, that’s me. My partner booked the ticket for me.” “Oh, right. Okay, that’s great. If you could make sure that you stand by that popcorn kiosk just over there by 4.20pm so I can take all the people asking questions in together as a group, that will be great.”

Before she showed me the paper in my head I’m thinking “I’m going to get to ask Charlie a question, that’ll be fun!” as I had put questions in for both Jim and Charlie separately. And so…I just assumed it would be a question I had asked Charlie that got chosen, but when she showed me the paper, I saw it was my question for Jim that got picked. Oh, holy fucking shit!!!! After the embarrassing crap and that…vibe I thought I felt in Aberdeen the day before, I now had to have a microphone thrust in my face so I could ask Jim a question!!! OMFG!

Then the fun begins! I keep reading the question. Trying to implant it in my head so I wouldn’t have to open the page up and ask him – I’d just be ready. But with each read, the more it was galvanising the realisation that I would have to speak directly to him! 

Two ladies were standing around the popcorn stand with me. After a while one of them asked “was your question picked too?” “Yes”, I said. “Are you nervous?”, she asks. I nod a yes. “Aaw, you’ll be fine! I bet you have a way better question to ask than me. Mine’s a silly one. I can’t even believe it got chosen! They mustn’t have had many to choose from.” I said, “Hey, they couldn’t have thought it that silly, otherwise it wouldn’t have been picked.” “Oh, no”, she said, “it’s really stupid.” But it wasn’t, it was a fab question!

I’m freaking out in the soundcheck. Again, worried how Jim will react when he sees me there – AGAIN! Pretty sure I’m a main contender for the “Stalker of the Decade” award or something. I’d be sick of the sight of me, that’s for sure! I know my question will be asked of me last which of course just ramps up all the anxiety and nausea. I try and wash it away so I can enjoy everything else, take in everyone else’s questions and take in the songs – watch Jim without being soooo obvious it hurts. 

There’s a French lady that asks a question before me, and they took some time answering that. When the questions are more broad, Jim opens it up for the rest of the band to reply. So, I know it’s the penultimate question and as the band are giving their responses, my heart rate has jumped to 120+ BMP. It actually feels like it is going to break out of my chest. It’ll be my turn next. I see the lady with the mic extending the pole so it can reach me – that heightens my anxiety further. All through the soundcheck I am saying my question over and over. “Get the wording right! Don’t fluff it! Don’t stumble over your words. DON’T DO YOUR NERVOUS LAUGH!” 

Here we go…crunch time! Mic in my face…I start with “Urm” – sssoooo professional! “Which line of a Simple Minds lyric are you most proud of having written?” I said it right, yes!! Here it comes! I know he’s gonna make a thing about me using the word “proud” – I know he will. But…how else do I ask this question? What other word can I use in its place?

BINGO! My brain is in meltdown right now so I can’t remember his exact words…but he said something about me choosing the word “proud”. I knew you would, Jim (as if he’s here. Lol) – I just knew you would! 

Didn’t know how else to ask it. And I had so many other scenarios in my head of how the reply would go. I kind of expected a slightly evasive response – in a way hoping that maybe the question would be batted back to me with a “what’s YOUR favourite line?” He might have been too scared I’d say “semi-monde” lol, or “she rag doll” or …. I dunno. But had it come back to me, I was ready – because for the past couple of years it has been “when the other side of midnight calls, remind me I’m glad to be here”. 

It didn’t come back to me – and in my daze I don’t remember how it all went (that…overwhelmed immediate mind blank I get when things mean far too much) but he mentioned misheard lyrics and spoke of a lady thanking him for writing her (then) 4 year old daughter’s favourite song. A song her daughter called the “Sadie Song”. “Why does she call it the Sadie Song”? “Because she thinks the words are Sadie One, Sadie Two, Sadie Three…” It was sweet. How could I not smile? My heart slowly melting away and my anxiety subsiding, just a little. Was I fully at ease? No! Was I enjoying it? In a weird sadistic sense, yes. Did it feel like a weight had lifted? Yes. Did Jim give a stellar performance? You betchya!

Obviously couldn’t video my own question being answered. Well, I guess I could have but it would have been fucking weird!

