November 9, 2000
The shows have been going really well in Europe. Last night, the German promoter, Klaus Bonisch, gave a nice dinner for the band and management. There was one of Klaus' artists there, a guitarist whose first name is Berndt, who played some amazing solo acoustic pieces. Kind of in the same style as Al Dimeola, but with more electric techniques, like sweeping, thrown in on top of the fast picking.
While on the road, Ronnie James Dio decided that our conductor of the orchestra, Paul Mann, looked a bit like John Belushi. To put this in perspective, Paul is regarded as one of the very best in the business, and I've never seen anyone conduct an orchestra as well as he does. He is a very quiet, polite man. Now, back to Ronnie. Ronnie goes out and buys a gigantic stuffed animal that appears to be a Bee. You know, like a bumblebee. He goes onstage to do his songs and brings it with him and hands it to the conductor. Paul realizes that much of the audience doesn't realize the connection, so he mentions the Belushi things, then the whole audience cracks up as they realize that Belushi did dress up like a bee in the early days of Saturday Night Live.
Naturally, that wasn't enough. A few gigs later, we found out that Ronnie had bought a hat and sunglassses, to try to make Paul look like the Blues Brothers. Roger and I agreed on a key to play "Soul Man" in, and it was pretty funny. When Paul turned to the audience with the hat and sunglasses on, while we went into the verse of "Soul Man", he did look just like Belushi. At the end of the night, he conducted the last tune with all that on again, to the delight of the band members looking back. It's the little things about each show that the performers are likely to remember.....
Today we're going to Poland. To the same hotel that billed me $1610.00 for a ten minute local call to get online. And later said, "Why do you care? You are rich!" I will try to send this from that hotel again, for a hopefully more reasonable rate. In fact, the Polish people are very easy to get along with. Just as we Americans are ignorant of many peoples' customs and way of thinking, sometimes foreign citizens succumb to the widespread notion that we are walking around lighting cigars with $100 bills that are easily picked up off our streets, which are also paved with gold.
Belarus and Latvia are next after that, and we will be travelling in a bus, experiencing a small taste of the landscape and towns along the way. I imagine this last week of this tour having a lot of amazing revelations of life in former USSR. Speaking of Eastern Europe, I got to hear three of the Romanian, or actually, Transylvanian, orchestra players. They were playing folk songs for hours on two different occasions right after the gig. One guy was a trombone player, who could play bass, but they handed him a cello, and he detuned the top strings to a G, D, and A, and left the low one as a C. Then he accompanied the two violinists as if that was his main instrument. The violinists were swapping intricate melodies and doing rhythm with double stops the whole time. The next time, the trombone player was playing keyboard accompaniment. Really amazing, the love of the music they have. And they play it with real heart and soul. Great to have played with all of them.
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