Back On The Road With Clare Teal!
Well it’s been a pretty busy period out there on the road with Clare Teal. We’ve done twelve shows over the last few weeks and we’ve all clocked up over two thousand miles as we travelled up and down the country. I was intending on posting a mid-tour blog to let you all know how it was going, but there proved to be insufficient time once I actually got home! It’s amazing how your one day off at home suddenly erodes away amongst a big pile of washing and unanswered emails when you’ve been out touring… I figured that my constant updates on Twitter would have to suffice for the time being. And once again, a little apology is probably in order for those of you who sent me @replies via Twitter whilst I was away; I still have yet to figure out a method of replying to your messages once I’m out on the road. I’m still waiting for Vodafone to sort me out with a new sparkly phone with which I can fully engage with the online world once I step out the front door!
The Teal Tour started out with four nights at Ronnie Scotts. This was a pretty tall order as we were trying out a brand new show at one of the country’s most prestigious jazz venues. Less than ideal (nobody wants to peak too early now, do they?!), but after a couple of days rehearsal we were pretty confident that the new show was going to be a hit. And it was.
We were out promoting our new album Clare Teal Live At Ebenezer Chapel. Unfortunately the album was so new that it wasn’t actually ready for the shows at Ronnies (artwork, artwork, artwork… the bane of all album production!). When we did finally get the CD’s for the Falmouth show, we were all over the moon with the results. The music sounds great and the artwork is beautiful. We recorded the album in front of a small audience in January. There’s a fantastic atmosphere to the live recording; you can really feel the energy in the room. The new album is now available on Clare’s website. During the tour they were only available at the live shows so needless to say, they were selling like the proverbial hotcakes. We’re all very proud.
The Ronnie’s shows were a big hit. We had a full house for three out of the four nights and the audience loved the new material. Our new MD Grant Windsor has produced some stunning new arrangements (he also did a lot of the arrangements for the live album), and the band is sounding better than ever. Colin and AD have become an integral part of the live sound with a far greater emphasis on close harmony backings and the addition of guitar, trumpet and percussion. We’ve even got Chris Dagley playing bongos for one number. O yes…. A personal favourite number in the new set. I shan’t give too much away, you’ll just have to come along and see the show for yourselves. Let’s just say that it has to be seen to be believed…
I even managed to survive what can only be described as an act of sabotage on our opening night at the hands of the bassist playing with the support band. After I rather stupidly agreed to lend him my bass for the first set, he took it upon himself to completely change the action on my bass; handing it back to me just before our first set, remarking nonchalantly “You might want to check the tuning..”. I was not impressed. Especially as I’d just had the bass professionally set up and it was sounding better than ever.
Anyway… I’m over it now.
Our first out of town gig was in Falmouth. Possibly the longest drive of them all at five hours (eerghh..), we played the Princess Pavilion. It’s a lovely little theatre down by the sea (Or is it a river? Not sure..). The audience were a little quiet, but the show was good. By this point we’d already started rearranging the set and adding in a couple of old favourites. You can’t have a Clare Teal show without Messin’ With Fire, after all!
The following day we moved on to one of Clare’s favourite venues, the Brewhouse Theatre in the ‘Big Apple’ (Taunton). This really is a lovely venue and a great little town. It’s always good to have a little time during the day to have a walk around when your on the road. Grant and I went out for some lunch and coffee before the show. We’ve played the Brewhouse a number of times in the past; we’re always met with a great reception and the staff really looked after us yet again. A really good day.
On the 24th, we moved on to play St. Georges in Bristol, another regular venue for Clare. I’ve played there at least three times before with Clare and once with Lea Delaria. It’s a wonderful space for performing and has a great atmosphere… as long as you can get the acoustic under control. It’s pretty cavernous and getting the balance right on stage can be a bit of a challenge.
