It was slightly different getting up in the morning only to transport myself from one side of town to another – from one situation to another. From the Metal God to a guitar-gig.
I was still in Kensington where I had spent most of my day at Sony Music’s office, listening to the new Judas Priest album and talking to “The Metal God” himself, Rob Halford. NOW, I was checking out from my fancy Kensington high street 4-star hotel, to take the tube over to Angel station (funny – the song “Angel” by Judas Priest was in my head the whole time…!)
It was pretty easy finding my new hotel. What I didn’t realize was that it was right down the street from the venue where the Marty/Gus-gig was taking place later that evening: O2 Academy Islington.
I always pick hotels that are as close to the venues as possible, but this had to be a record! It was literally maybe 20 steps from the back door of the venue…!
I found a familiar face, Andy, sitting outside in the sun just chilling. It was the calm before the storm. Chatted for a minute or two, then I left him to just enjoy the few minutes of peace he would have that day, and went over to my hotel to check in.
After an hour, I went back out again, thought I would find something to eat, but after a short stroll around the block, I couldn’t find anything that I was in the mood for, so I went back to the venue.
During the 30 minutes that followed, I managed to steal a few minutes from the busy crew guys and a few band members who had been out for a walk and were about to start load-in. :)
There were two fans outside the club with plastic bags full of records, and I was wondering if they were there for Marty or Gus. Turns out, neither. They were there for Mats. They had every single CD he’s ever sung on…! And there was……a LOT. :D
Jo came off the bus, looking slightly dazed. So, while the load-in was in progress, I went inside the O2 with Jo and Or. They went looking for the dressing room, while I decided to just find someplace to make myself invisible, stay out of the way and just be a “fly on the wall”. :D
During the hours in there, I watched two sound checks, by Marty Friedman and Gus G, a video shoot for Marty’s new video and a “lesson”/rehearsal thing with Herman Li from Dragonforce who was going to join the guys on stage later that evening.
[Marty shooting a video] I bumped into Marty out in the stairwell. He smiled: “Oh, hi! You take good pictures. I like your photos.” I figured he probably must have liked them, cause I’ve seen a few of his updates that included some of my pics. I’m glad he liked them. :)
It was crazy hot inside so I went outside and found Or (bassplayer for both bands) there too. When Jo came out he immediately went: “Let’s go get some food!”. Food was the keyword. I was starving! So off we went.
Found a Vietnamese restaurant nearby, the menu sounded good, prices reasonable. And best of all, free WiFi (was pretty much the first thing Jo asked for, haha!).
I don’t exactly remember what I ordered but it was spicy…! And then we couldn’t quite figure out the currency (three people from 3 different countries, with the wallets full of various mysterious currencies, not necessarily the kind that is accepted in that particular country…!).
When we got back to the venue, the doors had already opened and there were people standing at the barriers, so I took my place there too. Last gig, thought I’d get a few pics and vids.
The opening act, Primitai, was okay. Never heard of them before – but they were alright. I remember thinking they had a good drummer. He didn’t look like a “powerful drummer” but he hit pretty hard and I liked his style.
Next on stage – Gus G. It was the perfect ending to my Guitar Universe tour, cause if I compare the level of energy at the first show in Tampere, Finland, with this one in London, it was very clear how much the band had grown into a true unity and what they were able to deliver.
Jo Nunez, drummer extraordinaire, impressed me more than anyone on this tour, funny enough. He’s always been an impressive drummer, but now he’s a full-fledged showman and entertainer as well.
He’s up there killing his drums every night but he’s gone from being a quiet guy that was almost invisible on his first tour with Firewind, to this mohawk-adorned, cool madman that’s spinning drumsticks, throwing them up in the air, challenging the crowd to make more noise, standing up behind the drum set letting his presence be known… He’s probably one of the best acquirings Gus has made for his band. :)
All I can say is: Jo-sus Christ!
