Well, we are truly counting down now…only two more shows to go. Today we fly back across the US yet again….all the way back to LA to play Dodger stadium. Then after that to the last city on the Bigger Bang tour, Vancouver. We slept late…we’re both (as I know all of us are) very tired at this point, and rest is much needed to keep the energy up. These long flights of late have also taken their toll…the pressure of the airplane has kept our colds (mainly our sinuses) from completely going away, and while be both are much better, we’re not looking forward to the 6 hours in the air to get back to LA. We slept ’til almost 1pm, and had a 2:30 departure from the hotel. After checking out of the room and meeting up with the gang, we made the relatively short drive to the airport and were up in the air by 4. It was a little better than we thought…a pretty easy if long flight. Arrived at Van Nuys airport just after 7pm local time, then made the excruciating hour long drive to the Four Seasons, arriving about 8:30. Got checked in, and then went down to the all to familiar bar for a drink to shake off the day’s travel. Then decided to have dinner at a place Rose Lane had spotted called Michelia, a Vietnam style restaurant on West 3rd St., just a few blocks from the hotel. It turned out to be a good choice, and we not only had a nice meal, but also had a good time talking to the proprietor, a nice lady named Kimmy Tang. Back at the room we cracked open a bottle of white wine that I had brought with us and we had a couple of glasses and fooled with our luggage that had arrived, then fell into bed.
11/19, 20, 21
Three days off before our Dodger show. After getting up and getting ourselves going, we spent some time at the pool. LA is back in a heat wave, and it’s clear skies and temps in the 80s. It felt great to soak up some sun and take some much needed down time. After a couple of hours of that, Rose Lane decided to book a pedicure and I went back to the room to get cleaned up and go to Ralph’s grocery store, a couple of blocks up on S. Doheny to get some goods for our room. On the way back with the bags, Tim Reis called me to say that he had arranged a recording session later in the day, at about 5pm, with some African musicians that he had heard about and gotten in touch with. He had also enlisted Charlie for the session, and a few other musicians…. a couple of percussionists, a violinist and a bass player. Darryl was going to do it, but had fallen a bit ill and canceled. Tim asked if I would come along and play as well, and I accepted. He told me he wanted to record “Hey Negrita” for his next “Rolling Stones Project II” release. Since we had no plans, it sounded like fun to me. I got back to the hotel and told Rosie, and she said she would meet me at the studio later. Ronnie Wood was having an art exhibit/party at a place later, starting around 7 and going on for a few hours…. so the plan was to do the session and then go to Ronnie’s thing. So Tim, Charlie, me, Torje Eike and Isobel Work (who had been invited to come and document the session with photos and videos) loaded up and headed over to the famous Capitol Records studio…. a historic, famous and easily recognizable round building in LA. I had worked there before…with Dave Edmunds. Capitol studios are most famous for all the Frank Sinatra recordings that were done there. It’s a neat place with a good vibe. We were in studio B. Upon arrival we spotted the African musicians…in their traditional dress of white robes and headdress. Tim had met them before when we were here a little over a week ago, and they had a warm greeting and introductions were passed around. These guys do not speak English, but there was an interpreter/friend/associate of theirs there, a nice lady named Leslie, that helped us communicate. She spoke French, and one of them (perhaps more) also spoke French…so it went from English to French to their African language, for us to all communicate. It took a while to get everything set up…there were quite a lot of musicians…. probably about a total of a dozen…all playing at once. Bernard Fowler had also been enlisted, and he showed up shortly afterwards. The idea that Tim had was to start it off with his sax and the percussion, then the band join in….have Bernard sing a verse and chorus in English, then have the African singer sing in his language, have some solos, let Bernard sing the bridge and then vamp it out. It was interesting to try and communicate this in the three languages, and it took some time to get a plan together with all of us understanding. But the good news is that music is a universal language, and we wound up communicating just fine with each other. It took us longer than expected, but finally about 8pm we had done two takes of the song. I had to do a quick overdub on one of them, and Tim seemed happy. One of our tour Doctors, Dr. Brad Connor, had also come along. He had a rented car, so after the session Rose Lane and I and Bernard rode with him to Ronnie’s party…bidding goodbye to all the musicians, engineers and other folks. The party was fairly close to the studio, so we didn’t have to drive far. It was in full swing when we got there, and we all milled about…. meeting some new folks and seeing others that we knew. Ronnie was really happy…. I think he sold several pieces. It was a nice affair, and we enjoyed the hang for a little over an hour. Then Brad was gracious enough to drive Rose Lane and me back towards the hotel to Orsos, a restaurant we’ve been to several times during our LA stays. We invited Brad to join us, but he had already made plans with some others. So Rosie and I enjoyed another fine meal at Orsos and afterwards called the hotel courtesy car to pick us up. It was a fun day….
