Just as glorious as I remember…
Wednesday 3 February, 11.30am (Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa):
We landed in South Africa this morning to embark on our 2010 Cape Town tour and the place is just as glorious as I remember. Ten minutes ago we checked into our hotel rooms at the Table Bay, Cape Town’s swishest hotel, and whilst the rooms are being prepared we stroll out onto the Waterfront, bathed in sunshine, to have a little shufty at the famous Golden Seal statue.
The Seal statue is the hotel’s emblem and sits atop a plinth adorned with a series of golden plaques, bearing the names of the many famous and illustrious figures in film, music, politics and sport who have stayed there over the years. I investigate more closely and am suitably impressed. Here are some of the highlights:
– Michael Jackson
– Snoop Dogg
– Maroon Five
– Wesley Snipes
– Vladimir Putin
– Manchester United
– The England football team
– Stevie Wonder
– Robert De Niro
– Quincy Jones
– Barack Obama
– …and, just above Obama and slightly to the left… us.
We have a plaque on the Table Bay’s Golden Seal. And in case you don’t believe me, I’ve posted a photo on the right.
I suspect that if Putin discovered that he featured on the side of a statue, he’d play things pretty cool. Not us. We proceed to take a variety of shameless photos of ourselves pointing and grinning at our name, flipping the thumbs-up and generally behaving like the worst kind of tourists. But we don’t care. We’ve got our name on a statue. With a little union jack under it.
Our mothers will be so proud.
Best start to a tour… ever.
(By the way, this got me thinking – how many other plaques have been forged in our honour without us knowing? If we were to return one day to the Knutsford M6 Travelodge, would one of the concrete parking bollards bear the legend “The Lightyears stayed here – and they saw that it was good”? There’s simply no way of knowing for sure.)
Thursday 4 February, 8pm (Green Point World Cup Stadium, Cape Town):
Being in a touring band has landed me in some pretty unusual places. I’ve performed the Korean national anthem with a world-famous opera singer for Her Majesty’s Ambassador. I’ve played my piano in the centre-circle of a football pitch whilst Rio Ferdinand and Carlos Tevez kicked a ball about above my head. And I’ve sung my heart out to a hundred and fifty Belgian farmers in a cow-shed in Kortrijk whilst a massive bull looked on, apparently completely nonplussed by the music (perhaps he wasn’t into indie). Tonight, I’m drinking free beer and eating tiny little miniature hamburgers at the brand-new 60,000-capacity World Cup Stadium in Cape Town whilst a rugby talk show is filmed on the pitch – the first time cameras have been allowed inside. And I know almost nothing about rugby. How did this happen?!
In case you were wondering, it happened because the organisers of the Cape Town Tens (the event we’re playing at this weekend) are big names in the rugby world and in some cases were being interviewed tonight live on camera. When the filming finishes, we make our way back into the players’ tunnel in order to be as close as possible to the bar. I stand, beer in hand, gazing out at the immaculate flood-lit pitch and an interesting thought occurs to me. In six months’ time, the greatest footballers in the world will emerge from this tunnel to an enormous stadium crowd and a global TV viewing audience of millions. There is something wrong, and yet at the same time so wonderfully right, about me – a man who throws like a girl, would struggle to explain the offside rule and consistently came last in the high jump at school – beating them to it. Bring on the 2010 World Cup…
Friday 5 February, 8pm (Cape Town Tens Rugby Tournament, Hamiltons RFC, Cape Town):
Here we are, back at Hamiltons RFC (South Africa’s oldest rugby club) in the shadow of Green Point Stadium, making the preparations for our gigs this weekend at the annual Cape Town Tens Rugby Tournament. Last year’s event was spectacular and it seems to have doubled in size for 2010. The stage looks fantastic, all kitted out with a fancy lighting rig and an epic sound system. It’s also quite strange for us to see the drums set up on a riser at the back of the stage, which has happened on account of the fact that, for the first time ever, Tony isn’t on tour with us. Tony, you see, is having a baby (or rather his wife is), and for our South African trip he has been replaced by the inimitable Andy Paine, who is a little more conventional than Tony and play the drums sitting down at the back of the stage. Soundcheck is a very straightforward affair – the in-house engineers are excellent, and in combination with Danny Lightyear they have the whole thing sounding absolutely cracking within about twenty minutes. We’re all very excited about tomorrow…
Saturday 6 February, 8pm (Cape Town Tens Rugby Tournament, Hamiltons RFC, Cape Town):
The marquee is packed for our show tonight at the Tens… and let’s just say that the crowd are “well-oiled” after a day’s solid drinking in the Capetonian sun. After a storming warm-up set from Me & Mr Brown, we take to the stage amid flashing lights and dry ice and bask in the sonic glory of the Tens’ epic sound system. It’s a real joy to play on such a quality rig. The crowd are in the mood for singalongs tonight and the best moments come when we chuck in the odd South African number (Prime Circle’s “She Always Gets What She Wants”, for example – unknown in the UK but, boy, did that kick off in Cape Town!), as these really seem to capture the imagination of the locals. True to form there’s quite a bit of male nudity and playful wrestling going on during our set, as well as a practise in which one unfortunate chap is unexpectedly leapt upon by ten or eleven others until he turns red, like a tomato. Plus, these are BIG guys. All part of the fun of course.
My only disappointment tonight is that the increased security this year – as well as the barriers that separate us from the crowd – have rendered stage-diving pretty much impossible. Another time perhaps…
Sunday 7 February, 6.30pm (Cape Town Tens Rugby Tournament, Hamiltons RFC, Cape Town):
We spent today lounging by the pool and sampling the hotel’s excellent range of cocktails. If you look to the right you’ll see a photo of me and my blue margarita, which is admittedly something of a girly drink but is admirably offset by the book I’m reading (I would heartily recommend Slash’s autobiography, incidentally – any book which contains the sentence “This is exactly the excuse we needed to fire Bob Clearmountain” is worth a look, if you ask me). By the time we return to Hamilton’s RFC for the second gig of the tour we are feeling mightily chilled out and this definitely feeds into our set which, in keeping with the Sunday night atmosphere amongst the crowd, has much more of a laidback vibe than yesterday. We’re really settling in to performing with Andy and, as the sun sets and the tournament draws to a close, it’s a genuine pleasure to simply play music together. The highlight of the evening is when we join Me & Mr Brown onstage for a collective performance of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and everybody present absolutely sings their hearts out. Magic.
The rest of the tour is seen out in typical style with a celebratory last night out on the Waterfront, a frightening number of Jäegerbombers (for which we chiefly have Danny to blame) and a hotel-room party complete with the inevitable and merciless mini-bar raiding. John, Danny and I stayed on for a few extra days to climb the spectacular Lion’s Head, indulge in a little winetasting out in the countryside and marvel at the beautiful scenery of Cape Point, the southernmost tip of Africa – but that’s another story, for another time…
ps. Jacob David Lyons, the world’s first ever Micro-Lightyear, was born on Thursday 18 February at 10.33pm weighing 8lbs 10z. The race is on to turn him into a drummer/guitarist/keyboardist/bassist (depending on which member of the band you ask). The grown-up Lightyears are all excited at the prospect of little Jacob joining the LYs as soon as he’s ready, on account of the fact that he would bring our average age down really quite considerably.