• JH


November 25, 2017

"I know the difference between good schnitzel and bad schnitzel now."

- Deni

"I'm starting to feel things. Better get a drink."

- Ken

Sometimes words fail me.

Don’t take that the wrong way. If you’ve been reading along you know this blog is partly me trying to overcome a deep spell of writer’s block, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Words can fail you in good ways and bad. Today they fail me in good ways.

But alas, I shall try to write with some eloquence about how wonderful last night was, even though it would be more powerful for Sarah to write a song about it.

We played a sold out show in a really cool hall in the German city of Erle. There were around 200 people in the audience, including various members of Sarah’s travelling German superfan group, as well as a few blasts from the recent past: Kenny Stewart, the Canadian ex-pat who first appeared in the Dusseldorf entry, and his wife Anja and son Patrick. It was great to see them.

To those we added a whole bunch of terrific new characters. There was the beautiful Helena, who acted as our de facto liaison, and her parents Michael and Birgit. Michael was the show’s promoter. As always, we were looked after so well. There was also Helena’s lovely friend Sabrina, along with Dieter and Arnof and Party Betty, a dazzling keyboard player who helped us go full honky tonk on Route 66 and Hound Dog. Another charming lady gave me the gears because her football club, FC Koln, beat my beloved Arsenal in a Europa League match this week (we still won the group, ma’am).

Yes, the football. It’s been so much fun talking footie with locals in the places we’ve visited. Last night, though, things went to the next level. I met a woman who, I gather, teaches at a local school attended by youth team players from the big German club Schalke. She knows a lot of the top German players, including the great Mesut Ozil, who plays for Arsenal. She’s agreed to make some phone calls for me, so I can formally announce that in addition to drumming for Sarah, I’m now conducting high level transfer negotiations on Arsenal’s behalf. Arsenal doesn’t know that yet, but I think they’ll be excited about some of the things I’m working on.

I now have a problem, however. I don’t really follow German domestic football, but whatever allegiances I may be developing are becoming conflicted. Schimmi took me to see the incredible stadium in Dortmund. Last night I met the teacher with the Schalke connection. Another of last night’s characters is a Borussia Monchengladbach guy, which isn’t enough on its own for me to support them, but it sure is fun to say. Two things I know for sure: I won’t be supporting Koln, and, with apologies to dear Schimmi, I can’t cheer for Bayern Munich. My Gunners have suffered far, far too much at their hands in recent years.

Okay, North American readers, you can plug back in now.

The show was great yet again – a nice bounce back from the rough gig in Apeldoorn. The gear worked properly, Sarah’s energy is coming back, and the people loved us. Deni opened with a longer set than he’s been doing and they loved him too. He’s building quite a little fan base on this trip. He brought a pile of CDs with him and they sold out long ago. Perhaps there’s a European Deni solo tour in the future?

We did the instrument musical chairs thing again too. Ken took guitar on Get Back by The Beatles and I was allowed to share lead vocals with Deni on Free Fallin’. I absorbed some of his advice about presence and projection and it was agreed that I was a better frontman this time around, so I guess I’ve found my new calling. Bono’s going to retire soon, isn’t he? Party Betty came back up for one of the encores to help us play What’s Up? by 4 Non Blondes. Picture the audience singing and swaying. German crowds are so much fun.

When it was all over, we gathered with some locals for what turned into a wonderful after-party. They wanted us to sample a few regional libations, including shots of Korn and Wach-holder and something called Schlossgeist (Castle Ghost), which is a sweet liquor based on a recipe brought to the area by Napoleon. This is where the words fail. I’ve talked many, many times over the past few weeks about how generous people are to us. Here’s an illustration: Last night after we drank the Schlossgeist, I asked where I might be able to buy a bottle. I barely had the words out of my mouth before a bottle was placed in front of me. A gift.

I was touched then and touched I remain.

As I write this, we’re driving back to The Netherlands for a show that is kind of the “big one” for this tour. We’ve been building toward it since we arrived almost four weeks ago. For the first time in what feels like a long time, the sun is shining and I feel like I can actually breathe. We’re so lean now. We’re battle hardened. We’ve been fighting this virus and playing every single day and travelling and getting tighter and tighter and tighter. The road can be a funny thing. Sometimes the road pushes people apart. Sometimes it brings them together. Our shared experience of this magical trip – illness and all – has made us family.

Ain’t no virus gonna stop us blowing that stage up tonight.

#SarahSmith #ErleGermany