Blog by Brad Webb

Jamie Cullum Summer Tour 2011 Pt. 1

Right then.

You find me sitting aboard a flight home from Spain roughly two-thirds of the way through the string of JC 2011 summer dates. I usually start my blogs by trotting out excuses and quips about why it’s been so long since I last wrote one… and this one is no different.

JC and band have had six months off, see. Having spent 2009/10 touring almost solidly to promote ‘The Pursuit’, it was decided that we all needed to spend some time apart. Jamie hated Chris, Chris hated Tom, who wasn’t sleeping with Rory anymore because he’d stopped doing everyone’s ironing as a result of an argument he’d had with me over my tardiness in writing and posting blogs. So, we went away, realigned our shakras, ate some peace cookies and (Jamie) had a baby.

Since early June, we’ve been back on the road, taking in some new and extraordinary sights, sounds and, quite unavoidably, smells. Rather than my usual waffley prose, here’s the lot broken down into an eccentric list of highlights and what I would describe as ‘Own-goals’, there being no genuine lows in our line of work, of course…

ICELAND

Highlights: Beautiful landscape, smoked lamb, stunning people, a packed gig and the freshest air imaginable. Ended up gawping through the windows of Reykjavik’s estate agents, hoping that the exchange rate had suddenly become favourable enough for us all to move there. Round-the-clock daylight… a brilliant attribute to a night out.

Own-goal… Round-the-clock daylight… lead to the abominable mixing of Icelandic spirits and Newcastle Brown Ale and the whole band dancing in a space the size of a wardrobe at 3am. I forgot my swimming shorts and was forced to rent what can only be described as hot pants so as not to miss out on the steam baths and springs. Ensuing applause from rest of band not sincere or appreciated.

ISTANBUL

Highs: Outdoor stage on the banks of the Bosphorus at sundown provided an extraordinary setting for a memorable show. Jamie’s impromptu harmonies with the prayer calls as they floated over the water from the hillside mosques. A kebab that out-kebabed all kebabs.

Own-goal: Such a short trip meant we didn’t get to meet any of the brilliant fans or see the beautiful city. Weren’t able to find Herbie Hancock’s room in our hotel to ask him about synth sounds or sing him any of our favourite tunes of his.

KEW GARDENS (London)

Highs: Happy 30th Birthday Tom ! A gig on home soil in the very civilised (and rock ‘n’ roll) surroundings of a botanical garden. The brilliant Natalie Williams and band supported.

Own-goal: Chose a tour bus bunk opposite Snorey Simmons.

COGNAC (France)

Highs: An afternoon trip to a country chateau to sip the local beverage, talk drivel at the wild deer and pretend we know how to play billiards. Another amazing French crowd.

Own-goal: Missing Morcheeba’s set before ours. Piling onto a tour bus to sleep in close proximity to seven fully grown men who had spent the day enjoying rich French cuisine.

VIENNE (France)

Highs: Another stunning venue, this time a Roman amphitheatre. Band spent much of soundcheck barking quotes from ‘Gladiator’ through a vast soundsystem. French food.

Own-goal: Rory Simmons, Cornish Snorer Of The Year 2011 (Tour bus category)

LEBANON

Highs: A chance to visit an amazing country we’ve all wanted to visit for a long time. Played in Byblos, the world’s oldest city. Crowd went wild several songs into the gig and turned it into a night to remember.

Own-goal: Would have loved to have stayed longer and hung out with the locals. All night travel to get to the next show in Spain involved a layover in Istanbul at 4am which involved the tour party collapsing and taking over a large area of the airport. Group snoring offended locals and may have harmed international relations.

VITORIA (Spain)

Highs: Another gastronomical trip, this time to a hilltop vineyard where we sampled local black pudding, pimientos and barbecued lamb. Seeing the incomparable Eric Reed and his band play at the festival.

Own-goal: A nameless member of the band missed the vineyard excursion due to ‘dehydration’. Chris Hill’s coffee addiction began to acutely manifest itself before the gig.

BERNE (Switzerland)

Highs: Gurten Festival cleaner and more friendly than a freshly-bathed labrador. Pleasure to see the Kaiser Chiefs from side-stage- great band.

Own-goal: Chris Hill reaches level of energy-depletion at which he begins one of his coffee marathons.

