10/23-26 THE REHEARSALS
We left Austin on the 23rd for NY to begin rehearsals on the following day, the 24th. Arriving in NY at LaGuardia around 8pm, we headed into Manhattan. We are staying again at the Palace hotel, on Madison between 50th and 51st streets, Midtown. I had arranged to have dinner with Eric Wold, a representative of the Octagon Speaker’s Bureau out of the Washington, DC area. I had met Eric a couple of years ago when he was with the SFX Agency and we had almost done some business, but then SFX had some major changes, being bought out by Clear Channel…and as a result Eric moved on to Octagon. We had lost touch for a while, then he contacted me recently to tell me of his changes and to say he’d like to get together and discuss booking some speeches for me. Our flight had taken longer than I had expected and upon arrival I called him to move our dinner up an hour or so to around 9:30. It was a bit ironic, as he was at the Guilt Bar of the Palace having a drink with our friend Ann Venneman, the former Secretary of Agriculture and now head of UNICEF. I asked if she could come to dinner, but she had a conflict and had to pass. A shame, as we would both loved to have seen her.
Our room this time at the Palace was on the 41st floor in the Towers section of the hotel, where we usually stay. We were in a corner room and had arranged for an adjacent connecting room for Amy, Steve and Miles as they were coming up from Atlanta on Friday to join us and would use that room. Ashley would also come down from Boston the day after them, on Saturday. We settled in the room and it wasn’t long before our dinner engagement with Eric. He had booked a table for us at Maloney and Porcelli, a really great grill restaurant right next door to the Palace. We met Eric at the Guilt bar and walked to the restaurant. It was great to see him, and I was glad to be re-connected. Maloney and Porcelli offers some of the very best steaks in New York, and we all went for one. While we waited on dinner to arrive, we had a cocktail and caught up with things…he wanting to know about our tour and other recent doings, me wanting to know about the agency and how we might work together on some things. Most of my speeches are given to groups connected to environmental or forestry issues, and we discussed getting me some other type of engagements outside of that realm, which I would love to do. Eric is a great guy, and our discussion was exciting and hopeful. Dinner was excellent… and the wine soothing and tasty. We wrapped things up and bit goodbye to Eric…he was going to try and make our Atlantic City show that was scheduled in a few days and promised him passes if he could make it.
Rosie and I went back to relax for a while and deal with unpacking our bags. We had vowed to unpack everything and make arrangements to send back a good bit of what we had to lighten our load for the last month of the tour. Then it was to bed.
The next day we went through our usual routine…setting up our coffee maker and sipping some brew, going through emails and doing more unpacking. We had a good bit of dirty clothes and decided it would be a good time to sort them out and take them to a laundry, which we did. We had some lunch and then it was getting close to time for me to head over for the first rehearsal at the Beacon.
These are some very important shows…being filmed by Martin Scorsese…and are our only theater shows of the tour. It offers the band a great opportunity and Mick and I had been working for a couple of months on some ideas for the set lists. He had also told me about three special guests that would be performing with us…Jack White of the White Stripes and a respected producer/solo artist; Buddy Guy, the blues great; and Christina Aguilera. We had discussed some song options for them, but had not yet settled on exactly what we’d do with them. They would not come in for a few days, though…so today we would mostly concentrate on tunes for us. The Beacon is a wonderful historic theater…and of course I have played there many times with the Allman Brothers Band as a guest during their annual run. I’ve also played there with Gov’t Mule. It’s truly a beautiful place. When I arrived, the first thing to notice was all the huge 35mm film cameras that Scorsese had in the room…some of them on huge cranes or on tracks. I found out later that there was some 17 or more of them. The other thing was the number of working personnel that he had brought with him…wow, there must have been a hundred or so…they were all over the theater, manning the cameras (some cameras had five or six people working them), taking notes, carrying slates, moving other equipment around…it was like a team of ants at work! Looks like Scorsese had come to do serious business!