For the rest of the evening too. It was a truly stunning gig. This was my third Simple Minds “home crowd” gig – and this was the one that REALLY felt like it had that atmosphere to it. I didn’t feel the effect of that too much at the RCH in 2017 for the Acoustic tour – even taking into account that Jim’s dad was there and I saw other Kerr and Burchill relatives there and all that. And at Barras – the band – and Jim in particular seemed too nervous. It was the first show and the debut of a new album in full – I think the magnitude of it made it feel uncomfortable. That was my experience of the Walk Between Worlds Barras gig. 

But last night? It was PROPERLY electric! A party atmosphere. Everyone was there for a whale of a time and the band were TOTALLY “on form”. From the get go – amazing! My only criticism is…I’m not sure the structure of the setlist flows right. Love Song and the Belfast Child seems a little…jarring in contrast, to me, anyway. Again, with She’s A River and then Dolphins. 

I wasn’t sold on the setlist as a whole at Aberdeen. I was really saddened that due to how these past two years has panned out, any 40th anniversary nod to SAF/SFC has passed by and only Love Song and Theme For Great Cities remain. I’m gutted The American is off the setlist, but I understand why it is – it *is* meant to be a “hits” tour as Jim rightly points out three songs into the night by saying “We’ve just played three songs and none of them were ‘hits’!” It now being its anniversary year, it is right for New Gold Dream to have FIVE songs on the setlist. With four songs from Sparkle In The Rain and four from Once Upon A Time as well, it’s a setlist heavy with songs from the first 10 years of the band’s existence. If we discount Act Of Love as being entirely “new” – the most recent songs in the catalogue on the setlist are She’s A River (1995) and Dolphins (2005).

For me, I’m not sure whether I’d have a play about with the flow of it. 

The things that work are – the placement of Book Of Brilliant Things – and its arrangement now. It has taken me a looooooong time to warm to this arrangement of BOBT – it is ssooo vastly different to the album version. But I love Sarah’s arrival on stage for the performance and I love that Jim is actually dueting with Sarah on it this time. It’s fuuuunnnky! It’s great. 

The start of the second set is great. Theme then Waterfront is awesome. The stop-starts are Love Song then Belfast Child, then She’s A River then Dolphins. 

The addition of Chelsea Girl last night in Glasgow was great. It could do with being there permanently for me. (Maybe have The American at the soundcheck – she hints for Newcastle or Paris *praying hands*)

The stage props, the big screens, the lighting – all PHENOMENAL! It’s an AMAZING set. A mind-blowing backdrop. Wow!

From a wash of Laurie Evans’s photos used at the start of the show with Act Of Love, to the showers of gold for Glittering Prize, to the wonderful “Badlands” landscape images for Hunter And The Hunted, to the video images for Belfast Child, the Clyde images for Waterfront, the Once Upon A Time style images for the song itself – it all is laid out to perfection. Spectacular.

The crowd were electric last night. They were really feeding the band. You could feel it. It was an amazing gig. Even without the personal added joy of the soundcheck and my question being answered, I would have LOVED this gig.

I loved this gig! And I am so looking forward to Leeds and Newcastle in the next few days and Paris in the next few weeks. 

Thanks for reading!

I was sat way back, but recorded Celebrate anyway.

Prip’s 2020 Gig Hop!

It’s a bit more spaced out than 2017 and the Acoustic tour. A little bit more like the stop-start of last year’s gigs.

So…on the menu we have…

Copenhagen (and OMG I can take in some Hans Christian Andersen history too!)

Paris (the venue is a stunning building right on the Seine…I mean…IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RIVER – it’ll be akin to going to the Sydney Opera House. Oh My God!!!)

Leeds (really enjoyed last year’s gig at Leeds – though this is obviously a different venue and experience this time round)

Dublin (had to go back to Dublin – just a regular GA ticket there)

A finale in Glasgow and I have gone for a soundcheck experience. Yes!

Cherisse Live Instagram Drumkit Run Through

Tomorrow, Nov 6th at 3pm CST (American Central Standard Time) – which is 9pm GMT – Cherisse will conduct a live Instagram stream to run through her drumkit during soundcheck in New Orleans.

Be there or be square!