October 11, 2010
Entry by Kipp Lennon:
Okay, so I took awhile to add the next installment. I've been doing my best to keep this blog from feeling like homework, so I just take a few notes here and there, then finally put it all together at some point. Like... Well, like homework. But, you know, I want to live it, mostly. I'm now in New York, on a day off after playing two shows at Madison Square Garden, followed by sold out gigs at arenas in Buffalo, NY and Washington, DC. That's not a sentence you get to type every day.
I'll fill you in on a bit... (And please pardon the occasional jumps from past to present tense and back again. Some of this I'm writing a few weeks after the fact, but trying to put you in the moment as well. Cheap excuse... Apologies to Mrs. Dahlin.)
Chapter 3 begins with us leaving our rehearsal space in New York and heading to the private jet for a short flight to Toronto. Everyone in the band has toured with Roger for many years now, and they're accustomed to things like private jets. But for us newcomers to this level of touring, it really is a luxury that feels almost like a joke. We would have been happy with tour buses. A 737 that the Lakers usually use, filled with all business class type seats and snacks and smiles, and an easy hang with a nice crew, and tons of empty seats. Ridiculous. At every new phase, you can tell the newcomers, because we're the ones with the stupid grins on our faces.
We flew to Canada, went through customs, and headed into Toronto.
By the way, another perk: Everybody in the band has been touring for many years, so there is never a lack of good stories during van rides while stuck in traffic. I can't repeat most of them here, damn it, but believe me, there are some great ones about different artists they've worked with, or hotels or fans or whatever. Gems. Chris Horvath, don't worry, my friend, I will remember them all.
So we get to our first town and arena, where there will be our first genuine audience. This arena is the Air Canada Centre, where the Mapleleafs and Raptors play. (Shouldn't it be "Mapleleaves"?)
I must say, this tour has an extra significance for me. An added bonus. I am a lifelong sports fan, and to be walking the halls and hanging out in these storied arenas with so much history is a genuine thrill in itself. Call me a geek. Whatever. I'm a huge fan of the history and emotions of sports... the drama of the various franchises and players... the struggles and triumphs and mind-blowing talents... the soap opera that always continues to unfold. And so many of these arenas with their trophies and championship banners and retired jerseys are the stuff of legend for me. This tour gives me an extra glimpse into that world, and that's pretty cool. (And depending on whether or not there's ice under the floor, sound checks can be very chilly indeed.)
Opening night wasn't quite as eventful as one would think. Sound check was full of working out more ideas and sound mixes. In each new town, Roger has arranged for 15 or so kids from a local Boys and Girls Club, or the like, to be onstage to sing and dance along with the iconic recorded vocals of English kids singing, "We don't need no education..." Jon Joyce has taken on the responsibility of teaching the kids in each new city the choreography for "Another Brick In The Wall Part 2," and I help him wrangle and instruct where I can. Roger always joins us in teaching them by the end, and he takes a picture with the group. They eventually run on stage wearing shirts that read "Fear Builds Walls." The crowd really loves it.
So, after dinner and dressing, it was time. We've been tweaking the show all along, and rehearsing so much, that we were fired up and in fighting shape. But there was no champagne or inaugural speeches. Just us excited to get out there in front of our first real crowd. We walk the hallway, this new / old band of brothers assembled by Roger, toward the scaffolding and electronic hum and glow of the underbelly of the stage, and now here is that moment. Despite what you might think, and certainly what a young aspiring rocker like myself thought as a teenager, performing in a sold out arena feels really surprisingly natural and calm by the time you get there. It feels a little like a movie. Not nervous, though. It ain't brain surgery. We're doing what we all do best, and this is the fun part. Amped and ready. Adrenaline, but no jitters at all. I so wish Michael could be here to share in this.
As the pre-show recording played over the PA system (all seemingly unrelated audio snippets chosen by Roger and the guys who helped him design the show), we could hear the low rumble of the crowd waiting... talking and whistling. All these people who fought traffic and played the music in their cars and spent their hard earned cash and are wearing the shirts. It's so cool to be on this side of the stage with such a massive show in store for the fans. They were about to get their Canadian dollars' worth, that's for sure.
