Box News #282 Part 4 – July 21st, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on July 18, 2019 by heepster

TOUR DIARY THE FINAL PART (4)

URIAH HEEP AS SPECIAL GUESTS TO JUDAS PRIEST IN THE USA & CANADA

On Wednesday the 19th of June we left the hotel in North Quest WA at 9am, to drive to Renton WA for a day off. We had a relaxing day there and then we drove to Kent WA on the concert day where we played at the ‘Accesso Showare Centre.’ This was a fantastic concert and both bands were on fire. The audience was great to both bands, and it really was a good night of Classic Rock and Metal. Priest and Heep are a good combination, and I would not mind taking this to other countries, as we really do compliment each other.

Our next concert was just 3 hours up the road to Portland Oregon. There was no hotel as we were travelling overnight departing at midnight to a place called Walnut Creek for a day off. Angus left the fold after the Portland show and caught a flight to San Fransisco, where he planned to stay with his Uncle for a few days, which was cool.

The concert in Portland was at the ‘Theatre of the Clouds’ at the ‘Moda Centre’ and boy were they up for a rockin’ night. It was a great response and we were feeling that we were really turning new fans on to the band, which of course was the object of the exercise for this tour. We were making serious in-roads in that department.

I did have a laugh though because I had showered down at the gig and in our dressing room sitting there were Russ and Davey looking down on their respective phones, and I had my head bent forward drying my hair, when from nowhere there was a dog sniffing at me and my gig bag. That was more than a surprise, and when we asked the guy with the dog what was the reason and what were they looking for, he said guns and explosives. Wow! It did give me a shock though!

After the day off in Walnut Creek we used that hotel as a sort of base, as San Fransisco was just an hour up the road, and we had two shows in the same theatre in a venue called ‘The Warfield.’ Now this was an amazing venue, but it was in the heart of the homeless, and there were people lying on the streets, and the smell of urine and weed filled the air. It was awful to see, and we where advised that if we did go out walking, to leave all of our jewellery back at the venue and to be careful with our iPhones and keep them in our pockets.

Well we did have a walk around and we went for a coffee in a really funky place, and although it was heartbreaking to see some of the homeless, we did not encounter any trouble, probably because we were mobbed handed as they say.

Well with all of the JP trucks and busses parked outside the venue, there was no room for our tour bus as we came in last, so Bob our driver had to park about 15 minutes away in another street. Bob stayed with the bus the whole time, and they even put a guard sitting outside on a chair on the pavement with a walkie talkie should any trouble occur, which thankfully it didn’t.

It was tight inside the venue and a lot of empty JP flight cases were lined up in the street, with guards on them of course. Well as it was a nice day, and what with it being a bit tight inside the venue, certainly in the backstage area, Rich my guitar tech changed my guitar strings outside by the buses. Now who said men can’t multi-task, as Rich was changing my guitar strings for that nights performance and getting a tan at the same time.

Well Bernie, Phil and I wanted an afternoon rest, so we took an Uber to our bus and had one in our respective bunks, before getting an Uber back to the venue, as we had meet and greets, interviews, and dinner before we hit the stage. San Fransisco did not let us down, and we had a fabulous reception as we were received incredibly well. It was sold out, so the atmosphere was mega from the off!

Because there was not a lot of room backstage to store our equipment, and as we were playing a second show there the following night, the crew still had to beak down most of our equipment and put it back in our trailer to save on space. This was a shame as it could not be stored off stage, but there really was no room and no other option.

Still once this was done we met a lot of people which were mostly Russ’s family, and then we all jumped on the bus that had parked outside briefly for us all to get on board for the hour drive back to Walnut Creek and a welcome hot shower and bed in the hotel.

The following day we were all departing at midday to drive to the venue for lunch at 1pm. We had to hang about at the venue all day as after our show we were travelling overnight to Los Angeles.

I had to laugh as Phil went for a walkabout on his own and one of the things they do in San Fransisco in that particular area, is they have people walking around with trays of sandwiches giving them to the homeless, which is great. The laugh comes in to play when a lady with a tray of sandwiches asked Phil if he wanted one. 🙂

It was another mega show in San Fransisco with an amazing reaction, and we could not have wished for a better response. Once the equipment was packed, we were all on the bus for the overnighter for about an hour before the cries of food were heard loud and clear, and so we stopped, and it was hamburger city by the sound of it. By this time though I was in bed and the last thing I needed was a big greasy hamburger and fries sitting on my stomach lying in that mobile coffin all night long. Plus with the NO number two’s rule on the bus, I did not want to be making another stop to unload so to speak.

Well we arrived in LA about midday and some had their rooms ready and some had to wait a little while. Being LA everyone was splitting up and rubber necking in all different directions, in the end though as usual we would all met up at the famous ‘Rainbow.’ I have noticed in most hotels we have stayed in on this tour that there was no 13th floor or even a room with a number 13. That reminded me of a Stevie Wonder song ‘Superstition.’ What a great song that is!

Russ was happy because his lady Christie had flown in from the UK, so their plan was to have dinner in the hotel and a night in. Davey and Corine had flown in from San Fransisco, so Phil, Davey, Corine and myself took an Uber to the Rainbow for dinner. The Rainbow is nothing like it used to be when Mario Maglieri used to run it. It was always full of musicians and groupies and the place was rockin’ with all sorts of exciting nonsense going on all over the place. Now it is like a tourist restaurant with probably the only rock n’ roll vibe being the statute of Lemmy outside.

Well the food and drink was average, but eventually our crew turned up and even a few of the Priest crew arrived too. Kevin and Yvonne had flown in from the UK, so they joined us too which was nice. Anyway after dinner and a few drinks Phil, Davey, Corine and I went back to the hotel for an early night. It was a Wednesday night, so not much was happening either in the Whiskey-A-Go-Go or the Roxy, so it was a wise move.

The next day we played at the ‘Microsoft Theatre’ and we all had to check out by midday as after that nights show we were driving direct to Ontario California and staying at the airport hotel. It was only an hours drive, so it wasn’t too bad. Ontario was the next show so it made good sense.

Well the show in LA was intense and just great. We received a hell of a fantastic reaction and our friends David and Lana had flown in from New York City, and it was so good to see them too. Security was pretty strict and pretty silly too, but we still all managed to meet up with everyone, and it was just great catching up with our producer Jay Ruston. The venue is run on Union rules and we could not even bring in to the venue drinks from our bus, as they insisted that we buy it all from them. We asked how much a bottle of Jack Daniels would cost and they said about $130, so we passed on that one.

There were plenty of friends and business people to meet, so it was a busy old time there for a while before we left for Ontario. Some of the guests were Doug Aldridge (Whitesnake & Dead Daises) George Lynch (Dokken) Ricky Warwick (Black Star Riders) John Temesta drummer for the Cult and Fred Coury the drummer for Cinderella, to name but a few.

Russells, Christie is a big Judas Priest fan, so understandably she wanted to stay and watch the whole show, and so did Davey and Corine, so we left them there and they took an Uber to the hotel after Priests show. As there were places left on the bus in that case, David and Lana drove with us to the hotel, as they were staying there too. Kevin & Yvonne stayed in LA and joined us again two days later in Las Vegas. They had some major rubber necking to do.

At the hotel the crew were going to sleep outside on the bus, and as usual hunger struck, so Angus took charge and they had 100 Chicken McNuggets delivered to the bus amongst other things. There started a competition between Angus and Ben as to how many Nuggets they could both eat. Well they both managed to eat 37 each, but Angus won by 15 minutes. I am surprised they did not start clucking after that, and how they slept with that amount of food on their stomach I will never know. Luckily they were parked outside the hotel, so if a curious turtle appeared, they could go to the toilet in the hotel at least. I should have said a curious chicken but that image just does not work as well as the turtle.

The next morning a few of us had breakfast and then at our usual 1pm, Bernie, Phil and I joined David and Lana for lunch. After this we chilled until we got ready for the concert. The venue which was the ‘Citizens Business Park Arena’ was not far from the hotel, but we took a hotel bus shuttle anyway. This was another great show and the audience were buzzing as were we.

The drive the following day to Las Vegas was approximately 4 1/2 hours, which was not too bad. However the gremlins came out to play again and we had another burst tyre on that journey. Surely we must hold the record for burst tyres on one tour.

We were playing ‘The Joint’ at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. On arrival we had to clear the bus of all personal belongings as our driver Bob was driving straight off back to his depot. There was a fair bit of scrambling about to clear the bus, and then only a few of the rooms were ready. I was a lucky one, so after putting my bags in my room I went to the nearest restaurant for some lunch. Then it was back to the room to chill and get ready for the last show of the tour. Incidentally it was going to be the last concert in ‘The Joint” as we were told that it was going to be taken over by Richard Branson.

Well the band decided a time to meet at the hotel lift on the ground floor, so that we could all go to the venue together. The hotel lift door had the gig poster all over it taking up the whole door, which was pretty impressive. Once we were in the venue we found out there was no catering, so that was dinner out of the window. Still we were on early, so we could eat after. There were plenty of people to meet and there was an extra air of excitement surrounding this concert, seeing as it was the last one.

As we prepared for the show all of the Judas Priest boys marched into our dressing room so that we could have a photo of both bands together. We loved this, and it just showed how well we all got on with each other, even after 2 months of solid touring.

Well we hit the stage running and the response was outstanding. Now I have to tell you every night when we were playing the song ‘Stealin’ with the gospel type ooo ahhh’s on the beginning of the song, the entire Heep and Priest crew backstage out of sight had their hands waving in the air having a laugh. Tonight however they took it a step further and all marched on stage doing it in a line and some had black underpants on with some white writing on it which I could not read, and they paraded across the stage and back twice. It was hilarious and even the audience loved it. It was smiles and laughs all round. The reaction as we finished the concert was just amazing and it just underlined how many new fans we had won over on this tour. As we came off stage there were hugs aplenty from everyone backstage before Priest came out and just nailed it with some high octane metal as they did every single night.

After the show I went with Phil, David & Lana and Kevin & Yvonne for a bite to eat, as we were starving. I did text Ace our manager where we were, but no one else joined us. When we had eaten and had a few too many wines, we then hit the bar and carried on. Well we were in a celebratory mood after such a successful tour and that’s my excuse anyway.

The next day we were flying home and David & Lana and Kevin & Yvonne were staying on for a few days. I checked my British Airways App in the morning and low and behold the flight was delayed, so we had to try and arrange to check out of our rooms at 2pm instead of the agreed 12 midday. What a pain, so at 2pm we went for some dinner to kill some time. As you can smoke in these Casinos hanging around was very uncomfortable for me, but there was nothing else we could do as it was too damn hot to wait outside. In total the flight was delayed by 3 1/2 hours and in the end we said our sad goodbyes, and we went to the airport.

When we got to the Los Angeles Airport we checked in, but we had not thought for one minute, one hour, one day, that the lounges would be full with all of the cancellations, but luckily we are all mostly silver card members, so we could get in, but it was packed to the hilt and the food area was pretty bare.

Eventually we boarded the flight and as it was the 1st of July, we thought that the movies may have been updated as they used to change them every month, but nothing had changed since when we went to Japan earlier in the year. We then found out the delay was for a technical fault that needed to be fixed before flying. Well I was in a row of four people on the outside seat, and I could not get my light to work, until I realised that the lady on the other end of the four seats controlled my light, and I controlled hers. We looked at each other and smiled saying that we hoped that they had not got their wires crossed like they had on our lights on the technical fault they had just fixed. D’oh!

Luckily I had charged up my iPad with plenty of films to watch, as there certainly was not a film on the BA screen that I would want to watch twice. Well the food was average and on my tray there was half of it missing, which I asked the stewardess if I could have the rest of it, surprise surprise, it never turned up. Similarly on the brekky before landing I asked for a second cup of coffee that never arrived either. BA are not doing themselves any favours with service like that especially after that dreadful delay.

Still I was happy to land at London Gatwick and pick up my luggage, and say good bye to everyone and jump in my cab home. Angus our front of house engineer however, had stayed out in Vegas, as he was helping out on the Robbie Williams show before meeting up with us for our festival show in the Czech Republic, where we were headlining the Masters of Rock Festival.

Once home both Sheila and Romeo were there to give me big missed you hugs and kisses and my dog Iggy went mental and he could not settle down for ages, as he was so excited to see me. My cat Biscuit looked up and went back to sleep but that is his own understated way of welcoming me home, which I have now got used to.

Both Sheila and Romeo had written beautiful welcome home notes that they had left on the kitchen table for me, and I then made a perfect cup of tea, and I was happy to be back in the heart of the family.

Shortly after being home in the UK I heard on the news, horror stories of there being an earthquake that happened in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and Ace our manager said it was the worst one he had ever experienced, where his whole house swayed back and forth for 20-30 seconds. Angus said it happened in Vegas too just as Robbie Williams was entering the stage from a hydraulic lift that was shaking, but the show still went on. It was the worst quake in 20 years, so I sent a text to everyone I knew who was in those areas to see if they were okay, and thankfully they were.

‘Appy days!

Mick

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Box News #282 – June 21st, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on June 21, 2019 by heepster

TOUR DIARY PART (3)

URIAH HEEP AS SPECIAL GUESTS TO JUDAS PRIEST IN THE USA & CANADA

Well moving on from Blog (2) we were still in Saskatoon for another day off. Our temporary tech Ryan arrived, while Brian was in Cancun while his son got married, so we all went out for dinner that night at the same Italian restaurant as the night before, simply because the food and wine were good and sometimes it is nice to know the quality is there ahead of time and it was excellent service.

Bernie lived in Saskatoon for a year playing all the bars and clubs, so he hooked up with a few of his old band mates and took a trip down memory lane. After dinner a few went off to the Irish Pub but Russ, Phil and I walked back to the hotel for an early night. I am nearing the end of my antibiotics, so after having a bit of a rough ride of late it was the right thing to do.

The next day was gig day at the Sasktel Centre which was a huge venue. After a reasonably relaxing day we met in the hotel lobby at 5pm to get down there in time for a quick sound check, then dinner, and we had some meet and greets. Our showtime was 7.30pm. In catering I saw Andy Sneap of Priest and he was looking a little worse for wear and he said that he had contacted the tour lurgy and was not feeling too good. Luckily on our tour bus I had some left over Theraflu as they call it over here, which in the UK we call Lem Sip, so Rich my guitar tech kindly went on our bus and got him the bag they were all in, and he thankfully took what he needed. This will at least help him in the early stages, unless it gets worse.