ANTIBES (France)

Highs: Grub

Own-goal: Sunburn, tough early start- JC typically unaffected (he was a bulletproof tourer even before the up-all-night-changing-nappies years)

WIESEN (Austria)

Learnt of the tragic passing of our friend Amy Winehouse shortly before this show. This, compounded with the heartbreaking events in Norway made it a strange weekend. The brilliant Austrian crowd, along with a truly inspirational performance from Erykah Badu later in the evening, lifted spirits.

LORRACH (Germany)

Highs: Free gig in a beautiful little town square. Germany continuing to support JC in force.

Own-goal: Almost broke thumb by trapping it between hi-hat cymbals whilst busy watching JC wobbling around on top of piano… no points for coordination (for either of us). Chris Hill coffee marathon spirals out of control leading to indiscriminate onstage hopping, moshing and screeching.

LISBON (Portugal)

(please see ‘ANTIBES’ for full details, though JC again showed us how one should manfully deal with sleep deprivation).

COSTA BRAVA (Spain)

Highs: Ham. Pure ham. And wine.

Own-goal: Passport went walkies so had to get a later return flight home alone… what a numpty.

So, that is a potted summation of the last few months. Thanks so much to everyone who has come out to these shows. They have been as much fun as we’ve ever had.

I will be blogging again next week when we’re in Scandinavia… I may even change the format of the blog again- do tweet me some suggestions of what you’d like to hear or see (click the Twitter link on the right of this page to find me).

Cheers all,

Bx

Posted on 07 August 2011 by Brad Webb
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Welcome!

Welcome to the new website. To start with, I’ve posted below a collection of blog posts I wrote for Jamie Cullum’s site last year.

Posted on 10 April 2011 by Brad Webb
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Jet Lag Experiment

Hello from various places.

I have received a number of complaints from crotchety friends and family that I have become rather tardy lately in the posting of blogs. Apologies if you agree with them- and you should, because it’s true- but I would ask you to consider that, since my last blog, I have been involved in a sadistic jet lag experiment.

Jet lag is defined as ‘a temporary disruption of the body’s normal biological rhythms after high-speed air travel through several time zones’. The last few weeks have revealed a new form of jet lag to us, in which the body is not temporarily, but constantly disrupted. Starting in San Francisco, we flew for eleven hours to Japan (crossing the International Date Line), spent two days at the mind-blowing Fuji Rock festival, flew thirteen hours to New York (crossing the Date Line again) and several days later flew for six hours back England. Clearly, there was no time to adjust properly to any of the time zones visited, so I was resigned to just stumbling around and enjoying the ride.

The tiredness felt on arrival in Japan quickly morphed into a deep-seated delirium in which working out who was talking to you and for what reason was essentially impossible. This is a particularly unhelpful state to be in when encountering Japanese customs officials, who were already predictably suspicious of a long-haired musician arriving from California. Happily, everyone else in our party seemed to be struggling similarly at this point. Everyone apart from Jamie that is, who apart from being a travel ironman, turned out to be the spitting image of several of the Japanese clothing models whose images fortuitously adorned the walls of the airport.

As always, the flying marathons have been entirely worth it. Listening to Norwegian orchestral space-prog (the wonderful Jaga Jazzist) in the valley of a misty, off-season Japanese ski-resort was positively life-changing, as was playing a set overlooking the bay at the Newport Jazz Festival after the Chick Corea Freedom

Band. We take a two month break from the rigours and delights of touring at the end of this month. In the meantime, we press on to the next gig somewhere in Europe… after I return to the airport, where, in a jet lagged stupor, I left my suitcase on the reclaim belt.

Originally posted on Jamie Cullum’s website.

Posted on 23 August 2010 by Brad Webb
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The South

Greetings from the tour bus in the grounds of the very civilised Denver Botanical Gardens. After having had three blissful (Wimbledon and World Cup-filled) weeks off in Blighty, we are back on the road in the US again. We’re at the midway point of the tour now, having just finished a whirlwind stint of gigs down south. We been faced with some challenges, but ‘the South’ has shown us a great time.

Whilst it is a supremely hospitable place, there have been a few shocks to English systems. On arrival in Miami we were greeted by the extreme heat, which unnervingly bear hugs your entire body like a giant, tepid flannel. Being English, the only way I could respond to this sensation was to blather on in a banal way about what clothing I’d packed, followed by an appraisal of whether any of it was appropriate for ‘this heat’. With that out the way, we headed to South Beach’s 4th

July celebrations, where more shocks lay in wait, this time of a cultural nature. It was of course the joyous, patriotic celebration one would expect- except it was done Florida-style. Men and women with impractical amounts of muscle waving flags surrounded us, burger joints served super-sized versions of their already vast portions in honour of the occasion and Margaritas were being consumed like mineral water. It was quite a welcome.

