It’s another early day for Winning Team members who help Nicky with pipe and drape in the Green Room; it’s another hockey rink with uninspiring sacred spaces and a floor of concrete sheen; it’s another morning of rigging from blue girders in the roofspace. Moncton Coliseum’s girders are low compared to Harbour Station’s in St. John and our lights and speakers are lifted to a maximum possible height, which is in fact below the desirable height. Lighting Director Ryan prefers a minimum upward distance between stage-dwellers and lights, and so today’s distance is furthered by having our stage four feet in height as opposed to the usual five.
Normally on stage left, we’d have a lateral stage extension, perhaps a foot lower than the performance area, for guitar and monitor worlds, but today we’re on the floor. And it makes a nice change: we can set up our heavy workboxes without need of either forklift or burly dudes to get them up on stage and down again onto to the wing. After pushing the ‘world’ into place and watching the lights go up, it’s a regular day and setup goes like a system of temporal cogs — until, that is, the stage itself is deemed somewhat unacceptable, and work must be carried out to make it better. In the area where Leonard would spend much of the performance, a few uneven panels are discovered; they’re a little shaky, so we must be patient while union men come and fix the problem. It doesn’t take long, and after they’re done, THEN it’s situation normal; the carpets go down, the risers come up, followed by the backline, microphones, stands, monitors and a myriadic box of et ceteras.
The nice thing about doing these sorts of places, arenas, is the open space during load-in. All the gear comes off the trucks and gets spread around on a clutter-free floor, placed here and there, until it’s needed. If I want to, say, change some strings on a guitar, I can do it out on the floor while we wait for other things to happen. Conversely, in a smaller venue like a theatre with fixed seating, space is a luxury and sometimes we have to twiddle our thumbs before we get access to our equipment which comes off the trucks at a more strategic pace.
Soundcheck songs today: La Manic (twice), Dance Me, The Future, Ain’t No Cure For Love, and Light as a Breeze.
When the show starts, the crowd rise from their seats for a time, whistling and cheering afoot; this whole ‘beginning of a show’ thing is old hat to me, so as I sit with my curmudgeonly butt planted to a drum stool on the same floor as audience members, they tower above me and I’m reminded again that every day, even those filled with et ceteras, has its interesting and unique moments. I’m not entirely sure why, but it was refreshing, being on the same plane as the audience.
New Brunswick being a bilingual province, Leonard speaks in both English and French after Dance Me, thanking the listeners for their warm hospitality before getting into The Future. With guitar world on the floor, considerably lower than its usual height, there are a couple of factors to consider when the question pops out of the ether: where to keep the guitars? During the shows of late, I’ve been setting all the guitars between the drapes, on stage. If Leonard were to call a surprise song, I can then hand over the appropriate guitar to Mitch and/or Javier quickly, being in close proximity to the performance area. Regardless of their physical placement during the show, guitars need to be kept in tune, checked periodically. This process normally feels pretty transparent, when on the same level as the musicians — I can breeze unseen into the drapes, take the instruments to Guitar World, give them a quick check, and sly back into the drapes and out again. But tonight on the floor, I feel exposed when marching up and down the stairs, during songs, grabbing guitars, and taking them back down to tune them; I feel like a bit of a distraction, so by the third or fourth song I abandon this process and keep the bulk of the guitars on the floor with me, bounding up the steps at the ends of songs. (There isn’t enough room to put a ‘world’ between the drapes, in case you were thinking of the possibility.)
The other side of this first-world problem-coin is that here on the floor, it’s just a wee bit cooler than on stage, and this affects the tuning of the guitars. When the guitars are tuned in a cool environment and brought into the warmth, steel strings go flat and nylon strings sharpen. The point is, they deviate from concert pitch and from there, if you have a keen ear, you can tell the difference. But — it’s not that bad tonight really. Weighing the pros and cons between being a distraction walking up and down steps, and guitars slipping by two cents, I opt for the latter err. Thankfully, there seem to be no problems with tuning and I even let my hair down further; trusting that if a guitar is used for one song, and is to be played again only a couple of songs later, I won’t even check the tuning, preferring to leave it on a stand between the drapes, keeping its environment constant.
There are no big surprises tonight; the only deviation from the setlist is the omission of the poem A Thousand Kisses Deep. During the second set, instead of Different Sides, La Manic is played between Suzanne and Miracle. The mixed audience of English and French Canadians respond well to the Georges Dor hit. In the encores Leonard thanked the audience for staying around and if they didn’t mind, although it was a ‘school night’, would they stick around for a few more tunes.
After the show we do the same as usual, packing it down, packing the truck, piping and draping in reverse, and when the wardrobe cases are pushed away, a call goes out on the radio: it’s time for The Winning Team to leave the building. Some of the audio team remain, along with lighting personnel, disengaging gear from the girders, running chains through motors and getting the last bits out of the building by around 3am, by which time, at least one member of the Winning Team is in a deep sleep, dreaming of spiders as underwear models.