Same goes with the new aquaintance, the bass-master from Israel: Or Lubianiker. Make no mistake, maybe people will take him for a shy and quiet guy seeing him offstage, but once he’s up there, he’s definitely not making any excuses. Just like Jo, he was working double-shifts, playing for Gus and Marty on the whole tour, keeping a steady and reliable rythm section for both guitar heroes.
While I guess that most of the guys in the crowd were guitar-geeks, I’m sure that there were some pretty impressed bassists there as well, who were checking out Or’s dexterity and experiencing total bass Or-gasms… (yeah, pun intended. ;D).
Mats Levén is a given frontman, he certainy has the pedigree to prove it too. He’ll sing whatever you throw at him, and he will do it well.
And Gus G himself? What can I say- I’m running out of adjectives! He was in a good mood which led to a more intense communication with the crowd.
The ONLY thing I would want to see more of from Gus, is an Yngwie-style guitar-pick rain during his set, to “feed” the hungry guitarists in the front row.
Those dudes down there would kill their own mothers for one of his picks…! More of that, and I think the “guitar geeks ” would walk on pink clouds for DAYS.
Cause needless to say, there are mostly guys in the crowd. How do you get more girls to the shows? My suggestion, from a female point of view, would be simple: Bring the “hair-fan” next time, it’s gonna work (well, it’s always worked for Steve Vai)! ;)
Other than that, he plays like a god. Always. I liked the songs from his solo-album before the tour, but I’ve gotten new favorites as I’ve kept hearing them live over and over again. “Eyes wide open” for instance has been stuck in my head for days already!
Also, their rendition of Thin Lizzy‘s “Hollywood – (Down on your luck)” was really one of the best so far. There was a drive and an energy in the performance of that particular song in London, that was really contagious.
Then, after the change-over, Marty time! Like I’ve said before, he’s got a very natural stage personality and that combined with his material, which is a winning mix between melodic, heavy and “riffy” instrumentals, simply makes time FLY!
He and his “partner in crime”, Takayoshi Ohmura, are constantly interacting with the crowd, making sure every single person out there feels like a part of the show. It’s virtuosity in every sense of the word, but not in a boring, nerdy sort of way, it’s made accessible and enjoyable for all kinds of people (providing of course that you like music…).
Before I knew it, he was done and it was time for that one last song, that one last little surprise…. Which this time wasn’t only Gus as a special guest, but also Dragonforce’s Herman Li. Yet another fast shredder to add to the equation. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, here we go!
After the show, I remembered that I was wearing high heels (I usually go to these gigs in sneakers cause I always have to walk a lot, but this time with my hotel being so close, I chose the heels instead). Those things were KILLING me after so many hours or standing and walking, so I figured I’d just go and say bye to the guys and then get a bit of sleep.
Flashed my laminate to the security guy and went to the backstage area.
My original idea was to wait at least 20-30 minutes so the guys could just get a break before people started barging into their dressing room, but when two guys just walked right in, I just went right along with them. What the hell, if nobody else thinks in my unfashionable “considerate” terms, then I’ll just go along with the crowd, lol! :)
It was slightly crowded back there, all kinds of people. Glad to finally have met Sharon from the management as well. She was actually the first person I was in touch with before that Relentless garage-gig in London years ago, and then I’ve seen her name online many times, but never actually met her. So that was nice. :)
Gus was stuck in this tiny production office with people walking in and out. I could only see a bit of his black Converse snakers and hear him back there somewhere – otherwise he was pretty much invisible.
When a handful of guests had left the backstage area I just stuck my head in and asked if I needed to take a number or something. :) It was kind of like in a dentist’s office. “Neeeext!”
He was talking to the guy who’s made Firewind’s cover-artwork and also for the latest solo-album. So as it turned out, the Firewind-symbol silver-pendant that I was wearing, had in fact originally been designed by him.
Pretty cool, you rarely ever meet those people. As always after a show, people just scatter all over the place so I never got to say bye to any of the crew guys, Jo had left to take a shower but it took a while so I just decided to call it a night and leave the area.