After Miami, the tour took us via Universal Studios Orlando (where we went to see the queue for Harry Potter world), Clearwater (where we were reminded just in time not to ‘molest’ the ‘gators) and then to New Orleans, which coincided fortuitously with Jack (merchandising mogul) and Tom’s birthday. The spirit of the place was intoxicating, and we had a thoroughly brilliant evening diving in and out of the buzzing venues, before settling in America’s oldest bar- Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shoppe.

The dimly lit place, containing little more than a grand piano and a few tables, was the perfect setting for a drunken birthday sing-along featuring an impromptu medley from JC. It emerges that he is prepared to whip out a version of ‘Rocket Man’ when pushed, but the pushing must involve mild verbal abuse and a considerable tip.

As always, playing music most nights has been brilliant for keeping us sane; the gigs have felt like moments of familiarity, a creature comfort in an ever-changing environment. Part of the beauty of touring an unfamiliar place is having to fit in with your surroundings. But touring the south of America is different; it forces you to get involved. One morning in a ‘Waffle House’, tour manager Danny, in his best English, gingerly leaned over the grill from his seat and enquired, ” Excuse me, but would it be possible to have English muffins with my eggs, please?”.

The reply from the portly lady monitoring the sausage patties was uttered without hesitation…

“Birmingham, Alabama.”

It was as if to say, “We got two breakfast options down here- take it… or leave it.”

The South is a place where life is lead in a direct, simple way with hospitality that we haven’t experienced elsewhere. The mosquitoes, searing heat and heartburn from chicken fried chicken* are difficultthings for a bunch of pastey Englishmen to face. But we’ve been intoxicated and swept up by it all, and that’s the beauty of the place.

*We also endured endless, painful renditions of “Is This The Way To Amarillo?” on our day off IN Amarillo… but admittedly, that was self-inflicted.

Originally posted on Jamie Cullum’s website.

Posted on 19 July 2010 by Brad Webb
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Back of van

Hello.

I’m currently in the back of a van. It doesn’t really matter what mode of transport we’re taking- I always seem to be at the back of it. This includes plane flights, on which I am consistently seated at the very back, next to the toilets and no more than two rows away from an infirm baby that sounds like it’s singing Slayer covers. It is a conspiracy. But I digress.

The UK tour has been delightfully disjointed (and free of air travel) compared to previous tours this year. This is partly because the country is comparatively miniscule, so we’ve been able to dash home to London immediately after gigs. Sacrificing post-gig drinks in the dressing room has been a small price to pay to appease wives/girlfriends/families/pets. It has been great to play to some home crowds too. Whilst British reserve is certainly no myth, the audiences here have shown that they can match the Yanks for going mental when necessary.

You always know when you’re in Britain. I mentioned the service stations here in my last blog. There’s something about them which is inherently British. You certainly see people of all shapes and sizes, a cross-section of the population, on the move. Owing to one band members’ peanut-sized bladder, we’ve visited a hideous number of services in the last few weeks. The comedian Bill Bailey describes them as, “cathedrals of disappointment”, and quite frankly, who could

disagree? For me though, they are a welcome chance to escape the confines of the tour van… and Rory.

On long drives, most of the band enjoy normal pursuits- reading, listening to music or sleeping. Sadly, these activities are not enough to keep Rory amused for more than ten minutes. As soon as we hit the motorway, his mental age halves and I am periodically subjected to a host of shouty alter-egos, seat-prodding and mock smuggery. He will eventually fall asleep, which is confusingly pleasant considering his default hood up/mouth open sleeping position.

The next leg of ‘The Pursuit’ tour takes us to mainland Europe. We hope not to be affected by the Icelandic ash cloud again on our journey out there, but if it does intervene, we face a twenty-seven hour van journey to Portugal. I shall inevitably be in the back, trying to sleep- with my ear-plugs in.

Originally posted on Jamie Cullum’s website.

