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Steven Wilson Tour Blog 2013

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Tour Blog Part 27 : Park West, Chicago, Illinois

Park West

The venue Park West is nicely laid out. The dressing room is not very large, but the backstage bathroom and shower were good (best tiling of any on the tour so far!). We set up on what is a wide but shallow stage with access only on the side that I am not on. The previous gig at the Cleveland House of Blues had a very deep stage and good access at both sides. Much easier for getting on and off for the songs I do not play on. The shallow stage in Chicago meant the audience felt very close to the band. We could see the whites of their eyes and I certainly felt more visible too. 

Oh yes. One thing I forgot to say about the Cleveland gig was that I found a room backstage to do some clarinet practice. As a woodwind player, particularly a reeds player, one really does need to practice to keep one's sound, embouchure, and general technique. I am much less of a clarinet player than a sax and flute player, so it was very useful to do some practice. The benefit of the practice was very noticeable to me on both the Cleveland and Chicago shows. I wish I could do it every day when on tour, but the facilities generally are just not there. I am sure it would be very annoying to the other guys in the band if in a small dressing room I was practising my scales up and down and squeaking away on those high notes when they were trying to chill out. 

The Chicago gig was apparently gig number 75 that this band has done since starting in October 2011. That is a lot! We toured Oct/Nov 2011, April/May 2012, and now. Steven, Nick, Adam and I have done every gig. Marco didn't do the couple Chad Wackerman did (and Chad is coming back soon) and there have been four guitarists, so Guthrie is the new boy. I remember well the gig we did at Chicago Park West on 18 Nov 2011, as it was the last gig we did with the guitarist John Wesley and the final gig on that first tour. Also, after the gig Steven's manager Andy Leff sat each member of the band down in the venue and told us how much Steven had loved that tour and playing with the band and how he wanted to continue with it and do more - and were we interested? Until then it had really just been an experiment to see how it all went. So here we are 18 months later with the new album which we recorded together in Los Angeles doing very well and the band going from strength to strength. 

The Chicago gig went down a storm and the audience was excellent. We did the song 'Sectarian' tonight but instead of the gauze at the front of the stage dropping in the middle of the song, it was decided to drop it after the end of the song. This was because with the curved shape of the front of the stage and the way the gauze was hung, it was thought that when it fell it might land on Steven, Guthrie and Nick's heads, and it might turn into an unplanned comedy moment. It would have looked ridiculous if Steven was walking around onstage with a white sheet on his head! When the gauze did come down, this did not infact happen, but it could have, so it was probably a wise precaution. 

After the encore, I went out to meet and greet fans again and sign autographs. Nice to meet the good people of Chicago and beyond and talk to some very appreciative fans who had clearly loved the show. 

Back onto the bus for another Jeremy Brett episode of Sherlock Holmes (the Solitary Cyclist) on DVD and then to bed. Next stop Minneapolis, home of the legendary artist known as Prince. Tried to check out some of his stuff on Youtube, but there is actually not so much there. Apparently he has his lawyers take down as many unauthorised clips as they can. Some random Prince information - In 2001 he became a Jehovah's Witness and he still sometimes knocks on people's doors to discuss his faith. He is a vegetarian and in 2006 was voted 'Worlds sexiest vegetarian'. His releases have sold over 80 million copies and he has won 7 Grammys. He was called 'Skipper' when he was a little boy. 

I went for a short walk to grab a coffee, and saw two strange things: a 'Pedal Pub', which is a bike for 10 people with a bar; and the Target Centre (or Center) which is a big arena for basketball and concerts and on the entrances are signs 'No guns are allowed on the premises'. Welcome to America.

Pedal Pub
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Tour Blog Part 26 : House of Blues, Cleveland, Ohio

The House of Blues

The venue was the Cleveland 'House of Blues'. This is a chain and on previous US tours with Steven we played a few of these - LA, Dallas and Orlando come to mind. Many years ago I played at the one in Harvard Square, Boston with the band Gong, and I remember seeing Dan Aykroyd there chatting to someone. I think that was actually the original one and he started the chain with John Belushi and others. These venues are nicely laid out and the facilities are usually pretty good. This one was no exception. 

So the Soundcheck-After-Day-Off (SADO?) was again a good one. After the usual checks of the system, equipment and monitors, we launched into an instrumental jam that was pretty happening. Definitely musically a notch up from previous ones. Mainly open improvs with grooves and there was one piece that referenced Miles' track Tutu. Adam was of course on that original album. There was an electric Miles vibe to some other parts, and overall some good music was made, methinks. Much fun too. 

The gig was not till 9pm so there was a long gap after the soundcheck. We ordered dinner to be delivered backstage and I ordered a Buttermilk Grilled Chicken which was so ridiculously large I barely managed to eat half of it before feeling totally stuffed. Marco has a USB memory stick full of Hitchcock movies, so I took the opportunity to watch on the bus 'Frenzy' which I had not seen. It is a classic Hitchcock film from 1972 and very much a London film, made largely around Covent Garden when it was still a fruit and veg market. It was Hitchcock's first film back in London after having filmed many in America and great to see Covent Garden and central London as it was in 1972. Interestingly, the directors own father had worked in that market and Hitchcock wanted to capture film of the market as a working fruit and veg market before that was all transferred elsewhere, which happened in 1974. It is about a serial killer and is a thriller. A great film - I enjoyed it very much.

The gig itself was good. A very enthusiastic audience verging on rowdy at times, and in fact Steven did say at one point "Are you listening to me?" as a few members of the audience seemed to be going over the top. However when Steven asked for quiet for the opening section of the song 'Raider 2' which has long quiet pauses in, the audience was completely silent. I was impressed. We played the slightly different set to the night before as there were fans that were attending both shows. Afterwards a few of us went out to the merch' table to autograph CDs etc and shake some hands.

Then onto the bus for the overnight drive to Chicago. The bus has two lounges both with TV and DVD players, a bathroom, small kitchen with sink, fridge, freezer, microwave and kettle, lots of storage and also comfy seats/sofas and twelve bunks which are not huge but comfortable. Each bunk has a curtain for privacy. I sleep fine on the bus and it makes complete sense to tour like this, doing the big drives while we sleep. I took a couple of photos to let you have a peek into our private bus world.

We rolled into a rainy Chicago this morning for our first time zone change of the tour. Clocks one hour back. The venue is Park West and is another good one. Should be fun tonight.

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