It’s been different, but good and I hope there will be more touring soon.
Reflections on coming home: Welcome to Tour Twilight Zone
The Guitar Universe Tour 2014, with Marty Friedman and Gus G ended in Nuneaton two days ago. My last destination on that tour was London, the day before.
It hasn’t even been as intense for me this time as it was two years ago when I did one date after another for two weeks in a row. This time, I chose to pick a few shows here and there. But now that it’s over – there’s an empty feeling.
It’s ALWAYS like that. It sounds strange, I’m sure, cause this is something that you hear from the musicians usually. That it’s a weird feeling coming home after being out for weeks. But it’s the same for me.
The only difference is that I choose other ways of transportation and I’m on the OTHER side of the stage (as opposed to being ON it) but other than that, I’d say that my reality is pretty similar to theirs.
And I often feel that my life is divided in different realities. A total Twilight Zone.
There is what I think of as my REAL life – which is the music. Just all the situations where I’m in an environment where there are musicians, fans, crews….Simply people who share a passion for music. THAT is my home and my true reality, the place where I belong.
Then, there’s that other reality, the life we all have to live, surrounded by people who don’t understand this at all. And I suddenly feel like a stranger.
When I came back to Copenhagen and Malmo after the London “Metal God trip”, people asked me who I went to see. And I was still like an enthusiastic teenager wanting to share that amazing feeling of having met Rob Halford again (doesn’t matter it’s been many times, EVERY time is special to me).
But that enthusiasm just dies instantly when somebody goes: “Oh okay. Well, I don’t know who that IS but I’m sure you had a good time.” It’s not their fault, they want to hear about my trip and they are genuinely curious, but it always reminds me that there are places where I feel right at home, and there are places where I feel like an alien sometimes.
When I come back from a tour, my head is spinning, it’s filled with memories, I’m processing all the faces, places, feelings, experiences… It just makes me feel so alive…!
And it’s not even necessarily the musicians that I remember the most, it can be anything or anyone. I remember specific faces/people that left an impression, maybe at the front desk in some hotel, or maybe a cool cab driver, or someone I met outside the venue or whatever…. So many different people, different countries, yet so similar.
It just makes me more aware of my own place in this world. It gives me the right perspective on life.
Music is what’s running through my veins, I couldn’t live without it. So, for me, staying at home is like taking away my oxygen.
A friend of mine asked me a while ago, how I could even keep up with the constant travelling and then going straight back to work after landing at the airport, only to go work late and go back to being “a slave to the grind”. Don’t you get tired?
The thing is, I would get tired if I WASN’T doing this. :) This is my energy, my passion, my love in life. I would be extremely unhappy if my life was spent in front of a TV watching other people live their lives. I want to live my OWN – my way. And this is it.
Next up is Sweden Rock Festival – my second home. It even helped me getting through the shock and the grief after losing my father last year. As weird as it was at first, to be there so soon after his passing, it was the only right place to be, and it really gave me the comfort I needed.
After that, Rob Zombie in Rome, Italy. I had been looking forward to seeing Megadeth as well, as those two bands were touring together but they just cancelled all their June-dates so I don’t know who’s filling in.
Either way, I can’t wait.
Being back from a tour is good for five minutes, cause I get to catch up on my sleep and with my friends. But it also feels empty somehow. I’m not into being “static”. I hope that some band or artist that I like, announces a tour soon so I can start planning. Life is just way too short to be doing nothing…!
New post coming up, from the Guitar Universe gig in London!
The journey to the next destination, Helsinki, started very early in the morning from Tampere central station. I had a good night’s sleep and was ready to face another long day of travel and finding my way around new places…
The train was modern, clean and very comfortable. It had free WiFi and it almost felt like the trip was too short when I finally arrived in Helsinki.
It was nice and sunny (still cold, but at least sunny) so I decided to walk. The hotel was a 30 minute walk from the station. It was nice to see a little bit of the city that way. My impression of it was that it was very colorful. Bright colors on some of the houses, nicely painted pillars under a bridge, just nice sights.
