Well, the fruits of our labours are finally available for the world to see:
Well, the fruits of our labours are finally available for the world to see:
It was with heavy hearts that we headed down the motorway to Brighton for the last night of the tour, and the sense that something wonderful was coming to an end hung tangibly between us all.
However, this was slightly alleviated by the BEST LOAD-IN EVER. It may seem trivial to you, but after two decades of gigging it was an absolute dream to be able to park right opposite the stage door and trundle the harp a few feet to the back of the stage. I even took a photo for posterity:
The venue was amazing too – we were playing in the Corn Exchange – part of the venue complex by the Pavilion:
Kath checks out the dressing room:
And I check out the rider – they had Montezuma dark chocolate buttons!!
We went to an amazing toastie shop in the South Lanes for a late lunch:
Awesome hot chocolate!
Unfortunately Stephen came a cropper right before we went on stage, falling down a carelessly opened hatch backstage in the dark and badly grazing and bruising his leg.
Like the true professional he is, he carried on regardless and we played really well. Toumani joined us for our last song – the Be Mankan/Love Will Tear Us Apart medley, and our harp/kora duet was probably the best of the tour.
Yet again, Toumani played a corking set:
As an encore he was joined on stage by another kora player – Baboucar Konte – and a fantastic singer (who also plays kora), Jali Fily Cissokho. The two harps blended seamlessly together, and the singer’s voice was magical:
Here’s some Youtube footage of their performance (It’s a bit shakey, mind):
But that wasn’t enough for the last night, so as a final encore Toumani was joined by Stephen for a performance of “their” song:
And then it was over. All that remained was to head backstage for some sad goodbyes (though we hope they’re more ‘au revoir’ than farewell forever) and take a few photos for posterity:
Here’s me and the main man: Toumani Diabate – kora maestro and one of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever had the privilege to meet and perform with. And he was *lovely*:
Saturday was meant to be our day off but because sleep is for wusses, we headed to Miloco studios in Hoxton Square to record some of the tracks we’ve been performing live during the tour.
The harp had a bit of a diva moment after being thrown around the country in the back of a van. It took a lot of gaffer tape slapped up her insides to fix it up:
Huge thanks to sound engineer Jarred for putting up with us and keeping the mics clear of the “twatting zone” (the area around the harp where I’m most likely to smack them with my hands).
Kath has a quick pre-take panic:
Manager Chris keeps us in check:
Ellie’s either tuning or up to mischief:
We were absolutely thrilled to be joined by Toumani Diabate for a couple of hours to record a few tracks with us, including the acoustic version of Love Will Tear Us Apart that we’ve been playing with him on stage. Stephen was quite overawed:
Then we played him the original Joy Division version, which he’d never heard before. He found it hilarious:
We were totally blown away by the whole thing. Just… wow…
This was the big one – a sold-out gig in our home town and the penultimate night of the tour. It’s a fantastic venue that I’ve played in several times before, and it was spinetingling to hear Toumani’s kora echoing round the vaulted ceiling as he and his band did their soundcheck:
Our dressing room was a bit pokey, to be honest:
I found somewhere handy to keep my backstage pass:
The band set up the mobile CD pressing plant and got cracking with churning out some CDs as we’d nearly sold out of all the stock we brought on the tour:
Ben Eshmade from Arctic Circle turned up to do an interview with Stephen and Ellie – this picture captures Stephen mid-transition into an acoustic rock god:
We played an absolute blinder, and Toumani joined us again onstage for our medley of Be Mankan/Love Will Tear Us Apart, which went down a storm:
As usual, Toumani and his band played a great set:
And again, Stephen joined Toumani onstage for his encore:
They are totally BFFs now:
Afterwards we all went out for a celebratory curry in Kentish Town at the Bengal Lancer – it was yummy 🙂
The only downside was that it was a pretty late night, yet again, and we had to be up early for a Very Important Day on Saturday…
It was a long and drizzly drive from Liverpool to Southampton for the next leg of our tour, and we were all feeling pretty tired. Arriving in Southampton didn’t do much to lift our mood as we drove aimlessly round the university campus in search of the Turner Sims concert hall.
We found it in the end, after some Fargo-esque banter with a local:
Ellie and Kath wait under the posters of Toumani:
When we eventually got to the venue things got worse, as they hadn’t got the right backline for Toumani’s band, we didn’t have a proper dressing room, the staff were less than helpful, and our soundcheck was dogged by technical problems.
The look on Ellie’s face here pretty much sums up our attitude to the soundcheck:
As a result, we were a bit more apprehensive about the gig than usual.
Luckily it went really well, although my onstage monitor was crackling the entire way through, which was very off-putting. Still, Toumani’s set was amazing, and Stephen joined him onstage for another performance of the song they’re been writing together this week:
We retired to the dressing room afterwards to listen to Chris’ diatribe about the state of European politics. Ellie and Kath were clearly fascinated:
Then it was time to get back in the van and haul ass to London to sleep in our own beds at last in preparation for the next gig – one of the highest-profile nights of the tour at a sold-out Union Chapel in Islington. Eeeek!
