September 2017

I first went on tour with GODSTICKS at the beginning of 2017; we supported THE PINEAPPLE THIEF on a 14-date European tour and had an incredible time. It seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime experience from my point of view; I mean think about it, touring Europe and playing big sold-out shows with a band that has Gavin Harrison of all people on drums, when will that ever happen again? Well the funny thing is, it did! This past September I was back on the road with my band, visiting a few new countries and cities as well as returning to some happy hunting grounds, and performing better than ever! With our new album ‘Faced With Rage’ being released on Friday October 13th, we were so excited to get out there again and start playing some of our new songs in order to give the gig-going public a little taste of what the new album has to offer. By all accounts I think we did a bang-up job!

 

Just like last time it was a real mission to actually get to the first gig! Once all our equipment was packed up in the back of the tour van we set off, driving across England to Folkstone where we caught the Channel Tunnel train into France. From there we drove on through Belgium and into Germany before finally coming to rest at a hotel for the night (I still have no idea what town we were in!) We had been travelling all day but our first destination was still another 3 hours away! With a good night’s sleep behind us we continued our journey the next morning, and upon finally arriving in Dresden we all blew a collective sigh of relief! The first venue was called ‘Schuene’ and it was a great place to start the tour; we performed in Dresden on the previous tour so we were hoping for a well-informed and friendly crowd to ease us back into our routine. But sadly there were a few jitters on this the first of eleven gigs in total. THE PINEAPPLE THIEF used all the sound check time they could to iron out the last of the kinks in their sound, which left little to no time for us! Luckily everything was ready to go just as doors opened, but when we finally hit the stage to open the show it definitely took a while for us to settle back in. Luck wasn’t on my side that night; I somehow managed to break a drum stick after a couple of songs and ended up dropping one too. Disaster! But it was only the first show of the tour and I just tried to keep a clear vision of what I needed to do in my head. I knew that if I stayed relaxed and just concentrated on my performance, everything would get better. 

Setting up my drums as THE PINEAPPLE THIEF sound check

Another long drive awaited us the next day so we were all up bright and early to start our journey into Poland. This wasn’t only my first visit but GODSTICKS’ first visit as well, so we were really excited to show our wares in a new territory and hopefully gain some new fans. The first of two Polish venues on the tour was ‘Progresja Music Zone’ in Warsaw and it was massive! Without a doubt the biggest room we would play on the entire tour, but thankfully it turned out to be one of the most memorable shows of the entire tour too! I was feeling much more comfortable both on stage and off; finally sinking back into a routine and whilst enjoying the whole experience still keeping my focus solely on getting the best possible performance on the night. As soon as I stepped out on stage, despite the big room and big audience in front of me, I felt very relaxed and in turn the playing felt effortless. I was so happy to have raised my game again so quickly after a shaky start the previous night, and got back to drumming at my very best! The Warsaw gig went great for both GODSTICKS and THE PINEAPPLE THIEF, and luckily we repeated that success at the second gig in Krakow the next day. Another awesome venue with probably the most spacious backstage area I’ve ever seen! The turnout was excellent again and GODSTICKS had another brilliant show with a very warm reception from the crowd. The Polish audiences were definitely very kind to us and we were so pleased that our first ever performances in the country were both big hits!

Godsticks - live at Klub Kwadrat, Krakow

As we left Poland I had the chance to ride in the same van as THE PINEAPPLE THIEF and Gavin Harrison. It was a great opportunity to get to know the guys a bit more, and of course talk shop with one of the greatest drummers in the world right now! Once we discovered a mutual love of Formula One conversation was easy and we were soon laughing and joking together. Gavin was as friendly as ever, always quick to give me some amazing advice and encouragement any time we were together. It felt really nice to bond with him a little bit more, and not just over drums. As luck would have it though I definitely picked the right time to swap vans; as we were heading to the nearest music shop for extra guitar strings, the GODSTICKS van got stopped on the motorway by the police! Luckily everyone eventually made it out of Poland and into the Czech Republic and our next venue, ‘Melodka’ in Brno. This venue was by far the smallest of the tour and with a very rundown exterior it didn’t really look like a music venue, but as show time approached the atmosphere was electric! I remember the band and crew had a lovely meal together (schnitzel and roast potatoes – delicious!) before the doors opened and it was time to get back to work again! We had another great show and great response from the crowd, but packing away after our set was probably the toughest part of all; there was only one small dressing room for the two bands and nowhere for me to pack away my drums after we played, so I just had to do it right there in the dressing room as THE PINEAPPLE THIEF were getting ready to go on stage! But we are all good friends so it was no problem; they never fail to put on a stellar performance (which is probably because they have Darran on board - Haha!) From the GODSTICKS point of view though our gigs were getting better and better and the tour was going from strength to strength!

My drums on stage at Melodka in Brno

Next we were heading back into Germany to play at the ‘Backstage Halle’ in Munich. The venue is a big building in the middle of nowhere; surrounded with overgrown trees that practically camouflage the whole place with their branches. Another venue that again, from the outside at least, looks unassuming but takes on a life of its own when the bands come to play! At this point in the tour everything was running a lot more smoothly as we all sank in to the same daily routine; sound-checks for example now took no time at all, so once we were done there was plenty of time to chill backstage. The place was absolutely packed come show time and we had a fantastic gig! It was hot, it was sweaty, but it was so much fun! That amazing audience definitely gave us a boost and the band was on fire! But even after great performances like that there’s never enough time for the support band to just sit back and enjoy the moment; they must clear the stage ready for the headline band as soon as possible! There was a narrow l-shaped balcony running above the centre of the room where the mixing desk was, and immediately after we finished our set I had to move all my drums up there to get them out of the way. Just like the previous night, packing things away in a confined space wasn’t ideal, but at least there was a silver lining; an excellent vantage point so I could watch THE PINEAPPLE THIEF play while I packed away my drums! Once everything was safe I stepped outside to get some fresh air and was surprised to see that the building itself had put on a show as well. Green and red lights shone and flickered amongst the leafy trees and cold metal gates, creating an unusual but oddly beautiful sight. It could’ve been a scene from ‘The Last of Us’! It seems the venue wanted to leave a lasting impression, just as the performance had done. 

