I’m sitting in the backstage at the Hamilton in Washington DC. Not exactly backstage, more side of kitchen - Ian Hunter and the gang are backstage, except that they’re not because they didn’t want to dine off plates on their knees, so they’re braving the far-flung corners of this venue come outsize restaurant. We wolfed our dinners down in the time-honoured manner of opening acts everywhere, off a coffee table sitting on a giant DFS or Big Lots vinyl sofa.
And now we’re waiting to go on. Ten minutes to showtime and I’m feeling discombobulated, my condition not entirely helped by the large mug of er...espresso that arrived for me accompanied by a jug of steaming milk and a biscotti the size of Illinois.
We have a set list and I’ve got a case of the shakes. I've had a case of the shakes for about two weeks now: pre-tour nerves - pre for the up and coming European tour and now real live and current stage nerves because we’re about to open for one of my biggest heroes and I still feel as though I’m driving a car down I-95 through New Jersey and Delaware.
Time to go on....
|photo by Tamara Guo
The audience seemed to be full of people who came from relevant places - a girl came from Mount Lebanon in Pittsburgh where Amy grew up. There was a frank exchange on the subject and I related my story of driving round the neighbourhood with Amy's dad:
He pointed out the old family home, was pleased to see it was still painted white. He turned to me - 'do you know why I painted it white?'
And before I could formulate any kind of answer - 'so there'd always be a Republican in the White House!'
I was still only a perspective son-in-law in those days so I was on my best behaviour. 'Er...yes...er...quite right too,' I managed.
Some of the audience looked slightly uncomfortable.
Things went better when I got onto the subject of Shoreham-By-Sea before Days Of Jack & Jill.
An English voice from the crowd: 'Don't dare say anything bad about Shoreham.'
'I wasn't going to, but what's it to you?'
The guy came from Shoreham and he could prove it, said he had photos of him sitting on Shoreham beach at an early age, eating pebbles.
'We were poor too' I said, 'I used to eat coal, and my Grandmother's dog's dog biscuits when no one was looking, but of course we had rationing...'
Ian's crew has acquired a new crew boss, an officious blowhard from Brooklyn who apparently worked for Bob Dylan and seems to rub everyone up the wrong way. As I was getting our gear off after the set I asked him if we were in a tearing hurry. I hadn't bargained on getting a lecture on opening act etiquette:
'We are always in a hurry - you need to get your stuff off my stage right now, do not be going in the dressing room until you have moved all your stuff. The thing you have to learn about being a guest is that you have to be a good guest and that means moving your equipment out of our way right now and remaining invisible...'
I've probably been doing this longer than he has. I told him I didn't need his fucking lecture and I couldn't imagine there was anything he could pass on to me concerning good behaviour. I suppose I can expect problems now.
Meanwhile Ian was appalled that we'd been shunted off into a second dressing room.
'You're in with us' he said. 'Always! Make yourselves at home and don't ever think you're in the way!'
I love that man.