Well our show was outstanding, and we had an amazing reaction and it sure was a good way to start the Canadian run of this tour being the first Canadian show. I saw in the audience two of our Dutch fans Joke and Marco which was cool. They have come over for a couple of shows and are making a holiday of it.

After the show we met Joke and Marco and Bernies old band mates, but the hotel was calling as we had a 7am rise out of bed to travel to Lethbridge Alberta BC, which was about 8 1/2 hours away.

The following morning was my 27th Birthday (sorry 72nd Birthday)

Well I will always be 18 years old in my head for sure, but never mind. My phone, iPad and LapTop did not stop pinging all day with wonderful messages, which was vey humbling and extremely nice of everyone to take the time to wish me a Happy Birthday.

I did manage to FaceTime my UK family who were all having a wonderful dinner in my absence, and it was so good to connect with them and seeing them all having a great time. Romeo my son was at home studying as he had some serious exams coming up to get into University. Still I managed to FaceTime him too, which was lovely and he was wearing his Heep T Shirt in my honour, and then he put the phone by my dog Iggy who was lying on the bed sleeping, and when I whistled and called his name his tail went into overdrive. So all of that did my heart good as you can imagine being so far away from home. My son Mike in the USA had been sending me lovely messages too, so it was a special day.

Now Lethbridge AB I was told was a one horse town, so it was not a very exciting place to spend my birthday, and it was highly unlikely that there would be any non stop cockney dancing once we arrived there, but we did find a quiet restaurant and had a chilled one. After this current bout of illness I think that is going to be the best option.

I had promised to tip a glass to Trevor and Terry Uttley from ‘Smokie’ as we all share the same Birthday, as indeed does genius Les Paul. So a sensible quiet one it was, as we have a long way to go this year with all of the dates and tours booked already in the diary.

As luck would have it, the restaurant was a short walk from the hotel, and it was called the ‘Keg,’ which is a chain of restaurants across Canada, and the food and wine are top notch. I had not been drinking for a long while, so three glasses of lovely red wine went down a treat. We chose a South African wine from the Stellenbosch region that was to die for. The whole band and crew were there too which was cool, and after dinner they gave me a Birthday card signed by everyone and a bottle of my favourite cologne Jean Paul Gaultier. On top of that the band paid for my meal and vino which was super nice of them.

After dinner I went back to my hotel room keen to keep this persistent lurgy at bay, and I was back in my room by 10.30pm, while others hit the bars. It was the perfect evening, but I was missing everyone at home terribly. Still at least I was safe in the knowledge that they had a good time in my absence.

Well I had the next room to Bernie at the hotel and about 15 minutes before we were leaving the hotel to go to the venue, he was banging on my door. I opened it to see him just wrapped in a towel and he could hardly speak as he was in a lot of pain on his left hand side. I made him go back to bed while I called Scampi our tour manager to get a doctor to him immediately. Luckily we had two good friends visit us George and Eleanor Norton who we had known for years, so I could go to the gig with the other boys and George stayed with Bernie. I had to be down at the gig to explain that we may not be able to play that night.

The doctor came and called an ambulance, and Bernie was taken straight to the hospital which luckily was close by. Once this had happened and with only 2 hours before showtime, it was obvious we could not play that night.

Judas Priests tour manager asked if I would go on stage with the rest of the boys and explain this to the audience. As we walked on to the stage there was a huge roar and when I explained the circumstances we received another huge roar and they were so good about it, and I think they appreciated us letting them know personally.

Well it was disappointment all round, but what could we do! Eventually we found out from the hospital that Bernie had a Kidney Stone, and that would have to pass through his system. After a scan it showed that it was so small that it would probably dissipate in his system, which was a relief for him, as the only other alternative was to pass it out through his bell end…….ouch!

By 11pm Bernie had checked out of the hospital and went and had some dinner and was back on the bus for an overnighter to Edmonton. I have had a kidney stone before and the pain is excruciating, but if you are lucky it only lasts for a few hours. They say the pain is equal to giving birth, but hey we will never know that will we, but it does hurt like hell.

In Edmonton Canada we played a venue called ‘Roger’s Place,’ which was huge. Probably the biggest venue thus far, but as we were driving along in the bus we could smell fumes coming inside and we could see smoke outside the windows, and the signs were not good at all. The head gasket blew, so we knew we were in trouble. We made it to the venue, but that was it, it was a dead bus.

However, we had a fantastic show in Edmonton and the crowd were with us all the way. They rocked hard and we had a great time. Then started phone calls aplenty trying to get our bus fixed, as we were driving to Dawson Creek BC with a proposed leave time of 8am from our hotel. The poor crew had to sleep on the broken bus. Luckily it was a travel day and a day off!

The next morning I was receiving texts from Scampi giving me updates that did not sound very encouraging. We had to try and get our rooms extended until 2pm as they where having serious problems getting a replacement bus, so it was a full on hang about day for everyone, band and crew.

Well the story was that in Canada there are only 6 rental buses available, and 2 of them were in for repair, and 4 of them were already out. So we ended up hiring a private bus from a Country and Western artist called ‘Gord Bamford,’ which had his picture and name right down the side of the bus. Country and Western ‘Heep’ indeed.

Thinking that everything was sorted, I then received a text from Scampi who was on the C&W Bus driving to our hotel saying that the air conditioning had packed in, and it was hotter than hell. When they arrived at our hotel at 6pm we had to get another engineer out to fix that, which took about another 1 1/2 hours. You could not make it up could you!

Luckily on the side of the hotel there was an Irish Pub where we could wait and watch all of the sport on the TV’s, but even that got boring as hell. We had avoided indulging all afternoon with the refreshments that were on hand, but eventually when the crew arrived we broke down and sampled the delights of the pub, relenting in the last few hours to have a Guinness or three while the air conditioning was fixed. Some of the crew had been drinking what was still on the bus, so they were having a jolly old time.

Once the van was fixed it was a party atmosphere from the get go, with Ben hooking up his phone to the bus Bluetooth speakers, and there started Bens Disco Juke box, with plenty of singing and joviality. There was even a Congo line formed up and down the bus for a while, and it was a lot of laughs for a few hours, until everyone eventually wound down and disappeared to their bunks.

Overall it was a 20 hour wait and journey, and we arrived at the hotel in Dawson Creek BC at 4am cream crackered (Knackered.) Well it was 5am really, but the clocks went back an hour. Needless to say none of us made breakfast, but we all went for lunch at a nice restaurant across the road from the hotel.

The concert was in a venue called the Encino Events Centre which was another huge venue. Well the minute we hit the stage they were up for it and rocking and it was a fantastic gig and a brilliant reaction. You could feel the energy hit you on stage and the atmosphere was immense.

Well it was the last night for Joke and Marco over from Holland, so it was a good one for them to see, and we met them in the dressing room to say our goodbyes, and then it was back to the hotel as we had a 7am wake up call booked to travel to Prince George BC.

When I got back to my room I had a shower and put on Planet Rock Radio on my iPad with Paul Anthony on, and it was because of the time difference that it was the beginning of his morning breakfast show. I was amazed and sent him a text telling him, and then he said on air that people from all over the world listen to his show, and that after playing a concert with Judas Priest, Mick Box in Canada was listening.

He said after his morning show he was off to ‘Download’ now being called ‘Drownload,’ as it had been raining so hard. He sent me pictures that looked terrible, and I told him to pack his wellies, but he came back with he should take a snorkel and flippers more like! From the pictures I saw he may well be right! What a shame!

On the journey to Prince George BC we did see a few wild Moose which was cool, and there were even signs to Alaska, but I was quite happy to be going to Prince George.

We had no hotel that day, so it was a bit of a hang about day at the gig which I hate. Still it had to be done so we showered down at the gig and we had to do an overnighter to Kelowna BC.

Well the gig was amazing and the reaction incredible even from the hardened Priest fans down the front. We also saw a lot of old Heep shirts which was cool. It was a fantastic night and the band were on fire. We stayed around for nearly 90% of the JP set which was as good as ever and then we all boarded the bus for an overnight journey to Kelowna BC for a night off! A few of the team stayed up all night and did not make their bunks until after 8am, being the party animals that they are.

We had been invited by the JP boys to join them for dinner at a restaurant called the ‘Keg.’ This was the restaurant chain where I had my Birthday meal, which was excellent, as it was Bernie’s Birthday and he would be duplicating my Birthday in the same restaurant chain, only this time with the JP band as well. We only stopped once for some breakfast in Kamloops and arrived at the hotel by 3pm in time for the check in. We we’re meeting at 5pm, so that just gave us a couple of hours to freshen up.

We were just a few minutes late for the restaurant as the taxi was delayed, but at least we arrived okay. Now Kelowna BC is a beautiful city and it would have been nice to have spent some time there, but that’s touring for you, and I am told the months of July/August and September are blisteringly hot. The restaurant was down by the waterfront where so many boats were moored, you could smell the money.

Well the meal was fantastic and the drinks were flowing at a rate of knots. Rob Halford didn’t make it but it was fun with the rest of the guys. Having not had a drink in a while it hit me hard and after a delicious meal, I was the first to leave with Phil and Scampi, while the others all went back to Judas’s Priests hotel for more drinks. How they did that I will never know because joined up talking for me had become a bit of a problem, though we did have a lot of laughs.

The next day funny enough no one made it to breakfast but Russ, Bernie and I made it to lunch. We were all so well oiled last night that we even forgot to give Bernie his Birthday card and Bottle of Organic White Wine, so I gave it to him at lunch. Phil decided to go down to the venue at 1pm with the crew and do some rubbernecking.

As it was Father’s Day I sent everyone a message wishing them ‘Appy Father’s Day, and I received text’s and Facebook messages from my family, and I even had a FaceTime call from England with Sheila and Romeo which was fantastic, and boy that did the heart good.

Well, when we arrived at the venue which was the Prospera Place, we met our manager Ace Trump who had driven from Los Angeles with his assistant Sean Baldwin. He also had his lovely mother with him Fay Rothlander and a few very nice friends. It is always good to see Ace and when he is there you kind of feel that the touring team is complete.

The concert was fantastic and by the end of the set they were all standing up and having a great time. We enjoyed the atmosphere immensely and the place was rockin’ big time. The night was set for Judas Priest and they took it by the throat and gave them some good old British Metal.

We said hello to a number of people after the show and then it was back to the hotel as we had a 7.30am wake up call to drive to Abbotsford BC where we were playing the Abbotsford Centre.

The weather was beautiful and it was good to be back in a pair of shorts and a T Shirt. There was no hotel that day, so we had to hang about the venue all day as we are driving overnight to North Quest WA for a day off. I personally hate this as I find it draining. At 5.30pm I was due to meet Gary Lambert from Graphtec Guitar labs who kindly supplies all of the hardware on my guitars. The locking tuners, nuts, and bridges are fantastic and they really make a difference on keeping my guitar tip top and in tune with dependability. I cannot recommend them enough and a big thank you goes to Mike Carparelli for the introduction.

I introduced Gary to Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap of Priest and they were well impressed and hopefully they will follow suit and arm their guitars with these goodies. Andy had already ordered from the company a bridge/nut, so he was a convert already,

Well the concert was just amazing and we went down an absolute storm which was just great seeing as it was our final Canadian concert on this run. Bernie had his sister Brenda there and a whole lot of family so there were plenty of people to say hello to and Rich kindly went to the trailer to get my guitars as Gary wanted to have some pictures of me with the tuners etc on my Carparelli S4’s. We did this with the Black and the White S4.

The bus was going overnight to North West WA in the USA, so we arranged a midnight departure. Our new bus had arrived, so we said goodbye to our driver Dave driving the Country and Western ‘Gord Bamford’ bus, and then we started transferring everything from one bus to another. The new bus was fine and it was good to see our driver Bob again, who is not only a good driver, but a good man.

Now the Border from Canada to the USA was only 15 minutes drive from the venue so the plan was to arrive at the border and get everything checked and cleared, and then we could all hit our bunks for the ride to North West WA USA by 1am, and get some sleep. The journey was approximately 8 hours, so we planned to stop at 10am for breakfast and then drive to the hotel where we could check in early as Scampi had pre-arranged this.

At the border we all trooped off the bus and then the whole world turned upside down for us. Firstly in each of our passports there was a stamp missing, which was not a problem so this took longer than expected, but then the real bombshell hit. They asked for the Carnet to check the equipment and Scampi only had a copy, but they needed to see the original. Now if you followed all of our bus problems in this blog, the original Carnet was with the bus papers on the first bus we had. So the bus and people on board could enter, but not the trailer with the equipment in it.

The only available plan was to take the trailer back to the gig, and drop it there, then get the original Carnet speedily couriered up to the border. In the interim period we would all travel the 8 hours on the bus to our hotel in North West WA USA, and then Bob and Scampi would have to drive back the next day and get the trailer.

Now it was about 1am when they went back to the gig to unhitch the trailer, while we all sat uncomfortably in the Border Control waiting room. Although the gig was only 15 minutes away this process took nearly 2 hours, as they could not unhitch the trailer from the bus because it was stuck. Scampi called Angus and asked him where a big lump of metal was to smack it with to loosen it, and once he had that identified and he used it, he could unhitch the trailer. Eventually they got back to the Border and we could leave, and by this time we were all hanging, as it was 3am.

The worse part of it all was that while we were waiting there all of the Priest Trucks and Bus personnel came through and walked right past us while we were waiting there. As they passed by we said to each of them ‘don’t ask,’ as we had told the firsts guys who cleared through the story, so they could tell the rest of them.

Well we did not stop as planned on our journey to North West WA USA, so we arrived at the Casino hotel and checked in, and then went to bed. Scampi and our Bus driver Bob then planned to drive back to Abbotsford BC in Canada to pick up our trailer, and timing it so that the original Carnet had been couriered to the border police in time. That is an 8 hour journey for us to get to North West WA, and then an 8 hour journey back to Abbotsford BC Canada, followed by an 8 hour journey back to North West WA USA. That’s a total of 24 hours driving for poor old Bob our driver.