Outside the Backstage Halle in Munich

On to more beautiful sights now; our next destination was Zurich in Switzerland so we knew we were going to be treated to some fantastic scenery there! The venue was called ‘Dynamo’ and was situated right next to the River Limmat that runs through the heart of the city and into Lake Zurich. I rode with THE PINEAPPLE THIEF and Gavin Harrison once again and as we travelled we pitted our collective minds against some Formula One quiz games. I think it’s fair to say I impressed them all with my F1 knowledge because I ended up being the one answering all the questions! Once everything was set up and ready to go we all sat down for dinner which came from… Domino’s! That’s right, we had a Domino’s pizza takeaway in Switzerland and it was awesome! Also the dressing room we were given was on the upper floor overlooking the stage, so we could see the audience slowly growing bigger and bigger as we prepared to play. It was another fantastic gig; the band was on top form again and despite it being GODSTICKS’ first ever gig in Switzerland we had an amazing response from the crowd! Everyone was just feeling supremely relaxed and confident on stage and it helped us all get the best out of our individual performances. But it wasn’t lack of space that hindered me packing away my drums this time; it was darkness!

Packing away my drums in the (near) darkness

We headed back into Germany once more for the next two shows; the venues would be slightly smaller, but the gigs would definitely be memorable! The first one, ‘Universum’ in Stuttgart, was an old converted subway station; an unusual layout for a music venue but it still had a great stage with great sound! The gig was really good and we had another excellent response from these always-appreciative German crowds. That night I was helping Darran’s wife and tour manager Rhiannon at the merch table (I did it most nights as a matter of fact – all the guys say I’m good at selling merch! Who knew?) and was very happy to see that our good performance had translated into good GODSTICKS merch sales as well. It’s such a huge boost for us when we see people spending their hard-earned cash on a CD or T-shirt, and it’s so gratifying to see that our music is resonating with them just as much as the headline band’s. I even got asked to pose for a photo by one guy! The next gig was the last German show of the tour, but man was it a great send-off! We were playing the ‘Luxor’ in Cologne and it was sold out! The place was packed just as we started to play, but by the time THE PINEAPPLE THIEF hit the stage you simply couldn’t move in there; it was rammed! It was another very good gig for us, even though Darran had a bit of trouble with the wireless pack for his in-ear monitors. I remember the stage hands at the ‘Luxor’ were so helpful that night; together we managed to move all my drums off stage and into a disused DJ booth where they had already laid out my cases for me! With their help I got everything packed away before TPT start playing; a new record! I was very grateful because it meant I could spend some time catching up with my cousin Christopher and his wife Stefanie; they live in Cologne and I was so glad they were able to come see the show! 

My drums on stage at Luxor in Cologne

Our last stop in continental Europe was Zoetermeer in the Netherlands, where we were playing ‘De Boerderij’. This is a fantastic venue; the old GODSTICKS line up played there back in 2014 so I was very excited to play there for the first time. It had everything I look for in a top-flight venue; a massive stage with ample floor space and balcony seating for the audience, plus a very nice backstage and very warm hospitality. The food provided was particularly excellent too! After sound check we were all treated to a delicious chicken fajita meal in the small café just outside the main venue, and as we ate together I gazed wide-eyed at all the amazing framed photos on the walls featuring artists who have played this venue over the years; it reads as a ‘who’s who’ of international rock and metal bands. I doubt a photo of us will be going on the wall anytime soon, but all this inspiration definitely stirred up something within me; I simply couldn’t wait to get on stage and play! When it was finally time to go on, we were greeted by an incredible sight; both floors of the room were absolutely filled with people! That image with undoubtedly be etched in my mind for a long time to come! The gig was excellent and we all played really well, but because I’m a perfectionist when it comes to live performance I knew I personally could’ve still done better. Every musician must critique themselves and keep pushing themselves to improve, whether it’s in the practice room or on stage in front of hundreds of people. Nevertheless it was still a brilliant performance and one of the highlights of the tour so far!

The view on stage at De Boerderij, Zoetermeer

The following day we were on the road back to blighty! We travelled out of Holland, through Belgium and France toward the Channel Tunnel. As we went through border control I noticed the officer scanning my passport had a copy of ‘Classic Rock’ magazine at his desk; he clocked all of us straight away and correctly deduced that we were a band. He asked the name and after I told him he said: “I know you guys! You’re in ‘Prog’ Magazine this month!”. Definitely the strangest place we’ve ever met a fan! Soon we were back on the road and once we reached our hotel near Heathrow airport we could finally relax and unwind. There was no gig that night so we all went out for a meal in a nearby pub instead; believe me, a nice chilled evening like that is well deserved after you’ve played 9 shows and travelled thousands of miles without a day off! Anyway, we were all feeling much more refreshed the next day and ready to tackle these final two gigs of the tour. Next stop was ‘Student Central’; the University of London union hall and it’s a really cool venue. A nice big stage and room with balcony seating, although the dressing rooms were deep down in the basement; they were probably next to the boiler or something too because it was absolutely roasting in there! We arrived at the venue pretty early so set up and sound check was very relaxed. Now that we were in a more familiar territory the band decided to treat ourselves to what is undoubtedly the pre and post-gig food of choice – noodles! We had Wok to Walk for lunch and Wagamamas for dinner! But as we chomped away at our teriyaki soba, tickets for the show were still being snapped up by eager punters until it was finally sold out, and just like in Zoetermeer a few days ago we were greeted by another incredible sight as we stepped out on stage!

The view on stage at ULU Live, London

It was an absolute blinder of a gig; another first-rate band performance and by far the best audience reaction of the whole tour! The cheers before songs and the applause after them was louder than ever, and it felt like we didn’t actually have to win them over this time; they were already on our side! We had so many people come up to us at the merch table afterwards and buy an album or a T-shirt and we were inundated with lovely comments and messages on social media; it was so great to feel the love from our home country again! Personally I feel like I still could’ve played better up there, but I know all the mistakes that annoy me are just little things, things that only I notice and don’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things. I am immensely proud of my drumming on this tour; not only has it been at a good level, but I would say a consistent level too. Like I said earlier, having a mind-set that pushes you to keep getting better is so important for any musician to have, and even though it’s technically impossible I still try to be perfect (or as close as I can be) with every performance. At least when you’re on tour you know that you’ll always have another chance to put things right on the next gig! The London show has proven to be a real water-shed moment for us, and with all the buzz around our new album ‘Faced With Rage’ it has inspired us to keep dreaming big!

