And… we’re back; to arenas. The rumour mill says we are not doing any more theatres on this leg. Henceforth, we shall have more room in which to spread out, and stages tailored to size. Our load-in today was pretty straightforward with IATSE Local 129; no heavy guidelines like you see in places like New York and Chicago where it’s hands-off for us. The goodfolk of 129 don’t mind us getting involved; at least, no one seemed bothered when I extricated a couple of guitar trunks from the bunched backline to get a head start on the day while the lights were still on stage.
With no morning or afternoon dark stage, the setup was a linear victory of efficiency and by noon-thirty The Winning Team indulged in some great lunch followed by thumb-twiddling and last-minute remembering of deeds left undone. But no worries, it all came together and soundcheck began as scheduled.
For at least 10 minutes they jammed a crazy Green Onions-style version of Feels So Good, dished out Different sides twice, doled out Dance Me, flaunted The Future, and laid some La Manic on us to end.
Dinner was like being at home; stir-fry noodles with veggies and deep-fried tofu, prepared before my eyes. I loaded the pan, the catering lady fried the goods, and the spicy vegan dish found its way onto my plate with an ‘oo’ and an ‘ah’ as I scoffed it all.
Being free of an evening dark stage, we were at liberty to hang out in our ‘worlds’, availing of a seat, some quiet, electricity, and internet — the essentials of road-sanity.
With a new country come distinct laws of space and time; my Tampa set list was replaced after nine shows of loyal service with a freshly pressed menu of songs. Contrary to the oh-so-reliable rumour mill, Different Sides did not appear on tonight’s musical itinerary and instead, Democracy was supplanted by Manhattan, with Closing Time moving up the ranks. Even more shocking, the 8pm start time was delayed not by fifteen minutes, but by ten — I nearly fainted. The copious entrances and aisles of Copps Coliseum, an ice rink, lead people into their seats in a timely manner.
When Leonard skips onto the stage, a standing audience welcome him back to his home country and the set begins. Before The Future, he thanks the crowd for their warm welcome and before ensuring them they were going to get everything in the tank, he shared, ‘we hope this isn’t a farewell tour.’
Apart from the slight change in song order, regular diary followers might find little deviance from the norm tonight. The Hamilton audience were lively, appreciative, with many people sharing their personal love for Leonard and his songs with hoots, hollers and hit-me-ups. Load-out was quick, easy, and before 1am Dan and I were in the back lounge of the bus giving zombies a taste of virtual pain. We chocked up an unbelievable 3,019 splendid kills bringing the total count to a glorious, magnificent, stupendous 28,515. It looks like our goal of 30,000 is within reach.
Today’s gig sat in a calendar square three rows above the square labeled LHR-BHD, the final leg of my own journey, Heathrow to Belfast. Dotted in the squares between now and then are six shows in six venues, over 18 days.