Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Back at the O2

I don’t feel well this morning. My stomach is bothering me, but I decided to get up and have a short workout and breakfast anyway. I immediately went back to bed after breakfast, deciding that rest was more important than practicing. I finally got up and dressed to head to the venue, where we did another great show, this time with a cameo by Joss Stone . Joss sang with Stevie on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”. She was kind enough to take a photo with me after the show, and even bent down so that we'd both be in the photo. She's quite tall!

At the Meet and Greet after the show, a very kind man walked over, complimented me on my website and encouraged me to continue blogging my tour experience. I was so flattered! It continually amazes me that my little online diary is actually read and enjoyed by people I’ve never met! It’s a beautiful thing : >

Me and Joss Stone

Monday, September 29, 2008

London Sight-seeing

This morning I went through my usual morning activities, took a nap, paid some bills (with what money I have), and went on a walk through Hyde Park to dissipate some of the stress that usually (unfortunately) accompanies bill paying. I had spoken to my fabulous new friend, Chris Nicholas, a close friend of, and songwriting collaborator with, Zoe Ellis, earlier and arranged to meet him back at the hotel for a tour of the city. I met Chris in the lobby and he proceeded to take me on a lovely walking tour past many of the significant London monuments near Hyde Park. We passed throught Trafalgar Squarea, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch and ended up in SoHo for dinner. I had a traditional fish pie, which while tasty, I wasn’t able to finish, perhaps because of exposure to a stomach virus that many on the tour had been suffering from. I never experienced the worst of the virus, but I was surprised that I didn’t eat more, given my usually very high metabolism and concomitant large appetite!

After dinner, I returned to the hotel for a short nap, before joining several of the band members for a night out. We went to a weekly jam session in a club in Piccadilly Circus, and met and played with some cool new musician friends, including John Altman, Alexei and host Patrick Alan. Initially, we were all claiming that we’d sit the night out, stating our fatigue as an excuse not to perform, but one by one, we were compelled to the stage.

I sat at the keyboard and joined in a funky jam with everyone, while Patrick was singing an improvised song. Then Patrick put a mic in front of me. I was a bit taken aback (as I’ve been singing background forever but have very little lead experience), but went for it anyway, singing whatever romantic lyrics I could think of in the moment. Vocal improvisation is a definite skill set, and, let’s just say, something I should work on! lol We then played extended versions of “Do I Do” and “Supersition”, each of us taking a solo. Despite the fatigue, it was great fun. The club was too loud (I spent much time with my ears covered), but the audience and other musicians were awesome. I didn’t get to sleep until nearly 4am…

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Concert in Paris

I went to bed Saturday, confident that I’d wake up at 9am, since I’d set my alarm. However, in my fatigue, I didn’t notice that I’d set the alarm for 9pm. Doh! I woke up late, around 10:15am, rushed to eat breakfast, get dressed and be ready to join Fausto on a quick tour of Paris with some local musician friends of his by 11am. Fausto’s friends did not speak English, so it was an excellent opportunity for me to practice speaking Spanish and French! I rarely practice speaking anything but English, so to be immersed in a situation where I had to at least make an effort was a wonderful thing. We ran from one monument to the next, taking in as much as possible in the small 3 hour window that we had for touring Paris. We hopped on the subway and headed into town. First stop was the Arc de Triomphe. Next was the Champs Elysee, the exterior and entrance to the Louvre Museum, and finally the Eiffel Tower. One of these days, I’ll have to actually take a vacation and make time to really see Paris without rushing. Walking in Paris felt very natural to me. I do believe I could live there…at least for a while!

We made it back to the hotel just in time to catch the bus to the venue. What a great crowd! Paris has got to be the best crowd that we’ve had. The energy was unbelievable and all of us musicians responded to it. Harmonica player, Frederic Yannet, made a guest appearance on “Boogie On Raggae Woman”, and had a fabulous harmonica duel with Stevie. After the show, I met Natalie Portman, who was very kind and complimented the show and my performance.