My brand new DW drum kit – played in anger for the first time on this tour

DW Collector’s Series – Burnt Orange Glass finish

 

22” bass drum

10”, 12”, 14” and 16” toms

Pearl Sensi-tone 14” x 5” beaded steel snare drum

 

Sabian cymbals

 

10” Paragon Splash

13” HH Fusion Hats

14” AAX Stage Hats

16” Paragon Crash

18” AA Medium-Thin Crash

19” Paragon China

20” Paragon Crash

21” HH Raw Bell Dry Ride

Now there was just one more show left, in a place that’s become very familiar to us. Not only have we played there before, but in the weeks leading up to the tour it was also the location for both a photo and video shoot. The ‘Bierkeller’ in Bristol, it seems, is a jack-of-all-trades kind of venue and one that appears to be written into our band’s DNA. It’s only right that we finish the tour here! It was also a homecoming of sorts for us and THE PINEAPPLE THIEF; Bruce Soord lives in Somerset so was expecting a lot of family and friends at the gig, just as we were. This is the closest we’ve been to Wales for some time so we were also very excited to have some of our family and friends make the journey over the Severn Bridge to see us play. Unfortunately the traffic Gods had different ideas and a huge tail-back across said bridge meant that the Welsh contingent was severely delayed. We pushed back the start of our set as far as we could to try and compensate, but inevitably the show must go on. It was a shame to have to start playing as people we knew were still trying to make it to the venue, but all we could do was just get on that stage and play well; play well for them. The great crowd spurred us on and it was a still a brilliant show to end the tour on. Luckily for me my Mum, Sister and Girlfriend managed to make it to the venue just in time so I was very happy they got to see us, and having their support definitely helped me put 100% into this, the final big push.

Godsticks - Live at the Bierkeller, Bristol

And so we went through our routine one last time; we came off stage, packed away everything and watched TPT do their thing before trying to sell as many GODSTICKS t-shirts and CD’s as possible! Thankfully we were experiencing record sales at these two U.K gigs so another big thank you must be given to everyone who came up to the merch table, chatted to us and showed their support. Soon it was time to load up the vans and say our goodbyes, bringing to an end another incredible tour. Having spent so much time together our touring family was closer than ever before, and I have to say I had just as much if not more fun on this tour than the last! I’ve learnt so much working with THE PINEAPPLE THIEF and Gavin Harrison as well, and after an amazing and unforgettable 1st leg I’m just so grateful to have had the chance to live it all again. Most of all though I am proud; proud of myself and my band mates Darran, Dan and Gavin (plus my merch-selling partner Rhiannon!). Together we raised our game and showed everyone that we are now a force to be reckoned with! Thank you so much for reading my blog, and don’t forget our new album ‘Faced With Rage’ is out now on Kscope Records! 

February - August 2017

Sorry I’ve been very quiet on the blog front as of late; these last few months have been very busy! Pretty much as soon as I came back from Europe in February I was back to work again; gigging regularly with 2 RUDE, writing and recording with GODSTICKS and teaching from home as well as in my local area. Let me catch you up with all the latest highlights of what is quickly becoming the most exciting year in my music career!

 

The first few months of the year brought some brilliant gigs for 2 RUDE, starting with a show at Solway Hall in Whitehaven, Cumbria in late February. It was a great big hall with an absolutely massive stage! Then in April we performed at The Neon in Newport (formerly the Newport City Live Arena). The venue is an old cinema with plenty of standing space and balcony seating; just think of it as the ‘Hammersmith Odeon’ of Newport! We were part of a night of live music raising money for the David Pearce Memorial Statue Appeal, and it was a huge success! There’ll be another one coming up in September so watch this space!

On stage at The Neon, Newport with 2 RUDE

May began with GODSTICKS spending a few days recording at the famous Monnow Valley Studio in Monmouthshire. Ever since we finished our tour with THE PINEAPPLE THIEF we’ve been working on what will become the band’s fourth album, but my first with them and the first with our new record label ‘Kscope’. Darran and I were meeting up quite regularly in the rehearsal room and we had a very productive way of writing the drums; I would have spent some time coming up with ideas for the latest demo track, then I’d play them for Darran at rehearsal and slowly but surely, we’d structure a full drum part for each song. Once everything was ready we entered the studio, with a plan to record all my drum parts in 5 days. Working at Monnow Valley is a dream; the studio is hidden away amongst the beautiful welsh countryside, but inside everything is state of the art. Also the humongous live room helped us get an incredible drum sound! It’s a very historic studio as well; back in the 70’s it was connected to Rockfield, another studio just up the road and where many of the big 70’s rock bands recorded their albums, including my all-time favourites Rush. It turns out that the Monnow Valley building was used as a living and rehearsal space for each band recording at Rockfield, so I’m pretty certain that Rush actually stayed and rehearsed in the very same building I am recording drums in today! That definitely made staying and recording in Monnow Valley extra special for me.

Recording drums at Monnow Valley studio for the new GODSTICKS album

Now it’s time for me to talk drums. For this very important recording session I decided to leave my current drums at home and instead hire a top-of-the-range kit, to ensure we got the best possible drum sound out of that room. With thanks to Music Box in Cardiff, I hired a set of DW Collector’s Series drums and as soon as we listened back to the first take in the control room, I knew it was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! They made a really big impression on me so as soon as the recording was done, I actually went out and bought a DW kit for myself! For the recording session though I also treated myself to a Sabian HH 21” raw bell dry ride cymbal and a Pearl Sensi-tone 14”x5” steel snare drum (with thanks to Drum Depot in Cardiff as well!) and once they were combined with the rest of the kit the overall sound was exactly what I wanted. Sometimes it’s hard to find the sound you really want, the sound you’ve pictured in your head beforehand, but somehow we managed to capture it. I am so proud of this album and I can’t wait for you all to hear the finished product! The other guys have finished recording their parts now and we’re all set to release ‘Faced With Rage’ on Friday October 13th! So exciting!

My recording setup: DW drums, Sabian/Zildjian cymbals, Remo/DW heads, Promark sticks

May ended with some more amazing 2 RUDE gigs; one at the Welsh Perry & Cider Festival in Caldicot Castle and another at The Fleece in Bristol. Then on the first weekend of June we felt very lucky and honoured to be performing as part of the UEFA Champions Festival in Cardiff Bay. You might remember that this year’s UEFA Champions League Final took place at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, and this Champions Festival was a weekend-long event that run in tandem with the football. 2 RUDE played on the main stage, in the middle of Roald Dahl Plas just outside the Wales Millennium Centre, on the afternoon of the final day; the weather wasn’t very kind to us but loads of people braved the elements to watch us perform. They even cheered us back on for an encore! As far as gigs go this was a very special, once-in-a-lifetime kind of gig that will undoubtedly stay in the memory for a long time.

Getting ready to play at the UEFA Champions Festival, Cardiff Bay

Soon we were well and truly into festival season and 2 RUDE had the chance to headline so many awesome events! For me the highlights were Pucklechurch Beer Festival in Bristol, 80’s Fest in Manchester and the Bird in Hand Beer Festival in Bristol. But the icing on the cake was our performance at this year’s Monmouth Festival. We played there back in 2013, in front of an audience numbering in the thousands, so we were super excited to finally play there again! Thankfully this year’s show was just as good, if not better! It was undoubtedly a very busy period for the band; at one point we had a run of 6 gigs in 5 days! But we capped off our summer of fun with a great night supporting The Skatalites at The Globe in Cardiff, and a fabulous homecoming show at the Potter’s Bar in Newport.