The venue at the Northern Quest Casino and Resort was an amphitheatre outside, and if you for one minute think the Bus saga was finished, then think again, as they were that close to the hotel that they could see the venue and then to cap everything off they had a tyre blow out. So they could see the venue and the hotel, but had to wait another hour and a half to get the tyre fixed. Unbelievable, but eventually the Bus, Bob, Scampi and the equipment turned up so the gig was on.

We arranged to meet at 7pm in the lobby on our day off for dinner. Ace our manager and Sean his assistant were driving there so they would join us too. Now I went downstairs a little earlier and I saw Ace in reception with a face like thunder which was most unusual, and he was obviously upset, and then I found out why. They were in Ace’s vehicle right at the front door of the hotel when Sean his assistant shut the door with the keys inside, and with the engine running. Even Ace’s phone was locked inside the car. They phoned the service that deals with things like that and they said it would take 2 hours to come. Now leaving the car with its engine running for another 2 hours at the hotel entrance would not please anyone, but luckily the whole saga was over quicker than the 2 hours as predicted and thank goodness for that. Still it was a long time and a lot of stress was involved.

Well our Brian was back today from his sons wedding in Cancun, so he turned up all tanned and rested, and after hearing all of the stories, I bet he thought he was glad he left and came back when he did! We are praying that the bad luck is now over and we can finish the rest of the tour on a high, well certainly in the bus department anyway!

Dinner was at a sports bar restaurant called the ‘Epic,’ which some liked and others disliked, and then we went to the bar where those that were still hungry ate more food there. Some were also enjoying a variety of cocktails that lead into the night. Phil and I took the no drinking early night route, and I am glad I did.

I had breakfast with Phil and Ace and there was a no show from anyone else until lunchtime. Then we had a chilled afternoon before getting ready for the concert. Well as we were chilling the whole weather outside was fast becoming less sunny and very overcast, and by the time we went down to the show there were rain spots in the air. So much so that all the equipment and pedals were covered in this thick clear see through plastic. We could not use our backdrop as the wind was blowing too strongly, so the conditions were not good.

However by the time we went on to the stage, the rain had stopped and it stayed that way for the whole of our show which was great. The crowd were rockin’ and we had a great time under those conditions, and we left the stage to great applause and yells for more. It was quite windy, so I did half the set with a pair of hair curtains in front of my face, which neither looked good or helped in the guitar playing department.

Unfortunately by the time we got back to our dressing room the skies opened up and it rained really heavily for the Judas Priest set. Being the professionals that they are they played on through and gave the audience some good heavy metal that they came for, even though their own production was restricted by the weather too.

After the show we all went to a restaurant for some dinner, as we were finished by 8.30pm which was nice, and then I had an early night with not a drop off drink passing my lips, even though the red wine on offer was right up my Strasse!

I hope you enjoyed this read, and Part 4 will follow with the rest of this adventure documenting the warts and all, on this road trip we call touring.

‘Appy days!

Mick

Box News #281 – June 8th, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on June 8, 2019 by heepster

TOUR DIARY PART 2

URIAH HEEP AS SPECIAL GUESTS TO JUDAS PRIEST IN THE USA & CANADA

Our merchandise Mick while on tour had his Mother Pass away, which was so sad, so he flew home back to England to be at the funeral, and he will re-join us in St Louis. Our thoughts and prayers went with him.

Well on the 26th May we were looking at a bus ride of over 40 hours plus, including stops, so we all decided to fly to Austin Texas from Chicago. As the plane was full on the two flights, we had to do this in two separate parties. The early flight had Brian, Davey, Ben and Angus, and the later flight, Scampi, Phil, Russ, Bernie & his family and moi. I was also super excited to get there early as my son Mike was meeting me there. In fact he was at the hotel when the first guys arrived, so he could get his room, which was cool thanks to my guitar tech Rich.

When we arrived at the hotel it was so lovely to see him, and he had not changed a bit other than he had succumbed at last to the Box face furniture and was wearing glasses. However, I was still full of sickness which was beginning to drag me down especially after that flying too. It was a day off, so I had a little time to rest which was nice. By this time I had also lost my voice which if that has happened to you ever, you would know is super frustrating.

We arrived at the hotel in time for a quick rest and shower before meeting for dinner. Most off the crew on the early flight shift had already been down town all day enjoying the sights. Austin is full of bars, restaurants and shops and it is a seriously happening busy bustling area. Again you can hire scooters and bikes everywhere, turning it into a kind of motorised Holland, with people whizzing by at a rate of knots.

Phil, Bernie, Russ, Mike and my good self decided on eating at the hotel Restaraunt and having a quiet night. It was bar food really, but we were really surprised at just how good the food actually was. Also for those that were drinking, namely Bernie and Russ the barman mixed a mean old cocktail that made them both very happy.

The following day we ventured into town as the hotel had a courtesy van which was cool. We walked around for a couple of hours, which for me was draining in the heat, but the other option of sitting in my hotel room feeling sorry for myself did not appeal. I had been to Austin many times before and they have a slogan everywhere saying ‘Keep Austin Weird.’ This was on stickers, fridge magnets, T Shirts and just about everywhere.

After a little lunch and searching every bar that we came across for a Pina Colada that Russ was desperate for, would you believe it that no bar or restaurant served them at all, not until we found a place just as our courtesy bus turned up to take us back to the hotel. Russ and Phil had to skull them quickly and contacted brain freeze from the ice in the process.

We met at 7pm to go to dinner but the usual tour party was pretty fragmented by then. The crew and Davey were either in town or going down town, but Phil, Russ, Mike, Bernie and his family along with my good-self, spied a Seafood restaurant that looked interesting behind the hotel, so we walked there.

Luckily for us it was superb food and service, and everyone had a good dinner, and those that wanted cocktails had them plentiful and Russ got his Pina Coladas and loved them.

I was still on the sick list and Phil had bronchitis, and Bernie was on a course of antibiotics too, so once again it was a quiet night.

The meds I had brought from London were not even touching the sides to this Passive COPD I have been blessed with through other peoples smoke over the years, so I was not improving at all, and that is where my good friends David and Lana came to the rescue. They kindly arranged for some meds in New York that treat my condition and had them sent by USPS to my hotel.

The following day was a gig day, so all we did was rest all day to have the strength for that nights show. Down at the concert the lurgy was spreading, as a lot of the Priest crew had contacted it, and even Judas Priests guitarists Richie and vocalist Rob. Still the show must go on, and not one person in the audience would have noticed anything as both bands were on fire. Such is the power of adrenaline and passion for what you do.

That day was a bank holiday, so the meds sent by USPS we’re not due to arrive until the following day, which was so lucky as we had two shows there in Austin at the ‘Moody Theatre.’ The tracking note said a 10.30am delivery at the hotel, but I think even the hotel reception lady was getting fed up with me asking if my parcel had arrived. It was either me or Mike going down at regular intervals to see it it had arrived each time to no avail.

The only good thing was that there was a washer and dryer on the 2nd floor, so in between visits to reception to see if my meds had arrived, Mike and I got our laundry done which was cool and much needed.

Well the second show in Austin was as good as the first, and the band was on fire and the crowd went nuts. Still back at the hotel no meds had arrived and we were leaving at 9am to Dallas Texas the next morning. This started off a chain of phone calls between USPS, David and Lana in New York and Mike to find out what we could do. We did eventually find out that the parcel was in the Austin depot and that they opened at 7.30am. Luckily the depot was a 16 minute walk from the hotel, so my son Mike got up early and went down there with my ID’s to try and pick up the package, before it was loaded on to a van and driven around Austin all day. This he did and ‘Appy days, he sent me a triumphant picture of him holding the parcel, and he came back to the hotel in time for some breakfast. Phew! that was close, and I cannot thank David and Lana and Mike enough for all of their efforts. I now hopefully had the goods to combat this Passive COPD attack fully. In previous blogs I have mentioned that I have Bronchitis on the road, or a chest infection but really each time it is this Passive COPD that will never go away. It just lays dormant until something triggers it off and the next thing I am sick. Such is my cross to bear!

We arrived in Dallas after a few stops and luckily it was another night off. I started to religiously take my medication and rest was the order of the day. There was a small restaurant called ‘Market Diner,’ that was just across from the hotel car park. There was nothing else for miles, so with the degree of sickness in the camp, we ate breakfast, lunch and diner there, and chilled out big time to give our bodies time to recover. They even had a juke box with the ‘Living the Dream’ album on and a total of 52 Heep albums and 790 songs on it. How cool is that as this diner was in the middle of nowhere.

Of course the crew and Davey hit the hotspots, as downtown there was ‘The House of Blues,’ ‘Hooters,’ and a ‘Hard Rock Cafe’ and by all accounts it was buzzing. Still there is a long way to go on this tour and in fact for the rest of the year, so it was definitively health first for me.

The concert in Dallas was at a venue called ‘The Bomb Factory,’ which was a very cool venue. It was packed to the rafters and a fantastic atmosphere. When we hit the stage the audience were up and running and ready to rock out big time. It was a great show and Dallas did us proud. Our agent Leora from APA Agency was in town visiting her parents, so it was lovely to see her. My son Mike had his best friends in to see the show, and Andy Sneap Priests second guitarist sent me a text to say ‘King Diamond,’ was coming down, and he was a big fan and wanted to meet me. Also guys from ‘Blackfoot,’ who we met on the Rock Legends Cruise came by to say hi.

Because of my illness, I could not really stay around too long like I normally do, so Phil being under the weather too, we took an Uber back to the hotel and unfortunately I missed meeting ‘King Diamond,’ which was a shame. I did hear from Davey in the morning that King Diamond was wandering backstage trying to find me to say hello to me.

Also we had an early morning start to travel to Little Rock Arkansas for an outside gig in the ‘First Security Amphitheatre.’ When we arrived at lunch time we could see the stage backed on to the Arkansas River which was not only flowing fast but dangerously high and browner than brown. Our dressing room backed on to the river too, and I would not be surprised if the next day they would be totally flooded, as it was that high. It was stupidly hot and humid and the crews setting up all day must have been drained. Our hotel was only a 5 minute drive away, so after lunch we tried to stay out of the way as much as possible.

There was also the added bonus that my son Mike and I could watch the Spurs v Liverpool Champions League match on the hotel TV. My wife Sheila was at the new stadium in Tottenham with her brother John watching on the big screens, and I am sure Romeo was down at the pub with his friends. We were texting each other like demons with excitement.

When the handball was given for a penalty in the first few minutes, it was the worst start possible and Salah was never going to miss that.

Now apart from the penalty drama, personally I did not hold out much hope of a win for a number of reasons. Our manager Mauricio Pochettino wanted to play Kane from the off, but I thought he should have bought him on as a sub, as he had not played a full game for weeks due to an injury. He could have been the Ace in the pack so to speak later on in the game. We had a few more players back from injury with a lack of full game experience including Harry Winks, so the gel factor was sadly missing. Erickson, Trippier and Deli have not been in good form of late and it was the same in this game, which at this level is just not good enough. Top that off with the fact Liverpool have beaten Spurs twice this season already and their squad is twice the size of ours in strength, and when you consider Liverpool spent in excess of 200 million Sterling in the transfer market 2018/2019, and Spurs spent nothing as we built a new state of the art stadium, you can see it was all stacked against us.

Add to that I thought we had ridden our luck of late even though our commitment and depth of strength had been admirable, heart stopping and beyond belief at times. There also has to be some unrest with certain players wanting to leave or even being sold, with Erickson being a prime example wanting to go to Real Madrid or Juventus.

I think Erickson is a really good player when he wants to be, but as a replacement for Luka Modric at Real Madrid in my eyes, he is no where near Modrics class. Now what baffles me is that had Erickson played a terrific game and showed some of the brilliance he is capable of and we had won, surely having a Championship League winners medal would have not only driven up his price, but also those clubs would want him even more. To play flatter than a pancake on such an important game is beyond me, even if you have plans to move. I do question their sanity.

Apart from all of that this seasons journey has been just incredible with many roller coaster moments that will live with us forever, and I just pray our manager Mauricio Pochettino stays at the club to take it all to the next level, but there are some concerns, and a big black cloud hanging over Mauricio staying. He has even hinted at leaving if we won or lost the Champions League Cup which was in my mind was professional suicide going into such an important game of a lifetime. Maybe he was just trying to shock owner Levy into action and get him to deliver in the buying market for next season, but the timing of those comments was certainly not what we all wanted to hear.

I am immensely proud of Spurs, as to achieve 4th place in the Premier League this year, with the big spenders above us like Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City (2019 Premier League Winners), we therefore qualified for the Champions League next year and became Champion League runners up in 2019. We made it to the 4th Round of the FA Cup and the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, and all that while enduring a season without a proper home and all the unrest and uncertainty that brings, especially as we spent zero money on players in the transfer market while building a new world class stadium.

Now after that disappointment, back at the gig Brian was setting up Davey’s bass and as it was outside, all sorts of big creatures where climbing up his fret board, including a hairy type Caterpillar would you believe. You could see huge snakes in the murky waters backstage and there were some bugs on steroids flying around, but lucky for us, no Alligators showed up!

Considering the audience were all standing or sitting in that heat they were really responsive to our rockin’ set list. It was stiflingly hot and humid on stage and this dried up our throats even more. Still we went down a storm and against all the odds, we had a fantastic reaction.

Under the circumstances our crew did a marvellous job setting up our gear and making sure everything was just right, so we could just walk on and face the elements and rock out Heep style.

Back in the dressing room though the floor and food table were infested with thousands of ants, all having a field day, so consequently we did not hang around too long. While Bernie was in the shower it did cross our mind to put a handful of ants in his underpants, but apart from all of the schoolboy giggling going on, it never happened.

Now how the Priest boys got on I will never know. Both guitarists Richie and Andy wear full leather outfits, so by the end of their show I bet they both had a pair of ‘Betty Swollocks,’ each!

Rob has a number of costume changes too throughout the set, so he must have been drained at the end of it. Still as we were leaving the venue and getting an Uber back to the hotel, they sounded as good as ever and the Metal Gods were at full power.

We had an early leave the next day to drive to St Louis for a day off. Taking my medicine and getting some good rest, I did feel slowly that I was turning the corner a bit with this sickness and I sure hope that continued. Being sick on the road is no fun at all, and now Mike has a dose of it coming on too which is not good news. When we arrived in St Louis, our first port of call was to order an Uber and get Mikey down to Walgreens to pick up some medicine to try and nip his now incessant cough in the bud. Fingers crossed! Our merchandise Mick flew to St Louis from England, so it was good to have home back on the team.