As we left the venue, and headed for the club where we’d be performing with Mao, there was a large gathering of fans cheering us and thanking us for our performance. The people were so kind and gracious, and we all appreciated them. At the club, we performed Mao’s set to an enthusiastic gathering of people, including Stevie. After our performance, Youssou N’Dour, the fantastic African singer, performed one song. What a voice!

Stevie was in a happy mood. After sitting for a while, the crowd was clamoring for him to perform, and he obliged. Stevie walked up to the stage and performed a series of songs, including a few songs that I didn’t know, including “Saturn” and “Shoo Be Doo Be Doo Ba Day”. Aisha and Dejah came up to the stage with the rest of the band at hand, and we all made music. The stage was unbelievably hot, but we stayed up there nearly an hour. Finally, at 4am, we left in the busses and headed for the ferry to cross back into the UK.

Touring Paris

After the Paris concert

Me and Natalie Portman

Me, Frederic Yonnet and his wife

At the club with the guys


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Je suis une petite Parisienne!

On Saturday morning, we arrived in Paris and, because of a rehearsal with an artist who’d hired us to perform with him after our Paris concert, I took off immediately to try and see what I could of the city. I hopped on the Metro and went to see the Louvre and buildings in the vicinity. I only had about 2 hours before I had to head back. Our rehearsal with Mao Otayeck, held in a local rehearsal studio, lasted for a few hours. Afterwards, we went and briefly listened to some authentic Congolese pop music, complete with dancers, in a separate rehearsal space in the rehearsal studio. The room was packed with musicians, dancers and listeners. It was a vibrant scene, but too loud and too hot for most of to appreciate longer than a few minutes.

By the time we got back to the hotel and had dinner, it was after midnight. I had hoped to visit the Eiffel Tower at night, shimmering in all its glory, but someone had told us (mistakenly, I learned later) that the trains stopped running at 1am on Saturday night, so I gave up my quest, and with a few of the guys went on a post dinner walk along the Seine. It was lovely. On returning to the hotel, I called my mom and wished her a happy birthday.

Walking around Paris

Friday, September 26, 2008

Munich to Milan

The last couple of days have been fun! On Thursday, we had a show in Munich, where the audience was rather reserved, but seemed to enjoy the show. At the end, when Stevie spoke about his support for Obama, an audience member stood and held a McCain for President sign above his head. I didn’t actually read the sign, but thought it rather rude to have displayed it during the concert, given Stevie’s support of Obama. To each his own… We left Germany and drove all night to Italy.

Friday morning, we arrived at the hotel in Milan, across the street from the venue. The Italians are certainly different! During most shows, we all make attempts to connect with audience members. For the Milan concert, the audience members were connecting with us! Audience members were filming us with their cell phones, smiling, and waving much more than anywhere else we’ve been. Narada Michael Walden attended the show and came backstage afterwards. He and his guests loved the show. Narada has seen the show a few times, and claims that it’s better now than ever! Next stop Paris!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

It's my birthday!

It’s my birthday! : > I woke up late this morning, ate breakfast, boarded the bus for the 5 hour trip to Munich, and slept most of the way there. Once we arrived, I changed out of my bus sleepwear and went to dinner with a few people from the band and staff. Afterwards, Kimberly and I went for a walk through a shopping district. It’s beautiful here! I can’t wait until morning when I can really see everything.

Touring Munich

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Concert in Mannheim

What a great night! Today I woke up feeling quite exhausted. I slept until 10am, then got up and went for a short run, ate breakfast, took a bath and went back to sleep until just before 3pm, when we left for the SAP Arena. The show went really well, but the best moment of all for me was when Stevie sang “Happy Birthday” to me! I was totally caught off guard, and loved the beautiful surprise! He even changed the lyrics to be reflective of me. It was an incredibly humbling and lovely moment. I couldn’t stop grinning. I grinned so much that my cheeks hurt! It seemed as if everyone was in on the secret.

