Blog: Juliet’s Soup Chronicles (Winter 2008)

Three Days Blurred: The start of the tour

10th December 2008 | Juliet

There’s about 37 of us working on this James Xmas tour and there’s seven of the band so it’s quite a big team, with three tour buses and lots of trucks… this is big style touring compared to the USA tour. Lots of old faces gather again. Shabby, Stef, Chris, American Chris, Simon, Nick, Nigel, Benny and Zeb. And we have catering… with the lovely Simi and his team rustling up all kinds of things, e.g. leek and potato soup with rosemary, to keep us energised, healthy and enticed.

Well since we spoke last, James have been writing songs, going through mini-discs, sifting and sorting jams and things, finding gold amongst the muddy bits… And me, well I’ve been recharging in India, doing a fair wallop of intense yoga and ambling about in the foothills of the Himalayas and enjoying talking to local Tibetans.

The band have spent time writing new material holed up in Brighton. But back to the tour…  it seems quite short compared to America but we are all excited to be out on the road again. We are only sleeping on the bus one night, and that was yesterday after Brighton when we drove through the night north to Leeds. We chortled through classic episodes of the Fast Show, eating houmous and salsa and drinking wine ’til the small hours.

The Brighton show was at the Dome. A grand spectacle of a building in the old theatre style but big enough to host a big bit of a do. There was a dodgy damp corridor on the way to the dressing rooms that smelt curiously of cabbage. The security guard said King George used to use the corridor/secret passage on the way from the palace. He didn’t say what he used it for but apparently it was a place where no one knew what you were up to. Hmm, whatever George. Anyway, Larry and Tim opened the show with Lose Control, wandering in a troubadour style through the audience. It took most of the song to get through the crowd. VooVoo (Adrian Oxaal) turned up backstage but didn’t play, as he didn’t bring his guitar. It felt like the tour had begun proper. There’s lots of new things in the show.

Lee Baker and his band My Federation were support act keeping it local for the opening night.

James did a show at the spectacular Proud Gallery in Camden on Sunday night but that was quite a small do. The setting was beautiful minimalist, a far cry from a rock ‘n’ roll venue, with loads of great shots in black and white of musicians on the white walls. The place had been stables in the olden days where Shire horses had once been kept cos it was near the canals… It had a fantastic gallery as a dressing room with mega white xmas tree decked out in black baubles and black crows in the centre. We ate Thai takeaway in all the vastness of the room. The band tried out a few of the new songs. Jim’s bass amp blew up two or three times in the gig. Ron and Stuart from Unkle Bob came to the gig and the aftershow.

Next day, Monday, was a big production rehearsal which had everyone on board and went well. Chris the American lighting designer came over for this tour and has been given lots more toys to play with which he is happy about.

Today we are in Leeds, having a day off. All is quiet…

It is Wednesday…

Leeds Academy: Thursday

11th December 2008 | Juliet

There was a fantastic scooter Piaggio parked up outside the gig…like nothing we’ve seen before all decorated with the James flower and Getting Away With It…was a groovy scooter indeed.

Some of Tim’s family came to the show cos he is from Leeds. Out and about during the day he noticed the cinema where he once saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is now a shop, Primark no less.

The sun shone that day in Leeds. The gig was sold out and the place was heaving. There was a festive funfair outside with fairground horses baring their teeth. Saul brought his son’s toy guitar and played it on the stage. The crowd were great, said Mark, who lived in Leeds for 10 years. Tim and Larry almost didn’t make it through the audience in the opening song – the crowd wouldn’t give ’em enough room to walk.

I went shopping to four stationers in search of clipboards for the mailing list. Please sign up, they are on the t-shirt stand. You get a free James pencil if you do.