I had booked the hotel that was closest to the venue, a SAS Radisson hotel. Hopefully that will get me extra SAS points (already got 4 free flights this year thanks to those points).
Very impressive lobby but once I got to my room, it wasn’t anywhere near the size or class of the Scandic hotel I had just enjoyed in Tampere. The bathroom was so tiny, you could barely get in or out, and forget about having anywhere to put your tooth brush or anything else. I wasn’t impressed. Not for THAT room rate. But hotels are often like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.
I spent a few hours just relaxing and then decided to go for a walk to check out the surroundings and find the venue.
It was really nice, right by the water. But, once again – damn it was COLD!
I found the place, and it looked cool. They had this huge banner on the building with the names of the artists that were playing – among those Gus, Marty and Steve Vai apparently. :) Not bad, Helsinki…!
A few young girls were outside giggling and having blankets with them along with a blasting radio. Didn’t look like your typical Gus or Marty-type of crowd. It was more what I would expect from a sleaze- or glam band. As it turned out later, I was right. There was an opening act that night that WAS exactly an 80’s type of sing-along band. And the girls were in front screaming with their home-made piece of sheet with the name of the band on it. Just like back in the good ol’ days! :D
This time I spent pretty much all day at the hotel, except for a short stroll I took to find something to eat and once again stumbled upon a McDonalds. Another funny thing THERE was that the guy who served me at McDonalds, showed up at the gig later. Who would have thought, he didn’t look like a rocker at all. :)
But I was afraid I was going to catch a bad cold in that horrible weather, and since I hadn’t been in touch with anyone to be let in before the doors opened, I just went in the very last minute so that I could just walk RIGHT in and not be outside more than necessary.
The Helsinki crowd was a good rock crowd, they were providing the energy for the band to feed off and send right back to them. :) Just the way it should be.
Enjoy a few pix and clips from it here to make up your own mind about the gig – I thought it was great as always. :)
I don’t know if it was bad air conditioning there or if I was just tired, but I didn’t see all of Marty’s show, I went back to the hotel and grabbed a French hot dog at the gas station on the way.
Not a very “happening” day in Helsinki, compared to some of the other places I go to, but in the end – it’s all about the music anyway. I’m not a tourist and probably never will be.
Once again, went to bed at some point after midnight to be in shape for the next destination: Stockholm
[Stockholm blog coming up in a few hours]
The much anticipated Guitar Universe tour 2014 with Gus G and Marty Friedman finally hit the roads of Europe, and so did I!
My journey started at Malmö central station where I took the train to Stockholm on the 30th of April. It’s one of the most relaxing ways to travel, especially in the spring where you can truly enjoy the scenery. When the train crossed a few little lakes, it felt like we were “walking on water”. Beautiful.
I arrived at a busy Stockholm central, and used my smartphone’s GPS to find Hard Rock Cafe where I was meeting up with a friend later that day. I enjoy walking, and it’s especially enjoyable to take a walk in the sun. :)
Hours went by, I spent some time in the Hard Rock Cafe bar playing drink inspector. I love colorful, sweet drinks…! My friend Tina finally showed up and we could catch up a little. Haven’t seen her in years.
It started getting darker and that was my cue to get going so I could find my airport hotel before it got dark. Airport transportation is usually pretty expensive, but by reading tips from other travellers online, I found a way to get there pretty cheap by rail and bus.
I fell asleep pretty early (for my standards) cause sleeping is luxury when you’re out on these gig-trips. You try to get as much sleep as you possible can.
When I woke up early next morning, around 5 AM, I could barely believe my eyes. May 1st in Sweden – and there was SNOW outside?! It was freezing cold, and I didn’t’ have winter clothes, cause when I left Malmo it was spring! Oh brother….this was going to be interesting.
[The first thing I saw when I looked out the window in Stockholm, May 1st, 2014!]