Stevie sings Happy Birthday to me

Once back at the hotel, several of us gathered in the lounge and they toasted me. There was a piano in the lounge and I played, Roman played, and several people sang. Keith sang “For the Love of You” beautifully! Everyone is so talented. What a beautiful birthday…and it’s just starting! Yippee!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Concert in Cologne

This morning I woke up late and went directly to breakfast. I was exhausted after having stayed up late doing work for a client. Once I finally went to bed, I was kept awake for hours by a series of crazy dreams, making for a fitful sleep.
After breakfast, I went for a long walk through downtown and residential Köln. It was a lovely day for a walk and a group of us enjoyed it thoroughly. Upon returning to the hotel, I did a bit more music work, got dressed and then took a very short nap. I can’t believe I’m still awake enough to write my blog. After the show, which was great again, we drove to Mannheim and arrived at the hotel at 4am. It’s 5am now. I should make myself go to bed.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

On to Germany

This morning I woke up late, and did a little bit of writing. I am very proud of myself for continuing to reestablish my writing habit. Now I just have to make writing, meditating and exercise a nightly regiment so that they all flow easily and with obvious repetitive benefit.

We flew from Oslo to Düsseldorf and then drove to Cologne (Köln). The Domkirche, an ancient church that somehow survived the bombing of World War II, is close by and I’ll definitely revisit it in the morning.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Concert in Norway

Yesterday we had the concert in Stockholm, which went well, and we boarded the busses for Norway immediately after. We got to the hotel just in time for the continental breakfast (which was actually quite good), and then all took naps. Riding the bus is the most efficient mode of transportation for our large group (no one wants to deal with the hassle of air travel, luggage, security, etc), but it’s nearly impossible to get a good night’s rest on the bus. Especially in this case, since we traveled on dirt and gravel roads for much of the trip between Sweden and Norway.
The drive from the hotel to the venue was beautiful. We passed by a huge lake (maybe a fjord?) and parked inside the venue. The hall is cavernous and the sound quality reflected that fact. Tonight’s concert in Hamar was initially challenging, as it was clear that everyone was tired. Stevie decided to perform “Norwegian Wood” by the Beatles, and also jumped on the bass and drums towards the end of the show. All of became energized somewhere around the middle of the show. After the show, we came back to the hotel, sat in the lobby with the lovely fireplace and chatted before heading our separate ways for the night.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Day Off in Stockholm

Yesterday and today were good days! Tuesday was a tough day. Perhaps because I’m more fatigued than I realize and have a wee bit of homesickness. In any case, Thank GOD I’m over it! On Wednesday, we performed in Denmark. The audience was a bit subdued initially, but they eventually came to life. Afterwards, we drove nearly 12 hours to Stockholm. Happily, I slept well on the bus, and even managed to watch 2 movies…miraculous given how rarely I watch movies!
Upon arriving in Stockholm this morning, a group of us took a trek into Old Stockholm, a beautiful gathering of old buildings, churches, museums and a palace. We walked approximately 4 miles, across the urban center of Stockholm into the historical section of town. We took photos of several buildings and monuments before heading back across town to our hotel.

Later tonight, another group of us attended a Coldplayconcert. What a great show! I have been a Coldplay fan for years, but had never seen them in concert. It was fun, and an experience I don’t often enjoy as I’m usually the one onstage! The guys in the band all seemed to be having such a great time, and it brought to my awareness what other people tell me about our show. The thrill of hearing a massive crowd as they clap, chant and sing along to the music is highly addicting, at least for those of us born with the lack of stage fright that makes this lifestyle possible. I was inspired to spend more time writing and being creative. I don’t do enough. I need to reestablish a daily habit. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Day Off in Denmark

Overall it was a good day, but I’ve been feeling my first pangs of homesickness. We got to the hotel around 10am, and most of us went online immediately because it’s free here. This hotel is tiny! It’s more like a hostel than a hotel, but it’s in a cute neighborhood, right next to a shopping area. I met a few of the band guys in the lobby and we all went to get burgers (I didn’t eat of course…I’m famous for my aversion to fast or junk food) and then on a lovely walk through the local mall and shopping district. The weather was slightly chilly and rainy, but felt good while we walked at a brisk pace. Once back at the hotel, I stayed in my room, working on bills, updating my blog, catching up with email and making phone calls. In my attempt to be creative on a daily basis, I kept telling myself it was time to sit down and work on song lyrics, but found myself getting “sleepy” every time I tried, with nothing coming forth. I can’t worry about it. Just keeping up the practice will pay off…eventually!

