The Official Website of...

Steven Wilson Tour Blog 2013

News, reviews, music and more about Theo Travis.

Tour Blog Part 35 : Sao Paolo, Brazil

Teatro Bradesco, Sao Paolo, Brazil

And so we come to the last gig of this whirlwind tour. 3 continents, 14 countries, 39 cities, 40 concerts, playing to around 60,000 people. It has been one hell of a ride. The final gig was in São Paulo, Brazil. When we landed in São Paulo we went straight to the hotel. Most of us were pretty wiped out, so had room service dinner which was very good. The following day I spent quite a lot of time on FaceTime (which is like Skype but even better and only on Apple Macs) speaking with home in England dealing with family matters.

Eventually I went out for a walk just to take a look around the area local to the hotel. After all, I was in Brazil. At home the stereotypical image of Brazil is sunshine, beautiful beaches like Ipanema, smiling beautiful people and a sun baked outdoor life. Well, on my short walk, the heavens opened and I got drenched with rain. More like Manchester! I did take refuge in Starbucks, also known to some as the American Embassy, had a coffee and then looked around some shops before returning to the hotel. We left for the gig at 5 pm, though the crew had been there all day setting up. Despite the venue being a beautiful and large concert hall which reminded me of the Royal Festival Hall in London, unfortunately the in house crew and technicians were not great. In fact several of our crew, who are all fantastic said they had had the most difficult day of their working lives.

Things not turning up for hours, staff not doing their job, people being generally very unhelpful and chatting with their mates rather than working etc etc. However the two women who were representatives from the Promoter were excellent and very helpful. It is a credit to our guys that Steven did not even know there had been any problem until after the show, because they had made it all happen despite the poor in house crew. In the dressing room, Steven practised his introduction to the audience in Portuguese. He commented just how different it is to Spanish, but I think he did a good job at learning his bit.

Anyway...we went onstage at 9.30 pm. The audience was seated and until Steven asked them to stand, the response was very appreciative but slightly muted. It seems that when an audience stands the level of vocal enthusiasm increases significantly.

Actually the whole subject of how an audience responds is interesting. There were people in the audience who I know were listening intensely to the gig and very much enjoying it. They applauded enthusiastically but did not go crazy. I know this does not mean they liked it any less than those who did go crazy. I myself have been at concerts I loved, but did not go crazy.

For some, or many, listening to music is a very personal experience and an internal and almost solitary experience, even when there is a crowd. Music can affect one deeply and that need not necessarily go hand in hand with whooping and hollering and jumping up and down. So I do very much understand that. However.....standing on stage, it does fire up and inspire the band if the audience does go wild (as opposed to go mild).

I should say that the audiences have been absolutely fabulous on this tour, with special mentions (as far as I can remember in this jet-lagged state) for those in Montreal, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Mexico, Philadelphia, Glasgow and Paris.

So the gig in Sao Paulo went very well. We played well I think, the sound was good, the crowd was lovely. A couple of things did make me laugh out loud (or should I say 'lol'....argh) First of all, in the song 'Watchmaker', the gauze comes down at the front of the stage for the film, then the lights go up on the band and we play behind the gauze. When the lights went up, the gauze was resting on Guthrie's guitar and right in his face. Steven looked like he was sitting in a tent and Nick's tambourine and microphone were completely smothered! Jason and Scott from our crew ran around trying to pull it off them while Steven sang, but I think there was a big smile on his face, as it was all a little 'Spinal Tap'.

The other thing that still makes me smile, even after all these gigs is during the song 'Harmonie Korine', when Nick strikes a certain pose, which I call the 'Bassman of the Apocalypse'. (photo right) It looks like he is in a trance communing with a greater being directly above his head and channeling some incredible energy down the neck of his bass, like a lightening rod. I love it and it does make me chuckle.

After the gig I met up with my friend Leonardo Pavkovic from Moonjune records, who is also the manager of Soft Machine Legacy (and Allan Holdsworth and others). He is also a friend of Chad's. He is a top man and works very hard for music he is passionate about. My other guests were Fabio Golfetti and his son who came along with Leonardo. Fabio is the current guitarist in the band Gong, and I met him when I sat in with that band at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London last November. A very good guitarist and lovely bloke he is also involved in record distribution and dealt with distribution of some of the early Porcupine Tree albums in Brazil.