The audio ends every night with the "I am Spartacus" scene from "Spartacus," and then we know we're about to go on. Well, cliché or not, I must tell you, dear sports fans, the roar of a crowd this size as the lights go down is one of the great joys of my life. It does not disappoint. EVERY show, it gives me goose bumps. I leave my in-ear monitors out of my ears just so I can hear that sound. I mean, I always love that moment when I'm at a show, whether I'm in the audience or about to perform. But the sound of a huge arena full of emotionally charged fans ready for this particular show... a show so many have wanted for 30 years... wow. It is so rock and roll, my friends, and I am helpless to do anything but slap the back of whoever is in front of me, give a war cry, and run up the metal stairs to the stage. Pure electricity. I am and always will be a music fan first, and this is cosmic karaoke meets childhood dreams meets rock and roll circus. And there we are. Representing the Lennons of Venice Beach, California. I am a kid, I am a man, I am a singer... I am Spartacus. Play ball!
I'm a background singer on this particular tour, a piece of the greater puzzle. A brick in the wall, so to speak. So I can only imagine how Roger must be feeling each night as he steps out onto that stage as the creator and force behind this massive work and its legacy. We've been lucky enough to experience some of that with our own band, Venice, over the years, but nothing close to this scale. The energy and love coming towards the stage is really amazing.
Okay, so I've already talked in the other blog about the way the show unfolds. But this time, it was so great to watch the faces of the fans as they drank it all in, so many of them singing their hearts out, every word. High-fiving each other as the opening bombast more than lived up to their expectations of what Roger would be bringing them tonight. Raising crossed arms in a Wall salute as Roger walks to the fore stage. Cheering him not just like a rock star, but like an old friend. Thanking him. It's like that certain ovation beloved actors get at awards shows when they win. The crowd is not just cheering for this performance, but for all the performances. For all the times that artist moved them.
To be frank, I didn't really grow up listening to "The Wall," like so many people did. I was obviously aware of Pink Floyd, and knew the hits... admired them and marveled at "Dark Side of the Moon," but only recently grew to appreciate this all more. The craft of this work as a whole. My "Wall" would be more like "Sgt. Pepper's" or "Late for the Sky" or "Aja" or "Blue." But it makes no difference. It's apples and oranges. "Schindler's List" or "The Godfather" or "The Wizard of Oz" or "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." It's about how people were moved, and at what time in their lives it was there for them, you know? Well, watching the crowd, I must say, it is quite the understatement, but it's so apparent how much this album means to them.
I think to most fans, the legacy of Pink Floyd and its experimental, groundbreaking, definition-defying brand of rock and roll has been one of cerebral, groovy, trippy albums staying on the charts for eons, and massive, powerful rock shows with lights and balloons and spectacle. And, well, let's be honest, with all due respect to the unique artistry and musicianship of Pink Floyd, every fan I knew growing up associated the band not just with good music, but with being a major soundtrack to introspective stoniness while herbally enhanced or chemically altered. Like Salinger or Brando or later Cobain, Pink Floyd seemed to be handed a particular crown, whether they wanted it or not. Like Pied Pipers of mind expansion. A siren call on your bedroom floor behind closed doors. Laserium light show memories. "Pink Floyd" written on notebooks was like a password to a secret club of inner-space explorers, away from overbearing teachers and parents and conformity.
Well, now, all these years later, a generation grown, so many of them now teachers and parents themselves, the audience is filled with people of all ages appreciating the work for being such a part of their lives. You can really feel the emotional connection the fans have. It's deeper and more profound than simply being an excuse to party with Rog now. (Although there definitely is a lot of that as well. I mean, come on, man, it's Floyd, dude! Pass it around!) Not to speak for him, of course, but it seems to me, from my perspective behind one of the microphones in the back, that Roger really appreciates that deep gratitude from the audience, now more than ever. A sense of having traveled together with a whole generation. Like he is finally stepping back to soak it all in and celebrate it with the rock and roll survivors. And still fighting the good fight. Good for him. He's one of the founding fathers of FM rock, and a pioneer of massive scale arena spectacles, and he's earned this.
