Thursday 6 December 2012

                                         Legends of Brocklehurst - Chapter 7
                                         Part 1
The first night of the HYF tour at the NEC is still a blur. All I can really remember is Neil’s solo. It reminded me of the times when I used to watch Stan Bowles play football. Stan was an old friend of mine who played soccer at the top level in England culminating with five caps for England. Can that be a friend of mine ? In both cases while on their respective stages, it was like they were two different people to the guys I knew. Not the mates who I would be talking to and in Stan’s case drinking with when they had finished “working”. I watched, open mouthed, as Mr Peart did all these unbelievable things with two pieces of wood and two feet. Could that really be only one man ? Every time I have seen Rush play, whether working or not, I have never missed his wonderful solo.
With Chris Lea’s permission I have adapted part of his “Amazing Story” to cover the Saturday night’s show. His recall and descriptive powers and knowledge of all things Rush are far superior to mine and I know he captures the scene so much better than my failing memory. Chris, Bernie Dwyer and my girl Jackie travelled down from Manchester in her car for the show that night, Neil had invited them as his guests.
Thank you Chris.
“ Whilst Pete was ahead of us ‘working’, he had sussed out where to come and meet us. Which at the precise roundabout, he did. The Car looked even bigger as he was already at the rendezvous point. We waved, and he indicated to Jackie to follow him.
It was our mini motorcade, as we weaved around the small linking roads of the complex. In front was the almost gliding, black, behemoth. As we approached a security post, with the barrier lowered, Pete stopped, and flashed a special, band transport pass, then, we saw him indicate towards us, the guard looked, and disappeared into the hut, to raise the barrier. Cool! Checkpoint Charlie, we’re in...I think. As we neared our destination, I thought we were just going to be first in the car park, the people activity increased. Then Pete slowed as we approached what I now realized was the main concert hall. We had taken a ‘secret route’ and came in the back way.
The cars were dwarfed by the huge articulated lorrys parked up. We moved past six trucks, and three crew buses. Roadies, techs, and other assorted essential personnel, were all scurrying around. To say a ‘hive of activity’, would sell it short. There were also the trucks for the film crew, and their various techs, busying themselves. To be fair the actual ‘air’ was relaxed, as all the gear had been in the building since Wednesday. So we weren’t dodging large, boxes of vital equipment, as they were wheeled into the hall. Still following Pete, we carried on into the large opened doorway, and into a cavernous backstage area. We swung around, and Pete parked the BMW next to one of two tour busses. We stopped right behind Pete. We finally parked. Now we were in!

As I stretched outside the car, I turned three-sixty. We were inside the NEC, ( Northern Exhibition Center, ) it looked like a huge underground car park. Pillars supporting the roof would make a great slalom course. Then as I continued to rotate, into view came the black sheeting, and scaffolding that formed the stage area. There were silver tubular metal lighting rigs, criss-crossed across the top, and length of the stage. Bern and Jackie were now out, and Pete also had left the BMW, and was walking ahead of us. “Follow that Man”!
The closer we got to the stage area, the bigger it got. Flight cases were piled, and stacked underneath the stage. Crew guys milled around. Pete was letting on to a few as we approached the very backstage. Knowing Pete he’s already probably introduced them to the great old British institution…the Bookies!( betting shops ) Now Pete slowed down, so too us. I imagined that we would find a door, and exit into the arena. We carried on through a makeshift doorway, built into the black-drape-covered staging construction.
Through the door we were now in ‘Backstage Central’, at the very heart. Immediately in front of us and, almost dominating the actual space, was a huge piece of hi-tech looking kit. When I looked closely I thought it looked like a cinema film projector, only very streamlined, futuristic, and very big. It was the back-screen ‘film projector’. Set against the very back wall of the NEC, furthest away from the stage, was the Production Office. As I looked towards the back, in the far left corner was the door that leads to the…Dressing Rooms! The band are actually through those doors now! Pete is scanning left, and right, then when he spots who he is looking for, he heads over. I believe it was Nick Kotos, who apart from being the tallest man in the world, was the, then Production Manager. Pete said something to him, Nick ‘bent down’ to hear, then they both turned and plodded towards us.
Like the stage as Nick approached, he got even bigger! He had a walkie-talkie, stapled almost to his hand, it was always crackling and ‘talking’. Pete and Nick walked towards a ramp that ran upwards. They stopped, Nick moved to one side, then Pete began up the ramp! He then stopped, and gestured to us, in the ‘follow me’ way! Holy shit, this is the ramp to the actual stage. We were ‘Entering Stage Left’!!

Akin to Richard Dreyfuss as he, gingerly entered the Mothership. I too slowly moved up the ramp. As we hit the level, I stopped. I had to take it all in. The whole, completely empty, almost silently eerie NEC arena, opened up in front of me. Wow. Of course I tried to visualize every seat filled with, smiling, happy, cheering, singing people. Then I moved to my right, as I walked off the ramp, and onto the stage proper, a huge flight case was positioned. It was split into racks, most of the racks held bass guitars. Geddy’s basses. Then as I passed them, to my left was Ged’s keyboard set up. Complete with funny ‘toys’, as adornment. I noticed that my feet felt cushioned. Of course the Rush ‘Axminster Shag Pile’. I always thought the ‘carpet’ was a nice touch. Then as I journeyed to Stage Centre, I passed Geddy’s back-line. What no domestic white-goods?

