You may have read the previous piece by Karen detailing her recent US BOC roadtrip with BOCFanBob last April...
Well... she's been at it again - this time in somewhat less exotic locations - for example, Nottingham may be nice, but it's not the West Coast!!
Although, ironically, the weather was probably hotter as the UK was basking in a record-breaking heatwave - it was the hottest July since records began in 1914 - the perfect weather for sitting in your car in the middle of a traffic jam on the M6... I know I felt like Michael Douglas in "Falling Down" on more than one occasion... I just needed a gun....
This is her account of those seven sweltering days in July 2006...
Sunday dawned very warm and sunny and got hotter and hotter as the morning progressed. Bob and I in company with Alma, reached Dover around midday and found the hotel not long after that. We noticed the big white bus in the carpark but didn't think much of it until we went inside to check in only to be greeted by Official BOC Bus Driver and Legend, Neville, and Tour Manager, Woody. Yes the band were staying there too. Eric, Buck, Jules & Ritchie appeared and a flurry of greetings and hugs were exchanged AND they gave the seal of approval to my 'bad-ass' tattoos as Mr Bloom dubbed them.
We then went into Dover and spent a few very pleasant hours at a preshow BBQ at the house of our online friends Phil, Jan and their adorable sons, Simon and Thomas in company with Paul and Sue, Doug and Anita from Germany and Georg also from Germany, fireman Rob, Jack, Dan, Nigel and Zoe eating and drinking and talking (with some good old-fashioned BOC playing in the background to get us all warmed up for the show later) before returning to our hotel to shower and change. Did I mention it was hot? No? Well it was.
Astor Theatre, Deal
Feeling less refreshed by a shower and change of clothes than we should have we settled thankfully into the air-conditioned car for our short, scenic drive through the Kentish countryside to Deal. Totally unexpected location for a BOC show. A typically pretty and olde worlde, tiny English seaside town and the venue was a tiny tiny theatre on a narrow residential street opposite a row of small cottages. The theatre wasn't only tiny tiny it was hot hot hot!! The band were outside taking what air they could when we arrived and looked very reluctant to go back inside for show time. But they did and so did we only to realise that the stuffy and suffocating atmosphere created by the 300 or so fans that were crammed into the small auditorium would quickly become unbearable.
After an ass-kicking The Red and the Black (no sign of the heat having any adverse effects on the inimitable Bloom growl thank goodness) we found the stairs and headed up to the cafˇ which overlooked the auditorium via a large viewing window. It was stiflingly hot up there too apart from right next to the large open window with a small balcony overlooking the street which allowed in what little breeze there was.
We took up our positions next to this source of relief and determined to suffer the terrible sound we got through the tinny speakers they had up there for the sake of being at least relatively cool. After 4 songs - stunning renditions of Before the Kiss and Shooting Shark btw - and just as they were launching into a particularly rousing version of ME262 a man appeared and started to close "our" window. We protested in vain, apparently the neighbours in the cottages opposite had complained about the noise!! Oh heck.
Unable to stand it up there with no ventilation (call us wimps) we made our way back downstairs and viewed with some awe the amount of sweat dripping off the various band members and the sight of Eric solicitously mopping Buck's brow with a towel before slipping out through an open side door next to the kitchen and listening to the rest of the show out there where it was cool and the sound was pretty good, much better than from upstairs although it would have been nice to have SEEN the show too!! After all they played a magical LDOM AND Dizbusters AND Hot Rails to the howling delight of the crowd. What a bloody show as you can see from the setlist!!
The Red and the Black
Before the Kiss
Cities On Flame
Golden Age of Leather
Last Days of May
[Encore] Hot Rails to Hell
We went back inside when the room cleared somewhat to catch up with the front of stage stalwarts as mentioned before from the BBQ and now with the additions of Marc, Nick and Kath, Roy and his girlfriend from Germany and the 3 Irish madmen James, Seamus and Mike who, melting though they must all have been, had bravely stuck it out for the whole show.
I was really interested to hear the views of my UK friends on new additions to the line up, Richie and Jules, and was delighted to find they had made as huge and extremely favourable an impression on the Brit crowd as they had made in the States since their debut and Dizbusters and Hot Rails had more than satisfied the hardcore who had viewed with envy Stateside setlists in the preceding months.
