Tourblog (12) – gig five: Zeche – Bochum (DE)

I write this on the morning after the gig in Zeche. We are already in the hotel in Aschaffenburg, where we will play the last gig of this first leg of the Lifeline tour.
After having a few days off we all came together yesterday at my studio to drive together to Bochum, a city 1,5 hours driving from where I live. When we arrived, we where welcomed by the people of the venue with a huge lunch buffet. I mean huge. There could be eating 30 people from that, and we where only with 8 people at the time. They people from Zeche really spoiled us there ;)The venue is great, a nice atmosphere, and it was great to play there.
During soundcheck we always play a bit, and it is always great fun. Suddenly we smelled burning plastic, so we stopped playing. And we all searched for the source of that, it really smelled like some equipment was on fire. And it was!! Under the stage I saw some smoke and the smell was too intense there. Well… after some checking we found out that one of the amps feeding the subs was blown, and melted down. Luckily we discovered it soon enough, not to have a fire! They changed the amp, and we could continue playing.
Well… the lunch buffet was huge, and then came the dinner buffet. You could feed a complete hotel with that. But it was great! The people of Zeche showed with the way they took care of us, that they really are warm and welcoming people! I have done many tours with many different acts and artists, and most of the time they feed you really unhealthy food, even junk food, so you really get like old sandwiches and a cup of soup or something. Touring drains energy and strength from you, so it is really great to eat healthy stuff!
I thing the gig had some great moments. As a first encore we played Help Me from the One album, especially for this guy, named Robbert, who would be at the gig. It was his birthday, so Neal thought it might be nice as a birthday present. So then Neal came out, and asked for this guy, but he was not there, hahaha. We played it anyway. We did not rehearse it, and it has been some time since we played it together (2006), but the band did a good job!
Unfortunately these two German gigs, I don’t have a drumtech with me, so I have to do it all myself, together with the tour managing stuff. No problem, but that gave no time to speak with the fans afterwards, also because we needed to drive to Aschaffenburg as soon as possible (2,5 hours driving). So my apologies to you if you wanted to talk to me, and I was not there. Tonight will be better, we have all the time of the world to break down the gear.
I told Neal, more or less as a joke, that tonight in Colos-Saal we have to play everything we rehearsed. That is 3 hours and ten minutes of material, so to end this part of the tour with a bang! Well don’t know if that will happen, but if you come, we might have some surprises for you 😉
See you all tonight I hope! There are still tickets available.
Cya!

Tourblog (11) – Concert review in Oor

I was very pleased to learn that a person from the Dutch music magazine OOR was present at the gig in Zoetermeer, and this is his review: (I translated it in English).

NEAL MORSE BAND A TIGHT ENTITY
In comparison with the previous concert of NEAL MORSE CODE at De Boerderij (26 May 2007) the band almost remained the same (only leadgitarist Elisa Krijgsman have returned in the band instead of Paul Bielatowicz). However, the set list has been refreshed with a number of songs from Lifeline, his most recent cd, completed with a number of old favorites.
Dressed in a celestial white shirt, Morse welcomes the public in an extremely pleasant manner – as radiates everything what he does in sympathy for the big audience. The 48 year old American lets us know that we, in contrast to the previous concert in De Boederij, will not get to hear a complete concept album simply because Lifeline is no concept album. That does not mean that there are no prog-epics on the list, like the opener At The End Of The Day (from the Spock Beard-period). From behind its keyboard, an enthusiastic Morse leads its Dutch band, where he jumps up and down like a happy child. Then two songs of Lifeline follow. Firstly the aggressive and passionate Leviathan, following some rest to the ears with the acoustic The Way home,with very good background vocals.
Then much guitar violence in the Author Of Confusion/I Am The Guy, with a brilliant role for drummer Collin Leijenaar, the Dutch Mike Portnoy, who makes his debut as a singer in the Gentle Giant-like vocal part. The acoustic interlude, the folky That Crutch, is followed by the highlight of the evening: the titeltrack of the most recent album of Morse. Almost a half hour progrock of the highest level.  Unfortunately in the first place the acoustic guitar in Walking On The Wind is not heard, but the technical problem is rapidly solved, so that this of Beware or Darkness originating Spock Beard-song is nevertheless saved. Son Will is drummed up for the sentimental duet Cradle To The Grave, which is followed in a grandiose manner with the conclusion of the set list with a big medley of the Question mark album. You can really see that three evenings on the Dutch podia have forged the band up to a strong entity. In the encore, which lets Jessica Koomen shine vocally, Morse does not forget his Transatlantic-past. The audience goes berserk when Morse takes the seat behind Leijenaars kit and proves, besides being a talented keyboardist and gitarist, to be also a gifted drummer. A memorable evening.
FRANS STEENSMA

Tourblog (10) – a few days off

Feeew…. and now it is time to sleeeeeeeeeeep!

