Down and Out in Paris and Denmark (Part I)

Well it’s been a rollercoaster of a week folks and I thought it was about time I filled you all in on what’s been happening.
One of those classic situations arose where three of my main acts decided to go out on the road at the same time. Some early intervention and juggling meant I was able to play with two of them out in Europe, but was sadly unable to make Clare Teal’s week at Ronnie Scotts. This was the first time she played a long run at the club, and I hear it was a resounding success. I’m sure she’ll be appearing there again soon, so fingers crossed I’ll be there with her next time.
I started out rehearsing with The Divine Comedy in town last Friday. We had an awful lot of new material to get through. Neil had decided to perform about fifty percent of the show in French, singing French pop songs by various artists ranging from Serge Gainsbourg to Vanessa Paradis.
For those of you who really want to know (and don’t know already!), this was the setlist;

1. Amsterdam (Jaques Brel)
2. Europop
3. Poupee` De Cire, Poupee` De Son (France Gall)
4. Generation Sex
5. The Songs That We Sing (Charlotte Gainsbourg)
6. Becoming More Like Alfie
7. Les Playboys (Jaques Dutronc)
8. When The Lights Go Out All over Europe
9. Anita Pettersen (Vincent Delerm)
10. Songs Of Love
11.  Home (Jane Birkin)
12. Our Mutual Friend
13. Les Copains D’abord (Georges Brassens)
14. A Lady Of A Certain Age
15. Sexy BB (Neil’s medley of Serge Gainsbourg’s Initials BB and Air’s Sexy Boy)
16. If..
17. L’amour Est Bleu (Vicky Leandros)
18. The Summerhouse
19. Je Changerais D’avis (Francoise Hardy)
20. Tonight We Fly
21. Joe Le Taxi (Vanessa Paradis)
22. National Express
It became apparent fairly early on in the rehearsal process that this was going to be too much material to learn properly in the short time we had available, so I decided that I would read the bulk of the new material on the gig rather than trying to bluff my way through. The shows were also being recorded which added bit a pressure to the proceedings. I usually hate reading in these situations but the last thing I wanted was to have all my little cockups from the gigs perfectly preserved for all to marvel at in the future.
We left for Paris on the tourbus late on Saturday night, arriving early the next morning ready for another day’s rehearsal at the venue. Cite De La Musique is a fantastic venue in Northeast Paris. Don’t ask me exactly where it is because frankly, I don’t know that particular corner of Paris and I didn’t feel much like exploring further than the street it was on while I was there. Lazy I know. But it was going to be a busy week and I thought I’d use my spare time wisely and do what the Parisians do.. essentially sitting around outside cafes reading, drinking too much coffee and chain-smoking to pass the time.
We met our two guests at the Paris rehearsal. The first was Vincent Delerm. We were playing a cover of his song Anita Pettersen from his 2004 album Kensington Square (check it out if you haven’t heard that album). He was singing Neil’s Songs of Love with us. It ended up being a great version of the song, although changing the key did put our backing vocals up into the stratosphere! Luckily I’d recently invested in a couple of pairs of (very) skinny jeans. I remember thinking, if I was to do an impersonation of a Frenchman singing that song, it really wouldn’t have sounded dissimilar to Vincent’s interpretation! Priceless and perfect.
The second guest was the lovely Daphné. Sometimes referred to as the French Björk (according to her biography), she has a fantastically delicate voice. She sang on two songs; Sexy BB and If; which she performed as a duet with Neil….

…wearing a rather fetching outfit I’m sure you’ll agree. Made me feel a little underdressed.

She gave us all a copy of her album Carmin, which I’m listening to right now. Go forth and purchase, people! It’s a great record. Some fantastic songs and lovely production. Tinges of Fiona Apple too… Sounds a bit like Extraordinary Machine in French. Which to me, is a good thing.
The Divine Comedy performed two shows at the Cite De La Musique on the 22nd and 23rd September. Neil had even worked out some hefty inter-song banter in French to wow the crowd (I use the term ‘wow’ in it’s loosest possible sense; for one thing, most of the audience were probably British anyway and would’ve had no clue as to what he was saying. And I shouldn’t think the locals had a much better idea either). In fact, his French teacher from Dublin came to the second show and gave him a glowing report afterwards. He did very well.
Paris is such a great town. You can get fantastic food and great coffee pretty much anywhere and the Parisians are such a great audience to play to. They really got into the music and the response we got at the end of the shows was really encouraging. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we make another appearance…
Everything was going swimmingly for me until after the second show, where it soon became apparent that I was in store for another Journey From Hell (and as any of my regular readers will know, I am no stranger to the Journey From Hell). I had four shows with Maggie Reilly starting the following night in Denmark and all my various cunning plans to get to Beauvais airport in an elegant and cost-effective fashion gradually came unstuck during the last day in Paris. I had no hotel booked for after the show (computer/TDC said ‘No’), and quite frankly I wasn’t up for blowing the entire gig fee on hotels and taxis. Now, I was under the impression that Beauvais was just outside Paris. I was very wrong. It is in fact bloody miles away. Probably further than Stansted is from central London. I eventually found out that a cab to Beauvais would be around 170 Euros, around the same time that I was told I wouldn’t be getting a lift on the tourbus with the rest of the band who were heading to Calais. Nice.
The bus left the venue just after 11 pm. I managed to hook up with a select bunch of TDC fans for a few post-gig drinks (in my case, coffees!) and a late night binge in the 24-hour McDonalds (Oh, the glamour!). By 2 am I was left wandering the streets of Paris alone in the wind and rain, lugging my bass around in it’s less-than-lightweight flightcase.
I decided that with no hotel room to stay in, I’d start ambling towards Port Maillot, where the 13 Euro shuttle buses to Beauvais leave from. I was expecting some kind of bus depot, not unlike the Victoria Coach Station. Sadly, I was met with a glorified bus stop with a little kiosk (shut) when my cab pulled up at outside. By this stage, there really would have been no point in booking into a hotel as by the time I’d have fallen asleep I would’ve had to leave again for the airport.
I found myself sat on my bass case, parched and starving in the cold and wet for about three and a half hours in that bloody bus stop. I was accompanied by two drunken Polish chaps who spent the entire night arguing with each other at the top of their voices, and a couple of sleeping backpackers. Visions of Jaco Pastorius sleeping rough on a Floridian basketball court clutching his bass sprung to mind. After about an hour and a half I really did feel like some sort of vagrant. 
Interestingly,  at around the 4 am mark, a series of rather lovely girls started arriving one by one at the bus station. Which at least made the general scenario rather more pleasing. It also calmed down the Polish guys. I managed to get on the first bus at 5 am and arrived at Beauvais at around 6.30. Coffee and croissants helped ease the pain and the knowledge that I still had 2 flights ahead of me, followed by a 90 minute drive to Maggie’s first show. It seems there were no convenient flights from Beauvais to Billund that day, so I had to fly via Dublin (yes, Dublin!). Deep joy, I’m sure you’ll agree!
So anyway, that’s the end of the first installment of the road diary. I shall follow up with Maggie’s shows in part II sometime over the next few days. For those of you following my Podcast, expect a deluge of new tracks in the near future. I accidentally bought my dream bass (a Warwick Thumb VI NT, from now on to be known simply as ‘The Beast’!) at GAK in Brighton when I was at the Komedia with Clare a couple of weeks ago. Martin Peterson is currently working his special magic on it at The Gallery this week, so we’ll be back in action next week. Can’t wait!