UK Tour 2014

Stoke June 14th

For the first time in many a UK tour I was unable to attend the opening gig.  So despite the appeal of actually hearing Brighton Beach live under the stars in Brighton, I was confined to the pleasures of an RSFC virtual gig, and was even late for that… thanks to all those who contributed in such ridiculous fashion and saved me from an evening of chewing my fingernails in anguish at not being there.

However Stoke was to be a different story.  Ian had cleverly booked a lads trip away to watch England v Italy in Brazil screened on a TV in Portugal ( yes I was confused too, but boys jolly is a more suitable description )  and so his Stoke ticket was commandeered by my sister, who last saw Rod live in 1980 – yes she is old enough – and even more taxing than that, I was by default left in charge of organising the pre and post gig meet all by my little ownsome.

 

We had actually been to Stoke to search for suitable establishments….  There are quite a lot of boxes to tick to be the ideal venue,  proximity to the venue being one,  willingness to play incessant Rod music in return for extraordinary bar takings is another.  The ability to cope with large numbers of hungry and thirsty Rod fans being the most important.   When we found The Plough, we thought we had struck lucky…. Ten minutes walk over the bridge to the stadium,  good music system ,  kitchen on site,  late licence, and quite happy to welcome us and therefore we thought all was good. 

 

Now, I did stress to the Manager, Paul, how busy it was going to be,  I estimated in the region of 200 fans, but could be more, and I explained how other venues had been caught out by how busy the bar is, and asked him to ensure he had enough staff.  He assured me all would be fine.   Mmmmm

 

So my sis Carole and I arrived at The Plough a little later than expected at around half two, due to a fairly in depth tour of Stoke looking for our hotel.  When we got there the beer garden was already fairly full of tartan, leopard skin and Celtic shirts, so it was clear the invasion had already begun.  Meets and greets ensued and we made our way into the bar.    There was one man serving and I noticed that he appeared to be on his own.   He explained that he was Paul the manager and that one member of bar staff had let him down and the other one had to help in the kitchen because orders had become backed up.

Letting this information register I realised that there were only three members of staff in the building plus one security lady…..the bar was already three deep and getting busier and there was already an hour wait for food…..On the plus side, I put the music on and the system worked!  Within 20 minutes the situation had become a total nightmare.   It began to rain so everyone came inside.   They wouldn’t take any more orders for food, and the fairly large bar was 5 deep with one man trying to serve.  I was feeling really terrible with people saying to me “well who picked this place?”  Err I did.

 

So there was only one thing for it… my sister who used to run a bar, had a crash course in how to use the till,  I learned how to use the glass washer and we got stuck in.  Nothing else for it really….. I was clearing tables and washing up, Caz pulling pints and making the prices up as she went and we worked flat out for about an hour, until the reinforcements arrived.    Turns out the manager did book extra staff but not until later, thinking most would arrive after 5 ish…. Should have listen to what I had said, but many people underestimate the party spirit of the Rod crew.  

 

Eventually it settled down, ( altho I believe some people resorted to take away pizza’s ) and me and Caz did get a free dinner for our help, but apologies all round if there was stress at the beginning of the afternoon.    It turned into a belter of a pre gig meet tho, with exuberant singing and really high spirits, several hundred of us there, all merry….. some merrier than others….  The DVD of the Troubadour concert went down very well and I must thank Gary Jones  and Ian Roberts for their help in sorting out the CD mixes.

Around 7 ish Caz and I decided to start walking to the stadium.  At this point I am still adamant it’s a ten minute walk…. We ended up sharing a taxi with Tom and Patsy, at his insistence.  He was insisting the driver put his foot down because the gig was about to start and took some persuading that 19.00 hours was actually 7pm not 8pm.   No wonder the trains are all to cock if he doesn’t even know the 24hr clock.  Was funny tho.

 

Arrived at the stadium just as it began to rain… typical.   Wasn’t bad tho, those of us who lived through 2007 will never moan about a bit of light rain….    Our seats were to the left of stage, 4th row aisle which sounds better than they were because of the short stage,  the side blocks were a long way from stage, but we were able to get out and dance and ours were a lot better than others so I won’t moan.    We’d missed most of Dixie Mix, chatting with friends and stocking up with beer and water.

