Welcome to my Kill to Get Crimson 2008 tour blog!

My name is Isaac, 30 years old from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. I have set this blog up for the purpose of documenting the journey I am taking following Mark Knopfler’s Kill to Get Crimson tour in North America, in the summer of 2008.

The North American leg of the tour, as well as my journey, begins June 24th in Morrison, Colorado and ends on July 31st in Miami Beach, Florida.

Even though I intend to write on a daily basis, publishing the stories onto the server would be tricky. After all, we’re talking about vast distances which will be primarily crossed by driving, and there is no way for me to predict the availability of Internet connection throughout the way.

So… make yourself at home and feel free to drop a comment.

Yours,

Isaac

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Woodinville, WA

Pheeeeew, today was a long day.

And no, not because of the driving. The drive from Portland to Seattle is an easy 2–3 hours drive. What made this day so long was the logistics behind it.

The problem is really that Canadian citizens are not allowed to drive US‐plated vehicles into Canada. That means that tomorrow morning I have to get rid of the convertible I rented in L.A and catch a train to Vancouver. The distances between the airport, downtown Seattle (where I wanted to stay) and the venue made the entire thing rather uncomfortable to plan. I was originally supposed to be picked up by a friend of mine in Seattle and get a ride to Vancouver, but that has only recently been changed so I found myself having to improvise on a very short notice.

I would like to take this opportunity, though, to thank Jeff Wood, a great guy whom I met in the Red Rocks concert and happened to attend the show today. Jeff helped me a lot by suggesting ways to resolve those logistical issues, by checking out things for me over the web while I was making my way to Seattle.

Jeff—thank you! We didn’t get the chance to have a drink together today, but we will in the future. What you did today meant a lot to me and I appreciate it to no end.

I ended up staying in “Motel 6” about 10 miles from the airport. I realized that, considering traffic, I won’t have time to tour around downtown Seattle—something that I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while now—so I put my bags in the room and immediately left for the venue.

On my way to the venue I got a good view of Seattle’s skyline, which was very nice however a bit ruined by poor visibility. Traffic ended up being not so bad after all, so I took the liberty to devour a chicken parmesan sandwich in Georgio’s Subs (not sure about the name) which hit the spot really well. Quick drive from there to the venue. Lovely drive.

Weather was warm, however cloudy and I noticed a few thunders and lightnings on my way.

Today was my second time visiting that venue. I absolutely love it. I am no wine connoisseur but the scent of a winery really gets to me and makes me want to consume wine in a rather irresponsible manner. Parking was easy and within minutes I found myself being unloaded from a shuttle onto the venue.

Only after I got to the venue itself, while having my bag checked, I realized that I forgot to take the camera out. That was completely my fault—I should have recalled, from the last tour, the fact that there’s a strict ban on any kind of photography in this venue. I promised the security guard that the camera will stay in the bag before and during the show, a promise that I kept. I did take it out after the show to grab one photo with a couple of friends there, but that was way after the concert ended. I seemed to have been acceptable by the security guards there.

Section A, row A, seat 1—effectively, one of the two absolute best seats in the venue. Even the usher at the entrance was impressed. I got my wrist stamped with the word “reserve” which allowed me easy access to the winery itself, which was beautiful.

A short time before Jesca’s opening act, I ran into Guy Fletcher and Paul Crockford. Two super‐nice guys. It was a great pleasure speaking with them both. Guy and Paul—thank you for your time!

There came Jesca Hoop on stage, wearing an outfit that she hasn’t worn yet in any of her shows, and the big news—no makeup at all. I happened to like it. In 9 times out of 10, makeup really doesn’t do it for me. Jesca—way to go! Once again she played a song which I haven’t heard her play yet. I admire her for that, doing something new. Being an opening act to Mark Knopfler is already a huge step and requires a lot of courage as expectations are very, very high. And so far, I think she’s handling it very well.

After Jesca’s performance, I gathered pretty much all the courage I could get and waved to her. We ended up talking for about 5 minutes—what a nice lady! Had it not been for the strict photography restriction, I would have asked her if we could take a picture together. Hopefully next time.

In the intermission between the two shows, I noticed John tuning one of his million instruments. I felt that I had to tell him what I think of his performances and how much he adds to the band, a comment which he seems to have appreciated.

A few additional minutes and somebody in the sky apparently decided that it’s time to flush. It began pouring. Within minutes, the stage crew stretched some fabric to protect the instruments from the elements, which helped the stage and the instruments a lot but wasn’t of any help to some hundreds of people who were coverless. Luckily, the rain stopped shortly after it started, and within a few more minutes Mark’s concert started.

There is a lot I would like to write about that concert. It’s 12:20am now and tomorrow I have a very long day that starts very early in the morning, so if what I write doesn’t make much sense, then my apologies.

Mark appeared very comfortable with the crowd. What I noticed is that, at least at the beginning of each concert, he actually prefers being a little distant (physically, of course) from the crowd. The front row is about 6 feet away from the stage so there was plenty of “air” for him to breathe. Maybe I’m wrong about his preference, but anyway.

Concert gained momentum very quickly. The crowd, mainly adult (I have seen very, very few youngsters there), appreciated the music very much. Smooth performance of the opening song, followed by “Why Aye Man”. After the first solo, Mark appeared to have skipped a few beats so the background chords weren’t in sync for maybe 2 seconds (I happen to have a perfect pitch and a very strong musical hearing so I can spot inaccuracies like these), but it was amazing how the band adjusted so quickly and smoothly and not even one dissonance could have been heard. This is one of the things I like about great musicians; mistakes do happen during shows, but a great musician knows how to incorporate the mistake into the song somehow (without giving the audience the feeling of “oops”).