My dressing room was up on the sixth floor. There is only one little tiny elevator to service all the floors, and I knew I would be doing a lot of walking up and down the stairs over the coming days. I got to my room and set up my computer, going through all the notes that Mick and I had discussed about the tunes. I made some chord charts for some of them that we had never played before and began to make a list of what I thought we might should start with. After that I went down to the stage to check out the setup. I wasn’t totally happy with my stage position and went to find Patrick Woodroffe to discuss what we could do to remedy the situation. He was amenable to me shifting some and perhaps putting up a riser…and we went to discuss this with the stage and production folks. But no one wanted to make a change until Mick saw what we had, which I understood. When he got there I had a chance to discuss it with him, and he totally agreed, as the way it was at present it was such that he and I could not see each other. But the crew asked if we could save the change for the next day as it would take them some time to re-arrange everything. I agreed to that and we started the rehearsals. We went through a number of the songs that Mick and I had talked about…Loving Cup, Let It Rock, Shattered, Mr. Pitiful, Fool To Cry, a Muddy Waters blues tune called Champagne and Reefer, She Was Hot, Back of My Hand and some others. It went quite well and during the course of all of this the camera folks were getting comfortable with their movements and getting to hear the songs for the first time. Scorsese had been begging for a set list for six weeks or so…but Mick and I knew that we wouldn’t be able to decide on a lot of it until we got in there and tried things out. We did manage to get him some 10 songs or so that we felt were solid ones to be played…Sympathy, JJ Flash, Satisfaction, Tumbling Dice, Start Me Up, Honky Tonk Women…the obvious ones. Anyway, we were all working away and things progressed nicely. It was a good first day.
The next day I had made an appointment with our tour Doctor, Brad Connor, to have an endoscopy. Brad is a gastrointestinal specialist, and has been out on tour with us quite a bit over the past year and a half. There have been other Doctors out with us when Brad can’t make it…he has a practice in NY and can’t travel with us all the time. He has contacts throughout the world of other fine Doctors, and when he can’t be with us he has others do the shift with the band. It’s a comforting thing to have a Dr. on hand at all times with us on the tour. We have become good friends with Brad and some of the others over the course of the tour. Brad and I had several conversations about my particular condition of Barrette’s Disease, and had suggested we do this at his facility since it has been about five years since I had one. I walked to his office from the hotel and got there at noon. After the usual forms to fill out and a bit of waiting, I was taken down for the procedure. Basically it involves putting a small cable with a camera on it down the throat into the stomach. The camera records the condition of the esophagus and a small device can take samples of the tissue along the way to be analyzed. It’s a bit uncomfortable (while I was given a mild relaxant, I was not completely anesthetized), but not all that bad. After a short recovery time of about fifteen minutes I was let go. Rose Lane had come to check on me and go with me back to the hotel. We went back together and I prepared to head down to the Beacon for the day’s work.
As far as the rehearsals, this day was similar…we repeated most all the songs we had done the day before, allowing Scorsese’s team to get more familiar with the songs. Mick and I had met and discussed what we thought was working and started to home in on the songs for the guests. I had first suggested Fool To Cry for Aguilera….and while he liked the idea, he wanted to do something more up-tempo with her…so I suggested Live With Me. We had done it once with Sheryl Crow a couple of tours back in Miami, and it made for a cool duet. He liked that idea, so we agreed that it was a likely one for her. I had suggested Loving Cup or Factory Girl for Jack White…and he favored Loving Cup…so we penciled that one in for him. Champagne and Reefer seemed a good choice for Buddy Guy…although I suggested Muddy’s Trouble No More as an alternative. But Mick preferred the former. We toiled away at these and other songs…Keith wanted to try some things and we played Connection, You Got The Silver, Slipping Away, Can’t Be Seen With You and Little T and A. All was going well…but one thing that bothered me was that Mick was still coming off some problems with his voice that had started a week or two back…and along with rehearsing the music he was also having to deal with the production, meeting with Martin and all his crew, scheduling other meetings. It seemed to me he had too much going on…and it was beginning to show.