The next day we started out again with the poolside hang. I did my exercises…and am just about over my shoulder injury, but still took it very easy…doing mostly cardio on the treadmill with lightweights after. It was nice and sunny again, and we loved lying out. We had lunch there and after, went back to the room. Tonight we are going to the Barbra Streisand show at Staples Center. Michael Cohl is in charge of her tour and graciously invited most all of our entourage to go. So we killed time until we got ready for that. We loaded up in a bus with about 25 of us at 6pm and headed over to Staples. The traffic was really bad, and it took us longer than we thought to get there…a little over an hour. It was interesting for most all of us, because we are so used to “being” the show…. and now we would be just like anyone in the audience…. with our tickets, waiting outside with the crowd, going in and finding our seats. It gives us an appreciation of what our own fans go through to come see us.
Rose Lane and I were seated with our friend Ed Cherney, who is a very talented audio engineer that has recorded the Stones many times through the years…. and is a very good friend as well…and there were several others from our organization around us, too…some of the catering crew, Val Adamson (Cohl’s personal assistant), Lisa Fischer and several others. We found our seats and dug in for the concert. It wasn’t long before the Orchestra started up…a fine group of musicians…. probably close to 50 in total, ably conducted by Bill Ross. They played the original overture to “Funny Girl” to warm thing up, then Barbra Came out for the first song, “Right Here, Right Now”. She was really in great voice, and during the course of the evening I was really impressed and amazed with the texture, dynamics, intonation and general delivery that she gave. My two personal favorites of the night were “Funny Girl” and “In A Most Unusual Way”. She had the tenor group “Il Divo” with her during several portions of the concert….and while they are certainly talented, in my opinion the tended to distract rather than add to the evening. All in all, we had a great time and no doubt Ms. S delivered the goods. It was a pleasant change from the rock and roll that we play…as was the volume level! It was just nice to hear and see something different, and she came across impressively.
When we went to meet the bus that had carried us there, we were surprised to learn that it had broken down. Luckily, the driver had already arranged for another bus to come, and it was waiting a few blocks away. So we all followed him to the other bus, about four or five blocks away. The drive back was a little better, but still quite long. Some of us went to the bar and had some late night fare and a couple of drinks. Then Rosie and I said our goodnights and headed up to bed. A very cool and relaxing day.
Next day we were able to lay out again…and again had lunch by the pool, enjoying the sun for a couple of hours. After that Rose Lane went out to try and find an item she was looking for to get for Amy for Christmas. I stayed in and relaxed, playing my mandolin a bit (which I haven’t done enough of lately) and surfing the channels on the boob tube. Our friend Scott Jones had come up from San Diego and called to invite us to dinner. We accepted, and went to the Ivy restaurant with him and his girlfriend Melissa later on. We finished up the night with a couple of glasses of wine in Scott’s room, and called it a day.
