Intro


Hello. My name is Isaac, 35 years old from Vancouver, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s 2013 “Privateering” tour, from April 25 (Bucharest, Romania) to July 31 (Calella de Palafrugell, Spain).

Due to Despite the tour’s obnoxious schedule (thanks, Mark), I cannot be entirely sure that I will attend all concerts. That being said, I will try. You are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read, and comment. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see the “Subscribe for Updates” box at the right hand side of the page. For standard RSS readers, select the “Atom” option).

Have fun,
Isaac

Note: The contents of this blog are also available in hardcover and paperback formats. For more information, click here: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/isaac_s

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Brighton to London, UK (May 27, 2013)

Monday, May 27, was a day I was greatly looking forward to. After more than a month of intense travel—will I ever forget that 10 hours bus ride to Poland? probably not—finally, I get the chance to rest in one hotel for not one day, not two days, but for six nights.

And not only that there’s an entire week free of travel, but also this week happens to be spent in one of my favourite cities on earth (I maintain a separate list for each planet)—the wonderful city of London.

Needless to say, then, I was quite eager to pack everything up and board the train from Brighton to London. After a short breakfast at Pret‐A‐Manger, inconveniently located more than a mile from the “hotel”, ran some inventory check: it was just about time to do the laundry, and as there was a Laundromat across the street from the hotel, it was decided to get laundry work done with before heading to London.

That killed about an hour and a half. Well, didn’t kill, really: just turned a hour and a half, which could have been used for fruitful purposes, into an hour and a half of watching this:

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In the very first episode of Seinfeld, George joins Jerry to a Laundromat. During that scene, George is staring at the dryer spin and then saying: “Jerry? I have to tell you something. This is the dullest moment I’ve ever experienced”. I relate. If you reach a point in your life when you are staring at a dryer spin for more than 20 seconds, and trying to guess the order in which your clothes are going to tumble over with every spin, then you are most likely not living life to the fullest.

Total cost of washing and drying—around £6, a price for which you can by a laundry machine in Bulgaria. Whatever. Let’s just get it over with and get the hell out of here. Found the first bus to the central railway station, and took the 12:04pm train to London.

An hour later, left the train at London Blackfriars, then took the Tube to High Street Kensington, conveniently located a few steps away from the hotel, the Copthorne Tara, located in Scarsdale Place.

Exiting the High Street Kensington station, I looked above, looked to the sides… blue sky. Fantastic weather.

This is going to be a good week.

London.

Faith in humanity (partially) restored.


I had stayed in the Copthorne Tara hotel before, during the 2010 Get Lucky tour. It is a centrally located, well‐maintained property. While planning the tour’s schedule, the six nights stay in London was of the earlier planned legs which is why it didn’t end up being too expensive (their “rack rate”—that is, the rate that you’d pay if you simply walk into the hotel without advance reservation and ask for a room—currently stands at £360 per night). Last minute bookings in such a hotel in such a location costs a fortune (less than the “rack rate”, but still exceptionally ridiculous), which is why I decided to remain in Brighton during the day‐off even after realizing that it sucks royal ass.

The Copthorne Tara hotel belongs to a chain called “Millennium Hotels”, owning a few hotels in London and elsewhere. This chain has a very interesting pricing scheme for logging into your Facebook account and get frustrated again witnessing people uploading pictures of dogs, cats, mice and Instagram photos of the food they’re just about to eat internet connection: it costs £10 per 24 hours—not per room, but per device. That means that for one person carrying a laptop and a smartphone would end up paying £20 (!) per day (!!) for Wi‐Fi. Time it by six and you get £120.