Monday, September 15, 2008

2nd Concert at the Ahoy in Rotterdam

If you ever see me drinking green tea or other beverage with a small amount of caffeine after 5pm, please remind me that I’m far too sensitive to caffeine to tolerate it in the evening! Now, granted I was hyped after our group discussion and love fest, but after having fallen asleep at 4am, there’s no reason I should have been wide awake at 7:45am! I tried to fall back to sleep, and when I couldn’t, I did an hour or so of meditation before getting up and heading the gym for a tough work out. I had lunch plans with Persephone at noon, so I was hoping to finish my workout, take advantage of the continental breakfast, take a nap and head out. I managed to do all of that, but the nap was only 30 minutes long. At lunch, I decided to drink more green tea, projecting that I’d get a second wind sometime around showtime. I was correct! Just before the show, I was feeling fatigued and sleepy, but after about the 6th song, my energy went through the roof and I was fine through the rest of the show. In fact, I was able to stay up and watch a movie on the bus as we drove to Denmark. Once the movie was over, so was I! I went right to sleep and, for the most part, slept until we arrived in Aalborg.

Being nerdy backstage:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Concert at the Ahoy in Rotterdam

I woke up this morning and noticed that it was a bright and sunny day! So, I put on some moderately light workout clothes and headed outdoors for my morning walk. Eeeek! It was freezing! Rather than go back to the room and put on the heavy gear, I went to the gym and did a decent workout (including the dreaded treadmill). This gym even has a rower machine, which I hadn’t used in years! I pulled 500 meters, but my time was embarrassing. Oh well! It has been a while since I rowed!

The show tonight went very well, as has come to be the norm. Persephone and her husband loved it! Afterwards, we band members were all giddy and sat in the hotel lobby for hours talking about the show, sharing our favorite musical moments and paying homage to Stevie and each other. It was a love fest!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Day Off in The Nederlands

Once at the hotel, I had to decide whether I’d be going to sleep or if I’d be getting dressed and heading out to spend the day with Persephone, one of my dearest friends…we’ve been great friends since college. I chose the latter. I always enjoy spending time with Persephone, and try to whenever I’m in this part of the world. Persephone met me at the hotel and we traveled to Gouda via train. What a quaint little town! It’s simply beautiful and scenic. As it happens, this weekend is Open Monument weekend, so we were able to visit several buildings, each hundreds of years old, for free!

The most incredible of the buildings was the Sint Janskerk Church. The church is filled with dozens of gorgeous stained glass windows. The colors in the windows are breathtaking and mesmerizing. I couldn’t stop staring at them.

After visiting the monuments, and a quick stroll through the shopping district, Persephone’s husband, father-in-law and I all went to a Gouda Culinary Festival. The food was tasty, but the service aspect of the festival didn’t function very well. First of all, visitors were compelled to sit at tables and place orders with overwhelmed wait staff, which made for very long delays before getting any food. At most festivals in the USA, visitors are invited to form a queue in front of whichever booth or booths appeal to their palate, pay for a plate of food, and either walk around with their food, or find a table. That way, waiting extended periods of time for food isn’t an issue. The competition for seating at the Gouda festival was intense! As soon as someone stood up from a table, someone was there waiting to take over their seats. Once seated, people tended to linger in their seats, even after finishing their food, despite the teeny, tiny portions.

