The empty void after such a great tour

Man…. I try to sleep a lot, do nothing and get my energy back. But I really miss being on tour! Although the daily tasks are calling my name, like running my music school, accounting, and working through tons of emails, I really would like to get in the bus, and drive to the next gig, and play a 3 hour set 😉
Not only the more boring tasks are waiting for me but also some nicer things, like writing songs for my own progressive project Transfusion. I hope to start the actual recording in the spring of 2009. I will give myself the winter to write about ten songs.  Not everything that will come out of my brain will probably finds it way on the CD, so I will have some friends writing for me also. I hope to make a CD with at least 70 minutes of music. I like long gigs, but also long CD’s. Well, let’s see where it all goes to.
I have a lot of lyrical themes running in my head. Themes that dealing with the nonsense of life, and the time we waste on this planet. In stead of doing something with that what God gave us, we let time run through our fingers, and sit before the TV, watching empty lies that we think will make us feel good. The drugs of the masses so to say. It is not that I think that my songs will change anything, but it is always good to get people thinking about their own life.
But it should not only be a heavy serious thing, it should be fun and exciting as well. So I am very curious what will come out of this winter of writing.
Well, I am going to watch a movie or something.
Talk to you all soon!

Tourblog (13) – gig six: Colos-Saal – Aschaffenburg (DE)

Well, that was a great tour, and a great last gig. We came home yesterday evening. And today I slept all morning. The tour buzz still rings in my head. I wish we would be playing tonight, but it will take some time before we will play in Europe again. Or…. well maybe sooner than later. Who knows. I’ll keep you all posted!!
After the concert at Zeche, Bochum we drove in the night to Aschaffenburg, where we arrived at the hotel around 03:30 am. The next day we had a relaxed morning, and went to the venue around noon. Only to find the venue still closed. Somehow they did not expect us so early but we where more than welcome there. Colos-Saal is one of those venues where you HAVE to play, if you are into progressive rock. Great venue, great people and always a good turnout. They know how to treat the artist in such a way you immediately feel at home there. I think it is the same for the audience.
But Colos-Saal is also sound-wise a somewhat more difficult venue. The natural acoustics of the hall are maybe not so ideal for the type of music and players we have in the band (well… ok, for the type of drummer I am, hehehe). It is a venue with only concrete walls, ceiling and floors with totally no absorption what so ever. The ceiling is also very low resulting in a room where the sound is trapped, and bounces back and forth in the room. The physics and the measurements of the room are in that way, that you get a lot of standing sound waves, enhancing certain frequencies in the highs, high-mids, but also in the lows. And because of this bouncing sound, the hall has a larger natural reverb, with some fluttering, making the sound at higher volumes somewhat muddy and washy.
During soundcheck Elisa was playing drums with the band, jamming, and I was with Alco behind the mixing desk. And the drums alone (and Elisa does not half play as loud as I do) were so loud, that when Alco muted the drum tracks, it was still pretty loud. Too loud if you ask me. The frequency of the cymbals where painfully loud. hhhmm….. and I am even not playing yet, hahaha. So if it was too loud for you, the only one to blame is ME!!! hehehe.
But these sound issues are not only the thing at Colos-Saal, it is almost always a problem with clubs for sizes under 700 people. The rooms are most of the time a little too small for all those sound waves to find their place. Last year we had all of those screamingly loud amps on stage, combined with all those floor monitors. The stage volume alone was enough to fill the venues at that time.
For this tour we wanted to lower the stage volume drastically. To do so we used as little of monitors and amps as possible. Except for Neal, the rest of the band played with in-ear monitoring, and there were even no guitar and bass amps on stage. I think that helped a lot, and Alco (our sound man) did a really good job. We got lot of praises about the sound this tour. I hope you liked it! But of course it is impossible to satisfy every person that attends our concerts. What is too soft for one person, can be too loud for the other, too much bass, too less bas, too much guitar, too less guitar, the wrong set list, the right set list and so on and on. That is also part of making art together. It has a lot to do with personal taste. But anyways enough about the room and my acoustically freakin’ loud drums there. We had a great time at Colos-Saal and love it to play there! We hope to be back there somewhere next year!
During set-up I finally found out why my kit was not working the way I did. There where some pieces missing in action (De Boerderij told me that they found some screws, bolts ad parts on the drum riser, the day after our gig), and the piece that holds up my bass drum was shifted down, so the whole kit was not in balance, and bounced up and down, and from left to right while playing, making it very hard to really have the right feel on the kit. I finally repaired that, and the kit played great after that. Finally!! Only to find that out on the last gig of the tour…. 😉
I have joked to Neal about playing everything we rehearsed on the last gig. He said every time the same: “no… that’s to much!”. And I was like, we will see how things work out, but I keep this option open ;). We did the same set list as we did on our first gig in Ede. But added Walking On the Wind, and Neal added the acoustic “Nothing That God Can’t Change” and did the extra song Cradle To The Grave with his son Will. As for the first encore, we did We All Need Some Light Now, and the second encore was Stranger In Your Soul with in the middle Bridge Across Forever. Also at certain points we improvised more than usual, making some songs even longer in that way. All of this was resulting in the whole set list being way over the 3,5 hours of material. But the audience still wanted more! So we came back out and played a funny polka-jam while waiting on Neal to load up his sounds for the 15 minute titel track Lifeline. Elisa even had to turn on his computer, as he shut the while thing down already thinking the gig was done. The crowd where really in to it, and it was soo much fun playing this last gig. It felt really good, the vibe was there, and you could feel God’s Spirit move during a lot of moments. It was great. So this gig we played almost 3,25 hours. pppfff…. And after Lifeline, I was still joking like, okay, come on! Let’s do the 30 minute Question Mark Medley! 🙂 But that would be way too long. Almost 4 hours of music, hahaha.
When it all was done and all the gear was loaded in the van it was time for the whole band & crew to eat some nice Döner Kebap at the Kebap Haus in Aschaffenburg. A small place, but really good kebap 😉 The morning after the whole tour party all sat down, and chatted about the tour, having so much fun together. It is always a bit sad when a tour is finished. You really live day in day out with each other, and making great memories together. So we are already looking forward to what 2009 will bring!
I want to end this tour-blog with saying thanks to all of you fans who came out to the concerts. In total we had over 2100 people attending during 6 shows. And we are very thankful you all came!
But this could not have happened without the hard work of these people:

Alco Roelofs – FOH sound and live recording
Berry de Snoo – guitartech/roady
Max Paans – key/bass tech/roady
Ruben Schuring – drumtech/roady
Julie Harrisson – merch
Victor Dijk – roady
Lindsy Vanderhoeven – box office
John Vis – camera’s during whole tour
Meriam Verkleij – camera’s during whole tour
Matthias Vanderhoeven – tour photographer
Wilco Koudijs – thanks for the wireless mic!

and of course my fellow band members! You did a great job!

Well, for me it is time to work on some other projects, like the CD of Daniel Fries, and my own project TransFusion. And I will be looking into some dates for 2009 for the Neal Morse Band to return to the stages or festivals around Europe. Jessica and I will be working on her soloCD, starting with demoing her own songs, and hoping to release her CD somewhere in 2009!
Hope to see you all on the road some day again!
p.s. If you have some (or more) great pictures of this tour, and you would be okay if I used them on my website, please let me know by sending me an email!

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.

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).

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.

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: