Oliver's Yes European Tour 2009
I am writing this first part of my tour diary from on our tour bus on our way to Nantes in France. We played in Paris last night and after a good night's sleep we headed off for the 6-hour journey. But I will start at the beginning.....
The tour started for us on the 26th October. I travelled to Heathrow in order to fly out to Prague in the Czech Republic. I met up with my friend Mike, who was to be my Keyboard Tech for this tour. Mike and I have worked together on many occasions in the past and so I was looking forward to this carrying on with Yes! We exchanged greetings and then starting discussing some of the technical aspects of the tour and then waited for Chris Squire and his family to arrive as we were all on the same flight. Mike and I checked in pretty easily but Chris and his family were heading back to the US after this tour and so had a bit of hassle getting all their belongings onto the plane! Mike and I headed through to get something to eat before the flight and managed to catch up on lots of news.
The flight wasn't delayed which was good news and for me the advantage of playing in Europe was that there was to only be a 1-hour time difference as opposed to the usual 8 hours or so that I get when I travel to the US. We arrived on time in Prague and we met up with Billy & Jeff (Production Manager and Front of House sound respectively) who had arrived from the US. We had a van and driver to take us to the hotel. Everyone seemed to think it was to be a half-hour drive or so but I remembered looking at the map before I left and thinking the Prague to Olomouc (where the hotel was) would be about a 3-hour drive!
So after 4 hours (there were a few accidents on the roads which delayed things!) we arrived at the hotel which was a welcome sight. We checked and and met up with Paul (Tour Manager) and the rest of the crew. After a quick meal it was off to bed to prepare for the next day which was a set-up and rehearsal day.
It was a pleasant morning that we all awoke to and allowed Benoit and I a few hours to have a walk around Olomouc before the rehearsals started in mid-afternoon. Mike was off dealing with the load-in of the gear and rigging, and checking everything over, as were all the other guys who were dealing with their areas of expertise - drums, bass, guitars, scenics, lighting, and both front-of-house and stage monitors.
Benoit and I took quite a few pictures and Benoit was as amazed by the variety of European cars (as I had been with the US cars when I had travelled to his part of the world). It was nice to be able to return the favour when asked 'What is that!?' which I had asked him on so many occasions earlier in the year!
We then headed to rehearsals and put the finishing touches to the keyboard rig. We played through a few songs we knew well, to blow the cobwebs off so to speak, and then decided to play through a few of the different songs that had been added for this tour. They seemed to go pretty well for a first run through and after a few hours we all departed back to the hotel and another good night's rest. The Wednesday followed a similar rehearsal pattern and by the end of the day we all felt pretty comfortable with what had been achieved and so the first show was nearly here!
I awoke and made my way down for breakfast and then had a relaxing morning walking around and taking some more pictures. On the way I found the most unusual bar - it was converted from an old aeroplane and was parked by the side of the road. Quite strange! I headed to the venue and the first show went very well. The crowd seemed to really enjoy it and the response we received from them was really heartwarming.
The following day we headed to Katowice. People who are aware of the work I have done prior to Yes will know that I played in Katowice a few years ago and recorded my live DVD / CD 'Coming to Town' there. I have fond memories of Poland and was quite excited because this time I was playing in the Spodek Theatre. This is a unique venue, shaped like a flying saucer. I remember driving past it 2 years ago on my way to the Wykipanski Theatre and thinking was an unusual place. Little did I know two years later I would be on stage there with Yes!
The show went well and the following day started with a drive to Slovakia. I have never been to Slovakia before and the scenery on the journey was very nice but unfortunately as can often be the way when touring, you don't always get to see much of where you are playing. We arrived with a few hours to show time and we were heading off straight after the show on the tour bus on an overnight drive through Austria to Italy.