The crowd at Monmouth Festival

That may be the end of this particular update, but there’s still loads more exciting gigs to look forward to this year! As we enter September my focus has been on preparing for another European tour with GODSTICKS, who are once again supporting THE PINEAPPLE THIEF featuring GAVIN HARRISON. We’ll be on the road for 2 weeks and performing throughout Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the U.K. If you read my blog about the first leg of this tour you’ll know it was an absolutely incredible experience, so I simply cannot wait to do it all again! We’ll be débuting a couple of songs from the new album, plus I get to use my new DW kit live for the first time too! So thank you very much for taking the time to read this little update, and be sure to check back soon to read all about my next touring adventure! 

January/February 2017

2017 has got off to a great start! After months of preparation and rehearsal GODSTICKS went on tour during January and February. We had the opportunity to support an amazing Prog band called THE PINEAPPLE THIEF on a 2-week tour around Europe, and of course all of us were dead excited! Here was our chance to perform in different countries like Germany, Holland, France and The Czech Republic, and in loads of big venues in front of big audiences, but most importantly of all it was a chance for us to get our name out there and impress. We would also be playing three shows in the U.K after a break of a few days, culminating in an already sold-out performance at Islington Assembly Hall in London. It’s by far the biggest tour I’ve ever done in my career so I made sure I relished the whole experience but stayed professional and determined to perform at my very best each night. Plus, the fact that I would be touring with Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree and King Crimson fame, who was TPT’s guest drummer for these shows, only added to the excitement! I simply couldn’t wait to get going!

 

It all began with a 5am alarm call on Thursday January 19th. I got up, loaded my car with drums and luggage and drove off to meet my band mates Dan and Gavin (bass and guitar respectively). Our hire van was waiting at Gavin’s house so we packed everything in the back and hit the road. There were several pickups along the way to Folkstone, where we would catch the Channel Tunnel train into France, including a stop off at Gavin Harrison’s house to collect him and his gear. After introductions he invited us to check out his home studio and rehearsal room; both were just incredible! Anyway, with TPT driving their own van we travelled in convoy through France and into Belgium, before finally coming to rest at our hotel in Haarlem, Netherlands. By now our touring family was complete; the GODSTICKS boys Darran (singer and lead guitar), Dan, Gavin B and me, plus Darran’s wife Rhiannon who acted as tour manager, then the TPT guys Bruce, Jon, Steve and Gavin H plus their crew, Chris the guitar tech, Heleen the lighting tech, Simon the sound man and Marco (affectionately known as Mr. Panda) the drum tech. That night we all ate together in the hotel restaurant, chatting about the journey and getting to know one another. I remember it was next to a bowling alley (that’s right, the hotel had a bowling alley!) and the atmosphere was so cool. Here we all were, ready to embark on an epic journey together, one that I certainly will remember for the rest of my life.

 

The first gig of the tour came the following night; we played ‘Patronaat’ in the centre of Haarlem, just outside Amsterdam. I’ll be honest and say that I got a massive shock when we stepped foot in that first venue; I knew this tour was going to be big but I didn’t realise just how big until I saw this place. It was one of the most incredible venues I’ve ever played in! Everything was immaculate and it had all the facilities you could wish for; nice big dressing rooms with plenty of drinks and snacks, plus a little kitchen where we could prepare lunch. And the stage was insane! It probably wasn’t ideal that the very first show of the tour was going to be played in the venue with the biggest capacity, but there’s nothing I can do about that; it’s just the way the cookie crumbles! Sound check was a bit of a rush because TPT had to make sure everything was working correctly, but once my drums were set up on that big stage those nerves quickly turned into excitement; we were here and it was finally all about to begin! The first show went very well; we got a great response from the audience but I definitely could’ve played better! I knew this would be a massive learning experience for me and that it would take a little while before I was firing on all cylinders; I was just glad to get that first show under my belt and settle those nerves! It was still a very good performance by the band (I remember our song ‘Below The Belt’ sounding particularly tight that night) so I knew things could only get better!    

My drums on stage at Patronaat, Haarlem

Tama Superstar drums – 6-ply birch shells

22x18 Bass

12x10 Tom

13x11 Tom

16x16 Tom

14x5.5 Snare

 

Sabian cymbals

10” Paragon Splash

13” HH Fusion Hi-Hats

14” AAX Stage Hi-Hats

16” Paragon Crash

19” Paragon China

20” Paragon Crash

20” AAX Stage Ride

The next two shows were also in the Netherlands; ‘De Pul’ in Uden and ‘Hedon’ in Zwolle. Both of these venues were immaculate as well; they really know how to make ‘em here! Another two fantastic turnouts meant that GODSTICKS were playing to their biggest audiences ever, but by the end of the third gig we were also feeling a lot more relaxed on stage. I was making a few silly mistakes here and there, but I know these are ones only I notice, not the audience. The band was still getting tighter and tighter; I just needed to keep focused and stay relaxed! Getting to meet the people after the show was a big help with that; as Darran prepared for his set with TPT (that’s right, he played TWO sets every single night, what a legend!) me, Dan and Gavin B would always go out to the merch table to help Rhiannon. Sometimes I would actually help sell the merch (wearing the money belt and everything!) but mostly we would just hang out there after our performance. I remember getting loads of nice comments from people after the Uden gig and seeing copies of GODSTICKS’ latest album ‘Emergence’ simply fly off the merch stand! Gavin Harrison was also very complimentary about our playing that night too! When you see the people digging the music and taking the time to wish you well or buy one of our CD’s, it’s always a great confidence boost and a reminder to stick to your guns; you’re obviously doing something right! 

GODSTICKS on stage at Hedon, Zwolle – I was upgraded to a drum riser that night!

We had one more gig booked in the Netherlands towards the end of the tour, but now it was time to hit Germany! Crossing between the two countries took a full day’s travel time, but at least it was broken up with several stops at the motorway services. They’re pretty much the same as the ones in the U.K, but I remember trying some schnitzel at one stop; very German and quite tasty! When we finally arrived at our hotel in Aschaffenburg we had a bit of time to relax in our rooms before the promoter of the German shows came along to take us all out for dinner! We went to an Italian restaurant opposite the hotel and it was a great way to finish a very long day; I had a pizza and it was so big the edges went over the plate! Being a proud Italian himself, Panda was on hand to educate us on all the best ways to cook various Italian dishes, and upon inspecting all our meals, to tell us how he could’ve done them better! Luckily I would get the chance to sample some of Mr. Panda’s culinary delights a little later in the tour, but for now, it was time to rest.