In the evening the crew and Davey went up the St Louis Arch and then Scampi and Brian found an Irish Pub for some Shepherds Pie, and the rest of the crew hit a hamburger joint that served Ben a Hamburg he nick-named filth on his Facebook page. It did look pretty bad I have to say.

Over here in the USA they have cheese with everything, and this can be cheese slices, grated cheese, stringy cheese, cheese squirted from a tube like toothpaste, and we call it mostly comedy cheese because it does not taste of cheese at all. I am very careful to say to whoever serves me ‘no cheese please on anything,’ and still most of the time it still turns up with it on my meal. Then back it goes to the kitchen until there is not a drop of cheese in sight. Now I love cheese, but it has to be good quality cheese and not of the above variety and lack of quality.

Bernie, Russ, Mike and I found a Thai Restaurant nearby which was good food, and we then had an early night. Phil fancied some fancy Peruvian Cuisine at a place called ‘Mango,’ so we did not see him, and between eating he was doing his laundry.

Well Mike had a bad night coughing etc so we set a plan in motion for him to fly home from St Louis to El Paso where he could see a doctor and get fixed up. He left about the same time we did for the gig, so it worked out well, and he could be in his own bed that night, and try and get himself well. It was sad to see him go, but the right thing to do in the long run.

The gig at the Stifel theatre was fantastic and the audience reaction was stunning. We met a few friends after but we did not stay around too long as this sickness prevailed, plus we had an early start as we were playing a funky venue called ‘Knuckleheads’ in Kansas the next day with an early 8am leave.

We made really good time and arrived at ‘Knuckleheads’ at around 12 midday, then we ate lunch/breakfast, and then the band checked into a nearby hotel for day rooms only, as we were travelling overnight to what we thought was Colorado Springs. The Kansas show was a Heep headline show, so we could play our full set which was great.

Before we went on stage at ‘Knuckleheads’ we received the bad news that Rob Halford had lost his voice and that Colorado Springs was cancelled. This threw a lot of our plans up in the air as Brian our Bass/Keys/stage manager was leaving the tour for a week as his son was getting married in Cancun. He had his flight booked from Colorado Springs. Plus we were meeting a double driver there too for the long drive to Saskatoon Canada, along with Brian’s American replacement joining us.

So backstage before we went on it was a little chaotic to say the least. Arrangement ideas were flying back and forth, and there was even a suggestion that we announce the cancellation on the Heep & JP sites and find a venue in Colorado Springs where we could play a show, so as not to disappoint everyone. Well this proved impossible to arrange in that short time, so Scampi our tour manager set about making alternative arrangements to get us to Saskatoon in Canada direct.

Firstly he arranged a flight for Brian from Kansas to Dallas on to Cancun which was lucky, and as we only had day rooms in Kansas he kept one room on for Brian to sleep in before departing to the wedding.

The bus company said that as we would now drive straight to Saskatoon Canada there was no need for a double driver so that was cool, and then we arranged for the new tech to fly direct to Saskatoon. This meant that for the rest of us we had an overnight drive for 11 hours to a place called Faro North Dakota where we then had 12 hours on the ground in day rooms, as our diver Bob would be out of driving hours.

While in Faro we found out that just a 15 minute ride away from our hotel that there was a Rib Fest with ‘Vince Neil’ from Motley Crue and his band playing there. The hotel courtesy bus dropped us off at the venue which had a $5 entrance fee. Everyone but Russ and Ben went, and it was a bit of a laugh. Once they realised who we were they put us on the monitor side of the stage to see the show. Obviously it was 90% Crue songs, but all of the guys we met were nice and respectful, and the audience were well into it. The weather was great, so it was nice to mull around before heading back to the hotel to jump on the Bus for yet another overnighter.

We departed at midnight taking us to the Canadian border in Portal Canada at 8am. We had all of the necessary Carnet and clearance papers, but we still had to get off the bus at 8am and show our passports. So in under and hour we were on our way which was marvellous. We planned to stop at the first restaurant we could see to have some breakfast but the prairie countryside was so flat and remote, we did not see a thing until 1pm, and then there were only two choices. A run down Cafe or a Subways that was inside a Garage. I opted for the Subway choice as it looked safer and healthier. Phil, Russ, and Rick joined me but Bernie, Davey and Scampi took the greasy hamburger option.

Since being in Canada there has been a noticeable drop in the weather and it had started to rain heavily. Still Bob our amazing driver made it to the hotel where we all checked in and went to our rooms until the 7pm where we met in the bar for dinner. Just a short walk away from the hotel and right next door to each other were an Italian Restaurant and an English pub. The pub was called ‘Winston’s English Pub and Grill,’ and the Italian Restaurant called ‘Taverna Italian Kitchen + Bar.’

Scampi wisely decided to stay in and get his work done having room service, so he could have a complete day off the following day.

Well the English Pub served on draft ‘Leffe’ beer and ‘Guinness’ on draft, so that was Phil, Davey and Mick all set and Bernie, Russ and I went to the Italian. Our food and drink was excellent and then we joined the others back in the English Pub. Well from when we left them at the pub originally the level had gone up somewhat, and to our surprise the entire Judas Priest crew turned up, so it was destined to get a bit messy.

The table opposite us had a guy who joined our table and started buying Tequila shots for everyone. I left seeing Davey knocking back another shot, and as I was not drinking, and I was still on antibiotics, I walked back to the hotel. Bernie came back with me and I could only see it all going to be a lot of fun, but with a lot of hurting in the morning. Luckily it was another day off!

The mighty Heep adventures will continue on then next Blogolicious, and I hope you enjoyed the read above, as there will be more to follow in part (3)

‘Apply days!

Mick

Box News #280 – May 30, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2019 by heepster

TOUR DIARY PART (1) URIAH HEEP AS SPECIAL GUESTS TO JUDAS PRIEST IN THE USA

Okay it was the first day of May and there was no dancing around the May Pole for us, as we all met at LHR Terminal 3 to fly British Airways to Miami Florida. Scampi, Brian and Ben came down from Manchester, so we only got to see them once we had gone through security. Then we all met in the BA lounge for something to eat and drink. The flight was 8 hours 40 minutes, but it was an old plane that had a few things broken. Phil had his seat that was lopsided, my light didn’t work, and some of the video screens were temperamental as well. The control for the screen was in the arm rest, so every time you put your arm down not only was it uncomfortable, it either changed the channel you were watching or stopped it.

Now as it was the first of the month they usually update the content of movies on British Airways but we had the same movies that we had going to Japan a few weeks ago, which was bad fare I have to say, as we had seen most of them. Oh yes and the newspapers that they supply for you to take on board if you so wish, were a day out of date. Now if that wasn’t bad enough after lunch they closed the bar. This did not please our particular travelling party as you can imagine and other passengers were not happy about it too. In the end they condescended to open it for a short while but not for long, and they certainly did not announce it.

On arrival in Miami it was the fastest I have ever entered the USA and we breezed through everything. Then Scampi phoned our transport to pick us up and it was only a 30 minute drive to the hotel. It was rainy when we arrived, which was a bit of a shock, but still hot and humid.

After checking in as it was 9pm, we decided to go down the street a few blocks away, and have something to eat and drink, otherwise we would have gone straight to bed, as we were all tired having very little sleep on the plane. Davey took a cab to meet his mate Richie Faulkner from Judas Priest as he has a house quite close by the venue.

Then for the rest of us, it was a short walk back to the hotel and even then we tried to stay up as long as possible to try and beat the jet lag. Miami is 5 hours behind the UK, so it isn’t too bad. I was in bed by 11pm and I nodded off straight away.

Most of us got up for breakfast and some had been up since 5am, while others had the no sleep story to tell, but I didn’t do too bad. After breakfast we just relaxed in our room before going to lunch at 1pm. We went back to the same restaurant and ate, but in the evening we went to another restaurant for a change and this time we turned left outside the hotel and walked a few blocks. It was a nice setting as it was by the water with boats and yachts moored up, but the food was not so good. During the day I did a couple of phone interviews and even before that Bernie and I walked to Walgreens which is a big Pharmacy/Chemist over here to pick up a couple of items that we had forgotten back in London.

It was pretty much an early night for some, but others had made the mistake of having a long afternoon nap, which to be honest makes it even harder to shake off any jet lag. I worked most of the afternoon clearing up my emails and getting on top of everything I could not finish in the UK before leaving, which was a good move. It kept me busy and prevented me from going in a deep afternoon coma.

The following day was gig day, so we had breakfast, and then we had to check out of the hotel at 12.30pm and go down to the concert, as after the show we had an overnight journey to Miramar Beach Florida, which was a 12 hour drive away. The venue for the first night though was the Seminole Hard Rock Live Hotel and Casino. Our soundcheck was at 4pm, and we were on stage at 20.00pm. As it was the first night everything was delayed, so we did not get to the stage until 5pm. Now as we would be playing to a predominantly metal audience that Priest pull in, and we only had an hour to play, we decided to do an hours worth of straight Heep rock. We started with ‘Grazed By Heaven’ and ended with ‘Easy Livin’ and it was full on power rock set all the way through.

As we hit the stage we could feel it was a good atmosphere, and that the audience were up for some good rock music, and rock they did. It was only an hour set, but the reaction was amazing and we had everybody standing up and shouting for more, which was just great. It was a good first show and then we had the chance to go out and see Judas Priest. Well I must say they have it all down. The production, the playing, the songs the Image, the whole nine yards. If it is metal you want, with Priest it is metal you get of the highest caliber.

After our show we had to go overnight to Miramar Florida which was a 12 hour drive where we were playing ‘The Village Door Music Hall’ on our own. Well they did have a support band, but the venue was a a lot smaller than the first show with Priest. However, we adapted and had a good gig. The promoter looked after us very well with food, drink and transport, so no complaints there, The agent who booked us there said that he had never seen a better band than Heep play at this venue, and they had people like John Waite and L.A. Guns play there, so that was cool. Talking of John Waite I used to love his band the ‘Babys,’ as they had some great songs. Well the crew stayed on the bus and the band had hotel rooms, which at the most we would be in for 7 hours, but a non moving bed is essential to some of the band, me included.

The next day we had a 7 hour drive to Nashville. Now as we did this in the day time there were all sorts of traffic jams as you would expect. In hindsight and we all know that hindsight is never wrong, we should have gone overnight, but there you go.

Our first stop was to a restaurant called the ‘Cracker Barrel’ for breakfast. Only Phil, Russ, Scampi and I made it, but it is a famous chain of restaurants that have a huge porch around the outside with rocking chairs outside for people to either sit on while they are waiting for a table or they can buy one. Inside there is a shop that sells so much toot that it is incredible. We had to wait 20 mins for a table as it was a Sunday and everyone comes out for their Sunday breakfast, so it was mobbed. I have to say I marvel at some of the breakfasts some of the people were eating. Just across from us an elderly couple were wading through, 2 fried eggs, bacon, hash browns, 4 pancakes with oodles of cream and maple syrup poured all over them, and believe me there was not a morsel left on the plate. Amazing! One things for sure that is not in the Jenny Craig weight watchers menu. Jenny runs a huge successful weight loss programme that is advertised everywhere here in the USA much like the UK Weight Watchers.

Well we eventually rolled up to our hotel in Nashville TN at 8.30pm, so Phil, Bernie, Russ and I dumped our bags in the room and went in search of some dinner. We found a Japanese restaurant a short walk from the hotel, so that was perfect. As we were staying just outside of Nashville in Brentwood TN, Davey and a few of the crew took an Uber into the Main Street in Nashville where it all happens.

The rest of us had a quiet night which was cool. I am lucky enough to have been to Nashville many times, so my need for rubber necking was not quite the same as others. It’s going to be a long 2 months on tour so a bit of self preservation has to come into play.

They following day after breakfast we all went to the concert venue at the Municipal Auditorium and had lunch, before the band went on walkabout downtown. We saw all of the bars and even though it was in the day there were bands playing live in every bar we walked past. Some of them actually on view in the window, which was usually the back of the drummer. We went in every boot shop there was headed by Bernie and Davey and saw some amazing sights. Cruising through the Main Street there was the ‘Pedal Tavern’ where people sit on bar stools drinking alcohol while they pedal away up and down the Main Street which was a hive of activity, and that was just in the afternoon, so I could see why some of the boys that went out the night before were a little peaky the next day to say the least. Still they had a great time by all accounts.

After walking around for a couple of hours and having a coffee, we headed back to the venue, as it was extremely hot and humid. The dressing room was air conditioned and comfortable so we stayed there until showtime.

Now the Nashville audience were amazing and we had a great time on stage. They were well up for it as the intro tape started up, and I have to say they were ready to rock with the mighty Heep and rock they did. We had them standing from the first note to the last and it was just a fantastic concert.

You can also hire motorised scooters that go 15 miles an hour, which is like 60 miles and hour when you are on them. Apparently after using them you can dump them anywhere as they were in some very odd places left by the person who had hired it. So after our concert Angus, Ben and Rich gave them a go, and went downtown for a laugh.

The following day we drove to Atlanta Georgia for a day off. It was only approximately 5 hours journey, so when we arrived it was the usual meet in the bar at 7pm and then all go out to a restaurant for dinner.

The venue in Atlanta I had played before and it is a very unique theatre. It had kind of a castle theme and in the roof a sky which looked amazing. It has an atmosphere before anyone had plugged in it looked that good! We were on stage for 19.30pm and we were just getting to grips with only playing a 1 hour set. We rocked from the first note to the last and the audience were with us every note played and sung. It was over all too quickly, but we had made the impression we had come on to this tour to do, and it felt good.

After the show we left at 10pm to travel on an overnighter to Kent Ohio where we were headlining on our own with a support band called ‘Prognation.’ It was three shows in the same venue which was the Kent Stage. We played there before on our last tour doing two shows, so we must have made the right impression as it went up to three. ‘Appy days!

We arrived at the venue and had lunch across the road from the venue and then the crew started setting up the stage and the band then went to the hotel. The sound check was important as we were playing a full set, so we did a fairly long one, and as we arrived we said hello to all of the staff that we had met before.

