In the Happy Place

In the Happy Place

You see the schedule and check the flights. The context is quite different. There’s no 2 year hiatus and personal loss to deal with. There’s possible work issues to solve. Lisbon and spanish shows are certain. Barolo is tempting. You don’t want to miss Dublin but flights are uncooperative. You need to ignore the general lack of excitement you feel around and remember now good 2017 was and what it gave you. Your tour partner is ready and willing. Tickets get drawn and spares are taken. Arrangements made and months of work deny any feelings of anticipation.

We set off to Italy for a first night in Novara in a hotel that was grandely luxurious 7 decades ago. The plan for Italy is simple, yet guaranteed: get a convertible and enjoy the scenery, enjoy the most perfect sounding language that our civilization ever came up with and eat and drink and relax. Get to Asti, taste the mid season black truffles. Far from the white ones they said. We say he should have thinly sliced more and more on top of that fresh pasta. We walk the streets and drive to Alba. We walk and walk, and taste and drink. Now close enough to drink Barolo. More good food and next morning we walk some more. Lots of walking is done. Lots of unsuccessful italian speaking as well. Next day, we make a half day drive last as long as possible and the promised pictures are close. The plan is to walk back to the hotel after the show. Only 4.2km or 40 something minutes walking says the machines at Google. Same machines that navigate us closer and closer to the hotel. 300 meters away and we stop for 2 incredible realizations: the smallness of Barolo in the valley below under a perfect blue sky and never ending green silence all around it; the leisurely walk after the show is up a steep steep hill.

We get to the hotel and in 15 minutes we manage to book some wine tasting, find a private car shuttle to and from the show and find the local café next door, where we have the first proper expresso of the trip: due espressi ristretto caldo. Nice 4 word combination that finally gets us the proper stuff for the next 2 days.
Wine tasting is 5 minutes away. Unlike my friend, I know nothing of wines. I only ask that the lady does the presentation in italian just so I can enjoy the sound of it. We have 4 different Barolos. The Reserve apparently ages for 5 years and is the best one. Noticeably. Served with local production hazelnuts. The kind that makes you believe you didn’t actually ever tasted hazelnuts before. Tasting is done. It’s hot as hell and we put the roof down. Only silence and birds and never ending views of vineyards left and right, so it’s the proper moment to blast Can’t Deny Me that SPOILER ALERT (was not played on this tour) and send the video to all the knowing friends.
Some more nice food, some more nice wine. This time, Barolo. Yet again. And then you cannot avoid the start having expectations. Taormina is unbeatable obviously… But there will be again a full moon, and maybe, just maybe…
Time to get to the venue and meet the driver. Young Ivan from Barolo picks us up. He promises there were 20k people in Barolo for Depeche Mode. We agree to be doubtful. From a sticker in the car I find out he has a pitbull, with epilepsy problems. Shows me a picture and I happily see no cut ears or tail. I like Ivan a little more now. He proudly states: “He is all natural”. We pay for the full service and agree to call up to 2:30 for pickup. Not ever past 3:00.
Waiting in the sun, meeting friends and end up separated to move closer to the front a little. They are on the taller side of the bargain and I am not. Still light when Glen plays and lots of talking around. Hard to get into his set. Too much smoking and too much drinking all around and expectations go lower. Nice octogenarian gets her chair ready and sits in her privileged balcony for EV’s set. She last for a few songs only.
When only after 2 or 3 songs a little girl makes a heart sign with her hands and got EV’s eyes to tear up, any father to a daughter, like myself, is seeing himself there.
It’s a nice set, but the full moon is invisible in the square, and there’s a bit too much casual drunkenness around to enjoy the show fully. There’s some singalongs but half committed. There are some mistakes and Porch gets slaughtered right at the peak of the main set. Song of Good Hope does it’s thing on me and takes me to the usual place it does… the memory of the last day on earth of the person that gave birth to me. Not unexpected. Then Falling Slowly and Society and all seems a little too predictable and you repent having listened to the recordings of the first 3 shows. Nasty 50’s ukulele makes its appearance for Should I Stay or Should I Go and it’s fun and loud and upbeat.
It did not beat Taormina. Nor close. You remember expectations are a tricky way to deal with life. It’s earlish, and we haven’t seen anything from Barolo yet and decide to walk the streets. There aren’t many. But at least to the castle. We reach it and there’s music and memory serves you a flash of something you screen shot yesterday about some after party. No energy and still with a little disappointment taste lingering in the mouth, we stay for one drink and check the DJ. You see Ten’s album cover projected, then Mother Love Bone and something starts connecting. Some time goes by. We find and compliment whoever were the only group dancing to Even Flow: turns out 1 russian, 2 italian and 1 lithuanian. We trade past shows memories, we find the full moon, and find someone that takes a blurry group picture under it. Others join for another blurry picture. We get a nice memory out of it while Ivan, our driver remember?, has made some 2, 3 … well maybe 9 unanswered calls to pick us up. Eventually we walk some more through Barolo and Ivan casually finds us and can finally finish his agreed service and take us to the hotel. Hopefully he will come to visit our country soon as promised.


