As I should have learnt by now, when sharing a room, all sleeping plans go out of the window! Having set our alarms for 9.55; 5 minutes before we had to be down for breakfast/production meeting, I was awaken by Ruben’s phone, receiving a text message at 6.45 (which was NOT welcomed seeing as we’d arrived at the hotel at 3.30am the previous night!). I was amazed that Ruben had the energy to read the text message and then reply in great length! I managed to get back to sleep and then, when our alarms went off at 9.55, Ruben mentioned that he thought he’d woken up before the alarm went off. I reminded him about the text message and he said, ‘What text message?”. He had absolutely no recollection of receiving, reading or replying to the message! He checked his inbox, and sure enough, there was the message, from his girlfriend. I told him to check his outbox… to his amazement, he found the reply he’d written; which he said was a long and detailed response!
We went down to the breakfast room to find that today was a beautiful day; the sun was scorching and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – the complete opposite of yesterday (which was a good thing, as today’s gig was in an open air amphitheatre). We found everyone sitting outside, eating breakfast by a pond full of carp… what a great start to the day. After breakfast and a short production meeting we went up stairs, got showered and left the hotel at 11.
After a couple of hours driving we reached Gelsenkirchen amphitheatre – an amazing concert venue on the bank of a river. The sun was baking so I spent some time sitting outside, playing my guitar… life is good :o)
I also had some time to look around John Petrucci’s guitar world…
Our dressing room was at the end of a long corridor. The first room on the corridor was James Labrie’s Dressing room, then there was Dream Theater’s Hospitality Room followed by Dream Theater’s Dressing Room, Dream Theater’s practice room, Transatlantic Vocal Room (Mike and Neal needed to record more vocal parts for the new album), bathrooms / shower rooms and then our dressing room.
After spending the day chilling out in the sun, we watched Dream Theater sound check; they ran ‘A Nightmare to Remember’ again and then it was time for us to get our gear on stage and set up.
Thankfully, the schedule of the day was running early, so today we had an hour and a half to set up and sound check, rather than our allotted 1 hour (and our actual 45 minutes of the previous day). Having this extra time was great – unlike the previous day, I had chance to take the time to get a good sound from my guitar and amp (EQing the amp to sound good on the stage). Alco, our front of house sound engineer, had said that my guitar sound wasn’t too good the previous night (I think he actually used the word ‘terrible’!) so I was eager to work on my sound for this performance. After getting a sound that I was happy with, we got a monitor balance and then ran a few things. With 10 minutes to spare, we were happy with our stage set-up and felt confident for the gig.
I went back up to the dressing room, changed the strings on my guitar (as regular blog readers will know, I change my strings before every gig (or sometimes every other gig, now I have the Graphtech saddles on my guitar) to avoid the risk of snapping a string). We had a short time of prayer and then it was time to hit the stage.
As we approached the stage, the excitement mounted. I could see sections of the audience, and they could see us. When our intro music started (the orchestral intro to ‘The Creation’) the audience started to cheer. And then, when we walked onto the stage, the audience greeted us with massive applause and cheers – it was so great to be given such a warm welcome.
The gig was amazing – the audience really carried us; they were so appreciative and, like the previous day’s gig, they cheered enthusiastically every time I played a fill or solo. What an amazing pleasure it was to play in front of such a great audience – this is surely what playing live music is all about! We had a great time on stage and our 45 minute show flew by. Everyone in the band played great and I felt like we were all really tight. At the sound check I’d taken the decision to have some of Collins kick and snare drums in my monitor (something that I don’t usually do) – it really made a massive difference in locking in with him… I’ll definitely be doing that in future!
After the gig I took my guitar back to the dressing room and then came back down to help get our gear off stage as quickly as possible. Once we’d packed our gear away I went back up to the dressing room, where Dream Theater was getting ready to go on. John Petrucci asked me if I thought his guitar was too high. I told him I thought it looked cool, to which he replied, “Ah, nobody thinks I’m cool anyway”. I pointed out that that clearly wasn’t true, but that the people who thought he was cool weren’t cool themselves! (wait a minute… I thought his guitar looked COOL… mmm!).
I headed down to watch Dream Theater from behind their monitor desk. Before the gig started, John was waiting at the side of the stage, next to where I was standing. He made a joke about how high his guitar strap was before going on stage to a deafening roar of adoring Dream Theater fans.
I watched their entire concert from the side of the stage – what an amazing show, and what a amazing guitarist John Petrucci is… he’s someone you really have to see live to get an idea about just how good he is.
After the show I head back up to the dressing room, but hesitated when I saw John Petrucci standing in the corridor in his underpants! I went to turn around to give them some privacy, but then figured it was OK when he said hi to me. I congratulated them on a great show and then left quickly, letting them shower in peace!
Back outside, I met a couple of guys who’d travelled from Sardinia to the show – I’d met them at a Carl Palmer Band concert in Sardinia a few years ago, it was great to see them there. I also said hi to Kerstin, the girl who runs the website ‘Land Of Beginning Again’ (Official Neal Morse Fansite & Community website), it was nice to see her again after a year.
At the end of the evening, I made the decision to abandon my role as a professional and become a fan for a moment… Mattias manage to get me a poster off the wall as a memento of the gig. I spent some time chatting with each member of Dream Theater and got them to sign the poster for me… an amazing keepsake of an amazing gig, which I’ll hang in my home studio (unfortunately I was too late to get Mike to sign the poster… ah well, I’ll hopefully meet him later in the year to make the memento complete).
What an amazing experience… to play alongside some of my musical heroes and to have the chance to meet them and discover that they’re all really great guys.
We said our goodbyes, and headed to our van for the long journey back to Collin and Jessica’s house in The Netherlands.
When we arrived at Collin and Jessica’s house we dropped our suitcases off and headed to the studio, where Alco had already unloaded our gear from his van. We quickly packed the gear away and then headed back to Collin and Jessica’s house to sleep!