Saturday, March 07, 2009

Zurich 'n' roll

I've just returned from our latest jaunt to Switzerland- something a bit different this time as in addition to our usual Blues Brothers show we were also backing Steve Ballard in his Elvis act as well as providing some instrumental music (the word 'jazz' was used on several occasions) as the guests arrived at the event. In the unlikely event of you being a regular reader of this mixture of ranting and rambling you will of course know all this already, but I mention it all again here as it seems as though we actually pulled it off...

The long-suffering Shirley dropped Steve, Richard and myself off at Heathrow Airport's terminal 2 at 10 to 7 yesterday morning. With the rest of the troops still on their way to meet us we checked in and I attempted to drop my guitar off at the oversized baggage section (brilliantly named GATE X) without pulling the recently repaired (a better word would be 'bodged') handle off the case. Actually 'repaired' is something of an overstatement as all I'd done was to put the screws back in and hope that it would at least hold for the duration of the journey there and back. I was of course to be disappointed- it came off as I lifted the case onto the baggage belt. Bugger! Oh well- everyone else has arrived and time's getting on so we go through security and after grabbing a quick bite to eat we board the plane.
Good job we were nice and early- the plane sits on the tarmac for 2 hours while we listen to various announcements about baggage in the hold causing the aircraft to be unbalanced and therefore unable to take off... calculations are calculated and several people are asked to change seats to sit nearer the back of the plane (I don't like to say it but they were, shall we say, some of the larger people on board) and, with quite a few passengers getting angry about missing connections as a result of the delay, we eventually take off for an otherwise uneventful flight, much of which I spend talking to Steve about his Elvis act and our mutual admiration for Nine Below Zero.

We arrive at Zurich Airport to be met by Marcel (who was with us last time) and Peter (who wasn't) who drive us to the nearby Stadthalle Dietikon where we meet up with Ronnie from Show Connection who's promoting the event, and get introduced to Regula ('she's the Swiss equivalent of Fern Britton ') who's the compare for the evening. The delayed flight meant that we had less time to rehearse than we'd hoped so we get set up and get on with it. The stage set includes old style American petrol pumps and roadsigns, oddly appropriate for an evening featuring Elvis and Blues Brothers acts (which if you think about it is probably why they were there! Doh!) and there's a large cactus next to me- now there's something that I never thought I'd ever say... we run through Steve's part of the show, there's the odd mad moment with the sound system but the music's sounding good especially considering the lack of time. At 4.30 it's off to our to check in at The Trend Hotel and attempt to put the handle back onto my guitar case. I'm sharing room 211 with Squirrel 'though it's actually more of suite than a room- it's got a settee and everything!- and we find CD's there of Van Morrison performing 'Moondance' and Ray Charles singing 'Georgia On My Mind' which are 2 songs suggested for our 'they're arriving' set at the start of the evening. We put them on the CD player- Squirrel attempts to learn them while I fall asleep and snore!

6.45 and we're at the side of the stage waiting to go on. Ronnie tells us that there's members of the Swiss Government in attendance which is why we can't play too loud (no, I can't quite work out why either) so we begin 'Watermelon Man' with everything turned down a notch or 2. For the next 20-odd minutes we're in Murph and the MagicTones mode with 'Summertime' sounding about the best number from my point of view (i.e. I had a rough idea of how it was supposed to go!) I think I said something to Pete like 'I never knew I had so much skin on my teeth' as we came offstage which pretty much sums up my performance for me- I really must learn some more playing about jazz guitar...

With the best part of 3 hours until Elvis takes to the stage it's time for something to eat and some Feldschlosschen beer before readying ourselves for the E.P. experience. Steve's in the Las Vegas era jumpsuit and we start with 'C.C. Rider' which finishes to mild indifference from the audience- or does it? By 'The Wonder Of You' Steve's walking around the tables and the audience are loving it. Our 20 minute set is over almost before it's begun, a sure sign of a good show.

25 minutes later and we're back on in our more familiar Chicago Blues Brothers guise. The lack of a formal setlist means there's a mix up or 2 but that doesn't stop Richard and Dave from dragging Regula out onto the stage to dance with them during 'Mr. Pitiful', and despite tiredness setting in (it was a l-o-n-g day!) we get an encore, something of a rarity at corporate events such as this. We get invited to the bar afterwards (always a good sign!) which turns out to be fortuitous since when we get back to our hotel the bar there's closed; then again my guitar case handle had come off again so perhaps it was just as well.

Check the Show Connection website for their latest extraordinary description of our act!

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