In the morning we sent our luggage off with Spin and went for lunch at one of the restaurants in the hotel, which is out by the pool area. I did the gym thing…and while I was in there, they made the announcement on television about the arrest of some 21 people in London that were allegedly conspiring to blow up some 9 or 10 planes simultaneously that were going to the US. It was all over the news, and on the one hand it was distressing to hear of more terrorist actions, but on the other hand it was great to know that they had caught these bastards before they could follow through with their heinous plans. It had thrown Heathrow and all the London airports into a confused tizzy, canceling lots of flights and leaving thousands of peoples stranded…and it looked as it things would stay in a mess for quite a while. I went back to the room to tell Rose Lane about it, telling her to turn on the TV and check it out while I went for my last run along the Mediterranean. When I got back, we took advantage of sun one last time, laying out by the pool for a while. After that we went back to the room to prepare for departure. Left the hotel for the airport at 3, and had wheels up by 4:15 or so. Flying into Portugal we were amazed at all the forest fires we saw from above. There has been quite a lot of stories in the news about the fires in Portugal and in the north of Spain. Apparently this happens to some degree each year, as it does in states out west like Arizona, Colorado, California and others…but this is an unusual year with a drought and some arson going on. From above we saw multiple fires burning all around…some big, some small…the air was filled with gray smoke and by the time we landed, there was a thick haze all around. No doubt these fires will cause a lot of damage…especially to the cork trees, which is a big part of the Portuguese forests. Sad to see, and I hope they gain control soon.
We arrived at the Sheraton hotel in the early evening and settled in to our room, taking it easy for a while. Rosie and I decided to go down for a drink around 7:30, and I stopped off at the concierge desk to check on some dinner options. We decided on trying some of the local fare, and made reservations and a place called Dom Tonho for 9pm. Then we headed to the bar. There was a really nice outside area with some beautiful mature trees, shrubs, lawn and a bit of garden. We secured a table and ordered our drinks, enjoying being outdoors for a bit…even with the haze still present. Jake Cohl and Anthony Green stopped by for a short hi, but mostly we just sat there sipping our Grey Goose, talking and relaxing.
a cab for the restaurant, which was in one of the old parts of town, right on the river Douro. Rosie and I had been to Porto before…on the last tour. But we didn’t really get out and about, only near the hotel we were in, and we were in a sort of bland part of town. But this area was amazing…so much character…really beautiful and interesting. We found the restaurant about halfway down the old cobblestone street that ran alongside the river and ducked in. We were shown to our table, which was upstairs in a nice quiet area. The waiter came and we ordered our food. After about 15 minutes, in walks Mick with some of his family in tow. They sat him not far from us and of course we exchanged glances, smiling and waving. I called across to him…”Well, great minds think alike, eh?”
The meal was quite good…typical Portuguese, very flavorful. Afterwards we decided to walk the area some and enjoyed strolling down the old streets and people watching some. We finally caught a cab back to the hotel and called it a night.
Interesting day for me…when we were in Milan, Tim Ries came to our room one night to hang out. We drank wine and listened to some music. I played him Randall Bramblett’s new CD, “Rich Someday”, which he loved. He went back to his room and brought a CD by a lady named Ana Moura (see anamoura.com for more info), who is a fado (style of Portuguese music) singer. I was most impressed, although we couldn’t understand the lyrics as she sings in Portuguese. Tim told me he had contacted her manager and was trying to arrange a recording sessions while we were in Porto. Well, he got it done and today would be the session. He’s working on a follow up to his “Rolling Stones Project” CD and wanted to do a couple of Stones tunes with her. He wound up doing an arrangement of “No Expectations” and “Brown Sugar” for the sessions. So at about noon he, Charlie and I met in the lobby of the hotel to drive to the studio. We arrived about 12:45. He had arranged for a few other musicians to join in…two were fado musicians…one played classical guitar and the other played what is known as a Portuguese guitar…a 12 stringed instrument that is tuned in a special and unique way. Both were superb players. In addition to Charlie on the drums, there was a percussionist…and there was an electric guitar player and a bass player as well. For “No Expectations”, Tim had done a beautiful arrangement and had played it for me on the piano. I insisted that he play piano on that track, as he did it in his own special way and I felt it would be better for his project. So I stayed in the control room for that one, offering encouragement and listening to the several takes they did. On the last take, I knew it was the one, and went out to the studio to tell them that I felt they should go no further. We all listened back, and agreed that it was the take to keep, so we then moved on to “Brown Sugar”. We did a neat arrangement of it where Tim and I did the intro, then the band joined in for the verses and choruses…then after the sax solo (which Tim wailed on..) we put in a cool breakdown for the last verse that was in the Fado style, finishing out the last chorus with everyone. It was great to get out of the hotel and have something interesting to do, and all the players enjoyed it. Tim has quite a few good tracks to work with now, and I’m sure his CD will be great when it’s all done.
