written by Robert Turner - Tour Manager
The drive to Hannover reminded me of my love/hate relationship with The Autobahn (a "bahn"is German for a track or a lane). Many back in The States have a view of The Autobahn as being a free-for-all on which drivers can zip along as fast as they want. And there are indeed stretches of highway that prove this to be true. However, these days there are speed limits imposed sporadically and you aren't always given much advance notice of said speed limits. This is where they getcha. You can be blasting along at 150-160 kilometers per hour and suddenly there could be a posted speed limit of 100 kilometers per hour and you can get nailed by a camera and suddenly you owe money. I feel it is almost unfair, but hey - you can always just keep to 100-120 kph - just if you do so, stay to the right and don't be oblivious to other drivers. Lazy-minded drivers who camp out in the fast line even when not passing someone (so common in my home state of Georgia and its neighbors) are rare here, and they are "handled." But you also must be diligent about constantly being mindful of those behind you and their rate of speed. Should you not keep an eye on that rearview mirror, you are eventually going to either end up dangerously cutting-off those hurtling along in the fast lane, or frequently wasting gas because you can easily find yourself boxed-in to the middle or right lane. You just have to get into it and be attentive and it can be an absolutely exhilarating and satisfying driving experience.
We arrived in Hannover, and after a fun little game of "find the gig," we discovered that Jon would be performing in a cute and sonically (Is that a word? I think it should be. Get on it Colbert) ideal, little theater on the second floor of a centuries old building that serves as an extension to a local vocational school. The school graciously allows a wide variety of local events to be held there. Our host, Rainer Voltmer, books the music in the room.
The heavily white room had a wraparound balcony fronted by a wooden railing which seemed more ornamental than protective. Later I would discover that the best sound in the room was in the first row of the center of the balcony. It was absolutely ear-delicious up there.
I also made another discovery. Behind the curtain at the back of the stage was a CASSETTE DECK. I have made a compromise with my girlfriend that rather than throw all of my cassettes away, I would just listen to them one-by-one and then give them away. I had even brought a few. Once I found the tape deck I quietly made my way to the car and grabbed one of the three cassettes I had brought. It was a killer audience recording of the final Bob Dylan show in 1997 at Los Angeles' El Rey Theater. I listened to it briefly on our first visit to the theater, and then again at the end of the night, and then left the unlabeled cassette in the tape deck. So, if any cassette-deck owning Bob Dylan nuts reading this live in or near Hannover, GO GET THAT TAPE!
We had hit a pub briefly upon our arrival, just to get the Germany vibe. During our walk, Jon had spotted a pizza place that hit his fancy, so we decided to hit that in the interim time between our initial visit to the theater and the show. I was starting to remember how the language barrier was much higher here in Germany than in the Netherlands. Jon ordered a salad and asked for tomatoes on it, and we got a big bowl of sliced tomatoes and onions which were swimming in dressing. Normally, I take dressing on the side and despise excessive dressing - but it was OUR FAULT BECAUSE WE DIDN'T KNOW THE LOCAL LANGUAGE BETTER. This is a key point, as I believe it is the appropriate attitude one should have when visiting or moving to a foreign country without learning the local language. Also, Jon tried to order tap water and quickly found himself 5 Euros deep in an unwanted Pellegrino.
The school had been empty on our first visit, but we returned to find much activity. A table was set up with water, juice, wine, beer and snacks in return for donations. I set up my little stand near the entrance at the back of the theater. As the performance unfolded, the venue-nerd in me decided to move around this room and enjoy all of the different angles and check out how the sound varied around the room. I was impressed that there weren't any "dead spots" with regard to sound.
The room inspired Shain. Because once he got settled-in, he started delivering strong versions of several songs which he had not performed in quite some time. He played a achingly soulful, "Luck Don't Come Easy," a weighty slow blues number which dates back to Flyin' Mice, a band he formed in the late 80s and fronted until mid-1996. The crowd seemed to dig his finger-picking on the ragtime gem, "Chincoteague Chick-a-dee" from his out-of-print Fools and Fine Ladies CD. And his slide guitar work on "Dram Lest We Get Dry" brought the set to a rousing climax.
We had to be out of the room by 10pm, and Jon likes to give his attendees a lengthy show, so the set break was the shortest yet of the tour. The 2nd set revealed him to be even more comfortable in this sweet, sweet sounding room. I hadn't heard the instrumental "Song For Isabella" in so long that I was unable to identify it. The he played three as-yet unrecorded songs in a row. A riveting "Seven Thieves" gave way to "Cold and Lonesome Morning," a title I found pedestrian given the unique lyrics he had written (sounded like the title of 2042 bluegrass songs). Jon, later in the week, kindly let me help him rename it as "Fading Light." We both believe this correctly indicates what is going on in the mind of the character that is the voice of the song. Then he busted out the To Ramona-esque "It Wouldn't Be Long" - one that would quickly reveal itself to be a German favorite - and one that sent me scurrying to the balcony to have ideal sound for this debut version. I hung up there while Jon played "Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me" with passion and precision. I love it when Jon represents my man, Mississippi John Hurt. Jon led the crowd in a rousing sing-a-long of "Don't Go No Further," which while made famous by Muddy Waters and The Doors, was actually written by Willie Dixon.
And then he reminded me of our Flyin' Mice days with a set-closing "Millionaire's Blues" and an encore of the disgustingly rare "Glass Bottom Saturdays," each from the band Jon fronted 20ish years ago. "Glass Bottom Saturdays" reminded me of my good friend Steve Clarkson, with whom I used to attend many Flyin' Mice shows decades ago, and this was a song we frequently requested that they play.
Heiko Wichert had videotaped the entire performance. He and I struggled through a language barrier but were still able to bond in our shared love of music. He, his wife, our host, Jon and I ended the night with a couple of pints at a wine bar across the street after which Voltmer led Jon and me to his house. Voltmer has a stunning collection of guitars, so he and Jon had plenty about which to talk. Voltmer graciously allowed me to use his son's computer to try to keep up with my blog.
I'm glad I did. Somehow, it is a bit more rare to simultaneously have WiFi and adequate writing conditions here in Germany. I'm falling behind. But I will finish writing about this tour, thanks in part to recent memory-enhancing changes in my life.
Alice Salomon School
October 7, 2014
Song For JoJo
Luckier Than Most
Luck Don't Come Easy
Broken White Line
Peace Like a River
Dram Lest We Get Dry
Song For Isabella
Give My Regards To Brother Ray
*It Wouldn't Be Long
Let The Mermaids Flirt With Me
Don't Go No Farther
You Cannot Hide Your Heart From The Band
Glass Bottom Saturdays
* - debut version
Stephen Colbert and words
Final Bob Dylan show of 1997