OK…only two more shows to go now, and tonight is one of them at Dodger stadium. It had become really cloudy over night, and it even looked as if it might rain, although the weather forecast was for lots of clouds but no wet stuff. I went down early to the gig to do the set list. It’s quite a drive from the Four Seasons to the stadium, and the traffic was pretty bad…so it took us a little over an hour to get there. I did the set list and then took some down time in the dressing room before the rest of the band got there. I didn’t have many guests coming…just Tom Kowalczyk (better known as TK) from the Kurzweil Company and his girlfriend…. and Dave Shelton, a guitar player/singer/songwriter from LA that I’ve known for a while. My tech, Will Alexander, found Tom and brought him back stage to my dressing room. I had never met Tom, but Will knew him very well. He was a nice guy, and asked me quite a lot of questions about my musical history, especially about the song “Jessica”. I showed him some of the particulars of it on my keyboard in the dressing room, and we talked about some other things…Kurzweil is tied in with the Young Chang piano company, and both have been bought by the Hyundai company. Hyundai is putting quite a lot of money into both companies, and Tom talked to me about upgrading my Young Chang YP208 piano to a larger and better model that they are coming out with soon. He also promised to send me a Kurzweil PC 1 SE keyboard to check out. I made a couple of trips to the Rattlesnake Inn to look for Dave, but never did see him. I did see some interesting folks in there, though…Stephen Stills, Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, lots of actors from the CSI TV show, Jamie Foxx and others. Mick and I had talked about inviting Bonnie Raitt to sit in with us, and we agreed that Dead Flowers would be a good option. So I borrowed an iPod from one of our backline crew, Johnny Starbuck, and got a lyric sheet and took them to give to Bonnie so she could familiarize herself with the tune. Then at one point we had the little warm up routine in Keith’s room…going over Dead Flowers and one or two other tunes. Martin Scorsese had sent some of his camera crew to film the rehearsal. A little later on when it was getting close to showtime, I went back into Keith’s room…Will had told me that Keith Emerson was coming to the show, and I wanted to meet him. There he was with Will in Keith’s room…so we met and had a short conversation and a photo op. I’ve admired Keith’s musicianship for a long time…and read his autobiography, “Pictures Of An Exhibitionist”. I reminded him that we played on the same bill many years ago in Charlotte, NC when I was with the Allman Brothers. He remembered, and we enjoyed reminiscing a bit. Soon it was time to go on, and we hit the stage. It was another strong show, maintaining the consistency that we’ve been experiencing with the last few shows…. since Las Vegas. The LA crowd was great, and it was a nice way to wind up our last US performance. Back at the hotel Rose Lane and I stayed in the room, knowing that the bar would be nuts and we just didn’t feel like dealing with the scene.
Thanksgiving Day…and another cloudy day in LA. We took our time getting up..watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV for a while…NY was having a bad weather day…rain, cold and wind…which made for a tough time for the parade folks. I also watched a bit of football on the tube and worked on the computer some. The band had arranged to have Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel in one of the private rooms. So at 7pm we went down to have cocktails in another room that the band had rented for a pre-dinner hang. Our folks gathered slowly there…and Rosie and I enjoyed talking to those that sprinkled in: Pierre deBeauport, Tony King, Dave Rouze, Lisa Fischer, Allan and Arnold Dunn, Shelley Lazar and all the others. Finally it was dinnertime, and we made the move to the other room that had been set up for us. Steve Bing had come and brought Jerry Lee Lewis and some of Jerry’s band with him. Mick had come in for a minute, but had made some other plans and left quickly. Keith and Ronnie and their families were there…but Charlie passed on the occasion. Michael Cohl was there…and most all of the rest of the band. Darryl had stayed at home and done some cooking of his own. We all sat down and started feasting on the Four Seasons fare. It turned out to be pretty good for hotel cooked food…and we held up the tradition of eating too much! I got to talk to Jerry Lee a bit and to get a photo op with him. I reminded him of a show that I had done with him years ago in Rome, Italy…called “Legends of Rock”. He recalled it and was very nice and complimentary. I also enjoyed talking to Jerry’s guitar player, Kenny Lovelace. Kenny is a fellow Alabamian and a really sweet guy…we talked about Bama and some of the mutual friends that we have from there…mostly musicians, of course. It was a really nice way for all of us to relax and celebrate the end of the US tour…and I think it was appropriate that we had Thanksgiving together with our “Stones Family”.
After dinner Rosie and I bid our adieus’ to everyone and went back to the room to finish out the night.
We travel to Vancouver today…. for the final show of the tour tomorrow. After our morning routine and lunch back at Michella’s, we loaded up with everyone to ride the bus one more time to Van Nuys airport to fly to Canada. Earlier in the day my friend Hutch Hutchinson who plays bass with Bonnie Raitt (they are opening for us again in Vancouver) had text messaged me to invite us to dinner. We accepted the invitation…. and looked forward to that. He had made the reservations, and that made it easy for us. We got to the airport and all loaded up for our last flight of the tour together. On the way, we thanked our wonderful flight crew for their fantastic service on this leg of the tour. They really have been great, and we all will miss them.