We chatted backstage for a while before going back to the hotel. As it was the last night of the tour we all had a very enjoyable drink in the bar before turning in. Great to talk with Nick (amongst others) about the scene in Birmingham in the early 1980s - the Rum Runner club, Barbarellas, Duran Duran, the group Fashion and the hip Oasis clothes market with its cool stalls where I used to hang out as a young teenager marvelling at the weird beautiful people.

By about 3 am it was time for packing my things for leaving and for sleep. The following morning I hoped to meet my friend Dave Sturt for breakfast as he had flown into São Paulo that morning for a couple of Gong gigs. There was a plan, but as he had just done the overnight flight from the UK, I was not surprised he did not make it. I did meet up with Leonardo again, with Chad and Adam and had a good chat over breakfast. We then said our good byes to the Americans in our group who were flying later and we left for the airport and the flight home. Ahhh......home. Looking forward to that very much.

So there we have it. The end of this amazing tour. I can honestly say that it has been one of the very best tours I have ever had the good fortune to be on. The music is great, the band and all the individual musicians in it are wonderful and I cannot imagine a better crew. It was extremely well organised and managed and we covered a lot of ground. Great to meet so many fans too. Five and half weeks on the road is exhausting, but it was made as comfortable as it can be. Of course it was very difficult being in Argentina so far from home when my mother passed away and I am thankful I could get home so soon after it happened.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I hope you enjoyed the show if you were there. For those who read this blog (and I thank you for all the kind comments I have received), I hope you enjoyed having a ringside seat and a peek behind the scenes. It was a blast. And so I bid you...
Thank you and goodnight!

BUT, that is not in fact it, because there are some summer festival gigs coming up around Europe and then in the autumn the tour starts up again around the UK, Europe and beyond. So do check out the dates at stevenwilsonhq.com

If you have enjoyed this tour blog and/or my honking and tooting, please do visit my own recordings store at the ordering page. There are lots of CDs and vinyl albums both of my solo work and collaborations with Robert Fripp, Soft Machine Legacy, Cipher, Goldbug and others. I thought I would do a special promotion for anyone who has been reading the blog or wants to try some of my music, so I will throw in a signed photo, and for two or more CDs or vinyls I will also throw in an extra CD for free. Just message me through Facebook or the Message page on my website, write 'SWBlog' and say which extra CD you would like. How does that sound? I thank you.


578 Hits
0 Comments

Tour Blog Part 34 : Buenos Aires, Argentina

Teatro Vorterix, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

As soon as we arrived in Argentina I received a telephone call with the terrible news that my dear mother had suddenly passed away. It was a big shock and very difficult for me being so far away from my family. I would spend the evening and morning speaking to the family in England working out what to do and talking about this awful news. We arrived at our hotel that I remembered from last trip to Buenos Aires. Last time however, I seem to remember having only about 4 hours sleep in the hotel room before a super- early check out for the airport. This time there was more time and I was grateful for that. We have been away for about 5 weeks now and one does really appreciate the private time one has in a hotel room. I had room service dinner which was pleasingly good, and tried to get some sleep.

We went to the venue for soundcheck at 3.30 pm. A high stage in a night club type venue. I think there was a late night disco after our gig too. In the dressing room was a TV and there was a lot of news about the death in prison of the Argentinian dictator Jorge Videla. I had not heard of him but he was prior to Pinochet and we were told by Carlos, our most excellent South American tour manager that he was the most barbaric and evil of the Argentinian dictators. Under his regime between 1976 and 1981 an estimated 30,000 political opponents were rounded up and killed in what became known as "the Dirty War". Practices used against opponents of his military junta included the kidnapping of their new-born children who were later given to members of the army and state officials. Tortured militants were thrown from planes and helicopters into the River Plate so their bodies would never be found. They received the name 'desaparecidos'- the disappeared. He had, however, remained a free man for long after his reign of terror and was only in fact imprisoned last year.

Certain members of the band also got quite excited at the voluptuous and sexy news readers! Nick amused us with his alien mask. One fan had given Steven gifts including an Astor Piazzolla CD. Steven was not aware of his music so played the CD and we all talked a little about him. I was very aware of his music, have various recordings at home and have played and taught some of his pieces for saxophone eg 'Histoire du Tango'. It was good to hear some of this music, especially being here in Argentina. A quick but amusing game of the A-Z of bass players and it was just about time to go onstage.