Big change of plan, we’re now travelling and sleeping overnight a lot. Tonight it’s Leeds to Glasgow. We set off late. Some guy in a suit staggered up to the bus outside the hotel at 2 in the morning on a mobile giving a running commentary:”Fantastic bus.”  When Tim left the hotel to get on the bus still in his stage gear checks he added… “and now there’s a bloke in pyjamas getting on…”

So we drove through the night. And it was chilly cos there was crisp Scottish air blasting through the vents as we pulled up for breakfast at the SECC, full English or whatever else. Some people stayed asleep on the bus for a bit longer before heading off for swimming in Glasgow local sports centre.


12th December 2008 | Juliet

Well here we are in the dressing room in Birmingham. Today’s soup was tomato; there was probably some balsamic in it. It’s a damp soggy day, and while preparing to soundcheck, Larry, Saul and Jim are chatting about their day in Glasgow. Saul in his white suit looked like Mark Owen’s dad, said Jim. He broke a stick when he was drumming up on the high riser and realising there wasn’t another one took to bashing the skin with his fist. The song was Stutter.

Larry, Saul and Andy say they went for a swim in the afternoon at the edge of a roundabout in Glasgow. “Top totty on the front desk,” says Saul. “And the steam room looked like a gay disco,” added Larry. “It was mental with tiny fairy lights and little glass pyramids, which kept changing colour, purple one minute blue the next.” Lol was expecting a naked woman to come down a pole at any minute.

Meanwhile at soundcheck, the high riser “pyramid of pop” in all its dazzling glory gave an edge of Phoenix Nights. The riser is very high, although it doesn’t look it, says Saul. And it wobbles which adds an element of high wobble-ocity said Jim. “It’s a vertiginous experience…but well worth it,” says Saul (to look like Mark Owen’s dad.)

Gordon Strachan and his wife Leslie came to evening catering and to the show. Brian Leitch, lighting designer, asked Gordon ‘what do you do’.

After the show we set off at 1am ish …this time  to Birmingham….

Birmingham NIA Arena Saturday

13th December 2008 | Juliet

Today’s soup was lentil. We drove down to the arena, parked up alongside the other green buses. It was a very rainy, soggy and damp day. Dressing rooms were a bit the same, all a bit on the cool front. But hot showers were hot. By 1pm there was soup.

The soundcheck was rigorous. Rehearsals and polishing bits and pieces ready for the show.

The show was a good one, great crowd, good vibe all round. Phil from the Twang sang on Say Something. John, the Twang’s bass player was there too and during the new song Porcupine commented on Saul besuited in white on the big podium:”It looks like God playing the violin.” The crowd danced a lot and there was a stage invasion and much dancing even after the final encore when Harry Belafonte took over courtesy of Stef and Chris, the sound ones.

There was a great buzz at the aftershow. It was going to be a long wet drive down to London. Third night on the bus. Entertainment was brought to us by Mark who can always work out the high technology of bus TV screens when everyone else has given up, and presented us with a recent Nick Cave concert. That kept us absorbed for a while as did eating lots of food etc. Finally got to the hotel at 4am ish. It’s one of those modern high tech hotels where the light switches are never where you think they might be and never do what you think they might do and the bathroom light seems to stay on terminally…as for working the TV remote well could someone please standardise these things?

Sunday Day Off

14th December 2008 | Juliet

So today, Sunday, is a day off. A day for sleeping and shopping and walking along the Thames taking the London airs…and there was even a soup moment in the Brazilian cafe in Neal’s Yard. Sweet Potato and Basil…muito obrigado.

Brixton Academy, Monday

15th December 2008 | Juliet

There has been much sleeping and dozing for those holed up in a hotel beside the big river. Others have popped home to do family things like see the Snowman and marvel at how the Snowman’s fingers turn to icicles, like Edward Scissorhands, when he washes his hands and how he can fly…

But now it’s Monday. Time to head to Brixton to the fantastic art deco theatre venue that is the Academy. This splendid building was built in 1929 and was once an Astoria Theatre. In the early days it was a place to go and see “talking pictures”. Indeed my grandad, bow bells born but Brixtonian, took his girl (future gran) to the motion pictures where they shared a quarter of nuts and nougat. Whatever, it worked out well for them.