  • One day back for some quick work and we get the home show. We queue for the junk (or merch as some refer to it) but I mostly buy stuff to give away. Tickets are good for many. We end up 2nd row center not without a noble gesture involved. Reaching the seats we are positive this is and will be as good as it gets. Ever.
    The anticipation rises and people are asking me if I am nervous. I am thinking, how shouldn’t I be?
    It’s happening and the Red Limo String Quartet is on stage for the first song. There’s goes predictability. Then comes Far Behind and the people are singing. Loud. After 3 songs EV is gasping for air. Theatrically because is an artist. But it is loud. We can see it clearly he is noticing it. Damn. Of course we can… he is right... there. By song 9 he takes out the Portugal Improv for a ride, now for the 4th or 5th time in Portugal. It will not get old. Drifting and I’m Open means: we have 16 songs to go and we have no idea which those will be. Then Off he Goes…. wait. After the show in Barolo I did promise I would call someone for any song she wanted to hear in Lisbon, as she couldn’t be there. She picked Off He Goes and my drunk self answered “No chance”. Happy to be wrong, I took the phone out, recorded and sent. Young people’s emojis came back. I guess she was happy. Satellite and Long Nights and then… Glen on guitar? Falling Slowly? Nops. It’s Black. He plays it like he has been playing it for 20 something years, and I am sure he has. EV gets up and is free to sing, connect and rejoice. To give and receive back. Was 2006’s Black in Portugal this loud? I question my ears. I question my senses. Betterman and Porch soon later fully confirm this. This is PJ happiness for 18.000 and it’s not stopping.
    Encores are less surprising but reaffirming. These are no longer intimate, quiet shows. This is full rejoicing in PJ/EV music. He takes pictures home from Imagine, and here comes Song of Good Hope. But as the show itself, this song is also transformed since 2017’s rendition… It’s hopeful and uplifting and touching. Find myself smiling to it… as it happened until the rest of the tour. It’s now the moment for handshakes, sometimes hugs, and finding the children in the audience to connect to. It’s strong and an incredible homage to the friendship we get to witness on stage, not unlike the friendships we form with the friends we do these shows with… on the time we get to connect with them with daily life on pause. Smile is a classic in Portugal and it doesn’t disappoint.
    I want to be positive we just witnessed the best EV show ever. No question about the best crowd. Could this have beat Taormina? In this current incarnation of the show, there is no doubt. Overall? Who knows. In the end... who cares?
    Back to work. One day only. Spanish leg of the tour coming. Reality gets its head out: maybe the peak is gone already and we have now 2 6:30 am flights. How the fuck did this ever seem like a good idea?
    Madrid is good. It Happened Today is awesome and loud and taped to send to Michael Stipe. Man of The Hour, The End and Indifference are very very powerful. Seats are great again. It’s all fine but tomorrow we rush to the airport and get back to Barcelona one day after. Yes again 6:30 am flight. We want to see the sights and end up walking and walking. 25km at the end of the day. A tad too much maybe. We give out our spares and hear the review from Madrid “I didn’t have this much fun in a PJ show in a long time”. Long long time PJ fan but first EV show. No wonder he got blown away. The show is not sold out and Glen plays with the lights on and more than half the place empty. Then we deal with expectations again and I hear from my side “the only thing I want is not to open with Alive / Far Behind”. Well my friend learned that lesson as well…
    The seats were good and close (again not bragging) but the mood around us was much more mellow and at many points it felt weird to stand. It was a good show and maybe we were just too tired to enjoy it more.

