Thursday, 23 April 2009

Steeleye Span 2009 Spring Tour.

The rehearsals for the tour began last Thursday, 9th April, at the usual place - The Warehouse studios in Kennington, Oxford. Maddy had travelled down to my house from Carlisle; actually, she doesn’t like it said that she lives in Carlisle, as her house is about another twenty miles further past in an area called Roweltown. But as I was saying, she came down to Preston on the Wednesday evening, and the two of us, on Thursday morning set off for Oxford.

The first day of rehearsing began at three-ish that afternoon (many things in this business can be best described with an ‘ish’ at the end); it was just Maddy, Pete Zorn, and myself on day one. I’ll write a little more about Pete’s inclusion in the band later. Liam, who had a gig Thursday turned up on Friday. Pete (Knight), arrived on Sunday; he’d been touring with the Feast of Fiddles band, their last show being in Milton Keynes the night before.

I’m finding some of the material quite testing, particularly a piece called The Royal Forester. We performed it last year as part of the 2008 Spring Tour, but since then we’ve decided to add a lot more harmony and BVs (backing vocals). It’s a ridiculously wordy song, and to try and remember arrangement, lyrics and harmonies, whilst playing some heavily syncopated guitar riffs is a challenge to say the least.

Night One, Tuesday 14th April. The Alban Arena, St Albans.
As they say, ‘it’s déjà vu all over again’. The Steeleye Span Spring tour kicked off here in St Albans last night, and before arriving at the town I could not recall a single thing about the place. I know I’ve written about this in earlier posts - just how easily one forgets a venue, that is until the bus turns into the high street, and there’s the first sign of familiarity - then, suddenly, everything comes flooding back.

This, of course, is where Phil (Cool) had his, his. . . how could it be described? His moment when time stood still, perhaps? He has described in detail to me this experience of when, whilst standing on this very stage, everything became ‘dream-like’; he drifted into a zone that rendered him unable to recall anything to do with why he was onstage in the first place.

You can read a more detailed account of that evening in Post 5, Tuesday 24th February 2009. I knew we (Steeleye) were sticking our collective neck out by playing our newer and less familiar material at the beginning of the evening. The logic is that there’s a sense of working backwards, backwards through the forty years of considerable and colourful history.

There were tentative moments, and I’m certain we will, at some point soon, be reviewing the song order. Here’s the set list:

Set One:
1. Madam Will You Walk With Me?
2. Lady Diamond
3. Thomas The Rhymer
4. Blacksmith
5. Let Her Go Down
6. I Live Not Where I Love
7. First House In Connaught (fiddle tunes)
8. The Scullion King
9. Sails Of Silver
10. Bonny Black Hare

Set Two:
1. Lovely On The Water
2. Black Jack Davey
3. Betsy Bell
4. Seagull
5. Babylon
6. The Royal Forester
7. The Three Sisters
8. Tam Lin

All Around My Hat. Gaudette.

Night Two. Wednesday 15th April. Woodville Halls, Gravesend.
A quiet audience. When we hit the sudden ending on Tam Lin at the end of the first set, I wondered when the applause was going to start; can’t remember such a long silent pause after a song. Again, an element of caution and uncertainty at times on our part; there are rumblings, it looks as though a change in the set order is afoot. There was one change tonight, we replaced Gaudette with Peter’s The Song Will Remain.

Night Three. Thursday 16th April. Bedford Corn Exchange, Bedford.
Bang! And it all started to fall into place. We were a different band tonight; this pretty much always happens at some point quite early on in a tour, and it almost feels as though some outside force determines when and where. We did change the song order though, quite radically, using the logic that it was important to make a confident start with material that we felt comfortable and familiar with, then work our way into that which is newer and less familiar. Here’s the song order:

Set One:
1. Blacksmith
2. When I was On Horseback
3. The Scullion King
4. I Live Not Where I Love
5. The Butcher
6. First House In Connaught (fiddle tunes)
7. Madam Will You Walk With Me?
8. Lady Diamond
9. Thomas The Rhymer

Set Two:
1. Bonny Black Hare
2. Seagull
3. Betsy Bell
4. Lovely On The Water
5. Babylon
6. The Royal Forester
7. The Three Sisters
8. Tam Lin

Encore: All Around My Hat. Black Jack Davey. The Song Will Remain.

Night Four. Friday 17th April. The Castle, Wellingborough.
Have run into terrible trouble with my Vodafone mobile internet modem. I took out a £15 a month contract a year ago for one of these USB sticks that enable the user to hook up to the internet, pretty much wherever you are.

On the basis of how much time I’d be spending away from home I upgraded the old modem for (supposedly) faster model a couple of months back, and apart from the fact that there appears to be virtually no difference in the speed between the two, I’ve been getting by quite comfortably with it. A few days ago in the rehearsal studio, after Maddy had been using it to download some lyrics from the ‘net, I leaned over to pick my laptop up from the floor, and as I was lifting it, I caught the modem protruding from the USB port, on my leg.

Somehow I managed to damage it, and now if I want to go online I’m basically having to pay silly hotel prices. I did call in to a Vodafone store to find out if it was possible to get a replacement modem, and yes, it is possible to replace it, for a grand total of £78. Carol has mailed my old modem to tomorrows venue; I think, I hope, it might be a case of just swapping the sim card back.

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