The Full Mountie
Tuesday, 14 January 2014.
The Full Mountie
(Peter's tour diary of the first IQ trip to Canada)
The usual suspects:
Mike (guitar), Widge (keyboards), Cookie (drums), John (bass & Tour Dad), PN (vocals), Rob (sound), Oggie (lights), Andy (projections)
The set (changeable over the three nights but generally including most or all of): The Wake, The Thousand Days, The Darkest Hour, Subterranea, Sleepless Incidental, Failsafe, It All Stops Here, Widow's Peak, King Of Fools / Outer Limits, Laid Low / Breathtaker, Capricorn, Leap Of Faith, High Waters, The Narrow Margin, Awake And Nervous, Out Of Nowhere, Headlong, No Love Lost, The Last Human Gateway.
Wednesday, June 24th, 1998
5.00am: Up with the lark. Actually, at this time of the morning there aren't any larks awake so I'm up with the insomniacs and night shift workers. Andy arrives at 5.30, I say goodbye to a befuddled Gill and we zoom off to Heathrow Airport, collecting Oggie on the way. Meet up with the rest of the gang and we check in for the 12.55 flight to Montreal. The flight itself is uneventful enough, though for some reason they always assume that vegetarians don't eat any dairy produce. I gaze covetously at Oggie's knob of butter. The films on offer are The Gingerbread Man (better than expected) and Good Will Hunting (great!).
We arrive at Montreal Dorval Airport at 2.40 (though, with the five-hour time difference, my brain thinks it's really 7.40pm). Following a lengthy delay while our work permits are sorted out, we finally emerge into the sweltering heat which is only surpassed by the temperature in the van ferrying us to Quebec City. For some reason the driver either doesn't know how to operate the air conditioning or he refuses to switch it on. He also seems incapable of understanding our desperate pleas for the windows to be left open for more than a couple of minutes at a time. Scorchio!
Three hot hours later, we reach Quebec City (it's now midnight real time!) and we have the chance to wash and brush up at the hotel. Mike and I are sharing a room and hurrah! It has air conditioning! We meet up with Andy and venture outside for food. As the only veggies in the party, we're thrilled and overjoyed to happen upon the Commencal, a brilliant vegetarian buffet restaurant where you pay according to the weight of food on your plate. Great food, great price! After that, we find a Drag Bar (though disappointingly no-one is in drag) where beer is a dollar a time. Marvellous.
Eventually, after having been awake for a full 24 hours(!), we saunter back to the hotel, where a bottle of champagne awaits us in our room, a welcoming gift from Sylvain, the promoter. Sadly, we're much too knackered to enjoy it. Cookie and Andy need little persuading to snaffle it for their room. They skulk away, cackling triumphantly.
Thursday June 25th
The day begins with a shower and a hearty Canadian breakfast (though not at the same time!). Cookie, Mike, Andy and I set off exploring Quebec City. Most importantly, CDs are astonishingly cheap. At these prices, it would be rude not to buy some. I plump for The Beatles' White Album, half the price it would be back home. Mike is slightly tempted by a banjo but manages to resist. It's a warm summer's day and we're actually in Canada! The afternoon finds us soundchecking and it sounds pretty good. Tonight's gig, the first of three, is a bit ropey, mainly due to the onstage volume which is ear-shattering. Youch! It feels weird to be playing a mixed set again, after having played the whole of Subterranea at all recent gigs, but the songs stand up really well on their own. With a sizeable back catalogue now, we have a lot of really strong material to choose from.
King Of Fools presents an interesting challenge because there's so little space behind and to the side of the stage and we need to find somewhere to position the video camera and myself. (Some people think the whole sequence is on film but no, it's performed live every night, folks!) Andy, being the ingenious problem-solver that he is, manages to rig up an elaborate series of wires, leads and plugs stuffed precariously into unlikely sockets. "Are you sure it's safe, Andy?" "Yeah, it should be fine." He's as good as his word and it works a treat. My introductions in French aren't too bad (though I can't for the life of me remember the word for "rehearse". Must polish up my vocab for tomorrow night.)
We play for the best part of two-and-a-half hours. Out Of Nowhere includes Abba's Mamma Mia. Will the audience share in the notorious IQ sense of humour? They're a bit perplexed at first, I think, but then they get into the spirit of things. After the show, there's no need to pack the gear away. With the Subterranea set taking a good couple of hours to dismantle, this is luxury indeed. We drink beer and meet fans who have followed the band for many years and thought they'd never get the chance to catch us live. They're all very friendly and enthusiastic. Finally to bed in the early hours of the morning. Our first show on Canadian soil has had its fair share of teething problems but generally speaking it's gone pretty well. One down, two to go.
Friday, June 26th
A late breakfast and then it's over to Le D'Auteuil to sort out the sound problems from last night. It's brilliant to still have all the gear set up. Simply switch on and play! We manage to sort out the onstage levels and it sounds so much better. Phew! Mike decides to go off in search of a new guitar. I tag along for a bit before deciding to have a mooch round the town and return to the venue. Oggie and I descend on Archambault, the big, snazzy record shop (where there's an IQ display in the window!!). Oggie spends lots of money (with no encouragement from me, your honour!), then we nip across the road for a yummy pizza. Returning to Le D'Auteuil, we're thrilled to see it packed. People have travelled from as far afield as Poland and even Phoenix, Arizona (2500 miles away)!