It is always nice to have a day off after such an intense week of rehearsing, touring, playing, setting up, breaking down. On Monday morning I woke up around noon, and that was the first time in a week I slept more than 9 hours. But waking up and not having to play is also a bit sad. I really live for touring and playing. It is a lot of work, and it is demanding on the body and the mind, but I totally love it. I cannot do that enough.
But you need to be smart also, so we have now three days of relaxing, before we hit Germany with the last two shows of this little tour. I am so looking forward to those shows. They are going to be great!
Yesterday (Monday) Elisa and I went back to De Boerderij. I needed to finish some administrative stuff with them. Arie invited us to stay for diner over there, and to enjoy the concert of Mike stern with Dave Weckl on drums. We had some great chats with the people of De Boerderij. And after the diner we watched Mike Stern, Dave Weckl, Randy Brecker and Chris Minh Doky play. It was really great seeing these masters of music do there thing, on the same stage we had played just two days earlier.
Very nice to attend a great concert. Totally relaxing to the mind!
Tonight Jessica has a gig with a pianist at the Fashion Cafe at Piet Somers. So she just left. I have the rest of the day free, so I will be laying on the couch and watching some movies tonight!!
Tomorrow I need to fix the hardware of my kit, as I don’t want that drumkit to move so much!
I hope to see you all in Zeche, Bochum and in Colos-Saal in Aschaffenburg. It is going to be great!! It will be a great ending of this tour.
See you soon!

Tourblog (9) – gig four: Spirit of 66 – Verviers (BE)

The fourth gig at The Spirit of 66! An interesting one!

Oh, and what a great hotel it was! We slept really gooed, and after a great breakfast, and some nice talking with each other we hit the road to Verviers, Belgium. It was about 2,5 hours driving, but due to some roadwork it became more like 3 hours. Thanks to our KeesKees (or TomTom you might call it) we found the venue quickly. Verviers is a nice little town in the French speaking area of Belgium.
This inspired Wilco and Sruben to some hilarious French language lessons while they where waiting on diner:

The venue, Spirit of 66 is a small club, but a very famous one. A lot of great artist have played there, and this is our second time. Of course Neal has played there a few times with Spock’s Beard. It is a smaller venue, but very nice. Francis, the owner of the club is a very nice person, and took good care of us! Unfortunately times are difficult over there with not many people coming to his shows, due to the financial recession that Belgium is having. We had around 250 people showing up, and that was nice to see.
You really feel the vibe of all these bands and artist that have played at The Spirit of 66. Especially when you are in the dressingroom. Every band have written something on the walls, the ceiling, the furniture, everywhere. Nice things, interesting things, very dirty things, bad things… it is all there. I saw several drawings/remarks of Spock’s Beard, also from the time Neal was touring with them. It gives the whole experience another twist. You really feel blessed that we can do this, and playing on that stage where so many other great bands have been playing. When I write this, I regret not have taken some pictures of that. I hope to remember next time when we will be playing there.
edit: I found out that Berry de Snoo, our guitar-tech, made some pictures:

When I set up the drums, I noticed that I missed a few parts of my hardware. I tried to fix it with some spare parts, and hoped for the best. It is a very small stage, so everybody was crammed on it. Unfortunately the drums and keys of Henk where so intwined, that Neal could not do his drumming special during Stranger. But when playing this set, I really struggled. It was a tough gig to do. Why? I don’t know exactly, maybe being tired kicked in, but it had also a lot to do with my kit. Well, my hardware to be more precise.
I told you about the missing parts during the set up. Some how the holder that keeps my bass drum in place, was loose, so my bass drum and the toms attached to it started rocking from left to right, when I was playing. And that set the whole rack in a rocking motion from left to right, like 5 cm or more sometimes. Quite a few times when I wanted to hit a tom it was moving, and instead I hit the tom, I hit the rim or the stick ended up somewhere the space in between the toms. Very frustrating. Als because the bass drum was moving, my double bass pedal did not feel right. It bounced back and forth after every hit, so when playing right foot, it sounded okay, but the hit with the left foot did not, because the whole bass drum was still moving due to the first hit. So all the left foot hits where not as strong as they should have been. Oh, man did I miss my second bass drum that night!!! But I managed to keep playing, and hopefully people could still enjoy the set.
Although this problem, playing this gig felt really nice. The people there gave us a very warm welcome, and the audience where great. I do not have pictures yet, but as soon as I find them, I’ll post them here.

Tourblog (8) – gig three: De Boerderij – Zoetermeer (NL)

Our third gig was like coming home! What a blast we had at De Boerderij!!