So, overall, the opening was a blast. Hearing the roar in all the places you'd think you would, etc. But still, this circus is a work in progress, and as we all got in the van, we were happy to have begun the adventure, but mostly owning up to little mistakes and vowing to get it right next time. Also, after decades of being in a band where our own music is the focus, and we are so connected throughout the shows to the audience, with banter and sing alongs and interactive energy, this is quite a different thing. Like I've said before, this show feels more like being part of an amazing, powerful play that touches thousands of people. So you don't have exactly the same feeling afterwards, like you just finished a sweaty rock concert or an intimate acoustic show. Different animal altogether. But fulfilling in a whole new way, for sure. Quite a rush. And stoked to be a part of this vehicle for Roger. And driving across town in the vans knowing we just rocked the house feels pretty damn good too.
By the time we got back to the hotel, Roger and his crew were already comparing notes about how to make it better. We quickly said hi to our cousin Robin and her family, who live in Toronto and came to the show. One thing that has become a constant on this tour is how in each city we get to experience through the eyes of friends and relatives just how special this show is. To come to town with something so massive and moving, not just another concert, is a good feeling to say the least.
That night, Roger treated us all to a nice band dinner and toasted the beginning of the tour. There was a palpable sense of relief to be finally starting this journey. I'm happy to report there is a definite family vibe that Roger wants to encourage with all of us, that is refreshingly familiar to us Lennons. We singers keep joking with each other, like, "This means we have the job, right?" "We're in the programs, so that means we're in, right?" Crazy dream gig.
One other thing about Toronto, it was a funny twist that on our day off, Jon Joyce and I went to the Natural History Museum and saw the beautiful exhibit all about the terra cotta soldiers of China. Irony isn't exactly the word, but it was funny that Roger had told us weeks before how the singers holding mostly still throughout the show was beautiful to him, like the terra cotta soldiers. And now here we were, looking at our mysterious ancient counterparts and laughing at our fortune.
Okay, the next installment will come much sooner, I promise. Mostly because I've already written most of it. And I don't want to get too far behind. Like homework.
Next up: Chicago, Cleveland & the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Pittsburgh, Boston and New York City... just like I always pictured it.
September 20, 2010
Entry by Kipp Lennon:
In the first chapter, I mentioned how it was important for me to be discreet about our location or details about the show, so I was bit limited in what I could describe. But now as I write this in my hotel room in Toronto, Roger is on the cover of Rolling Stone with pictures and an article, and we've already done the first two shows, which in this day and age means that there are already YouTube videos from audience cell phones, and there are blogs discussing the new tour around the world. So I'm a little more free to describe how the next phase of rehearsals went.
After our first phase ended in Long Island (it was funny to see how there were website reports confirming that we were rehearsing in Pennsylvania), we headed to New Jersey for full production rehearsals at the IZOD Center Arena (or the Meadowlands, as most people know it). With a production this large, you can only rehearse in small spaces for so long. Then you need to set up in an actual arena. So Roger rented out the IZOD for a week or so, to do the final run throughs. Once again, I must say that practically every day, we see how different it is to be part of such a huge production.
Okay, so chapter 2 starts with us arriving at the arena and putting our stuff in our dressing rooms backstage, then going out to take a look at the Wall. It was quite the moment for everybody. Even though we had heard the dimensions discussed many times already, it was certainly a whole other thing to see it there in all its glory, spanning the width of the arena. To the right and left of the stage hung the inflatable puppets for the Teacher and the Wife, instantly recognizable in the iconic style of artist Gerald Scarfe, that so defines The Wall for a whole generation. We were all grinning from ear to ear. This is with all the house lights up and not even having seen any of the lighting or projected images yet. But still, it was a jolt to see how big they were.
We spent the rest of the first day working out some musical changes, but mostly working on stage direction and lighting cues. As I said before, this is much more like theater on a grand scale than it is a concert. Long days of starting and re-starting songs while Roger worked closely with the sound, light, staging and computer graphics people. They had been working intensely for over a year on the concepts and goals, but now they needed to make it all actually work.