 

I think it’s hard to whip up the atmosphere in an outdoors stadium on a dismal evening.  But if anyone is going to do it, Rod Stewart is.   The stage did seem quite small and being quite left of stage we couldn’t see all the visual display ( and we were nowhere near the edge so guess those more to the sides could see even less ).    RSFC were scattered all over the place, but easy to spot with the green and white and the flags dotted about.     Was encouraged by the fact that the whole of the pitch stood up when Rod came on and I think we helped with that…

 

The show is really no different.  Staged managed, choreographed and on the button.     Shake your money maker was back in.    The use of the original mic stand from Faces days adds energy.   His voice was outstanding tonight, effortless.  My sister who had never seen this show absolutely loved it.  But it is a show… an all encompassing presentation that showcases an outstanding entertainer, and outstanding he is.    We cannot kid ourselves that this is a rock gig,  however much we may want that or  remember it fondly.  The Vegas show is on tour and has been for some years.  Rod does what he does and he does it better than anyone.  

 

   Rod talked with real compassion before Rhythm of my Heart… talked about D Day and his respect for the veterans.   He  was in fine voice and fine mood.   Seriously bloody gorgeous… my sister and I had a conversation about how a man of his advancing years can actually become more attractive the older he gets.  ( and yes fella’s I know that’s very girly in a review but this is my diary and I’m a girl, so there )

   Annoying distractions from the stage by the continual fighting with security all around us…….    Quite a lot of drunk people wanting to get to the front versus Mr and Mrs Irritated from Suburbia who paid a lot of money for these seats don’t you know, and security doing what security do.  I liked the approach of one lady ( think it was your friend Jill Westergren )– who when being confronted by the security guy and being sent back to her seat just snogged him.  Needs must love.     Loved it when Pat Adams who was in front row of our block but also being harassed by security for dancing turned round and mouthed to the entire block “he’s doing my fkin head in”    Whole block burst out laughing.

 

Set list was same old….  Glad he included the three from Time, and he cocked up She Makes me Happy as he always does.  Cant stop me now had the RSFC going insane and the rest of the stadium  looking at us oddly.   4  funny video’s now… he’ll be presenting It’ll be allright on the night before too long!

 

All the other stuff is irrelevant really.  I actually don’t mind when in the acoustic section he tells us to sit and I can just wallow.  There were so many exquisite moments when his voice soared and filled the night with the emotion only he can bring.    Yeah I was too far away and I wanted to be right up close and drink it all in, but that is because I have been so spoiled.   After 36 years there is no better place to be than to be sitting in front of Rod Stewart when he is singing.   The gift is not lessened.  It’s has evolved, its not the same as it was back in the day but it remains, it wraps itself around your heart,  and I will be forever grateful.

 

The footballs with Hotlegs were a good excuse to make a break for the front and we did so with little argument, although I did see the blocks to the side of us being held back by a line of security holding hands.    There was a lady with a little boy on her shoulders who was trying to get a ball.  One female ( I won’t call her a lady ) said to her,  we all have kids who want a ball, get back to your seat.  When did people get so mean?  I was ashamed for her.   Anyway Rod saw him and tried three times to get a ball to him.  In the end he threw it to security who passed it to him.  Nice Rod, I was happy for the lad.

 

Sailing with fireworks and an encore of Sexy and its all over.    Whole stadium are on their feet and Rods nailed it again.    Some of the diehards saying they were disappointed, others saying it was better than Brighton.   I really enjoyed it.  You could say it was safe,  practiced, but we choose to see show after show and we cannot complain about repetition.  

The ten minute walk back to The Plough was definitely half an hour so my apologies girls.    Bar was restocked and lots of bar staff on duty and straight into England V Italy.      In case anyone doesn’t know, we lost but played the best for ages.  So that’s ok then.  

I really thought the post gig party would fizzle after the footie but seems everyone else had other ideas.    Loud singing, uncoordinated dancing and me running back and forth to the CD player to ensure Mark Gaudiere  was smiling went on until the early hours.   Highlights were Patsy describing her trials in the bushes on the way to the pub,  Mark during Sweet Little Rock n Roller running outside to check if there were 1500 waiting outside the door ( only I saw that, made me howl ) and a very drunk Norwegian that for once was not Terje, buying 5 double vodka and redbulls for anyone who wanted them. 

 

I left at 3am and left several others in worse condition than me.    Relieved that my efforts at a pre and post gig had not been a total disaster ( although it had looked like that for a while at the beginning )     

 

Best times with my Rod mates, and enjoyed sharing it with my sister this time.     Just a few more times to party coming up…..     How lucky are we?

