London shows — they’re supposed to be important, you know. The last time we played London, it was Wembley, and I remember it being pretty difficult; stress levels were up, things were going wrong, and cannibals had broken through the barricades to dine on our flesh, and one of those scenarios isn’t quite accurate, but in comparison to our last London gig, today’s set-up seemed like a dawdle. It might have been because the PA and lighting department loaded in at 6am; admittedly, nobody likes to get up for an early start, but perhaps the extra time allowed for a more of a chilled-out environment. I say ‘perhaps’ because I sure wasn’t there — I’m on The Winning Team, you know.
Your heroes, your glorious Winning Team arrived at the O2 in Greenwich shortly after 9am and got to work. We have new carpets; nothing exciting really, they’re replacing the old black cord carpets which act as a noise-dampening underlay to the well-used red rugs the audience would recognise. The previous black carpets served us well, but they’d become misshapen and torn, creased and just kinda gross. So we broke out the new stock, cut it into manageable strips and laid it down like some kind of carpet-laying-down-team-of-camp-cybots.
It was a pretty straightforward set-up after that little burst of temporary effort, except the power was a little ‘hot’. As all of the equipment runs on ‘America Power’, 120 volts, we carry a transformer with us; with our output at approximately 128 volts, venue technicians made assurances that somehow over the course of the day, at some unspecified time, magically, the input voltage would drop, thus ensuring we achieved a more desirable level. Now, we could drop the voltage ourselves on our transformer, by 10 volts; 118 would be adequate, but if, as we were told, the voltage did indeed drop, then we would begin to dip below to (say) 115, which is getting a little ‘laggy.’ Unfortunately, transformers such as ours don’t have the ability to step voltages up and down in small increments, and by lunchtime, we were still measuring 128 volts, roughly 6.6% above the ideal. However — assuming that most electrical devices are constructed of components with a +/- 10% threshold of operation, a 6.6% fluctuation isn’t so bad. All the same, with some things, we like to leave no room for error.
An item called a ‘variac’ is a handy tool to employ when worried about high voltages for vintage equipment like a B3 organ. The variac will take the ‘hot’ voltage, and dial it down to ideal. Personally, for some old stuff, I like 117 volts, because… well, it’s a geeky Fender thing I suppose. I shan’t bore the reader with schematic specifications of old amplifiers, yum yum.
Like a swift on a breeze, we shift with an ease in a temporal sneeze. Tonight’s show was scheduled for a 7.30pm start, but like Paris, and just about everywhere else, we were forced into a 15-minute delay due to the time taken for the arena’s seats to fill. When Leonard took the stage, the audience got to their feet in appreciation, and we got under way. Like any big city whose residents have seen and done it all, London’s crowd were polite, but perhaps a little tame. Before the end of the first set, Band Road Manager Joey swung by to distribute updated song lists for the second set, and we went into the break; perhaps Anyhow will liven things up a little.
During Suzanne in the second set, looking out to the quiet crowd from our position on the stage left wing, the audience are stacked on one another in an upward slope; from down here, surrounded by audience members, it feels like being in the centre of a bowl; looking out and up, camera flashes seemed like brilliant, twinkling stars in a miniature cosmos; the green focus beam nebulae, the vermillion red-eye supernovae, and the tungsten pulsars are the makings of a universe in model scale. Sisters of Mercy was thrown in at a moment’s notice replacing The Gypsy’s Wife, and Show Me the Place was omitted. Anyhow got the punters going a little, but it wasn’t until So Long Marianne came about in the encores that the crowd really came alive. Soon after, the London show was done and it was time to get out.
Overall, for me, it was a good London gig experience; very little stress, no overbearing logistical hiccups, and at around 11.20pm, a relatively early finish. London shows — they’re supposed to be important, you know.PS — the voltage didn’t seem to slip below 126 in Guitar World.