Nonetheless, the event was fun, except for the prevalence of chain smoking, nicotine addicts all around us. The number of people carelessly and casually smoking amidst the diners was overwhelming. As I was attempting to enjoy a delicious plate of grilled scallops, the woman at the next table held and occasionally took a drag on cigarette, after cigarette, after cigarette, sending her noxious plumes directly towards our table, causing me to nearly gag. We Californians, with our decades of laws directed towards protecting the non-smoker, are simply not accustomed to how oblivious some smokers remain about their habit. I can’t imagine being so addicted to any substance. I could barely taste my food over the stench of the various cigarettes in the environment. However, I’m not in California, so I didn’t raise a fuss. I certainly didn’t want to offend the woman. Besides, perhaps oblivious smoking is simply part of the culture, and had she realized how horrible her smoking was making me feel she would have ceased. Ah well…c’est la vie. At least smokers aren’t allowed to smoke indoors at restaurants anymore in Holland. That’s a huge plus! I’ll be a bit more observant before choosing seating in an outdoor dining situation again!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ferry Crossing

Today I slept late and went directly to breakfast. After breakfast, I felt the gym calling my name. I didn’t work out yesterday, and I know that letting 2 days pass without working out can start anyone (maybe even me) on the slippery slope of falling out of a habit, so I went to the gym and did a light workout before heading back to the room for my nap. Because of my fatigue, I wasn’t able to take time and do any sight seeing. I suppose I’ll just have to get it together and take a vacation at some point!

Again, the show went well. Arlene attended the show and LOVED it! After the show, we boarded the busses for the trip to the Ferry port. Unfortunately, because of the Channel Tunnel fire this week, loads of traffic was diverted to the ferries, so we weren’t able to board until nearly 5am, putting us into Rotterdam just before noon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

First show at the O2

I woke up this morning feeling exhausted. I slept for several hours, but still felt as if I needed several hours more. I met Arlene Sierra
for lunch and had a great time! I just wish I hadn’t felt so tired. Arlene is awesome. She’s simply brilliant and it’s marvelous to hear of her career as a composer and professor being so successful. I’ve known her for many years, and I’m utterly proud of her accomplishments, and of the fact that she’s still such a wonderful, happy, kind, beautiful friend!

After lunch, it was off to the O2. I clearly didn't comb my hair for this photo. Oops!

What a great show! The concert was completely sold out and the audience was incredible! The energy and response was so overwhelmingly wonderful, I kept a smile on my face for nearly the whole show! Stevie was in very good voice. He did an impromptu version of “Lately” that was stunningly beautiful.

During the show, Stevie took some time to commemorate those who lost their lives in the 9/11 tragedy. I pray that the world continues on the path of enlightenment, and that all of those who seek and wallow in the misery of hatred WAKE UP and realize how precious and beautiful life is, and that we are all one. God bless us every one...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Friday Night with Jonathan Ross

I woke up this morning and went for a walk in Hyde Park. I quickly came across a rose garden and rather than continue on the running path, I ventured into the rose garden.

Just a few days ago, I had watched a program on the BBC that addressed the differences between the standard red rose that I’ve seen so often in the USA, and the traditional English Rose, so my curiosity was piqued. I walked up to a lovely light pink rose in full bloom, pulled it gently to my face, checked for bees (to be sure I wouldn’t be stung!), closed my eyes and took a sniff. Heaven! I must say that I had never smelled a more beautiful rose. I became hypnotized and swooned from the scent. It was simply beautiful! I spent the next 20 minutes wandering from one rose bush to the next, seeking more rose scents. Some were similar to the standard red rose, meaning they were only moderately fragrant; others were similar to the first rose, but none as spectacular. I will have to return and ask someone who might be an expert what type of rose that was.

I returned to the hotel, had breakfast, went to the gym, took my daily nap, and then went to the BBC Studios to do sound check for the Friday Night with Jonathan Ross TV show. Everyone at the studio was really nice, and Jonathan was hilarious! The dressing rooms were heated to a high temperature (comfortable for me, sweltering for everyone else), but the studio itself was quite cool; perhaps not as cold as the notoriously frigid David Letterman set, but definitely cool. Stevie did his interview with Jonathan, and then the band came up from the dressing rooms and performed. We played “Superstition” and “I Was Made To Love Her”, followed by a medley of a series of songs. We all had a great time!

At BBC Studios, before and after makeup and hair...