14 Jul 2008 - Rod's Diary - Twickenham Pt 3

ROD'S DIARY - TWICKENHAM PART 3 -- THE DAY

Up at about 9 as had to chase down 2 cats and our dog to take them to the kennels as we go all go away on Monday and I don't fancy having to get up at this time tomorrow to take them!! They are used to it, as soon as they see the cat baskets they start whinging and trying to get away and hide! The dog fortunately is an easier proposition as it's ten times the size and can't hide so easily. Takes about an hour to take them to the kennels and back and I then have a good breakfast, check out the sports news and walk up to Hove station. Delighted to see Hove Maiden fans on the platform already, its only midday and doors at Twickenham don't open til 3.30 so obviously a couple of beers along the way is planned. Of course I know the pubs of Twickenham rather well after having attended so many England rugby games there for more years than I care to remember. My first game was England v Wales in about 1969, a trip down with my college rugby team...of course in those days we lost. (welshie says we still do) If I had a penny for every pint I had consumed in and around Twickenham ....well, you can guess the rest!

Changed trains at Clapham Junction and onto a platform crowded by fans. It really was a similar atmosphere to a rugby crowd there, everyone seemed to be  in great spirits looking forward to a terrific "match" and a definite feeling of anticipation in the air. Maiden fans are often compared to football fans due to their dedication to the band, the way they wear our "colours" and the fact that many follow the band around many shows, home and away. I prefer to liken them to rugby fans for a similar reason but I won't go into the other reasons as Steve would get upset.

The walk through Twickenham to the ground is always a pleasant one and fans were already making their way there in quite big numbers -- it was about 2. I got stopped occasionally by fans who recognised me and, as I was in no great rush, had a chat, took a pic. Some had travelled many miles, including a couple from Brazil, and generally if there is time I enjoy talking to the fans, it gives me a first hand view of what they think and what they like.

The weather was fine with blue skies and remained so all day, contrary to the weather reports which had it down for 20% chance of rain. Fortunately they were wrong as usual and the weather was perfect all day. In retrospect we were very lucky as the weather was abysmal to next few days.

I was glad to see there were no pirate merchandisers on the route. We had employed security teams and lawyers to seize their illegal goods and they were doing an excellent job. The pirates sell cheap T-shirts and products, pirate our designs usually badly, don't pay any tax or royalty and should be kicked off the streets. I was not going to have Twickenham flooded by shit gear and, as we take care of business, we were able to seize the goods of any that showed up. Generally they charge the same price as official product, yet, out of the price of official stuff, there is 17.5% VAT and 20-30% concession fee to the venue to pay. The pirates of course don't pay this, nor do they pay us a royalty so they make a big cash margin off the backs of both the band and our unsuspecting fans. Pirates make a huge margin ripping you off with low quality crap and we have always made huge efforts to stop them, usually successfully. And will continue to do so. Just don't buy stuff outside the gig unless its obviously official, usually 2 washes and the shirt has had it. No concern on quality, these guys.

I checked out our official merch on the huge stands outside the West Entrance and it looked great. I am particularly happy with the event shirt showing Eddie mowing down the opposition with a rugby ball under his arm. This art for this was conceived -- no, you wont guess who by -- last year soon after England made the final of the world cup in Paris, losing to south Africa. However we did beat mighty rivals Australia in the quarter final and France in the semi so we had some appropriate figures left in Eddie's wake. Originally I had Eddie -- painted of course by the excellent Herve -- in England strip but thought it best, as it's a registered design, to check with the RFU. I was able to make rapid contact through a mate who works in sports managements, managing a lot of the All Blacks, who forwarded it to them. Unfortunately, but as expected, the RFU asked us not to use the England official strip as it sent out the wrong message about the game. It is a bit fierce I guess! So we changed it. Also the chap in blue -- which is the colour of the French strip -- originally bore a close resemblance to Chabal who plays for Sale and France -- I think Herve must be a fan as this wasn't part of the brief! But we thought it best to change that too. Even in generic strips I still think this is a classic event shirt though and the fans seemed to agree by the numbers wearing it. This can be bought soon --if not already there -- in Eddie's Megastore but of course without the date as is our policy now on event shirts as I explained earlier. I think the back is a lot of fun too!

I went round to the West Entrance so I came in the side of the dressing rooms, production office etc and went for a wander round to check everything out.

