HERE I GO AGAIN Too Many Tours
the second part of his road diary follows Bernie and the Gov’t Mule boys over to the continent
Sunday morning, 29 October, 2017. I’m at the Ibis Hotel Canary Wharf having breakfast with Warren Haynes and Jorgen Carlsson of Gov’t Mule after joining them for two dates in Cardiff and London. The minibus picks us up and we drive to St Pancras International, arriving at 12.15pm. The train leaves at 2.20pm, with one stop scheduled at Ashford in Kent before arriving in Paris later that day.
Fifteen minutes before Ashford, the train stops for 20 minutes. We then limp into Ashford where we’re told that one of the main batteries on the train has failed, and that we have to wait for a rescue train to come and pick us up. What can we do? Nothing except wait. Some unknown Americans close to me become very irate because their schedule is interrupted. I text Warren asking if we should get together to write a song while we wait – he replies: “What about now?” I immediately think this is a brilliant title for a song, but the train gets going a few minutes later. The train finally pulls into Gare du Nord – two and a half hours later than expected. A car meets us and we drive to the très chic Hotel La Pigalle, where my room includes a record player with Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles on vinyl – not a bad room to have!
That night we have a great curry, and walking back from the restaurant, Warren and I could hear an excellent jazz group (two guitar players, upright bass and drums), who were playing in Lulu’s Drinking Club. They were playing French swing Django style, and they made an awesome sound. We stood at the doorway with the sound reverberating across the street outside. Small gems like this are the side of touring that the fans often know nothing about, but make being on the road so special and are often the most rewarding.
We haven’t seen any of the crew since we arrived in Paris. They left after the London show, travelled overnight to Dover, jumped on the ferry to France and then drove to Paris. By now, they’re checked-in and enjoying a well-deserved sleep in a hotel bed.
The next day, after my breakfast at the hotel, I leave alone needing to buy a jacket as, yet again, I have forgotten to bring a coat with me to a European city in late October. I did this a few years ago upon arrival in Moscow in February! I fail on my mission to find a coat and we all meet in the lobby to travel together to tonight’s gig at Le Trianon. The bus pulls up, and to my delight, I find loads of clothes shops in the area. I find a jacket for €29. Mrs M will be pleased!
The gig is in a lovely Victorian theatre, beautifully ornate with plush red seating. I watched the band soundcheck and, once again, the setlist is different. Tonight I will play Blue Sky and Broke Somebody’s Heart at the sold-out Trianon. The boys and I receive a sensational reception, and the delighted French audience leave the theatre very happy.
After the crew have loaded the bus we leave overnight for an estimated drive of six hours to Amsterdam. We are all slightly mystified as to why the driver stopped the bus on no less than four occasions, making the drive more than ten hours before we arrive at the Apollo Hotel in Amsterdam. This may seem like a bit of a moan but Stix, the bass and drum tech, has woken herself up completely twice, thus messing up her sleep that night in her bunk. Life on the road.
We finally arrive and I am checked in, before being told that lobby call is at 3pm. I go to bed – it’s 9.30 in the morning.
Although half asleep, I remembered to bring some milk and cereal into my room from the bus this morning, and so I have cold milk and cornflakes at 2.30 in the afternoon before I join the band in the lobby.
The crew are long gone to the gig. Tonight is the legendary Paradiso Club, a gig I last played 25 years ago. It’s changed a bit since then! There is great catering here, a lady from New Orleans has made gumbo!
Wild And Free
Tonight’s show is a Halloween special and Warren has decided to play a whole set of Free songs. The band have learnt no less than 30 of them and Warren has reduced it to 19! I’m due to play the last four. Warren has boundless energy, he copes with all things at all times and is consistently nice to people – I take note.
Gov’t Mule has been on the road most of the year and you can tell, they are so together. I watched most of the soundcheck and run-through at the Paradiso, marvelling at Warren’s voice on the Paul Rodgers Free songs. Tonight he’s using my old Whitesnake Marshall head and he sounds truly magnificent. He’s keeping the Marshalls for the rest of the tour – he likes them a lot.
It’s only day five for me but it seems much longer since the drive to Cardiff. Being on a tour bus is bloody hard. You can only understand when you’re part of the tour – it’s relentless. As I said, the crew left the bus at the same time as me this morning at 9am, but while I was having my cornflakes at 2pm, they’d been at the Paradiso for five hours setting up. Rock ’n’ roll is a hard life but their passion is infectious. Eric, Graham, Stix and everybody else, I salute and thank you.
The show is fantastic, the packed Paradiso crowd lapping up every moment before my entrance for the four-song 30-minute encore. The crowd gives me a great standing ovation and, alongside these four gifted musicians, I feel very proud. I say my goodbyes to the boys, and thank Warren for his invitation. It’s been a blast. Fred Cox puts some cash into my hand, and tells me to buy flowers for Mrs Marsden for taking me – and the Marshalls – to Cardiff. My Gov’t Mule tour ends tonight, no more tour bus for me.
The next day I leave the hotel at 11am for Amsterdam Central railway station hoping the boys are resting in their rooms in Hamburg. I take the Eurostar to Brussels, changing there for London, my PRS on my back and suitcase in my hand, but my stories from the last five days could fill a trunk.
I feel strangely alone today, I suppose being totally immersed on the tour bus has revived some old memories. But then Rob Cass, my old friend and producer, just called me on the train asking me to do a session at Abbey Road with Ginger Baker. Another day, another gig. The road really does go on, and on, and on…
“I get a standing ovation and, alongside these four gifted musicians, I feel very proud”
Bernie on stage with The Allman Brothers at New York’s Beacon Theatre in 2014
Bernie’s PRS and Warren Haynes’ Les Paul backstage at London’s 02