The airport transfer bus was jam-packed. Got to Arlanda airport, my next destination was Tampere, Finland.
There were maybe 10 people on that tiny little SAS-flight and I could only laugh and shake my head at the fact that the plane was 55 minutes late because it needed de-icing…in MAY!
The captain went: “Well, we’apologize for the delay, but the de-icing station is slightly understaffed. We usually don’t need their services this time of year...”. :)
[Flying into Tampere, Finland…]
Tampere airport was like a ghost airport. Very small and absolutely nothing to see or do. I took a cab to Omena hotel which I thought was going to be my temporary home in Tampere. But when I got there, it dawned on me what kind of “hotel” it was. No reception, no staff, no nothing.
You got a key-code to access the premises and your room. And that didn’t work. The code/key would be “activated” at 4 PM. So there I was, at 10 AM, freezing my ass off, still tired, hungry and just needing a place to put my bags, change and relax before heading off to find the venue.
A McDonald’s was right around the corner and as much shit as you can shove on McDonald’s for various reasons, it has been my saviour many times when I’ve been out on these trips. It provides cheap food, free WiFi and bathroom. It’s the small things that count when you’re out travelling on your own.
I tried to get in touch with the Omena staff by e-mail, explaining the situation, asking if there was any possibility to get the access code to work a bit EARLIER than 4 in the afternoon, that’s extremely LATE. Nothing. To this day they still haven’t replied in any way, shape or form.
So, I thought… fuck it. I looked up another hotel nearby on my booking.com app and just walked in, asking if they had anything available for 1 person, 1 night. That was Scandic Hotel Tampere Station. The best thing I could have done! Sometimes, shit happens so that it can turn into something good.
The guy at the reception was super nice, I got a good discount, he asked what kind if room I would like, tub or shower, explained the details and was just helpful without being “in your face”-nice. When I opened the door to my room, I almost heard angel choirs and harps…! Wow.
It was modern, cool, had everything you needed and then some! It’s, hands down, the second best hotel I’ve ever stayed at. The best is still hotel Avalon in Gothenburg. But this is a worthy competitor. Normally I would have praised this place in booking.com’s review section but since I just walked in off the street, I’ll just mention a few things here in case other travellers to Tampere are looking for a great place to stay. It wasn’t that expensive either.
Sound proof – I couldn’t hear a thing from the rails, the street or other guests. Wonderful silence…!
Warm floors. Even in bathroom.
Usually hotels are focused on male travellers but this one had thought about the female ones as well. There was plenty of space to put my makeup in the bathroom, a huge mirror and good lighting.
The soap was organic and smelled great.
Another thought-through detail was the “night light” in the bathroom – a small, tiny light that lit up the commode so you don’t have to turn the big, bright lights on when you get up in the morning and need to go to the bathroom. THAT was probably my favorite feature. Again, it’s the small things that count. :)
And the BED…! I could have slept there all day, so comfortable. I felt like a queen.
But the best thing of all: It was right across the street from the venue, Klubi!
I walked down there to check out the premises, looked like a typical rock club. No activity going on though, so I went to get some dinner.
When I came back, I heard drums – actually, you could hear those thundering, wild drums all the way up to the railway tracks…!
A guy who was obviously from the club, approached me and started talking Finnish, so I told him I didn’t understand a word he just said.
– Oooh, sorry. I’m looking for a woman, but I don’t know what she looks like, he said.
OK, well. Hard to help you there my friend. :) A bit later on, I was picked up by a kind and familiar face and brought into the nice and warm club. At that point I felt like an ice-lolly or something, man it was cold!
But when you’re out on these things, there’s really nothing better to do than hang around the venue – as crazy as it sounds. There’s only so much you can do at the hotel or a restaurant, and even that gets old. Anyway, I caught a few minutes of the sound check, which was great.
