I’m writing this in my bunk of our tour bus, 4am, somewhere near Allentown, Pennsylvania. We’re six weeks into (half way through) this American trip and surviving surprisingly well.
For the first two weeks here we opened for Neil Young. We played in some spectacularly beautiful outdoor amphitheatres. Often carved into mountainsides overlooking canyons, gorges, rivers. One night in Eugene, Oregon, Neil Young was playing “Like A Hurricane” while maybe 20 miles in the distance, lightning strikes, unaccompanied by rain or thunder, lit up the landscape. A lighting man’s dream. Because he was performing two hour solo acoustic shows, Neil Young asked us to perform acoustically too. Dave’s drum kit was stripped down to three pieces while Mark gave up the familiarity of his keyboards for an accordian and melodica (A melodica looks like a child’s keyboard into which Mark blows through a plastic tube. In a Radio 1 interview I told a DJ it was made out of parts from a vacuum cleaner and an enema kit – we call it a colonica.)
We had never played a full acoustic set to an audience before, had only two rehearsals and were totally unprepared for our first gig. Neil Young’s audience are thirty / forty somethings and famously unimpressed by support acts. The first show at Red Rocks was before 10,000 people and was wonderful. The venue was so beautiful, hot and laid back that we could play a set of slow ambient songs ‘Top Of The World’, ‘Really Hard’, ‘Bells’ etc, the sound on stage was so pure and so quiet that we could really hear each other and improvise. It freed us and took us to a new area of musicianship. Dave seemed especially free from the tyranny of the snare and bass drum. After some weird tribal drumming in ‘Sound’ he would often receive a standing ovation. The tour with Neil Young was so magical that when we joined the Soup Dragons tour we continued to play acoustically, to the confusion of the record company who asked us if our equipment was broken.
Update 1st February 1993
Some of you probably witnessed the acoustic sets, as we decided to play them at home. We were very happy with these shows although totally knackered by the end, having come from America via Japan with only a few days to recover from jetlag. After the London gig some music journalists told us that the editors of their papers were only sending journalists “hostile to James” to review us and that had been policy for 1992. This explained a lot – particularly some fairly vicious Alton Towers reviews. It also explains the cyclical nature of the British music press who strive to make a band fashionable, then turn on them. The reason we’ve tried to keep a distance from them.
Thank you for keeping an open mind and ear to our music.