The drive to Bercy this morning took a while — the whole of The Winning Team assembled in the shadows of the suburban neighbourhood for a whole 40 minutes before realising our scheduled 9am departure had somehow been swallowed up in the mists of traffic. It was the 10am van that approached, early, and we got into that and sped off to the gig around 9.45.
The first few UHTC souls to arrive for work at the Palais Omnisports de Paris Bercy fell into the doors at 5am, so when we arrived, the party was well into play. Around 10.30 the lights and PA were in the air, and we were able to start laying carpets and moving things from here to there. The top surface of the stage, as pictured, was of small panels, and some of these were uneven; while swapping bendy ones for straight ones, and trying to make things squeak-free, yours truly stepped where he ought not to have stepped, and found himself tumbling into the belly of the stage, through the steel support skeleton, and onto the concrete below. Fortunately, I escaped with minor abrasions, swelling, bruises, and a kink in my nerves as well as my professional pride. That’s the first real ‘accident’ I’ve had in 20 years, and hopefully the last.
Apart from that rather unlucky — and literal — faux-pas, things came together very efficiently to our late-coming eyes. As we’d had the past few days to check out the backline in rehearsals, our confident predictions came true: it was all still working fine after its short trip from the rehearsal facility. The early load-in time today was aimed toward the facilitation of lighting and PA rigging — the babillion miles of cable that connect it all need to be labeled, loomed, and checked; the first couple of shows of any tour are traditionally longer in setting up. Once we get going, things will quicken, and the load-ins will be arranged for a later time.
We are happy to be touring with caterers; apparently, ‘no one tours catering in the US’, and we were no different from that norm, but Europe is a different affair, and we are glad to welcome back the same catering team we had for the first few shows of the 2012 European leg.
The show started 15 minutes late owing to the speed at which the audience took their seats, but they stood in ovation at the beginning of the set after a call went out on the radio: ‘go house lights.’ I know it’s the first show, an opening night if you will, but there would be little point in drafting a literary fanfare in sharing the same old routine. The set list hasn’t changed much, apart from a slight shuffle; in other words, there’s not much new under the sun. However — it wouldn’t be right to omit the extended ovation received by Lover Lover Lover; nor would it be fair to suggest that the ‘pit invasion’ was dull — upon the beginning of Take This Waltz, it seems the audience ripped up their tickets and said ‘avast!’ to their seating arrangements, crowding round the stage; equally duty-derelict would be a denial of witness to the return of the singers — So Long Marianne brought the singalong, something rarely seen in North American audiences; and lastly, to visit France and not play The Partisan would be a sin — the roaring reception to the song, as always, might have been heard as far away as Berlin, if you get my drift.
The Winning Team got their stuff packed up and stacked up, into a truck, and when we gathered enough souls finished for the evening, we were sped back to the secret hotel for one last night’s sleep in the ‘burbs of Paris. With a stiff gait, battered arm muscles, swollen ankle, and tender tibia, I limped into a shower and crawled into bed.