A year ago, the idea of supporting the Rolling Stones would have seemed utterly preposterous, yet here I am, on a Swissair flight back to London writing about exactly that. Here’s how it went down…
The universe smiled down on us, the planets aligned themselves and an unlikely series of events over the past couple of months resulted in an email from above stating “We’re on! We’re supporting the Rolling Stones!” My email response to this…? “Holy fuck!!!!!”
Here ensued a tornado of activity as the first show was seven days away. An operation was launched to extract Luke from his holiday overseas, all other engagements were cancelled and “Exile on Main St” was on constant rotation.
A week of excited anticipation went by before the time came to meet at Heathrow airport and disembark on a magical voyage we could tell our grandchildren about. We boarded the plane feeling like we’d all won a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
Upon arriving at Zurich international airport. We eschewed the usual band tradition of being met by a man in a van and instead, took a train and a tram to our hotel. If there’s one thing The Temperance Movement collectively love, besides good food and rock’n’roll music, it’s a hotel spa. At this stage in our career, the chance of there being a spa in our hotel is just hopefully optimistic and usually highly unlikely but upon discovering one on the top floor of our Zurich hotel, Paul, Damon and myself were up there like a shot. It was like a sauna nirvana up there! A sauna disneyland! We showered, we sweated, we steamed, we bathed in Japanese Onsen pools and we lounged around in our dressing gowns like a trio of Hugh Hefners. Had we actually been the Rolling Stones, i’m sure we could have also summoned the Playboy Bunnies too…but one thing at a time!
I woke early the next morning like a small, overexcited child on Christmas day. I crept silently out of the room so as not to awake the Kraken – a soundly sleeping Mr Damon Wilson, and went downstairs for a coffee. Today was the day we would get to play at a Rolling Stones show!
Nothing of particular note happened until we arrived at the venue. It was then, when the gigantic stadium loomed ahead of us that the excitement really kicked in. When you enter the Rolling Stones’ world, it’s like visiting Blofeld’s volcano lair in James Bond’s “You Only Live Twice”. There are men in hard hats everywhere, some holding clip-boards, checking computer screens, shouting into walkie-talkies, abseiling down from high above the stage or speeding past in golf buggies, all under the ever present watch of the “Lips” insignia. As a Stones fan, finding yourself amongst this is the equivalent of a Star Wars obsessed kid visiting the actual Death Star! We were shown to our dressing room – bigger than most of the venues we played in our previous visit to Europe – and were greeted by a couple of very welcoming and helpful representatives of the Stones camp.
After the Stones’ soundcheck, we were given the green light to set up. A team of hard-hatted crew helped carry all our gear onstage and in a matter of minutes we were line checking, and in a matter of a few more minutes we were done. Doors had opened and an army of Stones’ fans were already excitedly charging towards the stage from the back of the stadium.
As i may have mentioned more than once before, we like food! Eating food is not purely a human function to be performed to stay alive but it is a multi-sensory pleasure to be experienced in the company of others, and what better place to do this than in Rolling Stones’ tour catering. The colours, smells and tastes were almost overwhelming. Tantalising salads, exquisite cuts of meat, delicate and mysterious deserts, intricately carved watermelons and even a chocolate fountain! I realise i’m being overly verbose for the purposes of making my tour diary interesting but fuck me it was good!
The time finally arrived for us to go to the stage. I wouldn’t say that i was nervous. Just very excited to be a part of something so big and steeped with so much history. It really was a huge honour bestowed upon us by Sir Mick et al and if he or any other of The Rolling Stones touring party happen to read this, i’d like to sincerely thank you all for giving us such an incredible experience and for making us feel so welcome in your travelling home. We had an absolute blast.
So here we are now. Travelling home and taking with us one hell of a memory. And the best thing is…there are 3 more shows to go!