The first of the three shows was great and we had a brilliant time playing our full set. In the end everyone was standing and shouting for more so that felt good especially with another 2 nights to go. It was good seeing our Webmaster Dave White and his wife Carol there as they live in Cleveland Ohio up the road

The following morning we had been invited to the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’ in Cleveland which was approximately 1 hours drive from our hotel. Dave White joined us which was cool. Firstly they took us down to the Vaults where they kept items that had not been displayed yet, which was very cool. From clothes to instruments it was very interesting. We were then set free with our passes to walk around the ‘Hall of Fame’ by ourselves. It was stocked full of so many interesting memorabilia items, but the most exciting thing for me to see was the original Les Paul ‘Clunker’ Electric Guitar. This was originally a 1942 Epiphone Broadway Guitar which Les Paul himself designed. He signed a contract with Gibson in the early fifties so they made him put a Gibson decal on the headstock. It was just amazing to see it, as it was that guitar that I had first heard on my Les Paul & Mary Ford vinyl EP’s. It was a really cool experience. Dave White kindly bought me a ‘Hall of Fame’ mouse mat that I was looking at which was very kind of him.

It was good to see our old mates Def Leppard and the Zombies inducted this year and good on them. After walking around we had a little lunch and then drove back to the hotel. This gave us a few hours before we had to get back down to the gig for the second show. There was no need for a sound check, so we just turned up in time for a warm up and to get changed for the gig. The dressing room was a broom cupboard anyway, so some of us used the bus parked outside.

Once again it was a fantastic reaction, and we changed the set around a little and added 2 more numbers. We did this, as we were mindful that some people were coming to all three shows. The second show was great, and they were truly rocking with the mighty Heep.

I have been putting Rich my guitar tech through it, as I wanted some new pick ups to try on my White Carparelli, so he kindly put them in for me, and also I bought a new Cry Baby Wah Wah which is the basic one with no frills, as I was having trouble trying to find the sweet spot on the one I have, which I love so much. They do wear out, so I thought that might be the problem.

While Rich was doing this Russ and I went for lunch and then to have a coffee in a coffee shop cum library. It was a cool place and the coffee delicious. On the way back to the venue and we were just about outside of the venue a lady walking behind us said that she liked Russ’s leather jacket. She said her father used to renovate Harley Davidson’s and he had a similar jacket that she liked to wear. She then asked if we were going to the Heep show and Russ said that we are Heep, and she nearly lost it. She then told us a story of a cat her family had with the name Uriah, named after the band. She wanted a picture but her phone was down the street in a shop she worked in. Well we waited outside while she ran to her shop and back and we had the picture taken and she was delighted.

The support band had a friend who is an Astronaut, and he took a picture taken of me and a guy from the band up into orbit with him, and then had a picture of him in space holding the picture of the both of us. How cool is that? So I am now officially an Urban Spaceman or a Space Cowboy if you like.

As it was the third night in the the same venue, we changed the set around again for a little variety. This was received very well and we after we did not leave until late as we had an overnight bus journey to Washington DC. Well the venue kindly kept the bar open and we enjoyed ourselves immensely as only Heep can before jumping on to the bus, where for some the party had only just begun.

In Washington DC we were playing the ‘Anthem’ which is a really cool venue. The band had lunch in the venue and then went to the hotel to get ready for the concert, while the crew set up the stage. Since being on this tour I must say that the Judas Priest band and the crew have been brilliant and the catering top notch. They have been very kind to us overall, and it makes for a good package when it is like that.

I had two good friends to meet who were Scott and Beth Graham. It was great to meet up with them and catch up on all of the latest news, as Beth is a longtime friend of my wife Sheila, so we have a lot of history there, as we have stayed at their house in Baltimore (well Sherwood Forest to be exact ) with Romeo over some summer holidays.

The concert was brilliant and we received yet another fantastic reaction from the audience, considering that even Priest admit they have a Partisan crowd who are staunch Priest fans, but we seem to be breaking through that barrier each night, which is great making it a fantastic night of Classic Rock and Metal.

The following day was a day off in Huntington NY, so it was a pretty relaxed day and much needed to be honest. We had our good friends David and Lana Vinogradov join us on the concert day which was cool. We always have a lot of fun with them and it is always good to see them. The venue was the Paramount Theatre where we were performing two nights. Now I like that, as it is heavenly that we did not have to unpack and pack up our suitcases and move on, but we could stay put in the one bed for two nights. Luxury!

Well Huntington did not let us down and we had a great time on stage and the audience were so loud it was amazing. This happened both nights, so it was good to get that sort of reaction in the NY area. The second day however I had an interview in my room at midday and then one at 6.30pm at the gig. I am constantly doing interviews, so I may have missed a few in the above text but trust me between interviews, meet and greets, trying out my equipment, having dinner, warming up, getting changed and the like, from the minute I get to the venue I am busy, busy, busy.

Also on the second night in Huntington, the crew were staying on the bus with no hotel and Angus & Ben discovered they could order McDonalds while on the move and that they could have it delivered to the bus on arrival. The crew were all starving, so apart from a number of different combinations of Hamburgers and french fries being sent, they had 70 Chicken McNuggets delivered. You read that correctly 70 of them! Now with copious amounts of Jack Daniels on board, and any other liquid refreshment that was available to consume, the party began until the early hours of the morning, and in some cases until daylight. In case you were wondering there was not a morsel of food left at the end either. At most a hamburger stashed in the fridge for later consumption.

Rich my guitar tech and I were trying out some new pick-ups in my signature White Carparelli S4, but although the pick-ups are brilliant, they sound great on their own, but with the band not so! The problem is that from stage left, the low end frequencies from the Bass, Keys and Russ’s kit, (mostly Bass Drums) I need a certain sound to cut through. As I said above in Kent Ohio, I also tried another Wah pedal, but that did not work either for the same reasons, so Rich and I have worked on the Wah I have been using for a long time, and we have made some adjustments that now sound just perfect. Sometimes it takes the slightest tweak, but it can make all the difference.

Now to change these pick-ups is time consuming, so my original ones have not made it back into my White Carparelli yet, so I will just have to be patient until it can get done. It is difficult to do this on the road with the schedules we keep. The pick-ups that I did try, Richie Faulkner from Priest suggested, but they may work for Priest but not for Heep. Also Andy Sneap Priests other guitarist and Grammy Award Winner Producer, gave me another set of a different make, and they were closer, but not as good as what I am using, so we have gone full circle, but sometimes it just happens like that. A lot of equipment sounds good on its own, but not with the band, still that’s life.

I do get lots of compliments about my guitar sound, so it is all good in the end.

The next day we were in the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. This was an exciting day for us as we were being inducted into the ‘Heavy Metal Hall of History,’ on stage that night. Pat Gesualdo and Martin Poppoff presented the awards on the stage, and it was a magical night to receive this award for the band. Each band member received one, so that was super cool.

Now as you well know from reading this blog Heep have only a 1 hour time slot to play our set with Judas Priest, and it is a tightly run ship. The award was given to us that in normal circumstances is usually done in a room full of people, who are there just for that occasion. I would then probably stand on a podium and talk at length about receiving the award. However this ceremony was in the middle of our concert and we wanted to make sure we could still play the songs on our set list for the Priest and Heep fans that were there and had bought tickets. I did manage to thank band members past and present, but going into detail was not an option for the reasons stated above. I would like to say though that this line-up has travelled the world keeping the Heep name alive and kicking, and with our new album ‘Living the Dream,’ we are entering into another phase of our career that keeps the band still relevant as we move into our 50th Anniversary. It was a proud moment for us all including every member past and present and most of all for the fans! The award was given more to this line up as we are one of the few heritage bands that are considered to be still relevant in today’s market. This is being proved each night on stage with the amazing reactions we are receiving for both old classic songs and soon to be classic songs from our new album ‘Living the Dream.’

After this presentation, we hit our stride and finished the show to an amazing response that felt so good. Backstage we had pictures taken and the party began. Jim Paidas with his family had delivered a box of ‘Sick Boy’ T Shirts for everyone, so it was a bit hectic there for a while and then David and Lana with their two friends Walter and his lady, took the band and crew to dinner in the Main Casino in the ‘Michael Jordon,’ restaurant. This was fantastic and something we had done before, as the food and drink were exceptional, and no more exceptional than the company we were in, and it was most generous of David and Lana to pay.

There was still good news on the horizon because our manager Ace Trump sent us all a message that the song ‘Falling Under Your Spell,’ from the latest ‘Living the Dream’ album had been added to the Planet Rock Radio play list in the UK. This will be the fourth song to be added to their playlist, which is a first for us, and just incredible. This just rounded off a fantastic magical day.

At midnight it was Russ’s birthday, so he continued on into the Casino with Davey and Richie from JP to celebrate some more, as did others, but I made it back to my room as I was indeed full as a gook. The mere fact they can smoke in the casino did not endear me to carry on in any case, as both Phil and I were fast getting a bronchitis type second attacks from all the different temperatures and time changes we have been through. We always seem to suffer this more than anyone unfortunately, and it is our cross to bear.

The following day we drove to Albany New York where we had a day off. It was officially Russ’s birthday and as there were a few casualties from the night before it was a quiet bus ride with most people sleeping. On arrival we went to our rooms to relax before finding an Italian restaurant, so that we could all go out and celebrate Russ’s birthday. We met in the hotel lobby and the hotel courtesy bus drove us to the restaurant that was deserted. There was only us in there and the food was average, and Russ could not even look at another drop of wine after the night before, so it was a quiet affair.

Now Mike Carparelli and his wife Natasha had driven down from Toronto to give me another Carparelli S4 with a Floyd Rose Tremelo Arm on it (Mike nicknamed it “Tiger”) as I have been recording and using live my Black S4 with the Tremelo Arm, and needed a spare just in case. Mike did a deal with a guy called Dan Preston for the guitar and I am eternally grateful for having this beauty in my guitar armoury. So many thanks goes out to both Mike and Dan!

As Mike was in town, we texted each other and they made it down to the Italian. It was good to see them both, and we had a quiet meal and sang ‘Appy Birthday to Russ, as he was given a slice of chocolate cake with a lit candle on it. Most of us do not eat cake so that duty was given to Davey, who has the sweet tooth of the Heep family. We then gave Russ his card and a nice bottle of red. After this it was all back to our hotel and Mike and Natasha to theirs for an early night.

The following day was gig day, so we slept through breakfast and then went to the venue for some lunch. After lunch it was back to the hotel after a short walk to do some laundry as they had a washer and dryer on the second floor. Davey and I shared the machine and it was good to have fresh clothes in our suitcases once again. I did not want my clothes put in the dryer as they shrink, so my room looked like a Chinese laundry there for a while, but they soon dried once the air conditioning was switched off.

Well Mike and Natasha joined us at 5.30pm and presented me with the beautiful S4 ‘Tiger’ guitar, and we then had some dinner in catering. While we got ready for the show, and I did some interviews, they took their seats. It was a rockin’ night for us and for a first night we had a great time. Huntington NY was ready to rock and rock they did. It was a great show, but unfortunately I did not see Mike and Natasha afterwards, as they decided to go back to their hotel after our set, though we did text a lot. However they loved the concert and Mike can be proud of just how good his Carparelli S4 guitars are sounding.

I did manage to meet Jason Morris who I first met at BB Kings in New York ages ago. Now Jason is a Judo 4 times Olympian Olympic Sliver Medalist. He has his own school and is a Heep fan. He gave me a picture, and I still have the original one from BB Kings up on my office wall in London.

The next morning Mike and Natasha (they have been married for 22 years – see I got that in Mike) left to drive back to Toronto Canada, which took them 7 hours straight.

It was a chilled day all around for us, but soon we were back at the gig for another rockin’ night. We changed the set a little and it went down a storm. The reactions have been incredible, and we get the feeling that Heep is just the ticket for the USA & Canada audiences and this tour with Priest is a serious building block.

The following morning we drove to Sellersville which was only a 4 hour drive. We had played the ST94 Theatre a few times before so we knew what to expect. We stayed at the venue for most of the day, and some had a kip on the bus parked outside. They always look after us well, but the dressing room is a broom cupboard, but surprisingly there is a shower crammed in there by the toilet.

It was a packed show and we were pleased so see that David and Lana had made it down there too which was cool. We played the full set which was so good to stretch out and play and the reaction was brilliant. The theatre was rockin’ big time and it was a good atmosphere. After this show we had a 12 hour overnight drive to Indiana, which is as far as our driver could legally drive. We all checked in to the hotel for a night off, and then we were hit with a surprise. We wanted to get a cab to a restaurant as per usual and all met in reception at 7pm, only to be told there was no cab service for a 50 miles radius, which was incredible, and I had never heard of that before. The end result was that the receptionist had menus for a Chinese Restaurant that we ordered from, and we had it delivered and ate it in the hotel reception. So it was not quite the night off or the food that we were looking for, but with the drinks brought in from the bus into reception, we made do Heep style.

The next day we finished off the drive to Milwaukee where we were playing two nights at the Riverside Theatre. Although we were playing at the Riverside Theatre we actually had our hotel in the Potawatomi Casino. We usually do two nights on our own in the Casino venue but this time with JP it we’re doing 2 nights at the larger Riverside Theatre which was 1.7 miles from the Casino.

Well we had two amazing shows at the Riverside Theatre and it just showed what a good ticket this was with both bands on fire. However with some time in the hotel and the TV on, I did see that Ladies Baseball is big over here now. It was always just played by men but the ladies games are all over the TV, and having watched a few, they are very exciting. They do pitch underhand but with immense speed. The other thing that is a totally different subject I have noticed over here is that I cannot believe how thin the toilet paper is in the USA and 1 ply is probably the max, therefore necessitating many folded pieces of paper to get the job done. Too much information you might say, but that’s the truth.

The following day we drove to Rosemount Illinois where we had another night off. It was a long drive so really we just had dinner on arrival and an early night. Well I did anyway as this chest/sinus infection caused by Passive COPD had really kicked in big time. Phil had his bronchitis return too and Bernie was beginning to get chesty and croaky.

There was a doctor brought down to the gig at the sound check as some of the Priest boys and crew were going down with it too. So Bernie joined Richie Faulkner and some of their crew to get sorted with various antibiotics etc. At that juncture I still found some meds in the bottom of my suitcase to help me out in the hope that it would have sex and travel, but that was not the case unfortunately.