Afterwards we stood outside and chatted to the Irish guys while Bob went to get the car and were joined by three not entirely sober other fans we didn't know but who were friendly and funny and kept us entertained while we waited.
One of them very astutely picked up that from her accent, Alma wasn't 'from around here' was she? She admitted that no she wasn't and he was instantly all questions about the States. He also came out with the quip of the tour when Bob pulled up at kerbside in the car and Alma and I climbed in. "Fuckin' 'ell look at that - she's got Kenny Rogers driving her cab!!"
Did I mention it was hot in Dover? Yes? Well it was worse in Bilston. Once again our hotel lacked any form of air-conditioning and while there was ice at the bar they appeared to think it was a luxury commodity and therefore to be rationed to one cube per customer per drink.
Anyway after meeting up with Alma's friend Big Rob from the Nazareth boards and the arrival of a sweltering and sweating Roy who had made the journey from Manchester in full leathers on his bike and had made an impromptu detour through Hereford to get there, we went for dinner in the bar and then crammed into the car for the short drive to the club.
Alma expressed her disapproval quite forcefully about not being able to sit between Roy and Rob in the back but Rob was really far too large a personage to fit in there comfortably with two other people so she was forced to settle for making a sandwich out of Roy - who btw looked incredibly cool and comfortable in white linen after his shower and time taken to get over the twin shocks of being greeted by Buck and Eric outside on his arrival and by Alma inside while he was checking in - with me.
Robin 2, Bilston
We arrived at the Robin well before the doors opened. I wanted to be there early to leave tickets on the door for our departed friend Grinningboy Andrew's mother who had said she would try and come and also to arrange for her to have a chair and table to sit at. As it turned out she was unable to come but may I just say that of all the venues the Robin is the most customer friendly and helpful.
The entire staff from management to barstaff to ticket office to security are so welcoming and accommodating and I have it from the road crew that they are also the most efficient and helpful in unloading and setting up and loading up the equipment of any they encountered in the UK. Nothing is too much trouble for them.
For a while we sat outside in the courtyard where mercifully there was some shade and a breeze but curiosity drove me back inside to take a looksee at the support act which Eric had told us featured the lovely daughter of Tony Iommi on lead vocals. They weren't bad and most of the male fans at least seemed to appreciate Miss Iommi's attributes, I'd have been more impressed if she'd brought her dad along but she didn't. Oh well.
We found a place at the back behind the soundboard where there was some semblance of air-con and space to move around when the band came on. I love the new set up at the place but even with space down the front it was too hot for us to consider staying there for the whole show.
That said I rushed forward to the side near the front to witness them opening with Joan Crawford - yes I know some don't think it a good opener but I love it and the crowd at Bilston seemed to like it too - and then a bit later I was down there again for my all time favourite Flaming Telepaths and went forward yet again for my first live and most magical rendition of Perfect Water in ages and found myself glued to the spot when they immediately struck up the opening notes to Astronomy after it. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy the extra space on stage and allowed themselves full flow throughout.
The setlist reflects what a special show it was - even without Dizbusters and Hotrails (I love Black Blade anyway) - and I can't say how much I enjoyed it.
Harvester Of Eyes
See You In Black
Flaming Telepaths (oh yes baby)
Perfect Water (Perfect perfect perfect)
Astronomy (Is this really happening?)
[Encore] Black Blade
The rest of the crowd seemed pretty damned pleased with what was on offer too and once again Jules and Richie went down a storm with the Bilston audience so we set off hotelwards quite content at the end.
So onto to Bonny Scotland where I'm sorry to say BOCFANBob showed his true colours as a male driver. Oh yes, he took out his irritation with the faulty inner city directions to our hotel provided by the AA on his navigator - aka me - said navigator then got snippy with BOCFANBob (all of this much to the unholy amusement of our passenger Alma) but we finally got there and kissed and made up (all of that much to the disgust of our passenger Alma.)
When I booked the Quality Hotel, Glasgow online I'd been interested to read that it was one of the oldest in the city and was reputed to be haunted. An immense Victorian pile attached to Glasgow's central railway station it was certainly an impressive structure and after dragging our cases in the blazing sunshine for what seemed like miles through the streets from the carpark we gladly went inside a to a huge and blessedly cool, marbled and vaulted reception.