We landed after dark…around 7pm.and made the drive to the Pan Pacific Hotel. Rosie and I checked into our room and had a little time to chill before meeting our friends for dinner. Hutch had made reservations at Joe Fortes Chop House. He had invited several members of the Raitt Band, but it wound up being just Hutch and his new friend Kimberly, their great keyboardist Jon Cleary, Rose Lane and me. We met at the place and ordered drinks in the bar before being seated for dinner. It was really a lot of fun…Jon and I really bonded, talking all night about music and our influences. He’s truly an interesting guy…being from England, but moving to New Orleans some twenty five or so years ago. He moved back to England at one point for a while…and also made a trek to Cuba to explore the music there. Jon has several really good solo CDs as well as working with Bonnie for many years. He’s written a few songs for Bonnie, too…one of the more recent ones is called “Very Extraordinarily Mercenary” and gets played at about every show she does these days. At the end of the meal we were headed out the door and Jon went over to the upright piano that was near the entrance of the place. I knew what was coming and headed over there to join him. In an instant we were banging away with four hands, playing some hot boogie. When we finished, we were greeted with lots of applause and cheers from the folks there…and both of us had big grins on our faces! We left and hailed a cab that took the three of us (Hutch and Kimberly went their own way together) to our respective hotels, us dropping Jon off first and then us to the Pan Pacific. After that we wound down in our room and put ourselves between the sheets.
Show number 116, and the last one of the tour! Wow, it’s hard to believe…. but it is here, and this is it. It’s been an amazing 17 months. We began our day with the same old routine of coffee in our room and checking emails. We have a beautiful view of the harbor here in Vancouver…but it is more than a little overcast, and the forecast is for rain and perhaps even snow later on. I went down to the fitness room to workout, and while I was there on the treadmill my pal Dave Bulger came in. Dave is head of the Stihl Pacific Northwest Company…and I am coming to Oregon next February to give a presentation to his group of some 250 dealers. He had his cute little daughter with him, and was holding a bag that he said contained some gifts for me. Not wanting to interrupt my workout, he said he would leave it for me to take up to my room. I gave them both a quick hello and thanks, and finished up my workout. Back in the room we opened up the bag to find two really beautiful outfits for Miles and a nice silver frame for us. It was so thoughtful of Dave and his wife Brenda to do that…very cool.
Rosie and I had lunch in the hotel restaurant and then I got ready to go to the show on the early van that left at 2:45. By now it was raining and pretty rough outside. We got to the big BC Place Dome and I found my dressing room and set to work on the set list. It has been about 12 years since we’ve played here…back on the Voodoo Lounge tour. I finished up the set list and took some down time, trying to take a little nap…but not quite falling asleep. Still, I was able to rest for 30 minutes or so. Soon the rest of the band arrived. We were to take a picture of everyone on the stage today…all the crew, band, and staff…everybody. So at 5pm we all made our way up to the stage to get it done. There was a photographer waiting that was perched on a ladder about a third of the way down the ramp that leads to the B stage. We all gathered…. it must have been 150 or so of us in total. When the four Rolling Stones arrived, Opie (our head of production) gave a short speech of thanks to the band, and then Mick returned the favor with some short remarks thanking all the crew for their great work over the past almost year and a half. With that done, we smiled for the camera and took the picture. Then we all dispersed back to our respective stations. I went in to Mick’s dressing room to go over the set list. Ronnie was also in there. I had put Dead Flowers in again for Bonnie Raitt to sing with us, but Mick said he’d like to try something different and asked me for a suggestion. I mulled it over for a moment and came up with Shine A Light. He and Ronnie liked that idea, so I put it in to replace Dead Flowers. I did have Just My Imagination in as a suggestion, but Mick preferred Ain’t Too Proud To Beg. But then after I turned in the list to Arnold Dunn to be printed up, Arnold came and said Keith wanted to do three songs instead of just two. I think he wanted to give the horns a tune to play on, and since we’ve been doing You Got The Silver and Connection, they have not played on his segment. So he added in Slipping Away…., which meant we had to pull out another song…and we pulled Ain’t Too