I love Madrid. We always enjoy the city…the people are nice, the restaurants good, the museums and shops fun. It was here when Mick lost his voice last year, causing us to have to cancel all of our shows in Spain. We were all very disappointed….Mick more than anyone, I’m sure. There were of course quite a lot of disappointed and perhaps disenchanted fans as well, and we all wanted to make things up as best we could this time. Barcelona had gone well for us, and we would put out our best here in Madrid and in El Ejido.
Rose Lane and I arrived in our room at the Westin Palace, one of our favorite hotels. This time we had a small balcony off of our bedroom, so there would be a little space to catch some rays and enjoy the street scene below us. After decompressing for a while we checked with the concierge about dinner. We wanted to go to La Trusche, one of our favs that is in the Plaza Santa Domingo. The concierge said that they don’t take reservations and that it would likely be crowded. So we made reservations at another place, but decided we’d go to La Trusche first to check it out. It was indeed crowded, but we stuck it out, waiting for about 15 minutes or so for a table. We enjoyed some of the usual dishes we order….the pan fried trout with little bits of bacon scattered over the fish, some pedron peppers, some spinach, some of the Iberic ham and a couple of other small plates.
Lulu Gonzales, Michael Cohl’s personal assistant on this tour used to live in Madrid and worked with some Flamenco troupes. She had arranged for all of us a special presentation in a bar of one of the hotels in the Santa Anna Square that would feature a famous dancer named Sarah Barris (ck spelling). So after finishing up our dinner we made our way up to the hotel and found the bar that she had arranged. It was very crowded in there, and I saw only a few of our entourage there…mostly staff folks. We ordered a couple of glasses of wine and hung out for a good 45 minutes or so by which time more of our folks had showed…including Keith, Ronnie and more of our musicians. It had become even more crowded by then, and there was quite a lot of smoking going on, and with all the folks in the room it had warmed up considerably as well. So it wasn’t the most comfortable of situations by the time the presentation started, plus many of the other people there (that seemed to be mostly locals) were pressing up to the front, obscuring our view of the spot where the performers were…which was not a proper stage and not elevated. Anyway, they finally began and I did my best to enjoy it…what little I could see looked very fun and they were all obviously very talented. The two guitarists were flailing away, playing with fire and fury, and the singers were vocalizing with passion, the troupe clapping in that fantastic syncopated rhythm and the dancers stomping their heels in a heated pace on the wooden floor. Occasional shouts of approval came out from the various troupe members. I would have really enjoyed it except for the crowded smoky conditions…and the fact that most of the locals there were talking loudly, making it difficult to really hear as we’d have liked. We stayed for a while, but finally gave it up. A shame, as it could have really been a great evening if not for the unnecessary distractions. But it was so nice of Lulu to put it all together, and we certainly had a great appreciation of the talented performers.
It was a relief to get out into the square where it was open and cool….and the air much improved over that in the bar. We strolled back to the hotel and sipped some wine before putting our heads on the pillows.
Show day at Calderon Stadium. But before I put my mind on the music, I went out for a nice run in the beautiful Parque de Madrid which is just about a six block walk from the Palace. It was a nice sunny day and after stretching out I started my jog. This is one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen, and every time I go to it I’m amazed. It’s very big, well kept with several outstanding gardens…especially the large rose garden. There are plenty of paths and roads throughout it, making for multiple choices of ways to go. Some of the roads are very wide, some narrow….there are nice shaded places as well as open sunny areas. It’s really a joy to be in. I was having a really wonderful time, soaking up the sun in my jaunt…until about 35 minutes in when I felt a cramp in my left calf. I thought about trying to just slow down and press on…but decided to stop and feel it out. I’m glad I did…as it turned out to be a bit more than a cramp. It wasn’t all that bad, but I could feel that I’d sprained it slightly. I stopped and stretched it out a little, then walked the rest of the way back to the hotel.
After resting a bit out on our nice little patio for a while, I cleaned up and we decided to go out for a bit, taking a cab out to a shopping area that we’d been to before last year. We walked around for a couple of hours, but wound up not making any purchases. Still, it was nice to be out and about for a while. Back at the hotel we made ready to go to the gig.
I put together a set list that I thought the Spanish fans would appreciate, with a good many familiar songs. Mick was not feeling his best and was a little worried about his voice, so I had to avoid tunes that might put a strain on him. For one thing, that meant taking out “I’ll Go Crazy” and putting in “Night Time Is The Right Time”, which we haven’t played yet on this run. I did get in Monkey Man and Sway in there, so there were a few “oddities” in the mix.
The show chugged right along, and Mick made it through fine. It’s hard not to notice that the ticket sales have been a little off here in Spain…I’m sure that’s mostly due to the fact that we had cancelled all the ones last year and people were somewhat skeptical about whether we’d actually play this time around. Plus no doubt some were upset at having made major plans to come from other cities to see us, only to be disappointed. But we still had what I would say was strong attendance, and the fans that did come this time were wonderfully enthusiastic and heard a great show.
Rosie and I had to pack up our bags when we arrived back at the hotel after the gig…as we were leaving the next day for El Ejido. So we dealt with that and were pretty tired afterward and hit the hay.