The gang at Locanda’s Italian Restaurant in Aschaffenburg, Germany

A run of three shows in Germany began the next day. Immediately we noticed a big difference between the Dutch and German venues; everything wasn’t quite as pristine and polished as it was in Holland, but every single German venue had its own unique charm. The rooms in most cases may have been smaller but the atmosphere was always electric! Feeling much more rested after our relaxed evening we couldn’t wait to play ‘Colos-Saal’ in the centre of Aschaffenburg; it was completely packed and despite Gavin’s guitar cutting out during ‘Exit Stage Right’ we still had a great reaction from the crowd! I remember our merch takings were very good that night; a few people even asked us for signatures and photographs! The next night we played at ‘Zentrum Altenburg’ in Oberhausen; basically a big warehouse with a stage at one end! Thankfully we were treated to another awesome crowd and at last I felt like we were performing at our very best. This continued into the next gig at the ‘Frannz Club’ in Berlin. It was so cool seeing loads of old buildings and monuments as we drove into the city; I even spotted a Mercedes-Benz dealership that had some Mercedes F1 cars on display (doubt they were for sale though!). Sound check ran smoothly thanks to Simon’s hard work, giving us plenty of time to have a meal in the venue’s café; I had the BBQ Chicken Wings and they were delicious! Even though it was one of the smallest places we would play on the tour, it was unquestionably one of the band’s best performances. Everyone was just feeling good on stage and totally in the moment. Neil Peart always says that when you’re on tour you’re searching for something he calls “the magic show”; that one gig when everything is flowing and the audience lifts the band up to new heights. Right there and then I knew we’d found our first “magic show”, but would there be more?

A shot of us and the crowd at The Frannz Club, Berlin

To find out, we went to the Czech Republic! Our next gig was at the ‘Futurum Music Bar’ in Prague and a very early start was needed to make sure we arrived on time. For much of our first week in Europe the weather was always wintery; driving through Holland and Germany we saw plenty of picturesque snow-covered fields and villages. Then things went to the extreme as we crossed into the Czech Republic; the cold had become bitter and unbearable while the snow on the hills seemed much deeper! Prague itself had somehow managed to avoid the worst of the January weather so we arrived there in good spirits. It was a very nice venue with a big backstage area and friendly staff, so we could relax and warm up pretty quickly. Despite it being the first time both THE PINEAPPLE THIEF and GODSTICKS have visited this country there was a very good turnout; I even met one guy who had travelled all the way from Poland to see the show! The band put on another very good performance and we had a great time, but unfortunately from my point of view there will always be one overriding memory that I take from this night. I guess it’s inevitably that someone will get sick on tour, and often these “tour bugs” will get past around from person to person, but in my case I think I just ate something that didn’t agree with me. The venue only served vegetarian and vegan food and even though I wolfed it down without a care in the world, let’s just say it came back up! There may have also been a little accident involving Darran, one of our vans and a concerete-incrusted plant pot, but we’ll gloss over that one!

GODSTICKS on stage at the Futurum Music Bar, Prague

I definitely wasn’t 100% the following morning (and Darran definitely had egg on his face too!) but we all pressed on, heading back into Germany for two more shows. First stop was ‘Tante JU’ in Dresden; a lovely city that I spent quite a lot of time in on my last outing through Europe so it was great to be back! The venue was nice and big so I was excited to play, but I was still feeling a bit rough. Thankfully Mr. Panda came to my rescue; the backstage area had a little kitchenette so as soon as sound check was over he made us some delicious risotto. His wholesome home-made food cured me instantly! Feeling a lot better as the day went on I threw myself back into performing as best I could, and it turned out to be a very good gig! We headed to Hamburg the next day to play at ‘Knust’; another pretty small venue but come show time it was absolutely packed! Looking out from the stage there were people as far as the eye could see; definitely a sight to remember and the energy from that big crowd carried us through to another excellent performance!

A shot of us and the crowd at Knust, Hamburg

There was no gig to worry about the next day, just another big journey out of Germany and back into the Netherlands. Before we set off Gavin B, Chris and I were sent out on a special mission to grab some more guitar strings. The three of us hopped on a bus, fumbling for the correct change and trying our best to communicate with the non-English speaking driver, and travelled to a music shop near the centre of St. Pauli. The store was inside an old WW2 bunker known as a ‘Flakturm’; an incredible sight to behold. The building is still very imposing and steeped in dark history, but I thought it was pretty cool that nowadays it’s used to supply the good people of Hamburg with musical instruments and act as a hub for all the local players. Amazingly we made it back to the hotel without getting lost, and despite some very sudden snowfall we hit the road hard. The journey seemed never-ending, mile after mile after mile of endless tarmac, but when we finally arrived in Maastricht it was straight down to the restaurant for food, then straight up to the room for bed!

 

Thankfully there was plenty of time to sleep in the next morning as the day’s venue, ‘Muziekgieterij’, was only a stone’s throw away from the hotel. It was another big converted warehouse like that other place in Germany, but it definitely didn’t lack any of the attention-to-detail that we saw in all the other Dutch places. After a very long sound check we were treated to an amazing meal backstage before retiring to our very nice dressing rooms. Usually the last moments before a show are spent warming yourself up and mentally physicking yourself up to perform, but that night I remember being a little distracted; there was a Nintendo 64 in one of the dressing rooms! I played a few rounds of Mario Kart with Gavin B, Dan and Panda before I finally snapped out of it and started preparing for the show; I would really like to put some kind of games console on our dressing room rider in the future, but that would probably be counter-productive! Anyway, we got a great response from the crowd and I left the stage believing it to have been one of our best performances of the tour! Now there was only one show remaining in Europe, but as luck (or fate) would have it, the best was saved for last.

 

We travelled out of Holland first thing the next morning, bound for Paris. Driving through the city centre was absolutely mental; there were cars everywhere and their drivers seemed to have no regard for what you’d think would be normal traffic laws! Several hair-raising moments later we arrived at our venue ‘Le Divan du Monde’; an old Parisian burlesque theatre. It was very dark and dusty but nevertheless it looked stunning! While THE PINEAPPLE THIEF were setting up and sound checking Dan, Gavin B and I went for a wander around the streets, taking in the Moulin Rouge which just happened to be nearby. Upon our return, it was straight back to work and time to get all our gear set up on stage; we simply couldn’t wait to play and finish this part of the tour with a bang! Come show time the floor and the balcony were absolutely rammed and while we waited in the wings, the atmosphere just kept building and building. As soon as we took our first steps onto the stage the crowd starting cheering; keep in mind we are just the support band here so that was a bit of a surprise! Immediately I knew that this was going to be a very special night so I snapped a quick photo of my view from the stage just before we started to play (see below); what a spectacular sight! We launched into our set and I could feel just how far we’ve come in these last two weeks. Over the course of this tour we have progressed massively as a band, growing tighter both on and off the stage; we started off finding our feet during those first few shows but as each one passed us by we were gradually building confidence. By now we were all bursting with energy on stage and totally at one with our music; it felt so utterly joyous to play. The crowd reaction was amazing and everyone agrees that that night in Paris was GODSTICKS’ best performance of the tour by far; another “magic show”! What an incredible way to finish my first European tour with the band; a sold-out gig in one of the most beautiful and amazing venues I’ve ever been lucky enough to play in. We couldn’t have asked for more!