The hotel - of course - lacked air-conditioning but had a wonderfully creepy and gothic feel to it not to mention old - most of the carpets, furniture, bedding and dˇcor looked like they were among some of the oldest (and worn out) in Glasgow too. My that place needed a lick of paint or something and as for that lift....
The miles of shadowy corridor on the 5th floor were lined with doors either side and irresistibly reminiscent of the hotel in The Shining. Our footsteps echoed hollowly around us as we searched for our room and just at that moment a small boy peddling furiously on a trike appeared around the corner heading directly for us pursued by a pair of evilly-grinning little girls....we fled screeching like banshees back into the street.
Oh ok so it was carpeted so no echoing footsteps and there was no kid on a trike nor any spectral twins, can't a girl build up a little tension and atmosphere here? - it was still pretty eerie and when I was in the bathroom I wouldn't have been at all surprised to have a red-eyed, screamin' Jack Nicholson come bursting through the door preceded by an axe... "Heeere's Johnneee!!"
But no such rude phenomena interrupted our preparations for going out apart from the hairdryer blowing up on Alma and a strange trick of the light that made it look as though there was a the face of a grouchy old lady - no not mine!! - reflected on the surface of the waste paper bin watching us - yes that was a little weird but she disappeared when Bob came back from the bathroom and I don't think he believed us.
We strolled down the street in search of pre-show sustenance and just a few yards down stumbled right across the Solid Rock cafˇ which had been billed as a meet up place for the travelling fans. Oyster Karma or what!! Unfortunately they'd just closed the kitchen so we briefly took our leave of Davy, Doug, Anita, Jack, Georg et al to go and eat at Wetherspoon's around the corner promising to catch up with them at the Ferry.
The Ferry, Glasgow
Negotiating the gangplank to board the Ferry in the first place took some doing for me and Alma since we were both wearing extremely un-sensible high-heeled shoes and the gangplank was totally unsuitable for walking on in said footwear!! Once aboard, one look at the new layout of the place - the stage lengthways along one side rather than at one end - told me we wouldn't be watching the show from down there. WTF? Which genius decided that was the optimum way to see a show?
It was packed and sweltering even at the 'back' and that was before the support band came on!! So we made our way up to the balcony and took up our positions under what was possibly the only functioning air-conditioner in Glasgow to watch the show. Got a surprisingly good view and excellent sound up there too as well as COOL AIR.
First we slipped outside onto the banks of the Clyde via a convenient firedoor to smoke. We watched with some fascination the striding to and fro and around the Ferry of one imposingly large and shaven-headed fan dressed coolly, appropriately - and very fetchingly - in an open-necked shirt and traditional tartan with sporran and displaying a fine pair of manly calves (Alma had forgotten to bring her mirror-toed shoes so we never got to find out if he was 'dressed' appropriately beneath the tartan too). He came up to us and said, while indicating his outfit, in a very guttural and pronounced Scandinavian accent : "Have you everrr sin anytheeng lak thees?" Pause for effect. "Blue Oystairrrr Kilt!!"
We were joined briefly by a just arriving Allen who came to say hi and pass a few minutes. To be honest he didn't look too well even for Allen, showing all the signs of heat exhaustion and already complaining of the temperature and that was outside so I wondered how he'd cope with the sweatbox conditions onstage in the room below. I say 'onstage' but the band had very little room on that extremely narrow platform they laughing called a stage and poor Jules spent the entire show set back in a sort of cubbyhole so small and cramped his head touched the ceiling and his usual stick tossing and twirling was of a necessity pretty much ruled out.
He must have been suffocated in there but it didn't stop him putting on one hell of a performance. It didn't stop ANY of them putting on one hell of a performance - this was one of the best gigs on the tour and even that stunning setlist doesn't tell the whole story.
The Red & the Black
Summer of Love (15 years old all over again - I LOVE this song!!)
Harvester of Eyes
Cities on Flame
Last Days of May
I Love the Night (this was an unexpected treat)
Hot Rails to Hell
They don't call them the AMAZING Blue Oyster Cult for nothing and Glasgow fans know when they are onto a good thing and they also know their BOC so they were a truly receptive and appreciative audience. Note how Eric was really mixing up the setlists too, those going to all or most of the shows could never complain of any lack of variety. How many other bands would - or even could - do that for the fans?
