On a tour full of remarkable events, the festival gig outside Brno in the Czech Republic stands out. As we arrived at the venue, we were told that there would be a delay because a heavy storm was approaching. The promoter, although initially requesting us to go on early before it arrived, decided, after watching the storm’s progress, that it would be better to delay the start to let the storm blow through. The crowd of 15,000 people were informed of this and waited patiently. So did the band and crew. We watched the skies as they darkened, waiting to see how strong it would be.
Then it hit. Hard. First came the wind, testing the dressing room tents, flapping and billowing the canvas like sails on a boat going round Cape Horn. The stage shuddered with the first blasts of wind, the lighting rig swayed dangerously and people scurried to find whatever shelter they could. Then the rain came bucketing down at a sharp angle, driven by the fierce wind and illuminated by streaks of lightning. It was decided that we in the band should head to a crew bus for safety. We sat there for an hour or so, unable to appreciate the severity of what was going on outside, fearing for the audience.
Then reports came back that the stage and some of the equipment was drenched, particularly the drums and keyboards, where the covers had been blown off, exposing the delicate instruments to the elements. The damage was serious, particularly to the keyboards. It was still raining hard and so the gig had to be abandoned and we left the drenched, long-suffering Czech audience to their silent, soggy night. Fortunately, the following day was a free day so our management team and the promoters worked out the complicated logistics of shifting things around so that we could do the show twenty-four hours later.
Of course, the following day was a beautiful, sunny one – as if nothing had happened the night before. Our crew, along with some of the local crew, stripped the gear down and carefully dried it out and reassembled it in time for the evening’s performance. We arrived, expecting to see a diminished crowd – after all, it was now a Monday and the weekend was over. Then came the biggest surprise of all; there were more people the second night than the previous one, about 5,000 more. We were amazed. Not only did all of the equipment work flawlessly, but also we had the most fantastic welcome from the crowd. It was a superb gig in every way.
The plan was to do the show, pack up, and, along with our crew, head straight to the airport for a night flight to Brussels and play the next concert that evening. An escort of police cars and motorbikes, lights flashing and sirens wailing, ensured that our convoy of vehicles raced past the traffic to the airport. I’m writing this on the plane as we head to a late check-in at the hotel and some sleep before the next show.