So a very delighted Matt Spall is travelling with one of his favourite bands for our new “On Tour With…” section, today his journey started with the delights of public transport to join Tom Englund and the guys. Armed with his AAA pass and staying on the tour bus Matt will be updating us over the next two days with his experiences and adventures with the well known prog metal band.
We’re not eaten up with jealousy or hate him much do we?
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 15:42
The only thing better than getting the e-mail agreeing to my request was actually waking up on the morning of the trip with the realisation that I would be travelling to meet up with Evergrey, a band that has more or less sat at the top of my favourites list since I discovered them over a decade ago with their seminal album “In Search of Truth”. I was to meet with them and stay aboard their tourbus for the entirety of their short stay in the UK, getting a glimpse of life behind-the-scenes for the Swedish melodic prog metal band. To say I was excited was something of an understatement, although it was excitement tinged with nerves too. I’d been lucky enough to watch the band live and meet the guys a few times in the past but how would it be living together for a couple of days? Added to that, with all the line-up changes of late, I’d not met the three newest members yet.
Public transport has never been my favourite means of getting around but, unsure of the upcoming itinery, I swallowed my prejudices and got aboard the train at a chilly Ipswich and headed for Peterborough with the ultimate destination being The Corporation in Sheffield. So far, so smooth.
Unfortunately, as is my luck with any Poweplay event, the smoothness ended there. My connecting train from Peterborough to Wakefield was delayed meaning that I had to talk very nicely to the rail staff to avoid paying any extra fare as well as spend the better part of an hour at Wakefield Westgate station – personally, I think that this was payment enough! The Gods thought otherwise and instead insisted on providing me with a seat beside the smelliest human being in the civilised Western world. The honk of a thousand camels only tells half the story! I think there was some unintelligible mumblings directed at me but to be honest, I was too busy gagging to respond. Oh, and there was a screaming child six inches from my right ear too. Marvellous!
After enduring this noisy, rancid stint on one of the dirtiest and rickety old trains still in existence, I arrived in Sheffield, greeted by bright sunshine. With my mood lifted slightly, I headed to the trams with directions in hand – “to West Street, my good man” I chuckled in good-natured anticipation of my first tram experience. It wasn’t all that and so I disembarked and walked the short distance to The Corporation before unleashing a text to Evergrey’s Tom Englund informing him that I had triumphantly arrived…
Wednesday, 27 April 2011 20:30
Dressed in a grey hoodie and jeans, the towering and inimitable figure of Tom Englund emerges from a door to the side of the venue. Shaking hands warmly, he immediately directs me to my home from home for the next 36 hours at least; the tour bus. Surprisingly plush, they share these intimate quarters with Amaranthe, the opening act of the night.
Almost immediately I am introduced to Hannes, drummer and one of three recent additions to the band. Just like Tom, he is friendly and welcoming. Then comes one of the biggest pastimes of a band on tour: waiting. Whilst the equipment is set up, I take a look at the merch stands and have a chat with one of the sound engineers before I am introduced to the guys from Amaranthe on the bus. It is amazing how welcome I am made to feel and I find myself easily settling into life on the road.
As the soundchecks take place, I head backstage with Tom to grab a beer, chatting about football as we go. It’s just a shame about the team he supports! The smell backstage is overpowering and the dressing room is not a place I’d like to stay for long. Barely habitable, it nevertheless serves as a sanctum of peace for the guys.
About this time, the remaining three guys from Evergrey, namely Rikard, Johan and Marcus, return from a stint at the local watering hole. I say hello and am invited onto the bus with newbies Marcus and Johan to listen to some music and shoot the breeze while we return to that familiar hobby, waiting! It turns out that bassist Johan actually turned down the role in Evergrey initially but, after a week or so, saw the light and agreed to join.
Suddenly, the door flies open and we are informed that there is food available – cue mad dash backstage as our stomachs take centre stage! Much mirth ensues as I casually ask why almost every song on the setlist ends in ‘swein’ – ‘it’s a long story’ I’m told, but never fear, I am determined to uncover the truth. More on that later I hope.