On the third day of rehearsals it became even more apparent. I could tell he was trying to hold back and not over sing…but could also hear the strain in his voice. I believe he also had some little viral thing going on…a cold or some allergy or something. But we all kept up the pace, adding in some more songs here and there but also focusing on the ones that we felt were working. I had spoken with Mick on the phone about a draft set list, and we were coming close to having it together. We went through All Down The Line, As Tears Go By, Just My Imagination, I’m Free, Sympathy, JJ Flash, and some of the others. I had campaigned for Rip This Joint, Too Much Blood, 19th Nervous Breakdown, Dear Doctor, Moonlight Mile, Let Me Go, Crazy Mama….some of the new tunes like Laugh, I Nearly Died and Neo Con… and more, but it was becoming apparent that there just wasn’t enough time to try them and we would have to go with what we had. Mick left a bit early and we went through several of Keith’s songs afterwards, calling it a night around 11:30.
This was to be a hit and run show day with us going to Atlantic City and back. Also, Amy and company would be arriving this evening. They were going to skip the show…Rose Lane was going to stay behind and get up with them and baby sit while they visited a friend, and I did the show. I had an important phone call scheduled for noon to speak with Curt Soper, the Director of the Georgia Land Conservation Program. I am on the Board of the Conservation Council and he had some news to discuss with me about some projects that were coming through the system. I took care of that and shortly afterwards the phone rang and it was Arnold Dunn…telling me that the show had been cancelled due to Mick’s stressed voice. I wasn’t surprised, but had thought that Mick may have tried to go through with it in order to prevent further cancellations…but he had made the right choice, because these Beacon shows are so important for us. Arnold said they would re-schedule the Atlantic City show and move some dates around to try and keep from losing any shows. But I knew that we would have to lose something…sure enough, while they were able to re-schedule AC for Nov 17th, that would mean we would have to move the Dodger stadium show in LA to Nov 22nd…and lose the show in Hawaii. What a drag, as Rose Lane and I were going to enjoy a few days on the beach after the Honolulu show before heading home. Ah well, that’s the nature of rock and roll.
So now I had the day off. To be honest, I was beginning to feel a little stressed myself from the rehearsals. We had been working ten hours a day for the past three days and I think we were all feeling it a little.
So the Bransfords arrived in the afternoon, and of course we were thrilled to see all of them…and to hold Miles in our arms again. He’s grown soooo much (as babies are prone to do!), and they all looked great. Amy and Steve wanted to keep their visit with their friend which was fine, and Rose Lane and I wound up baby sitting…staying in the room and ordering up room service for dinner. It was glorious to have the time with Miles…and he took to us just fine. We played with him, walked him around, fed him and just reveled in his company. That lifted our spirits. We put him to bed about 8:30…and put ourselves to bed around midnight.
This is Steve’s birthday. Since it had been planned as a day off, we had decided we’d all go out to dinner together. Ashley was coming in and we had hoped she would be able to join us, but she called to say her flight had been canceled and she wouldn’t be able to get to NY until pretty late…10pm or so. We discussed several places for dinner and settled on Oceana, a high-end seafood restaurant not too far from the hotel. But before that, we had a nice day doing our own things. I went to the gym for a while…even though I still was nursing my sore shoulder and didn’t do weights, I got on the treadmill for a good solid hour. Amy and Steve had a friend of theirs coming over…a girl named Alex that went to school with Amy when she was at Breneau for her senior year of high school. Alex had a baby boy as well, about 10 months old. It was fun to watch the two kids check each other out and play a little. Of course they are very young and can’t really go at it, but they did pass some stares and throw some toys around which was very cute. After they left, we just fooled around some until dinnertime. We had arranged for a baby sitter, so Miles was left behind and it was an adult night out.
Knowing that Ashley would be arriving soon, we went back to the room to wait on her. She came in pretty late…some time after 11. Miles’ crib was in the hallway between our adjoining rooms and when she entered he woke up for a second, allowing her to pick him up. Of course she loved this….but it didn’t last long as at that point Amy was pretty tired and after a short greeting she and Steve went to bed, taking Miles into their room. Ashley, Rose Lane and I stayed up for another couple of hours talking and enjoying each other’s company before finally putting our heads on the pillows. We had put in a roll away bed for Ashley in the sitting room…and bid her good night heading to our own bed.