After returning to the hotel in the late afternoon, I had some down time before we went to dinner. The concierge had suggested a place near the mouth of the river where it spills into the sea. It was called Don Manoel. We arrived there a bit early, so we decided to take a walk along the water before dinner. The scenery was absolutely beautiful. The walk was a short one, but really nice. We spied a bar that was down below the sidewalk even closer to the jagged and rocky “beach” called the I Bar. I found us a nice sort of isolated table and went to fetch us a couple of drinks. We sipped our cocktails and watched and listened to the waves crashing on the rocks…and to the seagulls calling. There were quite a lot of gulls scattered out and about, and it all made for a picturesque setting.
Finally we walked back across the street to the restaurant and were seated at a nice table at the window with a beautiful view of the Atlantic. For about 15 minutes we were the only people in there, giving us the feeling that we owned the place. It is an elegant restaurant in a large older home. Eventually a few folks filtered in, and then, Mick appears with his family. About 45 minutes later in comes Michael and Lori Cohl with the promoter, Nuno Braamcamp and his wife. They invited us over, but we declined as we had already ordered our food….but told them we would join them after the meal for a drink. The food and wine were excellent, and we relaxed and talked about things back home. After wrapping it up we joined the Cohl party and had a nice chat with all of them. Nuno told us some history of Porto and we discussed some other topics before announcing that we would head back to the hotel. He kindly offered us a car to drive us back, and we gratefully accepted. Fun day and lovely evening
I hit the gym before taking the early van to the gig. I’ve been trying to do more cardio these days, and spent a good 45 minutes on the treadmill after my weight routine. Then met up with the “early crew” and headed down to the gig. There I wrote up the set list and then headed to the Rattlesnake to get some food. Was able to relax a little before the rest of the gang arrived….then went to run the set by Mick. We made a couple of choices together and I took the list on over to Arnold Dunn to have it run by Keith. It was all settled, and I had a little more down time to myself, as Rose Lane had decided to skip the show and I had no guests.
Finally went through the routine of wardrobe, a little warm up time on the keyboard and soon we were on. The gig went well in the beginning, but about the time we got to “Midnight Rambler”, I could hear Mick having some trouble with his voice. Then on the next song, “Night Time Is The Right Time”, it was evident that we might be in trouble. He handled it fairly well, and after “Night Time…” is Keith’s two songs, so he got a little rest. But from “Miss You” (first tune after Keith) on, he was struggling….but he got through it.
Back at the hotel Rose Lane and I went down to the bar where our friend Patrick Woodroffe and his family joined us for a drink. Patrick’s wife Lucy is a wonderful person and we hadn’t seen her in a while…and they had their lovely two girls Alice and Laura with them. We sat and talked with them for a while, ordering a bit of food to share. The bar was buzzing with several of us musicians and staff members there along with some folks that had come to the show that were also there. Finally we felt the sandman coming and excused ourselves, bidding all goodnight.
