Well bloody hell. What a day that was. A truly extraordinary day, worthy of mention and one which I’ll remember for a long time. It’s not like me to gush about playing the piano, but just this once I’m going to.
The day started with mostly panic. After writing yesterday’s blog, I mostly read aloud and got more and more anxious. I realised that the issue wasn’t that I was doing a reading during a wedding ceremony, it was that the words were my own. Not this sort of shitty stupid rubbish which isn’t even proof read before it’s published, I mean something proper, or at least it was supposed to be. I guess it was OK because the registrar hadn’t kicked off about it two months previously.
So, I arrived in good time and was confronted with the realisation that I was actually there by myself, and didn’t really know anybody, what with Mrs. F doing two shows before her arrival later. The iPhone got a lot of use, put it that way. My reading was the second of two, the other written and ‘performed’ by someone at ease with public speaking, confident in his beautifully written prose. I hated him. I was getting twitchy by that point and was starting to breath in an irregular way. When it was my go I stood at the front and realised I’d be lucky to get through it. I have no idea why I was quite so nervous but it must have been very clear that I was. The bride and groom were stood so close to me I could have touched them, and they were watching, waiting for something poignant to be said. I wasn’t sure at that point whether my 628 words were exactly that.
I started with a casual “All right?” which went down well, then said “This is called ‘the reading that Tony asked me to write’. It’s a working title”. That got a laugh, so I came out with the classic “Please don’t clap yet, I’ve got a very weak finish”. This was all good, but didn’t, as I’d hoped it would, calm me down whatsoever. So anyway, I got through it, with a couple of last minute edits and lots of deep breaths. The general consensus was that it was good. Someone felt so ‘touched’ by the sentiment that I gave him the speech. Bit weird.
The rest went as one would expect. People said “I do” at the requisite moment, people cheered, we ate some lovely food, and it all ran impossibly late.
When my band were finally in a position to set up, I was getting twitchy again. A couple more people had dropped out, rendering about eight to ten hours of work completely redundant, but that didn’t matter. We knew setting up was going to have to be quick, and the soundcheck was going to have to be short, but everyone was primed for an eggy one, so we were all up for it and totally switched on.
Then we had an incident. In fact, had the gig not been so amazing, I was going to call today’s post ‘Watergate’ after the stupid ugly fat sweaty idiot who kicked off and wouldn’t listen. Essentially we took two small bottles of water from the band room. Despite being in a half empty box and despite them being in the band room, they weren’t for the band. This man came in ‘firing on all thirty five’, as Brian May once said (never knew what it meant) and started having a go at us. I quickly got involved and accepted all blame (it was, in fact, completely my fault) and that I could give him one (unopened) bottle back and I would happily pay for the opened bottle. This wasn’t acceptable for some reason, despite my full and humble apology. He kept repeating that he wouldn’t come into our home and take things from our fridge. No he wouldn’t, because I wouldn’t let th fucking idiot into my house. And anyway, the hotel wasn’t his house and the water wasn’t in his fridge. I wanted to point out that, actually, if any of the band wanted to come into my house and take my stuff from my fridge, that’s pretty much OK. I don’t think that would have helped.
He simply kept saying the same things, so I kept apologising, telling him I was sorry, and that I was accepting full responsibility and was happy to be billed for both bottles of water and that there wasn’t a problem and it was just a misunderstanding and there was nothing malicious in what we’d done. He kept making the same point about taking stuff from our houses. Sorry, mate, you’re not getting into my house ever. You’re a very silly, very angry, very fat fucking idiot.
I digress. I didn’t, as it happened, have to concentrate on that. So, we got introduced, we played a really rubbish arrangement of “Pick Up The Pieces” just to get things moving and it went well. We then had a complete stranger introduced who smashed a couple of tunes. The punters went mad for it, and the band sounded amazing. Then another complete stranger came on and smashed a couple of Bon Jovi tunes. As soon as we started “Living On A Prayer” the crowd went wild. Again, the band sounded amazing. Then my beautiful wife, fresh (ish) from two shows already that day, smashed through another couple of tunes. Fortunately this time we’d actually played the arrangements before. The punters went nuts for “Nine To Five” and “Nobody Does It Better”, complete with exciting new brass parts. Then we had a breather whilst Matt Cardle sang and played three songs. Wow, he can sing. He’s off of the telly, I think you might know who he is, but I didn’t. He’s amazing though, great voice, great musicality and fun. When he kicked off “Groove Is In The Heart” it became clear that my drummer and bass player were required and they started playing along. The crowd, already going mad, went madder. Of course I stuck a bit of tambourine in towards the end, just so I could say I’ve played with him on a gig. I have. You can’t take that away from me.
So, whilst that was happening, it became clear that Martine McCutcheon was going to sing. Of course, I arrived with literally the music we’d planned to play, nothing else – this wasn’t a working band, it was just thrown together for the day. We had nothing. Except she’s a celebrity, so we’re going to make it work. So all seven of us busked our way through “Hot Stuff” and “Valerie” and did surprisingly well. Just as well Geth was there to hold it all together. Oh, and she’s an amazing singer too, and the crowd went nutser than they were before. In fact, Martine was surprisingly brilliant; I assumed she was a ‘nice’ singer, I had no idea she could belt them out like that. I suspect we’ll work together again at some point. It’ll be fun.
So, then Claire Richards from Steps gets up and smashes through “Dancing Queen” and “Tragedy”. Given that the guy who choreographed the classic Steps dance moves for Tragedy was dancing to it, with the actual singer singing it, made it something rather special. Of course the crowd were going ape shit at this point, I was sweating profusely, and the band, playing brilliantly, were having a lovely time.
So, the groom got on the mic, thanked some people, then, as a surprise to his Elvis loving new wife, sang Suspicious Minds. The nutser crowd got nutser still. It was in the ‘live Elvis’ style of craziness. We managed to build in a quiet bit for band introductions, and fudged a play off of sorts, and that was the end of that. The noise was incredible, the response was joyous, the band were buzzing and the bride and groom were delighted.
It was a real rush. This is what being a musician is all about. Utter joy, working with very talented people at the very top of their game, communicating and making things work, unrehearsed and at times unscored. I couldn’t falt a single move the band made. Even the trombone player, who broke down on the A17 managed to deal with the situation with great calm and discretion. I was sorry he couldn’t make it to be part of something so fucking cool.
So there we have it. It’ll be back to the misery tomorrow, but for one night we totally nailed it. Everyone loved us, everyone loved the wedding, everyone loves the bride and groom. Personally, I’m privileged to be able to work with such talented people who can make that sort of magic happen with no rehearsal, and I’m privileged to be able to work with singers of that calibre, who can turn it on with a bunch of strangers backing them, in a room full of showbiz people. Truly magnificent.
Even the crazy ‘Watergate’ man apologised.