By the time we got back to our hotel in Manhattan, we were all exhausted, but also excited to be that much closer to starting the tour. You know, it's hard to describe the type of tired you get after days like that. I still wouldn't call it work, exactly. I mean, we are singing and hanging out, etc. But man, there are long hours of having to stay on your toes, figuratively and literally, and by the end of the day, you are spent.
Oh yeah, one other thing that was fun about the first day was that it was Roger's birthday, and we surprised him with a little joke song that had special lyrics about the tour and his family and crew. Marky threw together some ideas and we all finished it together. Our family does that kind of thing a lot at home, so it was fun to do it for something like this. The 5 singers and the great Dave Kilminster on guitar.
The next day, Roger wanted us all to just sit in the audience, so we could watch the whole show from start to finish and see what the audience will see, since we will never really get to see it. Because there are so many computers involved, the whole show had to be designed based around existing recordings of all the songs, and then when we do the actual live shows, we will play the songs in exactly the same spots and same tempos as the template recordings, so all the effects and visuals match up. Make sense? Anyway, because of that, Roger was able to show us the whole show using the temporary music, and we could really get a sense of what it was about. We all sat in that dark, empty arena, the band and crew about 3/4 of the way back in the house, and were absolutely floored by what we saw. We knew Roger had been working incredibly hard on re-conceptualizing the show, but this was much bigger, more moving and compelling and alive than any of us could have imagined. We were already, obviously, jazzed about being part of this amazing tour, but after watching this unprecedented multi-media blitz to the senses, we were also feeling a sense of pride now too. Of being honored to be a part of something bigger than just a great concert. He and the incredible team he surrounds himself with had taken an already timeless album, arguably one of the best of classic rock, and transformed its themes and images from being not just a study of isolation and rock excess and child abuse, but a beautiful, deeply political, anti-war, global performance art piece on a massive scale. A study on the dangers of idolatry and fascism and blind faith and the propaganda of the industrial war machine, and yet a study in compassion and hope at the same time. Not just complaining or apathetic, but thought-provoking and somehow optimistic at the end. Faith in human spirit. The combinations of animation and film and news footage and quotes... Just when you wondered where it could go from here, it would go from beautiful to funny to touching to cool to raw to refined to poignant. We just sat there shaking our heads and saying things like "Wow" and "Oh my God..." There was one moment (any of you who see the show will know what I mean) where we all cried so hard. I mean, really boo-hoo-hoo-ed, and everyone I know who has seen it since has done the same. That is not what you expect from a concert, you know? To move an audience that deeply, and still have them feel like the show rocked and was true to the spirit of the original, is no easy task for an artist, when dealing with material that a whole generation holds so dearly. But Roger did it. There is really nothing to even compare it to. It's great to be a part of this thing. I am, after all, a music and art fan first and foremost, and this is great stuff. Can't wait to see what the world will think.
We spent the rest of the week rehearsing, getting to know the incredible crew, fine tuning wardrobe, rehearsing some more. As the days progressed, Roger would re-think things and try new looks for us. Eventually, he ended up refining our movements as vocalists to the point where he realized that if we held as still as possible during our performance, it was the perfect complement to the graphics all around us. He was excited about how we looked almost like terra cotta soldiers or something. To be honest, if someone had told us six months ago that we would be spending months on the road holding almost completely still, we would have thought it was nuts, but by the time he suggested it, we were such fans of the whole bigger concept of The Wall as a theater piece, we were glad to dispense with the usual side-to-side rhythmic swaying of the typical background group, and get into being pieces of a much bigger machine. Anyone coming to see these shows expecting to see the Venice fellas jamming with Roger is definitely in for a surprise in that regard, but this is a whole different type of evening, as you may have gathered. It's " thee-uh-tuh," my dear.
When on break, we were eating incredible catering, playing ping pong (it turns out that Roger's son Harry, who is an amazing keyboardist and great guy, is also an ace at ping pong, and kicking my ass regularly, which I intend to remedy), skateboarding the empty halls of the arena with the crew's skateboards, throwing the Frisbee around with Robbie and Harry, going over choreography or new vocal parts. (It is such a pleasure to see how our vocal sound keeps getting tighter and more relaxed at the same time.) It was a great week. On a personal note, as a California boy who has skateboarded all my life, I must say, skating the empty halls of a huge arena...going round and round past the empty food stalls and merchandise stands on that perfectly smooth floor with nobody around and I can't get in trouble... Man, it was heaven.