Our first Italian show was in Vicenza and I must say that it was a really beautiful city which I enjoyed walking around a great deal. We followed Vicenza with a show in Rome which again I really enjoyed. I also got to go to Vatican City and take some lovely photos. I also sent my wife and son a postcard from the Vatican post office! My wife was also very pleased with the boots I bought her as a present! We then travelled on to Milan which, as with the other Italian cities, was really beautiful. As always with touring there are inevitably a few technical issues along the way and in Milan we suffered from a voltage problem which didn't supply enough voltage to allow the Moog to run in a stable manner. This made for a couple of interesting notes! Luckily I have back up sounds on other keyboards which allow me to cover for such eventualities but this does involve quite a bit of thinking on your feet, especially when you are used to standing in one position for a certain part of the song. You have to think to yourself, 'go to the left this time....go to the left' otherwise you just follow your usual pattern and end up at the wrong keyboard!
We then travelled to do the first two of our German shows. I was feeling a little bit under the weather for the Milan show but didn't think much of it until the following day when I awoke and felt absolutely terrible. I got through the show but felt really bad. The following day was really hard again as I had really come down with something. The best I could do was just sleep until show time and do my best to perform. Following Germany we headed to Belgium, but as soon as we checked in I went to bed for the entire day. I got up to do an interview in the afternoon and to get something to eat but then it was straight back to bed. There is something tough about performing when you are ill, as it takes out so much energy doing a show that it probably takes longer to recover as you are getting some energy back and then using most if it for the show. I remember thinking as I was playing, 'don't move your head too quickly'. I felt so light headed that every time I moved quickly I felt dizzy and felt like I was going to fall over! It made for a worrying few moments when I jump between keyboards! We then stayed overnight in Belgium which allowed me to get another good night's sleep and I felt so much better in the morning. Paris was the next stop!
After having not really eaten for a few days I suddenly felt ravenous and headed straight out to a restaurant to get something to eat. Following which I felt better than I had in days which was a huge relief. The French shows went well and by the time we got to Heerhugowaard in Holland I was feeling much better. Following the show we had a ferry ride to the UK.
This was a section of the tour that I was in particularly looking forward to; playing in my own country and with a chance for my friends and family to come and see the show. We arrived in Dover and then had a drive to Birmingham where we were staying overnight before our show the following day. On the way I phoned a friend of mine who kindly offered to pick me up on the M6 and take me home for the day which was extremely kind and something I was extremely grateful for.
I arrived home and gave my wife and son their presents which was lovely but it also meant I would have to buy other presents to give them when I arrived back at the end of the tour. The following day my wife, Lisa and my friends all headed up to the show in Birmingham. It was a really enjoyable show in a beautiful venue and everybody seemed to have a really good time. We followed Birmingham with a show at the Hammersmith Apollo in London which was quite a moment for me. I remembered going to see my Dad play there back in the 80's with his own band and it was a peculiar feeling walking out onto the same stage. We had a really enjoyable show and it was great to meet up with lots of friends afterwards. I had fun during the day before the show by taking Benoit to Harrods and seeing his face as we went through all the different departments!
After London we had a long overnight drive to Edinburgh but we had a day to ourselves and so Benoit, Paul (Tour Manager) and I had a lovely evening looking around the city and then having a meal together in a nice old Scots pub.
Newcastle and Manchester followed. I remember arriving at the venue in Manchester with Mike telling me there was a problem with one of the keyboards. It turned out someone had knocked the back of the keyboard and had smashed the LCD contrast control for the display screen. This was particularly problematic as without the screen display I couldn't see or choose the sounds I needed!
Mike took the keyboard apart and for a couple of hours we talked through various possible solutions. In the end we managed to fix the controls by fitting an old potentiometer which Richard (Bass Tech) had rescued from an amp of Trevor Rabin's which had broken in the 80's. So the spirit of Trevor lives on in my keyboard! 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' seemed particularly good that night!
