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Rod's Diaries 2009 - Thursday 12th February, Dubai.
I set off for Stanstead airport late Sunday evening on a pretty horrible day, it was absolutely pouring down all the way there and not much fun - the blue skies of India and Dubai were definitely looming in my mind as we drove up there. Had a couple of drinks with the guys, the band weren't there yet as they were coming up the following day but I wanted to make sure I could actually get there from Brighton with all the weather we've been having in the UK. So I spent a bit of time with the crew and the next day we all got together and went down to the airport, checked in and got on old Ed Force One - who was looking as spruce as ever - and flew over to Belgrade which only takes a couple of hours and is a nice short flight to get started with. The weather there wasn't a lot better. That evening I had a pretty quiet night, did some work, got some stuff together and generally just got ready for the gig the next day.
The gig was really good, it was at a different place to where we played last time, a really nice new stadium. Great crowds as always in this part of the world. I popped outside for a bit and got talking to some fans and it was quite amazing that there were people from everywhere - the guys from Spain, from Finland who do our fanclub up there (who gave me a very special personal pass for the Finland fanclub - much appreciated guys!), the head of the FC from Serbia, guys from France and the UK and all over the place as well as obviously Croatia and the surrounding Balkan region.
In the old days we used to do a warm up gig before a tour, we'd use a false name and maybe play in a small club, something like that. But as time went on and the shows got bigger then we didn't really do rehearsal shows, we'd do a good pre-production to get ready and just expect the band to get it right on the first night, which they usually do. But in Belgrade we had quite an amusing time. You see, the guys had been in Paris for a week or so to rehearse for the tour and work out the new setlist - in the press release I think I put that we've got five different songs in the set from last time and no doubt it's all over the web already but I'm not going to tell you what they are, though from the following information you'll probably get some clues.
It all started off well, the show looked great, went on time and everything... we've got a few new backdrops in place having brought the Powerslave one out this time so everyone knows what this tour's about, not using the one we used in '08 but using a different one. So all went well with Churchill's Speech, Aces High flying through - fantastic. And then, Adrian went straight into 2 Minutes To Midnight which of course was the second song in the set in '08. But now we've changed it round and the second song is actually (and this is giving away secrets) Wrathchild. So they didn't stop, obviously, but went through the song and then went back, which threw the drapes out a bit as they're in different places for different songs. But they did Wrathchild next and then a few songs later Nicko started The Trooper in the wrong place, well in the wrong order of set anyways - this is all about set changes, they played the songs fine it was just the actual set changes where they weren't reading the setlist properly, generally speaking. So that all went down and then Adrian went into Wasted Years when we were doing a different song - this time we stopped in time and changed that - then Bruce repeated the same line a couple of times in Hallowed (and he's only sung that song about two thousand times!) But the best one was saved til last, it was absolutely stupendous.
Hallowed was the encore last year, as most of you probably know since most of you went to at least one concert and many of you went to a lot more. Anyway, being the encore, you say 'goodbye'. This time, it's before Iron Maiden so we finish Hallowed Be Thy Name and Bruce is waving, saying goodbye and walking off stage! We had a bit of a laugh about it afterwards. I'll make sure the setlist is printed in much bigger letters and I'm sure that in Dubai tomorrow night we'll get it all right. I did ask the band if they had actually been in Paris rehearsing, rather than absconding somewhere else and pretending they were doing some work, but they all said they'd been there so I guess I've got to believe them.
But other than that the show went great and we went back to the hotel, had a few glasses of wine with the chaps and Ian, Gaddsy and the usual team, and the next day I was up reasonably early. One thing I'm trying to do on this tour is get back in shape, cos last year I was so busy with the touring that I didn't get to do one of my annual charity bike rides (in '07 I went to Peru and before that I've done Kenya, Vietnam, Russia, Egypt and China) but with being away from the family so much last year with the touring I thought it was a bit unfair to bugger off again for ten days towards the end of the year. So I've put on about a stone in weight between the touring and all that, you know the bad life you lead on the road, so I've decided that this time around I'm going to do something about it! I've got my bike ride booked for India later in the year and I'm getting down the gym or swimming a lot at the moment. Also eating more sensibly and trying to stick to wine rather than my favourite tipple which is beer. During the first three days I managed to do very well, getting down to the swimming pool and doing a number of laps. I think I'll weigh myself every day now, just to make sure it's working.