Roger also treated the whole band to a night at an amazing Cuban restaurant, with live musicians that were mind blowing.
Our cousin Michael showed up on Friday to spend the weekend with us, which was great. We got to show him everything, and he got to watch our run throughs and give his extra valued advice and suggestions for us along the way. He blogged about that experience, and you can read that below, in the white box.
Sunday night was the final run through, with about a thousand invited guests. After so many hours of rehearsing in an empty arena and sort of imagining where we think the crowd will react, it was a blast to finally be doing it in front of people. From the very start, the show is huge. The pyrotechnics and hydraulics and graphics mixed with the bombastic opening song make for quite the classic showbiz slam-bang beginning that any other show might have a hard time topping.
But with so much more in store, the audience was continually floored, and cheered their approval and awe throughout the night. By the time intermission approached, and the crew was installing the last brick, and Roger was singing "Goodbye..." the crowd was roaring, and we were all cheering behind the Wall.
Let me take a second to say that the real unsung heroes of this whole tour are the crew. They work tirelessly as not only a crew moving this gigantic circus from town to town, but also as a synchronized, choreographed team, erecting the Wall brick by brick and frame by frame, working the hydraulics and lifts behind the Wall as we all perform the music and get all the applause. It is positively balletic and operatic what they do to make it all come together perfectly, on cue and in tempo. Amazing. Artistic, even. In fact, as I write this, up until today, they have had no days off for 56 straight days, working tirelessly to get it all done in time. And just like the musicians, Roger has surrounded himself with a crew of loyal, nice, hard working people.
So the second half of the concert was more of the same. Really trippy to sing so many songs behind the Wall and know the audience is out there digging it. So different than a normal concert. I love when Robbie and Dave each do their parts from on top of the Wall during "Comfortably Numb." It's one of the slam dunk moments of every performance. It never fails to wow the audience. Plus, I love singing that high harmony part on the chorus with Robbie. There he is, 40 feet up on a hydraulic lift with a spotlight illuminating him like an angel. And Roger down below in front of the Wall. So then I get to sing that beautiful high part I've sung so many times in my car or wherever, as I grew up hearing that song like everybody else. Awesome.
Also, the 5 of us singers finally being out in front of the Wall and singing "The Show Must Go On," where we actually do get to feel that immediacy of the audience, and it does feel like a concert for awhile.
As "In the Flesh" kicks in, it's amazing the way it all turns into a Nuremberg type rally... Roger as Pink as Fearless Leader... Flying Pig and banners flying... Albert Speer-like columns on the Wall... At once chilling the audience with the repulsive and compelling imagery of the awful zeitgeist Nazi mass manipulation machine, and yet mocking it all at the same time like a rock and roll Spike Jones. Great theater indeed.
And the best part is this all builds up to the guaranteed big finish, with the Wall coming down and the whole band singing "Outside the Wall" amidst the rubble. A sweet goodnight in the spirit of "Goodnight Irene" that leaves the crowd drained and happy and shaking their heads.
Wow. Triumphant. All this and I get to be with my brother and cousin too. Lucky. Thanks go out to Jon Joyce for starting us down this amazing path.
For an impassioned look at that run-through show from the eyes of an audience member, read our webmaster Matt's great review on Venice Central's news page, under September 14, 2010.
You can also start checking out more YouTube videos of the tour. There are some nice ones. But you really need to see it live to get the whole experience.
Up next: The first flight on the private jet, and the first shows in Toronto... (and more photos)
The following two entries are by Venice's lead guitarist Michael Lennon, who flew to New York to visit his bandmates Kipp, Mark and Pat as they were in their final week of preparation for the start of "The Wall" tour.
September 11, 2010
Well, today didn't start off so well for Uncle Mikey.