We had the local BBC come down in the afternoon to interview Clare and film her, Grant and I performing our blisteringly fast version of Tea For Two (Which incidentally features on the live album.. come on now folks!). Great fun… Really hoping that one turns up on YouTube at some point. It’s funny how you never really get to see these things back…
I did another one of those classic moves whilst in Bristol. The old ‘forgetting to call your mates when playing in their town’ trick. It never fails to come back and bite you on the arse. I have one good friend in Bristol, a girl I went to college with and haven’t seen for a while. Although I had it in the back of my mind to call her the next time I was in town, I totally forgot. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but, rather typically, I ran into her in the street during the afternoon. This always happens! It happened the last time I was in Dublin recording with TDC with the one person I know there too. Mortifyingly embarrassing. Felt awful. But it was nice to see her, if incredibly briefly!
After Bristol we had a well-deserved day off at home. When I intended on writing this blog. Obviously I didn’t get around to it… sorry folks.
On the 26th we all schlepped up to South Shields. Yet another five hour slog in the car. We arrived in the freezing cold and wind at the venue which is situated right on the Tyne. I really thought the weather was starting to get warmer by now, rather wishfully discarding both hat and scarf by this stage; but this happy thought was soon put to bed as I attempted to move my gear into the venue and virtually took off like a windsurfer as soon as I put my bass on my back…
After a great show we excitedly set off for our hotel like a bunch of school kids off to Summer camp. We were staying in the gorgeous Lumley Castle Hotel about thirty miles down the road. If you’re ever up in that area I’d seriously recommend this place. Dating back to the 1300s, it is truly breath-taking. Very rarely do we get to stay in such luxury whilst on the road. Clare and Muddy did well to find this little gem! Here’s a little photo so you can get the general idea…
Mmm.. lovely stuff! The following morning we travelled 150 miles down the road to play the Albert Halls in Bolton. Due to the nature of the high stage we were unable to use their piano, so Grant was stuck playing a keyboard again. It’s amazing how this can affect the gig and the sound on stage. It really was a bit of a struggle to hear exactly what was going on and the overly long soundcheck meant that we also missed dinner; not a great start to the evening but the show itself went really well.
We moved on to Huddersfield on the Saturday to play the fabulous Lawrence Batley Theatre. Once again, Grant and I got there early to have a wander round the town and check out the venue. Grant was instantly taken with the piano (in fact at one stage I thought I might be lunching alone…) and the technical crew were really great. This was the closest we got to a hometown gig for Clare on this tour and the show was sold out with around 500 people coming. In many ways it was a shame that this show (and the previous two shows on the Northern run) featured just the trio, but it did allow us to vary the set across the tour a little more and try out some different material. In fact we are working on creating a completely different show for the trio in the near future for these occasions… watch this space.
The Huddersfield show was definitely a highlight for me. We had such a great time at the Lawrence Batley Theatre. The audience were brilliant and it really is a very special venue. I’m definitely looking forward to going back there to play again soon.
The tour finished with two additional one-off shows the following week. The first was up at the Pacific Road Arts Centre in Birkenhead (over seven hours there and back!). This is a really interesting venue which I’d played a couple of years ago with Lea Delaria’s Dirty Martinis. It’s situated in a converted railway depot and puts on a wide range of music from jazz to full-on rock gigs. Acoustically it’s a bit of a cavern, plus there’s no piano, but this is one of my favourite venues to play up North. It has such a great atmosphere and the staff are brilliant. Really worth checking out.
The last venue of the tour was The Stables in Wavendon (and thankfully, not too far from home this time!). We always have a fantastic time there. I’ve played there with Clare at least three times before and we have a fabulous time on every visit. Founded by John Dankworth and Cleo Lane, it really is one of the best jazz venues in the country and well worth a visit if you’re in the area. We were back with the full band this time and had a fantastic show to round off the tour.
But of course the fun doesn’t stop here folks! We’ve still got a load of forthcoming shows for you if you haven’t managed to catch us thus far. We’ll be at the Hull Truck Theatre on the 26th, Pizza Express Maidstone on the 2nd May and the Bath Pavilion on the 3rd. You can find all Clare’s dates (as well as all the other dates I’m playing with other artists) on my MySpace page, as well as on Clare’s official website. And don’t forget to order your copy of Clare Teal Live at Ebenezer Chapel from the Online Shop, where you can also get hold of our last album Get Happy. Enjoy!
ps. Those of you waiting with bated breath for news of my forthcoming solo album (or should that be ‘both of you’?!), fear not. Work is very much in progress, but that is another post entirely. This one is already far too long… until next time!