It's been the best part of 6 weeks since The Chicago Blues Brothers last played a theatre show (in Tewkesbury in case you've forgotten; the week after that we played a not-particularly-enjoyable set at Braxted Park) so it was good to get back into it last night at Playhouse Theatre in Alnwick (pronounced 'Annick') all the way up in Northumberland. With an epic journey in prospect the long-suffering Shirley dropped me and my guitars at Brentwood Services off the M25 just before 10 a.m. where I met up with Squirrel, Ian and Marc (bass, keyboards and drums) and ensconced myself in the van for the long journey North. We detoured off the M11 to meet Dave and Ian (trumpet and sax) in Duxford then set the controls for Flaxby Park just outside York where we were meeting Mario and Matt (Jake and Elwood- Matt works regularly with Mario as The Briefcase Blues Brothers but hadn't done a theatre show with us before.) With Squirrel at the wheel we made it to the theatre not long before 5 p.m.- the poster advertising the upcoming 'One Night with the Piano Men' show featured regular CBB saxman Richard who also plays in that show (among others!)
Ben the soundman is all set up and ready, he shows us how to use a bit of insulation tape to cover the sensor on the lift door which gives us enough time to load our gear into it without it closing. In the interim period since the last gig Stuart the guitar repairman has fitted some 'Danny Gatton saddles' to my Baja Telecaster in a bid to cure the string bending problem evident at the last gigs. (In case you don't recognise the name, the late great Mr. Gatton a.k.a. 'The Telemaster' was a virtuoso guitarist who Fender honoured by producing a signature guitar which included several modifications from normal including bridge saddles which generally produce better intonation than the standard ones; have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Gatton and follow the links for more information on the guitar and indeed the man himself.) I've tried it at a couple of rehearsals with Andy, Mike and Dave and it seems to have done the trick although this is the first test at a gig... and talking of repairs my ailing Fender Blues Deluxe combo is still at the menders (the part for the broken treble control has proved tricky to find) so I'm using my Laney LC50 combo for the first time in ages, it sounds good but I'll be glad when the Fender's back. Soundcheck mostly consists of running through the songs Matt's going to be singing lead vocals on, and working out an intro for 'Respect'; Tracy normally does this as part of a medley with 'Think' but with her off elsewhere Mario's stepping into the breach. I guess he didn't know the words to 'Think'? With time running short Squirrel and myself set up the merchandise table before walking down to The Hot Bite for a portion of chips- in their window is a poster advertising an upcoming pantomime at The Playhouse called 'I Geordius'. Excellent!
You can be fairly sure it's going to be a good gig when the audience start clapping as the musicians walk out onto the stage- they did, and it was! Matt coped brilliantly with being thrown in at the deep end- you'd have to have known where his mistakes were if you know what I mean- and made up for losing his way slightly in 'Flip Flop and Fly' by cartwheeling across the stage, a manoeuvre that inspired some youngsters to try the same thing in the audience! He also did the splits during 'Shake Your Tailfeather'- I'd seen him do it before but judging by the look on his face Squirrel clearly hadn't... my guitar worked fine (thanks Stu!) and by the end of the show the place was going crazy- it's good to be back in showbusiness!
5 hours after we've arrived and it's nearly time to go home. Dave's standing near the back of the van as we're loading our gear into it; he breaks wind (not for the first time in the evening!) and looks pleased with himself. A young man walking by is suddenly sick over a wall, and Dave is warned in no uncertain terms not to do it again in the van, and that if he does he's walking home. As I say, it's good to be back in showbusiness...