Moments before our set at Le Divan du Monde, Paris

But this was only part one! Our touring family would reconvene in Glasgow after some downtime to start our run of U.K shows. The break was very welcome and after a long journey out of France, back through the Channel Tunnel and on to Wales, it was so nice to finally be home again surrounded by family and friends. However my mind was still firmly focused on the remaining gigs; I just hoped that in terms of performance level we could pick up exactly where we left off! Anyway, once the small matter of an 8+ hour van journey was dealt with we finally made it to Scotland! I had my girlfriend Rachel with me for the first two days of this trip, so we got up bright and early the next morning to explore the city together (despite still feeling exhausted from that horrible drive!). It was so much fun absorbing all the sights and sounds with her but soon I had to get back to work. We were playing the ‘O2 ABC2’; one of those venues where there are two (or sometimes three) stages in one building. As you might have guessed from the title we were on the smaller of the two stages, but that didn’t stop us from having a great gig! It felt so great to be back on tour and performing to another new audience; they were loud and boisterous but they really loved the music! Also my prayers had been answered; despite the break GODSTICKS were instantly back on top form and I was very happy (plus a tiny bit relieved!) to still be feeling comfortable on the big stages and performing at my best. I think Rachel might be my lucky charm!

Exploring Glasgow

Then as she headed off to the airport to catch a flight back down south the next morning, I had to jump back in the van and travel to Manchester for the next gig. ‘Sound Control’ was our destination; a cool venue nestled down a side street in the city centre. The stage was a good size and I was looking forward to the gig but unfortunately we had some technical issues to contend with. So far on this tour we’d been pretty lucky; no major problems with our wireless units and in-ear monitor system apart from that one loss-of-guitar in Germany. But apparently this venue is notorious for causing all sorts of mischief with new music technology! There was loads of interference and an almighty buzz coming through all our ears as we tried to play, supposedly caused by close proximity to train lines. This was very annoying for both GODSTICKS and THE PINEAPPLE THIEF, but we all ploughed on and still had a very good night performing in front of another sold-out crowd. Also I found a pre-gig Domino’s pizza surprisingly helpful at relieving my worries! Anyway, we had reached the home stretch; just one more show left to play and then sadly it would all be over.

 

We left Manchester the next morning bound for London and our date with destiny at ‘Islington Assembly Hall’. Gavin B and I swapped over to the TPT van for this journey, meaning we could have a nice long chat with Gavin Harrison. We heard loads of funny tour stories from the Porcupine Tree days, and from my point of view it was so great to just talk drums with him. I watched him play pretty much every night while we were on tour and it’s so cool to see that as well as being an immensely talented musician, he’s still a down-to-earth and friendly guy. He was always quick to offer advice and encouragement all through the tour and I am so grateful for it. I could’ve talked with him for hours but we had to drop him off back at his place before continuing on our way into London. When we arrived at the venue we were all blown away; it was even more beautiful than I imagined! Incredible stage, massive floor with balcony seating above, everything decorated and finished with such class and distinction; without a doubt one of the most amazing venues I have ever been to! All my gear was set up in a flash because I was so excited to get on but GODSTICKS had to wait a little before sound checking; THE PINEAPPLE THIEF were making a live DVD of this show, so every precious moment they had to set everything up and fine-tune it ready for show-time was so valuable. When we finally finished checking all our stuff there was very little time for a pre-show meal but Dan, Gavin B, Mr. Panda and I were determined to visit what is surely GODSTICKS’ favourite restaurant; Wagamama’s! Full credit must be given to the staff at the Angel/Islington branch; we arrived, ordered, ate our food and paid the bill in the space of 45 minutes despite it being a busy Saturday night! Power-walking back to the venue was hard thanks to a stomach full of steak noodles but we returned with plenty of time to warm up and prepare. 

Mr. Panda, me, Dan and Gavin B at Wagamama’s in Islington, London

We patiently waited in the wings, occasionally peering out at the audience. Despite the enormity of this last gig I was determined to treat it just like any other; I drew on all the experience I have mustered and things I have learned from this amazing tour, and used them to keep my mind focused on my job; playing the drums. GODSTICKS hit the stage and everything just felt right; we were in front of the biggest audience we’ve ever played to as a band but we still performed with all the drive and energy we had been building up over the tour. Just like in Paris over a week earlier, our goal was to finish on a high and make this the peak performance; the one where we rose to the occasion and showed the people what this new GODSTICKS sound is all about. Thankfully, it was an amazing gig! I have an infinite amount of love and respect for my band mates, and once again Darran, Dan and Gavin put everything they had into their performances; they were sensational. Just like my band mates I put everything I had into that gig too, and hearing the roaring cheers from the crowd in return was just incredible. Playing in that venue, on that stage, in front of that audience; it was just about the most awesome feeling in the world! After the last song, we posed for one last crowd shot and left the stage to triumphant applause. Then as I quickly packed my gear away in one of the back rooms, the GODSTICKS Facebook and Twitter pages suddenly exploded with praise and nice comments from the audience members, providing instant confirmation that yes, that was indeed the best gig we’ve ever done and another “magic show”! Perhaps it will also prove to be the most important gig we’ve ever played; there were plenty of big-wigs in the room to watch us and as a result, the future’s looking very bright for GODSTICKS. 

A shot of us and the crowd at Islington Assembly Hall, London

THE PINEAPPLE THIEF did their show and it was a huge success; they are a fantastic band and thoroughly deserve everything they have been working so hard to build. And with Gavin Harrison on board they have now risen to a whole new level and become one of the top progressive rock bands in the U.K, if not the world. But for us, all that was left to do now was to attend the after-party (that’s right, there actually was one!). We rubbed shoulders with friends old and new, with soft drinks and party snacks in hand (very rock n’ roll!), but soon it was time to say our goodbyes and head back to the hotel. My mood was very ambivalent the next morning; as I sat in the restaurant of the hotel having breakfast I was feeling sad because it was all coming to an end, but happy because it happened. I’m so lucky to have been a part of this tour and to have all these amazing gigs and experiences to look back on. I have learnt so much from them and I feel like I am a better drummer because of them. My thanks go out to everyone in our lovely and crazy tour family, especially Darran, Rhiannon, Dan, Gavin and all the crew. We are all in this together and we worked so hard to make the whole experience a memorable one (as well as profitable) both on and off the stage. It really was one of the most amazing and unforgettable times of my life.