  • One day working and we move to the German leg of the tour. This is like the second home shows with all the first, second and third degree friends we managed to cherish over the years in this part of the world. We take a boat ride and relax. Late afternoon we meet friends and get beer. My “original” german friend finally made it to his single show this tour and that’s a good omen. We get 5th row this time and our friends get 2nd. We get in and find out there’s no first row. We message them they are first row. He misses the message and sends back a picture from first row to share the good news. They are happy and we are happy for them.
    Nice girl walks us to our seats. “Please no video and no standing during the show”. I smile and swear immediately I will not comply and neither will any of the people around. She insists it’s her job to tell me that. I bet her I can tell her right there and then which songs we will stand to. She smiles and says she’s not staying that long. We ask the nice girls from Denmark in the row behind if they mind if we stand. They smile and they are just as ready to not comply as we are.
    Glen’s gets a proper set with an appreciating crowd. Already we are getting much better vibes than the previous days. He notices “thank you for making me feel a part of this”. Everything is warm and ready. Maybe it’s the spot we are on but the sound is as perfect as it gets. Tonight they go 10 minutes late and the strings opening arrangement sounds different. And we get Even Flow and we begin getting tempted by expectations again. I keep shaking my friend and asking if it really sounds as good to him as it does to me? The crowd is on. Indifference sounds like the best of the tour. Immortality sounds like the best of the tour. And EV eventually confirms multiple times the venue sounds awesome, before he teases “no one would be upset if we came back to this place next year with the band… and did only new songs…”
    #12. The waiting drove me mad… And after 20 seconds quite a few thousand lived what these EV solo shows can be. It’s PJ celebration time. It’s 28 years of music we love. It’s something inside many of those there. The beards have turned grey, the hair is thinner, there’s banged up knees and unoily hip joints… but still hanging. We breath this music in and breath these words out. And Berlin breathed out Corduroy perfectly, with the Red Limo half surprised but nailing a perfect arrangement.
    Only Guaranteed and Happened today to regroup, then there’s Black and the collective never ending “thank you” that was the singing and the cheering and the tutututututing. EV chokes and holds the crying. “Now you are just fucking with me”. We weren’t. It was just a loud and live Thank You Note.
    Not many more surprises after but we could be in that place forever. Being on the last chairs of the row the decision was coming… Song of Good Hope came and we went. Well we could be closer than 2nd row after all. We shook hands and smiled. Smiled because it really is the song of Hope, the Good kind of Hope. Written by an incredible poet and sung by the voice we recognize many of our thoughts in.
    Then Falling Slowly sounds as it never did before, and the version from PJ20 goes to #2 in my heart.
    I stopped teasing my german friends about them missing the Lisbon show. I told them ‘this is on par with Lisbon’. They said ‘ask me tomorrow’. They were still well inside the bubble of joy to have any chance to be objective. Why should they be anyway?

    We ease in the morning with coffee. Eventually an EV tshirt finds us in the coffee shop and asks us to watch her laptop while she uses the toilet. Jokingly we agree with the promise we will roam through her pictures and emails… “It’s Eddie’s pictures. We waited for him yesterday and he stopped and we talked. I cried.”