Then we headed to Bristol which I was particularly looking forward to as my mum and step-dad John were coming to the show as well as my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, her husband and my niece Abbi. It was great to be able to give them all a guided tour of the stage and the keyboard rig which I think they enjoyed! It must have been a bit strange for my mum during the show watching me play the same songs that Dad had played at the time they were married! They all really enjoyed the show and my mum had an opportunity to catch up with Alan, Chris, Steve and other members of the Yes entourage whom she hadn't seen since the mid 70's.
We then had the long trek to Scotland to get the ferry across to Northern Ireland to do the Irish leg of the tour. Upon arriving, Benoit and I took a walk around the city and then watched them turn on the Christmas lights. The following day, before the show, Paul, Benoit and I took a guided political tour of the city which was very interesting and gave me a good insight into the city's history. Following the show we headed off to Dublin, to gig there the next day which was great as I had never been to the Republic before. The show went really well but we then had a very long drive to get to Lyon in France. Things didn't start well - our bus got lost on the way in which delayed us. We then got to the port only to find that the 2am ferry we were due to sail on had been cancelled and we had to wait another 6 hours for the next one.
However, we eventually arrived in North Wales and the long drive through the spectacular countryside was very enjoyable. Unfortunately the traffic around London was terrible with the result that we missed the 6pm ferry we were aiming for. We eventually caught one a little later on and headed over to France. Upon arriving in France we started our next part of the journey. The two buses we were using, one for the crew and one for the band, started off in convoy. Unfortunately, a half-hour into our 3-hour journey the crew bus broke down... The crew then had to squeeze on to the band bus and we continued on our way. We finally checked into the hotel after about 27 hours of travelling. My bed was a very welcome sight that night!
It was only the next day that I realised that I had visited England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland, Wales and France in a 72 hour period
Following the show in Rouen we headed to Lyon where we all were interviewed for a documentary being made about the band. After the Lyon show we headed to Germany for a week which was great fun. We got to see so much of the country in a small space of time and all the places we visited were really interesting. I really enjoyed visiting a lot of the German Christmas markets which had lots of really interesting things to buy. I limited myself to a carved wooden Owl as I was starting to collect quite a few bits and pieces on my travels.
As our stint in Germany came to a close we had a long drive to Copenhagen which co-incided with the Eco-Summit being held there. I really enjoyed Copenhagen and shortly after arriving we heard a lot of noise coming from outside the hotel. Paul, Benoit and I rushed outside to watch the city's soldiers marching through the town with their military band. We followed them, taking lots of photographs. At one point Paul rushed up to me to take a picture of him walking behind the troops in a military style. Unfortunately, by the time I had got the camera turned on he was being led away to the pavement by a policeman. Still that actually made for a better photograph - certainly more amusing!
We had another long drive after the show on our way to Oslo in Norway. The weather was cold and we arrived the day after President Obama had been in the city to collect his Nobel Peace Prize. The town was very busy when we arrived, which was very early in the morning. I remember walking into the hotel very tired and very bleary-eyed... After asking which way the elevators were, and following the directions I was given I found myself in a room set up for a White House briefing... All very surreal. I had meant to go left not right!
Following Oslo we had a drive to the hotel at the airport in preparation for our flight home the following day after the last show in Gothenburg, Sweden. It didn't start well as we were told that there had been a fire in the kitchen and therefore the restaurant was out of order. Then we were told that the shuttle bus (which we were going to use for getting our bags to the airport) had broken down and would not be running for a few days. We then headed to the gig and the traffic was terrible, it seemed to take forever to get the the venue and by the time we got on stage we were raring to go. We had a great show and I headed back to the hotel for 2 hours sleep before our flight home.
I got up at about 4am for breakfast, then Paul, Mike, Wade (the Production Assistant) and I made our way to the airport with the baggage. Unfortunately it had snowed that night and I watched with horror and a bit of amusement as the multiple luggage carts we were each trying to steer all started to slide out of control as we got to the curving, steeply-sloped footpath outside the hotel and all the bags went flying!
After checking-in and flying to London we all said our goodbyes, and by midday I was back at my house. I must say it was great to be home and I really enjoyed my European tour.