Anyway as they say the show must go on and go on it did, and none of the audience were aware of either of the bands ill health and Chicago rocked. Unfortunately I had some guests after the show that I would have loved to have seen, but I had to make a quick escape for a shower and go straight to bed at the hotel. Bernie was a happy pup as his family had joined him from the UK for a few days.

The next day we flew to Austin Texas, so I will continue the next part of our rock n roll adventure in part 2 of this blogolicious…!

‘Appy days!

Mick

http://www.mick-box.net

http://www.uriah-heep.com

Box News #279 – March 26, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2019 by heepster

Mick Box and his 2019 daily Tour Diary with Uriah Heep!

Mick documents the mighty Heep’s ‘Living the Dream’ Japanese tour 2019. “Appy days”!

Well it was only 6 days at home before we were off to Japan to play 2 shows in one night in Osaka and 4 shows over 2 nights in Tokyo at the Billboard Live venue in both cities.

As it was an early check in on British Airways I decided to stay at the London Heathrow Travel Lodge hotel the night before, along with Bernie, Scampi, Brian, Angus and Aaron. Everyone else came in the morning. I find the Travel Lodges just fine on a quick overnighter like that, and it sure beats fighting the traffic in the morning.

We all met at the British Airways check in desk, and as we were carrying our flying gear it was imperative that we all checked in our own suitcase and one piece of equipment each. A couple of days earlier we had a business meeting with our managers Ace trump and Adam Parsons at Kings Cross, and it was really cool that Ace was coming to Japan with us.

After checking in, Phil and I had breakfast at Giraffes Restaurant, Russ and Davey had brekky in Wagamama’s, while the rest all went in the lounge. I always like to start the journey off with a good healthy breakfast, that you do not always get in the lounge, even if it is for free, and it is always a gamble to what you get on the plane.

We settled in on the plane and we were in Premium Class, which actually did make a difference. However Brian’s luck was in, as he was bumped up to Business Class. I watched 4 films on the journey one was ‘Green Book,’ which was excellent. ‘A Star is Born’, which is brilliant, and ‘The Girl in the Spiders Web’ which was also good. The final film was the light hearted ‘King of Thieves,’ about a bank robbery, which was an easy watch. The food and drink were all good and really it was an eleven hour flight, that was not too bad in the end.

Once in Tokyo we had to catch a connecting flight to Osaka. This was pretty easy and we caught the flight that was only an hour long. On arrival we were met by our promoters representatives for Billboard Live, and we drove to the hotel. We arranged to meet at 7 o’clock in the bar to go out for dinner. Russ decided to stay and eat at the hotel which I am sure he regretted as it was £10 just for a coffee latte. We ended up eating in a Japanese Restaurant close by the hotel down the Ginza strip. It was a bustling place with so many places to eat, and you really felt like you were in Japan big time.

As it was St Patrick’s day we found an Irish Pub which was pretty surreal, as when we walked through the door there were Japanese musicians playing traditional Irish music, on traditional Irish instruments. Also all the beer and Sake had green food colouring in it. We found some of the crew in there already and a lot of the people had Green wigs, so we joined in, and celebrate we did. So much so Ace had to get me home which was very kind of him. The others stayed there until late, but for me jet lag and Sake is not a good combination.

In the morning everyone had a story to tell about Jet Lag and to a man we had been hit hard with it. Luckily it was a day off, so we could try and acclimatise, but It was a problem that did not seem to want to go away. We had a pretty relaxed day and had lunch in a Burger restaurant called ‘Shake Shack,’ that Ace said there was a chain of in the USA. I think after that heavy night the Burger lunch was just what we needed. Russ tried to join us, but he could not find it so we did not see him until sound check time.

After this we went to Tower Records and had a good old time. This was just behind the hotel, so it was just a short walk which was great. Davey bought some Japanese ‘Queen’ items and so did Ace. We had pictures taken with the staff, and they asked if they could use it on their media site which of course we said yes. It was a sad day when Tower Records in Los Angeles and New York closed as they were fantastic places to hang and browse in, especially in the good old vinyl days, as you could lose hours in there.

We then met in the bar for 7pm to go to dinner. We went back to the Ginza area and had a confusing meal. The lady serving us could not understand what we wanted and all the food orders were wrong, so it was a major disappointment. I must point out at this juncture, that I am absolutely useless with Chop Sticks. I find them so labour intensive balancing a grain of rice on a stick is not my style, so I always ask for a fork. That way I am always guaranteed satisfaction and a good mouthful of food, the way it should be! Anyway after our disastrous meal we ended up eating a snack back at the hotel before going to bed. However, Bernie could not wait, so he went off for some Sushi on his own.

The following day was a gig day at the Billboard Live, and we had to have a sound check, as we were on hired gear as well as our own flying equipment. We were doing two shows one at 6.30pm for an hour and one at 9.30pm. Our sound check was at 4pm, so there was a lot of hanging about to do.

The Billboard Live venue is a strange venue, as it was a place where the audience goes in to eat dinner, while looking at a giant video screen over the stage of Japanese Artists performing. Apart from the rows of tables in front of the stage there are huge spaces either side with tables and 3 balconies high up facing the stage. All in all it holds a whole lot of people. Our friend Pat Choy introduced to us by our manager Ace Trump, joined us from Los Angeles. Well actually Pat had been in Tokyo for a few days prior to joining us.

Well our intro tape went on, and a cheer went up, and although it was actually 9.30am UK time, we hit our stride full of adrenaline and it was a great show. The Japanese audience were marvellous and they were waving and cheering and it seemed like they were just happy to be there and rock out with us. They even knew the new songs which was great as we start with Davey’s ‘Grazed By Heaven,’ and they were all singing the chorus with arms in the air.

We were contracted to play at each venue, two 1hour shows, so the first performance seemed to be very successful, but over very quickly. On leaving the stage on the first show I was presented by a lovely lady a bunch of flowers, which was very kind of her, but soon it was back to the dressing room to have a light snack before the next performance. It was a 2 hour wait but there was nothing we could do about that. However as we had 2 shows we did mix up the set lists, so that each set was slightly different. I was glad we did that because on the second show, I saw a number of faces that had been to the first show.

Well the second show was much like the first and we had them all standing up and rockin’ out from the first note to the end. It may have been different to what we usually do concert-wise, but it was still a lot of fun and great to see how much they all enjoyed our music. To be honest after they had been sitting through their dinner with a relatively quite video screen to watch, and then we come on like a Panza Tank speeding at 80 miles an hour at full volume, I was surprised at how well they rocked out with us. Osaka did us proud!

After the show we had a little dinner and then most of us went back to the hotel to try and get some sleep, to attempt to try and beat the jet lag. Well in the morning at breakfast there were cries of I had 4 hours sleep, I had 2 hours sleep from everyone, and just general quality shut eye was in short supply.

Well we had to fly to Tokyo the following day as well as play two shows, so it was a tough one. The crew took an earlier flight so that they could set up at the venue and the band and Ace took a slightly later flight. The bottom line was that we arrived at the hotel with just one hour to go before sound check time. Bernie’s face looked like a Salvador Dali Melting Clock, so he skipped the sound check and went to bed. The rest of us had no choice, so we rushed and got ready and went down to the show.

Apart from the sound-check, between that and the first show, were scheduled a bunch of interviews which although were necessary, we could have well done without. On the plus side though at least it stopped us from nodding off in a corner somewhere. Bernie joined us about 30mins before showtime and this venue was identical to the one in Osaka in every way.

It was a 6.30pm kick off for the first show, and it was packed to the rafters and we had a great time. It was a good atmosphere and it felt good to be back in Tokyo. It was a fantastic reaction and it is strange that no matter how tired you are, you raise your game from the first note you play, as if you were as fresh as a Daisy. That is good old adrenaline kicking in. It was another 2 hours before the next show which we filled with having a bite to eat and just generally bantering around keeping ourselves busy. I kept having presents sent back to me in the dressing room and given to the staff to give to me, which was amazing. They ranged from Chocolates, Japanese Fans, Heep bootleg CD’s & DVD’s, and cards and letters etc.

My wife Sheila’s sister, Anne-Marie’s son Mark, is living in Tokyo, as he works there for an Insurance Company, and he was coming to the second show with his lady Cintia. I was really excited to see him as we have not seen a lot of Mark over the last couple of years with him being ensconced in Japan. Well he turned up at the second show with Cintia and some friends and he managed to get back to the dressing room which is no mean feat, as there were lifts involved and a whole kitchen type world back where we were. It was good to see him and he like me is a lifelong Tottenham Hotspur’s football fan, and before leaving for Japan I popped down to the new gift shop in the new stadium and bought him a Spurs watch and some Spurs Headphones, which he loved.

The other surprise we had was that Judas Priest had just arrived in Tokyo from Australia to play the Download festival, so guitarists Richie Faulkner and Andy Sneap came to the show.

The second show was much like the first and once again I saw quite a few people down the front that were at the first show. We had another cool concert and the excitement went up another level when Richie jumped up on to the stage to play ‘Easy Livin’ with us. That’s was a real blast and it was so good to see Richie and Andy prior to us joining them as special guests in the USA and Canada starting 3rd of May in Florida for 2 months.

Well we left everyone standing and shouting for more and it was great to see how into our music the fans were, which was great, and we then headed back to the dressing room which filled up considerably with all of the guests. It was buzzing there for quite a while.

After some time it was back to the hotel to the bar to have a night cap. Well for some this turned out to be the whole hat shop, as after one drink in the bar they all went out to a club.

How they could do that I will never know, but jet lag can do funny things to you after a few bevvies. Mind you I used to do it regularly in the old days, so I do not know what I am talking about, but hey I cannot do it now for sure without the pain that goes with it.

Well with that mass exodus from the bar, it left Bernie and I with the bar bill from hell. I paid most of it and Bernie helped, then we went up to our rooms.

At the hotel Bernie had the room across from me, so we arranged that he would bang on my door for breakfast. Well I had a hellish night of no sleeping, but I got out of bed on my alarm and went to the toilet for number ones which ended up being number twos. Well the toilet seat was very warm as they are over there in Japan, and while I was sitting there my eyes got very sleepy basking in the warmth, so when Bernie banged on my door to go to breakfast, I said quietly, ‘Mate I’ll skip it today and see you for lunch’ and while the warm toilet seat had made me sleepy, I tried to keep that moment going, and I quickly washed up and crawled back into bed and got the best 3 hours sleep thus far. ‘Appy days or should I say ‘Appy heated toilet seat days!

On the toilet front, the Japanese really do have it down so to speak. Apart from a heated seat there are a number of controls on the side that will wash and dry just about any permutation you can throw at it. I am a simple man so I left it all well alone. Also they never leave anything to chance as I was using a toilet outside in Tokyo, and beside the urinals they had a hook for your umbrella. Now that’s a first, but when you think about it holding an umbrella and trying to have a pee can be quite treacherous, but not for these guys. Put the brolly on the hook, pee to your hearts content, job done.

At lunch Bernie and I found a restaurant a short walk down from the hotel called the ‘Outback.’ Now I had eaten in this chain of restaurants before in other countries, so we had a full-some lunch, and we returned to the hotel to get ready for the show. Now I do love Sushi and Japanese cuisine, but there is only so much of it I can eat, so our lunch in the ‘Outback,’ was most welcome.

The show today was even earlier as for the first set we were on stage at 4.30pm Japanese time. The stories started to unravel about the shenanigans of the night before, and so it goes some of the party made it back to the hotel for breakfast and then went straight to bed for a couple of hours before the lobby call.

Going on that early was strange, but once again when we were on stage and saw how into the music they all were, we were fine and we had a good time. Between shows I was given another lot of presents from fans which was lovely. My suitcase was laden down with them all. The second set was a 7.30pm start so we were all done and dusted by 8.30pm.

I have to say as unusual as it was playing the Billboard Live, coupled with the Jet lag, it was an incredible experience that I am glad we did. The venue staff were courteous, nothing was too much trouble for them, and everything ran on time from the transport to being on stage on time. The Japanese fans we met in the venue, and in the hotels and even in the street were fantastic, and the cool news is that we signed more ‘Living the Dream’ product than anything else, which is a good sign in my book.

We had a 9am lobby call the next day, so after breakfast we packed our flying equipment and suitcases into the waiting transport, and of we went to Tokyo Narita Airport. Leaving behind Ace and Pat who were staying on for a further 7 days to enjoy the delights that Japan has to offer.

Our British Airways flight home was fine and I watched in between napping, a film called ‘Widows,’ and one called ‘A Cure for Wellness’ which in all honesty I slept through most of it, though a film called ‘Can you ever Forgive Me’ was great. The food and drink were fine and we landed on time. We all collected our suitcases and took our various transports home, and it was good to walk through my front door to be attacked with happiness from my dog Iggy, hugs and kisses from Sheila and Romeo, but not even the slightest acknowledgement form Biscuit our cat, but I expected that. Oh boy my bed was looking good, but I had to stay up a few hours otherwise I would be hit with the UK version of Jet Lag, which I so wanted to avoid. ‘Home Sweet Home,’ you cannot beat it.

‘Appy days!
Mick

Box News #278 – March 18, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2019 by heepster

Mick documents the second leg of the mighty Heep’s ‘Living the Dream’ European tour 2019, through France, Spain, Italy, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Holland and Moldova.

Well Milan was amazing and even Eli from Frontiers Records our record company made it down to say hello. He kindly gave me two big books of cut outs of interviews and newspaper clippings we had of the ‘Living the Dream’ promotion throughout Europe. It was a great show and our last in Italy, and what a way to end our Italian shows on such a high! They were amazing and the atmosphere incredible.

The next day was a drive day to Belgrade Serbia. We breezed through the custom points and arrived at the hotel in time for dinner and an early night. This suited Phil as the next morning he looked a lot better, and there was less of the incessant coughing. He said he had a better sleep, so that was good.

Well in Belgrade Serbia we played the ‘Sava Centre’ which was sold out. This was a seated affair with multi balconies above each other going up into the gods, but they came to rock, and it was a magnificent show. They loved it and in a territory like that, I was surprised at how well the new songs went down. That was brilliant. We had our old friend Milenko announce on to the stage and he loved it. He then took his seat right down the front.

Bulgaria and Sofia was our next concert and we had not been in Bulgaria for a while, so it was good to be back. They were a wonderful audience and of course the song ‘July Morning’ has a special meaning for them, as each year they have the July Morning Festival where on July the 1st, as the sun comes up, they play the song. This attracts people from around the world which is really cool. They really rocked out with us which was tremendous.

