Zut alors! Sacre bleu! Bonjour! I 'ave werken uurp thees morning een France!
In Caen to be precise, somewhere I've not been to since 1975, and it's feckin' awesome to be here. Imagine, you get paid to go round your favourite country for a couple of weeks, meet loads of nice people, un verre de vin from time to time, some truly top venues and shows, best opening act in years, a BIG ROCK SHOW trip, and Robert est ton oncle...
Woke up in Caen, beautiful day. Life's good chez moi at the moment, walked round for a couple of hours, cochon dans le merde. Practising my French, which I thought was pretty good. Until I spoke to someone in a market. Couldn't understand a word. Asked for some Camembert, walked out with some Olive and Pesto Tepinard, shome mishtake shurely... Ah well. They have a chain of venues in France, called le Zenith. All modern, great backstage facilities, and can be set to a variety of sizes up to about 8000. We didn't go full size, don't forget it's our first French tour in 20 years, and I reckon we were doing between 2 and 4 thousand a show, not bad at all in my book.
The French audiences are very different to other countries, there's no room for complacency, (not that we are) they just really listen, if they don't like it they don't applaud. It could be unnerving, but we were well up for it, and the other thing is that they don't care about the set as they've never heard it before, as long as they like it then we're alright Jacques. We did notice as well that Whatever you want was better received than Rockin', they like a shuffle those French. And Army of course, our biggest ever hit in France. Best audience of the tour so far.
On to Nantes, where I had a really good crepe ( I said CREPE), where I'd last been in 1975, and incidentally had a wild, and I mean wild time, another fantastic market, it's such a great culture here, food is a really big deal. Fantastic gig, I think it was the best audience of the tour so far. The tour then went to Tours, on a Sunday, the French like the Germans have a 6 day week, 99% of the shops close on Sunday, and people go out walking instead of shopping, or have a big meal or just do stuff. I love it. Why don't you go and live there then? I hear you say. Well, I'm going to buy a place here, I really am. Normandy here I come.
Of course we're over here with the World cup as well, England struggling but finding form at the right time and beating the Aussies (YESSSSSS!!!!!) , France playing brilliantly, I think it was this day that France superbly beat the Kiwis, all to play for then... I saw the best thing in Tours. Walking round the back streets, heard people talking, and saw a tiny house, shutters and windows open, directly on the street, there were 4 people sitting round a table, lunch just finished, big slab of cheese on the table, just chatting away, didn't care about a thing, you had to be there, but a real slice of life, witnessed, it's great this breathing lark..
Carried on my walk, and went along the river Loire, well nice, sunny day etc. actually I would have carried if a gendarme hadn't stopped me and kindly informed me I was 10 metres away for an unexploded WW2 500 kilo bomb which they'd only just found and I should basically run away in case it went off. I did. and I don't know if it did as I went to the Zenith for the evening's entertainment. The Trews are a great bunch of kids, gig good, in fact I shall only talk about the actual gig when it's crap, as what more can I say, so for those of you only interested in our onstage antics, time to go... Of course it was the best audience of the tour (p94).
Day off in Toulouse, which is near Carcassonne, a beautiful walled city, so me and Matt thought we'd go for the day. Looked on the net, plenty of trains, so go to the Station. Then it got very French. Asked the beautiful girl (which when I typed it I wrote girk. What a funny word.) for the time of the next train. "12.20." Ok let's get tickets. Ticket office. "There is no train at 12.20. The next one is at 2.24" Hmm. Go back, ask another beautiful girl for the time of the next train "12.20, But it's a bus" How long will it take? "2 hours" It's only 40 minutes on the train, so confused of London and Matt decide to go back to town and have a meal. Come back after a really crap lunch (don't try Cassoulet. It sucketh a big une), to the ticket office. 2 tickets for the 2.24 to Carccassonne please... "The next one is at 16.27" But the girl sitting next to you now told us it was 2.24. "Yes but that one has a 7 next to it on the timetable, which means it doesn't run after September" But she didn't tell us that when we came before. "Yes I know. I heard her."