 

Taunton June 18th

I wasn’t going to Taunton.   Midweek, too far away, too busy at work.  So 3pm on Wednesday afternoon finds me scooting out of work early and bombing down the M5.  As you do.  Thanks to a spare ticket courtesy of Ruth Hannushka, the temptation was just too great.  Sorry Ian.

It was a wise decision in the end. Maybe it was the venue,   maybe it was the weather… or something like that… but Taunton was a fantastic gig…. Easily better than Stoke.   

But first the pre meet. Kev Crossland had organised this one and was a fair old turnout… double the amount of bar staff ( there were two!!) and a BBQ outside.   I was fairly late attending, having trouble trying to find a cab to pick me up from my hotel at the motorway services ( and then paying £26 for the privilege!) and was chuffed to bits to find our old mucker Pete The Red resurfaced and gracing us with his presence, and his good lady Sue.    Boys out on the ale together, Mark G, Tom, Dave Jones and Kev, all in good voice and all sitting together at the gig – must have been a worry for the organisers!

The Ale House was only 6 minutes walk from the venue, which was a lot easier to negotiate than in Stoke.   Again a landscape type set up with stage on the side which meant side blocks didn’t have a great view,  but this time I was more central and 2nd row, and sat with Little Roddy from Belgium and Pat.   

Right from the off it was clear that the security were a totally different kettle of fish from Stoke.  As Rod came on we just walked to the barrier – well almost.  They kept us off the raised bit ( literally about a foot ) away from the barrier but seemed quite happy to let us stand there, and gradually we were joined by more and more people until it became a standing gig.  WHY can’t all security teams be like that?  There was no trouble, just everyone having a great time.   

The warm balmy evening made it really relaxed and chilled and there was none of the antagonism and irritation that you sensed at Stoke… which had eventually spilled out into aggression.  This was several thousand people having a great night out and Rod was loving it too.  

Very minor changes to the set list with the inclusion of Having a Party, which were were.    For the acoustic bit, he yet again asked us to sit down… bit difficult considering we were about 25 deep at the front of the stage… and other people already sat in our seats.  So we just sat down where we were, easier for some than others.   And Rod said Thank you to us, and said we showed very good manners.  But we didn’t stay sat for long…  

There was a moment in this gig which made the 6 hours driving there and back,  the fact that I am exhausted at work today, so totally worth it.   And that was I’d Rather Go Blind.     I sincerely hope someone has this recorded but it yet again reduced me to tears.  Stood with Pat, and Jean and Manny and Ruth, we put our arms around each other and remembered why we do this.    To be there, in front of stage, with the sun setting and to hear those vocals, that arrangement.  And then when he drops to his knees and nails that ending…well I was gone.   And I wasn’t the only one.

The security even relaxed the 1 foot no go zone and so for the last songs we were right at barrier… surely the best place in the world… and hurtling towards the end of the show at a hundred miles an hour.   By now it was dark, and all of the apartments surrounding the cricket ground lit up with people partying on their balconies… great freebie concert for them.   And when it was over the crowd kept on singing… always a sign of a great gig.

Took forever to get out of the ground, with only one tiny exit, but  all I could hear were superlatives and praising of Rod and his band.    I made a point of thanking the security.  We can only pray that those at Blackpool and Falkirk take heed, but I’m not holding my breath.

Post gig meet was very loud and packed with locals as well as us.  A tribute singer who was wearing a non Stewart tartan jacket looked somewhat terrified as he tried Georgie only to find the male choir of the RSFC bellowing out the verses word perfect.     

I left before the worst of the excesses, knowing I had a 6am start  and a three hour drive to get back to work, plus a weekend of Rod partying awaiting…. Unlike me to be so sensible…. Hope this doesn’t mean I’m growing up.   See you in Blackpool!!!

Blackpool June 20th

It’s a bit difficult to write about two gigs in one go.... it’s natural that my head is just full of the last one ( Falkirk OMG where do I start?) yet I know I need to write in detail about Blackpool.    What an incredible weekend it has been, but  here we go…. lets start at the beginning.