First went onto the pitch to check out the staging and sound and light platforms. The stage looked fantastic with the specially made drapes and all looked in good order. Went up on stage and talked to our stage manager Bill who advised me all was in good.shape The stadium looked amazing from on stage even though doors weren't open yet. Looking out l was even more pleased we had chosen this venue.

After this it was on to the production office to see Ian, Jason and Kat to make all was OK and on schedule which it was. Then to the band dressing room and lounge. The dressing room was the England rugby one which I have been in before on a tour of the stadium. At that time, during the season, the names of the team were on plaques over each changing bay but as it was out of season these had been removed. Leading off from the dressing room is a bath area with 6 separate baths in two rows of three -- should have taken some pics but my head was elsewhere. After a rugby match these are filled with ice water and the players each spend about ten minutes in them as it assists recovery from any knocks or sprains. I offered this to the band later but perhaps understandably they declined!

The band hospitality area we used was the gym and as this is right next to the dressing rooms this was ideal for the band to go in and out to see their mates. We had to move all the heavy equipment -- I couldn't believe the size of some of the weights the team chuck around, especially Andrew Sheridan our mighty prop.

From there I checked the hospitality area for mine and Andy's guests, EMI, media, business colleagues, promoters and agents etc. This was ERIC's bar which was behind the west stand with an entrance close to the main one for dressing rooms, gym etc so quite convenient. This is used by the players and the walls are full of framed photographs of players from the past, very interesting if you are into rugby.
We then walked about 150m to the Carling Suite where all the guests we couldn't fit into the gym and ERIC's had to go as there just wasn't enough space for everyone in those two.

By this time it was about 4pm and the crowds were coming in fast to get the best standing positions after doors opened promptly at 3.30. There was definitely a very positive vibe about the place which made me think it could be a very special show. Again the atmosphere was almost celebratory. From here on til the band went on I wandered around almost in suspended animation and expectancy. I do get very nervous before a big show, not that I can really do anything more. So do the band but that is good as that nervous energy can really fire up the show. I talked to fans, particularly when recognised on my wanders, spent time in ERIC's seeing friends some of whom I hadn't seen for a while including old rugby mates who have been coming to shows since the start. The band gradually arrived. Janick was there first wandering round the stadium. None of them had ever been to Twickenham before and all were suitably impressed. I found Steve in the band lounge very flustered still trying to get his guest list together -- there hadn't been much time before with all the shows. Bruce was there quite early too and requested a rugby ball to kick out -- he was in the right place to get one -- which he did at the beginning of Aces High. Clive Burr arrived with his helpers and I took him through to the band hospitality. It was good to see him in good spirits.

I had a couple of beers in Erics to settle the nerves -- medicinal you know -- and really should have gone to catering to get a proper meal but I just didn't feel like eating. Nervous anxiety strikes! Wish I had later as by the end of the show I was totally exhausted. A burger in ERIC's didn't help much. I do this too often at big shows and really should have learned by now. You have to eat properly on tour!

The rest of the band began arriving around 6.30, and good to see all in good spirits. I didn't get chance to see all of any of the supports -- Lauren, Within Temptation and Avenged Sevenfold -- but caught bits of each one and all seemed to go well. The thing I really noticed on all of them was how good the sound was, a good omen for us later. Within Temptation are a favourite of the band, especially Steve, and we like to have them as support -- they are also playing Assen with us. I managed to catch them later to say hello and have a chat. A7x are doing a string of dates with us and will also support through Scandinavia. A very good band and the guys are all impressed with them and happy with the choice of them as main support on these dates. Nicko is quite friendly with them having seen them before in the states -- he gets to a lot of shows in Florida. I had left them some champagne in the dressing room as a belated (they had already played Italy and Paris with us) "welcome" to the tour but anyway Twickenham seemed an appropriate place to do this.

By 8 the atmosphere was building and everyone was taking up position, band, crew and fans alike. I had earlier found a great spot just through the doors from the dressing room, the tunnel through which the team enter the stadium. A nice square piece of grass on which we arranged a temporary bar. And a great view of stage and stadium alike. Everything and everyone was ready, able and waiting -- would it come up to all our hopes and expectations??

Sorry guys, this will have to be part 4 as I have to go out now. I am supposed to be on hols (as Kathy keeps reminding me!!!) so next ...and soon I promise -- will finally be the show!!!

- Rod

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