Sunday, September 09, 2012


These two photographs show the stages that The Chicago Blues Brothers played on this weekend. The smaller indoor one was the scene of our performance at The Pheasantry in Chelsea, while the outdoor one is in London's Hyde Park and is considerably bigger, although as it turned out we probably had about the same amount of room at both shows... 

Friday evening saw our first show at The Pizza Express on The King's RoadWe'd been told that we could get into the basement venue at 4pm but there was a meeting there until 5 o'clock so I dropped my stuff off and walked back to The Saatchi Gallery. Many years ago I went through a period of visiting art galleries on a fairly regular basis (I think I thought it would do me good!?!) and I enjoyed my time here, although just under an hour was long enough for me, if you know what I mean. (Yes, I know, I sound like a complete heathen. Maybe I am!)
Back at the venue the troops were amassing - Matt and Mike as Jake and Elwood, Squirrel on bass, Chris depping for Ian on keyboards, Steve depping for Marc on drums, Richard on tenor saxophone with Ian joining on baritone saxophone, Steve depping for Dave on trumpet and Tracy on vocals. Considering how little we've been together lately (these shows doubled the number for 2012!) it all went very well; we've played at The Pizza Express in Maidstone on quite a few occasions (that's where this year's other shows have been) which is normally good fun, and this one certainly was too although I for one was interested to see that the often-held theory about London audiences being reserved compared to other parts of the country being for want of a better word, 'proven'. Whereas the Maidstone audience is often up on their feet dancing Friday's crowd sat and watched throughout - they joined in here and there and certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, but you felt as though you were more 'on show' than at the other venue. Well, I certainly did anyway. Still I hopefully don't sound too cynical (ooh imagine that!) when I say that it was a good warm-up for the next day's show.
It's official - I'm an artist. At last!
When we were first told that we were going to be playing at The Proms In The Park I must say that found the whole thing to be 'amusing' in both senses of the word i.e. it made me smile and it was also an extremely unlikely (on the surface at least) place for the band to find themselves at. Actually it all makes a bit more sense when you see that the first part of the day featured theatre and tribute shows (Bjorn Again, the cast of 'Let It Be' etc) which we fairly obviously fitted into, while the latter part of the evening featured Kylie Minogue, Alfie Boe and Il Divo among others. This was pretty much a separate event to our bit and I was very much looking forward to seeing these acts (I'm not likely to see any of them anywhere else!) although as we'll discover things didn't quite go according to plan...
When I arrived around 12.30pm it was already getting very hot. It's often strange to see venues with no people in them, and Hyde Park (or to be more accurate, the part of the park where the shows are held) was no exception. As I walked towards the stage I became aware of the size of the area that we were going to be playing to - it was big. Very big. I've seen The Who here among others. Some bands play places like this all the time. The lucky buggers.
Our gear set up stage right.
Although the stage was the biggest one that I've ever played on (so far - let's be optimistic eh?) we actually only occupied a small part of it; as you look at the picture at the start of this posting we were on the far left hand end. This often happens at events such as these where several acts are set up on the stage at the same time, making for very quick changeovers between shows. We only had a short time to soundcheck, but with the mighty Ian Bond making a welcome reappearance behind the mixing desk things were sounding great in no time. The gates opened at half past two, and by the time Tony Blackburn (oh yes!) introduced us at exactly 5.15 (a good Who-approved time don't you think?) there were an estimated 40,000 people there to witness our 25 minute performance. And what they saw was, even though I say so myself, an absolutely excellent show from band and singers alike, with everybody rising to the occasion and a fine reaction from the audience. And then, suddenly, it was all over. We'd bearly finished 'Gimme Some Loving' before the afore-mentioned Mr. Blackburn had introduced The Gypsy Queens and we were taking our gear offstage. All the band seemed pleased with how it had went - there had definitely been some pre-match nerves floating around although you'd never have known from the performance. And me? I could have played all night!
The view from the stage
 at the start of our set.
Some of the band were off to play other gigs whereas the rest of us were looking forward to seeing the rest of the evening's proceedings. I walked out front to watch Bjorn Again - I was never the biggest Abba fan but was interested to see and hear them as they're one of the most successful tribute acts in the World. I was just attempting to use my phone to take a picture of them to put on this here blog when it rang - it was Big Al Reed. Was I busy? He was gigging in Amersham and Chris the keyboard player hadn't turned up, and he was of the opinion that it'd sound great with me and Bob his 'other' guitarist.

I thought about it for a minute. If I got myself into gear I could be there in an hour or so on the train, or I could stay and watch the rest of the evening's entertainment. So - what do you think I did?

Well it's obvious really isn't it? Three hours after playing to 40,000 people in Hyde Park I was playing to around 1/1000th of that number at a birthday party in a garden in Buckinghamshire with Al and Bob. Strange but true. Oh well - hopefully I'll see Kylie another time.

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