The club was rammed and the audience was super excited. Loud unison football chants before we went on, in between numbers and when the gig ended. The monitoring levels felt slightly different tonight and I particularly got a good level of drums in my mix. I thought Chad played amazingly and particularly enjoyed listening to him tonight - his rhythmic 'feel', his responsiveness, his groove and with a huge sound. It seems this band does not drop below a certain very high level. Most groups have nights when something goes badly wrong, and although minor things do go wrong with this group (one song had to be restarted tonight), they are tiny, the playing level is always stellar and the lights, sound and technical side of the production are always under control and right.

After the gig there were a lot of fans clambering for autographs. When we went out to the bus to get back to the hotel, we had to be escorted by security and then fans surrounded the bus and were knocking on the windows. It was never threatening but certainly seemed like the next level. Amusingly Adam has started getting his own back on all the fans who want photos, by asking groups of fans to stand together while he takes a photo of them. It then became more convoluted, as a fan took a photo of Adam taking a photo of the fans! So I guess the next layer is for Adam to capture a photo of a fan taking a photo of Adam taking a photo of the fans!
Had a good quiet chat and a 'wee dram' before turning in, then sleep.

Today got up quite early for breakfast and more joyous airport check-in shenanigans. We arrived in plenty of time and Ian and the crew sorted everything out and got the boarding passes. Since the slight problem with getting my tenor sax on the plane as hand luggage and kept out of the hold (as happened on the LA-Mexico flight), I have a new cunning plan. When walking through security, and standing in the various queues on the way to the plane under the constant scrutiny of airport staff, I hold the sax upright in its rectangular box and hide it behind my leg while I walk with a rather rigid straight leg - a bit like a man with a wooden leg. No one sees it...no one asks me to check it in... Marvellous! It worked again today.

The flight itself was fine. I watched the episode of 'Glee' with Gwyneth Paltrow as a substitute teacher, and although the programme was very silly, it did remind me how inspiring and rewarding it can be working with music with young people. I run a large jazz group and a saxophone quartet at a school in Highgate, London. We have a jazz evening every year when I combine them with my professional jazz quartet. It is wonderful hearing them play together and great to hear the students' joy at playing at such a high musical level. Truly inspiring.

We touched down, spent ages getting through customs and immigration and finally got into the van and to the hotel. Phew... So, tomorrow is our gig here in Sao Paolo, Brazil - the last of the 40 gigs of this stretch of this amazing tour.

576 Hits
0 Comments

Tour Blog Part 33 : Santiago, Chile

We left our hotel in Mexico City to head for the airport with plenty of time to spare, given the anticipated lengthy check-in with all our gear. We had been staying in a posh and comfortable hotel, though in some of the rooms the hot water had not worked for some of the time nor the TV. When I checked out of my room, my room bill included a charge for breakfast (even though this was included), a charge for the mini bar (which had been locked the entire time I was there) and a tax payable on the mini bar items which I had not consumed. I was not happy. So after some discussion, all these charges were removed. A bit annoying though.

We left the hotel having posed for photos with a few more fans and headed off through Mexico City for the airport. The traffic was terrible but we had plenty of time and it at least gave me a chance to see some street life in the city. Lots of small shops selling steering wheels, plumbing, clothes, and bric a brac, as well as all the places to eat and drink. There was a constant stream of street sellers walking through the traffic selling amongst other things steering wheels (how many steering wheels can anyone need?), white plastic eggs, toys and flowers.

We got to the airport and Ian, with the help of the rest of our fine crew, dealt with all the check in business. Our plane was delayed by an hour and a half, apparently because a volcano near the airport had erupted...! That did not sound good. The flight was an eight and a half hour overnight flight. That did not sound like fun either. Then we were told there was a further delay, so I played chess with Nick on his computer. The game is yet to be finished. When the plane finally took off at 11.20 pm it was three hours late. The only one good thing about the delay was it meant I sat with Chad and had a good chat about his working with Frank Zappa. Chad was in Frank's band from 1981 to 1988, so had lots to tell. I am a medium but not huge Zappa fan, but was fascinated to hear how things were in the band and what he was like. Zappa was hugely prolific, extremely talented, and built his own audience his own way playing very left-field, complex music that was utterly individual. He really made it work on his own terms and made a success of his music and his band in a way that anyone would have predicted was impossible. And Chad was right there in the middle of it for years. Hearing about that first hand was priceless.

