Tales From The Undertaker; On Tour With Duke Special, Part III

Well, we don’t have to pretend I’m still in Ireland any more. The last two posts were written whilst still on the road with no internet access, but from here on in I’m back home and writing in the present! So, where were we…?
The Cork Opera House show was fantastic. What a great audience! It never fails to amaze me how enthusiastic the Irish audiences are and how receptive they are to the music. They always sing along in the raucous tunes and stay quiet in the ballads. Just perfect for a show as theatrical as the Duke’s.
On the Saturday we played the Clarence in Sligo, which is a hotel venue on the main high street next to the cinema (and yes, we all paid a visit after sound check, in fact some of the band caught two films in one day. I went to see the new Robert De Niro film What Just Happened?). The stage was a little small and negotiating your way between this and the tiny ‘dressing room’ on the third floor soon became a bloody nightmare. The promoter only managed to rustle up one electronic key between the twelve of us and when you take into account the three locked doors and the lift that stood between us and the dressing room you can imagine the logistical chaos that ensued… It was like the Crystal Maze that place. In fact Chip and I had to wait so long for the lift to come back down after the show that we ended up packing down our gear in our stage clothes. Far from ideal and slightly less than cool. O yeah, and it was another one of those venues that miraculously turns into a shit disco as soon as the act has left the stage. Nightmare.. But the gig was great.

We went on to the Royal Theatre in Castlebar the following day. This is also in a hotel complex, but comparatively enormous and really well thought out as a venue. We had another massive stage to fill and the gig was great.
We rolled up to the Black Box in Galway on the 1st December. It’s a proper sticky-floored rock & roll club that I remember playing with The Divine Comedy a few years back, and one of the venues I’d been looking forward to revisiting. Really great place. It seemed they’d had some kind of panto event going on there recently and they were throwing out a bunch of costumes and staging gear. Now, as you can imagine, this was music to the ears of the Duke Special crew! Peter and Paul discovered a discarded pantomime camel outfit in the morning and decided to try it out for size and take a walk into town… I can’t even imagine the looks on the faces of the unsuspecting locals when, sat innocently sipping their cappuccinos in a quiet Galway cafe, a pantomime camel saunters in and starts ordering coffees. And then turns out to be Duke Special. A bit of rock & roll history in the making there I reckon.. Maybe not, but a good story if you were there… Apparently Peter drew the short straw and wound up at the back end. We also gained an extra band member on the tourbus after the show. He made surprise appearances in most people’s bunks at some point for the rest of the tour…

The Galway show was one of the best nights so far on the tour. There was a great atmosphere (as there always is at any gig I’ve done in Galway) and the audience were brilliant once again. Looking forward to playing there again soon.
The big Belfast show was on the Tuesday. Peter had taken over St George’s Market for the day, erecting two big stages opposite one another in a mini festival setup. I think we eventually had about six (!) support acts, including of course our very own Paul Pilot who’d been opening up for Duke the whole tour (We love his bones). The great Australian comic/singer-songwriter Tim Minchin performed a thirty minute set on the opposite stage just before us and went down a storm. I spent quite a bit of time with Tim during the day and we got on really well. Lovely chap. He’s doing two nights at the Queen Elizabeth Hall this month with (for the first time) a full band. Well worth checking out if you’re in town…
The atmosphere at St George’s Market was electric. There were a few stalls set up selling food etc, it was beautifully lit and the two stages looked amazing. I think we had about two thousand people in for the night and it really felt like a special event. The Lowly Knights walked around the audience playing just before we went on (as they did in Dublin; sorry, forgot to mention them in the last post).
The show itself was brilliant; easily the highlight of the tour for everyone involved. They filmed the whole set so hopefully they’ll put together some kind of DVD version for release. The Duke crew are very good with that sort of thing; I just finished watching the great DVD from their five nights at the Belfast Empire boxset. It’d be great to have a permanent record of the St George’s Market show, it was a real night to remember.
We had a few guests up with us for the show. Tim Minchin came back on for Our Love Goes Deeper Than This during the encore and the crowd went crazy. It was an absolutely stunning show. I really do hope the recording came out well…

The tour finished with a show at the Nerve Centre in Derry, another indie club but much smaller than the Black Box. Being straight after the big Belfast gig, everyone was totally wiped out by this point. We’d played a load of shows by this point with almost no break. Progress was not helped by the fact that we discovered that the in-house PA was shot to pieces. The replacement PA wasn’t due to arrive until right at the last minute, so we spent a lot of the day hanging around waiting and didn’t get much of a soundcheck. 
It’s funny how it doesn’t seem to matter how tired you are before a show, the minute you get in front of an excited audience you suddenly come alive and forget all about it. I do anyway. The audience were brilliant.  We stretched out a little as it was the last night and Peter played a couple of extra tunes in the encore. We all had a great show and it was a perfect way to end the tour.
It was a great experience touring with Duke Special. Everyone in the band and crew are great fun to be around; you really couldn’t hope to be with a better group of people. I love the whole vibe of the band; they’re all so creative and spontaneous in everything they do, it makes it easy to create great music when surrounded by people like that. As a big Duke fan already, it was a real honour to go on the road with him. I’m really hoping they put on some UK dates next year with the same lineup. It’ll be a riot!
If you haven’t got Duke Special’s new album I Never Thought This Day Would Come, go out and get it! It’s available over here for download at the iTunes store, or you can buy the CD direct from the Duke Special Store. What are you waiting for?!
Until next time…