But now this magnificent piece of architecture is a rock venue and has a great corridor of photos of famous faces who have been there; only one of the portraits has been ripped from its fastenings leaving a shadowy mark around it on the beige wall. I wonder who?

Soup is a creamy spinach and potato. Later comes a hefty and hearty Sunday roast or goats cheese tart option. We are now full, very full. Andy Diagram has the vegetarian option and then three puddings. He had been canoeing up the Thames on Sunday and needed a refuel.

There is much excitement at the assorted festive hats that Zeb has acquired. The turkey hat doesnt get worn for long but the xmas tree, once batteried and rearranged, works well on Dave. Saul’s wings have arrived. Helping them on is like getting a kid into mittens on elastic.  Anyway it’s a little bit of a tricky venue soundwise cos it’s an interesting shaped theatre for starters. The backdrop gives the feeling of sitting outside in an Italian piazza if you look up. The crowd are fantastic. It’s sold out. And there is much dancing and getting on stage. There’s a big party after the show upstairs behind the glass screen bar and another one in the dressing room.

Day two in Brixton

16th December 2008 | Juliet

Today’s soup was Moroccan chickpea…with much chili and spice.

Tim is  a bit deaf after the sound issues last night. Hopefully this is temporary. Meanwhile, Larry has a trip to St. Thomas Hospital with what he considers a suspected broken foot. It hurts to walk. He limps badly for most of the day.

After waiting for two hours in the A and E department receiving little more attention than a ticket with a number on it, Larry gives up and heads tosoundcheck . The mysterious circumstances of the foot are still unknown to anyone but Larry. Speculation on what happened and how the incident may have involved astiletto boot are still unconfirmed. However lashings of arnica cream, nurofen, an ankle support and plenty of ice seem to have calmed the situation for the show to go on.

And it does…on the sloping dance floor of this old cinema palace…

Manchester the first

19th December 2008 | Juliet

Today’s soup was garlic and potato with thyme with a splash of cream in there.

The venue is a bit on the chilly side and there is torrential rain staining the carpets, dampening bags and important pieces of paper in the dressing rooms. Tim’s lyrics bled.

But there is a spirit of festiveness especially when the team of pink air hostesses, the Air Muffins, arrive to help the audience find  exits and entrances. In the foyer some slimline skinny Santas are busy giving out gifts. And the “Tone Float” milk float is already doing its thing. An accompanying tv screen of camberwick green milkman is part of the installation. It fills G-Mex with the cranky sound of ringing milk bottles and car horns and cows mooing. In the great tradition of English eccentrics, these milkmen of human kindness did versions of Manchester musical classics with a bit of James Sometimes thrown in. The Tone Float is like a mutant mobile milk bottle xylophone. Each bottle has a small electrical hammer behind it, which is ‘played’ by a midi keyboard or drum machine, and a few strings of wire ‘n chips. Milk bottles have a pretty harsh tone when empty, but when filled with ‘milk’ to different levels a semblance of tonal scale emerges, and the fun begins…

Saul has smaller wings today. Tyrone the sign language dance man does a perfomance on the podium to Tomorrow and Frustration.

Tim had a few post show thoughts on the gig:

“Do they get the weirdness of Gold Mother into Stutter? Or have they just come for the pop songs? This was going through my mind as I was reading the audience.But by the end it seemed everyone was having a good time.”

Same place, new set tomorrow.

Saturday’s soup was provençal.

20th December 2008 | Juliet

It was a grey day in Manchester, grey and wet..

But tonight there were pink air hostesses again ushering the crowd, Santas and the Tone Float, and a new set list. Tyrone danced to a different song, and Andy wore his red dress again.

Catering was incredible. Xmas dinner with variations, salmon with lemon butter and something exotic with wild mushrooms for the veggies. There was port and stilton and xmas puddings…
Larry and some assorted friends and family, some from portugal one from brazil, headed off to party at Spirit on Canal Street and saw the early morning in…
It was a great tour. Thank you everybody.
I am making spicy parsnip soup today…

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