We were never meant to get there were we. I guess you could say we were born Toulouse. But we wouldn't of course. Can't remember a thing about the gig, which was lucky as I'm not writing about it, then overnight to Marseille, where I'd never been before. Busy busy, very Arabic in places, little bit of a 'watch your back' vibe if you get me, it gives the place a kind of edge, I'd go back again. No, really? This gig I do remember, it was changed to a different venue at short notice as there was a problem with the original venue. It wasn't finished. So, not as many people as we would have liked, 2000ish, but they had a really good time, very boisterous, and a major major French singer came to see us. I don't mean his name was Major Major, that would be a coincidence, what the fuck am I talking about?
Clermont Ferand next, we've been doing some in-store signings on this trip by the way which has been fun, we did one here, this is where as I mentioned before we parted company with Wim, his replacement ladies and gentlemen is Mr. Paul Rodgers!!!!! How are the mighty fallen eh, one year you're singing with Queen with such an illustrious career, before you know it the money's gone and you're the tech (for that is what they call roadies nowadays) for me and Andrew.
Another Zenith, quietest audience of the tour so far, I get the feeling Clermont Ferand is the French Bath. Then a day off in Lyon, Rick's birthday.Uh-oh... Out for lunch, Ricardo, the Killer, Andrew and me. Great fun, ended up with lots of Calvados (apple brandy) me going off to buy a packet of Gitanes, after nearly 4 years of giving up and smoking 2 of them. Not just me, Matt gave up about 154 years ago and he had a couple as well! Rick had 'fallen over', or 'took a fall' depending on how old you think he is, getting off the bus, no he wasn't drunk, ankle the size of a small Zeppelin, and he was hobbling around, so after a right riveting laugh he took a cab back to the hotel. That's a strange phrase that: "he took a cab back to the hotel." Did he shag it? Did he only take the rear end? (hur hur) Anyway, Me and Matt, "maybe just one more glass at another bar on the way back as well" Cut to 5 hours later, in a Moroccan café smoking apple flavoured tobacco through a hookah (water pipe you dolts!), loving the whole world, especially Morocco (where I've never been) and making a complete dick of myself. English you see, it's in the blood.
Then the gig the next night. One has felt better on show days before. In fact one has rarely felt so bad on a show day before. In a gymnasium type hall, actually was just about OK by stage time, the gig was a bit tense because England were playing Les Bleus in the semi final while we were on. In the last number we heard the final score. England had won! Hard luck France, so sad but someone had to lose and other drivel like that... Bollocks Come on you English! Bring on whoever in the Final!!!!! Arise Lord Johnny of Wilkinson! Actually they could knight him with a razor blade couldn't they? It'd be a Wilkinson sword wouldn't it! Ouch!
On to the big rock show day, stayed in Lyon, up early next morning after not much sleep due to watching the Rugby twice for private plane to Hockenheim in Germany, doing 4 songs at some saloon car championships or something, big on motor racing me. In and out in an hour and a half, back on the plane to Dijon.
Met some French people I know (bonjour Mr. and Mrs. Jacques) and asked them what was good in Dijon. All they talked about for 5 minutes was the local food. That's one of the reasons I so love it there, they don't live to work, and the family unit is still an important part of life. Probably said that before, but it's true, we seem to be losing that here, and it shows. That's what oi thinks... Another Zenith as well. Overnight to Lille, not the same without the old jet, but can't win 'em all. I thought Lille was a bit of a dump actually apart from the old buildings in the centre of town, mind you they were in amazing condition. Something I noticed in every city I went to, they really take care of their buildings, and so they should. I read somewhere that Italy spends about 40 million dollars on restoration work per year and the French spend something like 500 million dollars. Money well spent dans mon livre (in my book in French).
Gig=club. Loud=yes. Edwards enjoyed=yes. Jon Anderson, singer in which group=yes Where the heck did that come from?
On to last gig (sob) of France, Amneville, near Metz, another great hotel, you know the drill, 4 hours, Metz is a beautiful old city, with obvious German influence, I think it's pretty near the border, bought some more tepinard which I'd got to like (keep up!) had a farewell crepe with Andrew (I'm not even going to dignify that by the way) did the gig, and off we went.
Only remains for me to thank Bruno, Yoyo, and the 2 Philippes from the French Quo appreciation societies for your fine work, Pascal the promoter's rep and the French for such a truly memorable time, keep rockin', you're going to need to, 'cos we'll be back!!!
In Search Of The Fourth Chord tourlog 2007/8: