The journey from Perth to Jakarta came in two halves, dissected by a stop over in Singapore which supplied one of the most hilarious scenes in recent tours. Singapore airport is HUGE, and seeing as how yours truly and rest of party are now getting on in years, we were met at the gate from the Perth flight by three delightful Singhalese with motorized airport carts. You've all seen them, used for carrying Granddad or parties of Nuns... flashing lights even though they generally travel slower than most of us walk. This was not the case here. We were all in 'high spirits' and so the race was on! Amazingly, the airport staff were totally up for it. They loved it! From gate to VIP lounge was the first 'leg', if you will, with a brief stop in the pits, sorry, VIP lounge, then a second leg to the Jakarta flight gate. Seemingly miles of open terrain. Needless to say there were several near death experiences, mostly women and children who were too caught up in what was available at the Duty Free shops than to notice three cartfuls of English musicians hurtling towards them at light speed, screaming 'Faster!...' I'm not going to say who won, or even who was the prime instigator but... it was me. Oh well.
On arrival in Jakarta we were all rather worn out after so much excitement, but managed to get it up for an airport press conference. One of our favourite things to do, especially after being in transit for ten hours. From what I remember Le Bon held court mostly, probably extemporizing on the appeal of female Indonesia, although Rhodes can always be relied on for facts and figures, such as where the show is, what time it starts, how many tickets are left and how much they cost.
Oh my Lord, the traffic here... it is THE WORST. Thanks to our promoter, we had a motorcycle outrider (I love those!) who guided us around and through the trucks and buses and we arrived at our hotel after not too much hassle. The hotel was very grand, and the manager and his staff were lined up to welcome us as if we were foreign dignitaries. 'If there is anything I can do to make your stay more comfortable'. He wished he had never asked. 'Massage in my room within the hour!', 'Keep the restaurant open!' 'I need an AA meeting NOW!' (just joking...) I was perfectly happy with ESPN in the room showing Champions League reruns.
I believe it had been seventeen years since we had last been in Jakarta. It was the day after Kurt Cobain died, and we had played 'In Bloom'. The crowd had gone crazy, and for three minutes I had an idea what it would be like to have that kind of a following, a heaving, raging, male rock crowd. Intense.
The gig itself was the next day, and from what I remember it was... hmm.. what can I remember? The fans were amazing, unfortunately, they were about twenty feet from the stage, kept separate from us by a seating section of special guests, some of whom were texting, some yawning, some going off to the bar... most annoying.
Next day we flew to Manila, in the Philippines. Day of show had lunch by the pool. I must have been nervous that night, can't think why, but it was a killer show. You just never know when the chemistry is going to be just right. Now my memory is faltering.. ah yes, Hong Kong. Everyone should visit Hong Kong. Someone said that to me recently - I’m not sure if that would really be possible, can you imagine the lines at immigration? Count me out. Still, it is a gas, true dat...
Our hotel had the most amazing views of the harbour, which is almost one of the wonders of the world. We had dinner at Nobu that evening, and met the man himself. Nobu is a phenomenon in the world restaurant league. Rather like Starbucks, everywhere we go within the ultra-chic west, we can rely on Nobu to supply our hungry selves with a consistent plate of yellowtail with jalapeno. No more Big Macs baby. Right now it is the taste.
The Hong Kong show didn't quite work for me, although everyone else had a blast. For sure, the setting was awesome, from the stage we had a fantastic view of the city, but it was too high, something like ten feet off the ground, and it felt like we were a long way from the front row. I must say, that is something I find can really put me off, if I can't make a connection with the people up front. It's terribly important for me to make that connection on an eyeball to eyeball human level, without that it feels like I'm just pissing in the wind. Unfortunately some of the biggest gigs, the Wembleys of this world, tend to be like that. One of the reasons I am happy on this tour is that most of the venues are of a size that affords this connection. Anyway, then it starts to rain, in Hong Kong, and the stage is super-slippy, so I gots to cut back on my moves.. (well, I call 'em moves...). and the audience huddling under umbrellas never really seems to galvanize itself, and work as one... But then, maybe that was down to my inability to rise above the circumstances...
From HK we were all very excited to get up to Tokyo. YEAH! It was a mutha of a leave, like 7am or something, after a show, which is brutal, and Charlie took an earlier flight even than that, so eager was he to get to old Udo. Spent a small fortune on books and magazines in HK airport. 'Teach yourself Chinese for Beginners', it's a fantasy of course, to learn Chinese, but what an extraordinary language. Which reminds me that Gela called to say that Travis is minoring in Russian next year. How cool is that?!!!
Nick and I decide we need more books and magazines so we basically waste away our evening off in Tokyo by walking to a nearby store that we know. I forget what I got. Nick bought plenty Japanese photography book. He is becoming quite the expert in this area. He has a fantastic collection of twentieth century photography books. He started his collection some time ago, and now the value of such books is going up and up, which is great from the perspective of what he already has, but not so good for the books he is still looking for. Anyway, we had a good time doing that. What is almost strange now is having a lobby filled with fans, which is what we have here in Tokyo. They are all quite delightful of course, and we are happy to see them. They bring us lovely gifts as the Japanese have a way of doing, and try oh so hard to be gentle and mild mannered. The elevator doors open and it is a race to the front door every time, so as to not get completely swamped. It's so crazy to think it used to be like that everywhere we went for a while back then. Don't miss it at all, no no.