I woke up after having a little too much fun in town last night. Made myself a cappuccino in Marky's room and then spilled it on the bed cover.....then a little bit got on my phone....so I hurried to wipe it off, only to spill the cream container on the carpet. That was how it all started. Then I go downstairs to meet the rest of the band to catch a ride in the van. I felt like a kid that just changed schools and this is my first day in that new school. Turns out, once we got in the van, the band guys were nice as could be, and I quickly settled in and relaxed.
Once we arrived at the venue, we spent a considerable amount of time waiting around....technical issues, "the man" hadn't arrived, etc. But I had a lot of exploring to do, so I set out with different Venetians at different times, meeting crew, exploring underneath the stage, checking out all the guitar amps, effects pedals and microphones.....happy as a pig in !@#$!
After some wardrobe fittings and discussions, the dress rehearsal finally got under way... Well, it's hard to tell you how amazing the show is without giving some of it away, so let me just say if you haven't got tickets yet..........GO GET THEM! Also, you don't have to sit up close to really experience the show, so if your budget wasn't allowing you to go, then go for the cheaper seats. Awesome, still!
The band members and all the crew are incredibly nice. I got to go where no man's gone before...EVERYWHERE! I just kept moving to new seats in the empty venue to check it out. The show is a mind boggling and Incredible new approach to live concerts. Tomorrow is the show with invited guests and family....really looking forward to the audience reaction. It was kind of weird today to have these amazing songs end and then you could hear a pin drop. I caught myself starting to clap numerous times after the songs, until I realized I was alone in my reaction....everyone else in there was working the show, preparing for their next cue. I was really the only true observer, and man, was I excited.
I was proud as hell of my boys. Pat sounds awesome on the high stuff....as I knew he would. Our new friend Robbie Wycoff (singing David Gilmore's parts) is great. Jon Joyce, the bass singer, gives the Venice guys a nice foundation. And the band is tight as hell.......oh ya, and there's this other guy......Roger......who just has charisma out the wing wang.........just standing still.....Damn!
It does kill me not to make suggestions or comments regarding the show. I go into my producer mode and start wanting to mix the vocals and bring up Kipp just a bit or re-EQ the acoustic guitar........and worst of all....I WANT TO PLAY!!!! I did jot down notes throughout the show....at least for the Venice boys...."Mark is sticking out on this," "Kipp needs to match the others when they point," "Pat needs to sing that one part louder," etc., so I got to bring something to the table that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise......feedback.
It was truly an amazing day.
Well, it's time for this "non working" musician to go out in New York and have a drink or two (or 5) to celebrate a day that I'll never forget. It was the next best thing to being in it.
As all the English folks on the tour say......." Cheers!"
September 16, 2010
Sorry for the short lapse in my communications. Luckily, Matt Levitz wrote a nice review of the friends and family show that he was fortunate enough to make it to, which you can find on our news page, under the date of September 14, 2010. Matt's review will cover my feelings about the show on Sunday.
I had a great day off with the boys on Monday. Actually, most of my time was spent with brother Marky. I slept in his room for the duration of the visit, and like him, I enjoy seeing the town, seeing the night life, and having a drink or two when applicable.
We coincidentally hooked up with Richo Jones, our family friend from Australia who was in town for a business meeting on our day off.....what a crazy coincidence. Mark Harris was able to join the three of us for a Sushi lunch that was incredible. From there, we visited the 7th floor of the Trump Plaza, where the pool is, and drank margaritas. At first, I was shocked at the cost of a single margarita there, but after my second one, I was feeling....let's say....."happy"?
Mark and I headed to our room for an afternoon nap, in order to rejuvenate (soberize) before that evening's dinner plans. You see, 2 nights earlier in Soho, outside a club, Marky had the guts to approach Vinnie (Adrian Grenier) from the HBO series "Entourage," and invite him to the private "The Wall" show, which he accepted. After the show, Vinnie invited Mark and some band members to his house for dinner, the following night, Monday. Of course, that included me.
After a nice dinner, cooked by Adrian and his girlfriend, for about 25 people, the night ended in a basement studio jam, where yours truly was playing drums. I was the last guy of our group that was still there....rock n roll! I went upstairs and found Adrian wiping down the counter. Probably time for this musical cowboy to head out...so I did. He kindly called me a cab, and I rode back to Soho to hit the sack, knowing that I had a flight the next day.