The flight was full and as I am quite tall, not very comfortable. I watched much of the film 'Inception' which is a Christopher Nolan science fiction film with Leonardo de Caprio that Steven had recommended. A thriller about getting inside someones dream (and dream within a dream) in order to plant an idea to change the future for personal and political gain, it is an interesting and very well made film, but by 2am I had had enough and needed to sleep. After dozing but not sleeping for a while and then a sort of rubber scrambled egg breakfast, I revisited Pat Metheny's 'Still Life (Talking) on the in-flight audio system which I loved in the late 1980s and had not heard for years. It is one of his classics. We flew into Chile over the Andes mountains and it was cool to see them as we descended.

When we landed there was concern at the baggage reclaim as Steve's and Guthrie's cases did not appear on the conveyor belt. As someone who has had their baggage lost by an airline before I shared their concern. A couple of years ago I played a jazz festival in Sardinia (with Soft Machine Legacy with special guest Tony Levin) and my suitcase with my soprano sax, pedals and all my personal stuff did not arrive. It had for some reason not been put on the plane. The suitcase did eventually arrive two days later - the day after the gig! Then after 10 mins the baggage belt started again and Guthrie's and Steven's bags did appear. Phew! When we went through customs I knew things were going well when the lady customs official asked if she could pose with Steven and Nick and have her photo taken.

We got to the hotel and the crew only had about 40 mins before turning round and going to the venue to set up. The band had about 4 hours, so I grabbed a bite to eat and went to bed for some much needed sleep.

Later we went to the venue which is the same one we played in last year - a mini arena called Teatro Caupolican which holds about 2200 people. During the soundcheck, quite a lot of adjustments had to be made because there was a lot of hired equipment, not all of which worked. In fact the bass amplifier did not work, a replacement was brought in though one of the speakers on that was held together (just) with sticky tape, so that one had to be replaced too. There were problems with one of Guthrie's guitar amps too. However after a longish soundcheck we got everything working satisfactorily. The sound always changes considerably once an audience is in the room too.

Before we went onstage we could hear the large crowd singing a football chant. They were clearly pumped and were going to have a good time. The gig itself was really great for me. I liked the layout of the venue, the sound was clear, the audience was very enthusiastic and they clearly loved it. I think I played OK too. Afterwards I met some fans and did the autographs and photos thing. After all, how often do I get to play in Chile? We got back to the hotel quite late, but there was just time for last orders and one drink outside in the very pleasant patio area around the fire by the pool. The whole band and several of the crew were there and it was good to relax after a long and tiring two days before turning in. Steven had been given a thick book of romantic classic Chilean poetry and he regaled us with a readIng in his best Spanish. None of us understood a word, but it sounded marvellous. Nick had been given a bottle of some seriously strong local liqueur which smelled so dangerous none of us even dared try it.

Then today we flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina right over the Andes mountain range for our penultimate concert of this leg of the tour.


583 Hits
0 Comments

Tour Blog Part 32 : Teatro Metropolitan, Mexico City

Fans in Mexico

Somehow a group of fans found out which hotel we were in and from the time we arrived they were outside waiting for autographs and photos. Some particularly enthusiastic ones seemed to camp out there for 2 whole days! We did meet a lot of them and sign CDs and pose for photos. Clearly the band coming to Mexico was very important to them and they were serious fans. 

Before the gig itself a group of us from the band were going to walk to the venue as it was not far from the hotel, but the throng was so big, if we had gone out the front door we would not have made it in time for the gig, so we sneaked out the back door of the hotel - proper rock star style. This is very different from 'jazz world', and Chad, Adam and I joked about this on our way out. 

The venue is the Teatro Metropolitan, the same theatre where the 'Get all you deserve' DVD was filmed in 2012. It seats 3000 people and was completely sold out. There is a huge and very high balcony as well as the stalls seats. As we had not brought our own amplifiers and equipment eg. Chad's drums, or Steven' s keyboard, these were all rented and so we had a longer soundcheck to check everything was working OK. It was fine, but things did need a bit of tweaking. 