Time to move on to Madrid. Rose Lane and I love Spain, and had been disappointed not to do the shows that were in the original plan in Barcelona and We were supposed to go to Barcelona in the very beginning and rehearse there and do our opening European show there. But of course we had to cancel both Barcelona and Madrid due to Keith’s injury. So we were happy to be going to Madrid and even though we had no show there (we were to play in Valladolid and El Ejido using Madrid as a base), we looked forward to staying in that fine city. We all gathered at the appointed time to get on the bus and go to the plane…and were in the air by 4:30pm. Arrived in Madrid at about 5:30. We were staying at the same hotel we’ve used for many years there…the Palace (now the Westin Palace). It’s a beautiful place, and we always have a nice big room there. We were given the exact same room we had the last time we were here, so it felt like home. Rosie and I went for a drink in the beautiful central area that has a huge stained glass dome as a ceiling. While it was certainly a nice space to sit and enjoy a cocktail, it wound up being the most expensive drinks so far of the tour….after taxes and service charges it cost us about 25 Euros EACH for a single shot of vodka…for the two of us, that’s about $64 for the two single drinks. OUCH.
Stinging from that, we went up to the local square not far from the hotel…called ????? for dinner at a restaurant called La Trucha (The Trout). It turned out to be a good choice. We had sort of a tapas dinner with several little dishes including mine and Rose Lane’s favorite, the pedron peppers.
These are small to medium sized green peppers that are sautéed and salted, served warm and whole. Most of them are fairly mild to medium hot…and are sooo good! We also had some spinach, some pink trout with little bits of ham in it, what they call “broad beans”, which are sort of like very small white lima beans..also with bits of ham in them, and a few other dishes, all very nice. We washed it all down with some Jarras (pitchers) of chilled Valdepeñas, a young Beaujolais-like claret. Afterwards we strolled around the square…there were still some merchants open in their tents in the middle of the square that were selling their goods…some clothes, some jewelry and other items. We didn’t buy anything but enjoyed the stroll before walking back to the hotel. There we cracked open a bottle of Rioja red wine and I strummed on my mandolin while Rose Lane tapped on her computer. Soon we got our newsletter under the door. When I read it, I was not terribly surprised to see a note saying …”As some of you are aware, tomorrow’s show could be in jeopardy”. I had wondered how Mick was doing after hearing his voice deteriorating in Porto….
We went through our morning routine…I had set up our traveling coffee maker and made a pot of coffee before Rose Lane awoke. I sipped the java and sorted out our emails for a while until she got up…and we talked for a bit, speculating on whether or not we’d be doing a show. After a while I called down to the tour office to see what was happening, but was told that Mick was still with the doctors and we wouldn’t know until about noon. So I went on about my biz…going to the gym and then having lunch with Rose Lane at another place in the square. When we returned to the hotel and were headed to the elevator, I saw Arnold Dunn who said the show was off….and that we would likely also miss the next show in El Ejido…but that we wouldn’t know for sure until the next day. So, we wound up with some extra time on our hands. Indeed, we wound up missing that show as well…so we had three unexpected off days in Madrid. We were all really sad and frustrated to miss the shows…it meant that out of the original four planned shows in Spain, we would wind up canceling all of them. I felt especially bad for the fans…and can only hope that we come back here next year to make up for all these lost shows. I know that Mick felt really bad as well…it wasn’t his fault…he was diagnosed with a viral infection that just had to run it’s course until he could sing again.
Rose Lane and I took advantage of the days off….by having some nice lunches and dinners, walking around Madrid and going to the famous Prado museum on one of the days. There was a little patio outside the fitness room at the Palace, a spot that you could lay out in the sun…and we did that about every day as well. I took a couple of runs in the wonderful big park near the hotel, the Parque del Buen Retiro. It all made for some nice down time, but us musicians would much rather have been playing the gigs!
On Wednesday the 16h we traveled to London….but it was a very late flight, leaving the Madrid airport about 11:30pm due to some special rules that concerned the principals of the band. We were delayed going through Immigration due to all the recent problems of the terrorist arrests…and also due to some not so savvy Immigration officers at Luton airport. So we finally got to London and the Landmark hotel at about 3:30am, totally wasted and went straight to bed