All that said the conditions were horrendous for the band and how our front row friends could stand it in that melting crush for the entire show I really don't know and they ALL - band and front row fans - have my utmost admiration for such devotion to duty.
OK I've got a confession to make, we didn't go to Southampton. Yes I knew you'd all be shocked. We had our reasons but I understand from those who did make that horrendous journey after spending hours stuck in traffic on route - and all credit to them - that it was a great show, possibly the best on the tour (and no more than those heroic road-warrior fans deserved if you ask me) but we've had our share of great shows and we knew there'd be other great shows in our future so we weren't too envious at missing out.
... and they're right. Refreshed and rested after our mini-break from roadtripping we set out mid-morning after a home-cooked breakfast - yes I can too cook - to find Nottingham and had a lovely leisurely drive through the Derbyshire countryside to get there.
Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
I must admit to having my doubts about the room when we dropped in mid-afternoon to visit with the crew during set up and sound check. It looked awful small to me and looked also like it would get awful hot and sweaty when full. I noted that there was a balcony however and once again resigned myself to seeing the show from above a mini heatstroke episode the day before having taught me a lesson.
And I was right that place was a hellhole down there on the floor they had so many people shoehorned in. Once again I am all admiration for the frontline diehards who could endure that crush but I'm awfully glad I watched the show along with Bob, Jack, Doug and Anita from above in a pretty good spot near the door to the almost empty bar up there. The sound was great and yet another awesome setlist.
Before the Kiss
Harvest Moon (Wasn't I just spoilt rotten this tour?)
Joan Crawford (Allen lost it a bit on the outro on another of my all time favourites unfortunately)
Astronomy (fantastic extended Buck solo, beautiful. I held my breath so long I thought I was going to faint)
Dizbusters (WOOHOO the crowd went bloody wild for this)
Hot Rails (This went down incredibly well with every crowd that heard it)
This was such a great buzz of an evening, fantastic show and fantastic friends around us only marred by the fact I was missing Alma, didn't feel right not having her with us, and the fact that this would be the last time we'd see Paul and Sue who wouldn't be at any further shows until London and we wouldn't be going to London (yeah yeah I know, we're 'lightweights', but Bob had an 'appointment' that day with his future father-in-law and it would have been more than our lives were worth to miss it.)
None of us wanted the evening to end so we all hung around outside having a drink, impromptu photo session and chat fest afterwards so it was quite late when we strolled back to our hotel just around the corner. These pre and post show gatherings with the many friends we've gathered along the way in our BOC adventurings are an enormous part of what makes these tours so special to us along with seeing our favourite band perform so well after all these years.
... how you can't cram 2000 years of it into 2 hours. We decided to take a little detour on our way to Newcastle the next day and visited York for a couple of hours. Well worth a visit but obviously not long enough to get more than a glimpse of the wonders to be found there. Anyway onward to our hotel and the show.
Once again our route plan failed us in the city centre and we did our usual fruitless driving around in circles for a while before finally parking up and deciding to seek the damned place out on foot. Not entirely the AA's fault this time though since the instructions actually took us right to the door...if only we could have seen the door with having to have it pointed out to us by a passing local.
It was buried in the sign-less facade of a shopping centre wall and what sign there was was in frosted glass on glass and was hardly what you would call conspicuous. Still, we found that the exit through the carpark led us out into a street directly behind the venue and we found Neville standing out in the street there by the stage door and chatted with him for a while before going to seek food. We ate at the burger bar opposite the Academy and then went inside to find the best venue so far.
Large, roomy and air-conditioned!! Nice big stage too. So for the first time that tour we watched the whole show from pretty damned near the front row in the Eric zone although at first we were tempted to stand on the curtained off balcony behind the soundboard and watch from there until we realised they were not going to open the curtain.
Never mind, it was great down at the front. Loads of people but plenty of room to move and dance and a whole crowd of young teens down there absolutely rocking out which was great to see and it wasn't them who disgraced themselves by starting a fight early on. What is wrong with these assholes? Fortunately security were right on it and quickly removed the two guys throwing punches.
Only one thing, when the band came on there was something definitely not right, not enough people onstage. I counted them Eric, Buck, Jules, Richie... 4? Allen's keyboards were there and so was his guitar set on a stand but no Allen. WTF? I was worried I'll admit. In Glasgow, Allen had looked far from well despite performing wonderfully and the previous night in Nottingham I'd noticed he still looked pretty rough and that they'd played neither Shark nor LDOM both of which have become vehicles for Allen to show off his guitar skills in recent years and the keyboards on Joan hadn't been great.
