The last few days have been quite incredible and I am somewhat relieved it's all over. It feels like the day after a wedding. The party is over and I am on a buzz. Two big events have happened to me. One was Live 8 and the other the Salzau Jazz festival in Germany.
Cut to a week ago: We are preparing for the Live 8 show at Sting's house in Wiltshire. 'Message in a Bottle', 'Driven to Tears' and 'Every Breath You Take' are not songs that are particularly challenging but they needed to be rehearsed anyway. One cannot be to cocky with songs one knows (anyone who saw my performance of 'Fields of Gold' in Paris will identify) so we worked them quite a few times over. Plus we were working with a new guitar player (Lyle Workman) who needed to be brought into the fold to make him feel comfortable and confident. We had 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You' rehearsed as a possible alternative to 'Driven to Tears'. But after a band vote we decided on the latter as it was felt to be more appropriate.
Day of show: We all had a choice of when we wanted to be there. Some went at the start of the event, some a bit later and I asked to be taken there an hour before our performance. I didn't want to be backstage at an event like that with all those celebs, entourages and so on. It's not my kind of environment. Since it was only ten minutes away I stayed at home and watched TV. The tennis. Venus Williams v Lindsay Davenport at the Wimbledon final. What a match! I am so glad Venus won because she really wanted it. She played with such passion, grace and fire. A true athlete. I think Lindsay is great too but she was clearly struggling with the power coming from Venus. I also think her backhand let her down. Fantastic match.
Back to reality: It was time to leave the house and go to Hyde Park. I felt quite relaxed, grounded, prepared and to be perfectly honest, ****ing scared, nervous, insecure etc... There was no way out of it. I would have to play in front of 250,000 people, plus a couple more billion on TV. The show was running late so I had to endure backstage and run into a few people I hadn't seen for years and be polite. Celebs everywhere, people having conversations with each other while looking around. Not really my cup of tea. Madonna is putting on an amazing set. We are two or three acts away. I agreed to meet my daughter Misty for a quick hello to see if she was alright (she and Rufus were in the audience near the front). She was loving it and wished me well. Rufus texted me doing the same.
Our tour manager tells us it's time to make our way to the stage while Velvet Revolver are on. We walk through the congregation of who's who. They are looking at us as if we are about to go into space. A look of pity and envy if you can imagine that. I felt like I was an astronaut about to go into space and have suddenly realized, too late, I know nothing about rockets. Quite surreal really. Everything was silent in my head and the world was going by in slow motion. I felt sick but ready.
We go on stage and all these insecurities vanish. I feel great, in control of my faculties and dare I say confident? Or worse cocky? And we put on an amazing show. What helped me feel this way was perspective. This wasn't about my guitar playing. It was about the world raising awareness with poverty. It wasn't about me getting the right chord on the bridge of 'Every Breath'. It was an opportunity to detach myself from myself if you know what I mean. Kind of like meditation but in front of an audience. It wasn't so much that I felt in control but more that my higher power was helping me do the right thing. I loved every second of it and I only wish I could find the words to describe what I really did feel like playing to that audience.
We walk off and I get a text from my daughter saying "great guitar solo dad... loved it!" then another from my son Rufus. I was so happy to receive them. I decided to leave ten minutes after our performance because I couldn't and wouldn't hang out there any longer. I get home and watch the rest on TV. I thought The Who (especially Pete Townsend's guitar playing) were fantastic. Pink Floyd? ****ing awesome. I got to sleep eventually at around 2.00am.
6:00am the following morning. My alarm goes off, I get dressed, do a quick inventory check and make my way to the airport to catch my flight to Hamburg. I am picked up by the festival car (Jazz Baltica in Salzau). Joining the driver is Susan Gluth who has been making a documentary about me for the last year. I know I haven't mentioned this much before but I now feel I can disclose this to you. I arrive at this beautiful castle in northern Germany and go straight to rehearsal for the headline show later that evening. I haven't played with Trilok Gurtu before and am looking forward to it. He is an amazing percussionist from India. Nicholas Fischman (awesome musician!) is on bass and my friend Mike Lindup is on piano. We have never played together as a band so we must learn the tunes. We rehearse for four hours or I teach them my tunes and some of Sting's. I felt more nervous about this because I was doing my own thing with musicians who I have never played these tunes with and would have to perform them in front of a large audience of Jazz lovers from around Europe. Thankfully I saw some of my friends/fans who gave me confidence. We had a coffee and chat together while I was on a break.
My dear friend, musical partner and surrogate brother Sting showed up an hour before the show. We were ready. The reason he was there was because originally I was due to play there the night before (Live 8 day) and to cut a long story short (which was alluded to in my last newsletter) I did his show and he reciprocated by doing my rescheduled one on this day. A true sport!
Show time midnight: We did a great show. The band were fantastic, Sting was great, the vibe was amazing, I was happy and many of the musical chances I took paid off. The audience were warm, generous and fun to be with. It was quite tricky because Sting came on at the beginning so I had to keep the audience from leaving. This worked by continuing with something gentle (Eclipse) without trying to compete. We worked up a crescendo to end a great set. I then signed autographs, took pictures and talked to the fans for a while and finally went to bed one happy camper.
I am grateful to be in a position to be able to express myself as a musician in Sting's band and with my own music. I thank all of you for this gift. I will continue to work hard so I can carry on sharing this journey with you.