It was nice to see all the familiar people and hear a little bit of Marty’s stuff as well. Mats came down to say hi when they were done, and Jo kept me company for a little while, as always, before heading off to grab a bite somewhere before the show. It’s always great to see him, I was really glad he was announced as the drummer on this tour.
That’s what I enjoy the most I think, the super sweet guys in the band and crew. In a way I share a lot of their memories cause we’ve been to the same places, all over the planet, pretty much. :) Europe. the US, Australia…
Doors opened and people started coming in. I noticed a slightly different type of crowd than you would find at a Firewind gig. Many “geeky” guys who were clearly guitarists and were there mainly to check out the fretboard techniques of Gus and Marty…
And then it was finally time to kick off this tour with some brand new music from the young guitar virtuoso Gus G and his rock-tight band. It’s always a ballsy thing to do, to go on the road with a brand new album, presenting a brand new concept. I’d say that most of the crowd didn’t know the material yet, as “I Am The Fire” came out only about two months ago.
The crowd wasn’t the drunk Beavis & Butthead type of crowd, but I watched some of them, trying to “scan” the reactions of people, and noticed the approving nods and the very concentrated looks on their faces. If you were a mind-reader you would probably hear them go “damn, this guy is SICK…!“.
There are different ways to show appreciation and this crowd was most approving indeed, but in their own, silent kind of way (to start with at least, they got into it soon enough!)
As for me, seeing THIS constellation for the first time too, I’d say it was as tight as a frog’s ass. I was there when drummer Jo Nunez was brand new in Firewind and I’ve seen him grow with the band since then. He was brilliant back then as well, but now he’s a confident showman too and really fun to watch.
I received a message from a fan who had seen the videos from Tampere who said that he wouldn’t mind just watching a “Jo-cam” cause he’s entertaining. Thumbs up for that, it’s awesome.
Both Jo and bassist Or Lubianiker are working double shifts on this tour. Or, as Or put it on his Facebook-page: “Me and Jo (one hell of a drummer) held it down nice and tight for Marty, Gus and Takayoshi to pour some guitar awesomeness on top.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself. :)
Mats is the born frontman, he is just a natural talent in every aspect. He looks and sounds the part – and he’s working his butt off. So is Gus, and he always delivers. I wouldn’t be out here for the third year in a row, if he didn’t.
It’s a shame though, that Gus tends to gets stuck in different “boxes” that limits the type of crowd he could and should be drawing.
His solo album is not a “guitar album” – you do get great guitar work if that’s what you’re looking for, but most of all, it contains a bunch of great, classic style hard rock songs.
So now, it’s a “guitar-crowd” when it should be a regular hard rock crowd as well. It’s definitely not an easy business to be in. :)
[For the guitar-enthusiasts:]
I’d say it was a good evening with a crowd that started out as slightly reserved but ended up rockin’ like a real metal crowd once they got a little loosened up! :)
I haven’t seen Marty Friedman since his days with Megadeth, so I had no idea what to expect. I was pleasently surprised. Eventhough I didn’t know the material and it was 100% instrumental, I found myself getting closer and closer to the stage cause he has an interesting way of mesmerising a crowd.
It’s not just his playing. there’s no point “reviewing” guys like Gus or Marty – anyone with ANY knowledge or music, knows what they can do and what level of musicianship they’re on.
But Marty exudes such joy, enthusiasm and pure passion on stage. You can see every single emotion that he goes through in any given moment, by just watching his face. He’s like an open book and I think that really appeals to people. You don’t have to be a guitar geek to be fascinated by this guy. Anything that is genuine will ALWAYS get the attention of people.
I heard a girl saying after his show in Stockholm, “I don’t really like this kind of music, but I stayed throughout the whole show, I didn’t want to leave”. I rest my case. :)
And then…. as icing on the cake – the evening was concluded with this. See the video footage below. I was right in the middle of the warmed up crowd and it was awesome. :)
I left straight after the show to get some sleep. Had an early wakeup call the next morning.
Next destination: Helsinki
[Watch for the next tour blog in a few hours…]