Proud. With that all settled, I went to the Rattlesnake to see my guests. Dave and Brenda Bulger and their friends were there, Bruce McIntire and Craig Campbell and their wives (Bruce and Craig work for Price Waterhouse Coopers and several years ago I gave a speech to the PWC group in Vancouver). Also present for one last time was Tom Knudeson…with his wife Eileen and a couple of their friends. I made the rounds to say hello to them and took some pictures with them. Keith wanted to do the rehearsal thing in his room, so we went to do that…and then Mick wanted me to go over Shine A Light with him and Bonnie in his room. Also, during the course of the evening I got to say goodbye to many of the folks that have been working with us on the tour for so long. We all have mixed emotions about this…of course we’re all ready to get back home, but it’s hard to say goodbye to people that you’ve lived with and worked with for so long…and had such a good time with. But everyone was in good spirits and the vibe was positive from all. Finally it was time to hit the stage one last time for the Bigger Bang tour. While BC Place is not known for good acoustics, our soundman Dave Natele did a good job and the gig rocked. We did both Get Off My Cloud and Start Me Up on the B stage, which was a first. Mick put out fantastic energy as did everyone…. and before we knew it, we were done and taking our bows. As we all bent over, I looked down at 13 pairs of shoes…and thought about how great this tour has been…thought about my fellow musicians and what a privilege it is to play with such talented and wonderful folks…thought about all the hard working people on the tour and how I would miss them. We walked off the stage and into the vans, saying goodbyes all the way until the doors shut and we were off back to the hotel.
After changing clothes and taking a breather, Rose Lane and I went down to a room that Michael Cohl and the band had rented for an after tour party so we could all celebrate. Keith had taken a private plane right after the show and wouldn’t be there, but the rest of the guys did come down. Charlie sat with Rose Lane and me for a good while, and Mick and Ronnie eventually joined us. Of course there were all the staff folks there as well…Allan and Arnold Dunn, Lourdes Gonzales, Tony King, Mike “Coach” Sexton, Isobel Work, Torje Eike, Barry “Spin” Mindell and all the others. All wonderful people that we’ve spent the last year and a half with…touring all over the world. Some 70+ cities in 5 different Continents. It really and truly is a second family to all of us, and Rose Lane and I are proud and happy to be a part of it all. This marks my 25th year working with the Stones, which is one heck of a landmark for me. I will miss everyone. But it’s time to go home. We certainly look forward to seeing our animals…our Jack Russell, Lilly; our Border Collies, Molly and Maggie; our cats, Booker, Jazzbeau and Alberta; our horses, Roxy, Dakota, Lucky and Stella; all my 20+ hunting dogs…and we look forward to sitting by our fireplace and sleeping in our own bed. I can’t wait to hear the sound of the wind through the Georgia pines and to walk in my forest. There is much to do at home…and of course Christmas will be here very soon. We’ll get to have all our family there…. Amy, Steve, Miles, Ashley…and all of Rosie’s folks…her mom Rosaline, her brother Alton. We’ll see our own Charlane staff…Mike Hattaway, Jacqui Bryant, Herman Robertson and others. We are truly blessed and appreciate every day that comes. I also look forward to working on my own next projects…I’ll be doing a second Christmas CD to be released in ‘07…as well as another more mainstream CD that I will hopefully also release next year. I have a lot of work ahead of me with my conservation efforts. I also will be working hard on Charlane Plantation in the coming months. And as for the Stones….who knows?….we may be working again before we all know it…or we may not regroup for a long time. That, of course, is up to four individuals named Jagger, Richards, Watts and Wood!
To all the folks that have followed this journal….I say a huge THANK YOU. Rose Lane and I have met many of you on the tour here and there…and we have had so many great comments on our website from you…for which we are truly grateful. We have followed the comments on other websites, too…and it’s been so rewarding to have so many of you tell us how much you’ve enjoyed following the tour, and also rewarding to get so many “thank yous” for my efforts on the set lists. So, my friends…I wish you all the best and we look forward to the next time….whenever that might be. In the meantime…HAPPY HOLIDAYS to all of you and remember, stay in the groove!
Much love, Chuck and Rose Lane Leavell
SOME TOUR STATISTICS
PLAYED TO OVER 3.5 MILLION PEOPLE (NOT COUNTING RIO DE JANERO, WHERE THERE WERE AN ESTIMATED 2 MILLION)
GROSS OF OVER $440 MILLION DOLLARS