Al The Loveable Stoner
Tuesday 11 April, 6pm (Rond Point, Meribel, French Alps):
Those of you who’ve met Tony will know that, just occasionally, things irritate him. I don’t know whether it’s the lack of meat in his diet, or his over-exposure to cheese, but there’s a certain bio-chemical quirk in his personality that makes him particularly susceptible to getting bloody well pissed off. Ipso facto, he’s spent the entire day fuming over last night’s mysterious disappearance of his irreplaceable Lightyears jacket. He is therefore almost entirely overcome with joy when a chap named Al turns up at this afternoon’s gig claiming to know the whereabouts of the missing jacket. This news is genuinely quite astounding. I could hug the man. Tony actually does, which to be honest seems to take Al by surprise. “Yeah, dudes, I found it outside the pub last night. It’s wicked, man. Safe.”. However, our excitement gradually gives way to suspicion as it becomes obvious that Al is basically a bit of a stoner and doesn’t appear overly interested in actually giving the jacket back. I take his number (something else which puzzles him – he probably thinks I’m making a romantic advance) and he agrees to bring the jacket along to our gig this evening. Simple. Or so we think.
Tuesday 11 April, 11.45pm (Scott’s Bar, Meribel, French Alps):
No sign of Al when we start the gig tonight. Time passes, we finish our set and yet he’s still nowhere to be seen. Our pal Al. Al The Jacket Man. Tony gets a little bit mad and phones his mobile and, to our surprise, Al answers. Apparently he’s come out on the lash tonight actually wearing the jacket! Cheeky beggar. Tony establishes Al’s whereabouts, jumps in the car and speeds up the mountain to an abandoned bus-stop where, oddly, Al has suggested they meet. For ten minutes, there’s no sign of him. For Tony, the red mist begins once more to descend; but then, suddenly, from deep within the silvery Alpine fog, emerges a silhouetted figure. Who seems to be stripping. It’s Al! Once again reunited with his jacket, Tony leaps back in the car and makes haste away from Al with, I imagine, some urgency. Mission accomplished.
Friday 14 April, 3am (Lightyears Chalet, Saint-Bon, French Alps):
We’ve just played the last gig of the French leg of the tour. In less than five hours we have to get out of bed and drive to Belgium. When we get to Belgium, we will have a short holiday of roughly four and a half minutes before getting up onstage and playing another gig. Best get to bed then.
Friday 14 April, 8am (Outside the LYs Chalet, Saint-Bon, French Alps):
The car is packed, the chalet that has been our home for the past fortnight is locked up, and the open road stretches out endlessly beyond us. John, who won’t be playing with us in Belgium, is flying back to the UK this afternoon. He’s quite delighted to have actually managed to book a flight at all, having spent half an hour on the phone yesterday to some dappy French travel agent who, as it turns out, had been trying to book him a helicopter ride for most of the conversation. We say our goodbyes and head our separate ways. For us, it’s Belgium or bust.
Saturday 15 April, 1.30am (De Trukendoos, Kortrijk, Belgium):
A big crowd turned out tonight for our Belgian debut, and everyone seemed to have a good time. In fact, after the gig we met a bunch of teenagers who had found us on MySpace and travelled 30 miles to come and see us play. As is often the custom round here, we were hauled back onstage for about 27 encores, and as a result we’re pretty knackered by this point. We’re trying to pack the car for the gazillionth time this tour and two drunk Belgian lads are, despite their best possible intentions, starting to annoy us. “You Ingleesh men, huh? Yeah. You must know Gascoigne, yeah?”. I hope it doesn’t crush him entirely when I confess that whilst I’m familiar with Gascoigne’s work, I have never made a personal acquaintance with him. They hang around for ages, offering their assistance whilst struggling to stand, but they eventually slope back inside the pub once it becomes clear that we really don’t know Gascoigne. Our European adventure draws to a close, and about half an hour later we all crawl happily into our respective Belgian beds, kindly provided by a friend of Tony’s, to snatch some much-needed (but short-lived) sleep before it’s time to get back in the tour-bus and head for Blighty.
Saturday 15 April, 7pm (Heythrop House, Oxfordshire, UK):
We’re playing a private party tonight. In Chipping Norton. Which some bands might interpret as a come-down after 2 weeks in Southern Europe, but we soldier on nonetheless. After the show we return to our respective homes and proceed to sleep for about 48 hours. Just a week to recover, then, before the UK leg of our World Tour begins. Rock and roll.
Watch this space for the next instalment of The Lightyears World Tour Blog 2006…