Settling back into writing again after a couple of days bunjee jumping across to the Vinyl Festival in Chorzow. After a long lay off since the last shows in December and the band only able to muster a day’s rehearsal without me a few weeks ago I have to admit I was a trifle nervous as this gig was standing out on it’s own in the festival schedule. I wouldn’t have Doris Brendal with us as finances were tight and I had a new sound engineer who was taking over from Marios who was on duty elsewhere.It was also the first show booked by my new agent and I had Dominik taking over as my production manager.There was a lot that could have gone wrong but thankfully everything clicked and fell into place very comfortably.
I flew out on the Sunday night to a darkened hotel and a relatively early night. In the morning the brilliant sunshine revealed we were staying in a building that was part of a large group of buildings that had once been a pithead site. The red brick reminded me of the mining villages in Midlothian and it was great to see new life being incorporated in the old setting. Next to our hotel was a jazz club dressed up for the Vinyl festival and the gleaming white concrete pit wheel tower offered a view across town if you were brave and fit enough to climb the ranks of stairs to the top.I wasn’t.
The venue was a beautiful wee theatre which had sold out the 400 seats weeks before.Backstage was well provided for and 6 bottles of decent Sauvignon Blanc and 4 decent reds sat tantalisingly on the table in the dressing room. I would be on best behaviour as I had a 6.30am reception call for the airport with a drive home from Edinburgh waiting for me at the other end.I also had hand luggage only which meant no liquids in my bag either.I would be mostly leaving the beverages for others that night.
I met up with my dearest and oldest Polish friend Piotr Kaczkowski who had come down from Warsaw with his lovely wife to see me and catch the show. I’ve know PK since 1983 when he interviewed me for Polish radio backstage at Hammersmith Odeeon in 1983 and we have kept in touch ever since. He still presents shows on Radio Trojka and he was instrumental in bring both Marillion and my solo career to national attention in Poland. As is with men our age we shared our medical histories and rattled through ailments like old war wound stories. PK had an horrific knee injury incurred last year and was suffering badly. Mine was a scratch by comparison but it was about to get a lot worse.He wanted to know everything ‘Weltschmerz’ and after an extended briefing I’m happy to say he was extremely excited and I had his blessings.
I had another briefing coming at me after dinner but this time it was on stage in front of the assembled audience.
Two large comfortable couches awaited me and my interviewer and after a warm introduction we set to it with the list of prepared questions swiftly jettisoned as I grabbed the reins and led it through my thoughts on vinyl and into the ‘Weltschmerz’ set up. It was a quick 45 minutes and I think quite entertaining for the fans in attendance who were definitely enthusiastic over the new ideas. It ended with an onstage meeting with the mayor and a presentation of a highly unusual portrait of myself constructed out of old vinyl records.It’s a wonderful piece of art but I had to leave it with the promoter until I returned on the tour bus in October as it was impossible to consider taking it back on a plane. It is destined for my office wall when it finally arrives in Scotland.
I only had 30 minutes before the gig and was resting up reading a book before I got into my stage gear. As I got up from the chair I had an agonising pain in my left knee and screamed out in pain. It subsided after a few minutes but the band and crew were concerned.I already had pain from the sciatica in my right leg but this was different. A few days before my birthday I’d got up from the low slung couch at home and my right leg had buckled sending me over the arm of the couch and onto the floor twisting my knee in the process. It was painful at the time and I had recurring twinges over the next days.I didn’t think anymore about it and dealt with the occassional sharp jolts hoping it would just settle down if I didn’t overdo things.
I assured the band I was ok for stage and we headed out to the strains of the intro to ‘The Voyeur’. The set list was the same as for the December tour minus ‘Great Unravelling’. We were scheduled for 90 minutes but as always we overran. It was great to be singing again and over 4 months off the cigs had made a huge difference to my breathing and lung capacity. I was enjoying myself as were the others and it didn’t feel like the first show since Glasgow in December.
As expected the ‘Clutching’ material went down a storm as that was the album featured on our first ever tour in Poland back in 1987. There were a lot of memories being rekindled as I sang my way throuigh the material.
I wasn’t into generating a lot of reaction from the seated audience and only goaded them into clap along mode a couple of times as I was genuinely enjoying our performance. When they did rise up and respond it was dynamic and the energy in the room was palpable.
My legs were hurting and I could have done with a high stool to give me a break at times. All I had was the drum and keyboard risers which were low and awkward to get up from.By the end of the gig the muscles in both my legs were taught as violin strings and I was glad to finally sit down and take the weight off.
It was altogether a fantastic night and a great piece of promo for the Autumn tour. The band were on form and Steven , the stand in sound guy did a fantastic job out front. Vince, our trusty backline tech was as sterling as always and I gave him a bottle of whisky I’d been presented with on stage by a fan to take home as I wasn’t touching it with a drive home next day and had the dreaded hand luggage restrictions. Dominik handled his new role well and everyone in the band stepped up to the plate to deliver a fine set.It was in fact pretty effortless considering the trepidation we all had at our first show this year.
I was glad we delivered with style.
A short meet and greet with some fans and then it was back to the hotel for a couple of glasses of wine and an early night for the singer.
I was ok on the flight from Katowice but on arrival in Amsterdam for the connecting flight I discovered I had an epic trip from my arrival gate to the next departure gate. I looked on enviously at the electric cars ferrying passengers across the small country that is now Schipol airport as I hobbled my way through the crowds.On the steps up to the aircraft I had a sudden sharp pain in my left knee and knew something was badly wrong.
I was again glad to have a seat with extra legroom that had been booked in advance and get some respite. I still had the car drive home after a long walk through the long stay car park. Both were painful and my wife was concerned when she saw me limp through the door.
The one thing I was glad off was that we had finally made the decison to raise the couches and they had been returned that day with built in wooden boxes underneath bringing them up to a height that made getting up from them a lot less awkward. I rested gingerly in front of the TV and called our physio friend Suzanne for an appointment next day. I wasn’t expecting good news.
I’m still waiting on an appointment for a scan after a visit to the surgery after I saw Suzanne but she thinks I have torn tendons and ligaments in my knee and possibly damaged the cruciate ligament. I won’t know any more until I get a proper scan but just now my left knee is strapped up with tape and movement is really awkward. I have to admit it’s pretty depressing as my gardening forays are cancelled for the forseeable future and I am facing some static stage appearances at the next festivals in early July if the damage is as Suzanne thinks.
Just to add to the equation I have an operation booked at the end of May to deal with the dupuytren’s syndrome growth in my left hand which has now become excessive. I can’t even wash my face without poking myself in the eye as the finger curl is so bad.It’s going to be quite a big operation but one positive thing is that as my ring finger will be back to normal and Simone is overjoyed that I can finally wear a wedding ring that I couldn’t even consider in October due to the growths on the tendon.
I’m glad that none of the above issues affect my singing and I will be fine for stage this summer with hopefully all the ailments dealt with by the time I get on a bus in September. It’s been a tough last 18 months with one thing after another breaking up my rhythm and forcing me to deal with recovery and recuperation.I have an expanding waistline that has to be dealt with and I am so looking forward to getting back to the gym and getting my flexibility and fitness levels back.For now I’m the man with the stick and thankfully a right hand to write with.
photos courtesy of the Vinyl Festival - thanks for a great piece of organisation and hosting.