When I woke up this morning, after just a few hours of sleep, I was directly awake, and ready to go to De Boerderij. It always feels so good to play there. The venue is great, and the people that work there are also very nice people, and they make you feel at home there. Not only for us musicians, but also as audience. I have gone to see many, many concerts in the last few years at De Boerderij, and you really feel at home there.
So when we arrived around noon, the people of De Boerderij where already working, and setting everything ready. They helped us unloading the van with all of our gear, and we started setting up. I had some difficulties with my drumset, as I broke a multi clamp the day before. But luckily I had some spare parts with me. Oh, I did not mention that yet, but as I told you that Sruben would not be with us on this tour due to work, he found a way to be there for this weekend. So he helped me, and that was great!
The gig itself, man that was tha bomb! Totally one of the best gigs ever! The place was packed with over 650 people, and the venue nearly exploded. There was so much energy that came of the audience, that it made us play the way we did. I think the gig went really well. Everybody nailed there parts, and it was so much fun to play, and interact with the audience.
Funny thing during the intro of Walking On The Wind. Somehow the plug or cable of the acoustic guitar of Neal did not work, just at the moment that he had to play on his own, that guitar part… nothing happened. Then we play those huge accents again, and then Neal again…. still nothno sound. So everybody had to listen to Neal at that point acoustically, without any PA. I could not hear Neal at that point, as I am using in-ear monitoring. So I just counted when he would be ready, and hit the next accents.
When we played the Question Mark Medley during the guitar solo of Elisa everything felt great, wow, somehow it went very deep emotional and spiritual, and still it rocked amazingly.
Somehow when the vibe is right, when the audience is participating in the gig, when the venue is great, when the people of the venue are really taking part in the show, and when everything comes together it feels so unbelievable good! You don’t want to stop playing (well… I don’t hehehe). As we are recording every show this tour, I think we have a lot of good material recorded during this gig at De Boerderij.
After the encore (Stranger In Your Soul) we where backstage cooling down, Alco put on some music, and the house lights came on. But still a large crowd where in front of the stage, screaming and yelling that the wanted more. I think it was like 5 or 8 minutes or so. So we came back on stage and played King Jesus. And that song, a U2-ish rocky song really rocked. People where jumping up and down, and really participating in the song.
What surprised me is to see that there are not only the older prog fans in the audience, but that Neal is getting a younger audience to. I saw and spoke with a lot of teenagers and young people this tour that really like Neal’s music, so the fan-base is getting bigger and bigger. And that is a good thing!
After the show we talked with some of the fans, and it was great to meet all of you there!
Because the nights where so short (only like 3 or 4 hours of sleep), we thought it would be better to go to a hotel, instead of back home. So Arie from De Boerderij hooked us up with a great hotel in Zoetermeer, and we went over there around 02:00 am. Luckily the wintertime started that night, so we had an extra hour of sleep.
I did not find any Youtube material yet, but as soon as I find something, I will post it here. But I do have some great pictures of Bonnie again:

Tourblog (7) – gig two: De Kade – Zaandam (NL)

After just 3,5 hours of sleep I dragged myself out of my bed. But ready and able to play in Zaandam. After when we arrived and carried all the equipment into the venue, we had lunch together. The people form the venue where very kind, and took good care for us.
De Kade is not a big venue, but a cosy one! They have this dampening material on all the ceilings, and that made that the sound is very good there. I liked it to play there! We changed a little bit in our set, as we have the luxury of having more songs than what is needed in the setlist.
Oh, and they took us to a fancy restaurant next to the venue for our dinner. And that was killer food! A nice starter of pumpkin soup, and a choice of salmon or chicken as main course. A real treat!
This concert we had around 250/300 people in the audience, and it was great to play for them, they where very alive! We had some great chats with the fans, and al in al it was a great gig. Of course our French friend Hylika was there again (as he was at all the Dutch and Belgium gigs) as well as Jose Manuel from Spain. And a lot of our other Inner Circle friends where there. Was great to meet you all:

Hylika uploaded these little movies of us playing in Zaandam:

After loading all of the gear in the van, and driving home I was in bed around 04:00 again…. pppfff… But had a great day!
Here are some great pictures made by Bonnie Stelzer:

Tourblog (6) – gig one: De Reehorst – Ede (NL)

The first gig of the tour!  It is going to be great!!