My pace, even though slow enough, slowed further as I reached, for me, the ‘piece de resistance’. The Professor’s Office. I’m glad Bernie could join me. All he kept saying, quietly was “how the feck does he play all this”? It took up about the size of a small office too. Of course I embarrassingly drooled over this drum, and cymbal fest! But of course I didn’t need to identify every piece, but it was the ‘pinky’(??) white, Ludwig double-kick set up. I remember that even then Neil’s hardware was brass plated, and up this close, it looked like pure gold. Then I did it… I played Neil’s kit! Well not technically, I did very gently tap my fingertips on the heads of some of his toms. But hey that’s as close as you can get…Isn’t it????
Across the back, panoramically spread was the electronic pads of his second kit. Dazzling, shiny cymbals hung silent. Looking like discs of gold. Everything was bolted onto his famous spinning riser. As I stood between the bass drums, I turned around towards the vast, eerily quiet arena to gauge Neil’s viewpoint. It was then I noticed the cameras, lots of them. I was particularly fascinated with a piece of equipment; I found out was called a Louma Crane Cam. Oooohhh! This is the camera fixed to a massive crane (again I think the clue’s in the name) that gives those swooping high to low, ariel shots. They kept testing it swooping over the stage. Strange I know sod all about cars, but plenty about camera cranes, hmmm. As I looked to the roof I saw a huge white net, fastened to the ceiling girders. Inside were what looked like hundreds of red balloons.

Bidding ‘farewell to things’…percussion, I approached Stage Right. Big Al’s domain. Not being that knowledgeable about ‘guitar stuff’, his pedal board alone looked like it had been built by NASA! Then as Big Nick appeared we realized that this ‘once in a lifetime’ moment was up! So we exited stage right!! I heartily thanked Nick, and we walked past Alex’s guitars, loads of them, all standing to attention, ready for battle. I had a final quick look around, reaffirming that, yes, I am standing on Rush’s stage. And all is still!
We walked down the ramp back to the backstage area. I was pointing out various crew members to Bern, when he turned to Jackie laughing, “he even knows the crew’s names”! But I just did!! We just do! This was all too surreal. Pete then suggested we might want to get something to eat, we had ages to kill. Like ducklings we once again all followed Pete, as we moved to catering. We had something to eat which I recall as being very good indeed, and there were some bottled beers that we could enjoy. Well apart from the show, it can’t get any better…can it????
As I further drank in the strange atmosphere, (and beer) the vendors, and bars were opening. Then the doors were opened and the volume was slowly being turned up, as fans streamed in. Pete had gone off briefly, and then returned with our tickets. Bern asked why we needed them, because we were in already. So I asked him which seats were ours? ”Oh yeah”, he realized. Then Pete also gave us a stick on adhesive pass. It was red, with the three floating spheres from HYF. It had the date on and the initials NP!

Our seats were great. Geddy’s side, but very close. I presumed that those sat around us were, friends and guests too. As we took our seats I looked around, now it was a gig atmosphere. The fans were in good spirits, and good voice. I tried to imagine how it looked a couple of hours ago, vast, empty, silent.
The house lights were cut, the audience rose as one. Then the huge projector I had seen, standing silent suddenly kicked into life and light, we were off! It seemed to me somehow even more special, as it was not just being recorded, but filmed as well. So when I watch ‘A Show Of Hands’, the whole day comes back to me. Realizing that I was on that very stage, I ‘played’ those very drums.

Of course the gig was just stunning. They were on it! And I sang (out of tune,) and drummed (out of time) to every song. Bernie particularly enjoyed it, and now realized that Pete’s “Buddy”, was damned good. Jackie too enjoyed the show. Rock is not her favourite, but I think she appreciated what was going on and liked it visually.
Well the show came, and went. We waited in our seats for Pete, who was going to come back for us, so he could get us to the car. Pete subsequently turned up, and again made like the Pied Piper, we followed him. As I left the arena I glanced back, to see it, as it was when we arrived, empty”. We followed ‘our leader’, along the perimeter corridor that surrounds the arena. Then we walked along to the ‘checkpoint’ at the backstage area. Pete had his All Access Areas Pass, and as we each went through, we ‘flashed our passes’! Pete told us to wait a minute. As we stood there watching this calm, frenzy go on around us. Bernie started smiling, and gesturing to someone.
It turns out this ‘someone’ was the British promoter, Danny Betesh, who runs Kennedy Street Promotions, who were promoting the HYF tour. They also promoted R30. Kennedy, and certainly, specifically Danny, used to book Freddie and the Dreamers, back in the ‘60’s.( Bernie's old group ) Bern introduced us to him, just as Pete returned. Pete and Danny knew each other as well. Quelle surprise! After some social intercourse!! Danny asked Pete, and us where we were going now. Pete answered, and boy did he answer.

“We’re going to see Neil”!!

No comments:

Post a Comment