 

Somehow we had managed to wangle ourselves a place on a mini bus road trip to Blackpool and Falkirk.   The ever generous Ruth Hannushka had stolen a mini bus from work and planned the drive with the German Scott Elizabeth Klaus (who by the way has no idea how to open a baby bell cheese) and Starbucks promoters and Rod hierarchy Jean and Manny Allbeury from Canada.   At the Taunton gig,  they had decided that they would come to us on the Thursday evening  ( thus getting a couple of hours of their journey under their belt ) and therefore they arrived at ours just before half time in the England V Uruguay game ---  let’s just say the second half was quickly forgotten and we got on with having a very pleasant meal with one German, one Scot who lives in Germany , and two Canadians trying not to laugh themselves silly at our abject misery…. well no time for dwelling on it.. we had the rest of the Rod Tour to enjoy.  Lovely night swapping Rod stories and  some rather interesting German wine ( Thanks Liz)

So the next morning we were up early and breakfasted and off in the tour bus… with the RSFC flag proudly displayed in the back window.   Ruth doing a very good impression of a formula one driver ensured that we spent as little time as possible on the road, although the G force may have permanently cricked my neck.   As well as the obligatory Rod blasting constantly, we played that fun game ‘Hunt the Starbucks ‘ to enable Manny to feed his addiction, and the other great favourite ‘ Wind up the Scot’ who quickly became tired of our ‘ och aye the noo’ references.  But it was all lighthearted and great fun, and wonderful camaraderie that you always get whenever Rod fans are together.

Arrived in Blackpool without incident and separated for our different hotels.  We had a seaside B&B for this one which was basically a double bed with walls around it and a cupboard with a toilet  … but it was clean and cheap and that’s all that matters.

The pre and post gig was planned for a supporters club right next to the venue, and had been arranged by Blackpool locals Gary Jones and Dave Reddy… and a mighty fine job they did too.   Probably the busiest pre and post meet of the tour… I’d estimate a couple of hundred people there, a sea of Green RSFC  and Celtic shirts, all in fine voice and up for a party.  The two ladies behind the bar worked their asses off, but however long the queue got, I was not getting behind the bar this time… been there done that!!

I had a great 2nd row ticket for this courtesy of Ms Hannushka but Ian, his brother and son were taking a bit of a gamble picking up unspecified tickets at the box office.   When we got them they were right at the back of the pitch seating… whoops… however this was not to deter them…  never ones to shirk a challenge, we had bets on how long it would take them to get to the front….   Copious amounts of alcohol helping with the bravery….

Weather was fine and the crowd well up for the gig.  Security much less stressed than Stoke, but not as laid back as Taunton.  Up at the front we had some front row moaners who ruined their own show by whining about others who shouldn’t be there, instead of celebrating the fact they had front row and getting to the barrier themselves and just enjoying it.   I managed to get an onside security guy who was quite happy to let me stand at the barrier next to my new best friend Maggie Beirne and her lovely son Daniel and despite the gang of young girls looking for a fight, and the toothless wonder in the brown shirt who spent more time complaining to security than watching Rod, I had a great time.  Rod noticed Daniels shirt which made his day!

Rod was in great voice and in great mood…. Disappointed that  I’d rather go blind was dropped again after the storming rendition in Taunton, and hopes were raised when he said ‘ here’s one we don’t do often’ only to be dashed again by the opening bars of It’s a Heartache.     But the crowd drank it in.   Can’t stop me now is becoming an anthem even for those outside the Rod faithful…. Reaction in the crowd was fantastic.  But no Moneymaker, and Some guys back in meant we had a set list which is becoming exactly that… SET.

Few songs in and Ian turns up behind me wearing his press pass…   Seems he swapped it for an RSFC flag… as you do!!   Anyway it worked… he got asked where his camera was and just raised his eyes to heaven and pointed at his phone!!     Did tell him that I expected him to write the review and will check his notes, but think I may be waiting a while for that!  Gary also managed to blag his way to the front… why was I surprised?

We were about two or three deep at the barrier and all going fine when suddenly in came the heavy mob… seems one over inebriated front row squatter had got a bit over the top with the security staff and they were having him out… along with anyone else who didn’t have a ticket… caused quite a lot of disruption and distraction from what was going on onstage.

Rod seems to be really enjoying this tour… mostly lucky with the weather, but each performance seems to be getting more upbeat …. And he feeds off the crowds responses.   Packed stadium, the majority on their feet and singing in unison… that’s enough for Rod to go home knowing job done.  We had a signing choir come on to sign the words to Sailing and Conrad gets to do a big impro solo at the end of Sexy – great to see him getting more attention.    Huge contingent of RSFC at this gig, and I’m sure that if I hadn’t gone to Falkirk I would be waxing more lyrical about this gig, but for me it was overshadowed by the exuberance of the Falkirk crowd and the laid back warmth of the Taunton gig. 

