England had been really quite hot when we left last week. Or so I thought. Then we flew into Tampa, Florida. Heavy, wet heat embraced us as soon as we stepped off the plane, and it hasn’t loosened its grip. Once again, we are acclimatising to the familiar dance of constantly alternating being boiled or air-conditioned to within an inch of our lives.
Pete stayed in the UK during this latest US trip as he had to stay home to await a special delivery. This would not normally present grounds to justify missing a tour, but this particular package will apparently be baby-shaped, which is of course wonderful news and we all wish him and family the very best!
Our friend and studio cohort, Mr Ben Allen has kindly stepped in to cover Pete for this tour. This would’ve made for a slightly anxious first gig on the boat, but nothing us semi-professionals couldn’t handle. However, as some of you may have heard, Kristian – OUR SINGER – was also unable to make it out with us as his visa didn’t arrive in time!
There had been a visa delay at the American Embassy, which was also closed last Friday and Monday due to some wedding apparently causing delays… Despite much consternation, begging, and finger-crossing all round, it essentially appears the royal family prevented Kris from getting here on time.
As you can imagine, the absence of OUR SINGER presented more than a bit of a hitch, as we were due to board the Carnival Inspiration for the VH1 Best Cruise Ever, so we had to consider the possibility of cancelling this whole tour. We agreed this was not an option; the thought of letting people down – combined with the lure of free food – persuaded Jamie to bravely step up to take lead vocal duties.
The lovely people at Sixthman (who organise the cruise) agreed to allow us to give this option a go on the understanding that we’d be swiftly walking the plank if it were a disaster.
Since Jamie already multi-tasks quite a bit during our gigs, it became apparent that some songs could be particularly tricky. Thankfully, as word of our predicament spread amongst the other acts on board, we gratefully received offers of help from old friends and new to lend a helping hand. As a result, we transformed our gigs into a bit of a jam – this was great in several ways as it lent a new perspective to many of our songs with the addition of Zack Daniels jamming along beautifully on banjo, and Mark Bencuya from Yacht Rock on keyboards, despite them never having heard the songs before!
The muso equivalent of “Let’s do lunch some time” is “Let’s jam some time”; both rarely happen in reality, and so we relished this opportunity to do something special. All musicians joined us on stage with little or no notice, and hopefully this highlighted the incredible talent on board.
We were joined by the very affable Bryce Soderberg from Lifehouse, and old mate Ben Sargeant from The Script on bass duties for Amazing (both nailing it of course, despite listening to it only a couple of times), plus the genial Matt Wertz agreed to come and sing Kandi each night, having literally learnt the song ten minutes before we went on.
Brian and Dave from the incredible Alpha Rev (with whom we toured last summer) provided some beautiful violin and cello for several songs, with Casey from the band singing a heart-rending delivery of Hurricanes with us each night. All of which was an honour and a pleasure and we were thoroughly indebted to everyone who joined us. It was a great reminder of what music should be about.
We left the boat happy but unfortunately still Kristian-less, and drove on to support Train at a baseball stadium in Fort Meyers, Florida. We took to the stage, minus all our new friends, as a three-piece just after the sun was setting. We had a great time. My enduring image of the gig was the hilarious vision of Jamie’s cheat sheet of Kandi getting taken away by a rogue gust of wind – seemingly in slow motion – at a crucial moment during the first verse. Jamie courageously apprehended the wayward lyrics under the gaze of several thousand onlookers, and we were able to continue the song without further catastrophe.
What a start! I can’t wait to see what fate throws at us next…