The next day we had a long old travel day of 10 hours to get to Athens in Greece. We made it by 7.30pm just in time to get a bite to eat for dinner and have a much needed early night. Vic really did well to get us there that early.

We had a lot of the day off as we were not on stage until 22.00pm that night at the ‘Fuzz Club’ which had sold out. I caught up on all of my emails, bills, blog and just general computer business, so I made good use of the time.
Scampi had arranged for someone to do our clothes washing, so we had to take it down to reception at 12 midday in laundry bags with our name on it, as the crew were leaving for the venue and taking our laundry with them.

Other than popping out for a few bites to eat that was it for me, so I had a quiet day. We were picked up at 8.30pm, as there was a video interview for me to do at the venue before the show.

The interview went well and then we prepared for the show, and although it was sold out, I was surprised to see that people were still allowed smoke in the venue even though there were ‘no smoking’ signs around the building. Nearly every venue around the world is non-smoking, but certainly not in Athens, and this threw me a little, as it is not my favourite thing at all, as I sing all of the high notes and have to take deep breaths to reach them, and then you get a lung full of second hand smoke.

Having never smoked in my life, I found that a bit uncomfortable to say the least. So did the other boys as everyone remarked on it after the show. Still apart from that this show was a real highlight of the tour thus far, as the Athens audience were absolutely fantastic. They were so enthusiastic to both the new and classic songs it was amazing, and they sang so loudly it really was emotional. Greece has always had a special place in our hearts as a band, and that night just proved it. We could feel their energy and it was obvious they could feel ours, so it was a special magical rockin’ night.

We met a few people after the show and then we headed to the hotel as the following day we had a 4-5 hour drive to Thessaloniki. There was some sort of strike on, so there were blockages at various tunnels with vehicles blocking the way, so some of the journey we had to do on ‘B’ roads. We still made good time and arrived at the hotel at a reasonable hour.

We were not on stage until 22.15pm, so we had a cushion of time right there.We were playing the ‘Principal’l venue which is a fairly large venue. We had dinner in the hotel and the Chef came out and had a picture taken with us, and then we were picked up by Vic at 21.00pm.

The ‘Principal’ looked totally sold out and it was rammed in every corner. It was another magic night in Greece but unfortunately a lot of people were smoking and this irritated our throats and chests, but once again adrenaline got us through. They were a fantastic audience and with us from note one. So many young fans too, as in Athens, which was brilliant.

We did not stay too long as we had a long old drive to Istanbul Turkey the following day. So we went back to that hotel pretty sharpish. However, the sleeper bus was blocked in by a car when they wanted to leave, so it was all hands on deck and our mighty crew picked the car up and moved it. Job done!

The journey to Istanbul was supposedly meant to be 7 hours with stops, but we also had to contend with the border crossings. Leaving Greece through the border was fine, but for some reason getting into Turkey became a problem. The sleeper bus made it through after some hassle with documents, and we made it through after paying 90 Euro for some insurance, that we were never told we needed, as we did not have a green card. Well on a hire car we were never told we needed one, but there you go we paid the insurance and left. Now our 7 hour journey became 9 hours which was a long old schlep.

However, the equipment truck was having horrendous problems getting through, even though we had water tight carnets and all of the usual documentation required. Because they were not happy for what ever reason, they sent our truck driver Pete to another port office 50 miles away to get it sorted, but when he arrived there it was shut until 9.30am the following morning. Now you would have thought that they would have known that and informed him, but they didn’t, so he drove all the way back to the original border to try and get this resolved.

The end result after many hours of going back and forwards our poor Pete did not stand a chance, as they then decided to unload the whole truck and go through every piece of equipment. This was after him driving through the night from Thessaloniki, so he was knackered and stressed beyond belief.

As they decided to do this and the fact that he still had 184 miles to drive to get to the gig, he would not have made it in time for the show, so we had no other option but to cancel the gig.

The following day we were having to drive to Telfs in Austria that is 14 hours drive, including 12 hours down time due to drivers rules, and then another 14hours to Telfs.

Well we decided with the Istanbul promoters to put the gig on the following day, and the drivers and Scampi put their collective heads together to try and find a way to get to Telfs on time. This is what we decided to do in the end, and it was the only logical solution we could of made.

The crew, Russ and Davey all had to check into our hotel because they had no rooms due to the fact they were originally going overnight from the Istanbul gig. Luckily the hotel could accommodate everyone, and as you can imagine everyone had a quick bite to eat and an early night, as we were all shattered. The poor truck driver though was still at the border and I felt for him big time, as he must have been be spent, and still he had that 184 miles to drive once they have finished with him. Now he had a nightmare and a half to put it mildly.

Well the gig did go on the following day, and it was amazing. We felt really bad for those that could not make the show on the second day, but those that did make which was at least 95% of the sell out crowd, they had a great time. It was a magical show and the Zorlu venue was amazing. The staff looked after us very well and the show had a very special feel about it, and a great atmosphere from the off. They were fantastic with so many young people there too, all singing the new album songs as well as the classics, so that concert was one to remember for sure.

After the show the sleeper bus and the truck left right away to have a stopover in Serbia before the drivers need a 9 hour legal drivers break. Then they could finish the journey to Telfs Austria.

However Phil, Bernie and I said good bye to Vic who was driving to Telfs by van and we flew from Istanbul Airport to Munich, and then we took three trains to Telfs in Austria and a taxi to the hotel. We arrived at approximately 6.30pm and decided to meet for dinner at 7pm.

While we were eating we were being sent text messages from Scampi saying all was not well on the trucking front, as he had been held up again only this time at the Serbian Border. There we so many trucks waiting too get through that there was no way he could make it to Telfs on time, so when he was cleared Scampi gave him instructions to drive direct to Vienna where our next show after Telfs was. The sleeper bus did the same and they all stayed in Vienna the night, when they eventually got there, knowing that the gig would have to be re-scheduled it made sense and saved a lot of money on fuel as Telfs was still a 5 1/2 hour drive to Vienna.

If we could have made it in time there would not have been a problem, but the Gods of the borders were against us on this one. Devil’s of the borders more like!

Well the Telfs promoter arrived while we were having dinner, and he was obviously upset as the show was a sell out, but he did understand in the end that it was out of our control and that the only solution was to reschedule it.

The following day when we were having breakfast in walked our very tired Vic, who amazingly had made it to Telfs. Still he was in a much faster vehicle and not carrying lots of people or lots of equipment, but it did amaze us that he had driven that distance and through those difficult borders, and arrived so quickly, so he won the ‘King Driver,’ award of the day.

We had a spot of lunch in a restaurant opposite the hotel and then we had a walk around town for some much needed fresh air. Our suitcases were on the sleeper bus, so we would not see them until the next day, so we bought some bits and pieces to get us through in the toiletry department. Then we chilled until dinner time. I was pretty excited as I would be able to see the Spurs v Borussia Dortmund Champions league football match that night in my room. With all of the casualties we have in our team of major players and that Dortmund are top of the German League, I was fearing a good kicking coming on, but you never ever know with Spurs, and to my surprise they won 2-0. What an amazing night! I was dancing around the room like a looney. Yes there was evidence of non stop cockney dancing in my room for sure.

In the morning we drove to Vienna where we were playing a venue called ‘Simm City.’ This is owned and promoted by our very good promoter friend Martina Porkony. It was a good size venue and packed to the rafters with an amazing atmosphere. It went some way to helping the disappointment of not being able to play Telfs, as the audience were fantastic. We had a truly great night there and it is always good to see Martina and and her dog Pako, who is forever by her side.

The following day it was a fair old drive to the Czech Republic where we were playing the ‘Beat Festival’ in Prague with UDO. Once again the audience were well up for it and although UDO had been on before us, they still had an abundance of energy left for us Heep boys which was great. It was a terrific show and the Czech audience did not let us down.

While on this tour I had been approached by Furch Acoustic guitars, that are made in the Czech Republic in Brno to be one of their endorsers. Well on the song ‘Waters Flowin’ that we play live from our ‘Living the Dream’ album, I play a Furch Acoustic anyway, so it was a no brainer really, as they are beautiful guitars.

On the way to Hluk our next city we stopped at a music shop in Brno, where incidentally the factory is, and we met the Furch Representative Mirek. It was good to meet him and we talked through what type of acoustics I required, and he showed me so many guitars and different woods etc that I was spoilt for choice, but in the end we decided what would suit me best and he wrote it down. It would take about 3 1/2 months to get them all finished, but it will be worth the wait, as they are super quality and they look and sound beautiful. We then had a little lunch next door, and after that we drove off to Hluk after saying our goodbyes.

The venue in Hluk in the Czech Republic was a huge Sports Hall and this was very well attended and the promoter was delighted. The show was rockin’ and all in all we had a great time. We were staying in a Wellness hotel but to be honest I didn’t feel any healthier staying there at all.
The following day we travelled to Kosice in Slovakia. The venue was the Spolocensky Pavillion and once again this was an amazing show, and I was very happy with the consistency of the band, as we had set the bar high on the first show, and it stayed there. It was another great audience and then we had a day off, which ended up being a travel day, driving to Poland

We had a 179 mile drive to Wroclaw Poland which took approximately 4 hours with a lunch stop. The roads were terrible and whether you wanted it or not, your backside was massaged to the point of being numb. We were playing a venue called the ‘A2’ which was rammed.

Back in London at our home we had a cleaner called Agnes who was Polish. She no longer works for us, as she had to move away, but I remember promising her that I would get her friends into the concert. Well I sent her a text and she was delighted that I had remembered, and they came to the show and just loved it. The even sent me a video message thanking me which was very nice of them. It was a great show for them to see, so I was very happy about that.

We then drove to Warsaw and we arrived in time for lunch, as Georg Jozwiak who used to own the Hamburg Hard Rock Cafe invited us to have lunch in the Warsaw Hard Rock Cafe. I still have a Carparelli S4 hanging in the Hard Rock Cafe Hamburg that Mike Carparelli donated, which is cool. We arrived on time and Russ and Davey jumped into a cab to join us, as they had driven overnight on the tour bus which was parked at the gig. It was good to see Georg again and we had a fabulous lunch before driving to the hotel to get ready for the concert that night.

It was another fantastic concert and we met Georg and a few of his friends after the show before driving back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

I have to say the audience were shouting so loud, I still had them ringing in my ears even when I got back to my room. It was a magic night indeed.

Our last show in Poland was in Gdansk at the B90. It was a great show to finish Poland on but we had a really long old drive to Holland the next day. We drove for 8 hours and stayed in a hotel and did the other 4 hours on the gig day. The show was in the 013 in Tilburg and it was nice to play our last concert of this tour, as a sell out. Holland never let us down and it was a show to remember for sure. It was lovely seeing Louis Rentrop there too who used to be our webmaster and that made it extra special.

The next day we drove to the train that took us back to England through the tunnel and I was home for 5.30pm. Romeo my son was home from College so he came running downstairs for our long awaited hug, and then Iggy my dog went mental with excitement, while Biscuit our cat sat in his cat bed waiting for me to go over and stroke him while he just purred away. Sheila came home from work a lot later, and we all had dinner together, and it felt really good to be home and back in the heart of the family.

We had 13 days at home before flying out to Moldova for a show. Our flights were booked with Turkish Airlines as we were routing through Istanbul to Moldova. Well we sat on the plane for a half hour, then we coasted to the runway where we stopped for half an hour, and then much to our surprise we went back to our original spot for about an hour. We found out that someone up at the front of the plane was ill, so it took all of that time to get him or her off the plane with the rest of the family travelling with them, and into the hands of the medics.

Well this delay cost us dearly, as we missed our connection to Moldova. When we eventually arrived in Istanbul Scampi our tour manager went to the Turkish Airlines desk to get us a hotel at the Airport only to be told in the flying stakes, that we could get an 8.30am flight. As it was an international flight they insisted that we had to check in 3 hours before departure. This meant at the most we would only get 4 hours sleep, and we would not see our suitcases.

In the morning we dragged ourselves out of bed and went to the Turkish Airlines check in desk only to be told that the 8.30am flight was cancelled so they put us on the 8.30pm flight instead. Scampi politely but firmly informed them that by missing the concert in Moldova, this could cost rather a lot of money for the airline to shell out, as well as the bad will involved, and soon they found a flight that went to Odessa in the Ukraine. Thankfully our suitcases all arrived and we then had to drive 4 hours in a bone shaking bus to Moldova.

We eventually arrived at the venue in Chisinau with approximately 4 hours to showtime. Well the band went to the hotel while the crew had to pull out all of the stops with no sleep, to get everything up and running in time. Luckily Vic had driven over all of our own equipment, so that did help a little, but still it was tight, as well as everyone being tired. Aaron our monitor engineer came separately, so he was in the day before and he had it relatively easy on the sleep front, but it was still heads down to get the show up and running.

Well the crew did us proud and we had a great concert, and adrenaline definitely helped get us all through. The lady Mayor came into the dressing room after the show saying how wonderful the concert was, and we had the obligatory pictures taken with her, then thankfully a little food arrived. It was just nibble type food and there was a suggestion that we be taken out to a restaurant that was meant to be the business and the best ever. Now we had an early start the next day and at best we would only get 8 hours sleep if we went straight back then, so Russ and I decided to make do with the nibbles and have some sleep, while the rest of the party went out. Like most times in these territories they promise you a good restaurant with the best food ever, but in fact it turned out to be a pub. Still the guys were happy with that and by all accounts the free drinks flowed freely, but I personally was happy I took the bed option, especially when I saw everyone in the morning.

There were plenty of nodding dogs on the flight home and it was Turkish Airlines again routing through Istanbul, but this time it was only an hour late in the end, so after that trip, I was happy to get back home again in one piece, even though it was a super tired piece.

‘Appy days!

Mick

Box News #277 – January 18, 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on January 18, 2019 by heepster

Mick talks about Kiev Ukraine and the night off, watching his beloved Spurs football team win, Davey’s birthday, Davey needing a doctor, our manager Ace flying in from Los Angeles, the Judas Priest tour news, the ‘National Palace of Arts’ venue, sound checks, hired equipment, Passport Photographs, Visa applications, the ‘Prime Hall in Minsk Belarus, our agent Leora over from the USA, Moscow, Davey back at the doctors, Spurs v Leicester, the Crocus City Hall venue in Moscow, the Kremlin, commemorative gold coins in a blue box, signing a guitar for a Russian dignitary, the German made train to St. Petersburg and the concert in the Palace of Culture Lensoveta.