My last morning in Soho, I joined Kipp, fellow singer Jon Joyce and legendary Pink Floyd engineer and producer James Guthrie and his wife for a nice breakfast in Soho. From there I hurried back to the hotel, where I grabbed a cab to Newark Airport for my flight back to my wife and kids.
I had an amazing time in NY. This tour is a must to go see. As I say, the cheap seats are almost better, if you want to take in the whole picture. I was able to say farewell to the guys before I headed out. I had a blast and wish them the best.
September 5, 2010
Entry by Kipp Lennon:
Greetings. Here begins my blog for this crazy, momentous, lucky tour. For the next few months, this will be a tour diary of sorts. Out of respect for Mr. Waters and company, I will refrain from giving out any personal details that could bring an army of Floyd fans to our rehearsals and hotels, or could be turned into endless fodder for bloggers searching for personal tidbits. So...no show details, I'm afraid, until after the tour begins. But just know that we have been rehearsing for a few days now and we are already buzzing about the way this show is shaping up.
So, let's see... how did this all start? Here's a quick version:
Last year in November, we were contacted by Jon Joyce (LA session singing legend and original singer on "The Wall" album and tour) because Roger had contacted him about putting the tour together and needing a vocal group. Jon is an old friend of ours, like a big brother to me for many years in the Los Angeles session scene, and was very familiar with Venice. He suggested that our vocal sound would be a great fit. (Apparently when Roger came up with the original concept for "The Wall," he wanted a Beach Boys background sound. Who knew?) Well, we sent Roger a live version of our Beach Boys medley that we happened to be doing in our set at the time. Then we downloaded some karaoke versions of some Pink Floyd songs, and overdubbed our vocals onto them and sent those along as well. We were happy to hear that he was happy with what he heard. He flew out from New York to LA on a rainy night in December to hang with us in Michael's Living Room. We sang for him and he showed us some rare footage of the original tour, and it all progressed from there. Very surreal, as you can imagine. Like having Pete Townsend or Paul McCartney sitting in your Living Room. One thing lead to another, and after a few months and some more singing (overdubbing onto the original tracks of "The Wall" with original engineer/producer, James Guthrie), it turned out that Roger didn't need all four of us, only three, because he decided he wanted Jon onboard to sing his original bass parts. And the show is written for four background vocalists only. After a few weeks of rehearsals and an unfortunate process of trying first Michael, then Pat on the high parts, it was decided that Pat would be the choice for this tour. (Something chronicled much more eloquently and graciously by Michael himself here.
Although we are honored and thrilled at being offered golden tickets to such an adventure, no matter how we look at it, there will always be a bittersweet element to this tour for us. We are so happy and fortunate to be a part of this monumental tour, and we plan to sing our butts off and enjoy every minute. We are not contest winners, after all, but professionals who've put in a lot of years to get here. We look forward to earning our keep and adding to the legacy of "The Wall." But we will miss Michael so much, and wish we could have all shared in this equally. He is the first one to support us in doing this, and will definitely be sharing in the spoils. Read his letter. It's beautiful.
Along the way, we were eventually joined by Robbie Wyckoff, the singer who is doing all the David Gilmour parts. A really great vocalist who is perfect for this role. People are going to be blown away by him. He is also, fortunately, a good guy, and has a great sense of humor. Marky, Pat and I are so used to the way we hang with our band and our family all of our lives, and a huge part of it is an almost endless string of jokes and teasing and humor. So it's been a blast watching Jon and Robbie jump in like we've all been family forever. And as vocalists, our blend works really well too. Sometimes you can get a group of good singers together but the blend isn't quite right, and thankfully, that is not the case at all here. We've already started coming up with names for our vocal group. Things like: Sgt. Jon & the Sound of Wall and Brick Teaser and The Pumpkin Launchers (long story).