Back in travel mode…but before we left we went out for lunch at a place about halfway to the Square. We had noticed this place several times before when we’ve been in Madrid, but it’s always been closed for some reason. Rosie had suggested we give it one more go, and it was open this time. It’s called La Rincon de Cruz Blanca. It was really a great place, and the food was excellent. Rose Lane tried the gazpacho which came with all the trimmings, and I had an egg dish….which I would describe as scrambled eggs with several items spilled in during the cooking process…including mushrooms, asparagus, sausage and some other items. I forget what they call this, but it’s really delicious. They also served us those wonderful Spanish olives….it made for a nice final meal in Madrid.
Then we were off to a place we’ve never been before….El Ejido. We didn’t know much about it, so I looked it up on the Internet. It’s in the Southern part of Spain very close to the coast of the Mediterranean, near Almeria. We flew into Almeria and drove from there about 45 minutes to El Ejido. Along the way we were quite surprised at the terrain. We could see the coastline as we drove along the very rocky, mountainous and desert-like surroundings. This is obviously a real growth area of the Country. There were lots of cranes and new construction going on along the way. There were some very dramatic bridges that crossed from mountain to mountain, and all around were these huge structures with white plastic tops on them. They were everywhere, going on for miles and miles. We soon found out that they are more or less like greenhouses, and that they grow vegetables in them. This is a very dry area, so they had to be fed by drilled wells. There was some speculation about if they were hydroponics or used soil in the process of growing the plants, but I never found out for sure. Most of them were empty, so I guess it was not the season for their use.
As we drove up the mountains, we had several view of the large city of Almeria down below us. I was surprised at how large it was, and again, at all the construction there and all around us. We finally arrived at the hotel, the Barceló Envia Hotel Wellnes and Golf. It is actually in Almeria, but way up in the mountains and on the fringe of the city. We went to our room, which had a nice large outdoor patio that offered nice views of the mountains and valleys, and hung out for a while. Bobby Keys had the room next to us, and had been flying his new small remote control helicopter. The wind had caught it and it was stuck up on the roof above his patio. One of our security guys, Erik Hausch, had come up to help him sort it out. They eventually had to call for a ladder to climb up and retrieve it. Above us and a couple of doors down was Scott Jones and his girlfriend Sheila. We waived to them and they signaled for us to come up to visit them, so we did. We all decided to go to dinner at the hotel restaurant and made our way down after an hour or so. The meal was ok but not stellar….but the company and conversation was good. We finally finished up and said our goodnights, heading up for sleep.
On the morning of the 30th when we woke up, I read the sad news in our newsletter that a member of our European “steel crew” (these are the crew that sets up the scaffolding of our staging) had been killed in a tragic accident during the taking down of the stage in Madrid. His name was Benno Goldewijk from Holland. Also killed was one of the local workers in Madrid, and two others had been injured. This is the kind of news that we never want to hear, but unfortunately it was true. None of us in the Entourage really know most of these guys….they work around our schedule, and we rarely see them. But still they are part of our “family”, and it was incredibly sad and painful to hear of this. There were no further details of the accident in the newsletter…just that Benno and the local worker had died and the other two injured.
Rose Lane and I followed our usual morning routine, talking about how terrible this was and how in all these years we’ve never had something like this happen. We eventually went out for some lunch, and at the designated time met everyone else for the bus ride to El Ejido to do the show. There was a grim feeling all day….and when we talked to some of the other crew folks we could feel the pain and heaviness of loss that they all had. One of the guys in the catering crew, a nice young man named Dan, had known Benno and had become friends with him. He described him to me….a smallish fellow with lots of tattoos and a shaved head…and I could sort of remember seeing him amongst the crew a couple of times when we had finished a show and we were walking to our vans….and the steel crew guys were waiting to start taking down the stage. Dan told me he as a really great guy, very “up” all the time….and I had a flash of seeing him that way. As we went through the early part of our routine backstage, Rose Lane and I went to the Rattlesnake to get a bite to eat. Soon we noticed that many of the crew guys were coming in to the RI….as well as members of our Entourage. It became obvious that there was a meeting of everyone that would soon occur, and that was confirmed after asking around. The room filled up and it wasn’t long before Mick, Keith, Ronnie, Charlie and Michael Cohl came in…..and stood alongside Opie SKJERSETH, our Production Manager. Mick spoke first, greeting everyone and expressing on behalf of the band how sad we all were to hear of the tragedy. He eloquently talked about how hard he knew it was for everyone to carry on under the circumstances, and that he wanted everyone to know that as a family we all share the pain and sorrow of the loss. He also expressed that if anyone felt the need to talk about the situation, that the doors were open to everyone to seek counseling either from within or outside our organization. Keith also spoke…but it was difficult to understand what he was saying as he spoke very quietly….still, it was obvious that he was expressing his sorrow and his appreciation of all those that work in our crew. Michael Cohl also said a few words of condolence. Finally Opie spoke, and could not totally contain the emotion he felt…having to pause to catch himself from breaking down. His words and obvious heart felt emotions were something that carried through the entire room…and it became a very deep emotional moment for all of us. As a Family, we all felt the grief of this terrible loss.
It is indeed difficult to carry on at a time like this….but this is what we do, and no doubt Benno (and I know that goes for all of us) would want the show to go on.
Go on it did, and it was in my opinion the best performance of the tour so far. I believe we were all playing for Benno and the others….I know I was.