I’ve lost count of what day we’re on with this tour, on account of spending three days at the NCRI Cancer Conference while the rest of the band – including my harp – went up to Edinburgh and Kendal without me.
I picked up the tour again in Manchester, playing in the Concert Hall at the Royal Northern College of Music:
Here’s all our stuff, including the harp safely back from her solo adventures. Thanks to stand-in harpist Camilla Pay for looking after her and playing her beautifully, by all accounts:
Toumani came on stage to join us for the end of our set – we did his song Be Mankan and an amazing acoustic cover of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart. And he and Steve wrote a song together which they did as Toumani’s encore – here they are soundchecking:
We had a huge backstage room!
Here we are live on stage:
The venue didn’t provide any food, but we managed to track down a phenomenally greasy pizza and some wine after the gig:
And then we headed back to Stephen’s parents’ place in Liverpool to stay the night and play with their little dog Penny:
Next stop Southampton!
Our next destination was Leeds – city of goths and gorgeous Yorkshire accents.
The gig was in the Howard Assembly rooms – a smaller venue than the previous two nights. We were dogged by problems in our soundcheck, which made us feel very apprehensive about the gig. Toumani and his band also had a few problems with the sound, and ended up borrowing cellist Kath’s DI box.
But then our nerves were forgotten when Stephen and Kath ended up in Toumani’s dressing room jamming with him! It was such a privilege to watch them playing together, and we’re now working on a very special mashup to play at our gig in Manchester on Wednesday. If you look carfeully in the pics below, you may be able to see that Stephen nearly wet his pants with excitement…
Despite the dodgy sound and our nerves, our gig went well – check out the relieved faces!
We snuck in through the Grand Theatre to watch the end of Toumani’s set:
Yet again, he and his band were incredible. Watch this space for a sneaky video of his encore, as soon as I’m somewhere with decent internet access!
After another night in a Travelodge (we went for the super-budget option of all sleeping in one room), Kath, Ellie and Stephen got in the van and headed to Edinburgh with my harp but without me. I trekked off to Liverpool to spend three days at the NCRI Cancer Conference with my work hat on, but felt absolutely gutted not to be going with them. Meh.
I’m blogging from the conference and producing audio and video coverage on behalf of Cancer Research UK and the NCRI. Although it’s nowhere nearly as much fun as being on tour, our Science Update blog has been nominated for a Pfizer Excellence in Oncology award so I’m looking forward to the awards ceremony on Tuesday night. Fingers crossed!
After a cracking breakfast, courtesy of Steve’s mum, we headed back down the motorway to Birmingham, and an even bigger venue – the Town Hall. We had a lovely backstage room, complete with goodie bags on the rider!
I kept myself busy knitting a pair of stripey socks, made from some beautiful handpainted Misti Alpaca (the colour is called Reggaeton, for all you music fans out there!):
I was impressed by the technical wizardry in the Town Hall – the monitor mix engineer did everything with an iPad, which was brilliant, as he could just wander round stage and talk to us, rather than shouting across the stage. Here he is in action with Toumani Diabate and his band during their soundcheck:
It was a big gig for us – there were around 1,200 people in the audience, but we played really well and it was a fantastic venue. Here are our instruments on stage, waiting for us to bring them to life:
Afterwards, we headed off to our luxury accommodation (aka Travelodge) somewhere in the wilds of Derbyshire. next stop – Leeds!
The Revere tour, supporting Toumani Diabate around the UK, started on Thursday with me sitting for an hour on the stairs like an over-excited 5-year-old, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the rest of the band.
Once we’d unpacked and repacked the van in the pissing rain, we set off for Liverpool. The venue for our first gig, St George’s Hall, was more than a little imposing:
We escaped backstage to our huge dressing room to chill out/panic (delete as applicable):
I snuck out to watch Toumani Diabate and his band soundchecking:
It was a fantastic venue to kick off our tour, with an amazing chandelier:
Our gig went brilliantly well, especially considering it was the first time we’d performed our acoustic set. I was nervous as hell as I was doing the set from memory for the first time too, but the audience reception was wonderful. Kath and Ellie from the band were suitable relieved afterwards:
Booking agent Charlie and manager Chris were also pleased with our performance:
We also got to hear Toumani’s set, and it was incredible. I love the sound of the kora, and his playing is superb.
Overall – a great start. We headed back to Steve’s parents’ house on the Wirral for a late-night snack and some puppy love:
Next stop, Birmingham!
It started innocently enough with a tweet from Stephen, lead singer with the brilliant acoustic pop/indie band Revere. Regular readers may remember that the Shadow Orchestra played with them at the Tabernacle almost exactly a year ago, and a jolly good time we had too.
He asked if I liked the famous Malian kora player Toumani Diabate – the kora is a rather bizarre harp-like instrument. I love Toumani, and his album In The Heart of The Moon with Ali Farka Toure is on heavy rotation on my CD player.
Next thing I know, I’m being invited to join Revere on tour around the UK, supporting Toumani! EeeeeeeeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeee!!
We’ve been rehearsing hard for several weeks and our set sounds fantastic, so I’m really looking forward to getting out on the road. We head off on Thursday (that’s tomorrow – argh):
I’ll try and blog from the tour, so watch this space.