Just to make sure you understand what £120 means, here’s a list of things that cost (approximately) £120:

  • €140; $181 US; $187 CDN; 672 ILS.
  • Four times my recent monthly electricity bill.
  • Almost five times my recent monthly high‐speed internet bill (FiOS‐based: 25Mbps download speed).
  • 40% of one common stock of Apple (although, the way Apple is going, this percentage is likely to be raised soon).
  • Not much less than the median monthly salary in Bulgaria.
  • Approximately 60 cups of cappuccino from Starbucks.
  • Three months worth of provincial health insurance in British Columbia, required to pay the doctors so they can heal you from the physical and mental wounds that you will surely suffer after drinking even one cup of cappuccino from Starbucks.

A few attempts to show how ridiculous this scheme was to the receptionist went unfruitful. Not because the poor lady didn’t want to help, but mostly because she couldn’t. It was decided, then, to postpone the fight for later on.

Quick setup in the room and we decided to go for lunch in a nearby Thai restaurant called Thai Terrace. I have been here before a couple of times and had good recollection of this place. As we were about to leave the hotel, Ingrid and Nelly were on their way in so we ended up going to the restaurant together. Shortly after, Philipp and his friend Werner from Switzerland joined us. Fun with interesting people.

Back at the hotel, armed with Ingrid, it was decided to once again attempt to demonstrate to this hotel that their Wi‐Fi pricing scheme makes no sense for people who are staying there for six nights, and to use group power to try negotiating a deal that makes more sense. Once Ingrid explained the situation to the hotel’s duty manager, in her own unique way, a much better deal was achieved and everyone was happy—the only caveat was that the arrangement was to start on Tuesday morning, not right away (which explains the delay in this post and the preceding one).


Knopfler usually plays more than one or two concerts in London during his solo tours. In 2008, for example, he played here six nights in a row. Same for 2010, and for the current tour. Therefore, the London stretch results in Knopfler fans pouring into London from various places on the planet, planning a vacation in England around the London tour dates.

While I am not active in any Knopfler fan forum (or any fan forum of any artist, actually), over the years I became acquainted with some. That might have something to do with the fact that I have attended more than a few concerts already. I was told that, in 2008, someone suggested the Stanhope Arms—a pub in Gloucester Road—as a pre‐concert gathering place for concerts taking place in the Royal Albert Hall. Since then, it became a habit: whenever Knopfler touches ground in London for a concert, the Stanhope Arms is populated almost exclusively by concertgoers.

Due to a few peculiarities in my social upbringing (a skim Myers‐Briggs I took once has shown that I’m an INTP. Some claim that so was Albert Einstein. Not that I’m trying to imply anything) as well as my drinking habits (that is, my non‐existing drinking habits), I tend to feel uncomfortable in noisy, crowded environments and have very little to do in pubs as I hardly ever consume alcohol in any way, shape or form. I hope that this is not held against me folks, but that’s the truth and that’s what I am—I shy away from places I feel uncomfortable in.

Still, I remembered that there’s a coffee place right next to that pub so I decided to pop in to say hello and then go sip some (decaf) coffee. The place was full of people, some more familiar than others. There were people from England; The Netherlands; Germany; Belgium; USA; Switzerland—an interesting setting. That must be what it feels like to attend a meeting of the Bilderberg Group, except that no wars and/or artificial economy crises are being planned out at this seemingly harmless English pub.

I had one half of one pint of beer. The last time I had beer before that was in the front yard of a friend of mine in Israel, who brought some beer that was home‐brewed by a relative; that happened in December 2012. Before that, I can’t recall when was the last time I had any sort of alcohol. That one half of one pint was enough to make me feel a bit off, so I joined my friend James for a snack in the nearby Paul cafe. Absolutely fantastic place for freshly baked goods—I will definitely revisit.

About half an hour later, it was time to head to the Royal Albert Hall, about 10 minutes walk away.


The Royal Albert Hall was opened in 1871 by Queen Victoria. It was originally named “The Central Hall of Arts and Sciences”, but was later renamed by Queen Victoria to “Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences”, dedicating the place to her husband, Prince Albert.