Eric announced from the off that there would only be four of them that night since Allen was unwell having had 'triplets' the night before. OK. So on with the show. The gang of 4 certainly did everything they could to compensate for the lack of Allen. They all gave it everything they had and they all seemed to be on incredibly good form, raising their game yet another notch. They rocked, absolutely ferking rocked. It is with absolutely no disrespect to Allen - I hope he gets well quickly and is back in his rightful place onstage as soon as possible - to say that this was a fantastic show even without him, a privilege to witness, how many other bands could cover so well for the loss of a key member that way?
The Red & The Black
Shooting Shark (superb absolutely superb even without Allen)
The Vigil (first time this tour and haunting and chilling and warming and..and...)
Harvester of Eyes
Cities on Flame
Last Days of May (Buck did incredible things with this but this was one song where I really missed Allen's contribution)
Hot Rails to Hell
Once again post show we felt it was too early to end the evening so we hung out in the back street near the bus with a few other fans chatting with the Neville and the crew and the various band members who strolled up to sign stuff and pose for pics before heading around the corner with Doug, Anita and Jack in a hunt for food.
Well ok not dancing exactly but certainly exploring them and getting a taste of what life might have been in an 11th century English castle, Brough Castle to be precise the ruins of which we spotted signposted on our way from Newcastle back to Blackpool. Bob was fascinated by it and I suspect quite fancied himself as a mediaeval Lord of the manor...lock up your village wenches!!
Academy 3, Manchester
After our excursion into history we got back on the road and reached home mid afternoon and got ourselves - and my son Matt who was to attend his first ever BOC show that evening - ready for the short drive to Manchester and our last show this tour. We found parking, thanks to Matt's knowledge of the area and venue, right next to the Academy and after exchanging greetings with Ralph and Marc who were hanging about on the Academy steps we headed off down the road to the Footage to get food and briefly meet up with the travelling online army.
Back at the Academy we bumped into Jack Secret and spent a little time with him on the bus before heading inside through the back door and up the stairs to the room. Too small was my first thought, why if it was such an instant sellout hadn't they moved it into the much larger room downstairs?
No way I was going forward, the room was jam-packed and steaming hot so we found a place at the back near the soundboard and to the side of the bar. Allen was missing again but Jack had told us that he had spent most of the day in a Manchester hospital being treated for heat exhaustion and would be leaving for the United States early the following day. Get well soon Allen, we miss you!!
What can I say about the show? Well here's the setlist:
The Red and the Black
Before the Kiss
Summer of Love ("This ain't, this ain't ..." oh yes it is take it from me)
Harvester of Eyes
Cities on Flame
Black Blade (bloody hell this song rocks my world, tell me Eric Bloom isn't the MAN)
LDOM (how does the Buckmeister do it?? Phenomenal!!)
Diz-Busters (would have seen an almighty tantrum from me if they hadn't played this at my last show and from a guy nearby me who was yelling for it to be played all evening.)
I Love the Night
Hot Rails (Richie played and sang out of his skin)
A blinding performance. They got a hugely enthusiastic reception from the Manchester audience and they more than delivered with an out of this world show Yes Allen's contribution was missed in certain places but the rest of them did more than enough to 'fill in the blanks'. Woody appeared to have one or two problems with the soundboard a time or two but other than that there was hardly a blip.
My son went forward for LDOM, he wanted to see Buck's solo (wish I'd gone with him, some prat behind us insisted on talking in a very loud voice to his companions right the way through it - aaargh) and also Richie and Jules' solos in Godzilla and I was gratified to see how impressed he was when he came back.
After Jack took us backstage so we could say our farewells to the band and crew and give them our thanks for a storming series of shows and then we went out to meet up with all our friends who were waiting by the bus. After saying our goodbyes to the band - again - when they came out, we were very reluctant to just jump in the car and go home.
It wouldn't have felt right so we allowed ourselves to be persuaded to go to the pub across the road with our online fan friends for a while and I am so glad we did it was the right and fitting way to end our part in another hugely successful UK tour. Many thanks to BOC, the road crew for all their hard work and all the fans we met and partied with during those 6 days and nights.
[ July 2006 ]