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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.


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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.

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Tour Blog Part 8 : Hamburg

Still lots of snow when we reached Hamburg. As we had a day off, we stayed in a hotel - a smart one actually right next to the venue which is very handy. The venue in Hamburg was CCH Saal 2 and it was huge. A large concert hall that looked like it was usually for orchestras or choirs or maybe one of those great German radio bands like the NDR band. As there was the day off beforethe gig I thought I would use my time fruitfully by reading a book. 'The man in the high castle' by Philip K Dick was floating round the bus and it is said to be a classic so I thought I would give that a go. Managed to finish it over a couple of days. A kind of alternate reality book, not really science fiction, but very imaginative. Dick wrote the story that became the Bladerunner film amongst other things and is an iconic author who I have not read before. I enjoyed the book and it was interesting, but not quite my thing. Will probably try 'Neverwhere' by Neil Gaiman next which I brought with me.

Anyway, the gig was seated and as I say in a huge room. These things did not help the vibe, though the sound was good. I think we played well but there was not much of a buzzy atmosphere. Marco's parents came to the gig and they are lovely and were in good spirits. I met some musician friends of Adam's too who were cool. They all enjoyed the gig a lot. After the gig had a nice hang with Guthrie and Marco in the hotel bar and had a good chat with them accompanied by a modest amount of Oban single malt whiskey. Strong stuff. I know the town of Oban quite well having played there once (Corran halls), stayed there a few times and taken the ferry to the island of Mull many times. Then sleep, before our long drive to Stockholm that was going to involve a short ferry ride, a very long tunnel and the huge Malmo bridge taking us to Sweden.

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Tour Blog Part 7 : Antwerp

So this was an interesting gig. A great theatre in the same building complex where I had played at a small festival of experimental music a couple of years ago called the International Festival of Looping. The theatre was all seated, and smaller than last night's gig in Amsterdam. Just before we went on, Steven said that he had read on Facebook that several people said they could not come to the gig because of the bad weather. He was worried the room might be half empty which would be bad as all gigs so far have been full. As it turned out it was fine, and the room looked pretty full to me. This was a relief and the fact that the venue was smaller than previous gigs and was seated made it feel quite relaxed. He said jokingly before we went on 'explore the space, explore the space, man' meaning reach out a bit further musically and 'fill' all the corners of the room. I think it is actually a quote from a film, but not sure which one. So with such encouragement, we tried some different things, and did do a bit of musical exploration. Some really different things were played and improvisations went in new directions. It felt really good, refreshing and fun. Marco also set up his new mini gong in his kit which he bought yesterday from my friend Steve Hubback. He used it in a few choice places (making sure he did not overdo it) and we all agreed it sounded fab! Thanks Steve. Also before we went on, Adam was playing Tale Spinnin' by Weather Report in the dressing room, which is wonderful and quite inspiring too.

At the end of the gig we did a different encore, segueing two of Steven's songs into one in a really cool way. I won't say which ones, but I think it worked.

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Tour Blog Part 5 : Paris - Cologne

Theo and Guthrie

The venue in Paris, called Le Trianon, was familiar as we played there last year. It is a rather grand music hall type theatre, situated in Montmartre by the Sacre-Coeur. The onstage sound was good and in the soundcheck we had a pretty good jam as well as checking the things that needed checking. The gig itself felt good with no technical glitches and a relaxed vibe. Everyone played well and Steven seemed to have a good time. The audience was the first standing audience of the tour and I think that probably contributed to the excited and upbeat atmosphere. The crowd was really enthusiastic and we all appreciated that.

Afterwards, had a good chat with some of Steven's Scottish fans who are very nice and who I have met several times. They had come over specially for the gig and made a weekend of it. Then back onto the tour bus and we rolled out of Paris and off to Cologne in Germany. Adrian, our splendid merchandise man and fellow Brummie had brought the DVDs of the recent Sherlock Holmes BBC series with Benedict Cumberbatch so we watched one of those (though I could barely keep awake!) which was very good. Then to bed and I woke up in Cologne where the bus had pulled up by our hotel which was situated next to the staggeringly impressive cathedral. We checked in and the rest of the day was off duty, so I took it pretty easy as was feeling a little rough. Grabbed a coffee, managed to catch up on some e mails and had a bit of a rest to the soundtrack of 'Man' by Francis Dunnery, 'Nine Lives' by Steve Winwood and 'On Land' by Brian Eno. All great albums. I did have a wander round the centre of Cologne later and went to look inside the cathedral too. What an amazing building. There was a plan for everyone to go for a Japanese meal that evening, but the restaurant that some of the guys knew of was full. So I ended up going for a Thai meal with Adam which was most tasty.

Sunday now, and having made a couple of Mother's Day phone calls to my mum and to my lovely wife am ready now to go for a walk, then to soundcheck and tonight's gig. Then Amsterdam tomorrow.

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Tour Blog Part 4 : London - Paris

Theo during Soundchecks

Monday March 4 was the Royal Festival Hall gig in London. It is a great venue for classical, jazz and rock music and I have been many times to see some great gigs eg. Van Der Graf Generator reunion gig, Dave Gilmour, Chick Corea Electric Band, the Brecker Brothers, Stan Getz etc. I live quite near the centre of London so I took the tube to the gig which only took about 30 mins. I get off at Embankment station and walk over Hungerford Bridge from which you get a fantastic view of London, the river Thames and the South Bank where the venue is.

We played in the main hall of the RFH and I think it was completely full. Sold out. Amazing. Soundcheck was fine and we checked a few things in the set as well as the monitors ensuring we could hear properly. The gig itself felt really good to me. Good sound, good response from the audience, Steve seemed relaxed and was very funny on the microphone with his between song chat (not easy to do!). I think we played pretty OK.

At a 'hometown show' there are usually various friends and family who come along. So there was John Etheridge, Tim Bowness, Jakko Jaksyzck, Steve Hackett, Steve Rothery, Nik Kershaw, Robyn Koh, Steve's lovely mum and various others. Great to see them all at the after show party.

Afterwards, I put some of my things on the tour bus which was driving to Paris and then walked back over the bridge and headed home on the tube.

The next couple of days involved running around like a crazy person, teaching students and sorting stuff and life and everything before the European leg of the tour. Thursday was particularly crazy (and exhausting) but finishing with a wonderful jazz gig in Highgate, London.

Meanwhile Steven's new album 'the Raven that refused to sing (and other stories)' is receiving superb reviews. The Guardian gave it five stars out of five, and magazines and papers around the world have been saying it is the ..err....best thing ever. Steve mentioned that one magazine stated 'if there is only one album you ever own it should be this one..!' Others have been giving it 10/10 and 5/5. In the national album charts it has gone in at number 28 and in the rock album charts - number 1, above Muse, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Wow. First time I think I have been on an album that has been in the national top 40!

So now I am on the Eurostar to Paris for the next gig which is tonight.

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