The gig went great, it was very late until I was in bed, like 04:00 am….. To tired right now (the day after the second gig in Zaandam, 03:20 am) to write anything more, so I will catch up tomorrow!
sleep tight!
………………………………………………….
OK…. It is quite some days later now, and we have done 4 gigs now. I am very sorry for not writing the blog, but I did not had the time or energy to do so. But now it is Thuesday, October 28, and I am sitting in my livingroom, in the sun, enjoying a new CD by female jazz singer and bass player Esperanza Spalding. Also enjoying a nice brunch with some great sandwiches. We have a few days off, before we will play two gigs in Germany.
Ok, the gig at De Reehorst.
Man, that day was just crazy, but I loved it! The whole day we where playing, tweaking, rehearsing, tweaking more, and finally around 4 pm we had it all in the pocket. So it was time to relax. For the band that is. I had to set up the sound and lights for the aftershow, and had a lot to do for the other gigs. After Domino’s Pizza delivered 30 pizza’s! We all had diner, and a lot of laughs. Man, this crew and band together is just one big bag of jokes and funny moments.
We had a support act before we had to play. This was Nuclear Playground. And they stole the show!! They really did. Man, they are good. You can see a bit over here of the show they did in Ede:

Nuclear Playground

This was the last song of the 30 minute set they played, and the audience probably really liked it: they sold over 60 CD’s that night. I think we will hear much more from these guys!
When we hit the stage there where over 300 to 350 people in the audience. It was so much fun to see all those familiar faces, and to see so much friends in the audience. I think the band played great, and the sound was great also. That is one of the things that we hear after every show, that Alco did a great job on the sound. So we where very happy.
I was so curious how people would react on the set list. I, personally love this set, is it so much fun to play these songs, and I could see that you all where enjoying it also 😉
After the show, and during the small break we had the band Green November playing. These are friends of mine, and I recorded and produced there debut album. It was a nice atmosphere, talking with all these friends and fans, having some nice live music being played, it really felt nice there.
Friend and great help Mattias Vanderhoeven made some beautiful pictures, so after the tour I will update my picture page, with some new pictures of the tour.
I met with the French Inner Circle friend, better known as Hylika, and he gave me a big box. He said that he has red my blog from the 17th about me enjoying a great wine. So he gave me this box with 4 great wines from his area, and a bottle of Calvados. Together with two really smelly, but oh, so good tasting french cheeses, and a big can full with French cookies. What a treat! Now that is something to come home to after the tour. 😉 Hey Hylika, thanks man! Jessica and I are going to enjoy this!!
But then came the after-after show. The breaking down of the gear and sound system. A lot of work…. man…. We all were sooo tired after the gig (band AND crew, as we worked all week to get it all done), so with the last strength in us we digged in to the PA and gear. Around 03:30 am we crawled out of the venue to our homes. I was in bed at 04:00 am. And we had to be at De Kade at noon, so you can imagine that we did not have much sleep at all.
BUT…. it was worth it. We can look back on a great first gig, so very satisfied I fell asleep…

Tourblog (5) – rehearsal day three and other great happenings

Today was the third day of the rehearsals in the theater. well….. sort of…

A good rehearsal is always depending on certain aspects. Material to play, a focussed group of musicians,  a good work-environment etc. And no distractions. And there it is, where it can go wrong. When gear fails you, or when you need to make to many phone calls, or…. when you are getting two boxes of goodies…. It can all distract you from the rehearsal. Well. Luckily it did not distract us to much, but sometimes you need to have some time invested in your gear. Failing drumheads where one of my distractions for instance, and I think everyone had one or more today. But still, the playing was great.
Well, the goodie boxes I got today where from Vater Drumsticks and Rode Microphones. I have an endorsement with Vater Drumsticks, and they made me a signature drumstick. Yesterday I got these sticks, and they look cool, but more importantly: they play great. I have two wood types: hickory and maple. Depending on the song, I take the hickory (louder songs) or the maple (softer songs). The box was loaded with sticks and some nice t-shirts and stuff. Only 5 minutes after the Vater box was delivered, they brought me another box that was delivered at the theater. This one is from Rode. The box contained a few great sounding microphones we will use during this tour. That is just so much fun, to play and sing through these great sounding mics.
After the rehearsals that went from 10:00 am to like 19:00 (with a lot of breaks, phone calls, goodie boxes ;), and other stuff). Alco came in at 19:00 and started to build the main sound system. I think it will sound great in this theater. The mixing desk he is using s a top notch digital mixing desk (Venue) from Digidesign (the market leader in studio hardware and software (Protools). In the evening we where soundchecking and it sounded great. There was a natural flutter echo problem at certain points in the theater, but it seems that it is a design flaw of the theater. But luckily you wont hear that if you are sitting in the theater.
Well as I write this it is like 08:00 am of the first concert day. A long, long day ahead and so much to do…
So I’m singing off right now, and hope to see a lot of you tonight, or at one of the gigs. I can’t wait!

Collin