In England, there’s a concept of Listed Buildings; these are buildings that carry special architectural or historic interest. There are three “grades” of such buildings—1, 2* and 2—with Grade 1 defined as “buildings of exceptional interest”. The Royal Albert Hall is a Grade 1 listed building for its architecture. It looks astonishing from the outside, but the real treat happens once you enter the hall and look around you.

This is, hands down, the most astonishing hall I have ever seen in my entire life. No photograph I took could ever do justice to how amazing this venue is from the inside, but here are a few attempts.

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In the floor seating section, the front rows are exceptionally close to the stage. Moreover, the stage itself is very low. If you are seated somewhere in the front, you actually feel that the band is not playing for 5,500 people (the maximum capacity in the hall), but for one person: yourself. This is a remarkable experience that I would wish on pretty much anyone I am fond of.

Ruth Moody, who was last seen performing in Amsterdam making the Amsterdam concert the most memorable one in the tour so far, is also the opening act for Knopfler in all six concerts in London. Slightly less excited and trembling than she was in Amsterdam, she gave a remarkable performance, assisted by three band members, out of which two are from British Columbia. I should have a word.

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About half an hour break, during which I went about to take a few breaths of fresh air. At around 8:45pm, the band took the stage…


… And gave the Royal Albert Hall the rocking of its lifetime.

In my post about the Amsterdam concert, I described that performance as being fantastic thanks to Ruth’s involvement. Now, take that, and add the fact that London is Knopfler’s back yard. To that, add Nigel Hitchcock and you end up with a product that I can hardly see how it can be beaten.

There was nothing in this show that I can say a negative word about. The Royal Albert Hall yesterday looked like one big happy party. Of course, the venue’s special, intimate (at least at the floor section) layout contributed to the overall feeling that there’s one hell of a party going on, but the music emitted by these ten performers was marvellous.

It’s that type of energy that made the Toronto and Locarno concerts (2010) unforgettable. When the energy isn’t there, or isn’t there at its fullest, it is sometimes hard to notice; but when the energy is there, and all cannons are firing at full power, you see it. And you can see it despite having seen this band perform approximately 170 times before.

Quite expectedly, the highlight of this concert was Ruth’s participation. I Dug Up a Diamond was played again with Ruth providing beautiful vocals as well as accompanying acoustic guitar work. It was evident that the excitement that was slightly holding her back during the Amsterdam performance was well under control now. Right next, Seattle, again with Ruth, minus Mark’s guitar’s tremolo effect, causing a bit of a stir at the side of the stage as Glen was trying to figure out what’s wrong.

In Amsterdam, Ruth joined the band for the performance of three songs. Here in the UK, Nigel Hitchcock is also in the guests’ line‐up so some changes had to be introduced to the set.

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Sultans of Swing was back, in a very good performance—good enough that even I enjoyed it.

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Nobody wanted this show to be over. Off to Telegraph Road

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Followed by a crazed Running of the Bulls session when people from pretty much the entire floor area came sprinting by to catch a spot near the stage. When I thought it was safe to get up and march forward, two individuals who could hardly be described as “petite figured” came blazing through the wind, knocking me sideways.

I suppose I should look behind me next time, as well. Went back to my seat for the encore, when I noticed a lady struggling to watch the show as she was standing behind an exceptionally tall individual. I invited her to take my spot which had a better view of the stage, a suggestion which she couldn’t quite comprehend at the beginning but eventually was very happy with. Turned out she came all the way from Brazil for this. Who am I to stand in the way?

The Royal Albert Hall’s roof was close to being blown away with an energetic performance of Going Home. The entire audience—front, back, sideways—everybody were on their feet.

As good as this band is, performances as explosive as that one aren’t very frequent to come by. You can have many good concerts, a few very good ones, fewer excellent ones… but not too many extraordinarily exceptional ones such as that one.

