May 26, 2007

A few days ago we traveled from Luxembourg to Finland. It was about 3.5 hours in our chartered turboprop. This plane and crew have made the traveling portion of this tour a pleasure. I got a little seat time in the front office, too, which reminds me of the alternate life that I miss when I travel: the civilian pilot. Today will be our last flight with this charter company, and I'm right now looking out at the carpet of solid clouds just underneath us. It is more interesting to look at than any TV show, and allows my mind to wander and appreciate the freedom of those moments in the sky, even as a passenger. Although, on a commercial flight with somebody telling you to turn off your computer, put your table up, move your seat, fill out this landing card, etc, and no elbow room, you don't quite get the same blissful feeling looking out the window. Our captain, Thomas, prepared a little table of champagne and caviar right in front of the boarding steps as we walked out to the plane. Stuff like this doesn't normally happen, by the way. Champagne? Okay, I'm not flying myself, so I'll have a taste. Caviar? I find one solitary cracker that doesn't have fish eggs on it and quickly devour it. We raise our glasses in a toast to the Captain, take a group picture, then everything is cleared away as we clamber aboard. Everybody loves this guy!

I have to tell you this story, and I'm not sure if I have before, so bear with me. While we were on a chartered jet to a benefit concert some time ago, I was reminded of how different it feels to not get the typical passenger treatment, as our normal airline travel involves. This particular jet was being offered to us at a big discount since we were doing a charity show, so it even came with a flight attendant and some catering. During the flight, Ian Paice and I had our computers out, with GPS antennas and different software running, both of us amazed at the speed and altitude displays on our computers during this flight. When we started to descend, the flight attendant got on the P.A. and said something like the usual "please turn off your computers, fasten your seatbelts, etc.". Nobody has to remind me to fasten my seat belt when an aircraft is getting ready to meet the ground, but I have never understood the part about turning off the computers, or restrictions on GPS, etc. The flight attendant collected some coffee cups from the pilots, (who I had chatted with before the flight), and came back in the cabin. She said with a little embarrassment, "They told me you're a pilot, so you know it doesn't matter if you leave your computers on. I'm supposed to make that announcement every flight, though, sorry!". I guess it makes most travelers feel like they're in the best hands if the smaller jet restricts their activities the same as the scheduled carriers do. Indeed, as a pilot, I have seen laptops on top of avionics stacks, on top of glareshields in the cockpit, and in every case, the computers are giving the pilots more information and making the flight safer, without any bad effects on the radios. (For the record, I'm aware that any electronic device, especially those with a clocking chip, will emit some RF, it just isn't a problem in any plane fit to fly, IMHO).

Last night was our last gig with Thin Lizzy for a while. They have been so easy to work with. They have all been in so many different bands, tours, etc., that they know exactly what to do, and they do it very well. Actually, we had a similarly good result with having Styx on the tour for the UK portion, also. Everybody is American, (or Canadian) and we could instantly relate, hang out and discuss life at home and on the road with similarly common experiences. Tommy Shaw, from Styx and Damn Yankees, sat in on "Smoke.." and blew everyone away with his relaxed command of the instrument and effortless vocal harmony. I do try to explain some of these great things about the tour in order to give a glimpse of the upside of this career. Of course, there are those interminable days spent in the hotel room (travel day, or day off) that have cropped up on this tour leg that are indescribable in a totally different direction.....for someone who really treasures time at home as well. But when we're working, we're working well, and playing together well, it seems. This, to me, seems like an especially good period for the band. We're able to play as a group without any labor involved, just having fun onstage. That is the real reason I started playing in the first place, and it is still that much fun to go up and play every night. That's why I wish there was a show every day, without those days off to spend wishing you were at home with the family or doing what you've practiced and trained to do. But, that's the reality of the music business, and in fact, any business. Things don't line up perfectly, and you get what you get.

The audiences have been surprisingly good. In fact, we probably had our best ever show in London since I came in the band. I was super glad for my British brethren in the band, to see the group do so well near their hometowns. My first tour of the UK was memorable for a couple instances of disgruntled fans, (have you ever heard of a 'gruntled' fan?). A few rude comments in some quiet moments, and a couple of flying beers.....(at least they weren't cold beers) marked some of the low points of that first tour for me. Over the years, those people stopped buying tickets, and lots more music lovers took their place. Which brings us to a pretty nice place. The audiences range in age from very young, to teenagers, to people our age, (older than teenagers, I guess). Many times during this tour, Ian G and I have looked at each other and agreed that we can't ever remember an audience like that, in (fill in the name of the city), ever. Thanks for making it that way! 2007