Okay, so onto the tour at hand... In LA, we had a last week of rehearsals and packing (how the hell do you pack for four months of summer/fall/winter weather?!), and tearful/joyful goodbyes to family and friends (including a fantastic party thrown by Michael and family to bid us a fond "Farewall," where we played music until the wee hours, not knowing exactly when Venice would play again). We arrived here in this smallish town in the northeast of the US of A on Saturday afternoon, August 28th, and met the rest of the band in the hotel lobby. It's such a funny feeling to be meeting people you know you are about to spend 4 months with. A bunch of adult professionals on the verge of a world tour, but there is still that element feeling like kids on the first day of a new school.
Like they say, when it comes to tours, especially huge ones like this, it's not so much about the 2 hours you spend on stage, it's about the other 22. Rehearsing...eating...hanging out... traveling together. And thankfully, Roger surrounds himself with genuinely good people. From musicians to management to crew... everyone has been warm and welcoming from the start. I'll fill you in on the various players and personalities as I make more entries.
This week has been pretty much the same schedule every day. The five singers wake up early, head to the beach for a morning hang... stretching, swimming, soaking up some sun, then off to rehearsals about a half hour drive away. From 11-ish until 6-ish, the whole band rehearses with Roger in a revamped airplane hangar, stopping only for lunch.
Roger is such a pleasure to work with. He is open to re-examining things, appreciative of the team he has assembled, demanding the best from us all in a good way. Definitely firm in his vision and belief in the importance of being true to the original. He's constantly wearing so many hats as he considers the history, the music, the stage design...everything down to the costumes, technology and souvenir programs. He's VERY excited about the technological advances and innovations that a thirty year wait has brought to this project, and his enthusiasm is infectious. I can't reveal any of the new stuff here, obviously, but, man you should hear him talk about it. You can't help but step back sometimes and marvel at the enormity of this project and at the man driving it all. His vision and fire, adapting "The Wall"...updating it... preserving it... re-discovering it... he is just as passionate now as he was when he wrote it. And we get to be part of it. He continues to tweak it and polish it and shape it into his vision. It's funny, after all these hours of rehearsing and hanging, we mostly get accustomed to being with him now, and we're all just making music together, but every once in a while he'll start a song like "Mother" or "Don't Leave Me Now," and we look at each other like, "That's the actual guy right there."
So usually after every rehearsal (until Hurricane Earl arrived, anyway), we head back to the beach for a quick swim at sunset. Slowly but surely, our new Brit friends have been joining us too. I guess I can say with some certainty that we have already brought a bit of our California vibe to this new band.
One night, Roger invited us all to a big dinner at his house here, where we had a great time getting to know everybody more and eating fantastic food. It was so picturesque...like a magazine shoot or something. After dinner, Roger requested that we sing for our suppers. We've all been particularly enjoying our versions of "The Show Must Go On" and "Goodbye Blue Sky," and he requested those. G. E. Smith (SNL band, Hall & Oates, Bob Dylan) is in the band. A true music lover, he plays the hell out of the bass, guitar, mandolin...whatever Roger asks him to play on any given song. He calls himself the "Utility Man" of this tour. He also brings a ton of energy and enthusiasm to the whole process. Anyway, he played guitar that night as we sang for everybody, and it was one of those things we'll remember forever. This whole experience is like that already. Here's a photo of us singing at the party:
It has also been a pleasure watching our vocal parts evolve and expand as Roger re-examines everything while we go through it. He welcomes input and appreciates a good idea. I'll tell you more about that some other time too.
We also finally tried on our outfits for the tour. That was cool because we've all been wondering how they would look. I can't really tell you anything until after we open in Toronto, but it's very cool stuff, and the troops are happy. The last few days, we ran through the entire show each day, stopping along the way improve things. It is really coming together in a big way. Everybody in the band knows that when we finally get it all down, with no reference notes or last minute changes, it will be such a pleasure to be a part of this machine of talented people and amazing music. We laugh that it is truly more like being in a play than a concert. There have also been little indications along the way that this isn't your usual tour. Rolling Stone Magazine taking photos of rehearsal or Richard Gere stopping by to watch with his kids.
Okay, that's all for now. I'll check in soon. Off tomorrow to location number two for full rehearsals with lights, sound, effects and...THE WALL!