October 2016

And now, a change to your regularly scheduled blog. This is something I wrote in August 2010 about my first ever trip to Las Vegas. I’m dedicating it to my father Martyn who sadly passed away this month after a long fight against cancer. I thought it would be nice to share a story about me and him going on a grand adventure together, just one of many from over the years. I like to think it shows how close we were, how much fun we had together, and how much I will miss him. I hope you enjoy reading it. Tom x

 

We decided to spend a few days out in Las Vegas for a nice summer break, partly to go and see one of the best cities in America, but mainly to go and see Rush! As soon as news of their latest tour reached us both, we started imagining how great it would be to go and see them play out in America. I must be honest, I didn’t think we would actually follow through with our ideas, but when Dad called me in London and said that the gig tickets, flights and hotel were booked, I suddenly became very excited! The last time I saw Rush (Birmingham NEC, Sept 2007, Snakes and Arrows Tour) they were amazing, but would this show be even better? Let’s read on…

 

We were flying with Virgin Atlantic, an airline we’ve had good experiences with in the past, but sadly things were destined to go wrong for us this time out. Before the plane even got in the air, there were problems with the seat in front of where Dad was sitting; a clumsy American woman fell back on the chair pretty hard, knocking it out of position. This created a lot of discomfort for Dad but despite the cabin crew’s best efforts they couldn’t fix the seat for takeoff. In the end they had to try and hold it upright with the belt buckle on the seat! Later on in the flight, just as we started having our dinner... BANG! The broken seat’s hinges completely collapsed and the chair comes crashing down onto Dad! Now it is well and truly broken! The clumsy American woman was moved to another seat, but despite being offered another seat as well Dad elected to stay put behind the broken chair so as to not leave me on my own. Always thinking of others, that’s my Dad! 

 

Although these events could be seen as bad omens for the holiday, there were some good omens appearing on the journey which kept us guessing just how awesome the trip will be. We were both playing the on-board games a lot, one of which was Blackjack so we each had the chance to put in some practice before we hit the tables in Vegas. But the freakiest omen came when Dad started playing Hangman. The very first word he had to guess was.... RUSH! How spooky is that? It was as if the rock gods were speaking to us, hinting that this gig was going to be something special... We arrived in Vegas in the late afternoon, got a taxi straight to our room at the MGM Grand and immediately went to bed! Although we only got a small taste of what Las Vegas was like in those few hours before we hit the hay, we were already totally in love with the city; huge buildings, incredible scenery, a place where anything is possible. There was even a group of showgirls greeting you at the airport door! Only in Vegas…

 

After our first night in town we woke up at 3:30am, still jet-lagged but unable to sleep anymore because our body-clocks hadn’t adjusted to U.S time yet! Maybe it was just the excitement of getting stuck into this city that kept us awake, who knows!  Anyway, we went for a little walk around the MGM casino in the morning while we waited for the breakfast buffet to open. Walking past all those slot machines and empty tables with dealers waiting for their first players of the day was enticing; I felt so tempted to just start gambling straight away! But I had to pace myself or my money would run out on the first day! We did have a quick go on some video poker machines though, and believe or not my very first hand on my very first machine was a straight! I couldn’t believe it! Another lucky omen, I hear you say? Let’s read on and find out…

 

The breakfast buffet was always a great start to our days; delicious pancakes and smooth, thirst-quenching orange juice! Our first full day in the city was spent looking round as many of the hotels as we could, filming and photographing as much of our travels as we could, and constantly spoofing National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation (a favourite film of ours!). We looked around New York New York, Excalibur, Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Monte Carlo, Bellagio, Paris, Planet Hollywood, Imperial Palace, Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, the Venetian, and the Hard Rock Hotel; each of these places more incredible than the last! The casinos in each of these hotels were more or less the same, but each one had a different decor and a different atmosphere, so you have to go and see each one to find your favourite! My own favourites on the trip were the Luxor, New York New York, the Hard Rock, and of course the MGM Grand. 

 

We also visited a Classic Car Collection in the Imperial Palace, which Dad particularly enjoyed! There were plenty of old British, European and American cars, and a very interesting selection of old race and rally cars too (I liked those ones!). But the best part of this collection was that most of the cars were for sale! Just imagine it; you win big in the casinos and come here to spend it all on a dream car! What a holiday that would be! Later we had an excellent meal at the Hard Rock Cafe, and then after quickly purchasing a souvenir T-shirt from the gift shop we headed back to the Strip to soak in the nightlife. All the hotels and buildings on the strip look so impressive during the day, but at night when all the lights are turned on they’re mesmerising! We also caught some of the free shows you can see on the Strip; we saw the fountains at the Bellagio and the volcano eruption at the Mirage, which were both excellent! 

 

The next day we went to the Pinball Hall of Fame, just off the Strip in downtown Vegas. My Dad loves old pinball machines just as much as I love old video games so he was relishing the prospect of playing a large selection of immaculately restored pinball machines from the 60’s and 70’s. You should’ve seen his face light up when he walked in! I enjoyed playing a selection of old arcade machines with games like Space Invaders, Track and Field, and Super Mario instead. I even set the high-score on Asteroids (although it only lasted about an hour before it was beaten!). Later that day I played my first game on a casino table; Texas Hold ‘em Poker. I enjoyed the experience but I did lose money; about $90 to be exact! Never mind, better luck next time! We then went to the giant Coke bottle on the Strip which acts as an information and ticket centre, to see if we could pick up some cheap seats for a show in the evening. Luckily we got 2 tickets to see Cheap Trick performing The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” at the Paris hotel. A quick meal in the Planet Hollywood, then it’s off to the show! 

 

As much as we thought we were lucky to get some last-minute seats for the show, our luck hadn’t run out. When we arrived at the venue the usher lady changed our tickets and moved us to some awesome seats, right in front of the sound desk in the centre of the circle with the perfect view of the stage. Once the curtains came up I was very happy to discover that our new seats meant that we had the best view of the drummer! The show was very good; I’ve never really listened to any Cheap Trick songs, but I had heard of them beforehand. Perhaps we wouldn’t have enjoyed the show so much if the set just consisted of songs we didn’t know, but because they were playing one of the most important and influential albums of all time, accompanied by an amazing orchestra, this made the whole experience one to remember. And I did end up liking Cheap Trick’s own songs in the end! Highlights included “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, “Dream Police”, “I Want You to Want Me”, and the awe-inspiring finale of “All You Need is Love”.  