The first Beacon show. Amy and Steve had gone out early, so it was Ash, RL and me that spent the mid morning and early afternoon together. I had to leave for the show at 3, but that gave me time to spend with them for a while. I had to arrange for some tickets for friends and associates and dealt with that via phone and emails. I had met up with Jay Carson, an assistant to former President Bill Clinton during our rehearsals. Jay is from Macon, Ga. and he had a few extra tickets that he let me have. That helped a lot as I had tons of requests and very few tickets from the band that I could deal with. After getting that taken care of I headed down to the gig. We had rehearsed with Buddy Guy but had not yet rehearsed with Christina or Jack. So after a couple of warm up numbers, we did the tunes with them. All seemed to go pretty well. Mick was hanging in there with his voice, but was still having trouble…so he got Bernard to do the vocals during the sound check/rehearsal. After that I went to finalize the set list with Mick. We put that together and turned it in to everyone, satisfied that we had something different and fun to deal with. The set looked like this:
Start Me Up
She Was Hot
All Down the Line
Loving Cup (with Jack White)
As Tears Go By
Undercover of The Night
Just My Imagination
Shine A Light
Champagne & Reefer (with Buddy Guy)
You Got The Silver
Little T and A
Live With Me (with Christina Aguilera)
Start Me Up
This would be in part a fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation. President Clinton was there…and after Buddy Guy opened up, he took the stage and gave a short speech. I had hoped to catch it, but with all that was going on backstage I just couldn’t make it. I had also hoped to get a handshake/photo op with him, but that wasn’t in the cards either. We took the stage and the show went quite well…although there was no doubt that Mick was still struggling to an extent. But he managed to put out amazing energy and all in all it was a fun, interesting and winning set. Buddy Guy seemed to be a little lost on his tune and there were other problems with the arrangement on that song…and there were one or two smaller blips here and there but nothing too major. Under all the circumstances, we declared victory!
One unfortunate thing that happened before the show started was that Ahmet Ertegen, the famous producer and one of the founders of Atlantic Records had come to see the band…and while he was in the Rattlesnake Inn, he tripped and fell, hitting his head hard on the concrete floor. Ahmet is in his 80’s…. and this was a serious injury. He was rushed to the hospital. Ahmet is a legend that we all love and respect, and we certainly hope he’ll recover from this.
Back at the hotel we had some drinks downstairs…although the hotel had screwed up by closing the Guilt bar for a private function and being Sunday night their other bars were closed as well. So our representative, Karen Gault, shook the bushes some and got them to finally bring out some beer and wine that they served in the lobby for us. Jeff Bransford, Steve’s brother, and some of his friends…including Diego Weingardner and his wife (we have known Diego for a few years through Jeff and Steve…very nice fellow) and others were there. My old pal Robbie Clyne, who owns an ad agency in Nashville that handles lots of musical instrument and pro audio clients happened to be in town and I was able to get him a ticket…so he was with us, too. So was Herren Hickingbotham, who was in town with his dad Frank. Herren had also come to the show…and had invited us all out to dinner with his dad the next day. So we all had a great time talking about the show and other topics and just relaxing. Finally it was time to call it a night and we headed up to bed.
Although we had a pretty late night, we had arranged for our lunch with Herren and his dad at noon at Bice, a nice and well known Italian restaurant. So we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked for a slow wake up, but still managed to down some coffee and have a little time to hang before showering and heading out to meet them.
Mr. Frank and Herren were already there and we had a great reunion. Rose Lane and I have not seen Mr. Frank in quite some time…he is truly a wonderful man and we have great respect for him and of course for Herren and family, who are some of our very best friends in the world. Frank Hickingbotham is an amazing entrepreneur. Along with Herren many years ago, they bought the TCBY frozen yogurt company and took it to great heights before selling it to the Mrs. Fields company some years ago. Along with that success, they have amassed many high end car dealerships in the West…handling Rolls Royce, Bentley, Mercedes, Infinity and other lines. They also have several Harley Davidson dealerships. But the reason they were in NY was to participate in the closing bell at NASDAQ as part of an IPO for their Home Bank companies…a group of banks in Florida and Arkansas that has recently gone public. This would be the first time that Mr. Frank has met Ashley, Amy, Steve and Miles. He seemed to genuinely love the family atmosphere and was as gracious as ever to us.
