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The joys of an off-stage band member

Roadie #42 - Blog #168

29 Apr 2012

The joys of an off-stage band member

My God, can we be a week into the tour already? We’re sitting on the tarmac waiting for departure to show number six.

It has to be said that this first week has felt not entirely unlike a jet taking off. The rush of getting the first few shows happening has much the same adrenaline inducing surge that you get as the engines kick in and the pilot eases off the brakes.

We’ve managed to get airborne pretty quickly too, I’d say – and with pleasingly minimal turbulence. And the view has been pretty great.

First thing’s first though, I have to say that the Canadian crowds (and Vancouver in particular) were truly outstanding. Chris has taken to chanting “the more you give, the more you get” over and over through the intro to God Put A Smile. This was most certainly the case here. As someone who sees the show night after night, you can always tell when the fellas are enjoying themselves and feel the show gaining intensity as a result.

Good job, folks!

If there’s been a pilot through the takeoff of the tour, you’d have to point in Phil Harvey’s direction. I’ve often said before that he’s got a unique perspective on events, in that he can look at the show through both the band’s eyes and the fans’.

One of the frustrations for any touring band, is that they’ll never be able to truly watch their own show and know how it looks sounds and feels. Having a “fifth member” then, who isn’t onstage, is an asset beyond measure. He knows intimately what the band are trying to achieve and can report back with complete honesty whether or not they’re delivering.

This works both ways, too. Phil also knows what strikes a chord with the crowd – the things that they’ll take home as a treasured memory. Sometimes the band would be more comfortable doing things their own way, or feel uneasy making a grand gesture. Having an enthusiastic audience member on stage in soundcheck that can wield considerable influence, means the comfort-zone gets challenged.

We’ve also seen the return of the C-Stage on this leg. The band leave the huge sprawling main stage before the ‘encore’, only to confuse one and all by appearing behind them, way up in the back. It’s one of my favourite gags in the show.

The platform the four of them stand on up there, is no bigger than the tiny “rolling riser” that Chris’s piano sits on down on the main stage. When you see that Will has a mini-piano of his own up there, you realise that the four of them really are perched on a postage stamp.

They’re also quite literally surrounded by the punters. There’s no fancy stage, no big gimmicks, just a band, singing a song under a single spotlight – about as up close and personal as it’s possible to get.

Something I noticed the first time I took a hike up to the C-stage took me somewhat by surprise. Those close to the band often stand staring at the video screens in the other direction – often with a camera-phone held up towards the band. This is somewhat baffling, initially. The people they’ve come to see are now standing close enough to touch and they’re gazing off at a screen a hundred feet away.

It only dawns on me when I take a look at the screens myself. With the band essentially standing on the row of seats in front of them, these folks are now squarely in camera shot. They’re not watching the screen to see the band that are at arms length from them – they’re checking themselves out. It’s a little like the studio audiences you see on TV, where they’re looking off to the side at the monitors. It makes perfect sense on the screen, but when you’re standing next to them, it looks faintly ridiculous.

As for the mobile phones, we’re well past the age of “pics or it didn’t happen” and now we’re into “video on Facebook, NOW”…

Well, our flight from Portland to Seattle is almost done. The journey that is the Mylo Xlyloto Tour though, has very much just begun.


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