Back to the No 1 club for what was definitely the best meet of the UK tour….. fabulous atmosphere in there, particularly for the large numbers who stayed for the last hour to raise the roof in true Big Weekend style.  Great night.

Falkirk June 21st

Awoke sore of foot, dry of mouth and knowing we were about to do it all again.   Off in the tourbus  via Starbucks  paying due deference to the Scottish border.    This hotel was a bit more pricey so I had high hopes… should have known better…   astounded to find out it had a shared bathroom with 5 other rooms…..is that even legal anymore?   At my age when you gotta go you gotta go.

Pre and post gig was organised at Sportsters, a massive sports bar in the town centre, and we had our own area upstairs.   Smaller turnout than Blackpool but no less energetic and not enough bar staff as per usual.  When will managers believe us when we say how busy the bar is.   We had our music piped all over the  venue which was amazing, and then we were treated to a great set by Danny MacDonald who whipped the crowd up.   Lovely to meet Jacki Richards over from the States who was amazed by the atmosphere which I guess we are all used to by now.    And our friend Megumi from Japan.   RSFC flags have been all over the place this tour… when I asked the casual question, would anyone else like a flag, I never expected the amazing response and it has been wonderful for us to see the fan club being celebrated in such a way, so thank you all so much.

Hugely funny moment when Ian knelt down completely forgetting he had a bottle of beer in his pocket and thought he had wet himself….  

Got to the venue whereupon Ian waited for an hour in a queue for the loo because he didn’t realise there were a bank of portaloos just around the corner with no queues at all….    Only just got to our seats before the beginning so didn’t get to go and find Mary, who we knew was there.  She said afterwards she could see us all in the Green bouncing up and down!!

We had second price seats, third row but right at the side and outside the barriered off area front of stage.  However this didn’t matter in the end…  seems that the guys wearing the security jackets hadn’t read the job description and basically the seating plan was irrelevant as the show became a standing gig from the very first as we all just ran down to the front… did they care?  Course not, they just wanted us to have a good time, and there was no trouble… apart from the young lady who screamed at security to move everyone who was taller than her outta the way… not gonna happen love, wear higher heels!!  Fab spot centre stage, just one row off barrier, and with all the RSFC crew, Gillian, Ruth, Julie, great when we are all together living it.

What an atmosphere…. There is nothing like a Scottish crowd at a Rod gig.   The years roll back and  the noise is incredible… the crowd don’t just cheer, they roar.  I don’t wanna talk about it and In my heart would have lifted the roof if there had been one.  The ground almost shakes with the noise.   I look back and see people on shoulders just like Glastonbury , the flags waving and the whole crowd jumping as one…. And Rod laps it up and the more they roar, the more he ups the performance. Maggie May is like a different song… ad libbing and jamming it up.   And the band are giving it their all. Di Read and the girls sang Proud Mary like their lives depended on it.     I won’t forget this one Rod says, and he won’t and neither will we.   No surprises in the set list… would have been nice for something special for Scotland, but in the end it really didn’t matter.   …..Easily the best concert of the five….  Outstanding gig that left me wrung out and emotional.   As he walked off that stage… is that it?  Is that the last one?  Yes I know there is Vegas, but is that the last one like that?  Don’t know, been wondering that for the last ten years!

Long walk back to Falkirk town centre reflecting on what we had just been part of.   I had a lump in my throat that threatened to spill out… all around us people were marvelling at Our Mans performance and I was proud as hell. 

 

The post gig was small but a perfect end to the tour…  those with real stamina still on their feet  and another 3am finish after several hours of vocal straining and leaping up and down… as we do.  And as we gathered in a circle to sing the obligatory Purple Heather, through an inebriated haze I thought how bloody lucky I am to have this.    Through the power of Facebook and Twitter, others are coming to realise what an incredible force we are, but mostly it’s about friendship, and yet again this trip, friendships have strengthened and love has grown.  More and more groups will be created, but at the end of the day, we are all about one thing, the love of one artist who has made a difference that is more than just music.  50 years of difference.     People laugh at the term Rod family, but that’s what we are.    

 

I don’t know if we will get another tour like the one we just had… be nice to think Rod can keep going forever, but we don’t know when it’s going to end.   But for now we are living the life we love.  And loving the life we live.     And thanks be to Rod for that. 

 

NEXT RSFC EVENT

The BIG Weekend

March 17th/18th/19th

Walsall, UK

 

 

NEXT GIG

 February 26th  

    O2 Arena, London,UK

             

 

 

 

 

      

 

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