Posted on 26 May 2010 by Brad Webb
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Epic Venues

If playing at Carnegie Hall, The Fillmore or a clifftop outdoor theatre in Costa Brava weren’t enough to fulfil a musician’s dream to play epic venues, our recent gig in a bus depot in Bremen certainly was. As with many of the gigs we do, we weren’t sure what to expect from the ‘German street gig’, as it was billed on the schedule. I had pictured a quaint stage next to an ice rink and assorted stalls selling waffles and wooden stuff… I was wrong. We spent the day in the ‘repair area’ of the depot, nestled amongst countless jacked-up bendy buses. It’s hard to know how to pass the time in these sorts of places. Happily, they had thoughtfully provided a table football table which we duly utilized until we were all tired and stressed. Rory, who was beyond tired having been the last of us to make it home from Australia, spent much of the lead-up to the show trying in vain to find somewhere to sleep. His verdict that there was, “literally not a soft surface in the place” was diva-ish but fair. All of this, in addition to JC inexplicably referencing the song, “The wheels on the bus” onstage, must make it one of the oddest days I’ve spent with this band.

Quite seperately from that drivel, we are now four gigs into the UK tour, and enjoying everything about being here. That is of course a lie, as anyone who has visited a service station in Great Britain will attest. But it is nice to wander British streets again and hear a new and more ear-shrivelling accent each day. The venues are great too. They vary from city halls to grand old theatres such as the London Palladium. Bit of a step up from the depot.

Originally posted on Jamie Cullum’s website.

Posted on 13 May 2010 by Brad Webb
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Back home

Hello there.

I’m writing this from the sofa whilst recovering from the twenty-four hour journey home from Australia. I should have made the brutal trip a week ago, but the pesky Icelandic volcano (Eyfafgjxhgfhnvddhvull) kept spewing dust, leaving us ‘stranded’ in Sydney, and tacking an involuntary holiday onto the end of our three week tour.

I could say we’ve spent the week being productive, doing free workshops in schools, playing impromptu gigs for the elderly and recording a charity single for other Brits abroad affected by the ever chundering volcano. But that would be a lie. We’ve been on the beach.

Of course, our intention was to do all of this and more, but human nature dictated that the best thing to do was to relentlessly scaremonger each other into needing a nice sit down. Facts about Eyfafgjxhgfhnvddhvull’s pestilential history and the catastrophic effect volcanic ash can have on a jet engine were volleyed around ad infinitum. Compulsive problem-solver Chris had even spent some time on Google maps mapping out how we might drive home…

“Seriously guys, if they can get us on a flight to Bangkok, we can drive home from there- it’s easy.”

The fact that we would need a pistol for this was deemed the only apparent hole in the plan.

Happily though, we have a tour manager who does have more than one brain cell (two), so flying seperately and on different days, we have all made it back to England.

Japan, Korea, Singapore and Oz were a blast, but now it’s time to tour the place we call home. We’ll be travelling by road much of the time… unarmed, one assumes.

Originally posted on Jamie Cullum’s website.

Posted on 30 April 2010 by Brad Webb
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Singapore

Ahoy hoy.

Our hotel in Singapore was twenty yards from the corner of the Formula One Grand Prix track on which Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crashed his car to affect the outcome of the race. He has since been expelled from the sport for cheating, and rightly so.

On that note, why is it deemed cheating, by some people, not to immediately start experiencing a city like a local the minute one arrives? It is almost as if travelling is some sort of sport, and to spend any time enjoying home comforts in a place such as Singapore is cheating the rules. If it is, then each of us on this tour is as guilty as the next.

Mr. and Mrs. Cullum are sometimes found slithering around in the hotel spa, Chris on a crosstrainer in the gym, Rory on Facebook and Tom watching ‘The West Wing’. My slice of touristic laziness in Singapore was to waddle round the first half of the race track taking nerdy photos of apexes I recognised from the television. Ben (tour tech and monitor engineer) derived great pleasure from wagging his finger at us for eating in a ‘Western’ restaurant on our night off, but even a culture vulture like him was found ‘cheating’ in Tokyo, drinking Abbott’s ale and eating toad-in-the-hole in a poor imitation of an English pub. The point is, no matter how adventurous you are abroad- and we have done our fair share of blending in- sometimes you just need to sit around in your pants*.

Onward to Australia !

* Obviously, this is not what I do

Originally posted on Jamie Cullum’s website.

Posted on 19 April 2010 by Brad Webb
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It’s been a while…

Greetings.