When we walked onstage the roar of the crowd was deafening. Everyone stood up (downstairs at least) immediately and stayed standing up for the rest of the gig. The gig went well and was very well received. Steven even learnt some Spanish phrases to welcome the crowd. That went down well. Playing to a full venue of this size definitely felt different to our usual theatres and rock venues. This felt more like an arena or stadium crowd. Huge and loud. They were clearly listening carefully though as they clapped solos and were totally silent for the very quiet parts of songs (like the beginning of Raider 2). The monitor sound was not the easiest and that combined with not having the usual guitar amps (Marshalls instead of Bad Cats) meant there were some additional challenges. However I don't think the audience would have noticed any of this, and the show was good. I have already received messages from people in the audience from Facebook and my own website saying how much they loved the gig. Next stop....Santiago, Chile.

551 Hits
0 Comments

Tour Blog Part 31 : LA - Mexico City

Mexico City

The day off in Downtown LA was relaxing. I had planned to meet up with a friend who I last saw in September when we were in L.A recording 'the Raven...' album at East West studios on Sunset Boulevard. However she had to cancel so I just chilled most of the day and was not very sociable. I did get concerned however when from my hotel room I heard some screeching tyres then a very loud bang. It sounded like a nasty traffic accident. I was even more surprised when about 30 mins later I heard another screech of tyres and an equally loud bang. I thought maybe the first accident had been in a hidden spot so someone else had driven straight into them. Ouch! An hour later I heard yet another screech and bang. This was getting weird. I decided to get out of my room and go for a walk to see what downtown LA is like as I have never been here. On the next block was a whole film crew and movie cameras and lots of people milling about with megaphones. It seems that a movie for Universal was being shot right there. Some cops and robbers type thing featuring Ice T and they were filming a scene with screeching cars and an explosion. Well I guess Hollywood is just down the road, so fair enough I thought. 

I took a long walk down 7th Street, past the Jewellery district and the Fashion district. On Broadway I saw some historic movie houses that have been renovated, some as performance spaces. Some of the buildings and shops looked pretty run down, and others just old. There has been a lot of renovation however including lots of new Loft space apartments. I chanced upon an interesting alley called St Vincent's Court (photo right), which has a slightly surreal feel to it and doesn't seem to fit with neighbouring 7th St. A cobbled street mainly full of Mediterranean and European small eateries it has a quaintness unlike any of the surrounding area and feels a little like a slice of Victorian London or Paris. I did find an amazing 'Juice Crafters' bar nearby and bought what is called an 'Oh yes', which was quite delicious. I later bought a light Mexican dinner which was a) not great but OK, and b) pretty dumb considering I was flying to Mexico the next day. Seemed like the right thing at the time, though... The following morning our lobby call was 6.45 am. This is a bit of a change from getting up on the tour bus at around 10.30 am. As we were flying, we had to take all the stage equipment with us, so all the guitars, basses, pedal boards, effects, lights, microphones, stage backdrop etc had to be checked in as baggage. We needed to allow some extra time for this as it can get complicated, especially if the airport staff at check-in happen to have got out of bed on the wrong side and decide to take it out on you. So we got to LAX airport and checked in etc and thankfully it was not too bad. The flight was completely full, so although I took my tenor sax as hand luggage, there was no room for it in the overhead lockers, and the air stewardess took it from me to put it somewhere - I assumed a cupboard or something. The flight itself was 3.5 hours and was OK. When we landed that was when the fun started. First of all, I was told my tenor sax was not in a cupboard but had been put in the hold. I have heard several stories of a saxophone going into the hold of an aircraft and coming out trashed, or flattened, or separate from its case. So I was indeed concerned. Then when we got out of the plane, it took 75 minutes to get through passport control. Argh! Luckily my sax was OK, but when we reached customs they decided to ask for every case to be opened, all the equipment to be explained and listed - every pedal and lead and instrument and light, and relevant forms to be filled in. This took an extra hour. Ian our front of house sound man stepped up as acting tour manager and dealt with it all very well without visibly showing the annoyance I am sure he was feeling! 

Finally we arrived at our hotel and after briefly freshening up, a few of us went out to dinner, before strolling round the square across the road, where there was a buzzing market place. Tacos stands, jewellery, dodgy DVDs, trinkets, food and three big dance floors full of people salsa dancing the night away. Very cool. Welcome to Mexico!

St Vincent's
573 Hits
0 Comments