    All through this journey we have your friends at home. Some checking seating charts and asking for show reviews and being our online setlist database, others despairing at all the instafood pictures. Happy and living the experience vicariously through us. They are with us.

    After some delays and airport boredom, we get to know Dusseldorf by night, with more bachelor parties than PJ shirts. In the morning we go to the high tower and spot the building that inspired the tshirt. We walk some more and make arrangements for the spare tickets. After some back and forths we are finally in the subway heading to the show. The girl for the spare is also getting in the subway in the Haupuouthretwekjsndksjhsdcseewof station. When the train stops there, there are a few dozen people waiting, I say to my friend “I will put my hand in the window and she will appear”. Obviously she does and rushes in recognizing the shirts. Happy and excited and nice and friendly. She is a PJ fan after all… what would one expect? Inside we meet the girl from the coffee shop in Berlin, that actually flew from South Africa. We meet the girl whose hand got kissed by EV in Lisbon... and she still prefers the Taormina show... We meet again our russian friend from Barolo, and try to show her the nice video of Good Hope from Berlin where she also got very very close, but, alas, she was just not quite ready to rewatch that dream. Or was it a memory?
    Dusseldorf starts well. Glen revelates himself fully and the crowd is completely into his amazing set, the best we got from him.
    The day is charged and it starts charged. You feel the weight of Long Road and Love Boat Caption. All the recent joy is quite tempered and subdued until Black/Unthought Known/Porch streak with many rushing the center aisle. He scratched out Parting Ways as it maybe would be a little too much.
    Corduroy is fun but the crowd is just a little but temptive and even for Song of Good Hope there’s a little shyness to approach EV. All seems like a solid good “normal” show until the last encore. Quartet is there. Not much light. Talking to his hands gives images reminiscent of London 2017, when he painfully acknowledged his then recent loss. Asking for privacy, seems like he is ready for a final mourning moment that started in the 2017 tour. He handed it greatly and many hearts became a little too burdened. Other maybe lighter.

    Surely there will still be an upturn in Dublin and the tour will finish on a rising note. That was the whole feeling of a tour, that just got better and better. As they usually do.

    For us Dusseldorf was the end of the tour. Would I choose to end it on that note?
    Why should I get to choose? Again the expectations devil playing tricks.

    Back to the beginning. I remembered exactly how happy I had been in 2017 when I committed. I was sure It would happen again. It’s 28 years of the same music. If it still gives you goosebumps, you just have to keep committing. Being grateful it’s still being played live, and being grateful you can be there. For 1, 2 or 6 shows. Or one song only.

    So if you can, commit and get on the bubble. Meet the people, see the places. Drink the wines and eat the food. Talk to strangers. In the end they really are no strangers at all. They don’t just sing the same songs… they breathe in the same music and breath out the same words as you do.

    In somebody’s else’s sky…
    Spoke in…
    What the fuck is this world…
    The world to come along...

    Next time when you have the chance, just put your life on pause for a few days and get to the happy place.
  • RunIntoTheRainRunIntoTheRain TexasPosts: 784
    That was beautiful to read.
  • Thank you for sharing your joy...beautiful...
  • LizJLizJ Posts: 131
    Thank you for sharing! Never crossed my mind before to go on a trip like this (due to private stuff) but this year I really thought about this. Maybe I will be going to this happy place as well some day 😊
  • reisgerichtreisgericht Posts: 79
    edited July 2019
    Beautiful story!  I got shivers at the end 😁

    i only started travelling for shows a few years ago, but never multiple locations.  Taormina 2 nights was the highlight.  But I totally agree with you, take advantage of today, we never know how long we will have this privilege.

    Maybe next year I will make it multiple locations too 😁
    Post edited by reisgericht on
  • mfc2006mfc2006 PDX--->KCPosts: 32,939
    Awesome post 
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