After parting with them; Rosie, Ashley and I went to see our friend Ronnie Finestone at Andrew Marc. We had made an appointment with him to see some of their fine jackets and coats…as a matter of fact, we had already had a beautiful coat held for Ashley that we had seen at Sax in Boston some months before. I called Ronnie to ask him if he could hold me one for her, and he kindly did so. The Bransfords made their way back to the hotel to rest while we took a cab to AM. When we got there we had a nice chat with Ronnie…he had come to the show the night before with his daughter Cat with a pair of the Clinton tickets I had scored. Also there was Jacqui Argetta who also works at AM and who Rose Lane and I had met before when we were first there about a year ago. After shooting the breeze for a bit we got down to work and had a look at the line. Ronnie pulled out the coat for Ashley, and it looked magnificent on her. I tried out several jackets and wound up with three really cool ones…two that are leather “jacket shirts”…one dark brown and one black, and one brown motorcycle jacket…all of which seemed to be waiting on me to own. We did some minor tailoring with their fine tailor Ulysses…. a really nice guy from Italy that asked us about our experience there on the recent European tour. Ronnie said he should be able to have it all ready in a day or two…. and after thanking he and Jacqui for their taking such good care of us we hit the streets again. Ash had a flight back to Boston, but we had enough time to walk around a bit, which we did before seeing her off.
Back at the Palace we met back up with Amy, Steve and Miles. Amy and Steve wanted to go out to eat early, but Rosie and I wanted to wait a while…so they went ahead and Rosie and I wound up going to a nice Vietnamese style place called Le Colonial. We had a good meal there and headed back to the hotel where we spent some time with Amy and Steve before saying goodnight and heading to bed.
We woke up to some surprising news…that there would be no show at the Beacon tonight. This was again due to Mick and his vocal troubles. I know it had to be a tough decision on his part, but no doubt it was best to put it off a night so that he could be in better shape for the show. This meant that we had an unexpected day off. We told Amy and Steve the news, and they started checking on changing their flights as they had planned on leaving the next day…but wanted to see the show. They were able to work it out, and we were able to keep the room for an extra day, so things worked out. After sorting all that out we all hit the streets. It was getting to be laundry time again, so we put all that together and ventured out to the place we had used a few days before. On the way we stopped for lunch, having light fare of salads. Then we dropped off the laundry and decided to go up towards the middle 70 streets on Madison where some nice shops are.
We walked along for a while and finally caught a cab up to around 72nd St. Finally Steve and I branched off with Miles and walked back to the hotel while Rose Lane and Amy strolled out on their own for a while. When I got back to the hotel I had a message from our friend Richard Kerris from the Apple computer company. He was in town for business and was open for dinner…so we invited him to go with us. We decided to stay close to “home” and go to Maloney and Porcelli again.
Amy and Steve wanted to go down to the Village to watch part of the Halloween parade and had arranged for a baby sitter for Miles. We met up with Richard about 8pm and enjoyed catching up with him. He and his wife Nat have two little girls together, Scarlett and Madeline…and Nat apparently had her hands full with them doing Halloween back home in California. We talked about family, the tour, and the fact that we would be winding up soon and heading home…and we talked some about Apple and how cool the new computers and other products are. It’s always great to see Richard…he’s a good friend and we enjoy his company.
After we wrapped up dinner we said goodbye to him and went back to the room. Amy and Steve returned after a bit and we had a nice time talking a little before we all called it a night.
Rosie and I were up by about 9. After sipping coffee for a while, I went down to the gym for a bit; spending an hour on the treadmill and doing some lightweights…I’m still feeling my sore shoulder and trying to take it easy. Ronnie Finestone had sent me an email to say that my Andrew Marc leather jackets were ready, so after the exercise I showered and walked over to his showroom to pick them up. They did a great job on them and I was very happy with the fit. Ronnie and I talked for a while, and then I thanked him and left, walking back to the room. We were to have a sound check today, and would leave for the Beacon at 3. Rose Lane, Ashley and Steve would come later. At the Beacon I went through the set list, thinking about what changes we might make, but not knowing what shape Mick was in I didn’t want to get too deep into it until I could meet with him. When we all got to the stage for the sound check, I had a little time with him and could tell that we would not be able to get too adventurous and would need to make it as easy as possible for him. During the sound check we again got Bernard to stand in for Mick so he could save his voice for the show. After meeting with him in his dressing room, we decided we would change up a few things…and the set looked like this:
She Was Hot
All Down The Line
Loving Cup (with Jack White)
As Tears Go By
Just My Imagination
Far Away Eyes
Champagne & Reefer (with Buddy Guy)
You Got The Silver
Live With Me (with Christina Aguilera)
Honky Tonk Woman
Start Me Up
Being that we were supposed to play last night…on Halloween…some folks dressed up in costumes anyway, although this was the first of November. Amy and Steve had dressed up Miles to look like Keith…with a bandana headband, a black muscle t-shirt that said “Keef” on it…a tiny skull and crossbones necklace and a little silver chain hanging on his pants.