Mick also discusses, flying back to London and then on to Manchester, English TV, 3 Pledgers, the Manchester 02 Ritz, driving to Glasgow and the SWG3 venue, flying back down to London for the Shepherds Bush Empire concert and inviting out Lee to come on to the stage and sing with us. Mick also talks about how crazy it gets playing London, meeting my family and the wonderful feeling, transferring my suitcases to a cab, the open bar for our guests at the end of the show, driving to Nottingham for the Rock City gig, we had another Pledger, having a lovely curry with the German Twins Claudia and Andrea, driving to Hull for the last show of the year, doing a record signing in the local Mall, meeting Trevors family, Peter Kenyon and his wife Tracey giving me personalized number plates, another Pledger 13 year old Toby Lee who I first met at Xmas in Cornwall with both of our families, Cliff Massey sitting behind my Engl speakers by the side of Russ watching him play all night, and the train back to London and being home for Xmas and New Years.

Well the night off in Kiev Ukraine was most welcome, and the band stayed in the hotel for dinner and had a much needed early night, and the crew went out to a Chicken Restaurant. I stayed in my room after dinner and watched the Spurs v Southampton football game, as we were 2 hours ahead of the UK and we won 3-1, which was super cool. A night off chilling with a cup of tea, and watching a Spurs win while on the road, it does not come better than that. ‘Appy days!

It was Davey’s birthday the next day on Thursday the 6th December, so birthday wishes were being sent back and forth by Text, Facebook and all of the media sites all morning. He did not make it down to breakfast as he had to see a doctor. The road burn was getting to him like the rest of us. Russ was the winner in that department thus far, but he does run 5 miles a night on stage to keep fit. Ha!

Ace our manager flew in from Los Angeles last night, so we met him for breakfast which was great. There is always lots of exciting news to catch up on, and just the Judas Priest USA/Canadian tour information alone was a buzz. It took Ace 19 hours to get to Kiev via London from Los Angeles, which is a long old journey in anyone’s book. He was staying with us right through the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and the UK which was great.

To enter Belarus Minsk we needed to fill out forms and have 2 passport photographs to get through Passport Control, and guess who hadn’t got them? Well Bernie had to be picked up at 11am the next morning to be taken to a machine, so that he could attach them to his entry form. Apparently Angus had to go too. Passports and travel documents if you have been reading my blogs this year alone are not Bernie’s forte. Well the carrying of them or even getting them when needed, in any case.

We were playing the ‘National Palace of Arts’ in Kiev, and it was the first show of the tour on our flying equipment, coupled with hired equipment. We have had no need for sound checks recently with our own equipment each night, but we needed one for that night, big time. As usual in those territories it was an early show at 7.30pm, so all in all everything was feeling slightly out of whack from what we have been used to over the last 6 weeks. As usual though the mighty Heep and Crew overcame everything and we had a rockin’ show.

The venue was huge and the stage was massive. So much so that my guitar tech Rich Bennett’s work station with my guitars was in another post code. Well the audience loved every minute of the show and after a few minutes of getting used to the hired equipment and our own flying gear, we hit our stride and the place rocked. It was a seated affair but people rushed down to the front of the stage and once that happened it turned into a rock concert. It was a great night but we could not stay too long after as we had an early 6.20am departure the next day to fly to Minsk Belarus.

The flight was fine, but we had to wait 40 minutes for our visas to be processed after waiting a long time already to get through Passport Control. After this there was no time for the crew to go to the hotel and check in, as they had to go straight to the venue to start setting up the stage, which was in a venue called ‘The Prime Hall.’

The band managed to get a little catch up sleep, but I do not know how the crew do it, as they work right on through with no complaining, and everything when we arrived was perfect. Joe Lynne Turner had sent me a text to get some of his family in to the show, so I arranged for them to be put on the guest list. Joe actually lives in Minsk Belarus now with his lovely lady Maya. It was a super packed venue and you could feel they were up for a rockin’ night, the second we walked on to the stage. The atmosphere was electric and it was a standing audience, so they were having a great time, and so were we!

Leora our agent from the USA had flown in to do some business with the promoter on further shows for the mighty Heep, and it was great to see her. Our dinner was delivered to us after the show in the dressing room, as we had ordered it from menus before we went on stage to play, then we all went back to the hotel and at last the crew could check in.

The following day we did not leave until 11.30am, so that was a relief. We flew to Moscow Russia arriving at 4pm. Our hired backline and flying equipment was driven from Minsk to Moscow, so we only had our own personal suitcases to carry which was cool.

As usual the traffic in Moscow was horrendous. It always is in Moscow and there is no way around it, so it took 1hour 40 minutes for a 40 minute journey. We all checked into the hotel and Davey was still under par, so he went with the interpreter to see another doctor, while the rest of the band and Ace had dinner. The crew split up, as some went to the Kremlin and others just ate in the hotel. Angus had not been to the Kremlin before, so it was on his bucket list to have a picture taken there, and now he can tick that particular box!

The good thing about the hotel is that it was right next door to the ‘Crocus City Hall’ venue.

However, back in my room after dinner I watched the Spurs v Leicester football game on my iPad, and we won 2-0, so sitting there with my cup of tea, I was chilling to the max. After 7 weeks on the road those moments become very important indeed, even though it is only one foot off of the rock n’ roll roundabout so to speak. That is why family is so important, as it gives you focus and grounding in abundance.

Well the concert at the Crocus City Hall was amazing and one to remember. Firstly a Russian dignitary’s son came into the dressing room to present us with commemorative gold coins each in a blue box, and he had seen an old picture of me playing a Yamaha Guitar on the internet, so he bought one and had us all sign it for his father. That was very cool and he was super excited.

We have played this venue many times on our own and with Alice Cooper and indeed with the Reunion show, but this concert was a step above that, and the audience were magnificent. We may have been on hired equipment but there was magic in the air from the moment we walked on to the stage.

Luckily for us the hotel was virtually in the same building, though the venue was so large we had to drive around in a van to get to the hotel reception.

The following morning we had to catch a train to St. Petersburg leaving the hotel at 7.30am. It was the German made Rapid Train and boy what a difference that was from the trains we had taken in 1988, when we played a 5 week tour there right through Siberia and beyond. This train was fast, efficient, and they had a decent restaurant car plus the seats were very comfortable. Good old German engineering!

We were playing the Palace of Culture Lensoveta venue in St. Petersburg and I have to say that too was a memorable concert with the audience going crazy and just loving every part of the show. They were really appreciative and as in Moscow there were a lot of young people in the audience. The reaction to the new songs especially in this particular part of the world, where our classic songs mean so much, was a thrill I have to say. They were well into it and the young fans were all singing the words. Now that did the heart good for sure.

The following day we were flying back to England. It was an early start as we had to fly St Petersburg to London Heathrow with a long layover, and then a flight to Manchester for the first UK gig. We arrived at approximately 21.35pm and Vic was there to pick us up and take us to the hotel.

I have to say the bed was looking good and it was nice to turn on the TV and have all of the programs in in English. To be honest a quick flick through the channels and it was turned off pretty quickly as it was time for some much needed shut eye.

The following day at the sound check we had 3 Pledgers, Ian Ainsworth, Stuart Green and Richard Kenner. This was a lot of fun and then we had dinner and got ready for the first of the UK shows. This was at the Manchester 02 Ritz which was a nice venue. We did have a great time being back in England and lucky old Scampi, Jon and Vic could all go home to their own beds, as they all live in Manchester.

The show was brilliant and it was good to be back in the UK and play tracks from the new album, which everybody soaked up and loved as much as the classics. It was a great night and I wouldn’t mind playing there again.

The following day we drove up to Scotland as Glasgow was our next destination. We stayed in a hotel at the airport as we were flying down to London the next day. Now our original venue had burnt down, so we were moved over to the SWG3 venue which was a little smaller than we would have liked, but it was packed, and it had a great atmosphere. There were so many familiar faces down the front it was amazing. As I have said before at gigs we have incredible fans, and we must be one of the few bands that know the names of the front row at every venue worldwide. Now that really is something! Well Glasgow did us proud and we had a great time.

We caught a flight the next day down to London City Airport where once again our Vic picked us up and took us to the hotel. For the last week I had been receiving text’s and calls from Lee Kerslake, as I had invited him to come up on stage at Shepherds Bush Empire and join us for ‘Lady in Black.’ He had a film crew who were doing a documentary on him, and he was so happy to be doing this, as it was a wish of his to be on stage with Heep again. When we arrived at the venue Lee was in the dressing room and it was hugs all round and it was so good to see him.

London is always the most difficult shows to pull off as you are constantly hounded by your family and friends that always seem incapable of finding what to do once they are in the venue. The phone never stops ringing and then you have to do an interview and it is just general mayhem until you get on to the stage. Once the guitar is put over my shoulder and only then, there is peace and I can immerse myself into the show. There was so much going on pre show, that I did not even have time to eat.

I had to meet my family outside of the venue to give our cab driver some of my luggage to take back to my home, as from the last gig in Hull on this tour, we were coming back by train and I could not carry it all. Anyway operation meet the family and to transfer my suitcases went rather smoothly, and it was kind of Vic and Jon to help carry everything out to the waiting cab. Job done! As you can imagine it was lovely to see Sheila and Romeo and Sheila’s brother John too.

Well once on stage you could feel the buzz from the audience, the atmosphere was electric and once we hit the first riff off ‘Grazed by Heaven’ after Russ’s drum fill, we were out of the traps and up and running. After so many gigs behind us on this tour we were a well oiled machine and we had a great time. We could feed off the audience and then when I announced Lee, there was a huge roar as he walked out for a big hug and we started the song ‘Lady in Black.’ It was good to have him up there and he could not resist getting up on the drums with Russ, and to be honest his smile said it all. We came back for the encores and it really was a gig that you left on a high.

The bar upstairs was kept open for all of our friends and family and of course a lot of other people wiggled their way in, but it was good for me to catch up with Sheila, Romeo, some family and all of our friends. I have to say as I wasn’t drinking, there was not a lot of joined up talking going on, but it was a really cool way to end the night. We all said our goodbyes and we went back to our hotel.

We had a 3 hour drive to Nottingham the next day, which wasn’t too bad. We had a Pledger called Ian Murry at the sound check and for the evenings dinner we all went for a curry with the German twins Andrea and Claudia, who had bought that as part of the Pledge Package. It was a good chilled out dinner, though we all agreed to a man after the show that a curry is not the best food to have before a concert. I won’t take that any further.

The venue Rock City did indeed live up to its name and Rock it did, and it was a magic night. We had a great time and it really gave us a buzz to do more shows in the UK whenever we can. We met a few people after the show and then we went back to the hotel.

The last show of the year was in Trevor’s hometown in Hull Humberside and what a way to finish in his hometown. We had to get there a little early, as we did a record signing late afternoon before going to the gig for the sound check. We had a pledger guitarist called Toby Lee. Now years ago Sheila, Romeo, Iggy and I were staying in Cornwall for a Xmas holiday at the beautiful Watergate Hotel. Toby’s family were there too, and his dad Terry approached me and asked if I could have a picture taken with Toby, as he had just received his first guitar. Of course I did and I had an ‘Into the Wild’ T Shirt with me, which I gave to him and some guitar picks. Well Toby loved the blues and that was the direction he has taken, and he can really play well. Since then he has played with just about everyone in the Blues world from the UK and in the USA. He has great feel and good tone and he will definitely have a long career playing the guitar for sure. He is only 13 years old, and he has already achieved so much. Well he came on stage with the mighty Heep and we played ‘Easy Livin’ giving him a couple of bars freedom on the end to lay out on, and he was brilliant. Of course we then had pictures taken and we met again after the show for a short chat.

There were some other highlights in Hull too, as a good friend of Trevor’s, Peter Kenyon and his wife Tracey gave to me as a present some personalized car number plates. M80 XUH. Now how amazing is that, and I am most grateful to have them, and they now sit lovely on my Volvo Estate front and back.

It was also emotional to see Trevor’s wife Shelly and his sons Ashley and James at the gig along with a lot of their good friends. To say it was emotional in print is an understatement, but it really was good to see them again and have a much needed hug.

Russ and I had kept in contact with a drummer called Cliff Massey, who in fact auditioned for the Heep gig when Russ made the drum stool his. He came to the show and Russ let him sit behind my Engl speakers for the whole show, so that he could watch Russ play, which was really cool.

The concert was a sit down affair, but we soon had them on their feet and it was a good way to end the tour, which has at times felt like a whirlwind. Getting to the end was an incredible feat, and we met everyone after the concert and then headed to the hotel for a good nights sleep. However, we were all excited that we were going home, so very little sleep was had. For those living in London and our manager Ace who was going to London’s Heathrow to fly back to Los Angeles, we all caught a train.

Being home with your family is as good as it gets having been away for 8 weeks, but it was nice to know that we were safe in the knowledge that we had played 43 shows in 15 countries, and that now the ‘Living the Dream,’ tour had started to make an incredible impact, and there was a buzz about the mighty Heep that felt exciting, with everything moving forward in a truly positive way. The consistency of the band was of the highest caliber each night, even on hired gear, or being sick, and being just plain knackered, but each night that we took to that stage the audience gave us an adrenaline rush like no other, which we thank you for.

Many thanks go to our crew who as always made the stage a professional one that we could shine on each night: Ian ‘Scampi’ Bintliff, (Tour Manager & Lights) Brian West (Keyboards, Bass and Stage Manager), Angus Price, (Front of House Mixing) Richard Bennett, (Guitars & Drums) Aaron Buck, (Monitors) Jon Bintliff, (Stage Production) Vic Collier (Driver & Spotlight) Peter Weber, (Press) Mick Ridley, (Merch) and Graham ‘G’ Forster (Bus Driver)

More thanks go to Siren Artists Management: Ace Trump, Adam Parsons, and our Agents at APA USA Keith Naisbitt & Leora Mitzner.

The second leg of this tour will pick up again in Paris France on the 22nd of January at the La Cigale, so the mighty Heep’s Rock and Roll Circus will roll once again and long may it last.

‘Appy days!

Mick