Our hero finds him­self on 31-date, ma­jor arena jaunt. Play­ing sec­ond gui­tar in a re­formed Led Zep­pelin? Help­ing out The Stones? McCart­ney? El­ton? U2? Noth­ing so passé, dear... it’s the Strictly Come Danc­ing Tour!

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO -

Dances From A Small Is­land

af­ter a week of re­hearsals in Lon­don’s deeply un­trendy Kings cross industrial es­tate, the strictly come Danc­ing tour tan­gos out of town. Four con­tin­u­ous weeks of sell-out arena gigs, cul­mi­nat­ing in six shows in Lon­don (two at Wem­b­ley arena; four at the O2 arena). Make no mis­take, this is a proper tour. any band would kill to make it this big. By the time we hit the bil­low­ing pil­lows of the ca­nary Wharf Mar­riott ho­tel on the last night, we will have played to nearly 200,000 fox­trot fa­nat­ics.

We per­form the open­ing waltz of this Ball­room Bo­nanza in Birm­ing­ham, at the na­tional in­door arena for a week of full com­pany re­hearsals and then five per­for­mances. six­teen trucks, four crew buses and two artiste coaches dis­gorge their con­tents into the gi­ant Brum­mie shed that de­scribes this pass­able imi­ta­tion of all the other gi­ant sheds that we will visit for the next month.

some­where in the midst of this ter­ri­fy­ing scene of half-erected scaf­fold­ing, light­ing, cam­eras, hard hats and shout­ing, is the pri­mor­dial out­line of a stage. and on that stage my five in­stru­ments, flight-cased amp and ac­ces­sories await me.

i pro­ceed to set up amid the chaos. it’s a tad la­bo­ri­ous but i have learned from ex­pe­ri­ence that it will get eas­ier with rep­e­ti­tion. and rep­e­ti­tion there will most cer­tainly be. thirty-one bits of rep­e­ti­tion.

For those that have quick­stepped their way thus far, i send three sep­a­rate feeds to the sound desk. a sim­ple mi­cro­phone suf­fices to waft my banjo stylings to an un­sus­pect­ing world for if You could see Me now. a Di box re­ceives a jack in­put from both my elec­tro-acous­tic and elec­tro-clas­si­cal gui­tars. i in­ter­face a vol­ume pedal be­tween it and them, thereby al­low­ing me to use one jack plug to switch be­tween both in­stru­ments with­out det­o­nat­ing un­wanted acous­tic ex­plo­sions through­out the arena. it seems to be ap­pre­ci­ated by the sound chaps, who even pro­vide me with a cute mini fold­back wedge to mon­i­tor my ef­forts.

the third feed is from my miked up Mesa-Boo­gie amp, through which i play my heav­ily mod­i­fied clap­ton strat (or up­per clap­ton strat, as this for­mer hack­ney boy refers to it) and Gibson L-4. in be­tween is my pedal board, con­tain­ing the usual stuff. com­pres­sor, over­drive (Full­tone OCD), a rather nice retro Boss Dig­i­tal Di­men­sion pedal in lieu of cho­rus, a noise gate and a com­bined de­lay and re­verb. an­other vol­ume con­trol sits at the end of the chain. it’s all rather retro. how­ever, the com­put­ery, dig­i­tal fun is all around.

We lis­ten on head­phones to click tracks for all the dances. the clicks are ‘mapped’ for each dance ar­range­ment. that way the dancers get to hear the mu­sic ex­actly as they wish to per­form to it. and means that there can be no com­plaints. it’s the same ev­ery night. the fact that i start to doubt if i will ac­tu­ally play in time ever again is but a small price to pay.

at the con­clu­sion of our stay in each of Bri­tain’s mostly north­ern cities we pack down the gear. this con­sists of a speeded-up back­wards movie ver­sion of the set-up, as the stage is in­vaded by dozens of lo­cally hired crew. i dis­as­sem­ble the gear as if my life de­pends on it (which it al­most cer­tainly does) and flee the vicin­ity to the sound­track of apoca­lypse now. Within an as­ton­ish­ingly few min­utes the en­tire stag­ing has been re­duced to its com­po­nent parts.

i slip out of my fetch­ing black suit and match­ing ac­ces­sories and head for the artiste bus.

there’s no Busi­ness Like show Busi­ness... Which is the last tune of the night. ev­ery night.

Six­teen trucks, four crew buses and two artiste coaches dis­gorge their con­tents into a gi­ant Brum­mie shed.

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