It was really a hoot, and they were able to get a wonderful photo op with Keith. It made for great fun, and everyone loved seeing him in his costume. Amy and Steve had arranged for a babysitter and before the show started they took Miles back to the hotel, then returned to the Beacon to see the show. It turned out to be a good one…Mick was in better shape than he was for the first show, and for the most part it was better overall. It was more relaxed, flowed nicely and we all felt more comfortable. I would imagine that most of what Scorsese will use will come from this night…but there was some good stuff from the first one, too…and no doubt it will wind up a mixture of the two.
During both nights there were quite a lot of celebrities and familiar faces in the audience…. the Clintons, of course…and folks like Lauren Hutton, Michael J. Fox, Paul Shaffer, Angelica Houston, Michael Stipe of REM, Sheryl Crow, and others.
It was neat to see them there, and all seemed to have a wonderful time. Both shows will go down in the books as some of the most memorable Stones show ever.
Feeling pretty exhausted after the gig, and having to deal with the packing before going to bed, we chose not to go down to the bar when we got back to the hotel. Amy and Steve did go down for a bit, but Rosie and I stayed in. It took us a while to get our bags sorted out…Amy had offered to take one bag home for us so that we could lighten our load, and we put clothes in there that we felt we wouldn’t really need. We also set aside some items to be boxed up and sent back home…so all this made for a longer than usual pack up. We finally finished up about 3am and put ourselves between the sheets.
The Bransfords had to leave the hotel by about 9am in order to catch their flight home…and we had told them to come in and wake us up before they left. They did…which gave us a change to give them and Miles one last hug before we were parted. Little Miles cried a bit after we hugged him…and while I’m not sure why, it made us feel like maybe he was sad to leave his grandparents…. it was probably more like he had a wet diaper, but hey…we’ll stick with the former! They headed out the door and Rose Lane and I lay in bed for a while…but not long. We got up and piddled around with final zipping up of bags, checking emails, having coffee and such until it was time for us to settle up our bill and meet everyone in the lobby and head out of NY for San Francisco. I had begun to feel like I was catching a cold in the last couple of days…and today I could tell it was getting me. My throat was scratchy, sinuses stopped up and I had a low grade headache. Ah well, I’ve managed to get through most all the tour without being sick, and guess it’s time to pay some dues.
We were in the air and winging our way to the West Coast by 4pm. It was quite a long flight, and gave me time to work on this journal as well as catch a bit of rest. Due to Mick’s vocal problems we had moved some dates around…and were originally supposed to be flying to Vancouver today…but that show had been moved to Nov 25th and our Oakland show would be moved one day from Nov 5th to Nov 6th. This caused me to have to cancel the benefit gig at Bimbo’s with Jimmy Dillon, which was a drag. Jimmy had tried to move it from the 6th to the 5th, but unfortunately the club was not available and we had to cancel it. Jimmy said he would try to make it up by re-scheduling it after the new year, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed it works out.
Our plane landed at the Oakland airport in the early evening. We were pretty burnt out from all the stress and activity of our NY stay, and my cold was in full swing…making me feel tired and wasted. We were taken to the St. Regis Hotel….we usually stay at the Four Seasons, but they were sold out for the night and some of us were put in the St. Regis which is only about 4 blocks from the Seasons. It was a nice place, and after checking into our room we went down to sort out dinner. Not having the energy to go out, we opted for the hotel restaurant. It was fine, although with my cold I couldn’t taste much. Afterwards we went straight back to the room and I hit the bed in short order to get some much needed rest.