With only 20 minutes until showtime, the changing room becomes a hive of activity. To a soundtrack of Def Leppard, Soilwork and Iron Maiden amongst others, via a mobile phone in a cup (good amplifier apparently!), Hanne warms up whilst the other guys get dressed into their stage gear. Vocal exercises, drumstick high-jinks and jokes aplenty make the once dour dressing room a fun, vibrant place and before I know it, we’re heading to the stage…
Thursday, 28 April 2011 10:42
Forget the band, as we all walked to the stage door, the butterflies were in overdrive for me too. Why? I’d been given an AAA pass and permission to stand at the side of the stage for the first song. As the intro music began, guitarist Marcus gave me a wink and his beer before joining an increasingly raucous football-style huddle with his band mates. To be witness to something so personal was a real privilege.
Huddle over, Evergrey marched onto the stage, closely followed by yours truly. As I stood beside one of many amps, I had to pinch myself as I looked out at the backs of the band and the crowd of The Corporation beyond. Take photos Matt, for heaven’s sake! Oh, and mind the cables…and the tech guys…and the expensive equipment!
Beginning the set with a newbie in the shape of “Leave It Behind Us”, it was a blistering start and a taste of what was to come throughout their 50 minute show. Marcus had to contend with some technical difficulties as “Monday Morning Apocalypse” ripped through the venue but this didn’t detract from what was to quickly become a powerful and professional performance from the quintet.
At this point, I moved to the pit and received the full force of the Evergrey sound: clean and crisp, but boy were they loud! What impressed me most throughout however, was the chemistry between the old guard and the new – both bassist Johan and guitarist Marcus looked and sounded like they’d been in the band forever, adding vocal harmonies to the songs where required, to great effect. And Hannes behind the kit was a real powerhouse, giving the skins a real beating and proving he’s a more than able replacement for Jonas Ekdahl.
As the all-conquering duo of “The Masterplan” and the monstrous “Recreation Day” began, I was transported to another place. Maybe it was the beer, maybe it was the realisation that I was watching my favourite band, a band that could so easily have thrown in the towel a year or so ago, maybe it was Tom saying ‘hi’ to me from the stage. I don’t really know. All I do know is that emotions began to run high and I felt like I was on cloud nine. All I could do was tip my head back and belt out some wildly off-key singing in appreciation of what I was seeing and hearing. Better than ‘A Night To Remember’? Possibly…
Leave It Behind Us
Monday Morning Apocalypse
A Touch of Blessing
Thursday, 28 April 2011 15:23
After the Show
I greet the guys as they leave the stage and give them some time alone to relax and come down from the high of the show. However, it’s not long until the alcohol is flowing and the conversation turns bizarre!
I duck out of the mayhem to catch the second half of the Kamelot show before the guys come out into the crowd to be swamped for requests for photos and autographs. It’s a nice touch and something the band seem to genuinely enjoy doing.
A little while later, as the last of the equipment is removed from the venue, the entire band and I, along with the majority of Amaranthe, head into Sheffield on an eventually fruitless search for a karaoke bar. Instead, having drawn a disappointing (for the band, not me) blank, we instead set up camp in a bar and let the drinking really commence. The ensuring few hours is a bit of a blur of beer, asshole punching games (don’t ask) and semi-lucid conversations between Rikard and I about the glory that is Tottenham! I love it – a Spurs fan in Evergrey!
I’d like to be more eloquent and detailed at this point but I can’t really remember too much more! At about 2.30am, we stagger back to the bus and I climb into my bunk. Surprisingly warm and comfortable and rocked by the movement of the bus as we head to London, I drift off into an alcoholic coma, happy with the fun and excitement experienced on day one with Evergrey.
Thursday, 28 April 2011 15:28
Soundchecks, sunshine & beer
Ooh, my head! I wake up on the morning of the night before feeling a little sorry for myself. Managing to rouse from my bunk, I promptly and quite literally fall into the bus’ bathroom just as we set off from a service station to the O2 Academy, Islington. Couple all that with an aching arm from the fun and games the night before and the day has the distinct need to improve…and quickly.
The thing that strikes me hard as we unload our gear from the bus (there’s no parking nearby for the vehicles) and wait to enter the venue, is how hard and uncompromising life on the road can be. I knew it wouldn’t be as glamorous as it sounds but with all the waiting around, the lugging of worldly possessions from dressing room to dressing room, the endless requests for meet and greets or interviews, the cramped quarters, plus even more waiting around, it becomes obvious just how committed these musicians are to endure this day in, day out. Mind you, I think I’d still swap with them!