I get an early night and much needed sleep. Take a walk into Roppongi lunchtime next day. It's such a buzz to be on the streets of Tokyo. There's a saying that goes, 'if you are bored with New York, you must be bored with life' and I would add that must also be true of Tokyo. What really strikes me on this visit is the street fashions, the enormous variety and inspired individuality and fashion sense that you just don't see anywhere else. People in Tokyo just love to express themselves through their clothes and haircuts. It's fun to see. The gig that night is at the Zepp, which is one of the great hot rock venues around the world, rather like Webster Hall in NYC or the Lyceum in London. The place was heaving. After having not played the electro set for a few nights it was good to have that back in, so it just felt like we delivered the whole meal, and the audience ate every crumb and wiped the plate clean. That's the kind of gig I live for, when the synergy between band + audience is just so fucking strong... Right after there's a meet and greet, which is not so much fun, seeing as how we are all exhausted, but we do it it anyway. I choose not to eat out with the party, but am glad to get back to my room, make some calls home. Our TM Craig installed Skype onto my computer yesterday. After a month of exorbitant roaming charges I got a break. If you have not got it yet, do yourself a favour. Way to go.
And from Tokyo on to Seoul, but not before a whole day of SHOPPING. You just cannot visit Tokyo without doing a little damage to the old C/C. Quick shopping list: Beautiful Madras Sport jacket from Commes Des Garcons. Plus socks. Bootlegs from AIRS in Shinjuku. Amazingly enough I found a CD of the first concert I ever went to. Mick Ronson at Birmingham Town Hall in April '74. I could not believe it or wait to show it Nick, who was also there.
That night we had our second conference call with Mark Ronson (no relation) regarding the forthcoming show we are going to do together, in Paris on July 2. Mark is one of the sweetest guys I have had the pleasure of knowing in this business and his ideas are rad!... We are all super-jazzed about the conversation. Watch this space. Later that night, like eleven pm, way past my usual stay-out-late time, we have a party in our honour that G-Star are throwing for us. Could not really give two shits about that but am highly excited that the DJ for the night is one Roger Taylor. Yes! that Roger Taylor, ex of Crucified Toad. It seems that quietly (as is his way) he has been learning the fine art of digital turn tabling, what with MP3's and shit.. and boy is he good. I danced my ass off. Lot. Of. Fun.
Yes. Next day to Korea.
We had been to Korea once before, seventeen years ago. My memories of that particular trip are not so glamourous. ugly fruit in the room and ugly American corporate influence everywhere, in a gaudy struggle with centuries old Korean tradition. The presentation of the show was quite ridiculous, the stage covered in silver foil, playing on it was like performing on a giant wedding cake (and this was not the wedding album tour- or was it?). It felt like a country I would have no need to visit again. But that was a long time ago and my sense of Korea has changed enormously, not least because of my good friend Jeehun, who has clued me in over the years of what it is to be a Korean today. A highly over-achieving society, in Beverly Hills, Koreans are generally referred to as 'the new Jews' (usually by Jews). Plus, they co-hosted the World Cup with Japan and there are some damn fine Korean players in the Premiership right now. Great ship builders, cars and techno shit.. What else? Well, the new airport is beautiful, and driving in from the airport we saw a series of bridges that were lit in a way that showed the superiority of the engineering. Our driver spoke English flawlessly, reminding me that Korean men are subject to two years national service, which sure will motivate your ass if nothing else. Our hotel, the W, was a triumph of post-eighties opulence, our rooms sprawling fuck pads with a lighting system so convoluted none of us could figure it out without help from the concierge. The black linen bag that held the hair dryer was a particular favourite, on it in white type the simple word 'BLOW'. That kind of hotel.
The next day I did some press in my room, and some TV interviews with Nick, who was having a fine old time with the language. Actually taking some time to get to grips with it, he had taken a trip out into the market area. The show that night was fantastic, made more so because none of us saw it coming. It was a larger crowd than Tokyo, a bigger venue, yet they reacted to the show with the same intensity, starting high and staying there, singing, dancing, roaring. At the airport the following morning much of the discussion was 'how soon can we return?', and 'what other cities in Korea can we visit?'.
Yes, back at the airport the following morning. Y'all must be getting some sense now of why they call it 'On The Road'. Although we could just as easy call it 'In The Air'.
Some time ago we had agreed to perform in Costa Rica as part of a Central American Pop Festival, on the bill with Enrique Iglesias and once again, The Smashing Pumpkins. Okay, now we are all world travelers in this outfit, right? No one more so than yours truly, who regularly does the LA - London route as if it were the 50 bus into Birmingham City Centre. In the eighties, I was even known as Jett Sett (some of you may already know this.) But this particular travel day, Friday April 20th will go down as the travel day from hell. Check this out: 9am depart Seoul for Tokyo. 1pm depart Tokyo for London. (16 hr flight) Arrive London 6pm for 9pm connecting flight to Madrid, which is delayed by three hours. Leave London at midnight. Arrive Madrid 1.30 am check into airport Sofitel. 9am depart hotel for airport and flight to Costa Rica arriving 5pm Saturday afternoon. Needless to say by this point the phrase on most people's lips is 'Whose fucking idea was this?' And did I mention that British Airways managed to lose my suitcase? Ahhhh.. what can you do? Thank God for John Coltrane.
Four songs into the Costa Rica show next night I found myself having such a good time, seriously digging the enthusiasm of the Central American audience, a thought appeared in my mind that said, 'I'm so glad I came...'