Having gone down for a swim at 8.30 in the morning (which is a really good time to be up when you're on the road, but it's early days yet!), we got on the plane again and set off for Dubai. Uneventful flight again as usual - the first time around everyone's so excited about the whole project, the whole trip and everything, but you know what it's like when you do something a second time, it's never quite the same as you've got into your routine and know roughly what to expect. The plane's got better seats for us this time, which helps a lot - they recline more. You can't put electric flatbed seats in the plane cos it costs literally millions to install all the wiring needed for those electric chairs, but we've got some ex-British Airways first class seats which do recline to about 45 degrees, so it's a bit more comfortable on the plane.
We got to Dubai so myself and Andy and the band went out to dinner just to run through what'll be happening on the tour and just general things between all of us. Like those dinners usually do, it went on til half one or two in the morning. Of course there's a three hour time difference to Belgrade and four back to London so it was still relatively early for our body clocks. But in the end I left Janick and Dave to it, they're definitely hardened veterans. This morning I woke up very disappointed after dreaming of the blue skies to find it's very overcast, very very windy, I really hope it's not like this tomorrow cos we're outdoors and wind always makes a mess of things with backdrops and everything as you can imagine. I didn't get up til about midday, back into tour mode already but midday's more like eight in the morning and it was a late night (my head was throbbing quite a bit). I got stuck into work - the guys were going into the desert today to go dune buggy-ing - they didn't get to see any camels but apparently the dune buggies were fantastic. I was pretty much stuck here on the laptop until half an hour ago, it's now 11 o clock. There's just lots to do, what with the movie coming out and the tour so it's pretty hectic... which is my excuse. I'm leaving the photography to Gaddsy this time, you probably all got bored with my shots of buildings in the latter half but I am pretty obsessive about the architecture in those wonderful cities in Eastern Europe. I'll have the camera with me some of the time in case anything particularly interesting with the band happens, but generally speaking Gaddsy will put all his shots in the gallery - he does a good job with that I think.
With the diary, I'm doing this a different way as well because getting the time... the diaries on most of the tour last year were taking an awfully long time, by the time I'd done the photographs as well, downloaded them and sorted them out it was two to three hours and I just haven't got that time on this bit, there's just too much going on. So I've got myself a digital dictaphone which I'm talking into right now, pacing round the room trying to remember things in the correct order, and that's going to go to Admin who's initially going to type it out so I can get used to it and see how it reads, but later on we may just put up the audio clips themselves (although it's so stilted while I'm doing it now that I don't think that's going to happen!) But we might give it a shot, so if you get a diary which is just me talking into a recorder then you know why. Let us know what you think - maybe you'd like one of those occasionally? Hopefully this will save me a lot of time and doing my diaries should take ten or fifteen minutes rather than a couple of hours - so bear with me and I hope you enjoy it, I'll try and keep up to date, I'm not too far behind here and hopefully this should go up tomorrow as I'm doing it quite late at night, and you'll hear more from me after the show in Dubai.
Hope you've all been keeping well over the last few months while we've been off, it's great to be back out. A little bit sad to think this is the last time we'll have this show out but then in 1985 we didn't really think we'd be doing it again 20-odd years later, but I don't think we'll be doing it a third time 20 years from now, so we're going to enjoy every bit of it and hope you guys if you can get down to any of the shows (though I know they're a long way from where a lot of you live) it'd be great to see you. Take care of yourselves for now and I'll be back in a couple of days.