Around lunchtime, Marcus, Johan, Rikard and I sneak away from the venue to explore the local area. With the sun shining, we set up camp outside a pub for a couple of beers and a proper chat. We discuss everything from vinyl to the best and worst audiences in the world, and the fact that, despite being in their own bands, the guys remain fans at heart. As we head back to the venue for soundchecking duties, I conclude that these guys are the real deal; no pretense, no bullshit, just honest and grounded people that remain grateful to the fans and for the opportunities that music has given them. A nice quality in my opinion.
Thursday, 28 April 2011 22:18
Broken Wings, curry and friendship.
A tap on the shoulder from Marcus indicated that it was time for the Evergrey soundcheck so I followed him up to the front of house and enjoyed a brief rendition of ‘Broken Wings’. It was enough to confirm that the sound quality, courtesy of the rather unique Mario (Visions of Atlantis), would be great for tonight’s show.
With the mix in the bag, I was invited to join the entire quintet for a meal at a local restaurant. After turning down several Italian restaurants, we plumped for more traditional English fare – a curry! Over a superb meal of Butter Chicken, the conversation covered everything from Little Britain (complete with impressions) to the Royal Wedding with a few bizarre twists and turns thrown in for good measure. Once again I was included in everything and made to feel really welcome.
And then to show time number two. Once again I was allowed access to the rear of the stage to take a few shots and sample the atmosphere from a bands-eye view. It was immediately noticeable that the crowd was much more animated and energetic than the night before in Sheffield. If anything, this spurred Evergrey into giving an even better performance. With a superb sound, the guitars were razor sharp, the rhythm section pounded and Rikard’s keys provided a real depth to the songs. Moment of the show for me was Marcus’ solo during “Recreation Day”; staying faithful to the original but adding his own accent, he really nailed it and it sent shivers down my spine. Oh and the smile from Johan and the thumbs up from Marcus as I ventured into the pit was pretty cool too!
The setlist remained the same as the previous night so there were no surprises there. Same too was the on-stage banter from Tom with ‘for those who know us, we don’t need to introduce ourselves, for those who don’t know us, we’re Evergrey. For those of you who don’t care…there’s the bar!’ Classic!
As the guys file down to the dressing room, I am humbled as everyone asks my opinion of the show. Marcus looks nervous as I say I hate him until I explain it’s because of his great guitar performance whilst Johan admits wide-eyed that he could not concentrate on stage and felt his performance could have been better. Nonsense, I say!
Unfortunately, having to once again rely on public transport for my journey home, I have to make a dash for the station and so say farewell to the band. The goodbyes are full of warmth and genuine requests to keep in touch. Good job really because I have no intention to lose the friendship of five great guys who, together, make one hell of a band. Shame it all had to end – maybe there’ll be more opportunities to meet in the future.
…And my story would not be complete without a touch of drama on the return journey would it. As I try to buy my ticket, I nearly get caught up in a fight as accusations of theft bring the ticket hall to an open-mouthed standstill. Idiots!
After the event…
As is always the case, the minute you submit some work, you think of things that you should have included. Because this is a live blog, I can! So:
Where possible, attend the soundcheck. It’s a simple rule and one that Marcus will not forget again in a hurry. Having ducked away to the pub, he and a couple of the others missed the soundcheck in Sheffield. The result? Guitar problems and an electric shock from the mic every time he went to sing! No wonder he looked frazzled at the end of the show!
Never look down. That’s the rule when going out with Evergrey because if you do, you’re likely to look directly at the asshole (made by making a symbol with your fingers much like the sign for perfect). If you look directly at it, you’re in line for a punch in the arm! There are other rules but, being slow to catch on, I never really got to the bottom of them and ended up with a very sore arm!
Getting lost. When out with any of the Evergrey boys, pay attention to where you are, otherwise you will get lost. Tom and Hanne apparently got lost in London, whilst the rest of us had to retrace our steps from the pub meticulously to avoid the very same fate. Hell, Tom even went the wrong way out of the restaurant – and it was only five minutes from the venue!