Firstly, I owe you all an apology. The beady-eyed amongst you will have noticed that this is supposed to be a weekly blog and that, bearing in mind we were on tour in North America for a month and I only wrote two blogs (and we are halfway through our tour of South East Asia), I have only completed half of my homework. This is partly because deep down I am a slovenly, inky-fingered school boy with procrastination issues… and partly because we have had a busy few weeks finishing the North American tour and dealing with the fallout.

So this blog is a bit of a wittery catch-up.

Some of it has been a real strain. Whilst Jamie went to Vegas and Minneapolis to do stuff for his singy, playie thing (career), the band were forced into flying ahead to gorgeous Vancouver. There we endured two days off, which I struggled through by swimming, go-karting, eating gourmet seafood, taking harbour tours and generally trying to make the best of a dire situation. We tried to rectify the issue as a group by taking a cable car to somewhere called Grouse Mountain, but this just turned out to be a place where we were able to ski cheaply, whilst observing an incomparable view of the city and the surrounding water. Awful.

Following the trauma of Vancouver, we trickled south to explore more of the Pacific Northwest, first playing Seattle, then Portland. The Portland show was to be one to remember. The crowd were a paragon of pogoing rowdiness, and I could see after our usual opener, ‘Don’t Stop The Music’ that JC had the bit between his teeth. It was a euphoric, cacophonous party of a gig. We were told afterwards by people in the rooms below the stage that dust had been cascading from the ceiling and that, during our last song, a brick had fallen from the wall of the production office. Guests joining us at the aftershow were dismayed to find us deleting any rock points (scored for structural damage to a venue) by extolling the hummous provided on the rider. Oh dear.

After gigs in San Francisco and LA we wrapped up the tour by playing a private show in Mexico and quaffing vintage tequila (1942 Don Julio – more torture) before beating a retreat to Blighty.

Thank you North America, for the fun, fish, Fillmore and…. hummous.

Having written blogs equivalent in length to ‘War and Peace’recently, I shall henceforth be writing slightly shorter witterings in an attempt to blog more punctually and (perhaps) more frequently.

Originally posted on Jamie Cullum’s website.

Posted on 12 April 2010 by Brad Webb
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Good evening from Illinois

By this point, I should be describing North America in nauseating metaphors. I’m keen not to, mainly because it’s predictable. And you would soil yourself with frustration and boredom. But there is a temptation to get poetic about this amazing place. Perhaps it’s the best way to fathom it. The ever-changing locations, ample time spent wittering at each other, sporadic bursts of music and tonnes of food have combined to make my memory of the last week a rather brilliant blur.

So, where the hell have we been this week? After scrabbling around and consulting my itinerary, it seems we’ve been to Toronto (from D.C.), Atlanta (via Cincinnati), Nashville, St. Louis… and now we’re in Chicago. I think Danny (tour manager/sound man/luggage lover) and others in charge may have plotted our route by grinding some pepper onto the map and joining the flecks with a Sharpie. We have now crossed the US/Canadian border several times. This is an odd experience with this group of reprobates, especially when, at 3am, a torch-bearing border patrol officer sweeps aside a bunk curtain to reveal a squinting, Neolithic man. The horror was mutual.

Crossing into Canada, one of our party requested an urgent toilet stop. In order to reach the nearest facilities, Tom (incomparable bus driver/straight-talking Illinois native) had to drive the bus back into America. Ten minutes later, we traversed the border into Canada once more, being told hospitably not to “€#%\ this up again” and incurring an additional crossing fee. This has become known as ‘The $13 Toilet Stop’. Whilst we’ve been knocked out by the cities we’ve played in, not all the locations we have stopped in en route have been quite as phenomenal. A vast mall car park in Ohio was so faceless** that I found myself in Borders buying a book called ‘A Short History of The World’, in order to find out where it’d all gone wrong.

But, aside from that momentary blip, we are being reminded daily why

North America is the place to be. The awe-inspiring vastness and unswervingly friendly people are making this a total pleasure. Thank you to the people of Nashville for your very unique version of Happy Birthday.

Bx

*Apologies to those Canadians who may have been offended by me referring to this as a tour of America last week. Congratulations on the ice hockey ;)

** I am sure the rest of Ohio is delightful in every conceivable way.

Originally posted on Jamie Cullum’s website.

Posted on 17 March 2010 by Brad Webb
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