08 Jun 2007 - Rod in Bulgaria

BULGARIA 3pm Wed June 6

I am on the plane on the way between Sofia and Ostrava -- its mid afternoon. Before l start reading the new Private Eye the responsible side of me insisted on getting up to date on this diary as yesterday was marred by the usual online problems l seem to get at the start of a tour. Shouldn't l know by now but for some reason it always seems to happen, and no fault of the online facilities at the hotels nowadays, even as far afield as Bulgaria the connections are good and cheap. Bruce is sat opposite doing the Times crossword (2 to go -- both about trees -- we are both a bit lost on foliage!); Nicko is reading a book called Instant Party about Keith Moon presumably trying to work out yet more ways to be a nuisance: Dave is nodding off a bit probably trying to fathom the book he is reading on cosmology -- l looked at the back of this and it said our universe was part of an infinite series of the same. As l find the scale of just our universe quite incomprehensible l think l would need to nod off to contemplate this too!; H is reading a magazine on guitars : Steve has the mag MacWorld -- yes another smaller universe of great mystery! Jan is down the front sitting with Ian doing something on the laptop. We should be there in about an hour and straight to the venue for the show in Ostrava.

So back to where we came in. As you will have seen l missed the show in Ljubljana as l had to go to a mate's party -- and what a party it was. James Bond theme and flowing with good wines. So Sunday was a pretty dead day trying to recover to get up at 7am Monday to help my long suffering wife Kathy get the kids up for school (which will be down to here yet again for the rest of the week and most of June as half term is over), get packed and get a car about 8 to Gatwick headed for Sofia. Very much looking forward to it as l have never been to Bulgaria before and do enjoy going to new places. The band played there once in a smaller venue in 1995 with Blaze singing but l didn't get to the show. We were supposed to play there in 2003 at the same Lokomotiv football stadium but although the date was confirmed the football club took the venue back as they had a rearranged fixture and we were unable to reschedule it on that tour. So at last we get back there.

Of course the first show was in Ljubljana in Slovenia -- l don't think we have  been there either since the 80s. I seem to recall our first (at that time) Yugoslavian Tour in about 86 took in Belgrade, Ljubljana and l think Zagreb. No doubt one of you hot shots will know exactly!! Anyway it went well although the attendance was a bit disappointing at a bit over 10,000. Not really what we expected in that region. Some put that down to poor promotion, some to the fact it is in many parts of Europe a tough summer business wise with all the traffic, some to the fact it was outdoor and it had been terrible weather in the whole region for weeks and was also raining the whole day of the show. We thought Slovenians were a bit more hardy than to be stopped by a bit of rain though!!! But anyway no worries, it was our first show on this short tour and we were able to get most of the cobwebs out as its not so long since Bangalore. Not as much fun when it's so wet though. 

Anyway Sofia was back to normal for Eastern Europe-- about 28,000 and what a sensational audience. Everyone giving it everything throughout the show. Weather there had also been bad for weeks and of course this was also an outdoor show in the football stadium. But still the advance tix were still over 25,000 and it rained on the day of the show until the early afternoon but after that it was a glorious day, hot and sunny.

After a pretty mediocre flight experience on Bulgaria Air l was picked up at the airport by local arranger George and we drove a about 45 min to the show. Checked in with Ian and Dickie and went over a few things regarding this tour and next year, got a bite to eat, saw Bruce and Steve to catch up as they came down a bit earlier. Then met some record co staff and some local media for a beer and a chat. The band generally like to get to the gig timed to get ready for the show and have always concentrated on the show. Although they may from time to time call in briefly to say a quick hello they never hang around so it's left to me to meet all the local people who wish to say hello. What a let down for them but they are advised of this in advance!! The band want to enjoy what they are there to do -- play to the fans -- so that's what we do

Dickie had a few problems that day as the trucks were two and a half hours late arriving due to the poor condition of some of the roads through Romania partly because of all the bad weather. Not much global warming around here then. In the end, he and our terrific crew got it together for the show to start almost on time. Popular Bulgarian band Ahat opened and were really very good. They should try to play more dates outside Bulgaria.

For a second gig the guys were well on form and everything seemed to work well although l found out after they were not particularly happy with the onstage sound but when have l not heard this at the start of a tour!! From out front playing, sound and lights all good so we are already into the flow. We added Children of the Damned to the set we did in March and of course it works very well there. As l said before it's the first time that Maiden with Bruce have played here, though Steve has good memories of the gig with Blaze in 95, and the audience were well up for it. As soon as they opened the doors, a bit late due to the delays on the trucks, the kids stormed in straight to the barrier and started the MAIDEN -- MAIDEN chants , and that was about 3 hours before we went on. Again a very young audience overall and what we are finding pretty well everywhere nowadays (even including the UK!) -- a lot of girls , and a lot of very pretty ones at that. Just goes to show how things change. A local poll of our gig in Cardiff before xmas had it about a third girls -- one in three, whereas in the eighties it must have been more like one in twenty and in those young and carefree days they were usually the ones we brought with us or put on the guest list.

So all in all a good night. Q were over to review so watch out for that. Had a few drinks in the bar with band, photographer Mick Hucknall, our PR from EMI UK the hon William Luff and Paul Elliot, the wily journo who of course made a big deal of the fact that l went to bed before them l think for the first time ever. However this strange event is likely to occur for a while as in October l have another charity ride for Mencap and this time its Peru with the highest point of the ride 4380m, which is some height, so the fags are reducing and soon to go and gym, exercise and healthy eating are the order of day for the next few months or l may (literally!) kill myself with the hills and lack of oxygen -- or even worse, not finish the ride!!! More of that later.

So the day off Tues was work and gym and work then watched History Channel - some excellent programmes inc one on Pizzaro and the conquest of the Incas which l found particularly interesting with going to Peru soon, inc a day at Machu Pichu  before we set off round Lake Titicaca. Bed early-ish, up decent time today Wed, catch up on overnight emails, gym for an hour then down to meet band and set off for airport for Ostrava in the Czech Republic. Should be another cracker today, hope the weather holds!!

- Rod

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