31 May 2004 - Rod - Austria

EARLY DAYS OF THE TOUR

Its about 11am in Graz, Austria, Tuesday May 31 and l am in the hotel room. After 3 days of wonderful hot sunny days you would have to bet that when we actually have a full day in one place it gets cloudy and much cooler. But then if that’s the only problem on the road cant be too bad. Anyway I can take the opportunity to bring up to date so far and hopefully get some pix to you soon. There was no broadband or wireless access so far so will send to office to post when l can.

We met up at Stanstead last Saturday May 28 - already seems like months ago!! One of us was very late - l will leave it to you all to guess who! Lost in North London - sounds like a movie. We eventually got off about 2.30 getting into Prague about 4.30 l guess, and off to hotel then soon down to the gig at the 15,000 capacity T Mobile Arena. No support tonight as its much better and easier for the crew on the first night of such a big show to have no distractions or any thing to “get in the way”. For a first gig in nearly a year and a half it went pretty well and certainly the packed crowd were extremely noisy and well into it. Besides the Czech Republic there were many fans from Poland and also fans from the UK and other countries who wanted to be at the first show ( thanks for coming everyone - you know we appreciate it). It was a bit ragged at times and a couple of the drape changes were a bit off and a couple of the pyros couldn’t be used as a band member was too close and we don’t really want to lose anyone so early in the tour!! But this is the sort of thing you have to expect at the beginning and after discussing with crew and band where necessary this was soon eliminated for the next gig.

The band very much enjoyed playing the new set - although they were bloody nervous!! Its quite a challenge on a tour this size to keep to just materiel from those first four albums but its something the band really enjoy and we think the fans will get a great kick out of hearing these songs. Most fans will never have heard many of these songs live before and they are great songs that deserve playing again and it will probably be the last time in many cases that we play them so it’s a unique opportunity to hear this classic materiel. Some of these Bruce has hardly ever sung live and some like “Remember Tomorrow” have special significance as this was the first song he did with the band when they first played together to make sure it worked out!! Anyway after you have been to a show let us know what you think. And by the way for those who keep requesting Alexander the Great” please note its not on the first four albums!!

After the gig we all went back to the hotel bar with various friends of the band and myself who had come along for the first gig. And thanks to William, Paul and Mary from our EMI team who came along. Its really is tremendous to have such personal support from some of the key execs at your label. Mary who runs the International end for us right now has been a very big fan going right back to the early Ruskin days and Music Machine so knows all this materiel really well and certainly seemed to be enjoying it on the mixing platform!!

The next day we flew to Katowice, Poland around midday. A police escort awaited us and was with us throughout driving between gig and hotel and airport. Certainly helps to get through any traffic. We played Poland in the mid eighties extensively having taken over there for the first time by anyone a full Western tour production with the great Powerslave production and tour in 84 so its always been a special place for us and the support of the fans there has always been amazing. There were about 25,000 of them at the Mystic Festival at the Chorzow Slaski stadium. Mostly everything went well and all the details of the production, drapes, pyro etc worked out well. The only problem was with the sound, although that’s some problem. It was a very hot day and the front of stage security were spraying the front rows with water to keep them cool but stupidly they allowed water to get sprayed on the PA amps at the front of the stage and by the time we went on it had penetrated the amps and led to general distortion in the sound. Our sound engineer, Dougie, who is normally quite mild mannered, was going apeshit but there was nothing that could be done about it. The underlying distortion affected the impact and volume which was a real drag as the fans deserved better although it didn’t seem to affect their enjoyment of the show and perhaps they didn’t notice. But we did. Otherwise it was a good show and the band played really well.

After the show we went back to the hotel bar on the top floor of the hotel with all glass walls and a fantastic view over the city. The guys from Dragonforce joined us for a beer or three and Bruce and myself had a good and at times hilarious chat with them - most of it censored. They supported us - and went down great - in Poland and will also be in Austria, Lisbon, Spain and some other places so check them out

Monday we flew into Graz around midday. That afternoon saw all the band except Bruce (who as you know is not a big football fan - a bit like me!!) and most of the crew in a sports bar for the West Ham v Preston play off final for promotion to the Premiership - something of massive importance to those clubs. The beer flowed and thankfully West Ham won 1-0. Otherwise Steve would have been inconsolable for the rest of the tour. He was of course delighted as you will see from the pix when we get them up. UP THE IRONS!!

Which pretty well brings us back to now. Graz tonight then we all fly home straight after the show and then back into Germany for the weekend for those big festivals. Cant wait - see some of you there. We will be ready.

Rod Smallwood
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