Mike did get a sexy new guitar but the crank shaft isn't aligned with the big knob (or something) and he can't use it tonight. Boo. Showtime is 11.00pm. Tonight's gig is much smoother. We're more confident with the equipment and the onstage mix means we're able to hear ourselves without having to crank the levels up all the time. Great audience and my French flows a little better. Between them, Oggie and Andy have concocted a marvellous light and projection show and the sound, courtesy of Rob, is crystal clear (as always).
After a couple of encores, with the crowd still demanding more, we decide to play the middle section of The Last Human Gateway. "Nah, let's do the whole thing!" quips one of us and so it is that, at 1.20am, we launch into our third encore, all 20 minutes of it! At the end of a show lasting two hours and 40 minutes, I think we can safely conclude that the audience have had their money's worth and have enjoyed themselves. It's a rare thing for all five members of the band to agree on a gig having been a good one, but this time we're all on a high. "IQ gigs don't come much better than that one!" exclaims Widge and I think he's probably right. There's still a magic there when we're all together. Now for some beer. I'm parched! By the time my head finally hits the pillow, it's something like 4.00 am. Zzzzz...
Saturday, June 27th
Another late breakfast then we trundle off to the venue. It seems there are to be two gigs tonight at Le D'Auteuil. A band called Dolly will play at 8.00pm, then we're on about 11.00. We're not best pleased about this because it means we have to take all our gear offstage and risk losing all the levels we set up so carefully yesterday. This is a bit nerve-racking and will undoubtedly affect our set tonight. Gulp!
After squeezing all the gear into the cramped backstage area (I'd hesitate to call it a dressing room as such), we effectively have the day off. Mike goes to sort out his guitar while Widge, Andy and I race off to the CD shops again (do we still call them record shops these days?), in search of more bargains. I can't get over how cheap they all are and I'm really fighting the temptation to buy everything in sight. Today it's Led Zeppelin, Paul McCartney and Dave Gilmour, among others. Widge snaps up In The Court Of The Crimson King ("...for work, I might be playing some of this stuff with John Wetton.") Andy is eaten up with indecision over a Fender Jazz bass that has caught his eye. Should he? Shouldn't he? In the end, he doesn't (though he probably wishes he had).
Unfortunately, the turn-out tonight is significantly smaller and there's a real sense of anti-climax after last night's great success. Sounchecking with the audience already in the hall is the stuff of nightmares. Nevertheless, we take to the stage about 11.30pm and where we were anticipating the sound onstage to be hideous, it's actually surprisingly good. I was fully expecting this to feel terrible tonight but, in terms of playing, it's probably the best gig in a long while. The audience, though fewer in numbers, are no less enthusiastic. It's a more intimate show for them, something different for those who have come along to all three shows here at Le D'Auteuil. We throw in No Love Lost and Widow's Peak, which we didn't play last night and, all in all, it's a relaxed and good-humoured end to our Canadian debut. Again it's 2.00am when we leave the stage. Time to drink some beer. I'm reminded of that old advertising campaign from a few years back which recommended us to "Drink Canada Dry": I think, over the last three nights, we've pretty much tried our level best to do just that. Finally, we haul ourselves off to bed sometime around 4.00am...
Sunday, June 28th
I'm awoken at 8.00am by someone knocking at the door of the hotel room. When I open the door, there's no-one there. Always good for a laugh, that one. After that, I can't get back to sleep so I make a start on packing my bags for the journey home. When Mike wakes up, we go downstairs and join everyone else for breakfast. After that, it's over to the venue to begin packing away all the gear. It's still hugely hot so most of us have to resort to eating the biggest ice creams in the world.
With all the equipment safely tidied away, it's back to the hotel where we wait for the vehicles to come and return us to Montreal Airport. John, as Tour Dad, makes a few impatient phone calls and a couple of hours later we're on our way. Luckily, we arrive in time for the return flight at 7.45pm.
On the plane I'm sitting behind the tallest (and most restless) man in the world. Either that or he's on stilts the whole journey. At any rate, I can't see the screen for The Man In The Iron Mask so instead I listen to music, drift in and out of sleep and find myself reflecting on the last few days and other band-related matters. One Sunday morning, only a few weeks ago, Gill and I watched The Gallery in Manchester being demolished. This was the scene of IQ's first Mancunian gigs, back in 1983 and 1984. Geoff Mann joined us for the encore of Suffragette City there. Niadem's Ghost played live for the first time there in 1985, supporting Geoff's band, The Bond. Through the debris and rubble, Gill and I could see the familiar balcony balustrade which gave the venue its name. A sad moment indeed.
It's 7.30am when we reach Heathrow, having only dozed intermittently during the night. In a couple of days we're off to Barcelona and Milan. Blimey! It's like being in a real band!