Today, similarly to yesterday, the band allowed themselves to further explore and improvise, which turned out great. Reading Guy’s blog yesterday, I confirmed what I’ve been thinking for quite some time now—the band doesn’t rehearse too much between shows; they improvise a lot within pre‐determined “time windows”. And they do a great job at it, too.

Today I got to watch Richard very closely. I am a great fan of Richard’s music; I acquired a copy of “Themes from a Rainy Decade” very shortly after it was released (although didn’t get to hear his new one yet) and I absolutely love it, my favourite pieces being “The Proud and Profane” and “A Face No More” which I frequently play myself – doesn’t sound the same on my Gibson Les‐Paul though. Richard has a very distinctive guitar tone which is a characteristic commonly found in great artists. Let me hear some guitar work and I should be able to tell you whether it’s Richard’s work or not. The guy makes great use of tremolos, and he’s not shy of using it—and that’s a good thing! It would be very interesting to hear what his guitar playing would sound like had he didn’t use a pick at all.

Towards the end of the show, I told (well, screamed; the entire crowd was screaming) Richard that there’s plenty of Harvey’s where I come from. I recall him writing once that he really likes that Canadian burger joint (it is, actually, very good). He was wearing the earplugs so I’m not sure he even got the message. Richard, tomorrow you’re in Canada. Enjoy Harvey’s as much as you can.

Another point I decided to focus on in today’s show was the band as a whole and to look at the dynamics between them. I figured something simple: if Mark himself says that “he’s just the frontman”, then this statement must be looked into very closely. I have to say that Mark has to be proud of having such great musicians play with him.

One thing that makes the band’s shows so great is the fact that the “whole” here is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Each and every member of the band is a great, professional musician. It is clearly visible that each and every band member is playing straight from his soul, not filtering anything out. They are just giving it all. Each and every band member is giving his best in each and every show. That is one reason for the shows being great.

The second reason is the incredible professionalism among the band member. I’m not sure that professionalism is the right word to use in this context (sorry, I’m not a native English speaker), but anyway, I refer to the quality of each and every musician in the band’s willing to “flatter” and complement each other member. Working in tandem is one thing; complementing each other, while still maintaining a great level of self‐expression is something completely different and much, much more complex.

Nobody in this band, including Mark himself, is crazy for the spotlight. Few would disagree with me when I say that Mark really appears, and behaves, as if he just happens to be in the front. And that is the third reason why these shows are such a blast: nobody craves the spotlight. Nobody wants to be the “center of the world” on the account of anybody else in the band. In other words, absolutely perfect harmony.

Great performance in Brothers in Arms today. The only thing I could hope for, in the performing of this song, is that Mark finally plays it with the same guitar, same configuration as in the album (the ‘58 with the pickups rewired “out of phase”, activated by that push‐pull pin he has on one of the volume knobs). He keeps playing it with (what I think is) his ‘59 with the pickup selector in the “rhythm” position, which gives it a totally different tone—a good tone, however I personally like the “nasal”‐y out‐of‐phase tone for this wonderful song.

Marbletown’s interlude was, as always, the highlight of this concert. I just love that interlude so much.

Show seemed to have flown by very quickly, although the set list was the usual one with no skipped songs. Before I knew it, there was time for the four encores, during which we attached ourselves to the stage in a rather persistent fashion. I looked back and saw a very enthusiastic crowd thirstily absorbing each note played by the band. It was amazing.

As soon as she show ended, I met Rob (a guy that posted a comment on one of my previous posts) and took a photo with him and with Jordan. I then met Raghu, who happened to have read my blog (apparently, Guy has linked from his blog to mine—thank you, Guy! Much appreciated), and his girlfriend / wife (I’m not sure! He didn’t tell me) Anita. Great people. We ended up having very interesting discussions on the way to our cars, who were coincidentally parked very close to each other.

Drive home was smooth. Took the roof down and drove back to the motel, listening to Eddie Vedder’s “Into the Wild” soundtrack. The air, the view of Seattle, and Eddie Vedder’s deep voice when he’s singing “Guaranteed” led me to a simple conclusion: I am living my dream, and a huge part of that dream consists of—

  • Meeting great musicians and speaking with them, not to them; and
  • Meeting great people along the way, who share similar values and give me the power, will and mental strength to continue this journey into Mark Knopfler’s music and into my soul. Jeff, Jordan, Ryan, Rag, Linda, April, Chris—I am very happy to have had the opportunity to meet with you and get to know you, and thank you for everything!

Very long day tomorrow. I will write more while in the train—that is, if I am awake at all as I have the feeling I’ll be sleeping the entire way.

Ahhh… Vancouver tomorrow. Love that city. More on that later.

Good night.

3 comments:

Raghu said...

Isaac, it was great to meet you last night. To set the record straight, Nita (not Anita) is my girlfriend :)

Enjoy the rest of the tour!

siddarth said...

Hey Isaac!

Awesome "notes from the road" from a fan. I've been following Dr.Fletch for all his tour diaries and yours is just as awesome. You'll hit Cloud 9 if you post some pics too!

As far as the goes, I was there in LA. Still can't believe it. My first MK concert was in India during the Shangri-La tour and now "God descended down to LA and I was there!!!"

Keep 'em coming...Fantastic job!!

Isaac said...

Hi guys,
Thank you for your kind words and support!

Raghu - sorry about mispelling Nita's name...

Siddarth - thank you! If only I had a break from driving and running from place to place, I'd post those pictures already... they'll come. I promise!