Got in last night and caught up on the news – immediately feeling sad about the murders in northern Ireland because we were just there. Onstage in Derry and Belfast, Thursday and Friday, I paired up ‘This Gun’ and ‘Box To Hide In’ halfway through, introducing them with some nervous self-justification, for singing songs about terrorism to people who’ve got far more first-hand experience of it than me.
But that triggered a powerful internal repositioning and rethinking of the lyrics in my brain as I sang them. Always a rare treat because it takes you away from the danger-zone of singing the song over and over again, without real feeling. Songs written about the middle-east are suddenly brought much closer to home.
Actually in Derry I gave up on ‘Box’ – didn’t make it out of the first verse even. Nothing to do with vibe or content, just a technical problem:
The northern Irish crowd is enjoyably odd, in that they talk all the way through your stuff as if they’re not listening, but between songs cheer like madmen as if you’re a hero. I think they have a more balanced relationship with musicians, associating us (especially acoustic acts) with the old fella singing in the corner of the pub that they’re more familiar with than most parts of the UK, so it’s more equal, less inately respectful. A Good Thing but a bit exhausting. It’s only a problem if you’re concussed, haven’t got enough bottom-end in your monitors and therefore can’t hear to pitch yourself over the bar chatter.
I didn’t want to honk at the soundman for more foldback at the same moment as abandoning a song. So I came offstage and did ‘Tin Man’ unmiced on the floor, then went back on, did ‘M1’ and only after that, got the soundman to rebuild the mix, so the sound out front was quieter, and I had more monitors and a brighter mix. The rest of the set was fine but I wish I’d gone back and given ‘Box’ another go, because I felt the lack of an anti-violent counterpoint to ‘This Gun’. Especially this morning, when it felt retrospectively uncomfortably like rabble-rousing.
After the show I even got told off (in a nice way) by a couple of people who’d been chatting by the bar, because once I was on the floor, they couldn’t hear that song. A good night though and one of the cheapest breakfasts ever, in a Wetherspoons-type pub.
Belfast was more pro and we had a half-decent keyboard, thanks to Oppenheimer, so I was able to be Turner‘s bitch for a duo show. Izzy did merch and was a star. The soundman at Auntie Annie’s had bodged a broken keyboard-stand, fixing it with gaffer and nails but by the end I was holding it up on one knee, shoving it against a speaker at the other end, using the wrong foot on the pedal and desperately trying to keep going. For encore, the keyboard went high up on top of a monitor speaker. Maybe a rock’n’roll end but we did ‘English Earth’ and it was probably the weakest moment of Frank’s set because I couldn’t hear myself.
I found it reassuring that – despite rapidly impending international superstardom – Frank had the same challenge both nights with the background talking, so it wasn’t personal to me.
I was supposed to drive these Irish shows but missed my flight to Dublin, after some kid twatted me on his bike on Tuesday night and ever since I’ve got scary concussion in the corners of my eyes. Anyway, the back-up plan (much cheaper in the end) was travelling by taxi, so I was forgiven for letting the side down. Main arsehole was I missed Gaslight Anthem‘s end-of-tour party, which was probably epic and perhaps even an opening slot.
After saying goodbye to Frank and Izzy the night before, I had an early breakfast and took the smallest, shortest flight I’ve ever endured, full of shame about the carbon.
…and I’ll tell you about the Isle Of Man another time, if you’re fucking lucky.