Touring Germany with Real Life
Real Life toured Germany in October 1998, and it's a European memory I cherish. Recently I posted the blog 'Touring America with Real Life', today I continue my recollection of 18 days in Germany, autobahns & cinematic beauty.
Finishing our US tour, we arrived at Kennedy Airport, New York, late in the evening of September 26, 1998 bound for Germany. It was to be a long wait as our scheduled flight had been grounded due to engine problems. I didn't mind the delay as discovering the problem while on the ground was preferable to discovering it in the air:) Eventually, many hours later, and well into the night, we were east-bound to Deutschland on a different aircraft.
I had previously visited the country in 1990, just after the East-West reunification, most of the Wall had come down, but large sections with busy graffiti still remained. I have a chunk of it somewhere at home, as a momento. I recall, at the time, taking the train to Alexanderplatz which I believe was the cross over point into East Germany. The images of soldiers with machine guns on roadsides was quite alarming. I ventured into parts of East Berlin, which was a strange experience, not one I was used to at the time.
Back to 1998 … we touched down at Frankfurt 7 or 8 hours after leaving New York. We arrived safely but alas, some of our luggage, including my keyboard and other technology, plus my personal suitcase, didn't, it was not loaded onto the plane & still at Kennedy airport! That came as quite a shock to say the least as our first concert in Lubeck, north of Germany, was the next night, and Lubeck was nowhere near Frankfurt.
The German tour was 12 shows over 18 nights throughout the country. We zig zagged from south to north and west to east almost everyday. Much of our waking time, aside from the time we actually performed, was spent in a 9 seat van driving on the autobahns. I have to thank our wonderful hosts, the German pyschedelic-electro rock band 'Sweet William' and singer Oliver in particular, for setting up the dates, finding us accommodation, driving us around & helping us get our delayed equipment from New York to Lubeck the very next night. The band acted as our support act for all shows.
The tour was quite low key, playing smaller cities and towns and it was certainly an opportunity to see regions we would not have ordinarily visited. We were invited to Germany after the American leg of our tour to help promote our new album Happy. The German trip was not originally in our plans but we considered it an exciting opportunity to revisit the country. Real Life's last major success here was in 1984 when Send Me An Angel was at number one on the charts for a number of weeks. That was quite a while back though.
It's quite difficult for me now to remember most of the places we played in. But I'll recall the ones I do remember best. Often the equipment we used, unfortunately, was below standard and we had problems in some venues with this issue, beginning with our first night in Lubeck. We managed to overcome these shortcomings and pressed ahead regardless, and in the process had a great time and provided the same to our many & varied audiences.
The Tower in Bremen, (click on image) was probably the most memorable gig, in what was a very gothic looking interior to the venue. It was, you guessed it, freezing outside as we set up in the afternoon, but it was a hot night's entertainment nonetheless. The club's promoter came on stage for our final song, a reprise of Send Me An Angel, and David Sterry (Real Life singer/guitarist) gave him his guitar thinking he would simple make some noise with it but the guy (sorry, I forgot his name) played such a stirring solo that it blew us away:)
There was one embarrassing anecdote. The promoter set us up overnight at a friend's place, a very charming old 3 level home with steep winding staircases; it felt like something out of a Grimm's Fairytale book. Before going to bed I couldn't help but to investigate in near darkness. I climbed to the top, opened one of the doors in the attic to enter what seemed a child's room, with mobiles hanging from the ceiling. It all felt very magical & other worldly. I then opened another door and to my surprise, and certainly to her dismay, a woman looked at me from beneath her bed cover wondering what on earth I was doing in her bedroom. I got such a shock. It was the woman who owned the home, we briefly met her earlier in the day, but thought she left the house for the evening to sleep elsewhere.
That was an embarrassing moment for me and probably a worrisome one for her. We didn't see her the next morning. I felt so bad about that; I still feel awful thinking about it now. All because the old tall, steeped house had a magical, enchanting feel about it; surreal and ready for investigation....it succeeded in luring me into that unfortunate situation:)
Siegen was another great destination and gig. A small stage, tiny really, but a good night's concert after all. I didn't think much about it till I later read that Paul McCartney had an art installation exhibited close by to where we played, a few months after we were there.
Koln (Cologne) was a show I remember well and the city we spent most of our time in. The venue was a rudimentary hall, but it was the final gig of the tour and we made sure everyone enjoyed themselves. We had the guys from 'Sweet William' join us on stage for the final number 'Virus'.
I regret not being able to recall all the towns and cities we performed in, but I loved seeing the country-side as we drove for hours on end almost every day. The only downside for me was that I only saw the sun for perhaps 20 minutes in the 18 days we were there; it was overcast for the remainder of the time. Sometimes dark, sometimes grey. Seeing the sun break through brought such a release and a feeling of new life, albeit temporarily. I can understand how some people can get depressed easily in such environments. But because it was all new to me, it was nonetheless an enjoyable experience, even the bitter cold.
Towards the end of the tour we took 4 days off in Koln, staying in different motels, and simply had a break from each other after about 6 weeks on the road together. It gave me a chance to wander around the city and take in the many historic & architectural delights. The gothic cathedral, spacious and grand inside and out, was just one highlight! I also found a favourite coffee shop near the cathedral plaza which I frequented each morning and an Irish Pub with Guinness beer in the afternoons. The office building across from the motel was conducting a first aid course during the few days I was there, they had their windows open on the second floor, parallel to mine and it was quite bizzare watching people seemingly kissing life-like dummies on the floor:)
Germany has such a different pace and culture to both the US and Australia; I thoroughly enjoyed being in a place where the local language was not English, even if it was somewhat frustrating at times. The audiences were wonderful, I loved the 'old world' charm of the smaller towns, the food was great and I made a few friends while there, too.
If you've been to Germany, if you are from Germany and want to add any comments, please feel free to do so...
Click to also read 'Touring America with Real Life'