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Diary of a Drum Tech Pt. 9

Hello again!

Clapton Winwood PosterFollowing the London run of shows we flew to New York for a week of rehearsals for the forthcoming Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood US Tour. It gets no better than Steve and EC together onstage- the very best at their trade.

Upon arrival at our New York studios, we bump into old friends, both band and crew also working there including Elvis Costello, Chic’s Nile Rodgers and US rocker Billy Squier. Mary J Blige also appeared during the week we were there.

The songs selected for the tour are a mix of Blind Faith, Traffic, Winwood and Clapton. There is a DVD now released from Madison Square Garden with Ian Thomas on drums from the 2008 shows.

Abe Laboriel Jr is back on the tubs for this tour as The Gaddster is preparing for the James Taylor tour which began mid June with two shows on the QE2 on its way to the UK…a great way to travel.

Steve WinwoodAbe is using one of my former ‘70’s Ludwig 402’s as his main snare with a ‘30s Leedy Student for the acoustic section with brushes. Most drummers use charts until the songs are set in their heads but Abe remembers all the parts along with the huge collection of McCartney songs as he is back on tour with Macca as soon as we finish our run.

His new DW set up has an unusual combination of 24×20/14/12/13/14/16.We are using a DW rack for the toms with fixed mic clamps. Hardware is all from the DW 8000 series. The 14” is the first tom and is positioned first so that the shallower toms are over the bass drum so as not to raise the overall tom height.

Abe is as pro as they come and very hands on – I received photos of the new kit assembled in his studio prior to rehearsals in New York so that I could piece it together.

The band line up is Willie Weeks, Chris Stainton, Abe Laboriel Jr with of course EC and Winwood. Rehearsals are very civilised and generally start at 11am (so crew arrive 9am onwards) through to 4 or 5pm giving crew time to fix or repair once the band leave (take note those bands that finish at 9pm)!

At rehearsals end we load out the equipment and leave the following day for our first show at the Izod Center, New Jersey which used to be the famous Meadowlands and followed by shows in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Columbus OH and onto Chicago.

Flight CasesWhilst in Chicago I paid a visit to vintage expert Steve Maxwell at his drum store which is set in a beautiful building on Chicago waterfront. I shall let you know the outcome at a later date! It was the worst rain that I had seen in a while as I came out of the building in only a shirt and no jacket. As with all cities during bad weather, getting a cab was hard work.

Our show the following day is at the United Center. Guest performer for this show is EC’s friend; the legendary blues man Buddy Guy and, as with BB King, a very respectful, humble man. We leave overnight for the Xcel Energy Center in St Paul MN. I am looking forward to getting there as the promoters rep is David van Putelen a very fine man. He was working with me for Annie Lennox shows there too. Tomorrow is a day off in Omaha NB.

PanhandlingOur hotel is facing the venue, the Qwest Center and I am surprised how well designed it is and so far has the best crew too. They are all very polite and helpful. Load Out is very quick due to the backstage dock design and obviously the crew! There is a College Baseball game locally in Omaha and the team is staying at our hotel. Outside as they leave for the game there are cheerleaders going nuts. I didn’t realise just how popular college games are.

We have a fair old schlep to Denver, Colorado known as ‘Mile High City’. It is a right ole drive taking around 14 hours including a couple of truck stops to stock up on more useless gadgets that you buy on impulse. We used to fly these long trips but with airport security doing there best to save us all from ‘imminent death’, it is easier to stay on the bus. After our show at the Pepsi Center we head from Denver to Dallas TX for a day off before the show at the American Airlines Arena. It is around 100 degrees so I take it easy.

Houston is next on the list followed by a day off in Glendale AZ. Our hotel is right by the Arena and restaurants. We head off to eat at my place – “Yard House” – but it is a 40 minute wait for a table so we scoot off to a Gordon Biersch bar instead. I hope the UK does not follow the US where the same chains of shops and pubs are in every town but I can feel we are going down that route with every out of town shopping centre looking the same. I like small family run independent shops as the personal touch service is far better than a chain retailer, unless of course you strike lucky. You can’t beat an old ironmonger.

Running OrderFellow drum tech and Arizona resident Gary Grimm dropped in for this show in Glendale as he had just finished with Jack Bruno for the Tina Turner tour. Gary has worked for and including Toto’s Jeff Porcaro, Don Henley -The Eagles etc. Rick Purcell guitar tech with Sheryl Crowe and Doyle Bramhall dropped in also. Rick toured with us as Doyle’s tech.

Overnight from Glendale to my worst nightmare – Las Vegas. It is a weird place for me apart from seeing Cirque du Soleil’s “O” there at the Bellagio Hotel a few years ago, which was the best production that I have ever seen. If you get a chance to watch any of their shows, they are worth every penny.

Unless you are going to a show or getting married in an Elvis suit or a wine waiters outfit, Vegas seems like a town full of desperados. Seeing food delivered to a customer glued to a fruit machine is only the tip of the iceberg. We are at the MGM Grand which I have done a few times with The Who.

We normally have to eat in the staff canteen where all the croupiers and casino staff eat…it confirms my fears!

Onto San Francisco for a day off. I love SF – there is a nice air about it as we drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and through Chinatown. Unfortunately we drive in as they begin their Gay Pride March and our hotel is on the other side of the Parade. After traffic delays we get to our hotel. Upon arrival my two Ludwig 14 x 6.5 Black Beauties have showed up for the Hire Department arsenal along with a 1958 Ludwig 402 Super Sensitive…lovely!! I can’t wait to get them home for a damned good thrashing! Off to the shops now for a tube bag and some grub.
HoustonTwo shows to go. The first is at the Oakland Arena just back across the Bridge followed by the Hollywood Bowl in LA.

Paul Becker, director of Nocturne Video visited today as we are using Nocturne gear and techs that had just finished with The Stones. Paul is video director for Madonna and McCartney along with many more including a few tours with myself during my days with The Who.

The following day we wake up on the bus at the Hollywood Bowl in LA. Today being the last show day, is spent trying to get 2 ton of stuff into a 1 ton suitcase as per usual!

Prior to his death, Michael Jackson was rehearsing at the Staples Center in downtown LA where we recorded the EC live album “One More Car, One More Rider” in 2001. A few of our friends were working for Michael but were obviously sent home after the memorial show. It seemed strange to me that his father Joe was attending an awards show a couple of days after

Set List

Michael’s death. Whatever you think of MJ he was a huge talent. Not sure about his daughter speaking at his memorial concert though.

The Bowl is always a great gig to do. You can see the famous Hollywood sign up on the Hills from the venue. The local hands know us well so the day goes smoothly with Dave as head Carpenter/Crew Chief. We spend time marking all the flight cases for their various destinations at show end tonight when we finish and it all gets shipped back to suppliers and musicians. We head for our hotel and begin to cry uncontrollably as we say our goodbyes to everyone not heading back to the UK (well, I maybe exaggerating there). While sitting in the lounge of LAX it strikes me that tomorrow I will be at home thinking “I was in LA this time yesterday”

A few days after my arrival home I shall be at a video shoot with Placebo with my 1970s Black Rogers kit that we used for ‘Control’ the Joy Division film for Steve Forrest and then as a guest watching them with my son Nick on guitar the following day at the Roundhouse in Camden for the ITunes Festival… can’t wait!

Van Morrison in the US coming up next… watch this space!

See ya,


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