 

The next morning we got up early to go on a tour of the Hoover Dam. It’s situated only an hour outside of the city and Dad and I really wanted to go; not only to see this incredible structure in the beautiful Nevada landscape, but to also spoof the crap out of National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation some more! The trip down to the dam turned out to be just as much fun as the tour itself; we stopped by the legendary Las Vegas welcome sign for a photo before travelling up into the mountains. Our eyes were taking in all the breathtaking scenery as we finally climbed down the sun-drenched, barren valley toward the dam. The tour was very educational, but I spent most of it trying not to laugh while thinking about scenes from the Vegas Vacation film! It ended with the chance to take pictures from the viewing points on top of and around the dam, and what we saw from them was unbelievable. It was so big, so steep, and so amazing! It’s a true symbol of America’s grandness and beauty, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget...  

 

In the hours we had to kill before the Rush show later that day, Dad and I hit the tables. This time we both had our first go at Blackjack, albeit with different outcomes. I lost $110 of my hard-earned cash, while on the other hand Dad managed to win $300! It had been eight years since his last trip to Vegas so he’s had a lot of time to read Blackjack strategy books and put in hundreds of practice hands before coming here again, and I’m glad to say that all his hard work paid off! We also swung by the buffet to fill up with more delicious American food ready for the concert. Little did we know that just around the next corner lay a night-changing encounter... 

 

As we walked through the casino on our way to the Grand Garden Arena, a guy stopped us upon noticing our Rush t-shirts and said: “I have 4 tickets for the show tonight, but I have to be somewhere else. Take them, they’re great seats, and I know you guys will enjoy the show!”. I couldn’t speak for a moment; I wasn’t sure if this was a genuinely nice high roller who was just giving us 4 tickets to the show for free, or just a ticket-tout offloading his contraband on the first people with Rush t-shirts he sees! Another passing gentleman heard about what we were just given and asked if he could have 2 of those tickets. We didn’t hesitate to give them to him, as we didn’t even know if they were real ourselves! We knew we had to find out if they were real or not so we continued on our way to the arena, gave the ushers our new tickets, and amazingly we were in! I couldn’t believe it! We quickly grabbed some tour merchandise and then hunted for our seats, wondering just how great they were going to be. Turns out, very! We were positioned at the bottom of the grandstand stalls on the right hand side of the stage with an amazing view! We were on Geddy’s side, and our position just above the standing crowd meant that we were almost at the same height as Geddy would be on stage! But the view of Alex’s side, all the cool “steam punk”-styled amps and props and of course, the beautiful drum kit, was perfect too! It was at that time we completely forgot about our old seats (I still have my whole unused ticket at home!) and just prepared ourselves for what would surely be an awesome show, seen from some awesome seats!

 

A few minutes after us the people who had the seats next to ours arrived; two delightful chaps called Jimmy and Johnny. Turns out they bought their seats on the night, from the guy we gave 2 of the 4 new tickets to, and they paid nearly $200 for them! We thought “Damn, we should’ve sold them!”. Never mind; these guys were big Rush fans like us and so happy to pick up these great seats last minute. Oh, and by the way, as much as Jimmy and Johnny were delightful, there were also crazy! (You’ll find out more as you read on...) Lights out, the show is about to begin; I’m so excited! I had been looking forward to seeing my favourite band (and drummer) again for months and the moment was finally here... As the opening movie ends the band walk on stage, and Alex launches into “The Spirit of Radio”. The whole arena erupts! We sang along to every word, sang every guitar riff, and I air-drummed every fill! Even though it’s the first song of the show the band plays it with such an incredible amount of energy that the entire audience is absolutely electrified from it; the perfect opener! The first set also contained classics such as “Time Stands Still”, “Leave That Thing Alone”, “Freewill”, “Subdivisions” and “Marathon”. Johnny was particularly pleased they played this one, and he and Jimmy weren’t afraid to show their jubilation! They spent the entire show rocking out like crazy, dancing around and air-drumming all the time! Occasionally Jimmy would turn to me and we’d high-five. That was cool. Anyway, back to the show…

 

Set 1 was over; my throat was dry from singing along to every word and my arms were sore from air-drumming the best fills, but I was feeling so great and couldn’t wait for more! Another very funny opening movie (with some jokes that only Rush fans will understand!) then it was straight into “Tom Sawyer”. The band would go on to play every single song from the “Moving Pictures” album, and this was quite a spectacle. The huge crowd in the arena was already loving the show, but once the band began playing songs from this album the audience’s energy and appreciation definitely went up a gear. “Tom Sawyer”, “Red Barchetta”, “YYZ”, “Limelight”, “Witch Hunt” and “Vital Signs” were performed flawlessly. But it was the epic rendition of “The Camera Eye”, a song that the band had not performed live for nearly 20 years, that became the highlight of the show. However, the highlight of the show for every drummer in the room came soon after because Neil Peart’s drum solo was outstanding! Once again I was wowed and inspired by seeing this incredible drummer in the flesh. Alex soon came back on stage and played a lovely acoustic number before going into “Closer to the Heart”. The entire arena sang along to that song; it was a brilliant moment! The second set finished with “2112” and “Farcry”. The one song I was probably most looking forward to hearing live was “2112” and it was great! Everyone was going crazy, interacting with the band, and shouting “Hey!” in between riffs. Geddy thanked the crowd, said we were amazing, and then the band left the stage. He was right, the crowd was amazing; I wasn’t only in awe of the band, I was in awe of everyone there! But the encore, oh god, the encore was insane! They played “La Villa Strangiato” and “Working Man” better than I have ever heard before; Alex was soloing out of his skin! It was the absolute perfect ending to the greatest show I’ve ever seen. I cheered so loud for Rush; they are my musical heroes and I left the show with my love for this band stronger than ever. Anyway, let’s move on to the final day now. 

 

We had a few hours to kill before we had to go to the airport, so we divided up what was left of our dollars and hit the tables for the last time. Fortunately, we did very well; Dad won another $200 or so playing Blackjack and after spreading my play between a Blackjack and Poker table, I managed to win $300! It’s just a shame that all of my luck seemed to come on the last day, otherwise I would’ve pressed on! Sadly, it was time for us to leave. To be honest, 4 nights in Las Vegas isn’t enough time; there was still so much to see and so much to do. I was very glad to touchdown in the UK again, but I still wished we had more time in Vegas; it was an absolutely awesome holiday!