And then you ask me why I’m attending more than one show…


After the concert, a quick walk back to the hotel. Grabbed some Shawarma and started devouring it senselessly in the hotel’s bar. By the time the waiter came by to tell us that hey, this is a restaurant and you shouldn’t bring outside food here (fair enough. I honestly didn’t know), I was already done. Minutes later, about 15–20 familiar faces—pretty much, whoever went earlier to the Stanhope Arms—came by for a drink and late night dinners. I went back to my room to grab my laptop, so I can catch up with blogging while others around me were busy talking in various languages I couldn’t make sense of. It wasn’t before 2:00am when it all ended and I went upstairs to catch a good night sleep.

It’s days like these that make such a journey a memorable experience.

Signing off this post from my hotel room in London. Will go catch up with other things now, and then head to the Royal Albert Hall again for tonight’s (*cough* Kingdom of Gold *cough*) concert.

Isaac

13 comments:

  1. Is it possible that you enjoyed this concert so much more than the others because you could relax knowing that you did't have to hop on a train at 6 a.m. the next morning?

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    1. It's hard to say, really. However, if travel schedule was a factor, it can't be a consistent one. For example, I thought the Amsterdam concert was fantastic even though I knew I was going to have some vicious travel the next morning...

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    2. Love how you write about comparative costs of things. Good to know. From, the US.

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    3. If you live in the UK you get used to being "ripped off". That's why we call it rip off Britain. All in all 50% of your income goes in tax and the rest goes to paying about 20 to 40% higher prices for consumer goods. In a bad summer like this the heating bills are the real annoyance. OK we get free health care...but hell...we PAY for it!

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    4. Oh yeah I forgot..the price of fuel for your vehicle...don't ask. You will think I am telling lies...hahah

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    5. DERG, I actually looked at the fuel prices here. It's insane. I thought you have a right-wing government here (and have been having it for a few years now), how come tax rates are so high?

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    6. The current government in Westminster is a coalition between the Liberals and the Conservatives. The net effect is that the rich folks get richer and the poor folks get poorer. The middle folks take the brunt of the pain. You start looking for ways to save money which means you often pay more because you bought cheap shite which was no fricken good. We pay 20% sales tax, we pay local taxes to our 47 local authorities in the UK, then we pay a pension tax, then we pay UK national tax. The rot started back in 1979 when woman called Thatcher was made prime minister..she was right wing. Sold of ALL our national assets, made us all into cut throat dog eat dog nasty capitalists, ruined the education system to make all the young ones apparatchnics..yes people..yes sir three bags full sir.... Stay in Vancouver Isaac and marry a Japanese woman 10 years younger than you.

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    7. DERG: interesting history. Thanks. About marrying a Japanese woman - why specifically Japanese?

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    8. They don't age at all. They have a wonderful attitude about looking after the family. They are very polite. They are good housekeepers and cooks. When you need a translation service they are right there. You can live in Japan and be right on the doorstep of Asia. There are fabulous trading opportunities as Russia opens up. They LOVE the USA. They have fabulous opportunities for English speakers...your trade would be in big demand. Definitely a place to spend a year or two.

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  2. Is it possible that you enjoyed this concert so much more than the others because you had a beer ?

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    Replies
    1. Nope... same reasoning as before (Amsterdam).

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  3. Hello ,Isaac,i was the ''lady" who you invited to take your spot(although i am 32 years old.That is ok,i think i became older during my days in London cause i had slept few hours for day ).My name is Fabia Lopes and i'm from Brazil ,it was my first time in London and iam very fanatic for Dire Straits and Mark Knopfler,to be in London for MK concerts (i attended three concerts -27,28 e 29)was a dream came true and i thank you again for your wonderful attitude i really was very happy to see my loved idol so near .The
    Last concert was more special for me cause i got to shake MK'S hand.I left the Hall floating.:-)Enjoy the others Mk concerts and one more time thank you so much.

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    Replies
    1. Hello Fabia,
      Sorry, I'm not entirely sure about what the term "lady" implies on age...

      Glad you enjoyed the show. Was happy to help. Keep in touch.
      Isaac

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